I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Department of Foreign Affairs for coming together with us at the United Nations, in this traditional celebration of UN Day here in Manila. A special thank you to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr for taking time from his very busy schedule to join in person [alt who represents him]. And thank you to all our guests for contributing to this evening with your presence. To SM for allowing us to use this beautiful hall at no cost, and last but certainly not least, to my colleagues who have worked very hard with our friends and colleagues in DFA to prepare this evening for us.
Tonight, is a celebration of the 74th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter, on 24 October 1945. This of course followed the conclusion of the San Francisco conference on 26 June the same year with the signing of the Charter by 50 of its 51 charter members (Poland would sign two months later), and with the Philippines as a Charter member represented by the Honorable Carlos P. Romulo – who later went on to become the President of the fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1949 to 1950!
So, it is a festive occasion and we will soon go on to enjoy the performance of Repertoire Philippines in a rendition of music from Broadway, in what will allow us to associate the musical themes we hear with the Sustainable Development Goals.
But, it is also a solemn occasion and I feel we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to reflect on the intentions of our founding fathers and mothers in the context of the world as it was 74 years ago, and how that translates to the world we live in today. So, bear with me and let’s remind ourselves of the Preamble of the Charter which beautifully captures the context and foundation of the United Nations. It reads:
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINE
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.
I hope you agree with me that these are principles that are as relevant in today’s world as they were then, even though the generation that, “twice in our lifetime”, had experienced the scourge of war has largely faded, and most of the political and economic power has been transferred to the baby-boomers of the post WW II generation. For the generations that follow – generation X, generation Y (or the so called millennials), and generation Z, the memory of what led to the formation of the United Nations may now be rather vague…
But in fact, as we all know, the world we live in continues to be confronted by extra-ordinary and urgent challenges. Challenges that include seemingly unextractable conflict – bringing misery to those affected and causing millions into forced displacement. Challenges in the uneven distribution of resources between the very rich and the very poor. And perhaps the most urgent challenge of all, our impact on the environment, the depletion of natural resources, the fact that these effects are already irreversible and if not reined in, will change our world in more ways than we can imagine, with detrimental effects on its population – not only on humans but also on the many species, estimated today at one million, at risk of extinction, forever…
These are challenges that are cross-boundary in their nature, that cannot be solved by individual nations attempting to stand strong on their own. Challenges that require multi-lateral solutions, across nations, regions and peoples. And I find it encouraging, that it is now generation Z, those born in this new millennium, who are stepping up and raise their voices, demanding solutions from world leaders, solutions that are not only looking to prosperity for the individual but for a sustainable future for the world and its global population. In the words of Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit: “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight”.
It is encouraging that she speaks at the United Nations General Assembly, for what better forum to listen to her and to act on her call. On its 74th anniversary, the United Nations remains unique as the only world body, now with a membership of 193 countries, where each member has an equal vote, an equal voice and an equal right to be listened to. But where each member also has a responsibility to act in accordance with the Charter and international conventions and treaties entered into, in the interest of all, across borders and beyond self-interest, be it for peace, for social and economic development, or for human rights.
And I find it encouraging that the members of the United Nations have come together, four years ago, in a partnership and a commitment to address these challenges through the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
So how is that partnership manifesting itself here in the Philippines? Well, there are two dimensions to it:
First, the contribution by the Philippines to the global United Nations. Ever since the Philippines signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco back in 1945 and as we know, the Philippines has been and continues to be a very active Member State, engaging with its fellow Member States; contributing to the work of the Organization; and influencing the course of its decisions. We have recently seen that on a number of occasions, be it in the Philippines’ contributions to and participation in the Global Compact for Migration; in the Global Compact on Refugees; in its participation in the High-Level Political Forum of ECOSOC, where it presented its second – one of a small number of Member States to do so – Voluntary National Review on progress in implementing the SDGs; or on the many other occasions that the Philippines has participated in and contributed to the work of the Organization in the past year. I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Organization, to express our appreciation.
Second, the partnership between the United Nations and the Philippines for development, humanitarian action and peacebuilding here in the Philippines. This is articulated in the Partnership Framework for Sustainable Development that was signed between the government, witnessed by the Human Development Network in the Philippines, our Civil Society Advisory Committee and our Youth Advisory Board at the end of last year. The Partnership Framework is the covenant between the Government of the Philippines and the UN towards the achievement of the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan and its longer-term vision Ambisyon Natin 2040.
It is the first Philippines – UN country plan that redefines the nature of UN System engagement in the Philippines from one that provides “development assistance” to a collaboration in a strategic partnership. As an initial investment in a longer-term UN support to Agenda 2030, it recognizes the Philippines’ achievements along core dimensions of development going back to 1990. It directs the attention and resources of the United Nations Country Team, consisting of 17 funds, programmes and specialized agencies, striving to “Deliver as One”, specifically to those areas where advances have been the most severely challenged over time, mapped over the PDP priorities and organized through a 2030 Agenda lens into three pillars: “people” “prosperity and planet” and “peace”.
On behalf of the UN Country Team in the Philippines, I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to our national counterparts, across government at national and regional level, civil society, the private sector and the academe, and the general public, for their confidence in us, and for the cooperation they offer in this great venture. And I also take the opportunity to express our appreciation to the bilateral partners of the Philippines, who channel contributions through the United Nations and make our work here possible. Please keep those resources coming, your engagement matters a great deal J.
Finally on my part, and looking forward, 2020 that is soon upon us, will mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Rather than making 2020 a commemoration and celebration over the work of the United Nations from its birth until turning 75, the Secretary-General has announced that we will use this as a pretext to rejuvenate global cooperation in a dialogue across the world on the future we aspire to, the threats to that future, and the tools needed for global cooperation to overcome these threats. A UN@75 and Beyond campaign will launch “the biggest global conversation on how we will navigate this turbulent period for the world”, asking the questions: what world do we want to create for current and future generations; where is the world heading now; what action is needed to close the gap that surely exists between these two?
Hopefully, the answers to the questions and the solutions that should spring from these will go at least some way to respond to Greta Thunberg and those in generation Z, Y and Z as the baby boomers hand over power to the generations that follow. And the answers should fuel the decade of action ahead of us if we are to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda!
We look forward to continue our work here in the Philippines, with the Philippines, towards the achievement of the prosperous future that we wish for our children and their children in generations to come.
Thank you very much for being here with us tonight, I hope you will enjoy the evening.
Mabuhay United Nations!
— Ola Almgren