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Commemorating the Sixtieth Anniversary of the United Nations

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I recognize and pay tribute to the United Nations on the occasion of its sixtieth anniversary.

During this week in 1945, fifty countries came together to found the United Nations, a body created to advance two momentous goals: a world free from war, and one in which the basic rights of citizens are respected in all countries. Over the last 6 decades, with the help of the UN, we have at least avoided the scourge of another world war. And we have seen the advancement of democracy and human rights around the world, as well as the provision of shelter, basic education, and critical healthcare to millions that would otherwise have gone without.

Today, while the broad goals of the UN remain the same, global threats and challenges are drastically different. Internal conflict, terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, religious hatreds, natural disasters, and disease pose great hardships and risks to all people, regardless of country of origin, and require, more than ever, coordinated international responses. By harnessing the resources and collective expertise of its 191 member states, the United Nations has the ability to address these concerns in ways that no single nation can on its own.

We in the United States owe the UN our profound gratitude for the assistance that has been provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina on our gulf coast. Within days of the disaster, the United Nations launched a campaign to coordinate relief assistance with federal efforts. UN agencies have distributed life-saving supplies, are supporting the surveillance work of the Centers for Disease Control, and are assisting in evacuee registration and tracking of missing children.

Day in and day out, we see evidence of the critical work that the United Nations undertakes around the world. The organization continues to lead humanitarian relief efforts in the wake of last year's tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia and has launched an emergency response to the devastating earthquake in Pakistan. Through UNAIDS, the organization coordinates a comprehensive global response to the fight against HIV/AIDS, working to halt and reverse the epidemic by 2015. The UN women's fund, UNIFEM, supports women's empowerment and gender equality, in particular through supporting local initiatives to end violence against women. The UN Development Program is supporting democratic governance projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Haiti and over 150 countries worldwide. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have uncovered violations by Iran and North Korea, and the agency's safeguards have assured the world that other countries are not diverting nuclear material from their peaceful nuclear power programs.

Finally, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, extends protection and life saving assistance to some 19 million refugees and other vulnerable persons. In May 2005, I had the opportunity to visit the Oure Cassoni refugee camp along the Chad-Sudan border, and was incredibly impressed with UNHCR's work in providing direly needed food, shelter, and education services for nearly 25,000 refugees. The agency's aid staff is working tirelessly to serve this large population, and I witnessed extraordinary dedication and professionalism.

For 60 years, the United Nations has been on the front lines leading humanitarian stabilization efforts under conditions and in situations that are the worst of the worst. Now the organization is focused on another critical task: reforming itself. Many, including Secretary General Annan, have recognized that the UN must change the way it does business if it is to maintain the support of its members and effectively address the challenges that the global community will face in the future.

This reordering and restructuring is needed, significant, and moving forward. To highlight a few items, as a result of the support demonstrated at the UN Summit last month, member states are working to create a Human Rights Council to replace the defunct Human Rights Commission, in order to more effectively advance the rights and freedoms that continue to be denied to far too many. The establishment of a Peace Building Commission will make the UN, and the world, better equipped to prevent post-conflict countries from relapsing into violence, reducing the conditions that breed terrorism. And the dozens of personnel, management and budget reforms that have been proposed and endorsed by member states will make the organization more efficient in the important work it does.

Now, as the United Nations moves into the next chapter of its history, it is imperative that this momentum for change continues. Implementing these reforms is the responsibility of the member states. The United States can playa critical leadership role in securing their support, and their action. The future effectiveness of the United Nations lies in the balance, and I have every expectation that the member states can and will deliver. I encourage the Members of this chamber to fully support the efforts that are underway at the United Nations.

Article One of the United Nations Charter states that the purposes of the organization are to maintain international peace and security; address international social, economic and cultural problems; and to promote fundamental human rights and freedoms. Today, although tremendous progress has been made, we still need the UN to advance these goals. Therefore, I congratulate and thank the United Nations, its current personnel and staff, as well as those who have served in the past, for all that it has done to advance peace, security and freedom around the world, and for all that it must do in the years ahead to realize the vision of its founders.

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