Skip to main content

Secretary-General Hails Bonn at Commemoration of Former Germany Capital’s Twentieth Anniversary as United Nations City

Following are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the special event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations offices in Bonn, in Bonn, Germany, today:

It is a great honour to be back in Bonn.  Having had the privilege of inaugurating the World Conference Centre last June, I am delighted to be with you to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Bonn as a United Nations city.  It takes a lot of vision, courage and stamina to develop a global centre like this.  I congratulate all the people who have been involved in this great job.

My late and distinguished predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali received the first United Nations premises here — the Haus Carstanjen.  That wonderful “castle” was handed over by none other than Her Excellency Angela Merkel, current Chancellor, then serving as Minister for the Environment.  We talked about this this afternoon.  Ten years later, as Chancellor of this great country, she was on the scene again for the inauguration of the United Nations campus under my predecessor Kofi Annan.

Not so long ago, the turns of history emptied many of Bonn’s offices and streets.  Today, the city is a dynamic global and cultural centre, thanks to United Nations agencies, the Government of Germany and their partners.  That growth is far from finished, as the campus continues to expand and as your work covers more issues on the global agenda.  You are being true to the slogan of UN Bonn:  “Shaping a Sustainable Future”.

I do not need to tell you why your work is important.  You know the numbers, the trends, the threats to our survival.  We face unprecedented global challenges that require an unprecedented global response.  That response is well under way.  We are taking strong steps, for example, to advance gender equality.  Today is International Women’s Day — and congratulations for all our female colleagues and ladies.  This has been a priority throughout my mandate as Secretary-General.  Too many women and girls across the world continue to be denied their rights.  But, I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement.  Today, on International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to this cause.  There is no greater investment in our common future.

I am also hopeful that, despite problems and divisions, world leaders managed to come together last year for two major agreements with the potential to set the world on a safer, better and prosperous path.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our inspiring new road map, with 17 goals to guide us.  The Paris Agreement on climate change is, in a very strong sense, a peace pact with the planet.  And it was shaped right here in Bonn.

I want to thank Germany for its leadership role in that process.  I also congratulate the climate change secretariat and the tireless efforts of Christiana Figueres for making history.  You supported negotiations spanning many years and many late nights.  You provided substantive expertise.  You gave the process your very best and we see the results.  You showed the world what the United Nations can help make possible.  We will soon say farewell to Christiana Figueres, but we will never forget her dedication and achievements.  I am sure she will continue to be a champion of climate action and the United Nations.

Beyond UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], I thank all of you in Bonn for your contributions.  The UN Volunteers in more than 100 countries are offering the world skills in a huge variety of fields.  This is the United Nations by the people for the people.  The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is helping to protect 1 billion people from land degradation and global environmental change.  The United Nations University in Bonn is training future scientists and others.  UN-SPIDER [United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response] is providing know-how in using satellite-derived data.

Bonn colleagues are helping to preserve wildlife.  The Staff College has established a new Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development.  Let me stress that UN Bonn works closely with a rich landscape of governmental and non-governmental organizations.  We benefit from the presence of the University of Bonn, and from Bonn’s lively private sector.  I want to commend the German Federal Government, the German Foreign Office, the ministries, the City of Bonn and the Federal State of North Rhine Westphalia for their support of the United Nations here in Bonn, in Germany and throughout the world.

Over the past couple of weeks, I visited some of the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian need.  Across East, West and Central Africa, I saw the impacts of climate change and desertification.  I saw widespread fragility.  I felt the yearning of people for stability, opportunity and dignity.  And I sensed very strongly the urgency of the work you do here in Bonn.

In preparing for my visit to Bonn, one of your colleagues shared with my team a line written by the German poet Erich Kästner that I find very appropriate to share with you now:  “Es gibt nichts gutes, außer man tutes.”  In English, that means:  “There is no good, unless someone does it.”  That is what you are doing here in Bonn.  People look to the United Nations to help ease their suffering and help them build a better future.  I am always humbled by the task of meeting those dreams and expectations.

As you may know, this is my last year as Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I think I have been working very hard to meet the expectations of the world.  And I have been really trying hard to make the United Nations relevant, effective and efficient.

At the same time, I am very conscious of the many expectations that the United Nations should be more efficient, more active, effective and deliver more to many people.  And there are some criticisms:  What are you doing?  What is the relevance of the United Nations?  But, I can tell you, very proudly and confidently, despite all these weaknesses, it is the United Nations which [is] delivering to the people.  Everybody is still looking to the United Nations.  I am very much humbled, and at the same time, with your strong support such as [the one] we enjoy from Germany and from Bonn — I think I am motivated.

Germany is a strong advocate for human rights.  You are a strong anchor of global stability.  And you are a champion, pioneering champion, on climate change and you are a major force of sustainable development.  You are a very benevolent leader in humanitarian affairs, like your Government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to help millions of people who otherwise would have no place to stay.  That I am very much grateful [for].

Even though I may be leaving, I am sure that you will continue to support the United Nations, you will continue to support my successor so that she or he can deliver all that many people around the world look to the United Nations [for].  Thank you very much for all your support and your leadership.

For information media. Not an official record.