The United Nations Association of New York
2012 UN Day
Humanitarian Awards Dinner




From left: Abid Qureshi, Gala Dinner Co-Chair; Peter Rajsingh, Gala Dinner Co-Chair; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Ann Nicol, UNA-NY Executive Director; Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, 2012 Honoree; Robin van Puyenbroeck, Gala Dinner Co-Chair; and Paula Rice Jackson, UNA-NY President | click photo for enlarged view

On October 25, the United Nations Association of New York awarded Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser its 2012 Humanitarian Award for his leadership of the 66th General Assembly and accomplishments in mediation, cross-cultural understanding and dialogue. He was also recognized for his strong commitment to realizing the vision of a world free of intercultural conflicts.

Ambassador Al-Nasser was recently appointed by the Secretary-General to be the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. The UNAOC Secretariat, which is based in New York, works with a global network of partners with States, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector to improve cross-cultural relations between diverse nations and communities. It also works at the grassroots level, promoting innovative projects that build trust, reconciliation and mutual respect. It operates in four particular areas — youth, media, education and migration — to support such projects.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with 2012 Humanitarian Award honoree Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. | Photography:

The 2012 awards dinner, the eighth of its kind, also celebrated the 67th Anniversary of the United Nations. With close to 200 guests at the Essex House in New York City, it was well-attended by diplomats, business leaders, local dignitaries and other distinguished guests, including Richard Lui, anchor and correspondent for MSNBC. They were served a sumptuous dinner and delectable hors d'oeuvres, accompanied by fine wines, elegantly created by the Executive Chef Achilles Poliviou. They were also treated to a captivating performance by the musical guest, the Jordanian virtuoso singer Farah Siraj. Among other surprises of the evening was an exclusive auction of handmade vases by Vermont pottery ShackletonThomas, the proceeds of which benefited the UN Trust to End Violence Against Women.


However splendid the evening, its most inspired moments expressed the sentiments and aspirations for this 67th Anniversary of the UN, as it looks forward to continued success promoting the political and humanitarian importance of all peoples on the world stage. On this special occasion, among the many reflections by philanthropists and international leaders who help realize the Millennium Development Goals, the keynote address for the 2012 Humanitarian Award was delivered by Ban Ki-moon, the transcript of which is reproduced below.



This has been quite a week at the United Nations.

On Wednesday, I met the daredevil Felix Baumgartner who jumped to Earth from the edge of outer space. Then I met the Korean music sensation, Psy, the singer of Gangnam Style.

Mr. Baumgartner said he would teach me to jump from a plane. Psy said he would teach me to dance. I am terrified of both. I thought jumping from a plane might be safer, but my security officers said no. So I danced. 

I will spare you my technique tonight, but I do want to thank you for your leadership and strong support for the United Nations. Your advocacy is important at all times, but it is essential in our times. We are confronting a world of great insecurity, inequality, intolerance and injustice. 

We see it all around us — the unrelenting bloodshed in Syria, looming fears over nuclear issues and proliferation, and everywhere people are worried about jobs, education and a better life for their children.

Our world is shifting and we are all trying to find our footing in this new era. One thing is certain. In our changing world, no issue can be seen in isolation. No institution or country can work alone. It takes a global outlook and a global approach to solve problems. 


That is what you are helping to push each and every day. And you are doing it tonight, once again, as we honor His Excellency Ambassador Nassir Abdul Aziz Al-Nasser as your 2012 Humanitarian of the Year.

Ambassador Al-Nasser has dedicated much of his life in public service helping to advance cross-cultural dialogue, diversity, peace and development. As President of the UN General Assembly during a very tumultuous period, he helped mobilize support for the transitions underway in the Arab world. We travelled together to Libya and then again to Somalia to evaluate conditions on the ground. 

He kept disarmament, peacekeeping and non-proliferation high on the UN agenda. He built consensus around mediation to peacefully resolve disputes. He garnered political support around sustainable development and the goals of Rio+20.

Because of his strong commitment to intercultural dialogue, peace and development, I was pleased to appoint Mr. Al-Nasser as my next High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

The Alliance was founded to advance the most noble of our common ideals — greater understanding among peoples and nations — a deeper embrace of global diversity. The Alliance is dedicated to showing practical ways to work together to address common challenges — across boundaries of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and culture. It links civil society, young people, media, the private sector and governments for cross-cultural dialogue and action.

To my mind, the Alliance represents one of the best hopes of preventing the sparks of interreligious or interethnic tensions and extremism from growing into flames of conflict. I will rely heavily on Ambassador Al-Nasser to help make the Alliance of Civilizations all that it can and must be. 

Once again, I thank you for all your support. And I am proud to join with you in honoring Mr. Al-Nasser as we look to the work ahead.

Thank you.



Download the Dinner Program (PDF)