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05.06.2009 Press Release

Ban pays tribute to former UN chief and Myanmar diplomat U Thant

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3 June - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of U Thant, paid tribute to the memory of the former United Nations chief and voiced hope for a better future for the land of his birth, Myanmar.

Addressing guests at a lunch held at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban recalled that during his mission to Myanmar last year in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, he took the opportunity to visit the U Thant mausoleum in Yangon to pay his respects.

“It is a sad irony that U Thant's vision of democracy has not been realized in his own country,” said Mr. Ban. “That is why I would like to visit Myanmar again this year.”

The Secretary-General also highlighted the many ways the “quiet diplomat” worked hard for the principles of the UN, including helping to defuse Cold War tensions.

U Thant also oversaw the Organisation's growth, both in membership and scope, and helped lay the foundations for what is now called sustainable development, Mr. Ban added.

In addition, Mr. Ban pointed out, U Thant's roots as a teacher also provided the seeds for the UN University and the Institute that bears his name, which is built on the concept of 'One World.'

The crises of the past year – the food crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis and the economic crisis – emphasized the interconnections of our 'One World,' noted the Secretary-General.

“We see them also with climate change,” he added. “Many of the countries that joined the United Nations while U Thant was Secretary-General will be among the worst affected by climate change.

“This is why I call for global solidarity whenever I speak,” stated Mr. Ban, who said he will continue to do so between now and December, when governments meet to seal a deal on climate change at a UN conference in Copenhagen.

Today's event was organized by the U Thant Institute, the UN Office for Partnerships and the Department of Public Information (DPI).

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