18 October 1996

Press Release


UN Day Message Says 'Repetitious Statements' Must Give Way To Firm Political, Financial Commitment to Practical Results

This is the text of the message of the President of the General Assembly, Razali Ismail (Malaysia), for United Nations Day, 24 October:

As we commemorate the fifty-first anniversary of the United Nations, I hesitate to repeat the annual affirmation extolling the United Nations virtues and ideals. My reservations are based upon the realization that despite so many declarations of intent, not enough has been done to meet the full potential of this global organization of ours.

The United Nations has traditionally been reflecting and deliberating on the state of the world for each commemorative reason. Yet the world continues to be cleaved by those that have and those that have not, and by huge inequities that divide the few in charge and the millions poorly taken care of.

It is not right for us to commemorate dates by making repetitious statements without being honest enough to measure how much we have achieved and how much we have failed. The worst injustice we can commit to the principles of the Charter, and to the peoples of the United Nations, is to allow our endless words to carry us forward on a path of delusion which confuses token symbols with substantive programmes. The more often we celebrate these days with less meaning, and devoid of reality, the more opaque our own level of commitment becomes.

Perhaps we should begin this year by closely examining the long-term results of our deliberations and actions. We must assess the true potential of the United Nations and determine the options we have to take. We must be unafraid to speak of the multiple problems that face the world community in clear and precise terms, and give up the habit of pursuing such pressing issues in abstraction. Only by recognizing our limitations and the

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irrelevance of our words will the various bodies of the United Nations enhance their public image and begin to deliver in a palpable fashion the critical results that have eluded us.

I am happy to state that at the fifty-first General Assembly of the United Nations, there are many governmental delegations who are no longer content with making statements of intent. Many governments and individuals are beginning to understand the importance of protecting the opportunities and spaces for peoples to come together on mutually beneficial terms, so they benefit from the fruits of labour and common purpose, and from the magic of science and technology.

The endless possibilities of renewed investment in the United Nations begin with a personal and collective commitment to practise tolerance, compassion and compromise that breach the borders of national boundaries, religions, creeds and race, and reach out to meet the basic and universal needs of peoples in concert, and beyond the interests of governments.

The United Nations can demonstrate that shared responsibilities of the international community can be met by a collective mobilization that combines the creative energies of governments, the expertise of the United Nations Secretariat and agencies and of civil society. Perhaps it is only through such dynamic and mutually supportive interaction that the United Nations can reach out meaningfully to the millions of people who are unable to attend our meetings, but whose interests and needs we are deemed to promote and protect.

I believe that the potential of each human person, and collectively through the United Nations, to act for good and for justice is infinite. And yet we falter, if not fail, so consistently. Perhaps it is the political cloak of national interest that inhibits us, so that we forsake our obligations to the wider community for the easier gains of self-interest. The degree to which we meet the challenges of the next millennium will be a reflection of our ability to combat fear of change and act together for common survival. Governments should, for example, make firm political and financial commitments to ensure that there can be no islands of prosperity amidst the oceans of poverty and discontent.

And what of our planet? Are we to construct our future as if the human being is the only living creature that matters in this world? The path of human development and security can be complete and sustained only if our respect for humanity is matched by an equal respect for our environment and the welfare of our planet.

I wish you a meaningful United Nations Day.

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