75th Anniversary of the United Nations and 65th Anniversary of Lao PDR as a Member State of the United Nations

Remarks by Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR on Monday 26th October at Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel

Your Excellency, dear Mr. Saleumxay, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR

Excellencies, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Ambassadors and Representatives of International Organizations

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Seventy-five years ago, the world was blinking its way out of the unprecedented horror and destruction of the Second World War.

It was less than 30 years after the end of the First World War, despite a determination that such a catastrophe should never happen again.

The peoples of the world dreamed of a better future.

A vision was formed of a future where succeeding generations would be spared the scourge of war,

A vision of equal rights, for people and for nations large and small,

of justice and respect for international obligations,

and of social progress and better standards of life,

resolved that this would not remain simply a dream.

In pursuit of that vision, the Charter of the United Nations entered into force on the 24th of October 1945, thereon after - the United Nations Day, which we commemorate here today.

This gave birth to an Organization charged with fostering the cooperation, --and harmonizing the efforts of its member states -- towards the achievement of their common ends.

Together with the Bretton Woods Institutions, -- the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, it was envisioned as the multilateral architecture charged with the maintenance of peace and security, development and human rights;

the very institutions that, in Henry Morganthau’s words, in short, would facilitate “[the] creation of a dynamic world community in which the peoples of every nation will be able to realise their potentialities in peace.”

Since then, there has been many calls to bring the United Nations closer to the people; We, -- the peoples it serves, -- and to this end, I am delighted of the presence of also civil society representatives here today.

Sixty-five years ago, with UN Security Council Resolution 109[1], Laos became part of the UN family, of the then 76 member states in 1955,

adding its name to the shared vision of a better future, and to the shared efforts in bringing it achievements about.

Excellencies,

The world of today looks very different to how it did in 1945.

For one, there are more countries, with 193 sovereign UN member states.

The global population has more than tripled to 7.7 billion people.[2]

We are healthier, we live longer, and lose fewer children.

And many more people know how to read and write.

The world is better connected, with people almost anywhere on the planet that can share information, and interact instantly, in ways that would have been unimaginable when the UN was first founded.

And it is more inter-dependent, with a global web of trade, of investment, development and travel, connecting the fortunes of us all, on a shared planet that we must protect and preserve together.

The principles of sovereignty remain a hallmark of international cooperation, yet member states are interconnected and interdependent in ways that demand engagement, respect and empathy in a manner never experienced before.

Around the world and over the decades, the UN has worked to end hunger and poverty,

it led the global campaign to eradicate smallpox,

it has strengthened universal rights and advanced gender equality.

Through the UN, the world has stood up for peace, with member states committing troops to 71 different UN peacekeeping operations since 1948.[3]

This weekend, -- following the same successful approach used for the negotiations of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, co-led by Lao PDR, -- Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, meaning that the Treaty will now enter into force[4], and pave the way to a safer future.

Earlier this month, the World Food Programme became the 12th UN Nobel Laureate[5], for its work to end hunger and to better conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas. -- [Congratulations Jan, to you and your team]

That idea of a United Nations means something.

As it has done for me since I first aspired to joining that shared global effort as a university student in Gothenburg, determined to one day work for the United Nations.

And it has done for countless others when it stands as a symbol of our aspirations for a better future, and willingness to act, to make it happen.

But, as we look back on 75 years of progress, challenges, and changes, we need also to reflect on where we need to do better.

On our watch, and despite our aspirations, many parts of the world remained plagued by wars, and the threat of wars.

indeed, as many of you will have experienced first-hand and from which the legacies of war are still surfacing among rural communities in the Lao PDR.

There are times we have been too slow to act,

when we have not been efficient, or coherent enough in our actions,

and as an Organisation, we must do more to improve the ethnic, gender and national diversity of our workforce to better match the peoples we serve.

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Your Excellency,

Looking ahead, there are many challenges that we know we must address.

Growing inequality is creating an ever-greater gulf between the winners, and those being left behind, both within and among member states.

Climate change, driven by unsustainable human activity, threatens to more than reverse our progress by causing a collapse of ecosystems, -- potentially driving 140 million[6] people from their homes.

