- Speeches & Published Materials
[Incumbent] Keynote Address On the occasion of the 74th United Nations Day Commemorative Luncheon By H.E. KANG Kyung-wha Minister of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea
Ambassador Lee Ho-jin, Acting President of the United Nations Association of the Republic of Korea,
It is indeed a great privilege for me to take part in the 74th United Nations Day Commemorative Luncheon. I would like to thank the United Nations Association of the Republic of Korea for once again organizing this annual gala event.
The Charter of the United Nations was signed on June 26th, 1945 in San Francisco and came into force four months later on October 24th. Two years later in 1947, the General Assembly declared that October 24th shall be officially called “United Nations Day.” And every year since then, the day has been devoted to making known to the peoples of the world the aims and achievements of the organization and to strengthening support for its ever-expanding and deepening work. The UN Association of the Republic of Korea was also established in 1947, and for the past 72 years the Association has made tireless efforts to promote the work of the United Nations in Korea.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the successive generations of its leaders, many of whom are here with us today, for all of their contributions in keeping the United Nations alive and relevant in the minds and hearts of the Korean public over the past seven decades.
As we prepare to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations next year, let us take a brief look at some of its achievements and current challenges, and what the Republic of Korea, as a Member State of rising standing, has brought and can further bring in making the global organization stronger for the future.
The United Nations started with great ambitions, and has evolved over the decades into a universal organization of unparalleled profile and reach. The convening power of the United Nations to bring together experts and representatives from different backgrounds and from all regions of the world has been truly remarkable. Over the decades, using this power, the UN has produced and promoted the implementation of landmark global norms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons are just some of the best examples from the earlier years. These then have been the foundation for the building of a multitude of normative regimes that have bound Member States, connected peoples and shaped our daily lives.
The United Nations has also evolved with the changing times. Climate change and sustainable development are some of the challenges that were not anticipated when the UN was first established. But the UN has wholly embraced and promoted these new agenda of our times, and placed them squarely at the forefront of our daily concerns and collective endeavors.
Another achievement is the United Nations’ presence on the ground. Whether you live in the Sahel, in Gaza or in Haiti, or in many other crisis-stricken places in the world, if there is need for peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance, you will see the Blue Helmets, UN humanitarian workers and shelters for people displaced by violent conflict or natural disasters. In many places, the UN flag is a sign of hope for the people, in some cases the only sign of hope for survival and better days ahead.
What truly sets the United Nations apart is this ability to connect the debate at headquarters to generate Member States’ support with the work on the ground for the people, in peace and security, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance.
Notwithstanding these achievements, we are in a period of much soul-searching for the global organization. There is growing frustration over the UN’s, Security Council specifically, inability to prevent conflicts and to bring an end to the ongoing violent conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. The nature of crises that put people in harm’s way is becoming increasingly complex, and the number of people needing protection and life-saving assistance is increasing, not decreasing. There is also an erosion of trust in multilateralism itself, at a time when global challenges and new threats to peace and security require a more concerted and integrated international response than ever before.
The Security Council is deeply divided over key issues with little room for compromise. The Secretariat is facing a severe financial crisis. Long established global norms are being weakened. And some Member States are opting for unilateral actions or bilateral solutions, undermining the multilateralism that is the fundamental spirit and premise of the United Nations.
The United Nations is, in the first instance, an intergovernmental body of its Member States. But it is much more than the sum of its 193 Member States. Over the decades, it has become a sprawling, complex edifice comprising countless specialized entities, tens of thousands of dedicated staff, and vibrant civil society constituents all around the world.
Something about the UN is in the news every day. The UN has become the natural reference point that governments, communities and civil societies turn to for answers and guidance. It is hard to imagine a world without the United Nations. But it is not so hard to imagine the dire consequences of its weakening for the rule-based international order and peaceful relations among nations and the wellbeing of humanity.
And so, we must keep it strong and effective in the service of the enlightened self-interest of governments and other constituents of multilateralism. The question of course is how. The 75th anniversary of the UN next year will be an opportune moment to delve into this question, and seek ways to enhance the relevance of the United Nations, in all of its myriad manifestations, in the fast evolving landscape of global challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year has been particularly significant for the Republic of Korea at the United Nations. We have become the eleventh largest contributor to the regular budget of the UN Secretariat and the tenth largest to its peacekeeping budget.
With greater visibility comes greater responsibility and expectations. And I assure you today that the Republic of Korea stands ready to fully meet them.
In the field of international peace and security, the Republic of Korea has dispatched to date 17,000 military personnel to peacekeeping operations around the world, and now focuses on diversifying its contributions. In 2021, we will host the next Peacekeeping Ministerial where
we will discuss and generate specialized capabilities that are necessary for contemporary peacekeeping operations.
In the field of human rights, through our own transition from an authoritarian, “development at all-cost” model to a vibrant democracy and thriving economy, we have demonstrated that human rights must be fully embraced to unleash the creative powers of the people and ensure sustainable development. We are actively supporting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, based on our own “Action with Women and Peace” initiative launched last year. We have just been elected to return to the Human Rights Council next year, after the mandatory one-year absence.
As part of our efforts in tackling climate change, my government has pledged to double our contribution to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and next year we will host the second summit gathering of the Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G) initiative. The second P4G Summit will serve as an important opportunity to bolster the international community’s solidarity for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.
Last month, President Moon Jae-in travelled to New York to take part in the high-level segment of the 74th United Nations General Assembly. He was the first Korean president to do so for three consecutive years, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to the organization and our desire to play a greater role in its work.
In his address to the General Assembly, President Moon reiterated the principles that have steadfastly guided the dialogue process that he initiated to bring about complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, namely no war, mutual security guarantee, and co-prosperity. Building upon these three principles, he shared his vision to transform the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into an international peace zone. His proposal includes the idea of inscribing the DMZ as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and working with UN actors to remove mines laid in the DMZ. When the DMZ is turned into such a peace zone with the participation of the international community, it will surely serve as a physical guarantee of security for both Koreas, cement the foundation for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and contribute to greater peace and security in Northeast Asia.
The support of the United Nations and the international community has been crucial in advancing the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and will remain essential in making our vision of permanent peace on our homeland come true.
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
In celebrations around the world to mark this day, we are reminded of why we must all preserve, develop, improve and contribute to the United Nations. The government of the Republic of Korea will be sparing no efforts to shore up trust in multilateralism and its pre-eminent organization, the United Nations. And I am sure that all of you will actively join us in this task. Thank you. /END/