– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

22 October 2020

The Honorable Luigi Di Maio, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy,

H.E. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations,

H.E. Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations,

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to join you, for this year’s United Nations Day concert and performance. I take also special pleasure, to speak in front of you, as the holder of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, with the rank of “Knight”.

I want to first of all thank the Permanent Mission of Italy, for organizing this year’s event. I commend the efforts that have gone into making today, as special as possible, despite the challenging circumstances arising from the pandemic.

Italy, of course, is no stranger to world-renowned composers and performers. In Rome, Naples, Verona or Milan, legendary composers, sopranos and tenors, crafted art that reached the world over, and that will last in perpetuity. Names that come to mind, include composers like Giacomo Puccini, and Guiseppe Verdi; tenors like Luciano Pavorotti, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso and Scala-legend sopranos Maria Callas and Leyla Gencer.

My deepest appreciation goes out, also to the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

At nearly 250-years old, La Scala remains one of the worlds’ leading opera and ballet theatres, attracting the finest performers, from all corners of the globe. It is beautiful and fitting that this revered institution should help us recognize the UN, as it turns the relatively young age of 75. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Artists, such as those that I have listed, lift us, inspire us, and unify us. Their performances, pull at the heartstrings and draw upon our shared human experience. Whether it’s a single musical note, tinged with grief; or the triumphant voice of a soprano; or the provocative turns and pirouettes of ballet, the emotions that are solicited are universal.

Similarly, their voices and words can be powerful.

Only this year, while the world needed hope, as much as it needed anything else, Andrea Bocelli, live-streamed a concert, you will very well remember, from the empty Duomo cathedral in Milan, breaking global records and raising the hearts of countless people, who were locked in because of the pandemic.

And years prior, as Messenger of Peace, the unparalleled Luciano Pavarotti managed, through his regular ‘Pavarotti and Friends’ performances, to raise funds and awareness for refugees, for children, and for efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Never doubt the impact that he had, or that others like him can have.

Today, celebrated artists, will once again unify us through music. This time in celebration of the United Nations and all that it stands for. And this year, with a pandemic still raging around us, we do so under today’s theme of reimagining, rebalancing and restarting.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, celebrated artists, will once again unify us through music. This time in celebration of the United Nations and all that it stands for. And this year, with a pandemic still raging around us, we do so under today’s theme of reimagining, rebalancing and restarting.

This is a very fitting theme. While COVID-19 may have shaken our world, it has not shaken our resolve. We have come this far together, and we are ready to overcome this together. What better moment than now, to start reimagining the future, and what better guide than music and art, to inspire us.

It is my hope that, as we take these steps towards reimagining the future, we do so with that shared sense of humanity, of community, and of universality.

In the words of the late, great Pavarotti, “The rivalry is with ourself. I try to be better than is possible. I fight against myself, not against the other.”

My friends, we are not rivals in this great, hallowed Hall. We are a community, here to protect the shared values and principles upon which the UN was built.

So, let us celebrate the UN at 75, and let us look to institutions such as La Scala and its patrons, whose art reaches across regions and across generations, as inspiration for our next 75-years.  

Thank you.