28 August 2009
VIENNA, 28 August (UN Information Service) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a special ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre today that he had left half his heart in Vienna, after serving as Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Austria.
Around 1,000 people including the Austrian President, the President of Parliament, the Mayor of Vienna, Permanent Representatives accredited to the Vienna-based organizations, Ambassadors to Austria, representatives of the City of Vienna, civil society, the private sector and staff members of the Vienna International Centre (VIC) organizations enjoyed a gala performance of music and speeches organized by the Austrian Government in the new conference facilities of the M-Building of the Vienna International Centre.
Speaking at the event, Ban Ki-moon thanked Austria for its significant contribution to the United Nations in German, and said: "When this Centre opened its doors in 1979, it was a bridge between East and West during the Cold War. Now it is a twenty-first century hub for addressing human security issues at the heart of a united Europe."
Secretary-General Ban spoke of the importance of the work of all the Vienna-based UN organizations adding: "From outer space to the human heart, this Vienna International Centre has done far more than witness history; it has brought great progress to our world."
He also spoke of the Austrian spirit of service as exemplified by the story of a young Austrian United Nations Volunteer working in Somalia who continued with her work to help Somalis in need, despite being attacked.
One of the musical highlights of the event was the first live performance of a special song to promote the 'Seal the Deal' campaign by the Austrian band, My Excellence. The UN Secretary-General thanked the band for supporting his campaign for Member States to negotiate a fair, balance and effective agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December and 'Seal the Deal'.
There were also performances from Voices for Peace - Timna Brauer and Elias Meiri Ensemble featuring Marwan Abado.
The Austrian Federal President, Heinz Fischer, said: "Since becoming a member of the United Nations Austria has consistently endeavoured to support this organization in the best possible way and I can reassure you that the same will be the case in the future." The President also spoke of Austria's commitment to peacekeeping which the Secretary-General had commended, and he promised that everyone in Austria would take good care of the half of the Secretary-General's heart: "You are always welcome to visit this half of your heart here so we hope to see you frequently in Austria."
Welcoming the United Nations Secretary-General, the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, said today's ceremony acknowledged both the achievements of the UN organizations and entities based here and Austria's commitment to the United Nations. He said it was one of his foreign policy priorities to reinforce Vienna's position as a platform for peace and dialogue. He thanked all the staff at the Vienna International Centre: "Constructive dialogue and solution-oriented thinking - the so-called Vienna Spirit - have always been major characteristics of international organizations here in Vienna. You are all excellent examples of this spirit."
The Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, said that UNO-City as it is known by the Viennese, has become a true landmark of Vienna: "The prominent building has shaped the skyline of modern Vienna from the very beginning. It is a symbol of Vienna as a modern and open-minded city."
The VIC is home to the United Nations family in Vienna and is one of the four United Nations headquarters worldwide. The VIC, designed by Austrian architect Johann Staber, was handed over to the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency 30 years ago this month on 23 August 1979. For more information visit http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/events/2009/30-years-vic.html
Also today the "Facing Nations - culture of humanity exhibit" opened at the VIC. The exhibit is a unique artistic initiative which communicates the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The over-sized oil portraits of 124 people from around the world, living in Graz, Austria by the artist Oskar Stocker shows a "panorama of humanity" over 150 metres long. It will be on display in the VIC until the end of the year.
Today the Secretary-General also held meetings with the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Michael Spindelegger as well as the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa and other heads of Vienna-based organizations and staff.
Following a private visit to the Austrian President's summer residence in Mürzsteg, the UN Secretary-General will then go to Tyrol where he will address the Alpbach Retreat 2009 - The UN Security Council and the Protection of Civilians: Improving Effectiveness and Accountability. Mr. Ban will also deliver the Opening Statement at the European Forum Alpbach Political Symposium 2009 - Trust between Individuals and States.
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For further information please contact:
Information Officer, UNIS Vienna
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5588
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For more information about the VIC 30 th anniversary see the factsheets:
the brochure 30 Ways the United Nations in Vienna makes a difference: