New York

11 January 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of First UN General Assembly Meeting

Your Excellency, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

As this is the first occasion for me to participate in this General Assembly, I would like to extend my warmest greetings and best wishes to all of you, Excellencies and distinguished delegates, for your continued good health and success and engagement in leadership for the United Nations.

We are here to celebrate the General Assembly – but this day also marks the 70th anniversary of another model of multilateralism.  Happy 70th birthday, Mr. President! It is a double celebration!

I am also especially pleased and honoured to welcome Sir Brian Urquhart, who is sitting with us. Thank you very much for your participation.

With vision, principles and dedication, he helped lay the groundwork for much of what we see today.

Sir Brian did more than live history.  He shaped history.  And he recorded that history as a brilliant writer and journalist. We are privileged to have him here today.

Sir Brian, the world is in your debt. I thank you.

In the dawn of this new century, I served as Chef de Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly. 

In the years since, I am still awestruck when I walk into this august chamber. 

Who isn’t?

Think of all the treaties adopted in this room – for women’s rights and children’s rights, an end to torture and racism, and the major tenets of international law.

Think of all the partners who have come here. 

Presidents and prime ministers have always held this podium.  More and more, they are joined by individual activists, business executives, superstar entertainers and major religious leaders.

This General Assembly has truly become the Parliament for all people. 

We are building on that history.  In September last year, you adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This 21st century Declaration of Interdependence is our collective promise to deliver a life of dignity for all.

On April 22nd this year, leaders will return here to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Once again, our journey to a healthier, more sustainable and more peaceful planet begins here in this General Assembly chamber.

The resolutions adopted by the General Assembly may not all be acted on right away.  Yet they stand as our common position on the most pressing issues of our times.

These resolutions tell the story of our resolve.  They reflect our conviction that the countries of the world coming together can do far more collectively than they ever could alone.

Each delegate who speaks, each vote that is cast, every gavel that opens a new meeting adds a little more hope to the world.

Our record should inspire us to work harder and reach higher.

Poverty and hunger, discrimination and injustice afflict millions of people.

Wars, conflicts and natural disasters have driven record numbers from their homes.

Just when we need to build bridges, some are building barriers.

This General Assembly is more important than ever.

As we mark history, let us also follow the example of giants like Sir Brian Urquhart – by saving more lives, advancing more progress and promoting ever greater respect for human rights in our world.

Thank you.