Democracy is showing greater strain than at any time in decades. That is why this International Day should make us look for ways to invigorate democracy and seek answers for the systemic challenges it faces.
This means tackling inequality, both economic and political. It means making our democracies more inclusive, by bringing the young and marginalized into the political system. It means making democracies more innovative and responsive to emerging challenges.
Working for a future that leaves no one behind requires us to consider essential pressing questions. For example, what impact will migration or climate change have on democracy in the next generation? How do we best harness the potential of new technologies while avoiding the dangers? How do build better governance so that democracy delivers better lives and fully meets the public’s aspirations?
On this International Day of Democracy, let us commit to joining forces for the future of democracy.
The history of nuclear testing is one of suffering, with the victims of more than 2,000 nuclear tests often from the most vulnerable communities around of the world. The devastating consequences – which were not confined by international borders — encompassed impacts on the environment, health, food security and economic development.
Since the end of the Cold War, a robust norm has developed against nuclear testing, violated by only one State this century. The strength of that norm has been validated by the international community’s overwhelming condemnation of each violation.
Nevertheless, the restraint displayed through voluntary moratoria cannot replace a global, legally-binding ban on nuclear-testing. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has an essential role within the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. It fosters international peace and security by constraining the development of nuclear weapons. Our collective security demands that every effort should be made to bring this essential treaty into force.
We mark World Humanitarian Day every year on 19 August, to express solidarity with people affected by humanitarian crises and pay tribute to the humanitarian workers who help them.
This year’s commemoration marks the fifteenth anniversary since the attack on the United Nations in Baghdad, Iraq, in which 22 of our colleagues were killed. Since that tragedy, which led to this day’s designation as World Humanitarian Day, over 4,000 aid workers have been killed, injured, detained or kidnapped. That is an average of 300 fellow humanitarians killed, detained or injured every year.
Civilians in conflict zones also continue to be killed and maimed, deliberately or in indiscriminate attacks. Last year, the United Nations recorded the deaths or injuries of more than 26,000 civilians in attacks in just six countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.
Around the world, conflict is forcing record numbers of people from their homes, with over 65 million people now displaced. Children are recruited by armed groups and used to fight. Women are abused and humiliated. As humanitarian workers deliver aid and medical workers provide for those in need, they are all too often targeted or treated as threats.
On World Humanitarian Day, I call on global leaders to do everything in their power to protect people caught up in conflict.
And I call on all who are concerned to join our campaign at worldhumanitarianday.org to show that civilians are #NotATarget.
Together, we stand in solidarity with civilians in conflict, and with the humanitarian workers who risk their lives to help them.
Terrorism is one of the most challenging issues of our time and a serious threat to international peace and security. From Tajikistan to the United Kingdom, from Baghdad to Barcelona, these ruthless attacks have shaken us all to the core. No country can consider itself immune, with almost every nationality in the world falling victim to terrorist attacks.
The United Nations itself is regularly targeted. Twenty-two people lost their lives in the attack on the headquarters of the United Nations mission in Iraq, which took place 15 years ago this week. Some of our peacekeeping missions are under constant threat.
But after terrorist attacks, we rarely hear about those who were killed and injured; the ordinary women, men, girls and boys, who were going about their daily business when their lives ended or were changed forever. We rarely hear about their surviving families, friends and communities, who must learn to live with the burden of terrorism for their entire lives.
Today, the International day of Remembrance of, and Tribute to, the victims of terrorism, reminds us to stop and listen to the victims and survivors of terrorism, to raise up their voices and recognize the impact terrorism has on their lives.
We can all learn from their experiences. Communities around the world are demonstrating their resilience in response to terrorist attacks. They are countering terrorism and violent extremism in their everyday lives, in their schools, markets and places of worship.
Supporting victims and their families is a moral imperative, based on promoting, protecting and respecting their human rights. Caring for victims and survivors and amplifying their voices helps to challenge the narrative of hatred and division that terrorism aims to spread. We need to provide victims with long-term assistance, including financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support.
When we lift up the victims and survivors of terrorism, listen to their voices, respect their rights and provide them with support and justice, we are honouring our common bonds, and reducing the lasting damage done by terrorists to individuals, families and communities.
I thank those who are willing to speak out against terrorism every day. Your voices matter, and your courage in the face of adversity is a lesson to us all.
Today and every day, the United Nations stands in solidarity with you.
For nearly 70 years, UN peacekeeping has proven to be one of the international community’s most effective investments in peace, security and prosperity.
Demand for UN peacekeepers has risen steadily over the years, and deployment is now near an all-time high. Peacekeeping has had a positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.
Despite their different sizes and mandates, all UN missions have the same goals: to save lives, protect people, to set the stage for peace, and then close. They are intended to be short-term investments that provide long-term dividends by creating the time and space for political processes to unfold.
To date, fifty-four UN peace operations have completed their mandates. Two more, in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia, will soon close, joining a long list of successful operations in Angola, Cambodia, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and elsewhere.
Looking forward, we are aiming to do more to end operations that have achieved their goals. We are also reforming and adapting our peacekeeping missions to improve their effectiveness in the increasingly challenging environments in which they work.
Today’s peacekeeping budget — less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent. It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions.
The UN is working hard to make all our peacekeeping operations cost-effective from start to finish. We are constantly finding ways to reform, restructure and drive costs down.
At the same time, UN peacekeepers are relentless in searching for new ways to build sustainable peace.
Peacekeeping operations have evolved from simply monitoring ceasefires to protecting civilians, disarming ex-combatants, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, supporting free and fair elections, minimizing the risk of land-mines and much more. They also work to ensure that women are fully represented in peace processes, political life, and in branches of government. All these investments are fundamental to building lasting peace.
Since taking office earlier this year, I have made ending the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN personnel, including peacekeepers, one of my top priorities. We are by no means perfect. But when we make mistakes, we learn from them, striving continuously to deploy our personnel and assets in a way that is not just responsible, but beneficial to the people and communities we serve.
I look forward to working with Member States on this. Our partnership is central to the success of peacekeeping missions, since Member States decide where troops go, what they will do, and what resources will support them. Our close cooperation is vital if we are to deliver on the promise of lasting peace, while peacekeepers create conditions on the ground to enable solutions to emerge and take root.
I have also prioritized ensuring that women play a far more active role in peace operations, as troops, police and civilian staff. Gender parity is essential for its own sake, and the presence of women increases the chances of sustained peace while reducing incidences of sexual abuse and exploitation.
On this International Day of UN Peacekeepers we pay tribute to more than 113,000 ‘Blue Helmets’, UN Police and civilian personnel deployed to 16 missions. We acknowledge the contribution made by an ever-growing number of Member States to our operations. We thank more than one million women and men who have served under the UN flag with professionalism, dedication and courage throughout our history. And we honour the memory of more than 3,500 peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving.
Last year, 117 peacekeepers paid the ultimate price. They included military, police, international civil servants, UN Volunteers and national staff from 43 countries. So far in 2017, twelve peacekeepers have been killed.
Their efforts on behalf of the international community are one of the most concrete expressions of the UN Charter’s determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” We all owe them a great debt.
Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.
Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.
Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.
Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined. Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.
Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.
Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.
Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.
When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.
Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.
I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve. Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.
On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. [Ends]