Kigali, Rwanda | October 31, 2017 – Each year, the UN system globally recognizes the 24th October as “UN Day”, owing to the fact that this date marks the entry into force of the UN charter and United Nations as we know it, came into existence.
24th October has accordingly been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. This year, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in his first UN Day message, called on people around the world to overcome their differences to address global challenges that go beyond national borders.
“Our world faces many grave challenges. Widening conflicts and inequality, extreme weather and deadly intolerance, [and] security threats – including nuclear weapons,” said Mr. Guterres in a video message.
“We have the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will.”
He also paid a visit to the Central African Republic – his first visit to a UN peacekeeping mission since he assumed office – in an effort to raise awareness of the plight being felt by the people of that country, which continues to be ravaged by civil conflict and war due to religious divide.
It is along these lines that the United Nations family in Rwanda decided this year to celebrate the UN Day in a manner befitting the call to action made by the UNSG; by having a series of activities that directly benefit the community starting on the 24th October and spanning the entire week, thus the “UN Week 2017” moniker.
UN Blood Donation Drive
The UN family in Rwanda, in collaboration with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre’s National Blood Transfusion Centre (NCBT); organized a four-day blood donation drive where staff of the NCBT set up base in four of the major UN premises in the country (UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR) to collect blood donations made by UN staff.
The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Fodé Ndiaye, speaking to journalists after being among the first to donate blood at UNDP compound, stressed the importance of the activities and how it aligns with the mandate of the United Nations in Rwanda.
“Saving lives is part of our mandate. This is why we have dedicated this day to make sure that UN staff donate their blood in order to save the lives of people.”
“Today you might be the one donating, but tomorrow you might be the one in need of blood, so I call upon all staff to donate” he stressed.
In total, 105 UN staff donated blood, which will potentially help save more than three hundred lives.
The morning of Friday, October 27th, UN staff hailing from all agencies operational in the country gathered in the WFP Main Conference Hall to officially meet and interact with the Resident Coordinator, for the first time since he assumed office. The mood was jovial all round as the RC begain by reciting the message of the UN Secretary General on the occasion to mark the UN Day 2017, and thereafter UN Heads of Agencies took turns explaining to staff what the UN reforms mean and what sort of impact they are expected to have at the country level.
Federation of UN Staff Associations Chairperson Olivia Mukarushema of FAO then spoke on behalf of staff, thanking the RC for making the time to meet all staff and offer them a chance to interact freely. She also seized the opportunity to make a rallying cry to all staff - not just Heads of Agencies and senior managers - to answer to the call for donations to support surviving family members of fallen UN staff, killed during the 1994 Genocide committed against the Tutsi.
She also added that the One UN family should support the Agaciro Development Fund, Rwanda's soverign wealth fund, as this is a tangible means of helping Rwandans help themselves.
On Saturday, all roads led to Vuganyana Hill, a slightly remote area of Nyarugenge District in Kigali, where UNDP staff joined the local community in monthly community work, more popularly referred to as Umuganda.
The concept of Umuganda originates from a Kinyarwanda word meaning “timber used to construct traditional houses”, and can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’.
This is exactly what transpired on Vuganyana Hill as UN staff mingled freely with scores of residents of the area and managed to plant over 10,000 tree seedlings – all within one morning’s work. Thereafter, all participants of Umuganda braved intermittent light rain showers to congregate and have a meeting to discuss issues pertinent to the community and latest developments.
Addressing this gathering, the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Fode Ndaiye pointed out that the day’s activities reminded him of past lifetime in which he was an agronomist, planting trees and rearing livestock.
He thanked the UN staff members for making the time to be part of Umuganda, and made a pledge to follow up to ensure that the trees planed will be nurtured and grow in order to help balance and maintain the ecosystem.
Thereafter, the UNRC made a donation of $600 on behalf of all UN agencies in Rwanda, which will help pay for “Mutuelles de Sante” – a local health insurance scheme – for 170 of the most vulnerable in society.
The UN Week activities also featured a Reception for external partners including government officials, members of the civil society, development and implementing partners and member of the diplomatic corps in Rwanda.
The soiree was aimed at thanking them for their continued fruitful cooperation with the United Nations in Rwanda, which has enabled the realization of various projects that have had a major impact in the lives of ordinary Rwandans.
Speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning Caleb Rwamuganza hailed the continued partnership with the One UN in Rwanda, and called for even better relations as the government embarks on a new 7 year developmental blueprint dubbed the National Strategy for Transformation (NST), saying that the UN’s support in realizing the goals set out in this strategy is key.
UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.