Secretary-General, Addressing Parliament, Hails Luxembourg as ‘Epicentre of Global Engagement’

17 April 2012

Secretary-General, Addressing Parliament, Hails Luxembourg as ‘Epicentre of Global Engagement’

17 April 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing Parliament, Hails Luxembourg


as ‘Epicentre of Global Engagement’


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Parliament of Luxembourg on 17 April:

I am proud to be the first United Nations Secretary-General since 1989 to make an official visit to Luxembourg.  And it is a special privilege to address you, the Members of Parliament of Luxembourg.

In many ways, this is an epicentre for global engagement.  Luxembourg is a founding member of the United Nations.  You are a capital of the European Union.  You are home to a rich mix of cultures, languages and nationalities.

You do not just preach the power of multilateralism; you practise it in all that you do.  You do not just speak of global solidarity; you back your resolve with resources.  In other words, the story of Luxembourg is the story of generosity, commitment and global cooperation.

And that story is written by you, the legislators of Luxembourg.  You approve the budgets.  You debate the tough issues.  You make the decisions that set Luxembourg apart as a global citizen.  Because of you, Luxembourg has entered an elite club of nations.  I call it “The One Per Cent Club”.  Luxembourg provides more than 1 per cent of its gross national income in official development aid.  You are only one of two nations in the world with that distinction, far surpassing the global target of 0.7 per cent.  Only one country in the world can say the same.

So I have come here today to say “thank you”.  Thank you, Luxembourg.  Thank you for making multilateralism a pillar of your foreign policy.  You have shown that it is not the size of a nation’s territory that makes the difference.  It is the size of a nation’s heart.  It is the breadth of a nation’s vision.  It is the depth of a nation’s promise to the wider world.  And in that very real sense, this small country is a superpower.

On so many levels, this Parliament is the place — and now is the moment — to scan the global horizon and look together to our shared challenges.  We are on the threshold of great challenge and great change and transition around the world.

The Arab Spring has brought a wave of hope for democracy and dignity.  New technologies continue to transform the way we live, work and communicate with one another.  We are seeing new openings in Asia, new democracies in Africa, new economic hope throughout Latin America.

The world has made record progress in reducing the ranks of those in extreme poverty.  But, of course, we are also confronting the challenges of our increasingly complex and interconnected world.  Ongoing economic turbulence.  New pressures on our environment.  Growing inequality.  Rising joblessness.  The time has come to think differently about our place on the planet.  How do we build shared prosperity and an equitable future?

In January, I began my second term as Secretary-General and launched a vision for the next five years.  I wanted my team to look deeply at the world today.  Together, we identified five generational opportunities.  Five ways to shape the world we want.

Sustainable development.  A more proactive approach to saving lives and money through preventive diplomacy by preventing conflicts, damages from disasters and human rights abuses.  Building a more secure world.  Supporting countries in transition.  And working with and for women and youth.

There is a thread that runs through all of this — and that is the need to focus on the intersection of global challenges.  I hope you understand.  Luxembourg knows that going for the interconnections of one problem can help solve many others.

Let me share what I mean through three challenges in which you can and must continue to play an important role.  Sustainable development.  Foreign assistance.  And securing peace and stability.

Let me say more in detail.  First, we know that building a more prosperous economy, expanding opportunities and fighting climate change are all linked together.  I commend the Government of Luxembourg for its strong commitment to sustainable development.  I salute your action to create institutions such as the High Council — and your law to help coordinate sustainable development policy.

Now we face a major global test.  Twenty years ago, world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the first world Earth Summit.  In less than 70 days, the world will meet again for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — “Rio+20”.

As I see it, this is one of the most important United Nations gatherings in years.  It aims to lay out a road map to our common future, a future that is fair, equitable and, above all, sustainable.  In the next 20 years, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water.  We need an outcome from “Rio+20” that connects the dots between these challenges — between climate change and empowerment and urbanization; poverty, inequality and the empowerment of the world’s women and young people.  An outcome that is both practical and transformational.

I am very pleased that Luxembourg’s delegation to “Rio+20” will be led by His Royal Highness, the Grand Duke — a first for a United Nations conference.  He will be joined by Heads of State and Government from more than 125 nations.  It is essential that we aim high — and achieve much.

