Delivered by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev,
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
It is a pleasure to extend my greetings to the Commemorative Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. I thank Egypt for its chairmanship and the Serbian government for hosting this important event.
The United Nations is honoured to participate in this gathering and to celebrate its shared ideals and long history of collaboration with the Non-Aligned Movement.
Fifty years ago, in this very city, the Non-Aligned Movement began its mission to become an alternative voice in the international community, promoting respect for core UN values such as human rights, justice and peace.
The world in which the Movement emerged was markedly different from today's globalized society. The ideological divisions of the Cold War and the scourge of colonialism have now been overcome. The membership of the United Nations has almost doubled. Still, the idea that global threats require global solutions –echoed in the NAM's founding documents –remains just as relevant.
Allow me to quote from the final text adopted in Belgrade in 1961: “Never has war threatened humankind with so devastating consequences as today, and yet humans have never possessed greater means to eliminate war as an instrument of politics in international relations”.
This remains as true today as it was fifty years ago. From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Great Lakes region, conflict continues to claim lives and challenge the response capacities of the international community.
As the NAM recognized, we have the tools with which to reduce the incidence of war. Conflict prevention has been an integral part of the United Nations architecture since its very creation, as well as a personal priority since I took office. I will soon issue a report on preventive diplomacy, as requested by the United Nations Security Council.
It is by now a truism that preventive diplomacy is more prudent and effective than waiting to respond to full-blown bloodshed. It is cost-effective and, most importantly, it saves lives.
Preventing the outbreak of conflict is a collective responsibility. This is why the United Nations has been working increasingly closely with regional and sub-regional organizations and with national actors.
Early action and cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union and Sudanese authorities from Khartoum and Juba allowed for the successful organization of the recent referendum in South Sudan, leading to that country's independence. Swift and decisive mediation and other steps in Guinea and Kyrgyzstan also helped prevent the escalation of conflict.
Peace and development are closely linked. The latest World Development Report notes that the average cost of a civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of growth in gross domestic product. We must do more to prevent this toll on future generations and their ability to overcome poverty.
The Non-Aligned Movement has been an important partner in early response to emerging crises, and in our efforts to manage, contain and resolve ongoing conflicts, including through its political and troop contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Our ultimate goal is not only to prevent the emergence of conflict, but also to build the long-term bases for peace and understanding. As a global movement, the Non-Aligned Movement is a natural partner in efforts to promote intercultural dialogue and trust.
“Unity in diversity” –one of the founding principles of the Bandung Conference –has always been one of the Movement's key strengths. Many members of the Non-Aligned Movement have a long-standing experience in bridging ethnic or religious differences. I urge you to continue to work closely with the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
For the past few years, the world has been experiencing a succession of interconnected crises with repercussions on peace and security. Food insecurity, volatility in fuel prices, chronic poverty, political instability, and the growing impacts of climate change and the global financial crisis. The devastating interplay among these factors is especially acute in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, where famine has struck and millions of people are in dire need.
These crises have tested our collective commitments and achievements in improving the well-being of those most in need through the Millennium Development Goals. They will continue to affect all of us, but their heaviest effects will be felt by the poorest and most vulnerable. A collective response, based on a shared vision, is crucially important. That response must include a strengthened partnership for development and a successful conclusion to the Doha round of trade negotiations.
The NAM will be a key partner in realizing these aspirations.
In the United Nations and in me personally, you have a full partner in your efforts to ensure that the multilateral system and the United Nations are more effective in meeting our shared objectives.
The United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement have enjoyed a close history over fifty years. Guided by our core principles of equality, justice and peace, we look forward to our continuing work together to address today's pressing challenges and build a better world for future generations.
Please accept my best wishes for a successful commemoration.