Iraq Benefit Gala
Welcome address by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Iraq Benefit Gala
Welcome address by the Federal Minister for
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Orangery, Schönbrunn Palace
Vienna, 19 November 2003
My dear colleague, Dimitrij Rupel,
dear Marjetica Rupel,
your Excellency, former President Waldheim,
your Highness, the Princess of Liechtenstein,
dear Maria Rauch-Kallat,
dear Governor Dr. Haider
your Excellency, Ambassador Dr. Touq,
dear Dr. Eleonora Frankl, your Excellencies,
dear Vera Russwurm,
ladies and gentlemen,
Let me welcome you to the Orangery of Schönbrunn Palace on this gala evening, the net proceeds of which will benefit the children maimed and traumatized by war and violence in Iraq.
To start with, I would like to bring to your attention two eminent statements on the importance of charity from two different cultures:
The first is from Saint Thomas Aquinas who said, "Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do."
The second is from no lesser authority than Mohammed, who taught that, "Every good act is charity. A man’s true value in the hereafter shall be measured by the good that he does to his fellows in this world."
Charity and help for the needy are important in all cultures, in all religions. In fact, charity helps us overcome the barriers between cultures. A humanitarian spirit fosters understanding and friendship.
I thank Slovenia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for being part of this important project, namely the establishment of a trauma centre for Iraqi children in Baghdad. I am very grateful that you, Dimitrij and Marjetica, have personally come to Vienna for this event, to be with us this evening and to help us make this fund-raising gala a success.
I thank the Jordanian Ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Touq, for the assistance he has given us from the very beginning. I thank Dr. Eleonora Frankl and Vera Russwurm for being here with us today. I particularly wish to thank you, dear Federal Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, for your assistance with the relief projects for Iraqi children. My thanks also go to you, Governor Dr. Haider, for your cooperation. Thank you to all the representatives of the federal provinces, the different interest groups and the corporate sector.
In every crisis, in every conflict, people suffer. But it is the poorest and the most helpless, young girls and boys, who suffer the most and who desperately need our help. And help is indeed coming for the children in Iraq.
I am confident that the Trauma Centre for Iraqi Children will soon be up and running, treating children who are struggling bravely to overcome the mental scars that the war has left them with, quite apart from their physical injuries.
Vienna is a good place to start such a project. Austria has a long humanitarian tradition but also - since Sigmund Freud and Viktor Frankl - a medical tradition with a heavy focus on the human psyche.
Slovenia and Jordan both possess rich funds of experience in the treatment of traumatized children, in particular with the widely recognized "Together Foundation" in Llubljana and the famous "Jordan River Foundation" in Amman. Thus it seems to me that the right countries have come together in pursuing this outstanding project.
Your presence here tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, bears testimony to the fact that you know what to do: to help.
And for that I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I would like to extend my particular thanks to the Ogilvy Agency represented by Mrs. Sassmann and Mr. Slupetzky, as well as to A1, our principal sponsor tonight, and to Dr. Boris Nemsic, who have contributed greatly to making this gala a success.
Let me now ask the Federal Minister for Health and Women’s Issues, my good friend and colleague Maria Rauch-Kallat, for her welcoming remarks:
Thank you very much for your kind introduction and for your willingness to moderate this evening.
What is my motivation for pursuing this project of humanitarian aid, how did it come about?
To provide peace and security is the major task of foreign policy. To render humanitarian aid and to assist people in need is an important aspect of our efforts to achieve more stability. To enable people to live in freedom from fear and in freedom from want should not be a distant vision.
War and conflict have a terrible impact on all human beings, and especially on children. This is why, as President of the Human Security Network from 2002 to 2003, a group of thirteen countries from all continents working towards bringing this vision of life in security closer, I decided to focus - next to human rights education - on the fate and the rights of children in armed conflicts.
The most prominent of wars this year was the war in Iraq. Austria was among the first countries to pledge assistance within the UN framework, but also on a bilateral and very direct basis.
Immediately after the end of the war - upon my initiative and with the support of Maria Rauch-Kallat and her Ministry - hospitals in various parts of Austria (Vienna, Styria, Salzburg, Carinthia and Tyrol) provided medical treatment for Iraqis, particularly children, who could not get adequate treatment at home and who might otherwise have succumbed to their wounds or illnesses.
You may recall that I personally went to Kuwait to accompany a group of severely injured and fatally sick Iraqi children to Austria myself. It was a heart-wrenching sight: some of the victims had terrible burns, others were heavily maimed, one was suffering from advanced stage cancer, etc.
In the meantime most of the people we treated have been able to return to their home country and go on with their lives.
But one thing became immediately clear: this was by no means enough. I wanted to do more. We needed to do more.
And then there came this generous and highly welcome offer from my good friend Dimitrij to cooperate in establishing a trauma centre for Iraqi children in Baghdad. Austria had previously cooperated with Slovenia’s "Together Foundation" to help children with traumas in the context of the wars in the Balkans. Thus we will be able to make a contribution with long-lasting effects on the young people of Iraq.
Dimitrij and I flew together to Amman to meet our colleague, the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Dr. Marwan Muasher, (Ambassador Dr. Touq also joined us) and to use an official visit in order to present our project to our Jordanian partners. Jordan is also a member of the Human Security Network.
We were particularly appreciative of the gracious response of Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan when we had the chance to present the project to them. Queen Rania immediately offered cooperation by the Jordan River Foundation in Amman, which has long-standing experience with trauma cases among Palestinian children and others.
I know that Dimitrij was equally impressed by our visit to the Jordan River Foundation, and that we are both looking forward to cooperating with this outstanding organization.
At first, of course, we shall start with Slovenian, Jordanian and Austrian experts to train trainers in Amman. As soon as the security situation allows, we shall lay the groundwork for the trauma centre in Iraq itself.
The people of Iraq have suffered tyranny, terror and suppression for so many decades. Their suffering is not over yet, as we see in the news every day. They deserve a decent live in peace and the chance to mend their bodies and psyches.
Moreover, Iraq is an important country in a very critical region for peace and stability in the world. Assisting the Iraqi people is therefore not only a humanitarian issue, but an investment in a more peaceful future, for Iraq, for the whole region and beyond. We cannot afford to turn our heads and look the other way. We cannot ignore the plight of the children that need our help!
Let me once again take this opportunity to say thank you to everybody who is contributing to this project. Maybe it is good to think of what Sir Francis Bacon said four centuries ago, "In charity there is no excess."