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Secretary-General's Messages (31)

Message on Human Rights Day - 10 December

For 70 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a global beacon – shining a light for dignity, equality and well-being … and bringing hope to dark places.

The rights proclaimed in the Declaration apply to everyone -- no matter our race, belief, location or other distinction of any kind.

Human rights are universal and eternal.

They are also indivisible.  One cannot pick and choose among civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Today we also honour the human rights defenders risking their lives to protect people in the face of rising hatred, racism, intolerance and repression.

Indeed, human rights are under siege around the world. 

Universal values are being eroded.  The rule of law is being undermined. 

Now more than ever, our shared duty is clear:

Let us stand up for human rights -- for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you.

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Statement on the outcome of the G20 Summit in Argentina

Today’s G20 Declaration underscored three key messages. 

First, it reaffirmed support to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, our global blueprint for a fair globalization that leaves no one behind; and pledged to use all policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.

Second, G20 leaders, stressed the need to raise ambition in the fight against climate change and expressed their very strong support of countries that are signatories to implement their commitments set out in their nationally determined contributions. Agreement on the Paris Work Programme at COP 24 in Katowice – essentially the rule book for implementation – will significantly advance implementation. 

Third, G20 leaders recognized the importance of a multilateral approach to trade and of the reform of the World Trade Organization and renewed their commitment to a rules-based international order.

These agreements by the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, which also contribute the largest share of global green-house gas emissions, can help rally the international community to make sure that climate change is a race we can win. Indeed, it is a race we must win.

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Message on the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development

There are approximately 1 billion volunteers across the globe, who dedicate their time, skills and passion to make the world a better place. They are often the first to act in moments of crisis. They create social bonds and give a voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups. And as the theme of this year’s observance highlights, they help build resilient communities, equipping people against natural disasters, political instability, economic shocks and other pressures.

In Malawi, UN volunteers have worked as interpreters, connecting refugees to institutions that provide assistance. In Sri Lanka, they have helped develop a project to empower women and youth to participate in peacebuilding efforts. In Tuvalu, UN volunteers have collaborated with the Ministry of Health to strengthen community safeguards against tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The diverse and dynamic role of volunteerism in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals merits strong support from Governments and other stakeholders. On this International Day, I thank volunteers for their efforts to leave no one behind.

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message on International Day for Persons with Disabilities

More than 1 billion people in the world live with some form of disability. In many societies, persons with disabilities often end up disconnected, living in isolation and facing discrimination.

In its pledge to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a commitment to reducing inequality and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, including people with disabilities. That means implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in all contexts and in all countries. It also means integrating the voices and concerns of people with disabilities into national agendas and policies.

Today, the United Nations is issuing the UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities. The Report shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently.

On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to work together for a better world that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable for everyone, where the rights of people with disabilities are fully realized.

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Message on World AIDS Day

1 December 2018

Thirty years after the first World AIDS Day, the response to HIV stands at a crossroads. Which way we turn may define the course of the epidemic—whether we will end AIDS by 2030, or whether future generations will carry on bearing the burden of this devastating disease.

More than 77 million people have become infected with HIV, and more than 35 million have died of an AIDS-related illness. Huge progress has been made in diagnosis and treatment, and prevention efforts have avoided millions of new contaminations.

Yet the pace of progress is not matching global ambition. New HIV infections are not falling rapidly enough. Some regions are lagging behind, and financial resources are insufficient. Stigma and discrimination are still holding people back, especially key populations— including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgenders, people who inject drugs, prisoners and migrants—and young women and adolescent girls. Moreover, one in four people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus, impeding them from making informed decisions on prevention, treatment and other care and support services.

There is still time -- to scale-up testing for HIV; to enable more people to access treatment; to increase resources needed to prevent new infections; and to end the stigma. At this critical juncture, we need to take the right turn now.

