Rome: Italy’s outgoing premier Mario Draghi was honoured with the World Statesman Award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith organisation dedicated to religious freedom and human rights.
The foundation’s president and founder Rabbi Arthur Schneier presented Draghi with the prestigious award during a gala ceremony in New York on Monday night, in honour of “his long-time multi-faceted leadership in finance and public service that has benefited Italy and the European Union and has helped international cooperation.”
Schneier hailed Draghi as “a uniting and visionary leader with the financial, political, and economic expertise to deal with the complex economic, humanitarian and geopolitical issues facing the world today.”
Previous recipients of the annual recognition include Mikhail Gorbachev, Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe, and the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger who, at the age of 99, sat beside Draghi at the reception in the Pierre Hotel.
Kissinger underlined his “enormous respect” for the former European Central Bank chief who has shown “extraordinary capacity for intellectual analysis focused on the common good” during his career.
US president Joe Biden also sent a message congratulating his “friend, Mario Draghi” who “has been a powerful voice in the world, promoting tolerance and justice. I thank him for his leadership.”
“The importance of dialogue – which we celebrate tonight – has been squarely at the centre of my professional life as an economist and as a policy-maker” – Draghi said in his speech – “The European project which has granted peace and stability in Europe after centuries of conflicts hinges on the strength of shared institutions such as the European Central Bank.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risked “ushering in a new age of polarisation, one we have not seen since the end of the Cold War” – Draghi said – “The question on how we deal with autocracies will define our ability to shape our common future for many years to come.”
“The solution lies in a combination of frankness, coherence and engagement”- Draghi said – “We must be clear and vocal about the founding values of our societies. I am referring to our belief in democracy, the rule of law, our respect for human rights, our commitment to global solidarity. These ideals should guide our foreign policy in a clear and predictable – and I underline predictable – manner.”
Stating that he remained cautiously optimistic about the future, Draghi said the “heroism of Ukraine, of President Zelensky and his people, is a powerful reminder of what we stand for and what we stand to lose.”
On the conclusion of his speech Draghi received a standing ovation from the audience which included Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Italy’s ambassador to the US, Mariangela Zappia.
Draghi will address the United Nations on Tuesday as part of a four-day visit to the US, ahead of a general election in Italy on Sunday 25 September.