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25 Oct, 2014

UNWTO flags economic inequality, geopolitical tensions, conflicts as top global challenges

Madrid – Every 24 October, UN Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the United Nations United Nations while recalling the immense challenges that remain pending on the international agenda. UNWTO, the only United Nations agency with its permanent headquarters in Spain, celebrated the occasion together with the 13 other UN entities in the country in an event hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, José Manuel García-Margallo.

24 October marks the anniversary of the entry into force of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945.

In his official message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined: “The United Nations is needed more than ever at this time of multiple crises. (…) At this critical moment, let us reaffirm our commitment to empowering the marginalized and vulnerable. On United Nations Day, I call on Governments and individuals to work in common cause for the common good.”

On behalf of the UN in Spain, the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, congratulated Spain for having been elected for a fifth time to serve as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and recalled that UN Day, aside from being a celebration, is “also a solemn reminder of the many challenges our world continues to face”.

He added: “Uneven economic growth and geopolitical tensions continue to jeopardise the wellbeing of millions. Escalating conflicts have taken over 50 million people away from their homes – the highest number since World War II, half of whom are children. Mass unemployment persists, aggravating poverty and inequality. The current Ebola crisis in Africa reminds us of the fragility of our world and the imperative need of supporting the most fragile. Hovering over all this is the ruthless scourge of climate change.

“Now more than ever the United Nations needs to take the lead in confronting these global challenges. In today’s interconnected world, every local or regional conflict or crisis is a global concern, a global responsibility and people around the world are increasingly looking up to the UN for leadership, for answers, and for solutions.”

Mr Rifai said that the Millennium Development Goals had achieved many of its targets, including poverty reduction, increased access to clean water, and gender equality in primary education. He added, “As the deadline of the MDGs comes to a close, a new framework of development objectives is slowly taking shape. More than 5 million people in 194 countries shared their voices through the UN ‘My World’ survey, on what should be the priorities of the coming Sustainable Development Goals. These priorities include quality education, better healthcare, inclusive job opportunities and transparent and responsive governance.

“Undoubtedly, the challenges we face today are numerous, but they are not insurmountable if we work together as close allies. The strength and the sustainability of the UN system represent hope for a better world and a better future. Recalling the principles of the UN Charter, we must “unite our strengths…and harmonize the actions of nations in the attainment of common ends.”

Spain committed to the UN

As one of the major donors of the Organization, Spain’s commitment is also embodied in the more than 130,000 Spanish troops who have participated in peacekeeping operations or the recent opening of the United Nations World Food Programme humanitarian depot in the Canary Islands.

Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund was created in 2007 thanks to a substantial contribution by Spain, supporting the fight against extreme poverty and promoting sustainable development worldwide.

In hosting the headquarters of UNWTO, the UN Specialized Agency for tourism, in Madrid, Spain reinforces its leadership in the fields of tourism and highlights the value of the sector as a major contributor to economic and social development and the aims of the UN.

UN entities represented in Spain:

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Support Base in Valencia (UNSB-V); United Nations Millennium Campaign in Spain; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations University Institute; United Nations Support Office for the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Labour Organization (ILO); World Health Organization (WHO) – WHO Office for Health Systems Strengthening;  World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC, LN Spain), United Nations World Food Programme  (WFP).