For information only - not an official document

26 June 2020

The Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna,
Ghada Waly

Remarks at the Special Event to commemorate the signing of the UN Charter

Vienna 26 June 2020

Es ist mir eine Ehre, Sie zum fünf-und-siebzigsten Jahrestag der UN-Charta in der UNO-City zu begrüssen.

Willkommen, Herr Minister. Vielen Dank, dass Sie bei uns sind.

We celebrate today not only the UN's own anniversary, but 65 years of Austria in the UN, and 60 years of Austria's contribution of troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

As I welcome you on your first visit to UNOV/UNODC, I would like to commend Austria's unwavering commitment to the principles of the UN Charter and to multilateralism.  

I also wish to congratulate the Austrian government on the wise management of the COVID-19 situation, and applaud the solidarity and discipline of the people of Austria.

We are fortunate to be able to meet in person today, and we do so in the knowledge that we are lucky while many others are not, and that this crisis is far from over.

75 years ago, the world came together, not in celebration, but in the sober realization that the only way to stop "untold sorrow" was through collective understanding and united purpose.

The UN Charter embodies the very best of who we are, and of who we can be as a global family.

The unprecedented challenges we face today have shown us the gap between the dreams that guide us and the reality we live.

However, the failings of our world do not prove the failure of our ideals, but rather the urgent need to live up to them.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to consume lives and livelihoods, and conflict and violence rear their ugly heads, our best hope is to find inspiration in the vision of the Charter once again.

In doing so we must channel the timeless convictions that inspired the UN Charter:

The conviction that we are all equal and deserving of life and dignity;

The conviction that it is not beyond our nature to move past conflict and coexist peacefully;

The conviction that we deserve to dream of a better future and of greater opportunities for ourselves and our children;

And perhaps most important of all, the conviction that we are at our strongest when we work together.

Today, our United Nations is 193 members stronger.

The UN emblem is a symbol of hope, now more than ever as COVID-19 has already claimed nearly half a million lives.

Our Secretary-General has shown decisive global leadership, ensuring that the UN, from headquarters and through the Country Teams, has continued to deliver throughout the crisis.

He has mobilized the resources of the whole of the UN system to provide vital support to countries in the health response to the virus, and to address the many socio-economic impacts.

And you, Melissa, you have galvanized UN global communications. You have inspired and empowered your team around the world. And during this crisis, you have placed the UN at the centre of the global response with hard facts, clear information and human stories that inspire people in action. I am delighted to have you with us today.

The new Action Plan for COVID 19 launched yesterday will put us back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and address precisely those failings of our systems and social safety nets that COVID-19 has exposed and further weakened.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the UN Office at Vienna remain fully committed to playing our part, along with the rest of the UN family in this headquarters by the Danube.

Guided by the famed Vienna Spirit of consensus, countries here always find a way past their differences, to come together in the face of shared threats and challenges, and promote shared responses.

I thank you for treasuring and preserving this spirit to strengthen our work, and I promise you that we will live up to the ideals of the UN Charter in these crucial times.

We must listen to the voices of the people we serve.

And we hear, loud and clear, that they want us to work together.

First results from the UN75 survey show that 95% of respondents strongly support cooperation to address global challenges.

This view gained in popularity among survey participants, even as COVID-19 spread around the world, closing borders and stopping flights.

The results show that even as the virus conspired to keep us apart, it only succeeded in reminding us just how closely interconnected we truly are.

In overcoming the global pandemic, we must see past the divisions and devastation of the present moment to work together towards a fairer and more just future, leaving no one behind.

The UN Charter calls for a better world, while providing the practical framework for making our aspirations a reality.

It has served as the cornerstone for our efforts to build a better world, and it holds the key to shaping the future we want.

If we are to build back better, we must rise to meet the challenges of 2020 and beyond by living up to the standards we set for ourselves 75 years ago.

We must trust in the strength of our unity.

Thank you.

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