Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon today honoured the Myanmarese diplomat and paid tribute to the mark he made in the quest for peace.
Assuming the leadership of the UN after the untimely death of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, U Thant “put forth a vision of a truly global society, and emphasized the need, as he put it, ‘to understand each other and to develop a spirit of One World,’” Mr. Ban said in a message to an event in Yangon.
U Thant, who served as a teacher and headmaster, underscored throughout his life the importance of learning, and as Secretary-General, proposed the establishment of the UN University (UNU) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
He brought the environmental issues to the fore, and also was deeply concerned over the growing gap between rich and poor nations, with dozens of new Asian and African nations joining the UN during the world body’s first “development decade.”
During U Thant’s ten-year tenure, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO) all came into existence, “underscoring the abiding interest of the United Nations in the economic and social well-being of all the world’s people,” Mr. Ban said in his address delivered by Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar.
Boosting the role of the Secretary-General in world affairs, U Thant helped to resolve the Cuban missile crisis and end the civil war in the Congo, while also strongly advocating for decolonization and against South Africa’s apartheid system.
U Thant’s “patience and unassuming demeanour were valuable assets in his conduct and quiet diplomacy,” the current Secretary-General said.
“He left a legacy that will live on in the history of the United Nations and the world in our work for peace.”