Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 July 2015
Following his return to Austria, after last weekend’s inspirational UK tour, Kandeh Yumkella was the special guest at the Marmoorsaal – the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday – Tuesday, 28th July, 2015, at a ceremony where he was conferred with the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for his outstanding services to the Republic of Austria.
Also known as the Order of Merit of the Austrian Republic, the prestigious presidential award is one of the highest Austrian honours given to both Austrians and leading foreign leaders, for their exemplary work to the Austrian people.
The Sierra Leonean born Yumkella received his high honour with a certificate signed by Dr. Heinz Fisher, President of the Republic of Austria and a congratulatory letter signed by Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Foreign Minister.
During the glittering ceremony, attended by international and national dignitaries – including members of the Vienna-based United Nations Diplomatic Corp, Dr. Wolfgang Waldner noted that the Republic of Austria “has so many reasons to be grateful” to Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, for his admirable qualities as a leader and the stellar results he delivered as a two-term former Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization- UNIDO (2005 – 2013), and as former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and CEO of the initiative on Sustainable Energy for All – SE4All (2013-2015).
“In your ten years as head of International Organizations based in Vienna, you have done much to strengthen Vienna’s reputation as an international meeting place and energy hub. We cannot let you leave without expressing our gratitude and appreciation for the work you have accomplished in Vienna,” underscored Dr. Waldner. (Photo: Ambassador Jongopie Stevens in attendance).
In his response, Yumkella who has resigned his UN position to return home and compete for his country’s highest office – the presidency, noted that Austria and colleagues present have taught him a lot and will remain forever grateful for the wonderful relationship he has maintained over the years.
“I know I can count on Austria’s continued friendship as I return home to go and help lead my people so that together we can transform our nation of 6 million people. It is not an easy journey, but I believe my people deserve the best as well. I will use all the lessons and skills that Austria and all of you have taught me here, “said Yumkella.
Yumkella joins a select group of distinguished Africans – including former UN Secretary-General – Kofi Annan of Ghana (Photo), and former IAEA Director-General – Mohamed Elbaradei of Egypt to have been so honoured.
Notable Austrians include Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of Vienna – Christoph Schonborn, Alois Mock – former Vice-Chancellor of Austria, and Kurt Waldheim – former President of Austria and former UN Secretary-General.
This is the speech delivered by Dr. Wolfgang Waldner at the conferment ceremony:
“Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, it is a particular pleasure for me to welcome you here today in the Marble Hall of the Austrian Foreign Ministry on a very special occasion.
The Austrian Federal President has awarded one of the highest decorations of the Republic of Austria to Dr. Yumkella. I will have the privilege to present it to him in a few minutes.
Before we proceed to this more formal part of our get-together let me say a few words why I consider the timing of our ceremony very fortunate.
Dr. Yumkella will leave Vienna very soon and return to his home country Sierra Leone where he will be running for the presidential office.”
“We cannot let him go without expressing our gratitude and appreciation for the work he has accomplished in Vienna in his previous functions as Director General of UNIDO and Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All).
As you know, only a couple days ago Vienna was confirmed as the seat of Sustainable Energy for All. This decision of the Executive Committee also confirms Dr.Yumkella’s choice of Vienna as the city best suited for hosting the initiative of the UN-Secretary General.”
“We are, naturally, very happy about this decision and will continue to provide the future Sustainable Energy for All Partnership with all the support we can give.
You may remember that the seeds for the Initiative were sown during the first edition of the Vienna Forum in 2009.
Like this year’s fourth edition, the forum was organized back then by the Austrian Foreign Ministry in cooperation with UNIDO. It was Kandeh Yumkella, in his then function as Director General of UNIDO, who first formulated the three goals of the Initiative:
Ensuring universal access to modern forms of energy; doubling the global growth rate of energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the worldwide energy mix.”
“It was him and a few others like our partners from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) were the first to see the need for giving energy the role which had been missing in the millennium development goals – the role as a driving force for development.
Today, we have energy figures as goal No. Seven on the list of Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted by the UN Summit this September.
