"UN must respond to changes from Arab uprisings "
The dramatic changes taking place in the Arab world make it imperative for the United Nations to strengthen its impact on the ground, and in people's lives, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Monday in Beirut.
"It is almost two years to the day that dramatic political change was unleashed in this region, starting in Tunisia and later encompassing Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria," Mr. Eliasson said in his statement to the 17th meeting of the UN Regional Coordination Mechanism for the Arab States, held in the Lebanese capital.
"Countries across the Arab world and beyond have been affected, inspired and altered by the events taking place," he added. "There has been tremendous suffering as well - and in some cases profound uncertainty and fear about what lies ahead."
The Regional Coordination Mechanism meetings, held in various regions, focus on enhancing collaboration among UN system organizations so that they can be more effective and efficient in delivering results for UN Member States.
In his speech, the Deputy Secretary-General said that the unfolding events across the Arab world have many lessons for the UN's work. "The Arab uprisings have forced clarity and urgency on many key aspects of development. Our challenge now is to respond effectively to these imperatives," he said
Also, he noted, as the Arab world shapes a new political landscape for the region, now is the time to set a new course of development.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June, reaffirmed the need for inclusive and sustainable development, he said. Member States agreed to establish a set of so-called Sustainable Development Goals, with time-bound targets to end poverty and hunger while preserving the environment.
In addition, September's high-level General Assembly meeting on the rule of law adopted a declaration that provides a strong tool for building key foundations of development, which can be done through honest institutions, effective public services, independent judiciaries and trustworthy security sectors.
"The Regional Coordination Mechanism has a role to play in taking these outcomes and understandings forward," said Mr. Eliasson. "You can support global, regional and national strategies to establish or reinforce the building blocks of sustainable development, such as energy, water, transport, food and nutrition.
"You can direct our focus on the Millennium Development Goals, which we must do as the 2015 deadline approaches," he said, referring to the anti-poverty targets agreed on world leaders. He also stressed the need to start discussing an Arab and regional perspective on the post-2015 development agenda, and to ensure that Arab voices are clearly heard and that the region's priorities are considered.
Mr. Eliasson also stressed the need for the UN to strengthen its impact on the ground, in people's lives.
"The political changes in the Arab world have shown how closely inter-related this region is - politically, culturally, socially and economically. No Arab country stands unaffected by the winds of changes in the region. No approaches or strategies can be put forward today without taking into account regional players and regional realities.
"It is therefore essential for United Nations entities and regional institutions to come together at meetings like this to think and act jointly and regionally," he stated, adding that the Regional Coordination Mechanism is an important vehicle for cooperation and action.
"It can ensure policy coherence and consolidate multiple efforts. It gives us space to think collectively, craft a regional vision and set joint strategic and substantive goals to guide our work on the ground."
On Sunday, Mr. Eliasson visited the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and met with its Force Commander, Major-General Paolo Serra, and the mission's senior leadership.
Headquartered in Naqoura, in the country's south, UNIFIL is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called Blue Line - separating Israel and Lebanon - and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets. It also cooperates with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.
The Deputy Secretary-General emphasized the need for continued coordinated operations with the LAF, and praised the contributions of UN peacekeepers to peace and security in southern Lebanon.
"South Lebanon has witnessed a period of unprecedented calm thanks to the work of the mission, the strong liaison and coordination arrangements, the commitment of the parties as well as the excellent peacekeeping partnership between the LAF and UNIFIL," he said. "All these elements are critical to maintaining stability in the area at a time of heightened tensions in the region."
As part of his visit, Mr. Eliasson will also meet with Lebanese officials in Beirut later this week.