15 October 2015

Remarks to the Chamber of Senate and Deputies

Ban Ki-moon

E' un onore per me essere qui oggi, in questa ricorrenza propizia, a celebrare il sessantesimo anniversario dell'adesione dell'Italia alle Nazioni Unite. [I am honoured to be here on this auspicious occasion to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Italy joining the United Nations.]

I offer my warmest congratulations on six decades of the Italy-UN partnership.

Italian culture is prized around the world – and in my home country too. Whenever I wear a tie from Italy, made in Italy, my wife seems to love me a little more and better.

Last month, New York City was in a terrible traffic jam because of one small Italian car – the Fiat Cinquecento. The Papa-mobile.

The Cinquecento is gaining greater stature – like Italy, which is driving to a new future.

Italy has always been a bridge across cultures and continents. Today, you have drawn on this experience to forge a strong, courageous and compassionate response to the biggest refugee and migration crisis since the end of the Second World War. I commend highly the men and women of Italy who have saved tens of thousands of lives.

I thank Italy for all it has done – and all it has sacrificed.

We can never forget that in 1961, 13 courageous Italian peacekeepers were brutally murdered in the Congo.

We remember the scores of Italians who have lost their lives in the cause of peace and stability. We thank the thousands of sons and daughters of Italy who have served under our blue flag of the United Nations over the years.

Today – out of all the western nations – Italy is the top troop contributing country to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Italian support has been especially valuable for the United Nations mission in Lebanon. The fighting in Syria is putting intense pressure on Lebanon – and the United Nations is doing everything possible to respond, with Italy’s critical support.

For decades, Rome has been a hub for the United Nations-led global fight against hunger, as host of our major food agencies, FAO, funds and programmes –WFP and IFAD. Tomorrow, Italy continues this leadership with World Food Day at the Milan Expo. I look forward to attending myself, and especially to interacting with young people working to end hunger.

Rome is the birthplace of the International Criminal Court – and Italy is leading across the rule of law agenda, lending the world its expertise in dealing with transnational crime and other threats.

From Brindisi to Turin, from Trieste to Florence, Italy is hosting critical UN centres. And I thank you for your such strong commitment for the United Nations cause and ideals.

I welcome Italy’s renewed commitment to foreign aid and its goal to become a top donor among G7 nations.

Italy’s backing for preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution, including through the Community of Sant’Egidio, is also valuable.

This builds on Italy’s advocacy for human rights – to end capital punishment, promote religious freedom and empower women.

With appreciation and admiration, I ask you to do even much more at this critical time in history.

The UN’s challenges – and its potential impact – have never been greater.

We have just concluded one of the most intense high-level weeks ever in the United Nations. And I appreciate the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Minister’s participation in this very important General Assembly.

It began with the great honour of welcoming His Holiness Pope Francis.

He delivered an impassioned speech supporting the United Nations, which he said “can be the pledge of a secure and happy future.”

The same day, world leaders adopted Agenda 2030 for sustainable development with a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, our vision of a life of dignity for all people.

These 17 Sustainable Development Goals, known as SDGs, are our promise to uplift vulnerable and oppressed people everywhere. To empower women. To open opportunities for youth. To ensure equality for all people. To build peaceful and stable societies.

We have a plan to end poverty, establish peace, protect the planet and achieve sustainable prosperity for all of us.

I call on Italy to lead on this bold agenda for people, the planet and prosperity and peace through partnerships.

Our agenda for sustainable development demands climate action.

The recent Papal Encyclical – Laudato Si – defined climate change as moral issue and a principal challenge facing humanity.

I welcome the Italian Government’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, known as INDC, submitted in the context of the European Union. Now I ask you to have even higher ambitions for a low-carbon economy.

Prime Minister Renzi has been active on this issue since he was Mayor of Florence – and I thank him for his leadership. Having served as Mayor of Florence, he understands that we need local actions for global results.

I thank Italy for pledging more than $344 million for the Green Climate Fund. It is important to follow through especially before the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.

That will be an important milestone on the road to a sustainable future.

We cannot speak of a life of dignity for all people and ignore those who are fleeing threats.

I thank again Prime Minister Renzi, the Italian Government and the country’s citizens for their resources, energy and empathy for the thousands of desperate people arriving here in search of safety.

I saw the challenge for myself with Prime Minister Renzi in April on board the Italian naval ship San Giusto in Sicily.

Two years ago, when hundreds of people died in the tragic shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy established its Mare Nostrum operation. That saved some 150,000 lives. Since then, Italy has continued to lead European rescue efforts.

These are urgently needed to stop the thousands of needless deaths that are turning the Mediterranean into a sea of tears.

