United Nations Day – an occasion to celebrate what the UN stands for: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. The UN has evolved over the years to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. But one thing has stayed the same: it remains the one place on Earth where all the world’s nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity.
For the second year in a row, we commemorate the anniversary of the UN in the middle of the global pandemic. Covid-19 has taken more than four million lives. Poverty, hunger and gender inequality are rising again, after decades of decline. Learning loss and mental health issues have affected millions. Climate emergency poses extreme risks to human life and to our planet. But times of crisis can also bring out the best – and show what is possible when we work together.
In Cambodia, the UN mobilised to support the government and partners with clear and common priorities: save lives and stop transmission; mitigate socio-economic impact; and recover better with human rights at the core of pandemic response.
Last year for the UN’s birthday, we asked you – Cambodian leaders, civil society, children and youth, about the future you want. More than two thousand participated in the survey. We also listened and talked to hundreds of Cambodians in community conversations. Building on a year-long global listening exercise, consulting with more than 1.5 million people in 193 countries, the result is a plan to respond to current and future challenges – Our Common Agenda.
Humanity’s welfare – and indeed, humanity’s very future – depend on solidarity and working together as a global family to achieve common goals. For people, for the planet, for prosperity and for peace. That is why Our Common Agenda is, above all, a plan of action, to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals and leaving no one behind.
Now is the time to renew the social contract, to rebuild trust and embrace a comprehensive vision of human rights. This must include the active and equal participation of women and girls, without whom no meaningful social contract is possible.
The UN in Cambodia is helping the National Social Protection Council to ensure the most vulnerable workers and their families are included into the wider social protection system. We are also supporting efforts to expand social assistance to poor and vulnerable children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The formulation and implementation of the new “emergency social assistance programme” has enabled people like Yom Malai, a 42-year-old single mother of four children living in the Battambang province of Cambodia, to support herself and her family through the IDPoor cash transfer scheme.
Now is the time to focus on the future, through a deepening of solidarity with the world’s young people and future generations. Children and young people need a vision of hope for the future. They need to be engaged in shaping the future they want, including through better political representation and by transforming education, skills training and lifelong learning.
Maintaining inclusive and high-quality education services to Cambodia’s children throughout the pandemic has been a priority for the UN. Moreover, we have supported young people like Phean Salin, from Siem Reap Province, to play active roles in local government. As Salin explained, “As future leaders, young people should be more involved in local development for the benefit of everyone.”
Now is the time for urgent action to protect and deliver global commons. Commit to the 1.5-degree Celsius goal and net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. The right to a healthy environment. For example, through transforming food systems.
Ahead of the first ever UN Food Systems Summit that convened world leaders in New York, the UN supported local Food System Dialogues in Cambodia. The dialogues paved the way for Cambodia’s Roadmap for Food Systems for Sustainable Development. The Roadmap “draws out the importance addressing human rights and the needs of vulnerable groups, including empowering women and young people in developing the food systems of the future”.
To achieve Our Common Agenda, we need a multilateralism that is more networked, inclusive and effective. No community or country can solve its challenges alone. I appreciate the government’s commitment to an action-oriented multilateralism as the chair of ASEAN in 2022.
Together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. The UN family in Cambodia will continue to work hand in hand with the Cambodian people to fulfill their aspirations, for the common future of present and next generations. For a healthier, greener and more peaceful future, fulfilling human rights for all.
Pauline Tamesis is the Resident Coordinator of the UN in Cambodia. This op-ed is based on the summary of the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda. For more information about the UN in Cambodia, see cambodia.un.org/en