S P E A K E R N O T E S
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Welcome to this celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. Given that it’s predecessor, the League of Nations, survived less than 20 years, we feel it’s something to celebrate that the UN has survived and been effective for 75 years!
The United Nations was set up by 26 nations in June 1945. So – what has it achieved in its first 75 years? Well –it was designed to “save humanity from the scourge of War which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…” in two World Wars. It has not prevented all wars – but it has prevented a 3rd World War – which is, perhaps, its major achievement. But – it has provided world-changing THOUGHT LEADERSHIP to the people of the world – ideas, and concepts, backed up by Treaties and Declarations which have changed how we organise ourselves as a human family.
So – What is the United Nations? Here’s a little video that explains its important features:
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All Clear?? – I thought not.
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Some years ago, we gathered a group of Children from over 100 countries to create a Children’s History of the Past, Present and Future of the United Nations. They used the idea of a HAND to explain the 6 X Major Organs of the UN, thus:
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The Index Finger = The Security Council: – pointing, ordering nations and governments, and backing up its orders with diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and – sometimes – military force.
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The Thumb = The General Assembly: Applying the collective pressure of all the UN’s Member States but without the force of sanctions or military intervention available to the Security Council
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The Middle Finger = The Economic and Social Council: All the social, economic, environmental and development agencies of the UN – along with affiliated NGOs and private sector agencies report through this council: ECOSOC.
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The Ring Finger = The International Court of Justice: Interpreting and implementing International Laws on behalf of all UN Member States;
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The Palm of your Hand = The Trustee Ship Council: Before, when many countries were colonised by others, the UN’s Trusteeship Council held them in trust – in the palm of the hand of the International Community – while they transitioned to full independence.
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The Little Finger = The Secretariat: led by the UN Secretary General – this administers, and gives leadership to the international community, promoting the principles of the UN’s Charter and norms of good international behaviour to all member states.
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The First major achievement of the UN was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of US President, Franklin D Roosevelt was the Chair of the Commission that drew it up – and was the driving force behind getting it signed on December 10th 1948.
It was world-changing as, after the horrors of the Holocaust and the 2nd World War, it recognised that “the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. It declares that human rights are to be enjoyed by all people, no matter who they are or where they live. It includes the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy and other rights, like the right to social security, health and education.
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The Declaration was a response to the atrocities of the Second World War – like the mass genocide against the Jews at Auschwitz where 6 million people were exterminated for no reason other than their ethnicity
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The murder of the journalist, Jamal Kashoggi, at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Turkey in 2018 shows that human rights are just as important today as they were 75 years ago.
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The Member Governments of the United Nations have agreed many other Human Rights Laws or “Instruments” which are binding on those governments that sign and ratify them. Some of the main ones are the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women; The Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities – signed in March 2007. The UN’s Human Rights work continues today!
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Children’s Rights were very poorly defined until the UN Convention of 1979. Now children have legal protection and rights in almost every country of the world.
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De-colonisation and the elimination of empires was another great founding idea of the UN – pushed by US President Franklin Roosevelt – who got Winston Churchill, the leader of the great British Empire and himself a great believer in Empire – to agree to it. And the UN has been massively successful in its de-colonisation efforts: in 1945, when it was born – 750 million people lived in countries controlled by imperial powers – chiefly France, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Today, only 2 million do.
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The UN has maintained its focus on “saving humanity from the scourge of war” – by becoming the centre for Peace-making in our world. It developed the idea of Peace-keeping – and today, there are over 100,000 UN Peace Keeping Soldiers at work in 14 peace-keeping programmes around our world. It also provides a focus for peace negotiations around the world and promotes the idea of conflict transformation. The UN itself, its staff and its agencies have won the Nobel Peace Prize 11 times in its first 75 years.
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This is Berlin and its Brandenburg Gate, devastated at the end of the Second World War. No Wonder Peace was the UN’s first priority….
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The UN believes in the duty of all governments to care for its poorest citizens. Therefore, it has set up agencies to promote development and care for refugees – and people caught up in natural disasters.
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Disasters like the impact of Typhoon Hayan which swept across the Philippines
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Perhaps the UN’s most famous Care agency is the one set up to care for children: UNICEF – which stands for “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund” – as it was set up originally to look after children, especially orphans, after the Second World War. Another famous one is UN Women – set up to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.
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Long before the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN prioritised the care and happiness of children in its first 75 years with exceptional programmes like UNICEF’s breakthrough Oral Rehydration Therapy which has saved literally millions of childrens’ lives
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In it’s first 75 years, the UN has negotiated many International Laws & Regulations including laws to protect intellectual property – music, literature, everything that can be copyrighted is now protected worldwide by UN agreement; the Law of the Sea: who owns what on the sea-bed and who can catch fish where; and the Law of the air – ways to police the skies, organising air lanes and setting the regulations – the traffic lights in the sky if you like – about who can fly where. Without these laws, planes and ships would be crashing into each other all the time.
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The United Nations is the only international law-maker that has the power to get every nation to stop – but, like some drivers, there are still a lot of nations that try to run the lights.
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A lot of people think that the UN is just a talking shop – where diplomats are paid a lot of money to push paper around: NOT true! After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights agreed the right of every one on earth to health, food and education, it set up agencies to provide Health for All (the World Health Organisation – WHO); Food for all(The Food and Agriculture Organisation – FAO and the World Food Programme, both based in Rome, Italy) – and Education for All which is driven by UNESCO – the UN Education, Science and Cultural Organisation, based in Paris, France. “Leave No One Behind” is one of the UN’s most powerful slogans as it means: the United Nations serves EVERYONE – Every single Man, Woman and Child living on Planet Earth.