Some of the people who arrive meet the specific definition of refugees established more than a half-century ago. Some flee grinding poverty, violent discrimination and other threats.

When it comes to forced migration in the 21st century, there are not two kinds of people: one ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ migrants. There are only members of our common human family who need protection, assistance and support. We need to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to those helpless people.

Refugees do have special rights under international law – but all migrants must have human rights protection. History teaches us that both migrants and refugees have great potential to foster progress in host countries.

We see this in the many Italians who have gained citizenship abroad. Today, their descendants are now prominent politicians, entertainers, musicians, entrepreneurs.


The war in Syria is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. My Special Envoy, Signore Staffan de Mistura, a former Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy, is leading our effort to forge a lasting political solution.

We are also addressing the situation in Libya. I am calling on Libyan leaders to endorse the political agreement and move to realize the ambitions of the 2011 revolution.

The gravest threat to peace is the rise of violent extremists across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

We must stop the atrocities, especially the attacks against women and girls. We must also end the destruction of cultural heritage. We have to preserve past civilizations, as Italy has done so well, to build a better future.

The fighting will not end tomorrow, so we are rushing in relief aid.

Millions of forcibly displaced people from Syria are being hosted by its neighbours, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq and some in Egypt and North Africa.

Like those countries, Italy’s shoreline makes it a frontline state for refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

I applaud the global solidarity shown by these countries in bearing more than their share of responsibility.

At the same time, I stress: proximity does not equal final responsibility. All countries have the same duty no matter how close they are to a crisis. That is the point that I have been speaking out all the time to European countries after I visited with the Prime Minister to the Mediterranean Sea. I have seen how difficult it is to have such refugee operations.

This is true for Italy and Greece – as well as Kenya, Lebanon, Ethiopia or Pakistan. Refugee resettlement is a global responsibility which must be shared fairly.

Many understand this. I am heartened by the outpouring of support we have seen in Italy, parts of Europe and other regions.

But I am haunted by the families who face attacks, discrimination and deprivation – and then rightly ask: where is the world? Where is the United Nations? Where is humanity?

When I was six and the Korean war was raging, my family had to run from our village. We had nothing but mud in our shoes and hunger in our bodies, in our stomach.

United Nations forces came to the rescue. I was too young to understand the term ‘collective security’. But I knew, even at that time, that there was the United Nations who was supporting us, helping us. Even these days we see so many tens of millions of people who need the UN’s help. The United Nations cannot do this alone. We need countries like Italy. I am here today to thank you for your global solidarity and compassionate leadership.

I know that global action yields common progress.

That is why I presented a set of guiding principles to last month’s high-level meeting on migration.

I called for saving lives, offering protection and ensuring non-discrimination.

I advocated strengthening preparedness, sharing responsibility and boosting cooperation for practical solutions.

And I stressed that we must manage migration while anticipating future challenges.

This is a defining moment for Europe and the world. We should all be inspired by Italy’s example – and match it with support. And I thank you for your leadership.

On this sixtieth anniversary, I remember a man who worked hard for Italy’s membership in the United Nations but he never lived to see it.

Before his death in 1954, the great Italian statesman Alcide de Gasperi – he devoted himself to promoting international cooperation.

He called for countries to transcend national interest and “create new ways of living together [for] greater social justice.”

The model, he felt, was Italy – a country so richly diverse, and strongly united.

That inspiring masterpiece by Giulio Aristide Sartorio shows the struggle for Italy’s unification – and the stakes for all countries to join forces for common progress.

The Un is now commemorating its 70th anniversary; Italy its 60th.

We are very much conscious about the United Nations’ effectiveness, efficiency and limits of how much we can do. I am very conscious of some criticism but I believe that it is still the United Nations where all important conventions, treaties and human rights declarations which guide the basic principles of life have been made. It is still the United Nations now taking care of 60 million refugees. It is the UN peacekeepers trying to maintain peace and security despite many dangers in many parts of the world and it is stilt the United Nations who helps many people, women and girls, who would otherwise needlessly die from preventable causes. It is the UN who cares for the 7 billion people and our planet earth so that everyone can live with dignity and human rights.

The UN is now facing, like all members of the UN Member States, many crises: security and peace crises, humanitarian crises and the abuse of human rights. Not a single country, however power and resourceful it may be – not a single organization, [even] the most universal like the United Nations, [can] do it alone. I need global solidarity, global support. When we are united, when we have global solidarity [and] compassionate leadership, I think we can overcome this one. I am asking you all this global solidarity.

Lunga vita alla collaborazione tra l'Italia e Nazioni Unite.

Grazie mille. Thank you very much.