Tribute to Former Presidents of the General Assembly, H.E. Dante Caputo and H.E. Theo-Ben Gurirab

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, Tribute to Former Presidents of the General Assembly, H.E. Dante Caputo and H.E. Theo-Ben Gurirab [As delivered by H.E. Mr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Vice President of the General Assembly and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka]


Excellencies, dear colleagues,

This morning, we pay tribute to two stalwarts: H.E. Dante Caputo of Argentina, President of the 43rd Session and H.E. Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab of Namibia, President of the 54th session.

Both men served their countries as Minister for Foreign Affairs, before being elected to serve our General Assembly. They dedicated their public lives to diplomacy. And we are all very grateful.

Dante Caputo – PGA43

Minister Caputo became Foreign Minister of Argentina in 1983. During his tenure, he laid strong foundations for many multilateral initiatives which went on to benefit the region and the world. Mercosur, the Rio Group and the Cartagena group are prime examples. As a political scientist at heart, Minister Caputo’s intellectual expertise would later profit not only his native Argentina but also the wider global community.

A true champion of peace, Minister Caputo as President of the General Assembly, emphasised the importance of countries seeking peaceful settlement of disputes; and also the role of the United Nations and its organs in promoting peace.

Theo-Ben Gurirab – PGA54

During Minister Caputo’s tenure, the Assembly had on its agenda the item on the question of Namibia.  And this is an item on which Minister Gurirab also worked. For years as SWAPO Representative to the United Nations, Mr. Gurirab used his oratory and political mastery to advance the interests of the people of Namibia. And in 1990 he did so as Foreign Minister when Namibia gained independence.

A man of principle, integrity and great acumen, Minister Gurirab was elected to preside over the 54th Session of the General Assembly in 1999. And he brought the highest standards to the office. During his tenure, the Assembly also had a very busy schedule with 3 Special Sessions of the Assembly on SIDS, Women and Social Development, also being convened. And he led with distinction.

They have gone before us. And they have made their mark. A great contribution to our global endeavour to maintain peace, uphold human rights, promote justice and social progress. While we mourn their passing, we can preserve their legacy through our own actions and commitment to the cause of multilateralism and the United Nations.

On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to convey profound sympathies to their families, and to the Governments and Peoples of Argentina and Namibia during this time of grief.