22 Nov 2009

Sport For A Better World Fundraiser Gala Dinner

Your Royal Highness,

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all here to share a special evening with so many friends and colleagues. 

Thank you for joining us.

Over the course of history, sport has always been a universal language.

A language so powerful and influential, whose competitive nature and collaborative spirit encourages cooperation and collaboration and is equally honoured by nations across the globe.

The United Nations recognizes the power of sport and its ability to reach out to communities, to influence people, to educate and to increase awareness.

By promoting sport as a cost-effective tool, the United Nations can accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to improve the lives of the world's poorest people by the 2015 deadline.

These goals promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health, gender equality, and aim at combating child mortality, AIDS and other diseases.

The underlying elements of sport make it a sensible and practical tool to support the attainment of each of these eight goals.

Together, we can help make these goals a reality.

In Princess Haya's capacity as Messenger of Peace, She continues to reaffirm our commitment and remind the leaders of the world of the promise they made.

Now is the time to remind them that we are the first generation that can end poverty.

Today, poverty is no longer a problem restricted to a particular country or nation.

Even the developed world is not immune. It is not the possession of little but the lack of much.

One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes.

Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases - that's over 30,000 per day and one every three seconds. ONE EVERY THREE SECONDS.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, once said that `if we want to champion prosperity and progress, we cannot ignore poverty and should therefore emphasize the role of education as the most powerful weapon in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.'

In 2007, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed launched Dubai Cares to improve primary education in developing countries.

Based right here in the UAE, the charity implements comprehensive educational programs in 13 countries in the developing world to help them achieve their Millennium Development Goals.

Noor Dubai is another initiative that was launched last year, also by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.

It aims to deliver preventive eye care to over one million people as part of its drive to realize its vision of a world, free from curable forms of blindness.

The world we live in is a place of continuous activity. We must actively harness the powers within us as a vehicle for change towards peace across the humanitarian landscape.

A couple of weeks ago, more precisely on the morning of October 28th, five UN workers were killed in a pre-dawn attack on a guesthouse in Kabul.

Following the announcement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that half of the international staff be relocated and on the orders of HH Sheikh Mohammed, the Dubai Government facilitated the rapid provision of accommodation for the inbound UN staff.

In all, 200 of the UN's staff relocated to the International Humanitarian City in Dubai.

The message is clear. We must do our part as world citizens and inspire people to embrace diversity, foster harmony, and encourage a genuine spirit of peace.

Last October marked a time that will go down in history.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the 13th Olympic Congress in Copenhagen with a keynote address. This was the first time that a UN Secretary General attends an Olympic Congress.

While there, Mr. Ban spoke highly of the cooperation between the United Nations and the Olympic family.

He said - and I quote - that “sport can be found anywhere in the world. I have travelled to countries mired in poverty. To communities struggling to survive. To war-ravaged places where all hope seems lost. Suddenly, a ball appears, made out of plastic bags or newspapers. And we see how sport gives life to hopes and dreams.”

At the Congress, Princess Haya was presented with a signed street football, similar to what Mr. Ban was referring to, made of paper and plastic bags and tied up with strings from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

Because of this story and how far this ball has come - both in its creation and the distance it has traveled, we have included this unique piece in the listing of this evening's auction items.

Later in the month, the International Olympic Committee was granted observer status by the UN General Assembly. This decision pays tribute to the Committee's efforts to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to recognize the efforts of a very special gentleman and a dear friend to Princess Haya, Mr. Willi Lemke.

Now the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Lemke embarked on his career back in 1981 when his personal passion for football became a profession when he became the manager of Bremen's football club.

The path that he has since traveled is one that is filled with excitement, dedication, passion and ambition.

Tonight, we are delighted to welcome Mr. Lemke here to talk to us about his experiences, his encounters and his obligations towards peace and development through sport.

None of us have the capacity to individually solve the problems of the world, but collectively, through events such as tonight's, we can help find solutions and provide hope not only to the children and youth of Palestine, but to all the young hearts across the globe.

This is your chance to make a difference. Now is the time. Whether you give your time or your money, every gesture will have an impact - not just on the lives of those who you help, but on yours as well.

The work that we do during our lifetime and the lives that we touch will be our legacy, our gift to the future generations of the world.

You have the power and these children need our help.

Thank you.