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Remarks on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (28 Nov)

28 November 2018

[as delivered]

More than forty years ago, the General Assembly established an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people to remind us of our collective, unfinished task of resolving the question of Palestine.

Over the decades, this has become one of the most intractable challenges for the international community, and we know only too well the tragic results. 

Demolitions, illegal continued settlement expansion and construction, forced evictions and collective punitive measures will not bring peace.

The same goes for violence and incitement, and similarly, unilateral steps will not resolve final status issues or the conflict.

Only constructive negotiations, in good faith, and adhering to the long-established and agreed parameters for a two-State solution, will bring the desired, long-lasting solution. 

Containing the situation is not sufficient.

I call on all actors, and first and foremost the leadership of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to take bold steps and restore faith in the promise of Resolution 181, of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, fulfilling the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples, with borders based on the 1967 lines and Jerusalem as the capital of both states – East Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian state.

It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

It is the only option for a comprehensive and just peace, and I call on the international community to intensify its engagement and reiterate its commitment to assist Palestinians and Israelis in reaching the two-State solution. 

Today, in particular, our hearts are heavy with the suffering of the people in Gaza. 

Approximately two million Palestinians remain blocked in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity. 

Young people see little prospect of a better future. 

I urge Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which also hamper the efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, without jeopardizing legitimate security concerns. 

I call on Hamas and other militant groups to halt their military build-up in Gaza, including the indiscriminate launching of rockets and incendiary devices directed at Israel.

The violence during demonstrations at the Gaza fence is a matter of great concern.

Palestinians in Gaza have legitimate grievances and the right to demonstrate peacefully. 

Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations have a responsibility to prevent violent actions and provocations.

But for its part, Israel has a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint and to not use lethal force, except as a last resort against imminent threat of death or serious injury.

I am encouraged by the recent reduction of violence in Gaza.

I commend the efforts of the Government of Egypt and key regional and international partners – together with my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process – to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, restore calm and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government in Gaza.

The United Nations will not waver in its commitment to the Palestinian people. 

On this International Day of Solidarity, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights of the Palestinian people and to building a future of peace, justice, security and dignity for Palestinians and Israelis alike. 

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Message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 25 November 2018

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic. It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.

Violence can take many forms -- from domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide. It harms the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society. This is also a deeply political issue. Violence against women is tied to broader issues of power and control in our societies. We live in a male-dominated society. Women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which we keep them unequal.

In the past year we have seen growing attention to one manifestation of this violence. Sexual harassment is experienced by most women at some point in their lives. Increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life is bringing the magnitude of the problem to light and demonstrating the galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive the action and awareness needed to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’. With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.

The same message resonates through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. This 500-million-euro programme will empower survivors and advocates to become agents of change in their homes, communities and countries. But while this initial investment is significant, it is small given the scale of need. It should be seen as seed funding for a global movement. Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.

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Remarks on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

[as delivered]

I am very pleased to be with you to discuss this essential topic.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic.

It is a moral affront to all women and girls and to us all, a mark of shame on all our societies, and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women.

It is an issue of fundamental human rights.

The violence can take many forms – from domestic violence to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

It is an issue that harms the individual but also has far-reaching consequences for families and for society.

Violence experienced as a child is linked to vulnerability and violence later in life.

Other consequences include long-term physical and mental health impacts and costs to individuals and society in services and lost employment days. 

This is also a deeply political issue.

Violence against women is tied to broader issues of power and control in our societies.

We live in a male-dominated world.

Women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which we keep them unequal.

When family laws which govern inheritance, custody and divorce discriminate against women, or when societies narrow women’s access to financial resources and credit, they impede a woman’s ability to leave abusive situations.

When institutions fail to believe victims, allow impunity, or neglect to put in place policies of protection, they send a strong signal that condones and enables violence. 

In the past year we have seen growing attention to one manifestation of this violence.

Sexual harassment is experienced by almost all women at some point in their lives.

No space is immune. 