One million different plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, including over 60 endangered species in the Lao PDR alone.[7]

Moreover, we can see how tampering with, and disturbing our biodiversity can blossom into zoonotic disease.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has led to over 1 million fatalities[8], and estimates suggest it could push over 100 hundred million people into extreme poverty.[9]

We need to do better.

Fellow world citizens,

To tackle these challenges, in 2015, member states agreed to a more ambitious, new vision for sustainable development through the 2030 Agenda.

Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals set out a reinvigorated blueprint for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet, by 2030.

It was a call to action for a renewed global partnership to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, and improve living standards, whilst simultaneously tackling climate change and protecting the environment.

And Laos has made this Agenda its own, creating a unique 18th Goal on “lives safe from unexploded ordnance”.

The UN was charged with supporting member states attain these Goals and in helping to measure progress towards this collective vision.

But, as of 2020, and before COVID-19 knocked at our door, across many of these Goals, progress is not happening fast enough.

In some cases, such as Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production, we are actively going backwards.

We reported earlier this year that, on our current course, the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely to meet a single Sustainable Development Goal.[10]

Together, since 1945, we have however, accomplished much that we can, and should, be proud of.

But now is a time for sober reflection, not a victory lap.

We must acknowledge where we could, and should, have done, and need to do better.

Learn from our 75-year shared history.

Face the great challenges of our time.

And, work together to set a course to overcoming them.

Distinguished representatives,

Just as it always has done, it hinges on deciding what kind of world we want, and taking action to make it happen.

Since January, over 1 million people from every single UN member state have taken part in consultations on their hopes for, and fears of the future.[11]

They have told us that, amid the crisis of the global pandemic, we must find ways to protect people’s access to basic services - from healthcare, to water, to education.

They told us of their overwhelming concern for the protection of the planet, from climate change and environmental destruction.

They told us how we need to do more to ensure shared prosperity by tackling poverty, inequality, and boosting employment.

They called for a more secure and peaceful world, free of violence, conflict and terrorism.

And they were clear that stronger partnerships, between and within countries, is the key to making this happen.

These, my friends, are messages for all of us.

The UN brings together an extended family stretching across 193 member states.

As the agencies, funds and programmes of the UN Country Team, we can convene, we can support, we can enable, and we can advise.

and we are working, through the Secretary General’s reforms, to make ourselves more effective, inclusive, and accountable – ensuring that the UN is the UN we need, for the challenges and possibilities that lay ahead.

But everything that we do, is done together with and for you.

The UN Secretariat and Development System were made to serve its members’ vision and we act and implement in your name.

Finding new and better ways of working together towards our common goals could not be more important.

As such, I look forward to the words of wisdom from five distinguished Ambassadors who, the Minister and I have asked -- as geographically and gender-diverse representatives of member states,

to reflect on what 75 years of the United Nations means as we turn towards a future filled with both uncertainty, and opportunity.

 

The next chapter has not yet been written.

and in this endeavour, I would like to underscore that

we are all its co-authors.

 

I thank you -- Khop chai lai lai.

 

 

Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR, gave an opening speech at the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 65th Anniversary of Lao PDR as a Member State of the United Nations

 

 

[1] On 2 December 1975, Laos notified the United Nations of its change of name to the Lao People's Democratic Republic; https://www.un.org/en/sections/member-states/growth-united-nations-membership-1945-present/index.html

[2] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; World Population Prospects 2019; https://population.un.org/wpp/DataQuery/

[3] https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/data

[4] 22 January 2021

[5] https://www.un.org/en/sections/nobel-peace-prize/united-nations-and-nobel-peace-prize/index.html

[6] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/03/19/meet-the-human-fac…

[7] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

[8] WHO, Weekly Operational Update on COVID-19, 9 October 2020: 1,056,186 confirmed deaths https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-update-on-covid-19-9-october-2020

[9] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/brief/projected-poverty-impacts-of-COVID-19

[10] ESCAP, Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020, https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/publications/ESCAP_Asia_and_the_Pacific_SDG_Progress_Report_2020.pdf

[11] UN75, The Future we Want: The United Nations we Need: Update on the Work of the Office n the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary, September 2020, https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/un75report_september_final_english.pdf

Speech by
Author
Ms. Sara Sekkenes
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Ms. Sara Sekkenes_Photo
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN
United Nations