Colleagues from the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the United Nations Country Team, standing here with me, let me welcome all of you to the celebration of United Nations Day 2018.
The UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter – the United Nations founding document. The UN Charter was drafted against the backdrop of the horrors of World War II, with the aim to create an organization that could bring countries together to preserve peace and help build a better world.
A lot has changed since 1945, but I strongly believe that the World still needs the UN to preserve peace, promote development and protect individual Human Rights. As the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, once said, “More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.”
With the passing of Mr. Kofi Annan earlier this year, the UN and the world has lost one of the most forceful champions of the UN Charter and its values. But, the legacy of Mr. Kofi Annan lives on.
He believed that humanity’s greatest challenges had to be faced together, - he believed that we are “Better Together”, which is also our theme for tonight.
One of Kofi Annan’s greatest skills was to bring people together. In his remarks at the Funeral of Kofi Annan, the current Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres said, “Like few in our time, Kofi Annan could bring people together, put them at ease, and unite them towards a common goal for our common humanity.”
An example of how he brought people together around common goals was through the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. In an unprecedented way, these Goals focused development efforts around the most crucial development challenges at the time. This, in turn, had enormous impact on the development progress we have seen over the past two decades.
In 2015, the successor of the Millennium Development Goals – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – was adopted by all the United Nations’ Member States. The 2030 Agenda is a commitment to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the wellbeing of all. It emphasizes meeting the needs of the most vulnerable population groups and to leave no one behind. The goals touch upon almost every aspect of development—from poverty, gender inequality, environmental degradation to economic empowerment, and peace and justice.
The scale of the challenge has become even more clear with the release by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of its report “Global Warming of 1.5C”. This confirms that Climate Change is happening now and that if we do not implement the transformational changes needed to halt Climate Change, it will undermine all our other development and poverty reduction efforts.
To achieve the ambitious SDGs and combat climate change, we need more people like Kofi Annan who can unite people around common goals. We need partnerships at an unprecedented scale. No Government, no individual, and no organization, will be able to achieve the SDGs alone.
Throughout the venue here tonight you will find inspiring stories, showing what “Better Together” means in practice. You will find examples of how national and local Governments, civil society, youth groups, businesses, academia and individuals through their actions contribute to achieve progress towards the SDGs.
Allow me to highlight a few of these stories. One story features a young male student, who found the privileges, he enjoys as a man so unfair that he became a champion for gender equality. In partnership with UN Women he has been conducting peer-learning sessions for high-school students, which has reached hundreds of students here in Beijing, and contributed to breaking gender-stereotypes and combatting gender-based violence.
Another story is about a community-based group of women who has taken environmental protection of the river running through their community in their own hands. Every month, supported by UN Environment, the women carry out river protection campaign in the villages along the river, where they patrol, collect garbage, and keep records of changes to the environmental situation.
A third story comes from a young dancer, who, inspired by an awareness raising program developed by The UN Population Fund, formed a dance group called "Dance4Life”, which uses music and dance to convey critical sexual and reproductive health information to young people. Her recordings of street-dancing have reached tens of thousands of young people and raised their awareness of sexual and reproductive health.
These and the other stories on display tonight, remind us that we can all contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future, where no one is left behind. We are “Better together”.
With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the transformational changes required to achieve it, it has become increasingly clear that the United Nations must renew itself to better meet today’s challenges.
Fortunately, this is now happening. In May 2018, all the United Nation’s 193 Member States agreed on a landmark resolution, mandating the UN Secretary General to implement the most ambitious and comprehensive change process of the United Nations development system in decades. The aim of this reform is to ensure that the UN is fit for purpose to support the 2030 Agenda, to prevent crises and to deliver more effectively across all our mandates.
Many of the most visible changes here at the country level will take effect on January 1, 2019. These are changes that have direct impact on myself and the Country Team. For one, I will no longer serve as UNDP Resident Representative, but instead focus all my time on being the leader of the entire Country Team. As such, my role will be to better align the work that the various agencies are carrying out and make sure that our efforts as effectively as possible contribute to the implementation of the SDGs.
All of you, gathered here tonight are key partners of the United Nations in China. I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to support me and the Country Team through this time of change. As in any change process, there will be bumps in the road. But, with your support I am confident that over the next years, the UN will become a fairer and more inclusive organization, with leaner and more effective structures, and better placed to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Before I conclude and let you enjoy tonight’s performance and reception, I would like to extend my appreciation to Phoenix Group for hosting us in this spectacular building. In particular I would like to recognize: Mr. LIU Changle, Justice of Peace, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Satellite TV Holdings; Mr. LIU Shuang, COO of Phoenix TV and CEO of Ifeng; as well as Mr. HE Daguang, COO, of Phoenix Satellite TV Holdings.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to you, our valuable partners, for the strong support to our work in China throughout the year. I particularly wish to thank Mr. Zhang Jun, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, for showing his support for the United Nations here tonight.
Let me also thank UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Mr. Steve Bedi and his band for performing here tonight.
My appreciation also goes to you Ms. Nancie Zho for your skillfully moderating the program for this evening.
Last but not least, I want to recognize all the UN staff working here in China for their strong commitment to the mission of the United Nations and their efforts to make the world a better place.
As we celebrate this UN Day, let’s remember that we are “Better Together”.