United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Aachen, Germany, from Vienna on Tuesday evening, 28 May.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed the students at RWTH Aachen University, at an event moderated by the Rector of RWTH Aachen, Ulrich Rüdiger.
He gave the students an overview of the challenges facing the world, focusing on climate change and the impact of new technologies. Mr. Guterres told the students that he was encouraged by the youth engagement on climate change, an issue that his own generation had failed to deal with properly.
Looking at the fourth industrial revolution, the Secretary-General told the students that new technologies that are developing rapidly will likely destroy many jobs but also create many jobs. However, they will be different types of jobs. Societies will need to adapt to ensure that no one will be left behind.
He reiterated his call for a total ban on autonomous weapons. Taking a human life cannot be done without human responsibility, he said, it undermines international law and the laws of war.
The Secretary-General also called for a strong and united European Union to be present on the global stage as a positive force. Unfortunately, he said, it is too often missing in action, especially in political issues.
He then spoke to the Charlemagne Prize Forum on Europe, a group that brings together leading Europeans in Government, civil society and the media. This was an off-the-record discussion.
In the early evening, the Secretary-General participated in the Charlemagne Prize Open Air Event in Aachen.
On Thursday morning, the Secretary-General received the 2019 Charlemagne Prize.
Prior to the ceremony, the Secretary-General, accompanied by his wife, Catarina Vaz Pinto, attended an official Pontifical Mass at Aachen Cathedral. The laudatory remarks were delivered by King Felipe of Spain.
In his acceptance remarks, the Secretary-General said that, as a committed European and Secretary-General of the United Nations, this prize is especially meaningful for him but that, through him, tribute is being paid to the commitment, service and sacrifice of the women and men of the United Nations.
He referred to the European Union and the United Nations as two of the greatest projects of our times.
He told the participants in the ceremony, which included the King of Spain, the President of Latvia, the Prime Minister of Malta and the Prime Minister of Portugal, that he never felt so clearly the need of a strong and united Europe and “this is my main message to you”.
“If you want to avoid a new cold war, if you want to avoid the confrontation of two blocs, probably with a slightly different composition than in the past, if you want to build a true multilateral order, we absolutely need a united and strong Europe as the fundamental pillar of a multilateral order based on the rule of law,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that “the failure of Europe would inevitably be the failure of multilateralism and the failure of a world in which the rule of law can prevail”.
He also encouraged Europeans and their leaders to hold true the values enshrined in the Charter of fundamental human rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights. Europe cannot be premised on “us” versus “them”, he said, “scapegoating migrants and closing our doors to asylum seekers does not protect but shame this heritage”. Mr. Guterres reminded the audience that all too often it is forgotten that the 1951 Refugee Convention was initially adopted to protect millions of displaced Europeans in the post-war period.
In conclusion and thanking the authorities of Aachen for awarding him the prize, he said that he would do his best to defend passionately the values of pluralism, tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect to build a world of peace, justice and human dignity. (See Press Release SG/SM/19606.)
Immediately following the prize ceremony, the Secretary-General attended an open air festival during which he thanked the people of Aachen and honoured the city’s role as the cradle of Europe.
The Secretary-General departed to Switzerland, where he arrived in the early evening.