United Nations Day celebrated in Lithuania
Every year on October 24 United Nations Day is celebrated all around the globe. On this date in 1945 the United Nations were established. This occassion was commemorated in Lithuania as well – an event “United Nations in Lithuania – Lithuania in the United Nations” took place in Vilnius, the National Martynas Mažvydas Library.
For the very first time three UN representative organizations in Lithuania arranged such a gathering: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Health Organization (WHO). “In commemoration of the Lithuanian independence centennial celebrations, we wanted to draw more attention to where we stand in the international context, what are the main issues pressing the humankind and how those problems may solved. This event was our way of bringing most urgent international topics closer to Lithuania and showing that the United Nations in not only Geneva or New York. This organization is much closer to all of us. Lithuania actively participates in various UN organs and missions, and so can everyone add their share to advancing global welfare”,- said the organizers.
In the first half of the event, participants were invited to participate in a special fair consisting of various activities. Here one could get better acquainted with each organization's work, with the help of VR glasses experience what a life in a Jordan refugee camp looks like through the eyes of a 12 year old Syrian girl, take a look at a documentary photography exhibition by S. Žiūra about refugees living in Lithuania „Through a Path of Hope“, have a taste of authentic Ethiopian coffee prepared by Escedar Maštavičienė, an Ethiopian entrepreneur who has successfully established herself in Lithuania.
After the fair, participants gathered to listen to various different speakers talking about their work at the United Nations.
- An esteemed guest, Ms Raimonda Murmokaitė, former Lithuanian ambassador to the United Nations, was present. The diplomat shared her experiences about working in the United Nations and talked about Lithuania's place in the UN context. She said that, although a small country, Lithuania is a brave ambassador of everything the United Nations stands for: its core values and principles, such as human rights and human dignity, strongly argues in favor of the need to abide to international law and is ready to defend democracy and countries under aggressors‘ threats. Mrs Murmokaitė argued that in joining global UN activities, Lithuania invests in its own welfare and security: „Maybe some threats seem as if they are far away from our own borders, yet they are getting closer. Without joint efforts to help, problems simply expand. There is no time to wait until they reach us directly. Helping others is pragmatic. It means that we will anticipate the help of others, should the need arise, because solidarity is a two-way street.“
- Renata Kuleš, UNCHR‘s representative in Lithuania, talked about the global refugee crisis: “There are more than 25 million refugees around the world. These people were forced to flee their countries due to violence, conflict and persecution. What is more, more than 40 million people globally were forced to resettle within their own countries. Children account to more than 50 percent from the total number of refugees present globally. 85 percent of these persons are in developing nations, which are in close proximity to active conflict areas. This is such an unfortunate situation, when nothing more can be done and decisions made up to this point are no longer effective. That is why a global plan for refugees is currently being drawn. The document will create better conditions for more active participation in solving issues of refugees worldwide.” Renata Kuleš said that over 1500 refugees received protection in Lithuania throughout the past 20 years. The speaker continued that although Lithuania is not a frequent destination for refugees, it is important nonetheless to prepare an integration plan and try to implement it. Such issues like accommodation, work and societal perception must be solved – refugees must receive their chance to be useful in building Lithuanian future.
- Dr Audra Sipavičienė, head of IOM Vilnius Office, spoke about migration politics. The expert said that in Lithuania, emigration issues receive much more attention, which is an issue IOM Vilnius also works closely with. Yet immigration is just as important. In the past 20 years, this organization provided consults to more than 8 thousand migrants and helped more than 2 thousand migrants to return to their countries of birth. Another pressing issue in whose solution the organization is closely involved with is trafficking in human beings - help to almost 500 victims of trafficking was provided. Mrs Sipavičienė said that migration is a current day reality rather than a problem which requires a solution. When one talks about development, migration component must also be included. Managed migration can benefit not only migrants, but host and sending countries as well. Globally IOM seeks to turn challenges of migration into opportunities.
- The head of WHO Lithunia HQ, Ingrida Zurlytė, aimed to draw more attention to the importance of health. “Health is the total welfare of the physical, mental and social states; not the absence of illnesses or disabilities. The UN Sustainable Development Strategy for 2030 is already prepared. This is a unique chance for all of us to focus our efforts in seeking that no person would stay behind, everyone would have access to healthcare and could live a happy and healthy life despite their race, religion, political beliefs, economic and social determinants. Even though both, globally and in Lithuania, much has been achieved, we will continue working together, so that the health of our citizens is strengthened and their health is continued being protected.” Ms Zurlytė also mentioned that Lithuanians not only actively use recommendations provided by the WHO, yet they actively participate in drafting these recommendations as well. Many Lithuanian healthcare specialists work in the WHO globally.
After the talks and discussions had finished, participants were invited to watch several movies, whose topics are closely related to the work of the UN. Firstly, a 2018 documentary „Sea of Sorrow, Sea of Hope“ was shown. The film tells a story of a Syrian refugee, named Manal, and her three children. Second movie called „Everything Will Be All Right“, presented by the IOM, dealt with the issues of trafficking in human beings. The last movie „God‘s Little Birds“, directed by two Lithuanian filmmakers, Mrs Julija and Mr Rimantas Gruodžiai, tells stories of Lithuanians forced to flee their homeland during the Second World War.