As the United Nations prepares for the official celebration of its 70 anniversary tomorrow, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the General Assembly to “unite our strength” and serve “we the peoples,” as the 193-member body adopted by consensus a resolution declaring a recommitment to the aims and principles of the UN Charter.
“Tomorrow, all around the world, iconic landmarks will be lit up blue for UN Day,” Mr. Ban told an informal commemorative meeting of the Assembly, referring to the global campaign that will see national buildings, monuments and landscapes illuminated in blue light, from the Empire State Building in New York to the Jordanian city of Petra.
Mr. Ban noted that the UN Charter was written “deliberately, in the voice, not of governments, but of 'we the peoples,'” adding that it was a Charter for everyone, particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.
He also referred to his personal experiences with the UN when he was growing up in South Korea.
“I know first-hand the power and the value of the UN blue. When war came to Korea, I lost my home, my school, all I knew. But help came, bearing the United Nations flag.”
The Secretary-General said that the blue flag of the UN remained “a banner of hope.”
“We have brought freedom to millions, dismantling colonialism, defeating apartheid and defending human rights for all, regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation,” he said.
He also sounded a note of caution, saying “Our enterprise is not perfect. Violence, poverty, ill-health and abuse plague far too many people, especially women and girls.”
“Conflict, oppression and despair has forced more people to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War,” he continued. “But without the United Nations, our world would be a far bleaker place.”
Speaking of the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Secretary-General said that Member States had united, with “a promise to end poverty and provide a life of dignity for all on a healthy planet within a generation.”
To achieve the goals outlined in the new Agenda, Mr. Ban said that what was needed was “a strong UN for a better world,” and that UN day was a time to “reflect on the promise of the Charter, and the pledge of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“This is a time of test but also of tremendous opportunity. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last that can stop the worst effects of climate change,” he concluded. “As we shine a blue light on this milestone anniversary, let us reaffirm our commitment to a better and brighter future for all.”
In the Declaration adopted by the Assembly, Member States affirmed: "We firmly believe that the Charter enshrines our common values as human beings, which unite us in diversity beyond our differences of language, culture or religion, today as 70 years ago."
In his remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, said that: “It is itself a unique achievement that the UN after 70 years still exists, that it has increased the number of members from 51 to 193 – and now represents almost all of humanity.”
“The UN has contributed immensely to advance human development, feed the hungry, educate children, prevent epidemic diseases and improve health,” he said. “Refugees have been supported and human rights promoted. And in the last fifteen years alone, the number of extremely poor people has been cut by half.”
But he also noted that the UN will “never be stronger than the resources and power that the membership of the General Assembly and the Security Council gives it.”
“For too long the negotiations on disarmament have been stalled, arms races restarted, terrorism and violent extremism and more armed conflicts have been ignited, causing immense human suffering,” he continued. “And global action against inequality, environmental catastrophes and climate change has been far too weak.”
Mr. Lykketoft said that the 70th anniversary of the UN could be “the defining hour” of the Organization, as well as the international community as a whole, noting the approval of the new 2030 Agenda and the importance of the upcoming climate change conference in Paris.
“The outcome of UN efforts here and now to reach out to the sixty million displaced inside and outside the worlds many conflict zones – with Syria as the single worst example – is a crucial test of our ability to mobilize global solidarity,” he said. “The outcome of efforts to end the conflicts that are the root causes of these humanitarian catastrophes is the crucial test of the UN's credibility in ensuring global peace and security.”
The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mr. Oh Joon, also spoke about the importance of the UN's latest milestone.
“The 70th anniversary of the United Nations is a historic moment to reflect and build upon our collective action and achievements,” he said. “'We the peoples' of the United Nations were determined in 1945 to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
He also noted the role of ECOSOC as “the central platform of the UN to address international economic and social issues,” as well as setting priorities for international development cooperation and humanitarian action.
Mr. Oh went on to highlight the importance of the 2030 Agenda, which will, he said, “require that all countries and all stakeholders come together to make the goals a reality,” also noting that “ECOSOC is the only Charter body with a mandate to engage civil society.”
“Indeed, the vision and the goals of the recently adopted 2030 Agenda are the result of the most open and transparent consultation process in the history of the United Nations,” he continued. “The Council will ensure that these voices from around the world continue to be heard.”
ECOSOC, he said, had “evolved over the last 70 years to deal with the growing number of challenges,” adding that the Council “will also continue to work with Member States and other stakeholders to make ECOSOC more relevant to what is happening in the world.”