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Especially the world’s poorest children – who don’t even have desks to sit at
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The UN has led the fight to protect our world’s Natural Environment – to protect all the plants and animals with whom we share this planet, and to stop the pollution of freshwater, sea, land & space;
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In 1986, it developed the idea of Sustainable Development: “… meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The idea is to balance the needs of human beings with those of the environment and the economy. It’s a hard idea to get your head around – so we often use the 4-word slogan used at the South Africa summit on Sustainable Development: ‘SOME – FOR ALL – FOREVER!”
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Most famously, the UN leads the fight to stop and reverse Climate Change. In Paris, France, in December 2015, it got 193 governments to agree to limit global warming and introduce their own plans to reduce their carbon emissions massively each year to meet their agreed targets.
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Some leaders, like Donald Trump, still believe that Climate Change is not happening – but look back and forth between these two views of the Arctic ice cap, taken 30 years apart – and the warming of the planet is all too obvious to the naked eye. [Click back and forth between Slides 30 and 31]
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And climate change is not just about melting ice caps: it’s about extreme weather – like this Rain Bomb which dumped thousands of tons of rain on Houston, Texas in the space of one hour!
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Greta Thunberg made an emotional speech at the UN on Climate Change – demonstrating that young people can play a crucial role in advancing the UN’s Agenda.
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Also in 2015, the 193 Member Governments of the United Nations agreed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These include 169 targets for governments to meet by 2030 – or before – to eliminate absolute poverty, save the planet’s environment, deliver peace and justice and – that slogan again: “LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND!!”
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Goal 8 promises full employment and decent work for all young women and men by 2030 – something that many young people in Africa are deeply hoping for.
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Peace Child International – the organisation behind this initiative – works to help young women grow their businesses in villages in Northern Sierra Leone – helping to achieve goal 8.
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The UN works for all of us – and all of us must work to support the UN: for just as we are all members of a family, we are also members of a community – like this town; members of a nation – like ?? – we are all members of a human family, and the only body that represents all of us – We the Peoples – is the UN. Let’s work to keep it strong – as 75 years on, we need it more than ever these next 75 years!
There is no human institution more deserving of our support – and it is my fervent wish that some of you will go forward and serve this great institution in the course of its next 75 years.
The last 75 years have seen the human family make great progress – much of it due to the UN’s global Thought Leadership ( – open in Google Slides and follow the Speaker Notes.) But our Balance Sheets show that enormous tasks remain to be done by the young people passing through our schools today. So – in this year that the UN marks its 75th Anniversary, the UN is encouraging every school on our planet to Join A Conversation – about what kind of world we want to be living in 25 years from now? Are we on track to achieve such a world? – and – What action do we have to take to get the world back on track?
We want to help young people get involved in that conversation in a fun way through one of our Peace Child musical Learning Journeys. Also, it is vital to remind students of the Global Goals that all UN member governments have promised to achieve by 2030 – looking at what has been done and what remains to be done.
Our Peace Child musicals invite you to study the issues, discuss them with activists from the older generation, learn some songs, and present their findings in a short (20-min.) – medium (1-hour) – or long-form (2-hour) Concert format. Each one is designed to include young people’s ideas, priorities and answers to the big questions posed by the UN in this, it’s 75th Anniversary year. And, once you have decided your answers to the United Nations’ question: “What Three Things Can Save the World?” – you can register with the UN and upload your answers and ideas here.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we come together to mark the 75th Birthday and celebrate the achievements of one of the most precious institutions our human family has ever created: the United Nations. The UN has asked us to answer the question: “What three things can save the World?” – so we want you to listen carefully to our presentation and, at the end, come up with your own answers to that question. We owe so much of what happens – and what does NOT happen – in our daily lives to the thought leadership and diplomatic skills of the UN and its staff – some of the most committed public servants the world has ever seen. Let’s review its 75 year history [be sure to open the pictures in Google slides and print out the Speaker Notes that explain them.]
YC 1 So – have we got an answer to the question the UN asked us?
YC 2 “What three things can save the world?”
YC 3 We’ve done enough talking: Now it’s your turn! Take five minutes and write your answers on the pieces of paper being circulated to you: hand them in to the stewards standing around the hall – and, if we have time, we shall discuss some of your answers.
YC 4 – and the best of them we shall send off the UN Website. And you can join in as well, on your own. Go to: www.un.org/un75.
OP And remember: the UN is for ALL of us. We are one human family – young and old! And, remember, even I was a child once! (Music starts )
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Colonialism and Imperial officers, like these, cared little for the human rights of those whose countries they occupied. Arguably, they did some good – but their oppression of whole peoples and nations was appalling.
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Winston Churchill was a Colonial Servant as a young man and allowing the UN to introduce its decolonising programme was something he was deeply opposed to. However – for peace and the greater good, he agree. Like Apartheid, he saw that colonialism was a system that had to be ended.
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No wonder peace was the UN’s No. 1 priority.
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Because we have a beautiful environment that we want to protect for our children and grand-children
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More seriously, floods and fires caused by extreme weather, have already caused billions of dollars worth of damage to people’s property – and is destined to do much, much more!
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The crisis of youth unemployment is not limited to Africa: it is everywhere! Too many people – not enough jobs!