New York

22 May 2012

Secretary-General's Remarks at Opening of Photo Exhibition Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia in the United Nations (as delivered)

Scenes from the wars in the Balkans a generation ago are seared into all our memories.


What a pleasure, then, to see a different set of images today, 20 years later.


            Lakes and mountains; rivers and farms; natural riches and examples of the region’s cultural and religious diversity.


            What we see, in a word, is normalcy.


            The region still faces challenges.


Rebuilding after war is one of the greatest challenges I can imagine.  It takes time for wounds to heal, and to once again trust one's neighbour.


But Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia have all shown admirable courage and perseverance.


And they have not merely lived through great turmoil; they have emerged as important contributors to international peace and security and to the work of the United Nations in general.


            Each has now served on the Security Council.


            All three participate in UN peacekeeping operations, from Cyprus to Timor Leste, from Lebanon to the Golan Heights, from Liberia to South Sudan.  Those contributions carry special authority, since they are based on experience.


            Each has taken their rightful place on UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.


            And each has shown a commitment to multilateralism, the Millennium Development Goals and working together for the common good.


On a more personal level, I have very warm memories of Slovenia from earlier in my career, when I was side-accredited to the country in the 1990s as the Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to Vienna.


This positive impression was reinforced when I visited again during my first term as Secretary-General.


I very much look forward to visiting again, not just Slovenia but also Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


            The United Nations will continue to help consolidate progress across the region.


Twenty years ago today, we raised three flags. Today, we recognize how far these three countries have come in a short time.   


You have made important progress at home and significant contributions here at the United Nations.


I want to congratulate all three countries.


And I want to do so in the local language.


I thought that would mean learning how to pronounce three different expressions in three difficult languages.


But I am told that you will all understand me when I say CHEH-stee-tam Vuhm!


So that is easier for me.  And it is a wonderful symbol of the links among the peoples of the region.


May you all work together for a region of mutual understanding and peace.


Now it is my pleasure to invite everyone here to enjoy these beautiful photographs.


Thank you.