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“A conversation with Kofi Annan and Michel Sidibé"

3 June 2014
“A conversation with Kofi Annan and Michel Sidibé"

Opening Remarks of Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

“A conversation with Kofi Annan and Michel Sidibé"
On the occasion of the launch of Mr. Annan’s book
“We the Peoples: a UN for the 21st century”

Palais des Nations, Room XX
Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 17:00

Mr. Secretary-General
Mr. Sidibé

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all most warmly to the Palais des Nations for the launch of Secretary-General Annan’s book: “We the Peoples: A UN for the 21st Century”.

This event holds a special personal significance for me. So, let me start by an indisputable fact: I would not be standing in front of you here today if it were not for Secretary-General Annan. And I would not find it as interesting, enriching and enjoyable to be here in Geneva if it were not for the presence of people like my extraordinary colleague, Michel Sidibé. They are both outstanding ambassadors for the United Nations, united in their commitment to the mission of this unique Organization and in placing their intellect at the service of the most vulnerable of this world. It is truly an honour to have both of them here today.

Secretary-General Annan has not only helped shape my career professionally, as my mentor and as my boss, but – most importantly – he has profoundly influenced my way of thinking and my outlook through his human qualities: his integrity, his dignity, his kindness, his patience, his determination, his deep-seated passion for the United Nations and his dedicated service to humankind. If I am ever in doubt about a decision or a course of action, I use his example for guidance and as a moral compass. And if that does not work, I ask for his advice.

You cannot talk about Mr. Annan without including Nane Annan in the narrative. They are a symbiotic team that I, and many more, have had the great pleasure of interacting with over the years. She has not only been the strongest partner for Mr. Annan but a tremendous support for all of us who have worked with him – and an asset for our Organization. I am very happy to have this public opportunity to pay tribute to her and to all that she has achieved – and helped us achieve.

I have been truly privileged to work closely over the past 35 years with Secretary-General Annan. But it is a testament to his remarkable personality and his ability to connect with people – regardless of background – that many, many people across the world feel a strong personal connection with him and have been inspired by his example, even if they have only met him very briefly. When he speaks, the world listens. Not just because he is an eloquent speaker, but because he himself listens to people, gives them his full attention and takes on board what they say. The weight of his words comes from this intuitive understanding of others and his deep-felt commitment to them. To me, that is what makes a true leader.

But his impact is not only on the individual level. His dedication to others is also demonstrated by the fact that today all his proceeds from the book, We the Peoples, will go to UNAIDS for their exceptional work. As has always been the case, Secretary-General Annan wants his words to benefit those who are in greatest need of his support.
Secretary-General Annan epitomizes what we are all working towards in this Organization every day: a world at peace, where all can live in freedom, prosperity and dignity.

The book that we launch today sets out his vision for how the United Nations can achieve that – a United Nations now transformed by his ideas and his innovations. Many of the fundamental aspects of the United Nations today were shaped during his tenure: the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals that revolutionized the development agenda, bringing all actors together around a shared blueprint for a better world. The identification of HIV/AIDS as a global and collective challenge, leading to the establishment of UNAIDS. The Global Compact that brought the private sector and the United Nations closer together. The mainstreaming of human rights as a key pillar of our work. The 2005 World Summit that established the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission. The introduction of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect. And the list is much longer still.

It is difficult to even imagine the United Nations today without these initiatives – and yet many of them seemed impossible to realize before he launched them. They were not only ground-breaking in terms of the level of ambition and the breadth of aspiration but he managed to make them a concrete reality through his unmatched diplomatic skills. And that is truly inspirational.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech – which I think is probably one of the best he has ever given, among the many memorable ones he has delivered over the years – he summed up his understanding of the dynamics of our era and the place of the United Nations:

“Today’s real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national security crises in another.”

He built a United Nations that was better able to respond to this interconnectedness, a United Nations that reached beyond the realm of States to engage with all stakeholders, a United Nations that acknowledged that security, development and human rights are inextricably linked. A United Nations for the 21st century and a United Nations for We the Peoples.

It is a legacy to be proud of, and it is a United Nations that we are all proud of.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.