Honoring the Human Rights Legacy and Leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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(l–r) Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York; Ban Ki-moon, outgoing secretary-general of the United Nations; and Noubar Afeyan, cofounder, 100 LIVES and the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. (Photo: Robert Tannenbaum)

A reception for the outgoing secretary-general was held at United Nations headquarters in New York.

Leaders from civil society gathered at the United Nations today to celebrate the tenure of outgoing secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, honoring in particular his track record on promoting and defending human rights. The event, cohosted by the United Nations Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, saw leaders from internationally oriented NGOs, nonprofits, and foundations heap praise on Ban for his efforts, despite the political challenges faced by the leader of an institution who reports to its member states.

Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, noting that he had known four secretary-generals, called Ban a courageous man of great dignity and honor who will be long remembered not only in New York City but around the world.

Speaking on behalf of the Corporation and the other organizations present at the reception, Gregorian observed: “For a person who has 197 bosses, you have defended international peace and security and human rights with courage, tenacity, and without apology. Without you, people who have been refugees would not have found a home, human rights would have been violated in every corner of the world, genocide would be perpetrated, and there would be no right of intervention on human rights.”

For these reasons and more, Gregorian added, “all the nonprofit organizations dedicated to human rights are honored to have had you as secretary-general for the past 10 years.”

Other speakers at the event included Timothy Wirth, former U.S. senator and vice chair of the United Nations Foundation, and David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee.


“I thank the Carnegie Corporation for bringing us together, and for its longstanding support of the United Nations,” said Ban. “I would also like to express my appreciation to all of you for the very kind words we have just heard.”

Ban continued, “Throughout my time in office, I tried to highlight the centrality of human rights. At every turn, our progress would not have been possible without the strong voice and activism of all of you—think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and concerned citizens. Thank you for a decade of effort.”

Ban closed his remarks by reminding his listeners of the importance of raising our voices together. “The cause of human rights benefits from advocacy and activism around the world. . . . Human rights protect us, including during wartime. They are the path to durable peace and to post-conflict justice and reconciliation. They are our best tools for countering terrorism and violent extremism. And they are the basis of stable, resilient, inclusive societies in which all people enjoy dignity and opportunity.”

View the Flickr album of the event: Honoring the Human Rights Legacy and Leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon