It is a great honour for me to be here on the eve of the opening of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. This is for the first time for me to stand and say something in the Opera House. I used to come to this Volkstheater when I was Ambassador here in Vienna. I am just very much nervous to say something where only opera singers used to sing, and I have been enjoying your places. I know that we have a distinguished world class opera singer, Placido Domingo, here, and I am very much pleased to see him together with us – let’s welcome him.
Let’s see how well I sing today. Ladies and Gentlemen, again it is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here with you.
Responsible leadership -- the theme of this year’s Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – is often what makes the difference between discord and harmony.
Leadership can come from many quarters – from heads of government to school children.
It involves setting examples, standing by principles and being prepared to swim against prevailing currents, if that’s what it takes.
I commend the leadership shown by the BMW Group in supporting this award – and the projects that are being recognized.
The United Nations is increasingly expanding its partnerships with business and civil society, for only by engaging all will we create the future we want.
The creative solutions being showcased tonight hold lessons for all communities and for organizations such as the United Nations.
I hope they can greatly benefit the work of the Alliance.
Intercultural understanding and tolerance are vital for peace and sustainable development.
The Alliance has been created to further those ends.
Tomorrow’s Forum of Alliance of Civilizations is another welcome opportunity to explore how we can build enduring bridges among religions and cultures.
We must ensure that the ideas that emerge translate into action that can make a real difference – especially where tension or conflict exists.
The stories we will hear tonight are exceptional.
Let us support these winners – these leaders – so they can expand their activities and so others can be inspired to follow their lead.
We live in a time of profound transformation – economic, demographic, political, social and environmental.
The challenges are considerable, but so are the opportunities.
We have to seize these opportunities to achieve a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable world, we need to work together from a basis of mutual respect.
Responsible leadership can provide this foundation.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is committed to supporting and nurturing responsible leadership in all communities, cultures and religions.
I encourage you all to take inspiration from the Forum and return fortified to your communities to help us create a harmonious world.
And I thank you very much for your commitment and leadership. Let us work together to build a society, to build a world, where every man, all the men and women, regardless of what you are doing, regardless of where you are coming (from), regardless of what kind of background you are bringing, can live in peace and harmony, and with dignity.