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The Centennial Anniversary of the American Jewish Committee

16 March 2006
The Centennial Anniversary of the American Jewish Committee

Statement by Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze
At the Centennial Anniversary of the American Jewish Committee

Palais des Nations, Delegates Lounge
Thursday, 16 March 2006 at 6:00 p.m.


Ambassador Moses
Mr. Hillel
Members of the AJC Board of Governors
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen :

It is a great pleasure to warmly welcome you to the Palais des Nations this evening on the occasion of the celebrations to mark the centennial of the American Jewish Committee. We appreciate this opportunity to receive Ambassador Moses and the Members of the American Jewish Committee Board of Governors as well as its affiliate, UN Watch. I commend the longstanding and remarkable efforts of the American Jewish Committee in support of the advancement of human rights, freedom, tolerance and mutual respect around the world. Allow me to also pay tribute to the valuable work of UN Watch in support of the just application of values and principles of the United Nations Charter and support for human rights for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen :
This year marked an important juncture in reaching a new level of confidence and mutual understanding between the United Nations and Jewish communities around the world. A historic resolution of the General Assembly designated 27 January – day of liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp – the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Thus, the United Nations commemorated for the first time this year what will, for years to follow, be an annual observance. Indeed, in commemorating this day, we pay tribute to the innocent victims of the Holocaust and we strengthen our common determination to ensure that the horrors are never repeated again.

When we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations last year, it provided a welcome opportunity to recall the promises made by the founding fathers of our Organization and assess our accomplishments in service to humankind. However, we also recall that the name “United Nations” originated to describe the alliance of countries fighting to end the barbarous regime of the Nazis. Our Organization was born, as is rightly said, out of the ashes of the Holocaust and in response to the horrors of the Second World War. As our founding fathers promised, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”… “and for these ends… to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours” remains as valid today as it was in 1945. Indeed, as outlined in the Outcome Document of last September’s World Summit, “we recognize that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind. We acknowledge the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world. In order to promote international peace and security, we commit ourselves to advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encouraging tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.” Indeed, we have a responsibility, both as individuals and collectively, to promote mutual understanding and respect, especially among young people, in order to prevail over ignorance, intolerance, discrimination and prejudice. In the words of the Secretary-General, “Intolerance can be unlearnt. Tolerance and mutual respect have to be learnt.”

As acknowledged by Member States, peace and security, development and human rights are the pillars of the United Nations system and cannot be achieved independently of one another. This includes defeating anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination since we cannot achieve peace and security without defeating religious hatred and violence; we cannot uphold the values of human rights without practicing tolerance and respecting one another and; our world cannot develop in an environment that fosters insecurity and persecution of those who are different from us.

This is why the work of the American Jewish Committee and other similar bodies is crucial. It is only through our collective efforts that we can make a difference. We each have a responsibility, not only to the memory of all the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity such as the Holocaust, but also to future generations so that they may never have to bear witness to the crimes as past generations.

Thank you very much.