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Opening of the WAAS – UNOG Conference: Global Leadership for the 21st century

  | Tatiana Valovaya Speech


Ladies and gentlemen, 

  • Welcome to the Palais des Nations in Geneva, a place where diverse expertise from all fields is gathered; where international organizations, governments, civil society, academia and the private sector closely collaborate; and where actionable ideas flourish.
  • It is a great pleasure to co-host such a high-profile event which combines a wealth of knowledge from all disciplines. I would like to thank our numerous partners and experts, whose contributions, papers and panel discussions laid the intellectual foundation of this conference.
  • I would like to thank our esteemed co-host, the World Academy of Art and Science, for this excellent collaboration and, personally, its President and CEO Mr. Garry Jacobs and his able team.
  • The World Academy of Art and Science was founded in 1960 by outstanding scientists, who wanted to harness their knowledge for the good of all and who were concerned about the devastating effects that the misuse of science could have. WAAS Fellows are pioneers in their fields and strong advocates for issues such as democracy and global governance, international security and peace, climate change, global health, education and equality.
  • Our partnership with the World Academy of Art and Science has been a long and successful one, born out of the deep desire to better utilize the findings of science to jointly address global social challenges. Our work has many overlapping areas, and it was only a logical step to let it culminate in a grand project like this. 
  • When we started this project over a year ago, the task we gave ourselves and our partners, was already complex: to develop global leadership strategies for social progress in the 21st century. 
  • The project is born of the complex nexus of global challenges that we are facing today: a devastating climate crisis, armed conflicts around the world, dire poverty and rampant global inequalities, deep global mistrust and trade disputes, as well as repeated attacks on the media. The seeming inability of the international community to reengage and work together to stem these global challenges, has revealed a vacuum of meaningful global leadership. And these challenges were already evident before a global pandemic swept across our planet.
  • At that time, we could not foresee how a microscopic virus would reinforce the importance of our work. UN Secretary-General Guterres evoked a powerful image when he compared the pandemic to an X-Ray, that laid bare existing fragilities in our societies: global change is continuing at record speed and complexity, increasing uncertainty especially for the most vulnerable. We are faced with urgent ecological challenges and we are lagging behind in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our challenges are coupled with a dangerous retreat from multilateralism that renders conventional leadership models ineffective or even potentially obsolete.
  • We need more active global leadership and transformative strategies for our future.
  • The United Nations has started a globe-spanning discussion this year: on the occasion of our 75th anniversary, we reached out to the people. Through dialogues – two of those held in hybrid forma from Geneva - and surveys, we asked them what kind of future - and what kind of UN - they want and need. The majority of respondents see the value of cooperation to solve the challenges ahead of us - from global health, to climate change and conflicts. An important priority for them is to rethink our social and economic system, to build a more inclusive version of it and to rebalance the relationship between economic growth, environment and public priorities. For the vast majority of people, solidarity, multilateralism and international cooperation are the most important tools for this.
  • Today’s conference therefore comes at an ideal time and the results of the UN75 initiative will be an important impulse for the ongoing discussions. 
  • The aim of the next two days is to go beyond assessing the status quo and to articulate actionable strategies for sustainable global leadership, including for the workings of the United Nations and its partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • I am looking forward to many inspiring discussions with actionable ideas for a better future.
  • Thank you very much.