This is no mean achievement and it is an achievement that we mainly owe to Kandeh Yumkella.”
“Let me take you back to the “birthplace” of SE4All, the first edition of the Vienna Energy Forum.
Dr. Yumkella was not content with the role as an initiator, he also did his utmost to spread the good news and built up global awareness of the importance of the issue.
In doing so, he employed all the infectious enthusiasm, the eloquence and considerable charm for which he is so well known.
First, and most importantly, the Secretary General of the United Nations saw the merits of the case Kandeh Yumkella made and launched SE4All as his personal Initiative together with the President of the World Bank.”
“In his new function as Special Representative of the Secretary General and CEO of SE4All Kandeh Yumkella faced the task of mobilizing global support for the Initiative and catalysing action from governments, business, academia and civil society to make the project fly.”
“Austria firmly believes in the future of the Initiative. SE4All is in the process of acquiring a long-term institutional identity and is set to take over new tasks connected with the implementation of sustainable energy as Sustainable Development Goal No. Seven.
As such, it will build on the strong basis that was laid by the unwavering commitment and inexhaustible energy of its first Secretary General and CEO.”
“Excellency, Austria has many reasons to be grateful to you. In your ten years as head of International Organizations based in Vienna you have contributed to strengthen Vienna’s reputation as an international meeting place and energy hub.
Let me therefore thank you for the good cooperation you have always shared with the Austrian Foreign Ministry during your time in Vienna.
We are happy that we could work with you on a wide range of common projects and we wish you much success and personal fulfilment in all the projects that you will be taking up in the future.
I now have the honour to present you with the insignia of the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for services to the Republic of Austria together with a certification signed by President Heinz Fischer and a letter of congratulation from Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.”
• 2014 Nayudamma Award for outstanding contributions to the energy sector
• Commander of the National Order of Cote d’Ivoire ( June 25, 2013)
• 2013 AAI Distinguished Alumni Award ( conferred in New York in September, 2013)
• 2013 Energy Efficiency Visionary Award (ASE-EE Global Forum) for his steadfast commitment to the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and his work to advance the next generation of energy efficiency through the pillars of investment, education and modernization.
• 2012 United Nations Association (UNA-USA) Global Leadership Award for the leadership he has provided to strengthen the United Nations
• Award of “Honorary Professor” by the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, Ulan Bator, Mongolia (April 2012)
• Wissam Award for service and son of Africa (March 30, 2011)
• Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria in recognition of his contribution to global industrial development and poverty alleviation in the world, (March 2012)
• Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from the Njala University, Njala, Sierra Leone in March 2011
• Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) from TERI University, New Delhi in October 2010 in recognition of his achievements and his contribution to society
• Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) at the 150th Year Special Convocation and Valedictory Function, September 2008, University of Madras, India
• 2008 Champion of Youth Award at the 4th World Youth Congress, August 2008, in Quebec City, Canada
• Presented by Prince Albert of Monaco the award of the “Prix De la Fondation” of the Crans Montana Forum for his global leadership and work in development, June 2006, Monaco
• Honorary Distinguished Visiting Professor by the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, March 2006, China
Last weekend, Dr. Yumkella who is now widely tipped to become the next president of Sierra Leone in 2018, received a hearty and resounding welcome in the UK from thousands of Sierra Leoneans who gathered in Reading, Manchester and London to meet him (Photo), and listen to his vision for Sierra Leone.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying the fact that Kandeh Yumkella is one of Sierra Leone’s most illustrious. He possesses a leadership pedigree that many of his political adversaries would envy. But they need not be envious, as he is looking forward to reaching out across the political spectrum of Sierra Leone, to build what he calls his ‘Grand Political Coalition’.
For many throughout the World – in particular in the United Nations, Kandeh is one of the most humble and loyal public servants one could find anywhere.
He said his mission now is to return to Sierra Leone in August, to begin to build his ‘Grand Political Coalition’ that should take him to the presidency in 2018, when the huge challenge of rebuilding Sierra Leone shall commence.