United Nations Day 2014 To Mark the 69th Anniversary Of the United NationsOct 28, 2014
Ms. Michelle Gyles-Mcdonnough
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Malaysia
UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei Darussalam
UNFPA Representative For Malaysia
National Library of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Ho May Yong, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia;
Yang Berbahagia Datuk Haji Abdul Ghaffar Bin Thambi, Deputy Secretary General (Culture), Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia;
Director-General of the National Library, Ms Hajah Nafisah binti Ahmad;
Colleagues, Heads of UN Agencies in Malaysia, members of the United Nations Country Team, and Retired Staff of the United Nations;
Distinguished Ambassadors and Representatives of the Diplomatic Community;
Representatives from Government Ministries and agencies;
Representatives of civil society organisations, the corporate sector, members of the public and the media.
Selamat Pagi and a very good morning!
On behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Malaysia, it gives me great pleasure to welcome each and every one of you, who have made time to join us this morning to commemorate the 69th Anniversary of the United Nations. On 24th October, 69 years ago, the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco; and over the next 14 months, around the world, we will together share in the “UN70” celebrations. Over the course of the next two months and next year, we will honour the UN’s development, security, and human rights work and unite Member States, global civil society and the many individual women and men in common cause to enable a strong UN to realize a better world.
Our commemoration today follows the first level of UN Day celebrations by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 24th of October, which also offered an opportunity for Malaysia to celebrate its resounding win, and the vote of confidence of 187 countries around the world in the positive contribution Malaysia will make as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Malaysia’s fourth time membership on the Security Council, and in other UN bodies and fora over the years, as well as Malaysia’s much valued involvement in Peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, and South–South Cooperation which, to date, has benefitted 27,000 participants from 143 developing countries, represent a strong vote for multilateralism; and recognition that, even with its flaws, multilateralism is the most egalitarian form of international cooperation and decision-making, and that multilateral institutions are among the very few fora in which countries can potentially have an equal voice in shaping our shared future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are greatly honoured to have with us today:
1) The Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and
2) The Secretary General (Culture), Ministry of Tourism and Culture, who have taken the time to be with us despite their demanding schedules.
Your presence here today, and that of our many time-honoured partners, stakeholders and friends, brings alive our chosen theme for UN Day this year, “A Shared Future: A Choice for Multilateralism”, and complements the “UN4U” global outreach campaign in this month of October.
It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces as well as new ones, a testament of the continued deep engagement and partnership of the UN Country Team with the government and people of Malaysia.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to the National Library of Malaysia, the Director General, and her dedicated team for collaborating with us in organising and hosting this event and the exhibit you will view later in the library’s foyer. The National Library, as the National Depository of UN Resources in Malaysia, has put together an interesting exhibition to enhance awareness on the United Nations system. The exhibit provides insight on how Malaysia has been, and continues to be, involved in the United Nations; and a flavour of the many areas in which the United Nations’ funds, programmes and specialised agencies have worked together with Government and national partners to contribute to development progress in Malaysia, and to help improve the lives of the people we serve here. It also showcases UN resources available at the Library.
The National Library of Malaysia is one of 365 depository libraries that are present in over 136 countries, tasked with maintaining United Nations material, including digitalised documents, and making them accessible free of charge to the general public. So I invite you to take a look, pique your interest, and avail yourself of these resources to learn more, as the decisions made at the UN General Assembly, the Security Council and through the various other mechanisms and organs of the UN system, as well as the many international conventions and treaties, impact member states and the lives of citizens at the national and sub-national levels. The UN technical resources available through the National Library – the studies and analyses of prevailing challenges, as well as the documentation of good practices and experiences - also offer a wealth of information for policy making and development planning. The exhibit will be up for a period of one month.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One hundred and ninety three member states of the United Nations have agreed to adhere to the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and more recently at the turn of the 21st century - the Millennium Development Goals. There is no doubt that these universally agreed values, goals and targets have shaped our world and contributed to its betterment in myriad ways. They have laid out the essentialities for enjoying a dignified life and set the bar for basic standards of living; and they continue to provide a roadmap and guiding principles for political stability, security and equitable development.
While all member nations have agreed to these minimum standards, the degree of adoption and implementation of these values, standards and goals vary from one country to another. While some countries are fully attuned, others divert from our universal and common understandings to the extent that peace and security are compromised, and development is constrained, or even undermined.
But it is in times of challenge that we must hold true to shared principles and ideals. Even as the world has changed enormously since the establishment of the United Nations, our collective work is to structure the institutions and processes of international governance to make them both more robust and resilient, adaptable enough to deal with the increasing interconnectedness of our world, and the rapidly changing nature and source of common challenges and threats that are best managed collaboratively at the international level.
