Remarks by Ms. Renata Lok Dessallien, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator on the occasion of UN Day 2016

I wish to extend my warmest thanks to the State Councilor and her Office for honoring the United Nations with this UN 71st anniversary reception. We are deeply grateful, Kyei Zu Tin Ba De

As you know, the UN was born from one of those rare moments in history when humanity took a leap of faith, jumping over everyday hurdles of narrow and competing self-interest and inertia, taking us to a new level of possibilities with new scope for the collective imagination. The sufferings of WWII were so devastating that a surge of collective yearning for peace gave birth to the United Nations.

There are at least as many views about the UN as there are Member States – more I’m sure. Some choose to focus on our shortcomings, of which there are many. But they often forget that we were designed with many of these shortcomings so as not to interfere with the sovereignty of our Member States. We are strong when our Member States come together to pull in the same direction, and we are weak when our Member States cannot agree with one another, and pull in different directions. The only instruments the UN Secretary General was endowed with to foster Member States’ cohesive pursuit of the greater public good were the power of persuasion and the power of the UN’s vision.

While it is true that the UN is a reflection of its 193 Member States, it is also more. The UN is not just a safe and neutral platform on which States can debate and solve problem together. It is also a compelling and powerful vision, buttressed by norms and standards and common goals to which our Member States and humanity as a whole subscribe. It is a great experiment in global cooperation toward a better future for all.

The heart of the UN’s Vision is so simple it sounds almost trite: world peace. The pursuit of peace in all its multiple dimensions is our daily work. This vision is inextricably tied to our Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its covenants. And it is supported by a huge array of work to bridge understandings across countries and peoples, to provide special support to less developed and disadvantaged countries and peoples through economic, social and cultural partnerships, through holding the mirror up to Member States on UN norms and standards to which they have subscribed, through support toward more inclusive, more efficient and more responsive governance, through humanitarian services in the face of life threatening needs, and much more.

Being both of our Member States but also of our Vision and Values opens creative tensions in the UN. It forces us into lateral thinking, into problem solving from another part of the mind from which those problems were created (as Einstein put it), and often into striving for the seemingly unattainable (as Sergio de Mello put it). With our hearts and minds fixed on our Vision and our feet firmly planted in realities on the ground, we strive to be principled pragmatists. It is often from these creative tensions that the UN offers its very best to the world. But it also makes us one of those entities that frequently gets caught in the cross fire between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. I’d like to say a few words about a much underrated ingredient for peace: understanding – understanding between countries and between peoples. We cannot collectively forge lasting peace without mutual understanding. To understand requires interest in, concern for, oneness with each other. And with greater understanding come greater tolerance of, respect for, and, even better, appreciation of differences and diverse views.

Myanmar is a country in need of greater understanding, understanding from without and understanding within. Unless we have greater understanding of Myanmar – the evolving nature of the state, its peoples, their hopes and fears, their institutions formal and informal, the delicate equilibriums in the country, unless we better understand these, the impact of our support will always be less than optimal.

Myanmar was closed for many decades and there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of mutual understandings. A big part of everything the UN does in Myanmar at this time relates to better understandings – both our understanding of the country and its context, as well as doing what we can to fostering greater understandings between groups in the country. Decades of engagement with Myanmar have made us sensitive to the phenomenal changes that are taking place tight now, and the complex and dynamic combinations of these changes calls for specially considered responses to the very unique needs of this country at this time.

I’d like to dedicate this 71st UN anniversary to the value and necessity of deeper understandings – understandings between Myanmar and the world; between the UN and Myanmar; between the various beautiful peoples of Myanmar.

With deeper understanding, we will be able to forge deeper and more meaningful, impactful partnerships in and with Myanmar. This is a country with great gifts to offer the world. The generosity and compassion of the Myanmar spirit is already a source of tremendous inspiration beyond the borders of this country. The diversity of Myanmar is reflective of a mini United Nations, and the obstacles that you have and will overcome to achieve unity in diversity will be extremely instructive for the UN and for the entire world.

Thank you once again most sincerely for hosting tonight’s reception for the UN
Thank you for your strong belief in and support for the UN’s Vision and Values
Thank you for giving us U Thant, who taught us about Asian and Myanmar wisdom
Thank you for your patience as we strive to better understand and support Myanmar
And thank you for the honour to serve the people of this great country at such a crucial juncture in her history.