We face another great test — a test of our resolve and solidarity.  We all recognize the dictates of the new era of austerity.  Budgets are tight.  Yet a handful of countries like Luxembourg have kept the proper perspective.  You are not cutting back on your contributions to realizing the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015.

And there is much good news on the development cooperation front.  Smart investments are reducing child mortality, slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS, cutting poverty worldwide.  I carry the same message to leaders everywhere I go:  do not let up.  Keep supporting the world’s poor.  Keep investing in success.  Do not let the economic crisis block progress in fighting poverty.

Cutting aid will not balance your budgets.  But it will hurt the most vulnerable of our human family.  Let the world learn from Luxembourg that development cooperation is not charity.  It is common-sense investment in security and prosperity.  And I am very grateful that the Luxembourg Government has paid already 1.04 per cent of gross national product towards official development assistance.  You are one of the very few countries who have been meeting your commitment.

My third and final area of focus:  your role in promoting security around the world.  Luxembourg has been a generous contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, starting with Korea more than 60 years ago.  You were a pioneer in contributing to the Peacebuilding Fund to support countries making the transition from conflict to peace.  Luxembourg has also been very active in the Peacebuilding Commission.  I commend your recent work to promote national reconciliation and a better life for the people of Guinea.

You have also established a privileged partnership with another set of countries far from the global spotlight — the nations of the Sahel region of West Africa.  Once again, you have taken a regional approach.  As always, you are keenly aware of the potential spill-over effects.  I want to make the most of this occasion today to highlight what I call the cascading crisis sweeping the Sahel.

Across the region, we see growing conflict and unrest, more people being displaced, rising food and fuel prices and severe drought.  The statistics are sobering: 15 million people are directly affected.  More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year, and another 1 million are threatened right now.

Events in Libya have made an already difficult security and humanitarian situation even worse.  Many thousands returned home to the Sahel.  Some were migrant workers, but others are armed fighters, criminal elements, bringing with them large quantities of light and heavy weapons and ammunition.

In Mali, the Tuareg rebellion in the north has uprooted at least 200,000 people.  Neighbouring countries are assisting refugees who escape across borders, but those who are internally displaced receive little help.  Humanitarian agencies cannot access many parts of the region.

A multifaceted crisis demands a multifaceted response.  Donors such as Luxembourg have been generous.  Yet still, international response plans across the region are less than 40 per cent funded.  And the crisis has yet to peak.  I know we can count on Luxembourg.  And today I call upon the world to respond.

Simply put, we must do more, and do it quickly.  By acting decisively and with practical vision now, we can head off future crises.  Across the board, we need to think differently.  If the cascading crisis in the Sahel demonstrates anything, it is the need to dig deeper, to get at the root causes of conflict.  In the Sahel, particularly, those roots can be traced to scarcities of water and food, pressures on land, the lack of development and rampant insecurity.

We see this playing out between Sudan and South Sudan.  The unrest there is not only about oil but also access to other limited natural resources.  Years ago, I saw the same dynamic at work when I visited Darfur.  And I will never forget flying over the Sahel and seeing Lake Chad, which had shrunk to one tenth its size in 30 years.

That brings me back to where I started — the linkages among challenges and the priority of sustainable development.  We must deal with these issues in a comprehensive way, not merely as isolated, unrelated problems of armed conflict, political instability or economic development.

That is why my strategy, like your strategy, is to identify those crucial connections, and then drive hard at them with integrated, well-planned solutions.  That is the way to make the most impact.  That is the way to solve twenty-first century challenges.

Luxembourg is not only at the crossroads of issues, you are also very present at a crossroads of the United Nations itself — in a place where diplomats, tourists and conference-goers all mix.  In the shadow of the United Nations General Assembly building in New York, there is a gift from Luxembourg to the United Nations.  You must have all seen it.  It is a remarkable sculpture called “The Knotted Gun”.  I have seen it, the replica, in my dear friend Foreign Minister’s office and it is one of the most popular works of art at the United Nations.

It is a large revolver with the barrel artfully twisted so that it will never shoot again.  It has been called “a symbol that encapsulates, in a few small curves, the greatest prayer of humanity — a prayer that asks not for victory, but for peace”.  I believe in that sculpture.  I believe in that message.  And today, I want you to know that I see it as a symbol of all that Luxembourg contributes to our work — your generosity, your humanity, your vision for a more just and better world for all.

That is what you are — that is what I know you will continue to be.  A nation that is equally proud of its independence and its connections.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.