Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII

Delivered at the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII & the Coming Into Force of the Charter of the United Nations at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.

Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to ESCAP, where today we mark two very different 70th anniversaries – one somber and one salutary.

70 years ago the world, and our region, was a very different place. But amid the horror and devastation of World War II, and its terrible impact on the countries of Asia and the Pacific, 1945 was also a year, which saw the dawning of a bright new ideal. The United Nations Charter entered into force, and the United Nations was born with three simple messages, and I quote:

  • To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which […] has brought untold sorrow to mankind;
  • To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small; and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

The message of peace, cooperation, tolerance and dialogue is as important in our region today as it was seven decades ago in Reims and Berlin.

As a regional and global family of nations, we stand together as guarantors against future wars of aggression – united in our belief that ensuring the freedom, equality and dignity of every person, in every country, is our shared duty and the common responsibility of all.

In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General two days ago in New York: “[T]he founders planted the seeds of an organization they hoped would lead the human family out of horror and into a better future.”

Celebrating the sacrifices of those who came before, and learning from the past, is important – but this commemoration must also be about our future.

2015 must be a year of both reflection and action, as humanity confronts new global challenges which threaten lives and livelihoods around the world: climate change, rising inequality, terrorism, environmental degradation, massive natural disasters, major epidemics, and the remaining scourge of extreme poverty.

Victory in war called for exceptional courage and unstinting sacrifice. To succeed against the adversaries of development requires courage and sacrifice of a different sort. The price of the future we want is finding the courage to sacrifice old and outdated ways of doing things, to innovate, to include and to protect our people and our planet. This is the message of sustainable development, and the key to enlarging the freedoms set down in the Charter of the United Nations 70 years ago.

The ESCAP intergovernmental platform embodies these ideals - promoting consensus and cooperation among all member States - to build the most inclusive, sustainable, resilient and prosperous region in the world.

I would like to end by recalling the words of former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who said: “Our world of today is more than ever before one world […]. The strength of one – not the military strength, but the real strength, the economic and social strength, the happiness of people – is indirectly the strength of all.”

We will make the next 70 years even better – together.

I thank you.