Over the last few decades, nations have come to realize that the challenges of security, peacekeeping, disease control, development, human rights, climate change, protection of the environment and securing the sustainability of resources, among others, are too vast and complex for any nation or group of nations, no matter how powerful, to effectively manage on its own. Their impacts cross borders, and cannot be confined geographically. What happens in one part of the world affects us all in one way or another. The tragedy of MH17 is a case in point as is the spread of the Ebola virus, or the unsustainable consumption and production patterns of nations that threaten the wellbeing of our human family, wherever we may reside.
Given our increasing interdependence and mutual vulnerability regardless of where we are on the world map, multilateralism is no longer a choice. It is a necessity – an effective mechanism that we must leverage. We have learnt over time, the power of collaboration and coordinated action, and the importance of consistency of international principles and rules to drive action or respond to emerging issues and humanitarian needs at the national, regional and international levels. For instance, mitigating the effects of climate change requires the kind of multilateral platform that is provided by the UN, where nations big and small can raise and discuss issues, and work together to galvanise the international community to action, notwithstanding the many differences, priorities and levels of development of member states.
In embracing the principle of multilateralism, it is especially important to reaffirm the UN’s role as its principal embodiment and the main forum for its pursuit. The United Nations remains our best hope for unity‐in‐diversity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A good example of effective multilateralism, is the landmark decision that was reached by world leaders, following the Millennium Summit in the year 2000, to ensure a better future for all, by setting out minimum targets for the reduction of poverty; ensuring universal access to primary education; gender equality; health, environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development through the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.
Our global scorecard, with now just one year to the MDG deadline at the end of 2015, shows that we have achieved much and improved the lives of many under the MDG framework, yet much more remains to be done:
While we have seen the rates of those living under USD$1.25 a day cut in half since 1990; one in eight people around the world remain hungry.
We have succeeded in ensuring near universal access for primary education. Nonetheless, 58 million children still remain out of school.
We have gained much ground in promoting gender equality and empowering women. However, women still face discrimination in many countries in terms of access to education and jobs, and participation in decision making.
There are 17,000 fewer children who die each day – but more than 6 million children still die before their 5th birthday.
Maternal mortality has been reduced by 45% since 1990. But only half the women in developing regions receive the recommended health care.
In 2012, 9.7 million people were receiving medicines for HIV. Even so, every hour 50 young women are newly infected with HIV. In the span of 12 years, 3.3 million deaths caused by malaria were prevented but the disease still killed around 627,000 people in 2012.
While 2.3 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water, there remain 2.5 billion who do not have access to basic sanitation.
In developing a global partnership for development, debt service for developing countries have declined, and while AID money has hit a record high of USD$134.8 billion in 2013, AID money has shifted away from the poorest countries.
Importantly, those that are left behind do not live only in poor countries. With increasing inequality, limits on choice and access to opportunity for self-fulfilment, and constraints to living a life with dignity persist in middle income countries, and in advanced economies. There is no doubt that governments across the globe can and have to do much more. We will have to be more ambitious in the goals and targets we set to succeed the MDGs and guide countries’ development for the next 15 years.
The stakes are huge: for eradicating poverty, for global sustainability, for human rights, and for the world’s ability to address shared global challenges; and business as usual will not deliver the results we need for people.
If we are to leave no one behind, transform our economies for jobs and inclusive growth, guarantee freedom from fear and violence and build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, and adjust consumption and production patterns to enable growth and development that is respectful of our planetary boundaries, then we must come together with political resolve at the highest levels and, beyond the ambitious targets, we must set clear strategies to turn our ambition into action.
Action - Implementation of the post-2105 agenda - will require the engagement of many partners and across borders. It can only be done together.
This is the reason for the brave and novel approach by the UN Secretary-General to ensure that the voices and needs of people from every part of the world and from all walks of life are heard and taken into account for the purpose of developing collective goals for a shared future beyond 2015. Such a process is unprecedented and is possibly the most inclusive and participatory development planning methodology ever employed. Recognition of the interconnectedness of our world, the transboundary nature of many of our challenges, makes an open, transparent multilateral process the only viable option for reaching consensus on priorities to achieve our shared ideal of “leaving no one behind”. It is our best path to success – to the World we Want.
The United Nations will remain a steadfast partner of the Government and people of Malaysia. The UN country Team stands ready to support Malaysia in its aspirations to be a high income nation with growth and development that is inclusive and sustainable; and also as it expands its role regionally and internationally to contribute to global peace and security and “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as set-out in the Charter of the United Nations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we celebrate the anniversary of the formation of the United Nations, I am pleased to announce that the United Nations Country Team will unveil today, a book called “Partners for Progress”, which will be launched by Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Ho May Yong, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia.
This publication presents in a succinct manner the long-standing development partnership between the agencies of the United Nations development system and Malaysia. I trust that it will give you an insight into the evolving role of the UN system in line with Malaysia’s progress, and where our focus now lies as Malaysia transitions from developing to fully developed status.
I once again thank each of you for your joining us today and, particularly, the National Library of Malaysia for its graciousness in co-hosting this event and exhibition.