– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

17 May 2019

Your Excellency, Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka,

Your Excellency, Vitavas Srivihok, Permanent Representative of Thailand,

Ms Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the UN Secretary-General,

Excellencies, Venerable monks,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Ayubowan,

Sawatdee ka,

Good evening,

It is a great honour to commemorate the International Day of Vesak –the day on which the Buddha was born, on which he attained enlightenment, and on which he passed into Nirvana.

This is the holiest day for the 488 million people worldwide who practice Buddhism. It is widely celebrated, too, by non-Buddhists – people of all faiths and none – who draw strength and inspiration from the wisdom and teachings of Gautama Buddha.

I thank the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Thailand for gathering us here today. As President of the General Assembly, I am delighted to welcome the Sangha community and Buddhists from around the world to this General Assembly Hall. You are messengers of peace, of unity between communities. You are part of our United Nations, of our international community.

Excellencies,

This year’s Vesak commemoration is especially auspicious, as it marks one decade since the United Nations officially inaugurated this international day, in recognition of the contribution that Buddhism has made to human spirituality and discourse over two and a half millennia.

The teachings of the Buddha are timeless, but they are particularly relevant at this time of rising intolerance and violence; of growing inequalities and increasing pressures on our natural world; of narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness.

We should recall the Buddha’s words on karma, which underline the importance of all individuals taking responsibility for their past and present actions.

In our inter-connected world, events in one country can send shockwaves across the globe – like the tragic Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka barely a month ago. From extremism to climate change, the challenges we face do not respect borders. Lies and hate speech can spread like wildfire online. And each one of our actions, every footprint we make, is part of the cumulative imprint of humanity on this planet. We must all strive to live for each other and for tomorrow.

The teachings of the Buddha are timeless, but they are particularly relevant at this time of rising intolerance and violence; of growing inequalities and increasing pressures on our natural world; of narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

We should heed the Buddha’s words on wisdom – not simply believing what we hear or are told but seeking to experience and learn what is true and real; and to understand that wisdom emerges when the mind is open and objective.

Above all, we should heed the Buddha’s words on compassion.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, international human rights and humanitarian laws – all represent our obligations, our responsibilities, our commitments to people and planet. They represent our survival kit for humanity.

But they should be driven not only by enlightened self-interest and self-preservation, but also by kindness. We need more compassion, more empathy and sympathy in politics and global affairs, as well as in our daily lives.

Excellencies, venerable monks, dear friends,

The United Nations is not grounded in any religion. But it seeks to reflect the peaceful underpinnings of all faiths and philosophies; to promote multilateralism and cooperation across borders; and to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, tolerance and – more than that – friendship and harmony.

I hope that all of you will apply the Buddha’s teachings in your own lives and communities. I hope that all of you will lead by example: in rejecting attempts to divide us; in celebrating our diversity; and in embracing our common humanity.

On behalf of 193 Member States of the General Assembly, I wish you a happy Vesak Day.

Istuti

Kob khun ka

Thank you.