02 June 2011

Toast at dinner hosted by H.E. Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic [as prepared for delivery]

Ban Ki-moon

Thank you, President Napolitano, for your kind invitation and for the honour of speaking here this evening.

Looking around this remarkable palace, we stand in awe again at the art, culture and sheer flair that are so uniquely Italian.

We are in illustrious company. Leaders have come from across the world to celebrate this important anniversary. That, in itself, says much about our common heritage and our common future.

The great Giuseppe Garibaldi raised his voice for freedom from oppression of all kinds. And while he is known above all for proclaiming “Italy for the Italians!”, he was equally committed to peace among all nations, campaigning against war and for the peaceful settlement of disputes. His words and deeds in the creation of modern Italy resonate today at the United Nations and wherever people seek their dignity and democratic rights.

Mr. President,

I was impressed by your speech at the United Nations General Assembly two months ago.

You drew lessons about the winds of freedom, human dignity and social justice that are blowing across the world.

You said in these changing times we must uphold human rights, strengthen the rule of law, and renew our commitment to a multilateral system of international relations.

In short, you said, “We need the United Nations.”

Of course, I could not agree more. I appreciate your advocacy – and your support.

Italy is an extraordinary partner for the United Nations.

Italy is leading in the fight against global hunger. As you well know, the UN's three main food organizations – the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme – are based in Rome.

Meeting at the G-8 summit two years ago in L'Aquila, world leaders took bold steps in an effort to free humankind from hunger and poverty.

Italy is a staunch champion of human rights. It has led the moratorium against the death penalty, and only recently it was elected to the Human Rights Council.

This commitment traces to the Italian Renaissance, that explosive and inspired era of artistic, scientific and cultural freedom and triumph.

Rome is the birthplace of the first permanent tribunal to fight war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity: the International Criminal Court.

Italy has been leading efforts to reform the United Nations Security Council to promote inclusion and democracy.

It is also a major contributor to our efforts to promote peace and security.

Two thousand Italians serve under the blue flag of UN peacekeeping in dangerous missions. Our base in Brindisi is a logistics hub for global operations.

Just last week, an Italian UN peacekeeping vehicle was attacked in southern Lebanon.

Six Italian soldiers were wounded. We pray for their speedy recovery. We offer our deepest sympathies to the families – and our profound gratitude for their service and sacrifice.


As we mark this 150th anniversary of Italy's unification, let us celebrate how far we have come. But let us also look ahead, and consider what the world will look like and what more we need to do to prepare for a future of increasingly global challenges and interconnectedness.

We face what I call the “50-50-50” challenge. In the year 2050, the world's population will reach 9 billion – 50 per cent more than it was a decade ago. Also by that time, the world must cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent.

In order to meet this challenge and the many others we face, we can find power and purpose in unity.

Standing for democracy. Advancing human rights. Feeding the hungry. Protecting people from security and poverty threats. Keeping our only planet environmentally sustainable.

All this requires international solidarity.

So let us raise a glass to this ideal – and to Italy, which was born in the name of this cause and remains its great champion.