Respected Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, Minister for School Education, Higher Education, Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism, Government of Punjab;
Mr. Quddus Mirza, Head of the Fine Arts department at the National College of Arts;
Ms. Sumaira Malik, Director of the Lahore City Heritage Museum
Welcome to “Pakistan and the United Nations: Human stories through photography”. The exhibit represents the work of all of the UN agencies working together as One UN, in cooperation with the Government of Pakistan to improve the lives of all Pakistanis. First opened in Islamabad in October 2014, the exhibition will tour the country this year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.
I’d like to start with a little bit of history. A section of the exhibit is called “We the Peoples”. Let me put that into context. The preamble to the UN Charter begins with the statement “We the Peoples, to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”
Seventy years ago, in the aftermath of two World Wars and their attendant devastation and suffering, the world came together to create the United Nations, an institution dedicated to building a world where all could “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”. Currently made up of 193 Member States, the United Nations continues to be guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter, and to provide a forum for its members to take part in dialogue to solve problems together.
The UN is uniquely placed to take action on the issues confronting humanity throughout the world in the 21st century, such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more.
Taking on some of those issues here in Pakistan presents challenges, but it also creates opportunities. For example, the political devolution called for by the 18th Amendment has moved our work closer to the grassroots as we work with provincial and regional governments, but access to remote areas is limited and difficult. Another example is that Pakistan is among the countries most exposed to recurring natural disasters and the effects of climate change, but some areas are becoming showcases for coordinated humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction techniques. Let’s also not forge that Pakistan has an average of more than 8,400 uniformed personnel serving with UN peacekeeping forces each month.
The UN in Pakistan operates under the One UN Programme 2013-2017, which provides a common platform for the development and humanitarian work of the 22 programmes, agencies and specialized funds of the UN working in Pakistan. In delivering results as One UN, each element of the Programme takes a human rights based approach, and encompasses gender equality, environmental sustainability and capacity development.
The One UN Programme also means that the UN speaks with one voice. The UN Communications Group is made up of the communications staff of the UN agencies in Pakistan. This exhibit is their creation and a wonderful example of the UN working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
In everything we do, we work with the Government to expand peoples’ options and opportunities and empower them with the ability to make their own choices. The real purpose of development and humanitarian aid is not reflected in new roads and buildings, in Government expenditures and programmes, but in improvements in the lives of people – in the laughter of a child attending school for the first time, in a mother’s confidence that she will be able to give birth safely, in a farmer’s knowledge that he will be able to provide for his family, and in a refugee’s realisation that he has reached safety.
These are the images we have tried to capture in this exhibit, and we hope it will give you a clearer picture of what the UN does in Pakistan, and around the world.
Once again, welcome to this historic exhibition.
Thank you. Shukria.