24 October 2008 From a concert in New York by world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to a tree-planting ceremony in strife-torn Darfur to a blood donation drive in Namibia, celebrations were held across the globe today to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.
To mark United Nations Day, virtuoso cellist and UN Messenger of Peace Yo-Yo Ma performed tonight with the Silk Road Ensemble in the annual UN Day Concert in New York.
“This is a very special way to celebrate the day that the Charter of the United Nations came into force,” General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto told those gathered for the concert.
“He is a man who, through his wonderful music, is able to convey to us the values of the United Nations and inspire our commitment to them. Compassion, cooperation and communication, strength through diversity – these are some of the values that seem to be absent or inconsequential in international relations, yet these values should underpin all the undertakings of our great Organization.”
Also in New York, UN staff and senior officials visited schools across the city to provide an overview of the Organization's work, share their own experiences and interact with students in a campaign called UN4U, orchestrated by the Department of Public Information (DPI).
Some 3,500 students heard from UN officials such as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka; the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy; Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan Michael Adlerstein; and the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja.
The UN has also launched a newly redesigned website (unic.un.org) that serves as a portal to the network of 63 UN Information Centres (UNICs) around the world, whose efforts are crucial to telling the UN story to people in their own languages.
Among the many events held worldwide was a ceremony in Moscow to mark UN Day as well as the 60th anniversary of the UN presence in that country. In a message to the event, Mr. Ban noted that years on, our world and our Organization have changed beyond recognition. The problems we face have grown much more complex, impacting all of us around the globe.”
In Addis Ababa, the celebration at the Economic Commission for Africa marks not only UN Day, but also the 50th anniversary of the Commission. It includes the launching of the ECA Jubilee Book, which chronicles the Commission's main contributions to African development over the past five decades.
Meanwhile, week-long events in Colombia include a seminar by the UN refugee agency for refugees, a forum on avian influenza, and a photographic exhibition on UN activities in the South American country. In Windhoek, Namibia, UN staff participated in a blood drive, organized in part by the World Heath Organization (WHO).
The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in the Sudanese region of Darfur – known as UNAMID – marked the Day with a tree-planting ceremony, as well as music and dance, while the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) honoured Lebanese staff who have served with the mission for more than 25 years.
In Haiti, there was no celebration of UN Day as the occasion comes at a very difficult time for the island, as noted by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the country, Hédi Annabi.
Mr. Annabi said that Haiti has suffered a crushing loss of lives and property during this year's hurricane season, with the overall material damage estimated at over $1 billion by the World Bank. All efforts are now geared toward finding urgent humanitarian assistance for millions of suffering Haitians.
The Special Representative urged UN staff in the country to take part in conferences, television and radio programmes and other public forums to advocate for greater humanitarian assistance to Haiti.
In a related development, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who today wrapped up a two-day visit to Haiti, expressed his willingness to make an additional allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fund the urgent humanitarian needs of people affected by the recent hurricanes.
UN Day has been celebrated on 24 October every year since 1948, exactly three years after the UN Charter entered into force. In 1971, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that the Day be observed as a public holiday by Member States.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue