“The 70th anniversary of the United Nations is an opportunity to reflect – to look back on the UN’s history and take stock of its enduring achievements. It is also an opportunity to spotlight where the UN – and the international community as a whole – needs to redouble its efforts to meet current and future challenges across the three pillars of its work: peace and security, development, and human rights.” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
If we are lucky enough as individuals to make it to 70 years old, most of us would probably wish to be retired, sitting back in a comfy chair and enjoying the fruits of our labor. However, when the United Nations turns 70 on Saturday, 24 October 2015, its 193 member states and all its staff – including 650 of us who work for the UN in Rwanda – know that our work is far from over. There is no room for the leisure and comforts of retirement.
In addition to reaching the end of its seventh decade, this year marks two other important milestones for the UN. This is the year when the world’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) end – the eight goals that aimed to reduce poverty and hunger as well as improve health, education, gender equality and environmental sustainability. This year, an ambitious new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will take their place -- our collective roadmap for equitable and sustainable development for the coming 15 years, 2016-2030.
Yes, on the UN’s 70th birthday, the Organisation and all its members and partners are more than doubling their ‘to do’ list, because now, more than ever, we need to ensure that no-one is left behind in the journey towards a far more equitable and just world.
And Rwanda is leading by example. H.E. President Paul Kagame has set the tone, by making a strong commitment to an even more inclusive development and gender equality as a Champion of the HeForShe campaign (www.heforshe.org) – a natural extension of existing policies that are seeing more and more women in positions of leadership and authority as well as empowered economically.
The President has stated that trade and investment – not aid –should be key pillars of development.
This is something that is reflected in the UN’s Development Assistance Plan in Rwanda (UNDAP 2013-2018) which has a strong focus on working with Rwanda to build sustainable national systems for development: inclusive economic transformation, job creation, innovation and infrastructure are also at the core of the SDGs (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ ). We are working hand-in-hand with all the development partners, including the private sector and the CSO, to contribute to this vision of the future.
As the UN Secretary-General reminded us, anniversaries are also a time to take stock of our achievements. The most recent Progress Report for the Millennium Development Goals in Rwanda as well as the DHS and EICV4 results confirmed that Rwanda has met, or will meet, the majority of its Millennium Development Goals by the end of 2015.
Poverty has reduced, diets and nutrition are improving, and child mortality has been reduced by two-thirds, maternal health is significantly better. The country exceeded the goal of ensuring that fewer children under five are underweight, primary school enrolment is nearly 100 percent and the tragedy of a high number of women dying while giving birth is put behind us.
And getting girls into primary and secondary schools and women into the national parliament and other positions of authority has been a success.
Rwanda is halting and reversing trends in malaria and tuberculosis. Most adults with advanced HIV infections are using anti-retroviral therapy. The goal of 25 percent of the land being forested is on track and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are no longer consumed.
Over 74 percent of the population are using improved drinking water sources and improved sanitation facilities. The country’s debt service to export, goods and services rate has been brought down to sustainable levels.
In Rwanda, the UN’s country team is made up of 23 UN agencies, funds and programmes that are progressively turning into reality the aspirations of member countries for the UN System to Deliver as One.
Our logo in Rwanda includes the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’ – different organizations united in one cause, to further the economic and human development of Rwanda through the UNDAP, which was developed in tandem with the Government of Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II 2013-2018 (EDPRS2).
‘Unity in Diversity’ refers to something else, too. Our 650 staff members in Rwanda come from all over the world, but the vast majority of them are Rwandan citizens, working to achieve the goals of the UNDAP and EDPRSII.
And that work translates the smiles of children receiving nutritious food, the satisfaction of youth who have been trained in a skill and have found gainful employment, the gratification of a farmer whose production has increased due to agricultural support, the relief of a refugee who knows that her family is safely sheltering in Rwanda.
These are just some of the accomplishments achieved through the collaboration the ‘One UN’ country team, together with thousands of Rwandan partners in Government, private sector, civil society, local community groups, students and citizens throughout the country, supported by our donors and development partners. We are united in our diversity.
The individual UN Heads of Agencies and their staff have worked tirelessly over the past few years for a more efficient, relevant and impactful UN in Rwanda.
But the Government of Rwanda’s Leadership, continuous encouragement and valuable guidance in that direction have also been crucial and we are enormously grateful to H.E President Kagame, his team and the people of Rwanda for that. Happy 70th Anniversary to us all.