It is rampant across institutions, private and public, including our very own.

This is by no means a new issue, but the increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life is bringing the magnitude of the problem to light.

This effort to uncover society’s shame is also showing the galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive the action and awareness needed to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.

With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.

We need to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

But, beyond that, it is imperative that we – as societies -- undertake the challenging work of transforming the structures and cultures that allow sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence to happen in the first place.

These include addressing the gender imbalances within our own institutions.

This is why we have adopted a UN system-wide gender parity strategy.

We have achieved parity in the senior management group and we are well on track to reach gender parity in senior leadership by 2021, and across the board by 2028.

The UN has also reaffirmed its zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and assault committed by staff and UN partners.

We have recruited specialized investigators on sexual harassment, instituted fast-track procedures for addressing complaints and initiated a 24/7 helpline for victims.

I also remain committed to ending all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and UN staff in the field – one of the first initiatives I took when I assumed office.

Nearly 100 Member States that support UN operations on the ground have now signed voluntary compacts with us to tackle the issue, and I call on others to join them, fully assuming their responsibilities, in training, but also in ending impunity.

Further afield, we are continuing to invest in life-changing initiatives for millions of women and girls worldwide through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

This Fund focuses on preventing violence, implementing laws and policies and improving access to vital services for survivors.

With more than 460 programmes in 139 countries and territories over the past two decades, the UN Trust Fund is making a difference.

In particular, it is investing in women’s civil society organizations, one of the most important and effective investments we can make.

The UN is also working to deliver on a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, innovative initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 500-million-euro EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is an important step forward in this direction.

As the largest-ever single investment in eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide, this initial contribution will address the rights and needs of women and girls across 25 countries and five regions.

It will empower survivors and advocates to share their stories and become agents of change in their homes, communities and countries.

A significant portion of the Spotlight’s initial investment will also go to civil society actors, including those that are reaching people often neglected by traditional aid efforts.

But even though this initial investment is significant, it is small given the scale of the need.

It should be seen as seed funding for a global movement in which we must play a role.

It is that global movement that we celebrate today, as we look forward to the coming 16 days devoted to ending gender-based violence.

Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.

Thank you very much.

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Message on World Cities Day 2018 - 31 October

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda together provide a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world. How our cities develop will have significant implications for realizing the future we want.

This year’s World Cities Day focuses on resilience and sustainability. Every week, 1.4 million people move to cities. Such rapid urbanization can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters. But hazards do not need to become disasters. The answer is to build resilience -- to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises.

Cities around the world are already acting to increase resilience and sustainability. Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods. In Quito, the local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity. And in Johannesburg, the city is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.

On World Cities Day, let us be inspired by these examples. Let us work together to build sustainable and resilient cities that provide safety and opportunities for all.

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MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END IMPUNITY FOR CRIMES AGAINST JOURNALISTS

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

2 November 2018

In just over a decade, more than a thousand journalists have been killed while carrying out their indispensable work. Nine out of ten cases are unresolved, with no one held accountable.

Female journalists are often at greater risk of being targeted not only for their reporting but also because of their gender, including through the threat of sexual violence.

This year alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed.

Many thousands more have been attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process.

This is outrageous. This should not become the new normal.

When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.

I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and create the conditions they need to do their work.

On this day, I pay tribute to journalists who do their jobs every day despite intimidation and threats. Their work – and that of their fallen colleagues -- reminds us that truth never dies. Neither must our commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Reporting is not a crime.

Together, let us stand up for journalists, for truth and for justice.


 

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Feature photos

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  • UNFPA staff Ella presents a gift to a visitor at the UN booth on International Women's Day 2018
  • Climate Change Academy students and organisers
  • MUN 2019 youth leaders and Lara Quantrall Thomas from Rotary
  • parent an students who attended in 2nd Climate Change workshop, with UNIC Director, Costa Rican Abassador, ASPnet Coordinator and guest presenter