Remarks by SRSG Spehar on UN Day 2017

24 Oct 2017

Remarks by SRSG Spehar on UN Day 2017

Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues, friends,

Thank you all for coming here this evening, as we celebrate one of the most important days on the UN’s global calendar. UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter in 1945, the date the United Nations officially came into being.

I am pleased to recognize so many familiar faces in attendance tonight, and feel honoured that so many of you were able to take time out of your busy schedules to join us, as you do time and time again. I am especially pleased to see quite a few of you joining us from across the island: this year we made a special effort to reach out to partners and associates residing and working in places beyond Nicosia; after all, the UN is here for all of Cyprus. 

In his UN Day message, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres evokes a world that faces numerous, serious challenges, such as widening conflicts and inequality; extreme weather; growing intolerance; and multiple security threats. But, he adds, we have the tools and the wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will.

One of the Secretary-General’s key points in his message of today is that “We have to transcend our differences to transform our future”. I think we can all reflect on this message, which resonates deeply in this region, including Cyprus. 

In the aftermath of Crans-Montana, the Secretary-General has called on the parties to the Cyprus problem to reflect on the outcome of the recent talks and on the possible way ahead. He has reiterated the UN’s readiness to assist the sides, should they jointly decide to engage in such a process with the necessary political will.  

We know that since the closure of the Conference on Cyprus a few months ago, many of you are still coming to terms with dashed hopes and uncertainty about the future. But we should not be discouraged. The people of this island can achieve unity and a better future if they invest in building a constituency for peace. Peace is indeed built from the ground up, and the leaders need broad and consistent support from across civil society to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion. In this regard, I am encouraged by the efforts of so many on this island who are reaching across the divide, seeking to understand the other’s perspective, bridge differences and prove that what brings the communities of Cyprus together, vastly exceeds what separates them. 

Cyprus is in the midst of a turbulent region and in many respects, as the Secretary-General has noted, we are living in a turbulent world. The most difficult challenges that we are facing transcend oceans and borders and therefore demand effective, global responses. It reminds us that the UN’s role remains paramount and we must be up to the task. 

This is one reason why, from the earliest days of his tenure, Secretary-General Guterres has focused on developing a series of ambitious reforms for the Organization.
On peace and security, he is rethinking the way the UN addresses crises, proposing ways for the system to work more coherently and effectively as a whole. Peace operations on the ground are also being reviewed to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness, including UNFICYP.

But perhaps Secretary-General Guterres’ boldest reform is the gender parity strategy. The UN must lead by example and, from entry positions to the highest level of responsibility, women must be fully and equally represented in the organization. As part of his strategy, the Secretary-General has made a commitment to reach parity among senior leaders by 2021, and ultimately across the UN system in 2028. 

I am pleased to say that the UN in Cyprus has made notable strides towards gender parity, whether in UNFICYP, the Good Offices, or the wider Country Team. Our former Force Commander was the formidable General Kristin Lund, and I am pleased to announce that Norway will send us very soon a no-less formidable female Senior Police Adviser, Ann-Kristin Kvilekval, to head the UN Police component in UNFICYP. 

As we celebrate UN Day, please allow me to recall the various contributions of the UN in Cyprus and to pay tribute to my colleagues. First of all, I would like to acknowledge the role of our peacekeepers – military, police and civilian – who patrol the buffer zone, keep the peace, bridge differences, build confidence and work to foster greater understanding between the communities. 

I would particularly like to thank UNFICYP’s troop and police contributing countries - - 36 nations have contributed, since 1964, either troops, police, or both to the mission - - and pay special tribute to the 186 personnel who have lost their lives in the service of peace on the island.

I must underscore the important work of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices, where I also serve as Deputy Special Advisor. Our former Special Advisor, Espen Barth Eide, and the entire good offices team, worked tirelessly over the past few years in support of the negotiations. We continue to be at the ready to facilitate a viable negotiation process and rely on the parties to decide on that path.

UNHCR is playing a vital role in working with the authorities in their response to the difficult plight of migrants and refugees who are arriving on Cypriot shores, and UNDP continues to work across the divide to foster results-oriented bi-communal projects, including the key conservation works implemented alongside the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage and the EU. I should also mention the key role of the UN Third Member of the Committee on Missing Persons, who contributes to the work of this essential institution. To all of you, my thanks for being such an integral and valuable part of the UN family in Cyprus. 

But my deepest thanks go to our many partners and friends from this island, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, as well as Armenians, Latins, Maronites and all others who make up the marvellous fabric of Cyprus. We appreciate the constructive interaction and mutual respect that have characterized our relations over the decades and do not take them for granted. Only on that basis can we play an effective role. We also strongly appreciate the good relations that we have developed throughout the years with the many vibrant representatives of the international community. 

Today we commemorate the founding of the United Nations as an organization. The UN is not merely a collection of peacekeeping or political missions, agencies, or even governments. The UN’s Charter begins in the name of “we the peoples of the United Nations”. It reaffirms the dignity and worth of every human being, respect for human rights and the equal rights of men and women, and a commitment to social and economic progress. We are all the people described in the Charter, and each have a role to play in lifting up our fellow human beings, especially at such a tumultuous time for the world. We ourselves have to work on transcending our differences to transform our future. 

On United Nations Day, let all of us make this vision a reality.

Thank you, and Happy United Nations Day!