H.E. Katalin Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations introducing János Pásztor, newly-appointed UN Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change on 9 April 2015 in the event at Waterfall Mansion.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
“Crisis” is probably the most frequently heard word in the media, describing the state of economic, social, political and environmental affairs today. And although the history of human civilization is replete with cataclysmic changes, at no point have the challenges that we face today been as global, as complex, and as interconnected as at the current moment.
Climate change, the large-scale and irreversible impact of human civilization on the planet earth, an overconsumption of natural resources, and their respective consequences are already affecting millions of people – entire nations and countries. These threats are indeed existential – civilizations have disappeared in the past and it is entirely up to us to make sure not to follow the same fate.
In post-industrial societies, and especially in the cities, people lead lifestyles that do not recognize the relationship with the rest of nature. We have become dependent on the promises and expectations of modern technological innovation that further promotes our self-centered, individualistic outlook on life, and have distanced ourselves from nature.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The point I make is that to address adequately the major global problems we have today, such as climate change, chronic underdevelopment and inequalities, the very idea of how we relate to nature must be transformed.
I refuse to believe in apocalyptic scenarios, and have optimism in the human potential to mend its mistakes and to come up with creative solutions for the survival of the human spirit. History does not predetermine the future, and we need not be submissive to it. We need to learn from it, and continuously try to mold its course towards peaceful and prosperous future. For that we need thinkers with vision and will, and knowledge.
And also for that we need to activate our children. The deep-seated and long-awaited changes for our planet will come to fruition through our youth. Their immediate participation as decision-makers and actors in the transformation of society to preserve mother earth is urgent. Youth throughout the world needs to stand up and actively engage in order to build a sustainable future.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations cannot effectively address these issues alone, global partnerships between governments, civil society and private sector are essential to mobilize the required thinking power and resources.
Hungary has long been committed, in words and in action, to promoting peace through scientific cooperation. Just think on the Budapest World Science Forum or the many summits my country has masterminded.
Hungary has played an active role in the negotiations of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and is willing to continue to do so during the finalization and adoption of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and in its implementation as well.
In this spirit, we are very honored that a fellow Hungarian has been appointed to spearhead efforts against climate change. “Someone with this secret language, the “Magyar”!, as the Secretary General told me.
He is a national of Hungary (and later also of Switzerland), he received his MS and BS degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He studied nuclear physics first, but the who knows, probably because he has seen the lights and colours of Africa as a little boy he has turned his directions towards environment.
János started his long and challenging journey outside Hungary young when his father was posted in Kenya, Africa working as a priest.
One says if you leave once your homeland you are on your way all your life. János has lived and worked since then in Gland, Geneva, New York, Boston, Stockholm and Nairobi just to name a few.
Has lead programs and institutions for Conservation, Global Sustainability, Environment, Development, Climate Change, Energy, Global governance.
Mr Pásztor’s career of over 30 years also includes service with various NGOs.
Janos' assignments included work with the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Commission on Environment and Development (the "Brundtland Commission"), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and the secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or the "Earth Summit '92"). During the period 1993-2006 he worked at the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in various positions. Before joining the office of the UN Secretary-General in New York in 2008, he was director of the UN Environment Management Group (EMG) in Geneva. And of course until the end of last year he was Director of World Wilde Fund for Nature International.
So, he has actually returned to the United Nations system where he has proven his expertise and absolute commitment in numerous senior positions previously. Therefore, it is my conviction that, ahead of the crucial conference at the end of this year in Paris, the process is in very good hands.
We are very proud of you and let me wish you courage, enough time, good health, stamina, and enjoy the ride!