(Following is the transcription by the Global New Light of Myanmar)
My succession with the United Nations is going back to a long way. As a very young university graduate I joined the United Nations in New York serving at ACAPQ :(Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions). At that time, the United Nations was very young. The UN is 26 years old.
We all believe that United Nations has an important role to play in preserving peace to the world. We all believe the meeting of the leaders of the nations each year would ensure that our world lived in stability and peace. The General Assembly was always a time of great excitement and we looked forward to seeing all the great and the good who we assumed were going to do their best to make our future great and good as well.
After many years, the next phase of my relationship with the UN started about 30 years ago, when I was leading the opposition party, the National League for Democracy. It was a different sort of relationship from the past one —. but extremely interesting. It gave me a different view of the United Nations and its role in the workings of the internal affairs of its member countries. I became much more conversant with the United Nations development programme, various programmes of the UN agencies and how they engaged with different sectors of society — governments, the opposition, NGOs, CSOs and so on.
And now this is the third phase of my relationship with the United Nations as a member of the new government. Again this is rather different from the time when I was a leader of the opposition. You see different facets of the United Nations, and this has led me to believe that the organisation still has a very important role to play in the world.
I really appreciate those who arranged the essay competitions for United Nations Day. I read a few of the essays that won prizes. The first thing that struck me is that all the top prizes went to girls. I wondered why is this? Is the UN not reaching out enough to our boys? Or is it just that girls are more academically minded and inclined to go into such competitions? I was a little bit disappointed that all the top prizes had gone to girls. I was a little disappointed that our boys are not as interested in peace as I would like them to be. The title of this year’s essay was Peace and the United Nations. The girls, perhaps it is understandable, see peace in terms of beauty. They wrote about the natural beauty of the world and how it was destroyed by those who do not appreciate it and who put conflict and hatred and hostility above the preservation of the beauty of the world and ensuring that following generations will enjoy peace and stability. But still, I’m happy that the UN is still associated with the preservation of peace, We have tried to make this gathering less formal that previous ones so that we can exchange views on how we think we can go forward together.
An organisation that is made up of over 190 members will obviously find times when can we achieve consensus. But I think we should all learn to disagree in the most civilised and friendly way possible. We cannot agree all the time. I think it would be extremely boring if we agreed all the time. I think we should be able to disagree without becoming enemies. Friends are in a better position to disagree than enemies. A disagreement between enemies can lead to many dangers, but a disagreement between friends is just an opportunity for us to air different views and to work out new solutions that we are all having to face together. Because of this, we would like to promote as much as we can the activities of the UN and its various agencies in our country. We want our people to be aware of what the UN is about. I remember a time when, as a child, I was very proud of the fact that our nation was represented by a delegation that went all the way from Rangoon to New York. We were very proud of the fact that the members of our delegation were able to represent the case of our country to the whole world with great aplomb and efficiency and with the kind of broad-minded intelligence that won everybody’s respect. One of the reasons why the third secretary general of the UN is from our country is because the whole world accepted that Burma was a truly neutral nation and that we produce men of worth and men of standing who were able to address the problems of the whole world in the wisest and most efficient manner. This is a matter of great pride for us. I am aware that the prize winning essay has mentioned this fact more than once. We have this history of playing a very vital part in the work of the UN. We want to continue this forward. I feel that we have come to the point where we should perhaps look anew at what the UN is today and decide for ourselves where we want it to go. That’s what anniversaries are for – to assess the past was well as to contemplate what we think the future should be. And we should do it together. In a way that will better the whole living process for all human beings on this planet. Well I’m rather fond of animals. So I think I’ll bring in all living beings on this planet. If we could all live together in peace and harmony, and if we could all work towards the sustainable development goals that have been laid down by the UN, I have no doubt that our future and the future of coming generations will be truly a golden and happy one. In this room are gathered diplomats and representatives of different countries and organisations. I hope that during your time here in this country you will be able to join with us in our great adventure which is the democratisation of our country. A renewing of the energy of our people.The renewing of hope for our young people. And a gathering of friends to work together towards a happy ending. There is a lot of goodwill for our country today, because people want to see a happy ending We do not want to waste this goodwill. When we think of coordinating donor efforts in order to optimise the results of aid, it’s not in terms of material gain so much as optimising the goodwill that is available to us now. We hope that you will, like good friends, tell us when you think we are going wrong, and help us when you think we need help, and being true friends in the sense that you should be able to discuss with us your concerns and our concerns frankly, freely and with the united goal of improving the situation in this country. When I was in Norway a few years ago, what struck me most about the people there was how often they talked about the fact that they were once a poor country. They were very proud of this. So many people said to me Norway used to be a poor country, we got to where we got to through our efforts and through our intelligent handling of the challenges that we needed to face. This is what they said to me again and again. And I thought this was very good. We must face the future in the same way. Our country at the moment is poor, but we should not be ashamed of it. We should look forward to the day when our people can say we used to be a poor country, now look where we are, through our efforts and with the help and support of our friends, this is what we have made of our nation.
I hope today, at this mini-gathering of nations, you will all join with me in realising our hopes. Not just for our country, but for the whole world.