29 February 2012
"Václav Havel, Playwright, Human Rights Defender, Statesman"
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
“ Václav Havel, Playwright, Human Rights Defender, Statesman ” Exhibition
Palais des Nations, Building E, 3rd Floor
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 14.30
It is a pleasure to welcome you here today, and I want to thank the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic for organizing this remarkable exhibit. We are also particularly honoured by the presence of Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg at this special event.
The title of this exhibition, “Vaclav Havel: Playwright, Human Rights Defender, Statesman” is in itself a tribute to the great and dynamic man that we are here to celebrate. His important contributions in all three of these areas are widely recognized.
It is particularly fitting that this exhibition takes place here in the Palais des Nations. In this building, the rich cultural events programme combines and complements the daily discussions on critical issues of human rights and public policy. Havel’s metamorphosis from playwright to statesman underlines the importance of culture in political affairs and matters of State.
As a playwright, Vaclav Havel told us that he inhabited “a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.” His personal story was a confirmation of this statement, with his writings helping to bring about the end of a totalitarian system.
Havel was a primary contributor to a peaceful revolution that was so smooth that it took just a few weeks. His solid convictions of the fundamental rights of all people are what made him such a visionary political leader. And his writings still contain lessons that are relevant for us today; in the context of the Arab Spring, I am pleased that this exhibition can remind us of the man who penned the important 1978 essay “The power of the powerless”. The challenges he then took on as a Statesman of ensuring respect for human rights, securing the rule of law and building responsive and democratic government remain priority issues for the United Nations to this day.
We are fortunate to have such a rich selection of photographs detailing the life and work of Vaclav Havel. In this exhibition, we see him as a unique individual leading his people at a turbulent and troubling time. I hope that these images serve to remind us all of the power of principled ideas as we continue our common efforts for global peace and security.
Thank you for this opportunity.
And thank you, Minister Schwarzenberg, for your role in this special event.