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Sustainable Development Goals and Common Values – a Vital Framework for Humanitarian Action

Your Excellences, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege to be here to contribute to the Ireland at Fordham Humanitarian Lecture Series on the theme “Sustainable Development Goals and Common Values – a Vital Framework for Humanitarian Action.”

There are a number of themes that I would like to develop. These include the importance of collaboration, partnership, innovation, and diversity. I will position these themes in the context of multilateralism, building to my key point which centres on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals and Common Values in providing a Framework for Humanitarian Action.

The Irish Defence Forces are a key component of the security architecture of the Irish Stage, and when all is said and done, they are part of the bedrock that underpins our State’s sovereignty, part of the framework that provides for the institutions of our civilised society.  For me, a civilised society is built on values, providing a framework for universal human rights. 

The right to live in a civilised society is a human right of every man, woman, and child.  It is where people are free, where the institutions of state function, and the vulnerable are protected.

I recently read Almost Human by Lee Berger. It traces the discovery of the species Homo Naledi, a previously unknown, now extinct, hominin that existed over a quarter of a million years ago. The hominin species predated Homo Sapiens from which we have all descended. It made me think about the principles and values that evolve with civilisation and how they influence how we know right from wrong. 

More recently, I read The Jungle Grows Back by Robert Kagan, which further added to my thoughts on creating a paradigm, a continuum if you like, between the uncivilised and the institutions of a civilised society – between insecurity and security, between the absence of peace and peace.

As a fundamental principle, I see the role of Ireland’s Defence Forces is to contribute to an effort to move institutions along the continuum from insecurity to security, from an absence of peace to peace. 

Our military is not an end in itself. We are the guarantor of our State’s sovereignty and sovereign rights. Sovereign rights that are not upheld are more imaginary than real. Internationally, I see us as a servant working with others, politicians, diplomats, NGOs, entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors and always within an appropriate institutional framework, often involving the EU, but nearly always underwritten by the UN.

Four hundred years ago the English Poet John Donne in “For whom the Bell Tolls” wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” His words are prophetic when we consider what is happening today.

My sense of his key message is that we are interdependent. Today, in a world of breakneck speed in terms of change and knowledge generation, when we are physically experiencing the effects of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, we have never been more interdependent. We are in the era of the Anthropocene, an era in which human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Earth’s history points to five mass extinction events. When we think of the last two in particular, I think you will agree that the reptiles and dinosaurs were not responsible for their demise, they didn’t know they were about to become extinct and even if they did, they couldn’t do anything about it. Humans are different.  In the context of animals, we have extraordinary intelligence.

Aristotle marked out this difference reflecting that we are rational animals pursuing knowledge for its own sake. We live by art and reasoning he wrote, while Suddendorf suggests humans have radically different possibilities of thinking. So, in my view, if we are to survive as a species, the principle of multilateralism has never been more important. It must become a defining feature for the institutions of a civilised society to flourish – it is essential for human security.

In Europe, notwithstanding the Balkan wars, we have enjoyed an extraordinary period of peace and security. This security has in no small way been the result of the multilateral manner in which the values and principles of the European Union have been institutionalized, building on the philosophy of Robert Schuman. 

But – and this is a point that Kagan makes – the institutions of the EU were facilitated by initiatives such as the Marshall Plan, which at the time provided over $15B to support a program for European Recovery – a recovery that was complimented by US interest in Europe for decades to follow. But this is changing and a new language of unilateralism is emerging.

Ireland is in the top 7% of most peaceful countries, according to the Global Peace Index.  We are so fortunate to have civil society, market, and government institutions that are well grounded. There are many countries, however, where this is not the case and the gap continues to grow between the absence of peace and peace, between insecurity and security, and between uncivilised actions and a civilised society.

For over 60 years Irish soldiers have served in some of the most challenging theatres in the world. Ireland’s approach in providing assistance to victims of armed conflicts and other emergencies is to stress the importance of coherent, complimentary and coordinated actions within a multilateral framework.

