Tehran, Oct 25, IRNA – Prior to the upcoming visit of the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson, to Iran during 28-30 October for high-level negotiations, IRNA spoke with UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran, Gary Lewis, on the UN’s role on the ground both in Iran and globally.
“Iran joined the UN in 1945, when we were created. It is a distinguished and long-standing UN member state. We opened our first office in Iran in 1948. Currently, we have 18 UN agencies working on the ground in Iran to improve education, health, poverty, disaster preparedness, respond to environmental challenges, care for refugees and heal the scars left by drug trafficking and abuse.”
While understanding that the UN has seemingly become largely synonymous, in the minds of many Iranians, with resolutions adopted by the Security Council imposing sanctions which have caused sufferings in Iran – and which may have also adversely affected UN operations on the ground – Lewis said that he is very satisfied with the level of cooperation extended by the government.
“There is often a misplaced perception of the UN in the minds of some Iranian citizens,” he added. “But a close operational UN partnership with the government – which produces real development and humanitarian results on the ground – can help to diminish this perception.”
The negative effects of the sanctions on UN work have largely related to access to finance, procurement of goods and services essential for project implementation and some technical services, he explained.
But according to the UNDP Representative, “Their impact on UN operations has obliged us to work harder and put in much more time needed to secure special permissions required – time that could have been spent on supporting implementation – for example.
According to Lewis, who has been working in Iran for the past 18 months, the work of the UN – as agreed with the government – focuses on the fields of public health, environment, natural disaster risk reduction, inclusive growth, refugees, and drug reduction and control.
“The way we work is to deliver UN expertise and ensure that it complements the existing government development and humanitarian infrastructure. For example, this is how our partnership works best in combating HIV, TB, and malaria, the adverse impact of climate change, countering organized crime, better water and land management, coordinating the response to natural disasters and care for refugees.”
On the necessity of reforms in the United Nations, the UN envoy said that throughout his 27 years of experience with the organization, this has always been an issue, which is constantly being discussed, both within and outside the body.
“But our real challenge,” he added, “is the need to increasingly turn our attention to how the UN can prove more effective in responding to the real mega-threats of the new millennium. At a time, when the world’s mega-challenges present ‘problems without passports’, UN member states need to see that these challenges can only be fixed by a vision that is willing to respond to these challenges at the regional and global levels. We need to go beyond narrowly-defined national boundaries and priorities.”
He identified these threats – at the global level – as climate change impact, pandemics (like the Ebola which we now see erupting in west Africa), food insecurity, conflict over resources like water, transnational organized crime and terrorism. “These,” he said, “are the real human security challenges of the future.”
In Iran, he noted, these were some of the challenges to which the 400 UN personnel – 90 per cent of them being national staff serving their own country through the United Nations – were dedicated.
To a query on what being a UN representative means to him, Lewis commented with a positive personal note. He said that he had dreamed about working with the UN ever since he was 15 years old. Now, having served the organization for almost three decades in numerous countries, Lewis observed that, working in the UN was for him a dream job whereby he could try to make a positive difference in the lives of other less fortunate people.
Lewis said that the UN was, for him, “more an idea than just another international organization. It is an idea containing values such as peace, human rights, justice and development – our foundation values. You will find them in the Preamble to the UN Charter.”
“I hope there will be even greater appreciation of the UN’s role and its work in the eyes of the Iranian people,” he observed, “and that we are striving to make this world a safer one for everyone to live in.”
Regarding the initiative of President Hassan Rouhani on establishing a World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE), the UN Resident Coordinator said the proposal was in conformity with the peace promotion clause stipulated in the UN Charter’s Preamble.
He said he hoped that this important initiative would receive greater international visibility in the coming months and years.
Welcoming President Rouhani’s WAVE proposal, the UN Resident Coordinator said, “It is not as difficult a task as many people think to promote a culture of peace. And it starts at the kitchen table when we teach our children mutual respect, tolerance, listening and understanding of each other.”
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