During a visit to the capital of Slovakia today, the United Nations Secretary-General inaugurated an exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of Organization, featured at the National Council of the Slovak Republic.
“When the United Nations was first established, it was an enormous gamble based on hope,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told those attending the ceremony in Bratislava.
“The world was in ruins. The founders of the United Nations knew that they had to do more than rebuild the bombed-out buildings with bricks; they had to build a lasting institution based on universal ideals,” he continued.
Mr. Ban pointed out that one of those founders was the Slovak diplomat Jan Papanek, who showed “great courage” throughout his career. “I have been deeply inspired by him as I studied for my visit to the Slovak Republic,” Mr. Ban revealed.
Speaking about the photographs on display, the UN chief said they capture “the very intense time when the world came together following global tragedy to forge an institution that could turn the lessons of war into a service for peace.”
“I am moved by these displays, which give us a sense of what it was like at the birth of this great Organization,” he stated, adding that the exhibition is a “powerful reminder” of how the UN was established and how much it has progressed since.
“For one thing, there are now many distinguished Slovak women working as diplomats, too!” he exclaimed.
Mr. Ban further noted that the dramatic events in the world now “show how important the United Nations remains today,” and that the global community has reached a “pivotal” moment in history.
“The United Nations has saved countless lives – but wars still rage. Displacement is higher than at any time since the Second World War. The dangers are serious – but the world is responding,” he insisted, mentioning the new the new Sustainable Development Goals which aim to create a life of dignity for all people by 2030.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General visited Comenius University, the oldest and largest university in the Slovak Republic, which presented him with an Honorary Doctorate and Gold Medal.
“This is a reflection of your esteem for the United Nations,” Mr. Ban said upon receiving the award. “I accept on behalf of its global staff. They are the UN's heart and soul, and I attribute all honours I receive to them.”
He also met with students from the school's Karol Rybárik International Relations Institute, whom he described as a “new generation of young people” raised in independent Slovakia.
“As students of diplomacy, you may go out in the world and represent your country,” he toldthem. “In this effort, I hope that you will always consider how the national interest and the global interest converge.”
Later, Mr. Ban visited the University's Library, where he saw the Basagic's Collection of Islamic Manuscripts.
“These very rare and valuable documents show the development of Islamic civilization over more than a thousand years,” he noted. “The fact that they are treasured here shows this University's respect for the importance of Islam in history.”