A warm welcome to all of you, and I thank you for taking time despite your very busy schedules. This is also a very good occasion for all of you to meet with other leaders.
We will all have a chance in the coming days to address the General Assembly and speak to the great challenges of our world.
Before I begin and go further, you might have noticed that there is a conspicuous absence of somebody – President Obama has asked me this morning to convey his deep regret to our distinguished Heads of State that he is not being able to join us. Instead, Madame Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State, is acting on his behalf, and I really thank you very much. I hope and I guess you will all understand. I think he must be busy with something at this moment - or perhaps he must be stuck somewhere in traffic. But seriously, we wish him well, and we will try to see him next time.
Today, as we, the men and women of many nations, break bread together here, let us take a few moments to remember the women and men out on the frontlines of conflict, disaster and need.
Every country represented here in this room sends its nationals abroad to help others in one way or another. And I thank those countries who have been sending their men and women to peacekeeping operations who are working in very difficult and dangerous circumstances. We have seen many sacrifices of who have ultimately given their lives in the cause of humanity and peace.
They work in areas where human suffering is tragically deep and widespread.
Diplomats and doctors; peacekeepers and aid workers; engineers, economists, interpreters and so many others.
Some venture out to some of the world’s most vulnerable places.
Others are part of the dramatic growth in South-South cooperation.
Still others work for the United Nations – our diverse and talented multicultural staff.
Whatever their background or expertise, they share the same aspiration: to serve humankind.
They are the same breed -- people who care about their neighbours near and far; people who want to build a global community of caring and conscience.
When any one of them comes under attack, all of us feel the pain. For the target is not just a single person; it is the great project of international cooperation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
This month alone, we have seen American ambassador and diplomats killed in Libya, and an Algerian diplomat killed in Mali.
Over the past year, dozens of UN peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty, as have many journalists and others who work alongside us.
I say this not to turn this lunch into a solemn occasion. I want only to pay tribute to those who serve tirelessly and confront danger on our behalf, and who bring to life the mandates we decide upon here in these halls.
So let us lift a glass:
First, to the spirit of service embodied by so many of your citizens.
Second, to our host government, the United States, and you, Secretary Clinton, and also President Obama, who is not here but who is here in spirit. You have been a fixture in our halls and meeting spaces for the last many years. For decades, you have been a driving force … as First Lady, Senator and now Secretary of State. I do not know what title will follow… but I have no doubt that you will continue to be a singular voice and presence for the shared values that bring us here today.
And finally, let us toast the bonds of principle and purpose enshrined in the UN Charter. I wish your continuous success for each and every leaders present today.
May they continue to guide us toward a better future for all.
Thank you very much. Merci.