We emphasise the importance of systematically integrating protection of civilians and gender based violence initiatives into policy and practice to protect the most vulnerable, especially women and girls. In our assistance programmes we in Ireland also recognise the importance of enhancing resilience by strengthening the capacity of countries, communities, institutions, and individuals to anticipate and adapt to shocks and stresses.

Our women and men, soldiers, sailors, and aircrew have contributed to almost 70,000 individual tours of duty. Our women and men have and continue to give leadership such as that currently by General Maureen O’Brien in Syria and General Michael Beary in Lebanon, previously. We have stood up to violent extremists, we have freed hostages.

It is in these missions we come face to face, however, with the simple reality that freedom is NOT free. While on this point, it is appropriate to remember the eighty-seven members of the Defence Forces who have died in the service of international peace, including our soldiers who remain missing in action in Lebanon and the Congo.

In recent years we have contributed to the rescue of over 23,000 women, men, and children in the Mediterranean with Irish Naval Service ships recovering over 18,000, many of whom were drowning at the time of recovery.  For many of these rescued people, the first semblance of civil society experienced in months, if not years, was that experience on the afterdeck of an Irish soverieng warship under the Irish tricolour, our flag.

But there were many who were not so fortunate. One of our Naval commanders reflected, “…no one was unaffected by what they had to do and what they saw, on the mission...crew members were faced with hundreds of people struggling in front of them [in the water or on sinking vessels] and with having to make a decision rescuing one person, knowing that might mean another might not be pulled to safety.” We have seen hundreds of people die and have recovered many bodies.  

According to the Global Peace Index, over the last ten years there has been a general deterioration of global peace and security and I see further growing challenges.

As I speak to you this evening we have two wars on Europe’s borders. There’s a full scale Hybrid War in Ukraine where over 10,000 people have died. In Syria, where Irish Troops serve with UNDOF, multiple Proxy wars are still being prosecuted.  It has been reported that over 500,000 people have died and over 6 million people have been displaced.

There is evidence, notwithstanding reports to the contrary, that remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria are consolidating while others have relocated elsewhere to countries like Libya.  Some have linked up with disparate Violent Extremist groups, influencing further south across the Sahel. There are indications of ISIS consolidating in an arc from Mauritania to Nigeria encompassing the Boko Haram foothold.  And this should worry us.

The situation in Mali where Ireland contributes to both the UN and EU missions continues to deteriorate. Troops serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Force have been subjected to many attacks and significant loss of life. There have been multiple atrocities involving civilian communities, about which you are familiar. 

Only last Tuesday, three of our soldiers were injured in what appears to be a targeted improvised explosive strike. Thankfully, they are well. I spoke to them last Wednesday; their attitude was stoic, wanting to get back to service doing what they are there for – to facilitate safe and secure environments – just like the almost 600 other Irish soldiers, sailors, and aircrew who serve in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in 13 countries on 14 missions as I speak.

The porous borders of the Sahel are a challenge in particular in places such as the Tri Border area of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. There is a sense that the insecurity is influencing westwards towards the Gulf of Guinea where the illegal trade in weapons and people trafficking is mixed with narcotics trafficking, fuelling criminality in the region, which spills into Europe and beyond. This insecurity also drives irregular migration, and while we must treat symptoms in places like the Mediterranean, the only hope for a cure is to treat the root causes.

There are other forces driving instability in and between states. For example, state-sponsored cyber and espionage are becoming more prevalent, undermining democratic institutions and threatening critical national infrastructure. The rise in the right is driving more nationalistic tendencies, which in many cases is triggered in response to irregular migration, often fuelled by fake news, and sometimes reinforced by toxic social media narratives.

I have already mentioned the loss of biodiversity and the impact of climate breakdown – both of which are being exacerbated by the effects of population increase. 200 years ago there were 1 billion people in the world; the UN estimate our population will pass 10 billion by around 2050. All of this is forcing on and expanding the continuum from where we should be getting more civilised towards greater insecurity and an absence of peace.

There are positives, however, and they are linked to my earlier points relating to human intelligence. Every day we hear about and increasingly experience the positive impacts from the growth in automation, the growth in robotics, and the acceleration in the growth of technology. These are driving the internet of things, enhancing artificial and augmented intelligence, with the explosion of data presenting huge opportunities. Data drives information which fuels and feeds the increase and creation of new knowledge and greater understanding.

