Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, on the occasion of the Celebration of UN Day Lincoln School

Oct 11, 2002

Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, on the occasion of the Celebration of UN Day Lincoln School, 11 October 2002

Dear Students, Members of the Faculty and Parents,

It is a great pleasure for me to share with you a few thoughts today on the occasion of United Nations Day. I would also like to compliment Lincoln School for the wonderful way in which it is celebrating this day. It is most fitting and appropriate for a school with an enormously diverse multi-national, multi-cultural ad multi-ethnic population.

In these days the United Nations are frequently in the news mostly in the context of Iraq and perceived threats that result from the presence of weapons of mass destruction in that country. These headlines refer to one of the three main areas of responsibility of the organization.

These are:
1. Peace and security
2. Social and economic development
3. Human rights

I would like to briefly touch upon all three of them establishing a link not only to the global context but also to our daily lives here in Nepal both as nationals of Nepal as well as foreigners living in this beautiful country.

The fact that the Iraq issue is being dealt with by the Security Council of the United Nations reflects the acceptance by the world community that issues of war and peace are too important to be left to the decision of individual countries. It is the community of nations that should decide whether legitimate security concerns and sovereign rights of nations are threatened and violated to an extent that military intervention is required. It is most reassuring indeed for small nations to know that the world body stands ready to defend their territorial integrity. This is significant for small countries like Nepal which have only very little defensive capabilities.

I should also mention here that relatively small as she is Nepal is continuously making an extraordinary contribution to International PeaceKeeping Operations. Peace Keeping soldiers from Nepal stand continuously and fearlessly among warring groups all over the globe. More than 40 nationals of Nepal have lost their lives in the line of duty of International PeaceKeeping Operations.

The second pillar to social and economic development is, of course much more relevant to Nepal. Since the mid-fifties the family of United Nations organizations has been supporting His Majesty’s Government in a broad range of areas including the building of irrigation systems, roads and bridges, civil aviation, production of food, primary health care, education, fighting child labour, drafting laws and reforming the judiciary. There is hardly any sphere of life where the UN system has not cooperated with Nepal paving also the way for international agreements and conventions. If, for example, you were able to make a telephone call from here to your home country, fly safely in an allocated airspace or send a letter to a foreign country all of this is very directly based on the works of specialized agencies of the UN system like the International telecommunications Union (ITU), Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The reduction of poverty is the overriding mandate of the United Nations in these days.

At the Millennium Summit held in New York in September 2000 heads of state and government of all countries of the world committed themselves to work together in order to halve extreme poverty by the year 2015, also reduce the number of people who live in hunger by the same target date. Universal primary education is to be achieved and the HIV/AIDS epidemic contained. Living in Nepal all of us can see every day and feel under our skin the brutality of abject poverty. Joining hands in a global coalition of both wealthy and poor nations will set a new process into motion that can change the world. Each side will do their part. Developing countries will introduce reforms, curb corruption, enhance the delivery of social services.

Industrial countries will provide the required resources. The UN will bring the two sides together, monitor progress and keep the issues high on the agenda. And let me say here also that this is not only a matter of states and high level policy. Each one of us must contribute to changing the world and eliminating the enormous inequality we see around us. To put it into a simple formula the affluent few must live more simply so that others can simply live.

The concept of human rights may have appeared to many of you as something very abstract with little meaning. Let me give you the example of three incidents to fill the concept of human rights life and blood.

As I speak to you, before my statement ends the following events will take place. A child will be born in a remote mountain district. She will never have a chance to go to school and eventually be sold as a sex slave to a neighbouring country. A family will be looking forward to the birth of their first child. As the labour pains set in it will become apparent that a Caesarian section will be required. As no surgical facilities are available the expectant mother will die a painful death. Cheerful expectations will have turned into tragedy. Innocent civilians will be caught in cross fire in the current conflict in Nepal. Lives will be threatened and eventually lost.

In all three instances basic human rights will be violated. The right to live a dignified life in peace, a life where basic needs are met and a life where physical integrity is protected. In Nepal the United Nations system is working actively with the National Human Rights Commission to establish a system that monitors the violation of human rights and holds those accountable who violate their obligations to respect and protect all five categories of human rights namely civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.

At the time of the founding of the United Nations at the end of World War II our UN mandate was focussed on the relationship between nations. During recent decades emphasis has shifted to addressing the needs and rights of individual citizens including in extreme cases protecting citizens against the violations of rights by their respective governments.

The United Nations look forward to working with all of you young and old to make this world a better place, a place which we can hand over with pride, trust and confidence to the generations that come after us.

Thank you.