The UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. Will we emerge stronger and better equipped to work together? Or will distrust and isolation grow further? 2020 must be a year of dialogue, when we come together to discuss our priorities as a human family, and how we can build a better future for all.
In January 2020, we launched a global conversation to celebrate our 75th anniversary. Through surveys and dialogues, people from all walks of life were asked about their hopes and fears for the future, their priorities for international cooperation and for the UN in particular. Over one million have responded. In Cambodia, more than two thousand participated in the survey. We also listened and talked to hundreds of Cambodians in community conversations.
Through these conversations, we have heard loud and clear that people aspire for a better quality of life, particularly for their children and the next generations to come. Everyone we talked to want their rights protected to access quality healthcare, education and better jobs to live in dignity and in harmony with nature and society.
A woman in Kampong Thom best captured this collective sentiment when she said: “Our aspirations for the future are common: No matter where you come from, we all want to leave the world a better place for our children, the next generation. Education, and good jobs are the means and the ends to do so.”
We heard many enthusiastic voices to have their human rights fulfilled and respected. The notion that “fulfilling the people’s needs are just simply fulfilling people’s rights” was shared in the Phnom Penh conversations.
Meanwhile, young people expressed their hopes for transparent governance systems that fulfils people’s needs, provides equitable access to services, and empowers them to make decisions. They also shared their aspirations for gender equality and women’s empowerment. A youth told us: “People everywhere have the right to live free from all forms of violence and feel safe regardless of their ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.”
For the UN in Cambodia, these voices remind us why and how the aspirations for peace, justice, human rights, social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms embodied in the UN Charter 75 years ago still hold true for our time. The voices of today call on us to accelerate actions to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment. This is at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In every crisis lies an opportunity. The Covid-19 pandemic is our generation’s 1945 moment. By asking people about the future they want, we are one step closer to reimagining this post-Covid future together. The SDGs are a roadmap for humanity. They encompass almost every aspect of human and planetary wellbeing and, if met, will provide a stable and prosperous life for every person and ensure the health of the planet.
The pandemic also shows us the wisdom of what is already inherent in the SDGs; the challenges we face cannot be dealt with in isolation. Good health, no poverty, decent work, quality education, strong and accountable institutions and a shared responsibility to protect and promote human rights are the foundations for building back an inclusive, sustainable and equitable future.
No one can achieve this vision alone. With the Cambodian government and partners, the UN family in Cambodia will continue to work hand in hand with the Cambodian people to fulfil their aspirations. On our 75th anniversary, we reaffirm our commitment to “we the peoples”.
Together, we are stronger. Together, we can realise the future we want.
Pauline Tamesis is the UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia. For more information about the 75th anniversary of the UN, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/un75