DIRCO-UN Webinar commemorating UN@75

The United Nations in South Africa has been hard at work over this period to help the government and people of South Africa to combat the scourge of COVID-19.

Your Excellency, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, Excellencies, Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.Honourable Minister Pandor, on the occasion of this commemorative event, and on behalf on the UN Country Team, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of South Africa for its unwavering support to the United Nations and its commitment to the principles of multilateralism. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to join you all virtually for this most timely event. 

In 2020, 75 years after the world unified to champion multilateralism, nations are compelled to come together, once again, at a time of grief, anger and despair, caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic, to say, never again will we allow ourselves to weaken in the face of any similar crisis.

It is critical for the United Nations, an organisation that believes in the values of justice, human rights and the rule of law, to continue to speak on the need to have solidarity, the need to come together, and the need for multilateralism to conquer our common enemies. In the way countries have come together, to fight against poverty, inequality, discrimination, racism, and apartheid – this is the time for all nations, without exception, to rally together to fight the current enemy of Covid-19 AND the causes that have weakened us from having the resilience to withstand such crises. 

We therefore have to stand firm to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015, AND commit to building a resilient, all-inclusive and sustainable development for all.

The impact of Covid-19 will be felt for years to come. But there were also the pre-Covid challenges of sustained economic slowdown, high unemployment, climate emergency, entrenched and systemic racism, gender inequality, and oppression – ALL too complex and multifaceted for any one nation to tackle on its own. Therefore, multilateralism matters to all states – BIG OR SMALL. 

It’s been often said that if the UN did not exist, we would have to create it. But the UN does exist – and now is the time to strengthen it and build back better. With all the analytical capacities, technical and technological Know-How, we can reform the UN and make it fit-for-purpose. Let’s unite together! 

On behalf of the UN Country Team, I thank the Government of South Africa and in particular DIRCO for co-hosting this event. I look forward to an engaging and inspiring session! 

PANEL DISCUSSION: Engagement by Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas  The United Nations is a uniquely placed organisation. Following the calamity of global war, this institution has been the glue that has bound nations together. A peaceful outlet for national grievances, an impartial body for international disputes. No other organisation in the history of human civilization has had the reach, status or convening power of the United Nations. We are not a perfect organisation, as the ongoing process of UN Reform acknowledges, we are the sum of 193 parts, our member states. 

Covid-19 has been the most potent pandemic since 1918. It has spread globally in months; it is a truly 21st century crisis. There is no hope of addressing this pandemic individually. There is no border that has prevented its spread. The only effective response is through international cooperation and of particular importance is the development and equitable distribution of a vaccine.

COVID-19 reminds us of the interrelation of the goals of the SDGs. A single virus has impacted all the facets of our well-being, from our economies, to health and education systems, to gender and inequality. Reaffirming the UN’s emphasis on the connection between the SDG, we need to address the goals as a collective, which can only be achieved through multilateralism. To address the current and future threats individually, nationally and globally, we need to focus on the technicalities of securing the future of us all, starting from the most vulnerable. It is abundantly clear that the Secretary Generals statement that the developing world must have a far stronger voice in global decision-making is essential to ensure our collective safety. 

As the world is beset by unprecedented threats, COVID-19 and climate change, biodiversity loss to record levels of inequality, a stronger commitment from member states to a rules based order with the UN at its centre is the only solution. Our existence is a recognition that multilateralism is the only option. 

The 2030 Agenda compels the UN development system to make bold changes. The United Nations Reform agenda is at the centre of repositioning the UN to better support the implementation of the SDGs at a national level. For the past two years, we have been on a journey to deliver the United Nations that is called for by member states; centred on One Country Programme, One Budgetary Framework and One Leader. These efforts are all aimed at bringing to the fore relevant UN capacities in an integrated way that adds value to national development efforts. 

As the United Nations Secretary General explains: “the purpose of reform is to best position the United Nations to deliver on humanity’s boldest agenda: the sustainable development goals”. And we grateful to the Government of South Africa for championing this reform. In South Africa, we have used multilateralism to express our solidarity. As the United Nations we took a firm, unequivocal stance against the evil that was Apartheid, that spirit has continued since.

The United Nations in South Africa has been hard at work over this period to help the government and people of South Africa to combat the scourge of COVID-19. We have used our convening power to coordinate and collaborate with key partners such as the diplomatic corps, private sector and civil society; through our global experience in coordinating humanitarian response efforts we have served as an important partner to national institutions and departments as well as non-governmental organisations leading the humanitarian response, like the Solidarity Fund and the Department of Health and Social Development.

As the world and South Africa emerges from the crisis. And we will prevail. It is essential that we build back better, that we learn from our mistakes. Our priorities are aligned, as the SG has urged, to the 2030 agenda and the Paris climate agreement and gender equality and parity. No country truly benefits from strife in the long term, we are all interconnected by our shared needs, desires and humanity. I would like to leave you with words of our Secretary General who envisaged

A “New Global Deal, based on a fair globalization, on the rights and dignity of every human being, on living in balance with nature, on taking into account of the rights of future generations, and on success measured in human rather than economic terms”. 

Thank you

Speech by
Nardos Bekele-Thomas
Resident Coordinator
Nardos Bekele-Thomas
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations