Hollande, Ban Ki-Moon
French President Francois Hollande (L) shakes hands with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after awarding him with the Legion of Honour (Legion d'Honneur) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 17 REUTERS/Bertrand Guay/Pool

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been named Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, one of France's highest civilian awards. President Francois Hollande presented the South Korean the prestigious honour during a ceremony on 17 November at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

During his tenure as United Nations chief, Ban actively worked towards tackling climate change. Through the 2015 Paris Agreement, he pushed for countries to reduce the use of fossil fuels in lieu of cleaner energies. The pact was signed by almost 200 countries after nearly two decades of negotiations.

"It was largely because of your contribution, because many years ago you started putting this topic on all the agendas," Holland said as he extolled the award recipient for the work he had done.

"By doing this you are rewarding our honourable organization and I feel deeply honoured and proud," Ban Ki-moon said in response. He will be stepping down from his post as head of the 193-member world organization after 10 years on 1 January. Portugal's Antonio Guterres will then take up the position.

Napoleon Bonaparte first established the Legion of Honour in 1802. The award is given to those individuals who have led honourable lives. Other non-French recipients include UK's Winston Churchill and JK Rowling, Bangladeshi social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan, Belgian journalist Marc Roche, US musicians Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and actor Clint Eastwood among others.