On Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the 69th anniversary of the United Nations, declaring that the Organization is needed now “more than ever.” The anniversary of the 1945 inauguration of the UN Charter is observed annually on 24 October. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
In his message on the Day, Mr. Ban said, “The founding of the United Nations was a solemn pledge to the world’s people to end such assaults on human dignity, and lead the way to a better future,” he said. Noting that “poverty, disease, terrorism, discrimination and climate change are exacting a heavy toll,” he pointed out that “millions of people continue to suffer deplorable exploitation through bonded labour, human trafficking, sexual slavery or unsafe conditions in factories, fields and mines. The global economy remains an uneven playing field.”
“There have been Painful Setbacks”
“There have been painful setbacks,” the Secretary-General acknowledged, “and there is much work ahead to realize the Charter’s vision. But we can take heart from our achievements.” Mr. Ban noted that among those achievements were the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had “inspired the most successful anti-poverty campaign ever.” He also listed numerous UN treaties addressing torture, racism, and inequality, and praised on-the-ground work performed by UN humanitarian workers and peacekeepers.
The Secretary-General concluded, “At this critical moment, let us reaffirm our commitment to empowering the marginalized and vulnerable. On United Nations Day, I call on Governments and individuals to work in common cause for the common good.”
Working to Build a “More Secure and Prosperous Future”
Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the 69th session of the General Assembly, also spoke at the presentation. “The United Nations is at the forefront of the global efforts to build a safer, more secure and prosperous future,” said Mr Kutesa. He listed the efforts, “from eradicating poverty and hunger to combating climate change, from assisting populations affected by conflicts and natural disasters to protecting human rights and combating terrorism.”
Kutesa continued, “The family of nations has seen how epidemics such as Ebola do not respect borders; how a crisis in one country can affect an entire region. In an increasingly interconnected world, the United Nations is needed more than ever to address our common challenges.”
“UN Day is an Opportunity to Celebrate”
In 1971, the General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday. Kutesa kicked off Saturday’s celebrations by pointing out that, “UN Day is an opportunity to celebrate our collective achievements and reflect on challenges ahead. On this Day, I call on Member States and all global citizens to reaffirm our determination to work together in the spirit of dialogue and compromise towards building a world where no one is left behind. The people remain at the centre of everything we do.”
Encouraging that celebratory spirit, this year’s holiday events included an exciting concert organized by the UN’s Department of Public Information. Held in the newly renovated General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters in New York, world-renowned concert pianist and UN Messenger of Peace, Lang Lang, was featured together with 16-time Grammy Award-winner, Sting.
Lang Lang, Newest UN Messenger of Peace
Messengers of Peace are individuals recognized widely for their talents in the fields of science, literature, film, art, music, and sports. They help raise global awareness of the UN’s activities and ideals. Through public appearances and humanitarian work, aided by support from international media, they increase the public’s understanding of UN efforts to improve the lives of people everywhere.
On Oct. 28, 2013, Mr. Lang joined 11 other UN Messengers of Peace who advocate on behalf of the United Nations, including Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, primatologist Jane Goodall, musician Stevie Wonder, and US actors Michael Douglas, Edward Norton and Charlize Theron.
“Lang Lang is one of the most exciting and accomplished musicians of our time,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the occasion. “He has performed for world leaders and worked with some of the greatest orchestras and maestros,” Mr. Ban continued. “But he has also used his art and ability to inspire audiences to improve the lives of children everywhere.”
Lang Lang began playing the piano at age three, and has performed around the world. In Beijing, he played at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics. He played at President Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2012.
As a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for 10 years, Lang Lang helped raise awareness to ensure every child’s right to quality health care and education. When designating him as a UN Messenger of Peace, Mr. Ban said, “Through his playful spirit and profound talent, Lang Lang connects people, not only through his music, but also through his passion to build a better world through education. I know Lang Lang’s message will strike a chord from symphony halls to school halls.”
Celebrating with Lang Lang & Friends
Also performing with Lang Lang and Sting on Saturday was an international youth orchestra representing five continents, assembled especially for the occasion, and conducted by Manuel López-Gómez. López-Gómez, as well as many of the youth musicians, hails from the renowned El Sistema programme, which provides music education to children from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
The concert, available for viewing online, highlights the United Nations’ focus on youth, and the education of global citizens. It also marks an important milestone for the upcoming yearlong global observance of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.
“Great Expectations for a Better Tomorrow”
In his closing remarks, President Kutesa focused on the upcoming 70th anniversary. He said, “In many ways, 2015 represents an important landmark for the United Nations.” He noted it woud be “a year of opportunities to set our world on a course geared towards sustainable development. As Member States formulate a new Development Agenda, building on the foundation laid by the Millennium Development Goals, the world is looking at the United Nations with great expectations for a better tomorrow.”