ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

Meeting of European United Nations Associations

2 June 2014
Meeting of European United Nations Associations

Opening Remarks for Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Meeting of European United Nations Associations

Palais des Nations, Room IX
Monday, 2 June 2014 from 09:45 to 10:15 a.m.


Secretary-General Golmohammadi
Dear Friends:

A warm welcome to the Palais des Nations and to our International Geneva. It really is a great pleasure to be with you.

WFUNA and all national United Nations Associations are key strategic partners for the United Nations. We appreciate what you are doing on a daily basis to mobilize support for the work of the Organization. So, I want to start with a big thank you –thank you for your work, for your commitment and for your belief in the value and relevance of the United Nations. And also a warm thank you to your Secretary-General for his dynamic leadership and to the WFUNA colleagues here in Geneva. It is truly a pleasure to be working with all of you.

I want to focus my remarks this morning on how we can operationalize our partnership to a greater extent, and how we can help you become stronger multipliers for the work of the United Nations family and our many partners here in Geneva.

When we think of international Geneva, the first thing that should come to mind is the direct impact of the work. Not a single day goes by without the lives of people across the world being touched by the collective efforts undertaken here to promote peace, rights and well-being.

This impact is based on three unique characteristics that we may not always be fully aware of:
    1. First: Range. The range of impact is staggering: from ideas that shape policies, to standards that increase safety in our daily lives, from mobilizing resources to achieve development goals, to humanitarian action and emergency relief. And from global forums and peace talks to innovation labs looking at the challenges of the future.

    2. Second: Synergies: We have this greater impact because International Geneva is more than the sum of its parts. This translates into more effective delivery on the ground. The health sector is a very clear example. The work of the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, Gavi and the Global Fund- to name a few- would not be as effective if they did not benefit from the synergies of being close to one another.

    3. Third: Expertise: The richness of this global hub is not only because of the mix and extent of organizations based here, it is also because of the collective expertise of the people. The diversity and critical mass of intellectual resources and expertise we have here makes this city one of the best equipped to craft the solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

With the impact we have every day, it is imperative that we share these stories. This is why I have launched the International Geneva Perception Change Project.

As part of this project, I am now working with all my colleagues throughout the United Nations system in Geneva and partner organizations to change the perception of International Geneva. We want the world to know how we make a contribution, every day, everywhere.

As we are rolling out the project, we will be targeting an initial 21 countries with a media effort to raise awareness of the work of the United Nations in Geneva. These include the 16 largest donors to the United Nations budget and a number of other countries to ensure geographical balance for this initial phase. We will expand as the project evolves.

Many of the countries that you work in are on this list, and we would like all UN Associations to be involved in the project. In many ways, United Nations Associations are already doing – have for decades been doing – this work across the globe. You are already experts in changing perceptions about the Organization, and I believe that you can add real value to this initiative. This support can take many forms, from articles and op-eds in newspapers to contributions to events, to more strategic mobilization of support with Governments and parliaments. Because you know your constituencies, and you know what is important to them.

With me today is Carolina Rodriguez who is the Head of the Perception Change Project. I encourage you all to be in touch with her, either during your stay here or afterwards, for more detailed discussions on how we can work together on this project.

It is important to understand the true value of the partnerships, the technical expertise and connections across institutions and themes in International Geneva that have been built up over years. The objective is not to put the spotlight on any one organization or individual but to ensure that the value of our collective effort is fully recognized by everyone – and I can say that we are already seeing some results.

But if we fail, we risk losing the unique synergy. There are plenty of examples of cities that lost their value-added because it was not acknowledged and therefore not protected. It is like an ecosystem that works perfectly when all elements are balanced; but if the balance is upset, the ecosystem is destroyed – often beyond repair. If this were to happen with International Geneva, it would not only have detrimental effects for the United Nations and its partners but mostly for all of those who are assisted and supported through the work here.

The international community in Geneva is – in my view – at the forefront of the evolving global governance that we need to address the challenges before us. In this global governance, we see a recalibration of the role and reach of the State and an increased focus on inclusion of non-State actors – both NGOs and the private sector. It is a governance model of networking and partnerships. All of this is already taking place here – and it is paying off for people across the world.

As the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda are now gathering pace, it is also becoming increasingly clear that International Geneva will have an absolutely vital role when it comes to implementation. It is here that Member States and other actors will look for advice, guidance and technical expertise to turn the overarching goals into practical policies and plans that will lead to tangible results for their people. This is where it all becomes real. Also in this context, the importance and relevance of International Geneva will continue to grow even further.

We want to work much more closely with you to preserve International Geneva as this global hub, to make it better known and to make it even more efficient in support of the United Nations’ global mandate.

We hope we can rely on you all in this effort.

I very much welcome your ideas and suggestions on how we can take this perception change forward together.