New York

20 May 2022

Secretary-General's remarks at the General Assembly: Tribute to the Memory of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Late President of the United Arab Emirates [as delivered]

As salaam alaikum.   

I wish to begin by reiterating my deepest condolences to the Royal family, the Government, and the people of the United Arab Emirates on the passing of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

Over three decades ago, Sheikh Khalifa reflected on the influence of his father, Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founder and first president. 

“My father is my teacher,” he said. “I learn something from him every day, follow his path and absorb from him his values, and the need for patience and prudence in all things.”

Sheikh Khalifa learned these lessons well. 

Building on the foundations laid by his father, he led the United Arab Emirates – with patience and prudence – through a dramatic metamorphosis and out of the arid desert created some of the great metropolises of our world. 

I will always remember the generosity of the Sheikh and the Emirati people towards those in need. 

The exponential increase in support for multilateral humanitarian action – testament to a rich giving tradition – has saved countless lives and galvanized others to give as well. 

And while the tremendous wealth of the Emirates sprang from its oil wells, Sheikh Khalifa recognized the imperatives of sustainable development and climate action to protect our planet for future generations.

He ramped up investments and research into renewable energy to diversify the country’s energy mix and lower its carbon footprint. 

I was awed by my visit to the world’s largest single-site solar power plant – Noor Abu Dhabi – with its over 3 million solar panels stretching across the desert.

It was only logical therefore that the International Renewable Energy Agency – the first international organisation focusing exclusively on renewable energy and playing such a vital role supporting countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future – would find its home in Abu Dhabi. 

Last year, the United Arab Emirates became the first country in the Middle East to pledge net-zero emissions by 2050. 

And next year, the UAE will host COP28 – further proof of a commitment to help the world advance climate action at the speed and scale our world needs.

At this time of mourning, let us take inspiration from the prudence and patience His Highness demonstrated throughout his life. 

Let us recall his advice that “preparing for the future – near or far – starts today, not tomorrow.” 

In that spirit, let us strengthen our partnership with the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Let us honour the memory of Sheikh Khalifa.

And let us build a world of peace, prosperity, and dignity for all, that he always tried to help build. 

Thank you very much. Shukran.