Virtual Address by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly
September 21, 2020
Mr. President and fellow delegates,
It’s an honour to share a few words with you as we mark the 75th anniversary of these United Nations.
My friends, we should have been commemorating this milestone together – in person, and in a better context. But the fact that we’re still doing so virtually highlights the magnitude of the crisis we face and the imperative to be united in our response.
The harsh reality is that we are a world in crisis. And not just because of the last few months; not just because of COVID-19, but because of the last few decades, and because of all of us.
Climate change, violent extremism, escalating numbers of displaced people and migrants – these are the crises of a system that no longer works as well as it should. We cannot wait for someone else to fix it. All of us can’t wait for some of us to solve our problems. We must all take action, because we are all in peril.
More than ever before, the international community must join forces and step up its efforts to find solutions and uphold a set of common ideals and principles. The UN has helped us to do this work for 75 years now. But our work together has not been enough. Today, in the midst of this crisis, this is more evident than ever.
Since its creation, the United Nations has contributed to making a real difference to the lives of millions of people around the world. We have fought against AIDS, eradicated smallpox, ended wars, and prevented famines. The United Nations has become a safety net for the world’s most vulnerable people. The UN has drawn attention to problems that were once hidden, such as modern slavery and the use of child soldiers.
The UN has tremendous convening power. It exposes the challenges we face and lays out solutions to them. But its ability to act, to improve the lives of people around the world, depends on the political will of the member states.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives, and taken hundreds of thousands from us. It has pushed our health care systems and stalled our economies. It has laid bare global inequalities – in health care, in access to food and social supports.
But challenges are also opportunities. And right now, as we work to protect people, we have an opportunity to build a better tomorrow for our children and our grandchildren.
The legacy of this pandemic – and our collective response to it – must not be one of deepened inequality or increased isolationism.
As we focus on recovery in our own countries, we must remain committed to the goals and principles that were laid out at the founding of the UN 75 years ago. In fact, we have to double down on our efforts. We must work together to ensure that our institutions go further and do more. That they are equipped to respond to today’s challenges – and ensure that no one is left behind.
Canada was there at the beginning, and Canada will continue to be there. Because we know that we can accomplish more together – united as nations, communities, and people. The lives of billions hang in the balance.