What does this mean for humanitarian action?

Three things are clear. Firstly, if we leverage the knowledge available, own, open source or partner, and recognise every moment new technologies and new ways of doing things are being created, we reduce risk.  Secondly, if we recognise the rate of increase in creation of new knowledge means that it has a decreasing half-life and we are adaptive to this reality, we reduce risk. Thirdly, the simple reality is that with such an acceleration in the generation of new technologies and knowledge, it is in our interest to collaborate and partner. That collaboration  should take place in a framework of common values and common goals, such as the sustainable development goals. If we do this, we are to make a greater impact in our humanitarian actions.

But there are a number of other features that should characterise or inform the nature of our collaboration and partnerships. We must innovate and create arrangements to support diversity, including diversity and inclusion. This will help ensure greater impact in humanitarian operations.

Innovation is a systematic change in mind-set that permeates entire organisations. Increasingly, the answers to our challenging problems lie outside our organisation boundaries. It is my view that we must be open to ceding power to gain power. We must tame egos and accept that we are increasingly interdependent. Einstein is credited with saying ego equals 1/knowledge.  Unfortunately, in my experience, there are too many people who know just enough to have an ego. Egos often drive the maintenance of silos that undermine better collaboration, trust, efficiency and effectiveness.

To enhance our capacity for service delivery, including performance in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in the military, we recognise “opportunities come to pass, not to pause.”  We need to enable and empower our personnel to act with greater autonomy. We are driving ‘Mission Command’ that is enabling greater freedom of action for subordinates within a framework of values and in keeping with the commander’s intent.

We are increasing risk tolerance, recognising that while creativity and making mistakes are inseparable twins, mistakes are the portals of discovery. In complex organisations, mistakes are inevitable; what is important is that solid governance for risk mitigation be in place. This requires a culture of learning where lessons are identified leading to that learning, a culture we are endeavouring to make just – a just culture, where there is balanced accountability.

In the context of humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, innovation must also be cross sectoral and the potential dividend for humanitarian action is clear. This requires greater alignment between peacekeeping forces and humanitarian NGOs.

The messages articulated by Ramalingam et al for innovation in international humanitarian action are applicable to every sector contributing to an integrated approach.

Innovation stimulates positive change, providing new ways of delivering assistance to those who need it most. Innovation demands new ways of thinking that challenge the status quo. Instead of being satisfied with incremental improvements in delivery of aid, for example, innovation requires a boldness that continuously asks the question: is there a better way to do this? This may involve a different partnership model, a new process for service delivery, leveraging a new technology, or all three. 

Innovation does not happen by accident, it requires leadership, education, collaboration, and understanding.  It needs to be raised to a strategic priority. It is not necessarily just about inventing something new, but rather it could be about applying something that is proven elsewhere in a new setting.  For example, greater leveraging of the ‘4 Ps’ approach, the product or service, the price, the place, and the promotion; how it is communicated has relevance in the context of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

Innovation is neither fixed nor linear, with the theory and practice of innovation evolving continually. While it can happen by accident, to be sustainable, it requires a deliberate and proactive shift in understanding and culture that leaves us ready to seize those fleeting opportunities.

Open innovation should be supported by effective information sharing, within and between organisations, maintaining networks and ready to codify partnerships with counterparts within and beyond the sector.

States, regional bodies, and indeed the UN itself can encourage sector-wide mechanisms to promote and facilitate innovation for humanitarian action. Safe and appropriate spaces for experimenting and innovating should be stimulated for the humanitarian sector.

Prevention is better than cure and treating symptoms alone will not cure the root cause. A focus on innovations can help to support a shift towards proactive work to prevent disasters – rather than only reacting after the event – and towards increasing local ownership of humanitarian activities, enabling a shift from ‘catastrophe-first’ innovation towards ‘vulnerability-first.’

Complimenting innovation, we need to strive for 1.) diversity in our networks and partnerships and 2.) to enhance diversity internally. Research has linked more diverse leadership with better governance and risk management. It shows a correlation between gender-diverse boards and the increased likelihood of staff adhering to codes of conduct with better communication as well as better financial management.

Humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts are actioned in a comprehensive and integrated manner. In terms of external diversity, we must strive to increase opportunities for external collaboration and partnerships, for instance seeking to mix state with enterprise and with higher education institutions and civil society actors. In my experience, the greater the diversity in terms of our external networks, the greater the potential in terms of potential disruptive innovative outcomes.

The World [Humanitarian] Summit has reaffirmed the value of convening a diversity of stakeholders to develop solutions to shared problems. Only by harnessing the skills and ideas of a diverse range of stakeholders can we respond to the magnitude of the challenges and implement changes on the scale required.

For many years I have been on the forefront advocating for open diverse networks to sense and explore answers to our challenging problems. In some cases, we have created diverse partnerships to seize and exploit these ideas with a view to creating new technologies, with end user solutions to end user identified problems working with academia, enterprise, and others.

It was such a partnership that enabled our Defence Force’s medical teams responding to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone to be equipped with cutting edge technology, such as contactless thermometers, before such technology was available in the market. More recently, we have worked with researchers to develop a cellulose based material for wipes and masks specifically designed to capture microbes such as COVID-19 virus, trapping them inside the material, thereby reducing transmission of the pathogen.

This philosophy is why – in terms of our core profession – we require more holistic perspectives in developing our personnel, not just in traditional military skills, but also as scholars who understand the language of others and diplomats who can build the alliances necessary to underpin the integrated perspectives and partnerships required for humanitarian action working with others. 

I have made the case for diversity in terms of the external partnership and the same goes for an internal organizational perspective. Spanning external and internal diversity is an appreciation of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math, or so called STEM. However, in addition to STEM we must also leverage the arts encompassing social and political sciences. These define how relationships are formed and how alliances are built.

For us in Defence Forces, this has implications for how we develop our personnel.  Whereas previously we trained our personnel for scenarios we can predict, now, in a world of complexity, we also educate our personnel for scenarios that we cannot predict.  No longer is it sufficient to be a competent soldier warrior; there are other perspectives that are also important.  We require a seamless change from being a warrior, to a scholar, understanding the perspective of others as a diplomat.

Facilitating ‘cross cutting’ structures within our Military requires developed diplomatic skills in our personnel to nurture and build collaborative networks. Almost everywhere we operate, we work with partners. Art – encompassing social and political sciences – enhances the knowledge that builds and connects institutions.

In the context of our effectiveness for humanitarian action, we see our drive to enable diversity internally; developing a diversity and inclusion strategy is critical.  Someone once said, diversity is about being invited to the party, inclusion is about being asked to dance. It is built around culture, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and even age. 

Sutton et al point out how high-performing teams have both visible and invisible diversity characteristics. Visible diversity can enable access to knowledge and networks specific to a particular group, whilst invisible diversity can support productivity and problem solving. The effects of diversity are additive for all diversity dimensions. Rather than focusing on one specific aspect of diversity, the goal is to create teams that are diverse across multiple dimensions “it is the mix that matters.”

Innovation and diversity are not exclusive. On my Twitter feed you will see a picture of a young man; his name is Charliee – he is fifteen and a half. Charlie wrote me a lovely letter full of empathy and caring. He wanted to go to Syria. Charlie wanted to help our soldiers make safe & secure environments for people in dangerous places.

Charlie has special needs and, in his own words, at times he is hard to understand. Charlie has helped our Defence Forces understand a broader perspective; he has attended with our troops before their deployment to missions like Syria. Last year, when our values champions received their awards from the President of Ireland, Charlie received a special award also.

Within every organisation – the military in particular – institutionalising a gender perspective, gender equality, and empowerment of women are all capability drivers.  Ireland and our Defence Forces have been to the forefront in terms of Women Peace and Security. 

I am well aware that gender-based violence, and sexual exploitation and abuse, are features of many conflicts.  They have been prosecuted as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and in certain instances, the most grievous of all crimes: the crime of genocide.

