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Dresden Celebrates United Nations Day

Initiatives and institutions across Dresden gathered in the city’s Town Hall last night for UN Day, under the theme Promoting a Culture of Peace.

To commemorate the founding of the United Nations on 24 October 1945, UNU-FLORES and partners across the Dresden community - Landesverband Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt und Thüringen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen (DGVN);Landeshauptstadt Dresden;Technische Universität Dresden;Lokale Agenda 21 für Dresden e.V.;Lions Club Dresden Agenda 21, Centre for international studies hosted their annual UN Day celebration on 3 November. This special event – held in the Dresden Town Hall - is intended to connect local citizens with the work and vision of the United Nations, and to inspire communities to have an active hand in grassroots initiatives for sustainability, society, and peace. This year’s theme related to SDG 16: the promotion of Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions; a Goal that has surely been on the minds of many in recent times.

Kerstin Zimmermann, the Head of Mayor’s Office of the City of Dresden opened the ceremony to present a municipal view of the topic – indeed, the last few months have seen an outpouring of societal inclusivity and calls for peace, with large numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge in the city.

UNU-FLORES Director Prof Edeltraud Guenther welcomed the audience and introduced the Institute and its continued work as an academic arm of the United Nations, a contributor to the local landscape, and as a safe-haven for researchers aiming to improve the state of the world.

Joining the event as Guest of Honour was geopolitical authority, Dr Angela Kane, who has had a long and distinguished career of more than 35 years with the United Nations - both in the field and at Headquarters in New York. Perhaps most notable among Dr Kane’s positions include her service as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations (UN), and Member (2016-2019) and Chair (2019-2022) of the Council of the United Nations University (UNU). She is currently a professor at the Tsinghua University/Schwarzman Scholars in Beijing, China, and Senior Advisor for the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC.

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Image: Kretzschmar/zwoacht.de

In her opening address, Dr Kane spoke of her concern for the emergence of ‘me-first’ policies in the context of energy crises and providing support for refugees, as well as the inherent danger of disinformation being spread though the press – especially considering the rise of social media. To Dr Kane, the concept of a culture of peace is something that must be continuously worked towards; and for which the youth play an integral role.

Instead of increasing populism, nationalism and bilateralism, we need a new vision of a just world order and strengthening rather than weakening of international organisations…We have suddenly become aware of how fragile peace is. But that also means that we have to do more to preserve it.
Dr Angela Kane

Following Dr Kane, Professor Dominik Steiger, Chair of International Law, European Law and Public Law, Technische Universität Dresden, based his impulse speech around the idea of "Si vis pacem - Para Bellum" ("If you want peace, prepare (for) war."). He put forward the argument of a culture of peace requiring the ability to launch strong military defenses when necessary, and emphasised the explicit presence of this theory within the UN Charter.

Professor Guenther then moderated a dynamic and informative panel discussion where Dr Kane and Professor Steiger addressed questions posed to them by members of the public via social media. It was clear that the need to preserve peace has captured local attention, with a prevalent aspect being the tendency for decision-makers to avoid taking decisive long-term action for peace, due to the existence of legislation periods in the political arena.

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Image: Kretzschmar/zwoacht.de

Also taking place as part of the UN Day celebrations was the award ceremony to recognise special contributions to Dresden’s sustainable development – now in its 23rd year and organised by the Lokale Agenda für Dresden e.V. and the Lions Club Dresden Agenda 21. This year, four regional initiatives received this prestigious award.

The audience were also treated to musical performances by South Korean classical singer, Sukwoo Kang accompanied by Jisu Park on piano, including a rendition of Bizet’s popular aria, ‘Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre (the Toréador Song)’ from the opera, Carmen.

Watch the recording (starting from minute 32:30) here.

The UNU-FLORES Team expresses its sincere appreciation to everyone who made this year’s UN Day such a success – especially our partners in the community, and special guests Dr Kane, and Professor Steiger.

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