Today we celebrate the 75 anniversary of the UN Charter, the birth certificate of the United Nations. I am delighted to join the right honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda, Edouard Ngirente, the UN Resident Coordinator Fode Ndiaye and the whole One UN team in Rwanda on this occasion.
Allow me at the very outset to congratulate the UN family on this important anniversary and to pay tribute to the UN personnel including peacekeepers, humanitarians and other staff serving in very difficult and dangerous environments. Our special thought goes to those who have lost their lives serving the United Nations.
The UN and the EU are natural partners and the story of the UN is somehow similar to the story of the EU. After devastating wars we both came together at regional and global level and chose cooperation instead of confrontation. The European Union is therefore multilateral by essence.
We share our roots, we were born from the same seeds: Dialogue, unity, peace and solidarity.
On this important occasion, the European Union reaffirms its longstanding commitment to international cooperation and to a rules based international order with the UN at its core.
The European Union and its MS are the largest financial contributors to the UN both through the regular budget and through the support to funds and programmes.
In the uncertain times we are living in with a number of challenges affecting all of us, the UN Charter and its spirit are more valid and relevant than ever. None of these challenges can be tackled by one country alone.
The corona virus pandemic reminds us how interconnected we are and how crucial multilateral cooperation is.
Multilateralism means working together, it means uniting rather than dividing, it means finding common solutions for the well-being of the people and of the planet. Multilateralism means working together to protect and promote peace, security and stability, universal rights and freedoms, sustainable development, health and, last but not least our environment.
Multilateralism and diplomacy have a proven track records in addressing a wide range of issues linked to peace and security, development, environmental protection, gender equality, action against the proliferation of arms of mass destruction.
We should not forget why the key international institutions and in particular the UN were created in the first place and be proud of what they have delivered. We should count the enormous success of the United Nations in the number of wars not fought, lives not lost. Even in economic terms, it must be remembered what the post-war international system helped to bring about: seven decades of the most rapid sustained global economic growth in history, with hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty only in the past 30 years.
International cooperation has delivered on this core task and on many other achievements. We should be collectively proud of these achievements as WE are the UN.
At the same time we should appreciate the complexity and the size of global issues.
The blue flag of the UN symbolizes hope.
We must admit that that hope was on some occasion betrayed and this is quite topical in the history of Rwanda. SG Annan in his speech before the Rwandan Parliament in 1998 acknowledged that the world and the UN failed Rwanda during the genocide against the Tutsi and that the world must deeply repent this failure.
Only few years ago such cooperation and the perception of the added value of the United Nations would be given for granted. In recent past this perception is under challenge and that is where a celebration like this one is more relevant than ever. It provides an opportunity to recall the urgency of working together to revitalize and reform the multilateral system to jointly address global challenges.
Only few days ago in her first State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen stated: (quote) “We are firm believers in the strength and value of cooperating in international bodies.
It is with a strong United Nations that we can find long-term solutions for crises like Libya or Syria.
It is with a strong World Health Organisation that we can better prepare and respond to global pandemics or local outbreaks – be it Corona or Ebola.
And it is with a strong World Trade Organisation that we can ensure fair competition for all.
But the truth is also that the need to revitalise and reform the multilateral system has never been so urgent. Our global system has grown into a creeping paralysis. Major powers are either pulling out of institutions or taking them hostage for their own interests.
Neither road will lead us anywhere. Yes, we want change. But change by design – not by destruction” (end of quote).
There is a need to adapt multilateralism and its institutions to the new multipolar world and to the increasing complexity of problems.
The question is what kind of multilateralism does the world need ?
We need a more inclusive, fair and effective multilateralism. There is a need to restore the credibility and the confidence in the international system and in the UN.
This new inclusive multilateralism should in my opinion go beyond the institutional level and build on deeper interaction with civil society, private sector, local authorities, the media and in particular the youth whose voice is decisive in shaping our future.
Resources are also critical: there is a need to better use existing resources through revision of structures, overlapping and inefficiencies. There is also the need to identify new resources.
As stated by the UN Secretary General we live with a paradox: “global challenges are more connected but our responses are growing more fragmented. We are seeing an increasing deficit of trust fuelled by nationalist and populist voices that demonize and divide.
Amid this increased complexity, not only classic tools of power play a role but soft power is increasingly used as a weapon; Trade, technology, data, information and proliferation of fake news are now instruments of political competition. We are witnessing a new generation of multilateral challenges. The regulatory vacuum in these areas and the future global governance of technology including cyber technology, Artificial Intelligence, proliferation of fake news are in my opinion among the most urgent global priorities.
There is exploratory work in establishing international frameworks for managing technology. At this stage there are probably few incentives to promote such collaboration, but it is not a reason to give-up.
A vivid example of the need to fight against the proliferation of false information is related to Covid.
As recently stated by Dr Tedros:”we are not only fighting a pandemic, we are also fighting an “infodemic” and growing surge of misinformation”.
At local level the EU is working hand in hand with the UN in support to the ambitious development objectives of this country within the broader context of the Sustainable Development Agenda and of the principle of leaving no-one behind. Our support is relevant at national level, but also in relation to regional integration and to the broader continental level and in particular in support of the new African Continental Free Trade Area.
We look forward to the next AU-EU Summit to reinforcing our continent- to-continent partnership.
Here in Rwanda, we can refer to numerous programmes and project to showcase our joint work:
This allows me to commend the work, the strong commitment and the multilateral approach of the Government of Rwanda on environment.
The EU has immediately recognised the global dimension of the crisis. The virus knows no borders and the EU has developed a Global Response as outlined in a Communication issued in April.
We have developed a Team Europe approach in close partnership with our Member States. Here in Rwanda, Team Europe represents the largest financial contribution to the country addressing the Humanitarian, Health and Socio Economic dimension of the crisis with more than E100 M.
The European Commission alone has mobilised E52 M in support of the socio-economic component of the Recovery Plan. Only few days ago we had an informative high level policy dialogue with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Local Government to monitor the implementation of the plan and the added value of the EU contribution.
The EU will continue to support our brothers and sisters in Rwanda in this endeavour.
I thank you for your attention, Happy 75th anniversary and long live the United Nations.