New York

5 June 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at event to commemorate the life and achivements of the late Gabriel García Márquez

Distinguished guests,

Buenos tardes, mucho gusto.

I am honoured to join you this evening to celebrate the life of the late Gabriel García Márquez.

While we mourn his passing, we can rejoice that he will live forever alongside other literary giants whose work and compassion for the human condition have made them immortal.

García Márquez used the bridge between the magical and the actual to capture the imagination of millions of readers around the world.

His work has been translated into many languages, including the Korean language. In Korean we say: baek-nyon gan-ei geo-dok. This is “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Whatever the language may be, the title resounds.

Whether García Márquez was reporting fact or inventing fiction, ordinary people lay at the root of his reality.

One of the hallmarks of his legacy is his lifelong struggle against injustice and oppression.

We at the United Nations are strongly committed to that same cause.

The works of Gabriel García Márquez also express the rich cultural diversity of Latin America.

His hometown, Aracataca in Colombia, which inspired much of his work, was a crossroad of cultures.

I saw Colombia’s diversity myself when I visited in 2011.

I saw why Colombians say: el riesgo es que te quieras quedar [the risk is that you might want to stay].

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today more than ever, our interdependent, interconnected world highlights both our differences and what we share in common.

Our mission at the United Nations is to forge strength from diversity.

Gabriel García Márquez understood the strength of diversity. 

It infuses his work and was a strong theme of his Nobel Prize lecture.

Today, too much strife and discrimination are based on unshakeable convictions that often contravene the letter and spirit of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Our job, at the United Nations, must always be to shake the unshakeable and defend our mandate.

Let us be inspired by Gabriel García Márquez, who spoke the truth on behalf of ordinary people everywhere.

When he accepted the Nobel Prize in 1982, he closed with these words.

“…it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of … a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible.”

I share these sentiments, and will continue to work for a life of dignity for all.

Thank you.