One of the strongest indicators of Intra and Inter State violence is the Gender Gap. The Global Gender Gap Index is an index designed to measure gender equality.  When compared to the Global Peace Index, the results are stark with a clear and unambiguous relationship between the size of the gender gap and the  absence of peace. 

I am proud of Ireland’s leadership in terms of Women Peace and Security. Our Defence Forces contributed to the production of our three National Action Plans.  Within our Forces, we are working hard to institutionalise a gender perspective amongst all our personnel. In a male-dominated organisation it is as much a male issue as it is a female issue.

I acknowledge that I have much to do to progress our Defence Forces in terms of improving gender balance. I am, however, acutely aware that empowerment of women, gender equality, and closing the gender gap is a societal issue which requires a multifaceted approach to address. 

The winner of a recent study in an Irish national science competition for pre-university students found that gender stereotyping in 5-7 year old girls was actually being reinforced by their 5-7 year old boy colleagues. This has significant implications, not just in terms of science, technology, engineering, and maths, but also for achieving better gender balance in our militaries. 

Better gender balance in our militaries is not a matter of political correctness; it is not just about access to a further 50% of the population; it is not just about being a better reflection of the society we defend, protect, and serve – it is a capability issue which makes us better at what we do. It enhances our capability in peacekeeping and humanitarian action.

So, I come to the nexus between values, the Sustainable Development Goals and Humanitarian Action.

Progressing along the continuum from insecurity and absence of peace towards sustainable institutions of a civilised society is about striving for common values.

Values are a vital framework for everything we do, and yet, we can take them for granted. Values provide the glue for common action. Values are the bridge between the insecurity and the institutions of civil society, and yet, too often values are being undermined by seemingly smart people. 

Within our Defence Forces in recent years, we have dedicated significant efforts to institutionalising our values in action in everything we do. In a world where power is inverted, where the advent of social media has meant that rapid change and complexity are the norm, it has never been more important that as leaders we seek to influence values at every level ­– international governmental, regional institutional level, and state level, as well as organisational and personal level.

In our Defence Forces, our values include the moral courage to do the right thing;  the physical courage to persevere, despite danger and adversity; a respect that treats others as they should be treated; an integrity that encompasses honesty, sincerity, and reliability; a loyalty to State and comrades; and a selflessness which puts duty before ourselves.

From an organisational perspective, values have inward and outward dimensions. Not only do they help make us stronger as organisations, but they also help define how we partner and how we will engage with others. Values are enablers for better innovation and richer diversity. However, values are also about how we adhere to the law, International Humanitarian Law, Law of Armed Conflict ,and the Law of War. Values are about ethical practice.

The Law of Armed Conflict, with its principles such as Distinction, Humanity, Proportionality, and Precaution, has a close relationship with and takes its foundation from an ethical basis.

Ethics and the law coalesce to form a necessary combination that is demanded of the conduct of conflict today. Those who do not adhere to legal and ethical standards may find themselves indicted before a court, such as the International Criminal Court.

The Defence Forces incorporates ethics and the law as key enablers to the conduct of our operations, particularly Peace Support Operations. Although peace support operations are not war, it is in a post-conflict atmosphere where the highest ethical and legal standards are necessary. The peace support force must maintain a disciplined and professional approach in operations, all supported by an understanding of ethics. In our case, aligning with our Defence Force’s values and with the legal requirements of the Geneva and Hague Conventions is ordinarily expected.

While I have articulated the case for values, my key point is that institutionalising values at an organisational level is a critical component in the context of nested governance where common values linked to the Sustainable Development Goals drive a vital Framework for Humanitarian Action.

Thirty-one years ago, the Brundtland Commission, in “Our Common Future,” was one of the first seminal reflections to advocate a holistic approach to the key principle of sustainable development. In the context of the norms and principles that underpin good governance and inform our values, sustainable development should be what Axelrod describes as a ‘meta-norm,’ that is, something for which self-penalisation should occur for non-compliance.

Brundtland also advocated multilateralism, and corporate social responsibility. There is a clear congruence between Brundtland’s findings and the Sustainable Development Goals. The codification of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals was co-sponsored by Ireland and Kenya. Attainment of these goals requires Governance that is comprehensive and integrated. They represent a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. They are fundamental to the framework for humanitarian action.

