On New Year’s Day 70 years ago, the first step towards creating the United Nations was taken. From every continent, Governments united around a common programme of purpose and principles, declaring their commitment to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, human rights and justice. These principles are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and undergird the three pillars of work: peace and security, development, and human rights.
The world has changed dramatically since the signing of the Declaration by the United Nations. The global community is facing a whole new set of global threats. These include the adverse impact of climate change, rising inequities within and across populations, resource scarcity, the rapid spread of infectious disease and terrorism. Our Members have made it perfectly clear that they believe that the United Nations has the legitimacy, scope, depth of expertise and global convening power needed to tackle these Herculean tasks.
The pillars of the work of the Organization are converging: events in the peace and security arena are having a lasting impact on progress in development and human rights and vice versa. Some examples from the past year vividly illustrate this point. Water and energy access and land use are central to the mounting conflict between South Sudan and the Sudan and are fuelling instability throughout Africa and the Middle East. The breakdown of governance in Somalia is not only in part responsible for the depth and scope of the famine but is also having severe consequences for the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid. The nuclear accident in Japan and the devastating floods in Thailand severed global supply chains and retarded the speed of economic recovery worldwide. In Nigeria, dangerous fanatics attacked the United Nations despite its mission to bring peace, prosperity and justice to all.
An added feature of our common reality is that the time horizons for national and international action have changed. The world is moving faster, and we must react faster. This is as true in the peace and security and in the human rights arena as it is in the development arena. The rapidity with which the food, fuel and financial crisis eroded years of development gains and catalysed riots and political unrest opened our eyes to this fact.
While the United Nations commitment to the founding principles underlying the Declaration of 1942 has not waned, our success in delivering on them rests on our ability to implement a meaningful agenda.
In the day-to-day work that the Organization has been doing, as outlined in its biennium plans, priority is given to the eight areas of work identified by Member States since 1998. In addition, the experience of my last term leads me to conclude that, for the Organization to effectively implement the more than 9,000 mandates received from Member States, a greater effort is needed to ensure that the Organization better coordinates efforts across the entire spectrum of its work. To this end, at the beginning of my second term, I developed a five-year Action Agenda that identifies areas of opportunity where joint action by the Organization, the broader United Nations system, and Member States can promote better mandate delivery. These areas of opportunity are (1) sustainable development; (2) prevention; (3) building a safer and more secure world by innovating in and building on our core activities; (4) supporting countries in transition; and (5) working with and for women and young people.
My agenda also identifies two enabling factors that are necessary if progress is to be made in any one of these five identified areas: (a) harnessing the full power of partnership across the range of United Nations activities, and (b) strengthening the Organization, which includes the more effective delivery of mandates while doing more within recognized resource constraints through innovation and change management.
While it is still early days, some visible progress has already been made on the Action Agenda: in progress on achieving a few key Millennium Development targets ahead of schedule; mass mobilization behind my Sustainable Energy for All initiative; prevention initiatives as related to disaster and conflict prevention; innovation in the Organization’s core business as seen in proposed measures to strengthen civilian capacity in countries emerging from conflict or crisis; and the implementation of several change management initiatives designed to strengthen the Organization.
Reflecting the United Nations commitment to going green, I have decided to go paperless with the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization, and make the report the port of entry for the United Nations online presence. Paper copies will be made available to those Member States that request them.