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Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the opening of the World Conference Centre in Bonn

07.06.2015 - Speech

Secretary-General,

Mr Mayor,

Minister Löhrmann,

Federal Minister Hendricks,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ideas need places in order to become reality! When the idea of a new international peace order was born seventy years ago with the signing of the UN Charter, the United Nations was merely a guest in San Francisco. The idea only found its final home a few years later in New York.

Just like the United Nations, its ideas and its tasks have developed further and new locations have come along – Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Copenhagen. And then there’s Bonn, with its focus on climate change mitigation and sustainability.

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When we look at history, it’s clear that it could by no means be taken for granted that Germany would one day be chosen to give a home to the United Nations’ tremendous ideas.

For let’s not forget that the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were partly the response of the international community to the unparalleled crimes and the terror for which this country was responsible. Back then, after the war, there was no place for Germany in the international community’s new order. It was an object rather than a part of this order. Over the past decades, however, our country was fortunate enough to gradually once more be welcomed into the heart of the international community. And for the last 25 years, we have been a member of this international community as one people, as united Germany. Ban Ki‑moon, we Germans are grateful and happy that this was possible!

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Distinguished guests, we also believe that we have a historical responsibility: Germany, which destroyed the international order more than 70 years ago, has to be a particularly ardent advocate of this order today. It must actively contribute to the international peace efforts – especially in these turbulent times. As a UN location, Bonn symbolises this very responsibility, which today we are strengthening and developing, ladies and gentlemen.

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Distinguished guests and friends,

The big idea of an international peace order, the big idea that the international community can only master the huge, transboundary problems of our time if it works together, will, in reality, never be finished. Rather, it will have to constantly change and evolve, especially today when traditional structures are under considerable pressure and the world seems to have got out of joint due to the host of international crises. For that reason, the institutions and the locations of the United Nations also have to evolve, and Germany is prepared to support this process. This, too, is visible today in Bonn: we are opening the World Conference Centre in Bonn, thus creating a new venue where solutions to major challenges can be found.

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Climate change is one of the main challenges facing the international community. The climate summit in Paris is most likely our last chance to limit global warming to 2 degrees. Our goal is therefore an ambitious agreement with binding climate targets and fair international financing. I’m delighted that Bonn has become one of the locations where the climate summit is being prepared. I hope that the participants in this first conference, the very first to take place in the WCCB, will be inspired by this new location and that it will help translate the ideas and goals of the climate summit into reality.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank everyone who helped ensure that we could honour the joint pledge made in 2002 by the Federal Government, Land NRW and the city of Bonn to build an international congress centre – not least the Mayor, who championed this project despite all the obstacles. For that he deserves our respect. Mr Nimptsch, I’m sure you won’t mind if I also thank those without whom the project would never have got off the ground. They include Bärbel Dieckmann, who – given the importance of this project to Bonn and Germany – was perhaps not always treated with due fairness in public.

The city of Bonn has shown once more today that it can offer a home to big ideas – both as a conference location and as a base for new organisations. The Federal Government will continue to do everything in its power to support this. I have therefore decided that in future the Federal Foreign Office will have a liaison office for the United Nations and the international organisations here in Bonn. For, ladies and gentlemen, this world out of joint, this world in transition, needs new ideas. They can flourish here. I thank you all and wish the WCCB all the best!

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