Motto: “The United Nations was created not to lead mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell“. Dag Hammarskjold, UN Secretary General (1953-1961)
On December 8th, an exhibition of the Romanian Foundation Inter-Art, with the title “Towards Progress in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Climate Change Issues”, has been opened at the UN Headquarters. Even for a city like New York, so rich in art and culture, having an exhibition with works of 52 artists, from 33 countries, from all continents, under the same roof, is not quite common. It is a reminder of the wonderful things we can achieve by working together for humanity, as well as an artistic tribute we pay to the UN 70th celebration and to Romania’s 60th anniversary as a member of this unique organization which is placed at the heart of the multilateral system.
For Romanians, December has a special significance. It is a time of joy, because of the Christmas and the New Year. It is a time of triumph, because on 1st December 1918 the modern Romanian State has reached its natural borders, fulfilling the multi-secular dream of bringing together all historical provinces inhabited by Romanians. It was a turning point in our history, because on December 22nd, 1989 a general uprising broke down 42 years of Communist regime and Romania returned to democracy. And it is a time of celebration, because on December 14th, 1955 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 995 (X) by which Romania and 15 other states were admitted to the United Nations.
Romania’s desire to join the UN was unequivocally expressed in 1946 by Foreign Minister Gheorghe Tatarescu, at the Peace Conference in Paris: “Romania understands to express, without delay, its full adhesion to the principles of the UN Charter, principles which my country has already put into practice”. Similar official requests followed in 1947, 1948 and 1954, but due to the Cold War an agreement within the Security Council was not possible until 1955.
By that time, we already had a strong tradition in multilateral diplomacy, with high professional standards set up by Nicolae Titulescu, Romania’s 49th Foreign Minister, who was twice elected President of the League of Nations (1930 and 1931) and served for ten years as ambassador to the United Kingdom. His legacy has been inspirational for many generations of Romanian diplomats at the UN (I have the privilege to be the 16th Romanian ambassador to New York).
In 1967, Corneliu Manescu, our 67th Foreign Minister, repeated Titulescu’s success and was elected President of the UN General Assembly. Corneliu Manescu has been also the first representative from an Eastern European country to hold such a high dignity (the waiting list for this job is now until 2067). Since that time of extensive diplomatic efforts, the famous Delegates’ Lounge at the UN Headquarters in New York is adorned by the impressive tapestry “Ode to the Man” by the Romanian artist Ioan Nicodim, a present offered to the UN in 1968.
In 1974, the First World Conference on Population took place in Bucharest, with the topic “Population and Development”. Its action plan guided the UN activity for the next ten years.
Romania served four times as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, seven times in the ECOSOC and two times in the Human Rights Council. In 2005, the Security Council unanimously adopted the very first resolution on the cooperation between the UN and regional organizations in ensuring international peace and security, a proposal put forward by the Romanian diplomacy.
Romania fully trusted and supported the UN, and the UN supported Romania in its transition to democracy. After almost two decades as a recipient, my country had become a provider of official development assistance (ODA), and in the last 25 years we had a significant presence in UN peacekeeping operations. In 1996, Romania was in top 10 contributors with more than 9,000 blue helmets, while currently our troops are in 10 out of 17 peacekeeping missions under UN flag.
As the international community faces today an extraordinary array of global challenges, if there were a time for effective multilateral cooperation in pursuit of a shared future of peace and prosperity, it is now. From this perspective, 2015 was a kind of “once-in-a-generation” year for the UN, with four major summits: in March, the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (Sendai, Japan); in July, the Third UN Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia); in September, the adoption of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, which brings a new vision on ending poverty and leaving no one behind; and this December, the Climate Change Summit in Paris – as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time.”
Because problems are global, we have no choice but to think and act global. As a country with a proud history of building bridges and trust within the international arena by promoting cooperation between developed and developing states, Romania is well placed to contribute to addressing these challenges. It was precisely the spirit of the art exhibition we have organized on December 8th, at the UN Headquarters.