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Accueil » Speech by Ms. Deborah Seward, Director of the United Nations Regional Information Center

Speech by Ms. Deborah Seward, Director of the United Nations Regional Information Center

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Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

It is my privilege to have been invited to address the World Federation of United Nations Associations on the occasion of the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the World Federation of United Nations Associations that marks the foundation of WFUNA in Luxembourg in 1946. I would like to thank both the World Federation of United Nations Associations and United Nations of Luxembourg for inviting me to participate on this occasion and for your commitment to the values of the UN. I am honoured for the opportunity to be in Luxembourg, a country with its long-standing, strong support of multilateral cooperation and so many other aspects of the work of the United Nations.

The celebration of 70 years of partnership between WFUNA and the UN comes at a time of transition in the leadership of the United Nations and with great and very challenging issues at hand from sustainable development, to climate change, peace and security, migration and human rights to name just a few. In these turbulent times, partnership among organizations with shared values is more important than ever.

Throughout the course of my work at UNRIC, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Brussels where I am now posted and as the former Director of the Strategic Communications Division in New York with its oversight of the 63 United Nations Information Centres in New York, I have become aware of the vital role that the United Nations Associations around the globe play in partnering with UNICs to strengthen the United Nations through public engagement.

It was inspiring to host United Nations Associations from around Europe at our offices at UNRIC in Brussels several weeks ago. In an age of digital communications, nothing can replace the energy and collaboration generated when people actually meet, which is why it is such a great opportunity to be with you this evening. In Brussels, my colleagues and I were very encouraged to learn directly about current activities and upcoming plans for 2017 on a wide variety of issues, including those that are in the news, such as tolerance and migration, and those that are not in the headlines as well. Many of the proposed activities and priorities were linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One of the top priorities for the Department of Public Information is the rigorous raising of public awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring that they are relevant and demonstrating the results of implementation and progress toward accomplishing the goals. 2030 is just around the corner and there is not a moment to lose for both people and planet. In 2016, our Department has focused on making the goals known as widely as possible to as many audiences as possible, taking the goals to schools, universities, the academic, business, development and sports communities as well as civil society at large — to people and places where we can generate interest and enthusiasm in this new universal agenda. One of the many ways that the United Nations Associations are of great assistance is in making material available in local languages, such as UNA Spain which produces materials in Catalan. UNAs can help reach audiences in places where the Department of Public Information does not have an office, such as in Cyprus, where UNA organizes a major event on UN Day with the presence of the President of Cyprus and UN officials. For its part, UNRIC is then able to write about the event in Greek and share news of the event with Greek-speaking audiences around the globe. UNRIC was delighted to be able to collaborate with UNA-UK last year to bring the amazing UNEARTH, 70 years of UN history in photos to Westminster last year. The photo collection on the WFUNA website of its 70 years is a remarkable tribute to your commitment to global citizenship.

Apart from the outreach that the UNAs do, we in the Department of Public Information have developed a wide range of information materials on the UN and its priorities in multiple language. At UNRIC alone, we have the Sustainable Development Goals translated into 13 languages in multiple formats. We have material on the daily work of the UN, whether it is delivery food, vaccinations, mediation, or peacekeeping. We have indepth backgrounders on each key topic, which would be of value for your presentations. We would encourage you to stay in regular contact with us and to take advantage of these materials that we would be more than pleased to share with you.

WFUNA is a long-standing and valued partner of UN and our Department in particular. We are especially appreciative of the support that UNAs provide to Model UN activities. As WFUNA celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding, it is vital to look to the future, to the new generations of young people who will form the bedrock of backing for the United Nations in the years to come. We are delighted that WFUNA in cooperation with DPI is organising a Model UN simulation in New York at the end of November at a particularly exciting time given the leadership transition underway, the Habitat III conference currently underway in Quito, Ecuador and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

For my colleagues at UNRIC and my colleagues across DPI, engaging regularly with young people, listening to their concerns, tapping into their immense creativity, imagination and pragmatism is imperative. Finding ways to work with them to develop new solutions to old problems is key. This week and next, instead of a large public event, the staff of the UN Regional Information Centre have fanned out to schools in our region to bring the message of the UN to young people to bring them closer to the UN ensure that they understand that the world of the UN is their world. The response has been encouraging, the enthusiasm for global issues enlightening and their spirit worth emulating.

As WFUNA celebrates its 70th anniversary and the UN is about to celebrate its 71st, the core message of WFUNA, working globally for a stronger and more effective UN is more relevant than ever. The key mandate for UNRIC is to inform and engage. By working together on implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which cover the entire panorama of UN priorities, I am sure that we can become an even more powerful catalyst in support for the UN for generations to come.

Deborah Seward