2020 United Nations Day Message of the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines

Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez says, "We face our own 1945 moment. We must act in solidarity to ensure that no one is left behind."

[As delivered on 23 October 2020]

[Watch the video message here]

Good afternoon dear partners, colleagues and friends,

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to the Department of Foreign Affairs for coming together with us at the United Nations, in this celebration of UN Day. A special ‘thank you’ to Foreign Secretary, Teddy Locsin, for joining us in person.  

Secretary Locsin knows the UN very well  and has played an important role in the recent UN reform process. It’s a great privilege to be able to count on his participation in this event  today.

Celebrating the UN Day virtually, without having the possibility of shaking each other’s hand as we did in past celebrations, is a clear demonstration of how much our world has changed in just eight months.

Since January, we are living exceptional moments with a pandemic that has affected our daily lives and uncovered our most profound vulnerabilities.

What started as a localized health crisis, has unfolded as a global human crisis. The pandemic has reconfirmed that the systems on which we depend -health, food, trade, climate - are not only increasingly interdependent, but increasingly fragile.

For the first time in 30 years, poverty is rising

Achievements against human development indicators are declining.  

The outbreak of the pandemic demonstrated that we were not well prepared to prevent this crisis on time. We failed in anticipation.

The crisis has also demonstrated we were not well prepared to recognize the simple fact that global challenges are better addressed with collective solutions.

But as any crisis, a number of lessons can be drawn from this pandemic.  

Someone said that in a globalized world, “the future of any country, any organization relies on its capacity to learn and transform”. This is the time where lessons from the pandemic should inform our vision and support our action.  

… and learning from this experience is not just preparing for future shocks, but also paying tribute to those who lost their lives as a result of COVID-19 and to those who are exposing their lives, every day, to win this battle.

… and I take this opportunity to commend - on behalf of the UN - the millions of Filipino health workers, transporters, teachers, members of the security forces, and many others, for their strong commitment in this fight.

One of the most important lessons from this crisis is perhaps the most obvious: this is the time of joining efforts. No country can do it alone. And we need inclusive collaboration, drawing on the critical contributions of civil society, business, foundations, the scientific community, local authorities, cities and regional governments.

While this 75th years anniversary of  the UN comes at  a time of great disruption, anniversaries are not about celebrating the past; they are about looking ahead.

None of our present troubles should stop us reflecting on the proud history of the UN. In fact, the ideals of the United Nations – peace, justice, equality and dignity — are more needed than ever.    

The Organization we celebrate today emerged only after immense suffering.   

It took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for world leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law.   

That commitment produced great results. 

A Third World War has been avoided.   

Never in modern history have we gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major powers.   

This is a great achievement of which Member States can be proud – and which we must all strive to preserve. 

Down the decades, there have been other historic accomplishments, including: 

  • Peace treaties and peacekeeping,
  • Decolonization,
  • Adoption of Human rights standards – and mechanisms,
  • The triumph over apartheid 
  • Humanitarian aid for millions of victims of conflict and disaster 
  • The eradication of key diseases  
  • Landmark pacts to protect the environment and our planet 

And most recently, the unanimous support for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change provided an inspiring vision for the 21st century. 

As the world faces a number of transboundary challenges, we need multilateralism more than ever. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee recognized this when it gave its award to the World Food Programme this year, thereby highlighting the essential role the UN continues to play in tackling the fundamental problems of hunger and malnutrition.      

On this 75th anniversary, the United Nations remains unique as the only world body, with a membership of 193 countries, where each member has an equal vote, equal voice and equal right to be listened to. 

But where each member also has the responsibility to act in accordance with the United Nations Charter, international conventions and treaties, in the interest of all, across borders and beyond self-interest, be it for peace, for social and economic development, or for human rights.

When I was appointed as UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, a senior official from New York told me: “You can’t understand the UN, without knowing the role of the Philippines in the organization”. Now, with just a few months in the country, I realized that this person was not exaggerating.

The Philippines is one of the 51 founding members of the UN, signing the United Nations Charter in San Francisco back in 1945 and as we know, the Philippines continues to be a very active Member State.

We have recently seen this engagement on a number of occasions, such as the participation in the Global Compact for Migration; in the Global Compact on Refugees; in the participation last year in the High-Level Political Forum of ECOSOC, where the Philippines  presented its second Voluntary National Review on progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have also seen another example of such engagement in the recent Human Right Council where the Philippines and an important number of Member States agreed -jointly with the UN- to set up the first ever UN Joint Programme on Human Rights.

Two years ago, the United Nations Country Team and the Philippines signed the Partnership Framework for Sustainable Development, which reflects the strategic support of 17 UN entities to the Philippine Development Plan and its longer-term vision Ambisyon Natin 2040.   

Most recently, as a result of COVID19, the UN Country Team in the Philippines has been working on 3 fronts:

Firstly, the implementation of a large-scale and comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) through its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. This intervention has allowed to support the Department of Health to carry out infection control and contact tracing, support public health communication to protect and avoid further spread while also advising on well-being and mental health. Through the COVAX Facility, WHO and the Government of the Philippines are collaborating to ensure that the people of the Philippines can access vaccination against COVID-19 as soon as possible.     

Secondly, we mobilized a robust network of national and international NGOs, UN agencies and the private sector around the Philippines Humanitarian Response Plan, to address the most immediate needs of 5.4 million of Filipinos. This plan, which gathers the capacities of more than 60 humanitarian partners, is a concrete demonstration of a close partnership between government institutions, national and international NGOs, the private sector and the critical support of the international community.

Thirdly, we have started - since my arrival as UN Resident Coordinator in June - a review of the existing programming and plans to better realign our support to the Government in the recovery phase of the COVID-19 crisis. We are at the final stage of this process and will be shortly launch an innovative 3-year “UN Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework for COVID-19 Recovery which will mobilize the whole UN Development System in support of Government’s Recovery Plan.

The framework will make the most of the knowledge and operational capacities of 21 UN entities. It will harness the potential of innovative partnership with international financial institutions and the private sector. It will promote South-South and triangular cooperation to ensure that the Philippines diversify sustainable solutions to meet its development challenges. The framework will increase funding from SDGs global funds and will make sure that the country benefits from regional knowledge platforms.

This Framework builds on the principles of the ongoing UN reform for a more nimble, responsive and flexible organization.    

I also take the opportunity to express our appreciation to the bilateral partners of the Philippines, who channel contributions through the United Nations and make our work here possible.  Please keep those resources coming, your engagement matters a great deal.

As we see, we face a foundational moment.  

Those who built the United Nations 75 years ago had lived through a pandemic, a global depression, genocide and world war. 

They knew the cost of discord and the value of unity. 

They fashioned a visionary response, embodied in the UN’s founding Charter, with people at the centre. 

Today, we face our own 1945 moment. 

If we are to emerge from this crisis stronger, better prepared to meet other crises and build more resilient futrures, we must be united. We must act in solidarity to ensure that no one is left behind.

This is the reason we celebrate UN Day every year.

Thank you very much for being here with us tonight, I hope you will enjoy the celebration.

Mabuhay United Nations!

Mabuhay Philippines!

Speech by
Gustavo González
Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator
Gustavo Gonzalez
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office