United Nations 60th Anniversary

Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali

YB Dato’ Joseph Salang, Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs Malaysia

Dr. Richard Leete, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia

YM Tengku Ahmad Ritauddeen, President of the United Nations’ Association of Malaysia

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am glad to be here this morning and to be able to share in the celebration of the United Nations 60th birthday, with such a distinguished audience.

2. I do so with a sense of thanksgiving. I am grateful that our forbearers had the wisdom and the foresight 60 years ago to set up an international peace-seeking organisation for the good and the benefit of all mankind. The United Nations is the only true global institution we have that belongs to every country and in each country to every citizen. In promoting world peace and security, the United Nations is every sovereign nation’s safety net. A small country like Malaysia has special reason to be grateful for the security this gives. We treasure the advantages of living in an orderly world of shared values and universally- agreed rules and procedures.

3. The United Nations was the 20th Century’s biggest engagement in world politics. It was founded in a belief in multilateralism as the only viable approach to world governance, the best strategy for ordering world affairs in contemporary terms. Its civilisation dialogue is the nearest we have come to a world parliament. And it is the sincerest effort so far towards practicing a world ethic. In the sixty years of its existence, the United Nations has striven to resolve conflict, overcome complex humanitarian crises promote and protect human rights and improve the lives of all people, women m men and children alike. The world has been a better and safer place because of its remarkable record of achievements.

4. Sixty is a significant birthday. In Chinese culture which reveres age- at 60 a man may carry his stick in the village as a mark of respect; at 70 he may carry one in the province and cannot be scolded; and if he reaches 80 he can advise the Emperor. Today we have attained the first age of respect. We are not yet 70 but we can well be spared the carping and the criticism and, although not yet 80, we can call up the accumulated wisdom and maturity of the United Nations to guide us. Particularly if we have to re-energize the organisation itself to meet the new exigencies of these troubled times.

5. In the sixty years since, the world has evolved in ways that could not have been foreseen without the wisdom of hindsight. Today the United Nations is tasked with managing aw hole new dimension of political, economic and ecological issues that threaten world peace and security. These treats include not just international wars but also civil violence, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They also include poverty and chronic starvation, contagious disease, massive human displacement and environmental degradation. These challenges are beyond the scope of any one country, however powerful, to solve completely on its now. They call for multilateral engagement and cry out for global solutions. In such a world, the United Nations, far from being irrelevant, remains indispensable to the world in which we live.

6. Last month, some 190 world leaders attended the United Nations world Summit to take stock and to try to make the United Nations a stronger and more effective organisation to serve the world’s peoples. They deliberated on the Secretary- General’s report In larger Freedom and tried to come to an agreement on the major issues of our time relations to development, human rights, terrorism and peacekeeping, and internal UN reforms.

7. I am happy to note that agreement was reached on many of these issues.

  1. On development, the Summit stimulated important commitments, from developed and developing countries to take action to advance the Millennium Development Goals, adopted five years ago, thereby rolling back poverty and disease, enabling women to play their essential role in development and also safeguarding our global environment. Both developing and developed countries must fulfil their obligations.
  2. On human rights, it was agreed that the Commission on Human Rights be replaced by a new Human Rights Council. The Summit took a major step forward by agreeing on the need to establish the Council as soon as possible, with the specific parameters of the new Council to be negotiated in the months ahead. For the first time the entire United Nations membership, at the highest level, has accepted clearly that it has a collective responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
  3. Another important decision of the Summit was the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission – a body that will support reconstruction and recovery, and help prevent nations emerging from conflict relapsing into violence.
  4. The lessons of the Old for Food Programme and the exhaustive and unprecedented review by the Volker Inquiry served to galvanize the reform proposals of the Secretary- General. Member states gave the green light to reforming the United Nations. The aim is to ensure that the United Nations makes more efficient use of its financial and human resources, to improve ethics and oversight. And they undertook to review all mandates of UN entities more than five years old.
  5. While much remains to be agreed upon, the Summit’s outcomes was a major step forward in several key areas that, if implemented, will benefit the whole of humankind. So at age sixty, I am confident the United Nations will be reenergized to make the world a better place.

Ladies and Gentleman,

  1. As we look ahead, are the challenges and responsibilities over the coming generation awesome? Most assuredly. Are they more awesome than the great issues – of war and peace, of starvation and stagnation, of tyranny and oppression – that faced our parents and their generation? I think not.
  2. It is time for us to rededicate ourselves to the noble vision and the multilateral institutions that have been handed down to us by the enlightened leaders of the last century. Let us hope that we will have half their wisdom, half their determination and half their strength. I remain an optimist. I believe that we will.

Thank you.


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