Queen challenges UN to lead in confronting dangers

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Queen Elizabeth II challenged the United Nations on Tuesday to spearhead the international response to global dangers and promote prosperity and dignity for all the world's inhabitants.

"In my lifetime, the United Nations has moved from being a high-minded aspiration to being a real force for common good," the 84-year-old British monarch told diplomats from the 192 U.N. member states. "That of itself has been a signal achievement. But we are not here to reminisce. In tomorrow's world, we must all work together as hard as ever if we are truly to be United Nations."

Speaking as queen of 16 U.N. member states and head of the Commonwealth of 54 countries with a population of nearly 2 billion people, Elizabeth recalled the dramatic changes in the world since she last visited the United Nations in 1957, especially in science, technology and social attitudes.

But she also praised the U.N.'s aims and values which have endured - promoting peace, security and justice, fighting hunger, poverty and disease and protecting the rights and liberties of every citizen.

"For over six decades the United Nations has helped to shape the international response to global dangers," the queen said. "The challenge now is to continue to show this clear ... leadership while not losing sight of your ongoing work to secure the security, prosperity and dignity of our fellow human beings."

Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, flew to New York from Canada for a five-hour visit that will also include stops at the Ground Zero site where the twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. She will lay a wreath in tribute to the thousands who died, and then officially open the British Memorial Garden honoring the 67 Britons who lost their lives that day.

Dressed in a two-piece white, blue and beige dress with a ruffled hem and a matching brimmed champagne-colored silk hat with flowers, the queen was greeted on her arrival by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Ali Abdessalam Treki and their wives.

After posing for photos in front of U.N. flags, she went to the memorial to UN peacekeepers and staff members killed in the line of duty and laid a wreath before the tattered UN flag that flew over U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003 when the building was bombed, killing top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

The queen walked slowly into the two-thirds full chamber, as past diplomats gave her a standing ovation. Before her speech she sat in a beige leather chair where she spent a half-minute fishing her reading glasses out of her black handbag, resealing the clasp and laying her speech out on her lap, tasks made harder because of her white gloves.

She looked up to occasionally peer out at the crowd, where the visitor and press upper galleries were full, scanning left and right and then looking intently straight forward. Her hands lay quietly on her speech.

The queen recalled that when she came to the United Nations in 1957, there were just three U.N. operations oversease. "Now, over 120,000 men and women are deployed in 26 missions across the world," she said. "You have helped to reduce conflict, you have offered humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies, and you have been deeply committed to tackling the effects of poverty in many parts of the world."

At the end of the short speech, she was loudly applauded.

"Everyone was very impressed," Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Konstantin Dolgov told AP. "She's a big part of the United Nations, very important."

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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