CAIRO: Marking its 65th anniversary, the United Nations renewed its commitment to global development and raised awareness about the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through a series of events on Oct. 24.
A celebration was held at Cairo University to commemorate UN Day, entailing various activities, starting with a parade by the Cairo University Model United Nations and a concert.
UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt James Rawley pointed out that it was fitting to celebrate UN Day at Cairo University since this year also marks the International Year of Youth, which was launched earlier this year from the university.
Cairo University is also the first university in the region to take part in the UN’s Global Compact Initiative, which is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.
“[The university] has productively partnered with UN agencies, and the collaboration is only growing stronger,” said Rawley.
At the end of his speech, Rawley urged the audience to think about how “youth can best contribute to youth initiatives and to bridge the gap between the youth and the rest of society [in order] to accelerate MDG achievement in Egypt.”
Representing the Egyptian government at the celebration was the Minister of State for Administrative Development, Ahmed Darwish, who pointed out that there has been great cooperation between the different UN agencies and the Egyptian government, especially the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). His ministry alone oversees three programs, he said.
“Sixty-five years ago the UN Charter was signed with concepts of world peace, human rights, justice, mutual understanding and fundamental freedoms and later from this charter came the Millennium Development Goals on which Egypt has been working and a number of these indicators have already been accomplished, however there still remain challenges,” said the minister.
Such challenges include increasing the number of schools in order to accommodate the number of newborns who will enroll in schools within two or three years.
“We have to raise awareness about these challenges and this could be done not necessarily through research only but through poetry, music and [media] so they can reach the people,” he said.
At the end Darwish noted that after 65 years, the key for existence and continuity is development, which is achievable by “changing visions […] which is only done through the youth and their vision for the future.”
An open dialogue between UN officials and the minister was later held in which the students asked questions and together everyone discussed challenges the Egyptian society and the international community are currently facing, including unemployment, education, poverty and women’s empowerment.
Some members of the audience inquired about the coming period, following achieving the MDGs.
“[We are working] on completing the agenda set 65 years ago, we need to accelerate progress in peace and human rights, complete the MDGs and achieve a good standard of living and liberty to all citizens of the world,” said Rawley.
Other members of the audience also discussed the possibility of the world eventually disarming all nuclear weapons following the UN Security Council’s resolution. “Its not an easy road […] all citizens of the world have to hold their leaders accountable to take tangible steps to work toward nuclear disarming,” said Rawley.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a special message, expressing his gratitude “to the millions of people throughout the world who believe deeply in our work for peace, development and human rights, and who uphold our ideals and help us achieve our goals.”
“Sixty-five years ago on this date, the founding Charter of the United Nations entered into force. Every year on UN Day, we reaffirm our global mission. We reassert the universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity. And we recognize the progress we have made together: gains in literacy and life expectancy; the spread of knowledge and technology; advances in democracy and the rule of law,” he said.
“But above all, United Nations Day is a day on which we resolve to do more. More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity; more to meet the Millennium Development Goals,” Ban Ki-moon said.
To commemorate UN Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) also launched a blood donation campaign where UN employees, goodwill ambassadors as well as a number of other guests contributed.
“We believe that there is a misconception and misunderstanding about blood donations in Egypt when there is a need at the blood bank,” explained Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Cairo, Khawla Mattar.
Personnel from all UN agencies working in Egypt donated blood as part of the blood donation drive held under the theme “Thank you Egypt.”
Swiss Ambassador Dominique Furlger, cited the financial and scientific support Switzerland has been offering Egypt to transform its blood transfusion system.
Furlger says that Egypt’s and Switzerland’s combined efforts have succeeded in restructuring blood transfusion in Egypt and creating a more effective centralized blood system with state of the art regional centers.
“What we need to do now is raise more awareness so that people come to donate blood because they can trust in a very good system,” said Furlger.
Following the blood donation campaign, –Additional reporting by Heba Afify.
UN Resident Coordinator James Rawley donating blood.