Memorable UN Moments!
October 24 is the United Nations Day. On this day in 1945 the United Nations came into force when the five permanent members of the Security Council ratified the Charter of the United Nations. The United Nations was born of perceived necessity, as a means of better arbitrating international conflict and negotiating peace to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,...to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,...to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
History is rich with memorable orations delivered by the world's leaders as nations convene to discuss the critical issues of the day. From the impassioned to the provocative to the truly bizarre here are some of the most unforgettable remarks to come out of the UN General Assembly speeches in the last sixty years. To me the most unforgettable event at the UN remains the epic filibuster during a debate on Kashmir. Indian U.N. envoy Krishna Menon holds the record for the longest speech in the history of the U.N. Security Council. Noted for his eloquence, brilliance, and forceful, highly abrasive persona, V.K Krishna Menon started delivering a marathon 7 hour 48 minute speech in UN Security Council on Kashmir issue as a reponse to Pakistan Foreign Minsiter's speech a week earlier. In total it lasted over eight hours. Menon actually collapsed from exhaustion partway through and had to be hospitalized. He returned later and continued for another hour while a doctor monitored his blood pressure. This quote from the speech, delivered on January 23, 1957, is still relevant and remains the key to defending India's position and solving the Kashmir issue by the UN:
“Why is that we have never heard voice in connection with the freedom of people under the suppression and tyranny of Pakistan athorities on the other side of the cease-fire line. Why is it that we have not heard here that in ten years these people have not seen a ballot paper? With what voice can either the Security Council or anyone coming before it demand a plebiscite for a people on our side who exercise franchise, who have freedom of speech, who function under a hundred local bodies?”
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega used the platform of the U.N. to assail U.S policy in Central America, particularly the financing of the Contra rebels and supporting the Somoza dictatorship, which Ortega said "bled the Nicaraguan people dry." The angry speech prompted a walkout from the U.S. delegation. "The people of Nicaragua may have to sit and listen to him, but I don't," said then U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters. A quote from the angry speech:
Venezuela's theatrical president, Hugo Chavez, has always loved the spotlight that the General Assembly provides and it was never more in evidence than when, with a flourish, he compared U.S. president, George W. Bush, to Satan. Chavez also began his regular habit of using his speeches to plug books by prominent leftists authors, when he held up a book by U.S. professor Noam Chomsky. A quote from the speech:
“It should not be called security council, but it should be called terror council”.
Most recently, it is Malala Yousafzai's speech at the UN that received standing ovation. Here is the most meaningful excerpt from the speech:
So here I stand... one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.
Their right to be educated.