Slovenia’s membership of the United Nations: Marking two decades of success and looking ahead
As we mark the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s membership of the United Nations this month, we look back on two decades of a country’s success, in which Slovenia has been a model to nations aspiring to build peaceful, democratic and prosperous societies. Indeed, it has been a particularly esteemed and respected member of the global community, and a strong and dedicated contributor to advancing the work of the United Nations.This commitment to the United Nations is embodied at the highest level of Government by Slovenia’s President dr. Danilo Türk, who was the country’s very first Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
More than ever before, the members of the United Nations are faced with challenges that underline the essential relevance of this Organization and the multilateralism it embodies.
The dimensions within our world are changing. Technology has diminished physical distance, moving us more closely together. But the divisions of inequity too have become greater. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro from 20 to 22 June this year, will be a clear testament of the need to work together and an historic opportunity to bring about real change by setting a new development agenda and galvanizing progress towards a sustainable future.
The spectrum of the Organization’s roles in promoting international peace and security is expanding. Human Rights today is an integral priority of the United Nations, Peacekeeping, initially not mentioned in the United Nations Charter, is today a flagship activity of the Organization, with an unprecedented 120,000 peacekeepers deployed to help conflict-torn societies around the world today.
As Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, I am heading one of four United Nations headquarters worldwide-–and the one closest to Slovenia—but also a hub of very key parts of the United Nations family that play a central role in the United Nations agenda to secure the global goods of development, peace and security and human rights.
Transnational organized crime and the illicit drug trade undermine security and can evolve into major threats to stability, human rights and development. No government can face these multinational criminal networks without international cooperation.
Energy is central to eliminating poverty and a pivotal role is played by the Vienna-based members of the UN family in this field.
Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, also key components of the United Nations work in Vienna, are not lofty ideals, but central to achieving international peace and security.
There are also less well-known aspects to the work of the United Nations in Vienna that provide a critical contribution to our global agenda and indeed to our daily lives. These include setting standards that facilitate international trade, or the work of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, that make the benefits of space technology available to developing nations, for uses including sustainable development, natural resource management, disaster mitigation and communications.
The late UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold said: “The UN is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real. The day will come when men will see the UN and what it means clearly…When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves”.
A central component of promoting public ownership and responsibility for the United Nations is to engage the young generation. There are more young people in the world today than ever before. Our job is to listen to them and to meet their expectations.
It is therefore particularly encouraging that, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the country’s UN membership, the Government of Slovenia has chosen to publish an information resource for teachers and pupils on the work of the United Nations, in cooperation with the United Nations Information Service Vienna, with a corresponding web portal in Slovene language for teachers and young people.
Twenty years from now, both Slovenia and the world will have undergone changes that today are impossible to predict. The past twenty years have confirmed, however, what the country’s Government foresaw when it undertook to become a member of the United Nations: that the United Nations is the right vehicle to navigate challenges, so that, over the upcoming two decades, we can leave today’s children and young people a world worth living in.
Text by Jury Fedotov, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, Sinfo, April 2012
Photo: United Nations Information Service Vienna