Op-Ed: Marking 60 years of UN membership, Albania is demonstrating leadership in key areas

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 16, 2015 12:30

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  • This jubilee finds Albania as a first time member of the UN Human Rights Council. This is a well-deserved recognition of Albania’s commitment to advance human rights.

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Brian Williams, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, speaks at an event to mark Albania’s 60 years of UN membership. (Photo: UNDP Albania)

Brian Williams, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, speaks at an event to mark Albania’s 60 years of UN membership. (Photo: UNDP Albania)

By BRIAN J. WILLIAMS*
UN Resident Coordinator in Albania

It is an honor to be here today to mark the 60th anniversary of Albania’s membership to the UN. I have just arrived in the country last week, and this is my first public event. I cannot imagine a greater privilege than starting my function on the proverbial birthday of my organization in your country.

Thank you for this auspicious welcome! During these past six decades – indeed during the seven decades of the existence of the United Nations itself - the world has seen much progress and change. The cold war has ended. Many nations under colonial rule have become independent and sovereign. Great strides have been made in reducing poverty, not least through the Millennium Development Goals, which our Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has stated has “produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history” . More than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. A greater proportion of our children – especially girls – attend school than ever before. Democracy has proliferated. A United Nations Human Rights Council has been established, and along with 2 it a Universal Periodic Review process, which examines the degree of protection of human rights on a nation-by-nation basis regularly and systematically.

And there have been many, many other success stories.

It is important to remind ourselves of these achievements, because we might be forgiven some days for being discouraged. Our world is so wealthy that there should be no one at all in extreme poverty, there should be no one who is hungry, and yet there are too many of both. Violent conflict is far too prevalent, not just in the headline-grabbing war in Syria but on all continents. Outbreaks of disease – such as the case of Ebola last year – are not stopped rapidly enough; globally we have much scientific brilliance, but it is not always focused on the problems that preoccupy the world’s peoples.

In this dynamic world, the United Nations – the very embodiment of the spirit of positive collective action - is eager to reform and evolve, drawing on global knowledge to better support nations as they build on successes and face new challenges.

Over the past two decades, Albania’s relations with the UN have evolved and deepened dramatically, developing cooperation and partnerships in a wide variety of areas, including in support of democratic governance and the rule of law, increased civic participation, closing of gender gaps, improved health and labor standards, increased public access to information, environmental protection and disaster preparedness, support for expanded education and the rights of children, and the promotion of human rights in general.

Albania has played a significant role in the promotion of international peace and security. The country has an unbroken record of service to blue-helmet peacekeeping after the democratic changes in 1990. Albania has joined UN initiatives that aim to fight terrorism and violent extremism, including the ratification of all twelve United Nations anti-terrorist conventions and protocols. Albania has also been at the forefront of regional security cooperation. Although small, the country represents a powerful voice for democracy, equality, peace and development.

This jubilee finds Albania as a first time member of the UN Human Rights Council. This is a well-deserved recognition of Albania’s commitment to advance human rights. And it is impressive the number of conventions in the area of human rights ratified by Albania: 278.

Albania has demonstrated leadership in promoting reform within the United Nations itself. Albania asked to pilot the Delivering as One UN initiative, back in 2007. In this way, Albania should be proud to say that it is helping to shape and guide United Nations Reform around the world.

At the end of September of this year, a major milestone was marked: The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This new Agenda features a universal, transformative and integrated set of goals and targets, called the Sustainable Development Goals. They seek to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, social protection and a healthy environment. Here again, Albania demonstrated leadership, both by volunteering to sound out the views of its citizens during the development of the goals – and thereby influencing the negotiation of the goals themselves – and by volunteering to pilot the implementation of Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

However, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it, what counts now is translating promises on paper into change on the ground. In support of the Government’s National Strategy for Development and Integration, the UN is committed – through the development of its new United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Albania 2017-2020 – to assisting all Albanians in the achievement of these new goals.

And just this weekend, yet another milestone was achieved: the agreement in Paris by all nations to address the threat of climate change in a fundamentally more aggressive manner. Even though Albania’s current greenhouse gas emissions are relatively low, the impact of climate change is evident. And here again, Albania is demonstrating its global good citizenship; from Paris the Government immediately issued a supportive statement, noting its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 11.5% by the year 2030.

There are several measures that the UN is working on, together with the Government of Albania, to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, and we look forward to assisting further the implementation of Albania’s national climate change plan, submitted in the run up to Paris.

Partnerships are the way of the future, and leadership makes the difference. I want to use this opportunity to pay tribute to our main partner- the Government of Albania for the leadership, vision and drive to action and for the trust they have extended to the United Nations in Albania.

Our partnership goes beyond our excellent working relations with the central and local government. We very much value the partnership with non-governmental organizations, scholars, private sectors and citizens.

This Jubilee finds Albania an EU candidate country - another step forward towards the achievement of the European aspirations of Albanians. The progress over the past years has been remarkable, with ambitious and comprehensive reforms. However, challenges remain and the ambitious plans – just like the Sustainable Development Goals themselves – require implementation to be meaningful. The United Nations Country team stands ready to assist Albania in its journey towards European Integration.

Today, when we celebrate 60 years of Albanian membership of the UN, we renew our commitment to what the United Nations stands for—a global partnership for freedom and development, equality and human rights, peace and security.

These were the remarks of Brian Williams, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, at an event to mark Albania’s 60 years of UN membership on Dec. 14 at the Albanian  Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The headline has been chose  by Tirana Times.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 16, 2015 12:30