UN officials remember fall of Berlin Wall, 20 years on

9 November 2009
The Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago today is a reminder of the difference that ordinary people can make for the greater good, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the world to salute those fighting to enhance human rights and freedoms.

Mr. Ban issued a statement through his spokesperson in which he said the Wall’s tearing down “changed the course of history and came to symbolize the triumph of ordinary people in their quest for freedom. We owe it to all of those who fought for their fundamental rights and freedoms to never forget their struggle. Their story still inspires today.”

The Secretary-General said the anniversary offers “a reminder of the difference people can make for the greater good, whether it is fighting for human rights in 1989 or working in the 21st century to end poverty, feed the hungry and combat climate change.”

The incoming head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in a separate statement, said world leaders cannot afford to be complacent in the quest for freedom, human rights and diversity.

Irina Bokova, Director-General-elect of UNESCO, used the anniversary to stress that the battle for universal values has not yet been won.

“Today we live in a globalized world, but too many walls remain,” said Ms. Bokova. “UNESCO’s task is to break through these walls, wherever they may be and whatever form they take.”

Ms. Bokova, who succeeds Koïchiro Matsuura as UNESCO chief on 15 November, served as foreign minister of Bulgaria during the 1990s.

She described the fall of the Berlin Wall as “an event of immense historical importance for world peace and the advance of democracy. It was the start of a new era, giving rise to hopes, not just in Eastern Europe but around the world, for a better life. A page has been turned.”

But she also noted that while globalization could be “a liberating force, it also carries the risk of creating a more uniform world, eroding the incredible diversity that is the real source of human creativity, economic and social development, and opening the way for new forms of repression, exclusion and poverty.”


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