And until we do better at preventing and reducing conflict, we are doomed to be in a cycle of having to help feed or shelter people when societies collapse.
As another legendary UN leader, who was also killed in the line of duty, Dag Hammarskjöld, said “Everything will be all right – you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves”.
The UN can only change if governments change their policies. And if we as citizens ask our governments to do that. It is moving, if you think about it: We are the future generations envisioned in the UN Charter.
When our grandparents resolved to “spare future generations the scourge of war”, as written, they were thinking of us. But as well as dreaming for our safety they also left us a responsibility.
President Roosevelt, addressing the US Congress in January 1945, six months before the end of World War II, said this: “In the field of foreign policy, we promise to stand together with the United Nations not for the war alone but for the victory for which the war was fought”.
And he went on: “The firm foundation can be built- and it will be built. But the continuance and assurance of a living peace, in the long run, must be the work of the people themselves.”
So today, we have to ask ourselves, if we are living up to that mission? They gave us that start. What have we done with it?
It is clear to me that we have made huge strides. But our agreements and institutions are only as strong as our will to uphold them. And if we do not, for whatever reason, we bequeath a darker and more unstable world to all those who come after us. It is not for this that previous generations shed blood and worked so hard on behalf of all of us.
The memory of those who came before us holds us true to our ideals. Resting unchanging in time, they remind us of who we are and what we stand for. They give us hope to stay in the fight, as Sergio did, until his last breath.
14 years since his death, there is a stronger need than ever before for us to stay true to the ideals and purposes of the United Nations. That is what I hope his memory holds us to today.
We can’t all be Sergios. But I hope all of us can determine that we shall be a generation that renews its commitment to “unite our strength to maintain international peace and security”, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
But in the final analysis, even if we do not, even if that level of vision eludes us and we continue to simply manage rather than to try to overcome our generation’s challenges, we just have to keep working determinedly and patiently.
And you can be certain, that as you do, that you follow the example of one of the UN’s finest sons: and that to do even a little of his good, to apply ourselves to the work he left unfinished, in whatever way we can, is a worthy task for all of us.