"Vahvaa YK:ta tarvitaan nyt enemmän kuin koskaan"

YK-liiton toiminnanjohtaja Helena Laukko 'UN at 70: Still Going Strong' -seminaarissa 28.8.2015. Kuva: Veera Vehkasalo

Ms. Helena Laukko, Executive Director of the UN Association of Finland:

This year at the UN Association of Finland we have celebrated the 70th anniversary of UN together with Finnish affiliates to UN organizations, namely national committees of UNICEF and UN Women, Finnish Refugee Council and Family Planning Association with World’s Best News. Perhaps you are familiar with it? It is a campaign that has, among other things, illustrated what United Nations means to people.

I would like to emphasize that UN is not only a 70-year-old institution: it is an ideal shared by the people’s of the world. The UN was established by the peoples.

It is breathed into life every day by the people, who work to promote peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
Although this is the daily bread for many of you and you know all the challenges related to it –and perhaps exactly because of that –it is worthwhile to take a moment to cherish the value and possibilities of the UN at these difficult times.

In the Worlds’ Best News campaign we have presented the achievements of UN in the form of news timeline. Then we asked people to write more news to illustrate their vision for the next 70 years.

We received countless bold and touching dreams and visions of a better world. Many of them have been inspired by the existing UN treaties and agreements and illustrate the importance of having a joint global moral framework.

Some examples of the collected news titles are:

Celebrating 50 years since the world leaders decided to save the world, in 2065
Everybody can read, in 2055
No-one notices the difference in the color of skin, in 2035
Use of fossil fuel has ended, in 2030
Disarmament is again a central objective of UN, in 2015

In addition to illustrating the possibilities these news also show that the implementation of the global commitments is not yet in line with the treaties. Furthermore, the world is becoming ever more interconnected and this applies for the multiple crises too. Threats around global inequality, environmental problems and many other factors undermine peace and stability and undo the effects of many development efforts. Causal relations between different challenges are not linear and they are hard to predict and prevent.

I’m sure we all here share the vision of today’s headline: “UN is still going strong”. Perhaps it could be even said that a strong UN is needed more than ever. This is why we need to take seriously not only the inspiration and hope that the UN gives to the people, but also the fact that world is rapidly changing, and with it the demands on the United Nations.

On its main purpose to maintain international peace and security the UN, for instance, has been claimed to be inadequate to confront the modern realities of global conflicts, which are no longer between state actors on a defined territory. Instead we are facing terrorism, cyber war threat and remote-controlled warfare.

The UN is also challenged for not been able to improve protection of civilians in conflicts. The growing number of refugees and amount of journalists and even UN personnel killed while working to help people in conflict areas are higher than ever.

It may take time to respond to all these challenges, and in the meanwhile we need to move forward in modernizing UN and increasing its legitimacy.

I would like to raise two reforms that as visible examples would really make a difference. First one is naturally reforming the Security Council to correspond to the present geopolitical realities and the second one, is to make sure that the selection process of the upcoming Secretary General is open and transparent.

Wouldn’t it be about the time to elect a woman Secretary-General of the United Nations? We have many strong and capable female candidates, if only they are given a fair chance to run for the position.

Despite all the challenges we should remain forward-looking and optimistic. We have all the possibilities to tackle the problems that have been mentioned. Our generation can be remembered as the one that eradicated extreme poverty and curbed the greenhouse gas emissions. UN plays a role in this. The 70th anniversary of the UN coincides with the so called super year in which the leaders of the world negotiate on the new post-2015 agenda, its means of implementation as well as the new global climate convention.

For the first time in history, we are pulling together a universal agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals’ Agenda. If, and hopefully when, implemented with full force, that is where the real solution will come from. The key message of the SDG agenda is ”Leave no-one behind”.

Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN and the Co-facilitator of the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Macharia Kamau summarized the challenge and opportunity of the new agenda in his speech at the concluding session of the High Level Political Forum in July:

”Since SDGs represent an integrated agenda we must ensure that all the partners come together to form an integrated agenda. We cannot pick and choose which SDG we want to implement. You can be doing fantastically in economic development, but if you are doing that at the expense of biodiversity, climate change or peace and justice, something is inherently wrong.”

With these words in mind, let us all keep on working together, paying special attention to policy coherence and ensuring sufficient means of implementation. “Leave no-one behind” is a strong promise for those in vulnerable life situations, but also the only effective method of guaranteeing the well-being of those, who are currently in better-off situations.