UNON Director-General Remarks to the East African Model UN Conference, 23 February 2016

Dear Students,

I would like to warmly welcome you to the United Nations Office at Nairobi for the opening of your Model United Nations Conference.

It is a real pleasure for me to be with you this morning.

Let me begin by thanking the coordinators of this conference for doing such a wonderful job.  I would also like to applaud you, the participating students, for all the hard work you have put into preparing for the conference. 

I know that your participation in this Model UN will help prepare you to become the next generation’s leaders in international affairs.

Over the next few days, you will have a good opportunity to test your knowledge of the UN and your leadership and communication skills. You will learn about the complexity of international relations and development challenges, the intricacies of negotiating among diverse stakeholders, the challenges of achieving consensus, and the patience required to achieve results.

But above all I hope you will find the time to overcome your initial differences, so that you can seize common opportunities and defend against shared threats.

That, after all, is why the UN was created.

Allow me just a few minutes to give you a quick overview of the UN and its work.

As a family of organizations, the UN performs a vast range of duties that affect us all in a number of ways.

These range from:

  • the decision of the Security Council to dispatch a peacekeeping operation in response to a conflict, to setting standards for air safety and communications compatibility;
  • from rushing emergency supplies to victims of natural disasters, to coordinating the response to public health crises, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year;
  • from helping countries carry out free and fair elections, to promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all;

Ultimately, the UN’s work is about building a healthier, more stable world with enhanced opportunities and justice for all of us.

In Nairobi, we are extremely privileged to have the only headquarters of the United Nations in Africa, and indeed in the global South, as well as the global headquarters for both UNEP and UN-Habitat.

Nairobi is also the home base of many regional UN agencies and this complex alone has close to 4,000 UN staff members who work every day to advance the goals of the United Nations.

During this conference, you will have an exceptional opportunity to come to a shared understanding among yourselves about what it will take to achieve some of the UN’s most important objectives.

I encourage you to be creative together, to strive for new and innovative approaches to poverty alleviation, hunger, inadequate housing, climate change, gender equality, peace and security, human rights, and the other issues on the UN’s agenda.

As future leaders and decision makers, you are agents of change. I hope this exercise will inspire you and provide you with a first-hand opportunity to understand, learn and debate the issues and challenges that face all of us.

Let me leave you with a quote from a British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who played an important role in the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. He said:  "The price of greatness is responsibility."

Please listen to those words: The price of greatness is responsibility.  People who strive for greatness are many, but it is a few who achieve this goal. Without exception, those who achieve greatness are prepared to pay the price of responsibility.

In your tool box of life, responsibility is one key element which you should never leave behind. It is a key we should carry wherever we go. It is a key that unlocks doors into greatness.

By participating in this model UN programme, you are all well on your way to becoming responsible global citizens, with great potential to help create a better world.

I hope that you will have an exciting and productive time here at UNON. I look forward to hearing about the outcome of your deliberations, and I encourage you to continue to support the work of the United Nations long after this event is over.

Thank you.

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DG's remarks for Model UN Feb 2016.doc32 KB