The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
UN City 10th anniversary and UN Day Celebration
Remarks by Jorge Moreira da Silva, UNOPS Executive Director, at the UN City 10th anniversary and UN Day Celebration ceremony – Copenhagen, 24 October 2023
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Excellencies, colleagues, friends,
On behalf of all of us at UN City, welcome to this wonderful building that has been home to us for the past ten years.
The UN City means so many things to so many of us, beyond just being a place of work.
On the one hand, it epitomizes Denmark’s long-running and strong support for multilateralism.
On the other, it embodies so much that is good about working together as one UN. The idea that we can build on a shared space to make our UN activities more coherent, efficient, and effective, continues to be valid. It is a place where we come together to deliver for people, peace and the planet.
We have gathered here to celebrate UN City’s 10th birthday.
But the UN presence in Denmark goes back many decades.
Indeed the United Nations has been present in Copenhagen, serving as a hub for global and regional operations, since 1957.
So much has changed since 2013- when UN City was first inaugurated.
Our world has changed - and so have our ways of working.
And as we celebrate - it is also a good time to take stock and look back on what we have achieved, and where we want to be in the future.
Undoubtedly - we have grown.
When we started, we were made up of 8 UN agencies and 1250 personnel. Now - UN City - across both campuses- is home to 11 United Nations agencies and over 2,000 personnel from more than 100 countries!
While I am quite sure it is not the Danish autumn weather that has attracted so many people to come here, what is favorable in the Danish capital is:
easy access in and out of Copenhagen,
that we are in a time zone that allows us to cover the entire world over the course of a working day,
and that we as agencies can tap into a highly qualified labor force in Denmark.
Add to this that international studies again and again rank Copenhagen as one of the world’s most liveable cities, making the Danish capital an attractive duty station for personnel and their families. I am new to Copenhagen but have already picked up the Danish “hygge” and the amazing collaborative spirit here at the UN City.
The gains and cost-efficiencies envisioned in the original idea of bringing all agencies together in one location have been proven time and time again over the past 10 years. Our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of responding locally but more importantly our global response - is just one example.
But - inspired by our surroundings and Denmark’s leading role in sustainability - we are also extremely fortunate to walk the talk - when it comes to sustainability.
Sustainability is a key principle for the building and the way we work and live in it.
The building is designed to be energy-efficient and consume only half as much energy as a similar-sized office building. It runs on clean energies. And even if the designs for these were made in 2009 - with the standards of the time - we have made every effort to optimize the building since then.
We are always looking for ways to further reduce our carbon footprint. For example through sustainable solutions to our catering services.
As we look to the future - to the rest of this decade - we have a vision for the UN City in Copenhagen.
A vision to be inclusive, efficient, expand collaborations and make sustainable use of our premises, in line with our UN values.
A vision to be a strong voice for multilateralism, for our UN City to be an inspiring meeting place for engagement on global issues.
And a vision to make our UN City work for everyone, so we can do our best to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. A workplace where we feel a sense of belonging - and where we feel safe, equal and included, free from racism, discrimination, and harassment.
We are a diverse bunch. 11 agencies with different mandates. But we are joined in our commitment to helping deliver on the Sustainable Development Agenda.
Halfway through the SDGs - with only a dismal 15% of the targets on track - and many stalling or reversing, we need to do everything within our power to rescue the Goals.
That requires finding ways - and resources - to respond to crises, tackle inequalities, create decent jobs, and drive a fair, equitable and just energy transition, so that we can advance sustainable solutions for this and future generations.
And a key question for us then is how we can make the best use of our location here in Copenhagen - and our colocation in the UN City - to add value to UN operations across humanitarian, development, and peace and security realms? How can we work better together to deliver on the SDGs? How can we work together delivering the SG’s Our Common Agenda and preparing for a real breakthrough at the Climate COP in Dubai and at the Summit of the Future in 2024?
Or to borrow words from Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, when she first visited UN City Copenhagen:how can we do more to “collaborate” rather than merely “cohabit”?
There is so much we are already gaining from our presence here - and so much more that we can do.
Take the case of Campus 2 - home to UNICEF Supply Division and the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world - which stores products to manage safe water, sanitation and hygiene, school and medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Its success in timely and effective response relies on Copenhagen’s world-class transport infrastructure and the city’s access to international shipping routes.
Being located here means we are well-placed to tap into the world-renowned sustainability mindset and knowhow of the Danish private sector.
If you look at figures from the UN Annual Statistical Report, which my colleagues at UNOPS put together on behalf of the UN system, Danish companies feature among the largest suppliers to the UN system. That is truly remarkable given the relative size of Denmark in the global economy. But it is a testimony to the fact that Denmark always punches above its weight. By being a frontrunner on sustainability, innovation and collaboration. We need to further build on this relationship.
But we also know that collectively - we need to become more adept at utilizing new technologies, so that we are better equipped to respond to today’s challenges, and to support countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to foster innovative approaches - and find ways of mainstreaming them within our work.
Denmark offers an ideal setting to push for more innovation: strong digital and IT infrastructure, a culture of co-creation and collaboration, and superb design skills in this country offer us at UN City a unique opportunity to drive innovation that benefits the communities we serve around the world.
We live in times of multiple crises.
Our list of global challenges only seems to expand - from conflicts and humanitarian crises, to a worsening climate crisis.
Things need to change - and we heard this loud and clear from so many leaders during the High-Level week of the 78th General Assembly, which some of us here - including myself - attended.
We heard calls for reforms of multilateral institutions.
We heard calls for the reform of the global financial architecture, so that developing countries can access the financing needed for sustainable development.
We heard calls for a better alignment between financing, policy and implementation, when it comes to the SDGs.
And we saw renewed commitment to breathe a new life into the 2030 Agenda - by means of practical actions.
And as we mark the 10th anniversary of our presence here - let’s think long and hard about how we can play our part in building a sustainable future for people and the planet, by reinforcing our already strong collaboration here at the wonderful UN City in Copenhagen.
I look forward to the conversations we will have on so many of these topics today.
On this day, where we also celebrate the anniversary of the UN charter, let me end by expressing all my solidarity with the colleagues that in the field - particularly in hardship contexts - continue delivering, serving those most in need in the most difficult circumstances.
We have just been told about the number of UN colleagues that have lost their lives in Gaza. UNRWA reported today that 35 colleagues were killed in the last 15 days. We stand in solidarity with all UN colleagues and humanitarians that have been under huge suffering - saving others lives while being themselves at the highest risk.
In a divided world. We need a United Nations.