Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Ambassador Mirachiani
Mr. Scharinger
Consul-General Colella
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the Palais des Nations for our first cultural activity of the New Year.

The General Assembly has declared 2010 the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, and tonight’s exhibition is certainly a most appropriate way to start that International Year and the new decade of our Cultural Activities Programme. Co-hosted by two Member States, this display is already a demonstration of a shared commitment to the value of cultural diversity.

The images here capture the daily lives of fellow human beings. We can all relate to these everyday situations, regardless of our background and culture. These particularities of the Italian way of life, interpreted by a German artist, show us that in the fundamental aspects of our existence, we are all connected as the human family. When we embrace our differences, we also see our similarities.

The United Nations was founded as a recognition of these common bonds. And as an instrument to help ensure that people across the world can lead everyday lives like the ones we see this evening – in security, prosperity and dignity.

This goal can only be reached based on mutual understanding and appreciation of differences, as we see it reflected in these paintings and drawings.

As the first decade of this millennium has come to a close, the international community is faced with multiple crises – from ongoing instability in many parts of the world, increasing military expenditure and economic and financial uncertainty to the warming of our planet.

As we now start a new decade, this exhibition is a most timely call for continued dialogue to strengthen tolerance and trust that is the necessary foundation for overcoming those challenges through collective efforts. 3 Let this call be heard beyond the Palais des Nations so that we may reinforce respect across our communities and countries and within our international community for a better world for all.

Grazie mille. Vielen Dank.