Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator on UN DAY 2008

24 Oct 2008

Statement by Robert Piper
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal
UN Day ceremony in Kathmandu, 24 October 2008

Thank you Foreign Minister and distinguished guests for honouring us with your presence. On behalf of the UN County Team, welcome to UN House, and welcome to UN Day.

The UN Country Team in Nepal continues to grow, as Nepal’s expectations of us grow. 24 agencies in all today. New comers in 2008 include the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (RCPD) for Asia and the Pacific. The Secretary General’s vision of ‘One UN’ is one of a coherent UN system, which despite its different governance arrangements, operates as a unified team. We work hard to ensure we are
indeed doing just that. Each of us have our own particular area of expertise, be it in food, in health, in children, in agriculture, in governance, in labour, in gender, in migration, in education, in refugees, in HIV/Aids, in urban management or reproductive health, to name a few. In each of
these areas there is a great story to tell about our work in Nepal over the last year. Our added strength is in our ability to bring this array of skills and resources to bear, when the Government is addressing the most complex development challenges. Issues which demand a response on multiple fronts – issues like social inclusion, human security, HIV/Aids, livelihoods, gender empowerment, human rights and of course, peacebuilding.

With peace as the highest priority at this time, we know it is especially important that all the UN’s best assets are brought to bear – coherently – to support Nepal’s quest for lasting peace. Peace and development are two sides of the same coin. And theory starts becoming practice by working very closely with the UN’s special political mission, UNMIN. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the leadership of our SRSG, Ian Martin. And through him to all of our UNMIN colleagues past and present.

UN Day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the hard work of our 2,500 staff and their achievements in the year since our last UN day. Many of our teams are working in difficult conditions. Advising. Distributing. Assessing. Monitoring. Designing. Managing. Drilling. Demining. In communities. In cantonments. In camps. And of course in government structures from the centre to some of the most remote VDCs.

These 2,500 staff are supported by a further 2,500 husbands and wives and children. Let us recognize today, their essential role in the UN’s work as well.

2008 has been a particularly challenging year for our humanitarian workers. Food and fuel price increases have pushed millions more Nepali families into poverty and food insecurity. Floods have displaced more than 250,000 people. We have responded with food, shelter, water, health care and solidarity. We suffered our own human catastrophe, as a family, with the loss of 10 lives in March.

UN Day is an opportunity to acknowledge our implementing partners. They are far too many to name. They are local and international NGOs, foundations, think tanks, small and big businesses. You too are an intrinsic part of our success.

UN Day is also an opportunity to acknowledge the people who finance the UN’s work in Nepal. Some $180 million a year, excluding our Bretton Woods ‘sisters’. UN Member States, many of whom are represented here today. The growing number of private foundations and even individuals who finance our work. The UN’s development and humanitarian work is entirely financed by voluntary contributions - we work hard to meet your expectations also and thank you for your ongoing commitment to multilateralism.

And last but not certainly not least, UN Day is above all an opportunity for the UN team to publicly recommit ourselves to the task ahead. To the people, to the communities and to the Government of Nepal. Nepal has set itself an ambitious political, economic and social agenda for 2009. Her expectations of the UN are high. And rightly-so. In the period between now and when next we meet, we hope a new Constitution will have started to take shape. That the Government’s
ambitious budget will be well on the way to deliver on its multiple social and economic goals.That school children will have caught up on missed days of learning in the uncertain year that has passed. That minors will be out of uniforms and starting a new life. That the work of national transformation captured in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will be well underway. That we will be closer to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. And that peace will have been protected and sustained, at all cost.

Nepal’s external environment is a concern of course. Food and fuel prices have been an unwelcome surprise over the last 12 months, particularly for the poorest families who spend 85% of their income on putting food on their tables. The global financial crisis will eventually take its toll here too. Hopefully not on aid, but it may be felt on remittances and on demand for Nepal’s exports to the region and beyond.

Let me close by acknowledging the leaders and the Government of Nepal. Your leadership of the peace process is an inspiration to many. Your civil servants are our daily partners. The UN is committed to walking alongside Nepal at every step on this journey.
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