Action 2030 Blog

The UN honours the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King are seen being greeted by Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs in 1964.
Caption: During their visit to the United Nations, in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King are greeted by Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs.
Photo: UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

I am deeply humbled in joining you to honour the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I thank the King Center for your invitation.

2020 was a year of tragedy as millions of lives were put on hold.

And millions of lives were lost to COVID-19 and its devastating consequences.

Livelihoods disappeared.

Our shared values are being put to the test.

The pandemic has laid bare deep-rooted inequalities in our societies.

Members of racial minorities have suffered disproportionately, as have other vulnerable members of our communities.

The spread of the virus also gave new vectors of social media to disseminate hatred and misinformation.

Even before the pandemic, the world was facing a surge of hate speech, racism, xenophobia, neo-Nazism, white supremacy and other forms of discrimination.

Now is the time for unity, solidarity and compassion.

UN values of equality and human dignity point the way.

As Dr. King reminded the world in his historic speech in front of the United Nations in 1967 – only a few feet away from where I stand today - “There can be no justice without peace, and there can be no peace without justice.”

This realization remains as relevant as ever.

As we strive to recover from the pandemic and to build a better world, we need to forge a new social contract based on inclusivity and sustainability. That means investing in social cohesion and advancing equality and opportunity for all.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, as well as that of other African American civil rights leaders such as U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta who dedicated himself to the fight for racial equality or the 'incurable optimist' Ralph Bunche who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a United Nations mediator in the Palestine conflict will continue to inspire us in that journey.

Dr. Martin Luther King embodied the ideals of the United Nations: peace, social justice and human rights.

He lived and died defending human dignity and believing in the equal worth of every human being.

As we use this commemoration to reaffirm commitment to that work, let us draw strength from Dr. King’s words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The United Nations will continue to be your strong partner in this essential mission of the important work of Martin Luther King Jr.