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Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN at the General Assembly special solemn plenary meeting in commemoration of all victims of the Second World War
Thank you Mr President.
This weekend, countries across the world will pause and mourn the millions of innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in the Second World War. Whatever flag they followed, whether civilian or soldier, we will remember them.
In our remembrance, we will also celebrate the heroism and extraordinary courage of our veterans who liberated Europe and brought to an end nearly six years of conflict. In the United Kingdom, church bells will ring and beacons will be lit in celebration, just as they were seven decades ago.
We will never forget the sacrifice and service of our men and women who helped defeat fascism. Nor will we forget the bravery of our allies, including eight million Commonwealth citizens, who fought by our side. In this 70th anniversary year of the United Nations, let us never forget the very first line in our UN Charter, our pledge to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.
The Second World War showed us the darkest side of humanity. It redefined our understanding of anti-semitism, racism and intolerance. Many perpetrators of these horrific crimes are still being brought to justice today.
Yet from the ashes of the conflict arose an organisation dedicated to promoting the best of humanity; one committed to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and equality of men and women, and to preserving international peace and security.
When we hear the words of the UN Charter, let us all remember the price the world paid to agree these shared values. And recalling that terrible cost today must give us added impetus to protect and to preserve our values from the threats they face.
Winston Churchill said that the statesman who resorts to conflict “is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events”. We have seen such events arise in previously unimaginable ways through the brutality of Assad and the emergence of groups like ISIL. Indeed, it is sad to reflect that the regime’s air attacks against the Syrian people have now gone on longer than the London Blitz of World War Two.
Amidst these new threats to international peace and security, challenges to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states continue as they did seventy years ago. We should all welcome the peace and prosperity that the European Union has helped foster over past decades. But we must also recognise that on its borders, a flagrant disregard for sovereignty persists; one that has brought violence and instability to the wider European region.
As Members of the United Nations, it is incumbent on us all to live up to the values of the UN Charter. There have been times over the past seventy years where all Members have failed to do so. As we commemorate those who gave their lives in the Second World War, we should draw on the strength, determination and unity of purpose that they showed to bring liberty to Europe. In doing so, let us ensure that the United Nations remains a fitting legacy to their sacrifice.
Thank you Mr President.