Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: 20 years of Bonn as a UN city – shaping a sustainable future through voluntary work

08.03.2016 - Speech

Ms Figueres,
Mr Dictus,
Mr Mayor,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It feels good to be back in Bonn and it feels particularly good to be here with you, Secretary-General! You are a frequent visitor to Bonn. And I believe it is fair to say that each time you came here over the past years, the UN’s presence in this city became even stronger!

“The United Nations in Bonn has blossomed … Bonn is a wonderful location – historic, pleasant, spacious and modern.” That is how you put it in a recent speech. And I am a bit surprised that the city has not yet recruited you as their top PR agent!

I thank you for your commitment to Bonn and to its UN institutions!


Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations has been based in Bonn for 20 years and its presence here is continuing to grow.

Bonn has become the global capital for sustainability and climate protection – for tasks now facing humanity more urgently than ever before.

We have often experienced how difficult it is to reach consensus on how to tackle these challenges – most recently during the struggle to achieve a climate agreement, which was successfully concluded in Paris.

And I think it is not an exaggeration to say that Bonn played a crucial role in this!

It is true that the agreement was finally signed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. But the vital groundwork was laid here in the shadow of the building known as Langer Eugen, in the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change!

I would like to thank Christiana Figueres and her team for their hard work!


Ladies and gentlemen,

Bonn stands for sustainability. And the challenges we face in this area are significant. Germany is fully committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I would like to underline one of its goals today on International Women’s Day: gender equality. In concrete terms, this means that by 2030 we will ensure that every woman and girl can participate freely and fully in society.

The UN organisations in Bonn and the German Government will do everything in their power to achieve this goal.


Bonn also stands for this work. But for me, Bonn primarily stands for the commitment of countless volunteers who work worldwide for peace, climate protection and human rights. The UN Volunteers programme, which is based in Bonn, is one of the UN’s greatest success stories.

Whether as school teachers, kindergarten teachers or agricultural experts, UN Volunteers do outstanding work worldwide.

Here in Germany, we are now also seeing how important this voluntary work is. Countless people are helping refugees. They distribute food, teach German, and give advice and support to those seeking protection.

We are very grateful to the volunteers in Germany and to the UN Volunteers all over the world and pay tribute to them, not only because they provide concrete help, but also because they play a crucial role in shaping the process of understanding and reconciliation between societies. And this – the aim to understand other people – is a fundamental tenet of our foreign policy.

Thank you very much.

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