|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
Queen Elizabeth II, Addressing United Nations for First Time in 53 Years,
Calls on Organization to Tackle New, Emerging Challenges
In her first address to the United Nations in 53 years, Queen Elizabeth II lauded the Organization today for its work over the past six decades in fostering peace, reducing poverty and providing emergency aid to millions of people, while calling for leadership in tackling new and emerging challenges.
“The achievements of the United Nations are remarkable,” she said, noting that the Organization had evolved from “a high-minded aspiration to a real force for common good”. Speaking as Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other Member States, as well as Head of the 54-member Commonwealth of former colonies and other countries, she said: “You have helped to reduce conflict, you have offered humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies, and you have been deeply committed to tackling the effects of poverty in many parts of the world. But so much remains to be done.”
She noted that leaders would meet in September to agree on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, when each nation would have its own distinct contribution to make. New challenges had emerged to test the Organization, such as terrorism and climate change, she said, underlining the need to take careful account of the risks facing smaller, more vulnerable nations, many of them members of the Commonwealth. “For over six decades, the United Nations has helped to shape the international response to global dangers. The challenge now is to continue to show this clear and convening leadership while not losing sight of your ongoing work to secure the security, prosperity and dignity of our fellow human beings,” she said.
The Queen said that since her last address to the Organization in 1957, she had witnessed great change, much of it for the better, particularly in science and technology, and in social attitudes. Many of those sweeping advances had come about not because of Governments, committee resolutions or central directives — although they had played a part — but because millions of people worldwide had wanted them.
For the United Nations, those subtle, yet significant changes in people’s approaches to leadership and power might have foreshadowed failure and demise, she continued. Instead, the Organization had grown and prospered by responding and adapting to them. In 1957, the Organization had had three overseas operations, she recalled. Today, it had 26 staffed by more than 120,000 men and women.
The aims and values that had inspired the United Nations Charter — promoting world peace, security and justice; ending hunger, poverty and disease; and protecting the rights and liberties of all citizens — had endured, she said. Waging peace was, perhaps, the hardest form of leadership, she noted, adding that there was no single formula for success. It was about finding ways to encourage people to pool their efforts, talents, insights and enthusiasm to work together.
She expressed hope that when judged by future generations, the current generation’s sincerity and willingness to lead, and its determination to do the right thing, would stand the test of time. “In tomorrow’s world, we must all work together as hard as ever if we are truly to be United Nations,” she said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Queen and thanked her for her long-term devotion to the ideals of the United Nations, “from the challenges of the cold war to the threat of global warming, from the Beatles to Beckham”. He added: “With you at the helm, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth have contributed immensely to the United Nations,” noting also that the four largest current providers of peacekeeping troops were Commonwealth countries.
He said that at the September Summit, joint efforts to foster development, advance human rights and promote global security would be pushed to a new level in the interest of reaching the Millennium Development Goals. At that time, the international community would once again heed the Queen’s call to realize a better world for all.
Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the General Assembly, also extended a warm welcome to the Queen, pointing out that, since her last address 53 years ago, the world had seen the birth of a multitude of independent States, based on the principles of equal rights and the self-determination of all peoples, as enshrined in the Charter. He noted, however, that despite progress in some areas, the world was blighted by extreme inequality, with billions living in absolute poverty, amid increasingly frequent natural disasters. When such tragedies occurred, the Queen had lifted the spirits of the suffering; in times of terrorism, her words of comfort and steadfast presence had brought solace and reassurance, he said.
Through her sense of duty and tireless public service, the Queen had demonstrated to Member States that the Organization must not waver from its purpose, he said, adding that the poor, the disadvantaged and the weak did not have the luxury of failure. “This is our ideal and we must live up to it.”
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