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Ban praises predecessor U Thant for steering UN through dangerous decade

By UN

1 February - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today paid tribute to one of his predecessors, U Thant, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, calling the third holder of the United Nations top post as a statesman of “great skill and quiet persistence,” who steered the world body safely through a decade of change.

Mr. Thant, elected Secretary-General in 1961 after the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, played a key role in defusing the Cuban missile crisis and ending the civil war in the now Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mr. Ban said in a message to an event in New Delhi marking the centenary.

“I draw inspiration from many of those who have occupied the position I now hold, but U Thant has a special place in our thoughts,” he added. “His work on sustainable development laid the foundations for our efforts today to combat climate change and safeguard the global environment.

“His concept of 'One World', which he articulated at the height of the Cold War, was an early recognition of the global interdependence that is today so prominent in all our lives. I have also been moved by his description of the world as 'our beautiful spaceship with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life'.”

Mr. Ban called his predecessor an integral part of efforts to create many of the institutions which work to alleviate poverty and advance human development, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“It is a sad irony that his vision of human development has not yet been realized in his own country,” he declared. “U Thant's values of global solidarity, and his belief that the United Nations must always focus on the dignity and well-being of the individual, remain central to our work.”

Mr. Thant was born on 22 January 1909 in what was then Burma and now Myanmar, and at a celebratory lunch at UN Headquarters last June Mr. Ban called it “a sad irony that U Thant's vision of democracy has not been realized in his own country.”