Speech of UN RC/UNDP RR Stephen Tull on UN70

Oct 29, 2015

Thank you Mr. Sembayev. And thank you Minister Idrissov for your opening comments about the strong commitment and partnership of Kazakhstan with the United Nations. and I think yesterday’s briefing also on the campaign United for Global Security and on the President’s statement at the General Assembly was also a good sweeping and inspiring tour of the world’s progress and the remaining challenges today.

I’m encouraged by the national leadership in Kazakhstan, which says we must not and we will not stand still. Kazakhstan is beginning now massive domestic reforms in five important areas. It’s also re-affirming continually its commitment to the UN Charter and to principles of international law. Kazakhstan is giving full support too and also joining other member states in looking at a series of options for funding the 2030 sustainable development agenda. And Kazakhstan is even planning ahead for the world of 2045 as we heard, the 100 year anniversary of the United Nations, with the global strategy initiative of the President. We are here today because 70 years ago the founding charter entered into force. The charter of the UN is a liberal vision of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity. It expresses universal values and principles and it has allowed the peoples of the United Nations to build a better common home.  This vision and a collective action to advance it continue today. And then one month ago in New York the General Assembly adopted the agenda for the next 15 years, which they titled “Transforming our World”. In that agenda the member-states of the United Nations affirmed the legitimacy, representation and universality of the United Nations and it expressed clearly that policy-making is and will continue to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the mandate and institutionalization of the UN system as well as the successful precedent of the Millennium Development Goals. The nub or the core of the 2030 agenda, I would say ,is human dignity and equality. Let’s recall. We believe, that is we the peoples represented in the United Nations believe that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. That everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms. This comes from the Universal Declaration of human rights of course. This is a simple and a very powerful idea about moral equality. That is equal dignity and respect so that all are treated as equals. This idea is really axiomatic and expressed in all classical works in all great philosophical traditions and as well as being embodied in the beliefs of all the world’s religions. It also turns out that fighting inequality is also very good policy. Equality, which needs to be protected and promoted universally, empowers each community and each nation for human development. That’s why equality is central to the 2030 agenda. There are specific goals, such as goal 5 on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. But there are also throughout all of the 17 goals of the SDGs targets about greater equality. The Secretary General has called the 2030 agenda “a bold new path towards a future of dignity for all”. This requires the member-states to address discrimination and to lift up the excluded and marginalized members of society. If you allow Excellences, colleagues and ladies and gentlemen, I want to take a quick look back at the 70 years of UN in action. There’ve been tremendous achievements.

There’ve been 69 peacekeeping forces deployed since 1948. And currently there are 16. In addition the UN has mediated and lent its support to mediation which has prevented and helped in many conflicts. And these interventions all have saved millions from being casualties of war.

Also the United Nations, as everybody knows, has been essential to de-colonization and to establishing firmly the right of self-government. In 1949 almost one third of the world’s population lived in non-self-governing territories. And the UN played a role in the independence of over 80 sovereign nations. Extreme poverty – the focus of the MDGs and now also the SDGs - it’s now targeted for elimination. We’ve gone from a world in 1990 of almost two billion people living in the world in extreme poverty to today where there is less than 900 million. Still a lot of work to be done. But there is tremendous progress.

Similarly, the number of the deaths of children under five has declined from about 12 million in 1990 to below seven million today annually.

Let us remember smallpox has been eradicated from the planet. And polio has been eliminated from all but three countries.

Food assistance each year is provided by the United Nations to 80 million hungry people in the world, it’s 75 different countries. And UN assistance and protection to refugees numbers over 60 million since UNHCR was founded in 1951.

Women and families today are much more empowered and better informed about reproduction choices. And one result of this is that there has been much more manageable population growth in the world and in particular in developing countries.

UNESCO has registered over 1,000 world heritage sites and most countries take steps to protect ancient monuments and historical, cultural and natural sites.

Another tremendous accomplishment just in the past decade over 2.3 billion people in rural areas around the world have gained access to safe drinking water that they never had before. These are some of the big issues and headlines of the past 70 years of the work of the United Nations. But the list is long. And it really goes from the global scale to every single community in the world, in my view.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my last UN Day with you here in Kazakhstan. It’s been a real pleasure to be here with you. And I do want to take this occasion to thank the host Government, the people of Kazakhstan and all of the representatives of all of the member-states of the UN. I’d like to give my personal thanks, excuse me, it’s been a real privilege and assignment full of opportunities. And also on behalf of the UN country team in Kazakhstan I want to thank all of you for enabling us, supporting and partnering with us. I believe we all feel fortunate to live and work among you. And my colleagues in the UN who will carry on the work in Kazakhstan are ready with a new five-year strategic partnership which was signed this summer with Kazakhstan.  So, I leave with great hope for what will happen here in Kazakhstan and in partnership with Kazakhstan. I thank you. 

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