The United Nations Association of New York
2013 UN Day
Humanitarian Awards Dinner
As a fresh New York autumn was beginning to make its colorful presence felt, especially throughout the grand magnificence of Central Park's vistas, another spectacular occasion of colorful human philanthropy unfolded in the posh environs of the Marriott Essex House. This year the Humanitarian Awards Dinner, held by the United Nations Association of New York, saw more than 250 guests in attendance, to celebrate the meaningful contributions of corporations and individuals in promoting and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The October 23rd fête warmly honored Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman and CEO of the BMW Group, which was recognized as a responsible leading company exemplifying environmental sustainability, leadership, innovation and technological excellence, committed to corporate governance and environmental impact consistent with the principles of the UN Global Compact and the MDGs. Their efforts, and this year's award theme, correspond with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's initiative, Sustainable Energy for All, which brings together partners from government, NGOs and the private sector to promote and expand sustainable energy.
Indeed, Ban's endorsement of the evening's undertaking reflected his own desire "to address the economic, social and environmental aspect of development in an integrated way… Your decision to focus this year's annual gathering on sustainability shows a keen understanding of the overarching challenge of our time," he remarked in his commendation, delivered by the Assistant UN Secretary-General Franz Baumann.
It was an understanding also echoed in the words of the gala's Keynote Speaker and honorable guest Madame Madeleine K. Albright. The illustrious former U.S. Secretary of State addressed the occasion with her usual winning combination of unexpected humor and serious purpose, as she delineated many of the aspects of the ongoing global energy crisis, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. Over the years, her own diplomatic career offered her several opportunities to join her talents with the efforts of the United Nations, not least in her collaboration with previous UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when they worked together to develop the MDGs, which were intended to foster widespread economic and social advances.
"Mr. Reithofer's commitment to the goal of environmental sustainability should be an inspiration to us all," she said. "Sustainable energy is a goal within our reach, and while governments can point us in the right direction, success depends on the innovation and technical expertise that is more often found in the private sector. Which is why public-private partnerships can become so important — and why BMW is so worthy of our encouragement and recognition here this evening."
"As a company active in about 140 countries in the world, Dr. Reithofer and the BMW Group stand out as a worldwide leader in corporate governance, social responsibility and the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals," said UNA-NY President Abid Qureshi in his welcoming remarks.
"This evening we celebrate corporate excellence in achieving one of those Goals. BMW Group has embraced wholeheartedly the Secretary-General's initiative, making them a clear leader in the area of environmental sustainability, innovation and technological excellence. BMW's achievements extend well beyond their all-electric car, and they have made great strides in reducing their own energy consumption, while continually advancing their production technology," he continued. "BMW has also been a long-time private sector partner of the UN, particularly the UN Alliance of Civilizations, sponsoring an award for intercultural innovation."
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), established under the auspices of the UN, aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions. Earlier this year, our 2012 Humanitarian Award honoree, H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, assumed the position of UN High Representative for the Alliance.
"Sustainability is important to ensure the long-term viability of our planet, and of course, of any company as well," commented Dr. Norbert Reithofer in his acceptance address. "For us, it comprises three pillars: the economic, ecological and social. But without economic success, there cannot be progress for the other two. Once you generate the economic success, the other two can better develop… The work of the United Nations has made our world a safer place and promoted peaceful co-existence among nations… and as a company, we can only succeed in a world of global peace, as well as free trade.
"In all of our locations worldwide, it has always been important for us to act as good corporate citizens, promoting the interests of our associates and their families at the local level, and supporting cultural and societal projects, such as our South African campaign involving HIV-prevention," Reithofer continued. "We also consider our partnership with the UN Alliance of Civilizations historic, as it represents a new level of cooperation between the private sector and the UN. Together the two organizations have established the Intercultural Innovation Award. Its mandate is to recognize and support highly innovative grassroots projects that promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, and make vital contributions to prosperity and peace in global societies."
Early in the proceedings, guests viewed a newly-made video produced by UNA-NY Board Member and Treasurer Dr. Peter Rajsingh, offering a succinct look into the history and meaning of the United Nations and its mission, presenting a world organization which offers not only vital diplomatic interventions in the workings throughout the international governing complex at large, but also provides the means by which a better world can evolve.
Ioannis Vrailas, the Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, opened the evening with his own trenchant views on sustainability and poverty eradication, while entertaining various degrees of relevance such as contrasting the plentiful servings of dinner and wine being served to attendees with the severe lack of food and water facing the impoverished millions in the world at large. With speedy intelligence Vrailas outlined many such contrasts and deficits, offered EU perspectives on energy consumption, "eco-innovation" and the virtues of clean beaches, all the while fulfilling his invited role as "party-pooper." And in the end, his complex survey of all the economic reasons for doing the right thing were unquestionably inspiring.
The evening also featured an auction of another exclusive and memorable creation by international artist and potter Miranda Thomas, a lovely porcelain bottle vase in a limited edition of thirty, representing the dove of peace. It represents a dove which is, in her words, "determined and committed, passionately believing in its mission."
However, and in all events — the most essential part of the gleaming success of our gala on this colorful autumn evening was the ongoing passion and commitment of our attendees and sponsors — all of you who generously continue to acknowledge and support the important work of the UN, as well as our role in New York as the host chapter of the United Nations Association. To you all we express our deep gratitude.
reportage: Peter Muller