New York

18 October 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at Annual Luncheon of Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists

I am delighted to be with you to congratulate this year’s Dag Hammarskjöld Journalism Fellows, and your Inspiration Award winner, Secretary Madeleine Albright.

Secretary Madeleine Albright has had a distinguished career at the epicentre of global diplomacy. 

She left a memorable imprint here at the United Nations and also as U.S. Secretary of State. Her legacy has been worldwide.

Her accomplishments are noteworthy in themselves, but she also blazed a trail for other women leaders such as Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and the former and current U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, Susan Rice and Samantha Power.  These are some small contributions compare[d] to what she has made – this huge contribution to international peace and security.  We are very grateful for your contribution.

Yet empowered women remain the exception, not the rule, in government and business in all regions.  We have to admit this current situation. 

That is why I have made it one of my highest priorities to appoint female leaders across the UN system.  I just wanted to lead by example.  I have been appointing women in areas where women have rarely served, or never served.

  Just two days ago, I appointed Sigrid Kaag as head of, Special Coordinator, of a joint mission to eliminate chemical weapons.  I think this is the first time that any woman would be engaged and lead this kind of very dangerous and important mission.

And, as you know, I have appointed, as the first female mediator, Mary Robinson as our Special Envoy for peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region.  This is something.

But, as the United Nations partner, actress Geena Davis, said one day:

I quote: “What girls see, they can be.”

So, I am especially pleased that all four of this year’s Dag Hammarskjöld Journalism Fellows are female.

I am glad you are here to cover the global work of the United Nations. 

From the crises in Syria and the Sahel, to the longer term issues of climate change and sustainable development, our Headquarters is the crossroads of the world.

In every meeting room, you can find a source.

In every report, you can find a statistic.

And across our agenda, you can find stories that affect millions of people in our world. 

Journalism is exciting and essential.

Peace, development and human rights depend on an informed populace.

That means a free press.

Yet too often, journalists are harassed, imprisoned, intimidated, threatened and even murdered for performing their critical task.

I call on governments to protect journalists and secure freedom of the press.

And I urge you to report and analyze facts with integrity and courage knowing that the United Nations deeply values your work.

Take inspiration from the words of Dag Hammarskjöld, a towering champion of speaking truth to power.

I quote:

“Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions...

“Life only demands from you the strength that you possess.  Only one feat is possible: not to run away.”

End of quote.

It is fitting that this Fund is named for Dag Hammarskjöld.

I sincerely hope it receives the support it deserves so it can continue to nurture bright young journalists from around the world.

I thank you.