|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
In Time of Global Transition, People Turn to United Nations with Ever Greater
Frequency, as It Strives to Be More Effective, Says Deputy Secretary-General
Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s address to the Great Kansas City Chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, in Kansas City, Missouri, 1 November:
It is a pleasure to be here. I have had a wonderful day here in Kansas City. At times, it seemed as if I had not left the United Nations Headquarters complex in New York!
It is quite unique that a United Nations peacekeeping memorial occupies such a prominent place in the landscape of a major city. Thank you for recognizing this invaluable flagship activity that we perform throughout the world. The Unit
ed Nations also figured largely during my tour of the Truman Library and Museum. Harry Truman was one of the greatest champions of the United Nations, helping the new Organization to get up and running.
But of course, Kansas City has much to recommend that has little to do with the United Nations. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a beautiful addition to the skyline. Your fountains are said to be more numerous than anywhere except Rome. And then there is your world-famous barbecue. I am afraid I have not had a chance to sample any, and it does not seem to be on the menu here tonight. Then again, there’s still breakfast tomorrow before I return to New York! After all, I am told that many people here are happy to eat barbecue morning, noon and night!
But seriously, I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He and I attach great importance to maintaining close and productive ties with the United States. The United States was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the United Nations. President Roosevelt coined the name.
Today we depend on the United States in so many ways – for its support of peacekeeping and disaster relief; for its economic dynamism and technological innovation; for its commitment to democracy and human rights. That means we also rely on American citizens across the country to recognize the benefits of engagement in the United Nations. But we do not just sit in New York and wait for you to come to us. The Secretary-General has criss-crossed the country to talk to Americans about how their tax dollars are helping to build a better world. He has been to Los Angeles, Chicago and Denver, to Annapolis and Atlanta, to Pittsburgh and Seattle; and also to the other end of Missouri’s stretch of Interstate 70: St. Louis (Home of the Cardinals, the Champion of the baseball World Series).
I myself have been to a few places here in the United States. Now that I am here in Kansas City, imagine what a pleasant surprise it has been to learn that your city is a sister city of Arusha in my home country, Tanzania. Like Kansas City, Arusha is an agricultural centre. Like Kansas City, Arusha is also a diverse and lively place. So you have picked well. Thank you for this expression of solidarity. Thank you, too, to the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the United Nations Association for being such a wonderful advocate for the United Nations. And my particular thanks to your Association’s President, Jay Sjerven, for his dedication and hard work.
United Nations Associations throughout the United States and around the world play an important role. You bring the United Nations global work down to the local level. You help us stay in touch with our roots and our constituents. And you help show them that the issues that matter to them are the same ones that matter to the international community.
This is a time of global transition and global uncertainty. The world faces an increasingly complex set of realities. That includes a prolonged economic crisis. Around the world, people need jobs and opportunities. They are worried about what seem to be their diminished prospects, and those of their children. We are experiencing a rising incidence of mega-disasters – such as last year’s earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan. And there is growing concern about the ability of Governments to address these and other big global challenges, and to deliver the results people need, when they need them.
These challenges and uncertainties are very much at the forefront of the Secretary-General’s thinking and his daily activities. Last month, in his annual address to the full membership of the United Nations, he outlined five ways to advance peace, prosperity, freedom and justice for all.
I would like to say a few words about each of these imperatives for our common future. First is sustainable development. The world has made significant progress towards the eight Millennium Development Goals — our blueprint for overcoming extreme poverty, hunger and deadly diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. We are living longer. More of our children survive. But we need to do far more if we are to reach our targets by the agreed deadline of 2015. And even the gains we have made could be threatened by the growing impacts of climate change.
Some say climate change will not be a problem until well into the future. But the science is clear and strong. The phenomenon is with us today — and is literally lapping at the feet of the inhabitants of some islands in the South Pacific, as waves rise ever higher. We are nearing scientific tipping points that could alter life as we know it. Twenty years ago, the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit, a milestone in our quest to find a more sustainable manner. Next year we will gather there again to take stock. This is our chance to set a safer course, based on the understanding that saving our planet and investing in people are two sides of the same coin.
The second imperative is conflict prevention. My colleague B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is from Missouri and talked to you at this event last year about everything we are doing to ensure that we act early, before tensions escalate and violence erupts. We are strengthening our capacity for mediation and peacebuilding. Our preventive diplomacy has helped to advance a transition to democracy in Guinea and put an end to violence in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan. And earlier this year, amid fear that a referendum on independence for South Sudan would re-trigger civil war, our diplomacy helped ensure peaceful polling. In July, South Sudan became the United Nations 193rd Member State. Prevention is one of the smartest, most cost-effective investments we can make. Our challenge is to do more to act on this understanding.
A third imperative is to build a safer and more secure world. That means fighting terrorism, including through the landmark Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted five years ago by United Nations Member States. It means eliminating the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain in global arsenals. It means strong safety standards to prevent nuclear accidents such as this year’s disaster in Fukushima, Japan. It means supporting the United Nations peacekeeping — 16 operations with more than 120,000 personnel, the highest number ever. And it means standing up for human rights.
Human rights are inextricably linked with the Secretary-General’s fourth imperative, supporting countries in transition. This has been a year of remarkable advances for democracy. Earlier this year, when the leader of Côte d’Ivoire refused to step down following his defeat in an election, the international community defended the will of the people against the violence he unleashed against them. Côte d’Ivoire now has a chance for a more peaceful future. Just as important, the international community showed a commitment to what we call the “responsibility to protect” people from atrocities and other grave crimes.
Then, of course, the Arab awakening has led to the toppling of long-time undemocratic leaders. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya now face major challenges — organizing elections, drafting new constitutions, promoting democratic practices, building independent judiciaries and free media. The United Nations is deeply engaged in helping the people in those countries ensure that their transitions are peaceful, and truly respond to their aspirations for freedom and opportunity.
Fifth and finally, ladies and gentlemen, is to do more with and for women and young people. Women and girls throughout the globe still face terrible discrimination, violence and abuse. Young people are too often described as the leaders of tomorrow without listening to them today. Both have been in the vanguard of the dramatic changes we have seen this year; both need to be brought to the very centre, day in and day out. The United Nations is trying to lead by example. We now have more women in senior positions than ever. And let us be clear: gender equality applies whether we are speaking of the boardroom, the classroom or the living room.
Yesterday, the world’s population reached 7 billion — a new milestone. Each of those members of our single human family need -- and have a right to -- water, food, energy and shelter; education and opportunities; stable societies and a meaningful say in the decisions affecting their lives; a natural environment that will sustain not only them today, but generations to come. This work transcends borders. No country can address today’s challenges on its own.
As Truman said when laying the United Nations cornerstone in New York: “These buildings are not a monument to the unanimous agreement of nations on all things. But they signify one new and important fact. They signify that the peoples of the world are of one mind in their determination to solve their common problems by working together.” That is why people are turning to the United Nations with ever greater frequency. We are constantly striving to strengthen the Organization so that it can effectively serve the world at this crucial time.
I want to express my personal gratitude to the people of Kansas City for supporting us. As the Secretary-General said last week on the occasion of the United Nations Day, marking our sixty-sixth anniversary: “In our increasingly interconnected world, we all have something to give and something to gain by working together. Let us unite, 7 billion strong, in the name of the global common good.”
Thank you again for welcoming me here to America’s heartland. I look forward to your continued engagement with the nations of the world. Thank you.
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For information media • not an official record