They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. The goals are integrated in that, action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and the development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, they frame the integrated approach. Innovation, diversity, and values shape how we will leverage these goals.

Ireland is an extraordinary country with a charisma that underpins a reputation for doing good. A reputation that is inextricably linked with values. A reputation that is a driver of multilateralism. A reputation that is a form of power, enabling a small state on the periphery of Europe to play a leadership role on the international stage. A reputation for an empathy that has a resonance from Africa to Afghanistan, and beyond to the Philippines and the small island states.

Ireland’s values are for a fairer world, a just world, a secure world, and a sustainable world. Our values have been forged in a furnace of famine and migration. Our foreign policy is deeply anchored in the values set out in our Constitution. These are also reflected in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the principles which underpin the European Union. This explains Ireland’s sustained strong commitment to multilateralism.

Common values involve a marriage of our strategic intent as conveyed by the dictates of Irish civil society and our ethical approach to the conduct of operations. They are of relevance in the context of the benchmarks and goals set for us by our membership of the international community and our responsibility to protect, to lead, and to assist our fellow citizens.

We live in an extraordinary time where the rate of change is as if we are at war and yet we act as if we are at peace. We are seeing more unknown unknowns – ‘Black Swan’ events –  and we now have Black Elephants – known unknowns. I have recently spoken about black rabbits, where our wicked problems collide in a perfect storm of climate change and biodiversity loss, breeding even greater unknowns.

There has seldom been a period in our history where values-based leadership was so important. That is why I think the leadership being shown by Ireland in competing for a seat on the Security Council is so important.

Our bid is not about status or power it is about values and multilateralism.

The American Philosopher Mary Parker Follett said, “Leadership is not so much about the exercise of power but about that capacity to create that sense of power in those who are led. The real role of a leader is to create more leaders.”

So, as leaders, we all must do our bit top down and bottom up to ensure, for example, the Sustainable Development Goals are being properly codified at State level and within our organisations. We must ensure our values are codified, actioned, championed, and recognised. 

We should all push back where we see cynical populism. We must double our efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion so that society and organisations allow people to be whole and to belong. We must champion gender equality and empowerment of women, while being alert to stereotyping and shifting the inertia in areas such as science, technology, engineering, maths, and military. In this, the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, it is our duty to use all our power to close the gender gap. The gender gap is a driver of violence and insecurity.

Leadership, like innovation, is also about risk-taking and mistakes. Clausewitz said, in war “everything is simple, but even the simplest thing is difficult.” In a world of growing complexity, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen, yet mistakes drive learning. I am comforted by the words of George Bernard Shaw who said a life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life doing nothing.

In summary, in a world of complexity, we are increasingly interdependent, and sharing knowledge is critical. Increasing complexity, characterized by wicked problems, growing insecurity, and challenging vectors on one hand, and the explosion in data, knowledge, and understanding on the other, necessitates that we should be collaborating and partnering, rather than isolating. Our collaboration should be characterized by innovation and diversity and be built on values that help to ensure our understanding is applied with wisdom.

Knowledge and understanding without values leads to populism, unilateralism, and selfishness; knowledge and understanding in a framework of values leads to multilateralism that drives the potential for wisdom. George Bernard Shaw said, “we are made wise, not by the recollection of our past, but by our responsibility for our future.”

Progressing along the continuum from the insecurity and absence of peace towards sustainable institutions of a civilised society requires leadership, values based leadership. Values are inextricably linked to character and as leaders we need to accentuate that character. If we are to ensure the appropriate culture in our organizations, we need a culture we proactively design rather than one we react to by default.

While I have articulated the case for our values, my key point is that institutionalising values at an organisational level is a critical component in the context of nested governance where common values linked to the Sustainable Development Goals drive a vital Framework for Humanitarian Action.

It has been said that the eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying that we see beyond our time.

The UN is a remarkable institution, and when all is said and done, it is us.  When I think of the UN I think of John F Kennedy, who, in a speech to be conveyed in Dallas that tragically was never delivered reflected:

"We, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than by choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’ (and I add women). That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”

Thank You.

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