Introductory remarks on the re-opening of the United Nations Security Council Chamber

Check against delivery

Mr. Secretary-General,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a true honor for me to be present here today, and for Norway to take part in the restoration of this historic room – possibly the most important room in the world.

I am really impressed by how skillfully the restoration has been carried out under the UN Capital Master Plan.

Norway presented this room as a gift to the United Nations in 1952. The architect, Mr. Arnstein Arneberg, imagined a design ready to withstand the test of time. Key elements of his design can also be recognized from the Oslo City Hall, also built by Arneberg, a building finished just before this one. Internationally, the Oslo City Hall is most known as venue for the Nobel Peace Price award ceremony.

The mural behind me, painted by Mr. Per Krogh, depicts a phoenix rising from its ashes, a symbol of a world being rebuilt under the auspices of the United Nations. The blue wool damask tapestry was designed by the Norwegian textile artist Ms. Else Poulsson. The anchors are symbols of faith, grow­ing wheat symbols of hope, and hearts symbols of charity.

Espen Barth Eide og Ban Ki-moon
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Eide, gave the Secretary-General a new tie - made out of the original wall tapestry. (Photo: MFA)

Norway’s ambition was to provide an appropriate and inspirational setting and background to discuss the very issues that lies at the core of the UN’s purpose: peace and security. After all; this was why the UN was established in the first place; to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, as the Preamble to the UN charter stipulates. War, as it was perceived by the founding fathers of this great organization, obviously referred to inter-state wars; wars between states. And indeed; looking back; inter-state war has actually been the exception in the years since 1945; maybe it is true to say that the vision set out then to a large degree has been achieved. Instead, however, intra-state conflicts and new security challenges have risen to center stage and given the Security Council its fair share of challenges.

This room has been the venue of so many important events through its 61-year history. From overseeing the transition to a post-war order in the early fifties, through decades of decolonization, the intense tension surrounding the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, to the birth of modern peacekeeping, the advent of a post-cold war order in the 1990s and the decision to intervene – or not to intervene – in complicated situations around the world.

When this room was inaugurated, 61 years ago, in April 1952, we were in the midst of one of the harshest conflicts of the early Cold War era. In the Korean War, the UN took an active stance to defend South Korea, but it also proved to be a conflict over which the great powers sharply disagreed. That war ended in a ceasefire, not in permanent peace. Events over the last days and weeks have reminded us that permanent peace is still not achieved, more than six decades on. But it has also shown that where world reaction was marked with disunity in the 1950s, today, every member of this Council has expressed a shared revulsion over the acts and statements that led to the most recent crisis.

I look forward to discussing the role and continued relevance of the Council at the panel discussion that will follow shortly, and where I will be joined by a group of skilled dignitaries and thinkers to elaborate further. But first, allow me to use this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the current realities facing the Council.

Today, we are in the midst of a global shift, a transformation to a world order that we have little or no first-hand experience with. Indeed, we are looking at a paradigm shift in how our world should be understood. Asia's, Africa’s and Latin America’s economic growth, and the ensuing global rebalancing is changing the geopolitical map of the world. I am in no doubt that these trends will have significant consequences for the work of this organization. New actors will expect enhanced influence but also, we must hope, take responsibility for addressing the most important issues of our time.

It is not just a matter of a place at the table, but also to have a voice for formulating the content on the table. A changing world will change the UN, but the direction of change should also be influenced by an active UN organization. So will an evolving regional and multilateral architecture for the 21st Century. The UN, and this Council in particular, will have a key role to play in merging diverging views, responses and promoting a common global platform of strategic trust for a new era.

In peacekeeping, the Council carries the responsibility to ensure a collaborative mandating process, whereby the whole UN system and member states takes ownership and understand its implications.

To do so, the Council needs to work further to consolidate the resources and tools at its disposal. The Charter provides us with a full menu of crisis management options. A menu that even after all this time has yet to be fully utilized. At its best, the Council can employ a joined-up crisis management response to prevent and affect conflicts.

As the film we just saw illustrated, we have come a long way since this Chamber was put to use, our very understanding of what constitutes threats to international peace and security has changed since the Charter was adopted. We need to evolve our understanding of the political and operational climate the UN operates within. How we successfully adapt and remain relevant (and agile) in an ever-changing world is our big and shared conundrum that will have to be addressed in the years to come.

To do so, it is my hope that adequate premises such as this renovated Chamber will be put to good use. Countries North and South, East and West, all compete to have one seat in this Chamber. I do take some pride, then, in the fact that the entire room, including all its chairs, are actually Norwegian; that is true today, just as they were in 1952.

To finally conclude my welcoming remarks on this historic occasion, I would like to give the SG a unique memorabilia, literally a piece of important UN history, to you, Secretary-General – this (tie) is made out of the original wall tapestry, with its decorations symbolizing the spirit of peace - the very rationale for our being here and the work that takes place in this room.

Thank you for your attention.

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