UN celebrates 60th birthday with wreath laying, pledges to rise to new challenges
From its Headquarters in New York to its far-flung outposts on the front line in Afghanistan and other crisis points around the world, the United Nations today celebrated its 60th birthday with wreath layings for fallen colleagues, the ringing of the Harmony Bell and appeals to rise to the new challenges that lie ahead.
Sixty years to the day after the UN officially came into existence with the ratification of its Charter, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled last month’s World Summit where leaders sought to forge a common response to new challenges in a world that is very different from that of the organization’s founders.
“They have left us a great deal of work to do,” he declared in a message, citing their commitment to reduce hunger and poverty by 50 per cent in the next 10 years, their pledge to create new bodies to promote human rights and build lasting peace in war-torn countries, their pledge to fight terrorism and take collective action to save populations from genocide.
At a ceremony in the Visitors Lobby at Headquarters he laid a wreath in honour of UN colleagues who fell in the line of duty.
In his message, he noted the Summit’s decisions on important reforms of the UN Secretariat, but regretted too the leaders’ weak statements on climate change and Security Council reform and their total lack of agreement on nuclear proliferation and disarmament.
“Today, as we mark the sixtieth anniversary of our indispensable institution, I promise you that I will do my part,” he concluded. “And I trust that you, as global citizens, will do yours.”
Together with General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden, and the Security Council President for October, Ambassador Mihnea Ioan Motoc of Romania, Mr. Annan rang the “Harmony Bell,” on loan for the day from the World Harmony Foundation, a global non-profit network of independent service providers.
“The realities of the world are a constant reminder that global action and collective efforts are now needed more than ever,” Mr. Eliasson declared in his message.
“And every day, the United Nations proves that it makes a difference for people and crisis areas around the world: for the starving child, the AIDS-stricken mother, the war-torn country, the disaster-stricken area, the desperate refugee, for the oppressed, the neglected and the vulnerable,” he said.
“The best birthday gift to our Organization is for all of us, the members of the global community, to translate our leaders’ commitments at the 2005 World Summit into concrete action to the benefit of the peoples of the world.”
United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney presented a framed resolution from the House of Representatives congratulating the world body.
A celebratory cake was wheeled on and students from the UN International School (UNIS) then sang Happy Birthday in the UN’ six official languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Half way around the world in strife-torn Afghanistan, a birthday ceremony was held at Kabul University where Mr. Annan’s message was read out and a film screened on UN activities.
In Pristina, capital of Kosovo, which the UN has administered ever since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Albanians and Serbs, a forum on the world body’s role on peace, security, human rights and development at the Grand Hotel.