Speech

Statement by Judith Karl on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Signing of the UN Charter

  • June 26, 2020

  • New York, United States

The Charter’s quest to build a better society also included the imperative to help the poorest nations recover from the lingering effects of war and colonialism. In 1966, the UN General Assembly created the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to “assist developing countries in the development of their economies by supplementing existing sources of capital assistance by means of grants and loans.”

In the summer of 1945, 850 delegates from 50 nations still reeling from World War II gathered in San Francisco, representing over 80 percent of the world’s population and seeking to establish an organization to preserve peace and build a better world. Two months and over 400 meetings later, this group of negotiators unanimously agreed to the UN Charter, which was signed on June 26, 1945.

The UN founders recognized that rebuilding a more peaceful world and restoring international order required putting humanity and people at the center. The Charter thus begins with the famous line “We The Peoples of the United Nations Determined”.

It goes on to emphasize that ensuring peace and security must be grounded in core principles of human rights and equal rights for all people, the practice of tolerance, self-determination and securing social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom for all.

At the heart of the charter is of course also the recognized need for international cooperation to solve international problems of an economic, social or humanitarian nature.

75 years later, the UN Charter has stood the test of time. Today’s global challenges are different than in 1945 but the Charter’s guiding principles and call for international cooperation are still as important and relevant in tackling them.

As we speak, the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the globe and unprecedented multilateral cooperation is needed to stop its spread and limit the devastating socio-economic impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable. Similarly, climate change is a global existential threat that disproportionately affects poor people and which can only be fought through coordinated global cooperation and action.

The United Nations provides the main global forum to bring countries together to address these and many other current global challenges.

A recent high point in the history of the UN was the dual adoption in 2015 of the Paris climate agreement and the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda brought together 193 countries to agree on the vision and concrete goals for “the future we want”. It is a testament to the relevance of the Charter as it is explicitly guided by its purposes and principles.

The Charter’s quest to build a better society also included the imperative to help the poorest nations recover from the lingering effects of war and colonialism. In 1966, the UN General Assembly created the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to “assist developing countries in the development of their economies by supplementing existing sources of capital assistance by means of grants and loans.” UNCDF was given a unique and specific purpose in the wider international development finance architecture: to use capital instruments and specialized technical assistance to make public and private finance work for the poor, notably in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs).

While the Charter provides the overall guiding principles and vision for the role of the United Nations, we continuously look for new tools, approaches and ways in which we can deliver on its aspirations.

Over the 54 years of its existence, UNCDF has evolved and refined its tools and instruments to make sure we truly reach and serve the “last mile” in LDCs: where available resources for development are scarcest; where market failures are most pronounced; and where people are left excluded from the benefits of national growth.

Today, UNCDF is a centre of excellence for local government finance solutions to help give people access to basic services, climate resilient infrastructure and economic opportunity. Our work in promoting inclusive digital finance and digital economies helps equip millions of people in LDCs to access innovative digital services in their daily lives, contributing to inclusive economic development and SDG achievement. Through our work in investment finance, we provide catalytic capital to small enterprises and projects that enable additional mobilization of finance to drive SDG impact.

Looking to the future, the UN will continue to evolve to meet emerging global challenges of the 21st century, with a reformed and strengthened UN development system and with more effective engagement with private sector and other non-governmental actors.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, UNCDF continues to be guided by its founding ideas as we innovate and expand our support to people in LDCs and ensure that the values of inclusivity, non-violent cooperation, and respect for the human rights of all are protected and upheld.