United Nations Iran
سازمان ملل متحد در ایران
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Statement on the occasion of the "Inauguration of United Nations Photo and Document Exhibition”

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7 August 2016

House of Artists

Tehran, Iran


Gary Lewis

UN Resident Coordinator

Your Excellency, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Abbas Araghchi,


Friends, Partners, UN colleagues and Journalists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bid you all a very good afternoon from the United Nations.

I would like to spend the first few minutes of my statement sharing some personal reflections.

But first, I would like to recognize Dr. Araghchi, Deputy Foreign Minister who has done so much to increase the interaction between Iran and the international community in the past months and years and has our – and my – sincere respect and appreciation for that.

I would like to thank the ambassadors and the distinguished colleagues, friends from the United Nations – as well as people who are just interested in what the United Nations and Iran – for coming here this afternoon to spend time at this important gathering.

It is indeed an honour to be here among you for the inauguration of this historic photo and documentation exhibition showing partnership between Iran and the United Nations for the past 71 years.

I am very pleased to also be doing this here in the House of Artists with the support of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) energetically lead by Mr. Mohammad Khoddadi.

But before introducing you to some of the elements of the photo exhibition, I would like to pause and recognize that today we celebrate National Journalists Day in Iran.

We do that in commemoration of a gentleman who gave his life in the year 1998 to the cause of sharing information as a journalist. This gentleman’s name was Mahmoud Saremi and he was based in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. He was killed along with eight diplomats from the Islamic Republic of Iran when the building they were in was overrun by the Taliban and they were executed.

I remember it well because I was in Afghanistan at that point in time, serving with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

And I remember how shocked all of us were that the basic rule of international diplomacy which means that a consulate or an embassy is inviolable was completely overrun – both physically and metaphorically – by the actions of Taliban.

So, Mr. Saremi and eight diplomats were killed and Iran remembers them and many of us who were there remember them.

These were dark days indeed.

But I am very pleased to have just had the privilege of meeting Sina Saremi – the son of Mr. Saremi – and to be able to make a connection after the passage of almost two decades. I never met Mr. Saremi myself, but I knew of him and those who died making a stand for Iran.

I would now like to turn to brighter times. I would like to speak of the relationship that we – in the United Nations – have had with Iran during the past 70 years. You are here – today – to share with us a number of moments and images from that period spaning 70 years.

There are a number of photographs – in fact about 70 photographs in all – which are snapshots in time, capturing the way in which the UN and Iran have partnered over many, many years.

Most people know how fast history disappears before us. And the act of capturing these photographs took a lot of effort by a number of people who I would like to recognize.

I would like to thank Mr. Damanpak and his team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Centre for Documents and History of Diplomacy for searching their rich archives to get the information that we will display this afternoon.

I would also like to thank the Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies and the UN photo archive for supplying us with many pictures.

Thanks to my UNIC colleagues – particularly Ms. Sepideh Asgari – for searching UN archives and finding so many amazing pictures as well as the captions which go with them.

As we move into a new era of engagement between Iran and the international community – courtesy of efforts by colleagues like Dr. Abbas Araghchi, Foreign Minister Zarif and President Rouhani and others – it is important for us to look back on a number of ways in which Iran has always been there in one way or another, connected with the UN, reminding us of the depth of its history, stretching back and well beyond the first statement equivalent to a Charter of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great. Today’s event reminds us of all of that, and more recently – last 70 years – which we have captured through these pictures and documents, including the one on screen right now where the Iranian delegation is signing the United Nations Charter in 1945.

As you walk around in the two rooms housing these photographs, please also pay attention to a recent photograph of President Rouhani when he addressed the General Assembly introducing the World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) initiative back in the year 2013.

And more recently last year, when President Rouhani attended the Sustainable Development Summit in New York where the Agenda2030 and more specifically the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted.

I will read what he said on that occasion: “Environmental problems have taught us humans that living on Planet Earth we are all on the same boat. What others do, also impacts our destiny. We cannot be assured of our own peace and security while ignoring how others are living.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am hoping that one of my successors in this job – perhaps 10 or 20 years from now, when introducing a photo exhibition of perhaps 90 years of collaboration between the UN and Iran will be able to point to what Iran has done to contribute to those Sustainable Development Goals.

I know that many people still have to understand how important the Sustainable Development Summit was last year in September, but I would like to share with you – in quick order – what we are actually talking about when we speak of the 17 SDGs.

  1. No poverty.
  2. Zero Hunger.
  3. Good Health and Well-being.
  4. Quality Education.
  5. Gender Equality.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth.
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
  10. Reduced Inequalities.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities.
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production.
  13. Climate Action.
  14. Life Below Water.
  15. Life on Land.
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
  17. Partnership for the Goals.

I believe the SDGs represent the future of our sustainability on this planet. And I am happy that Iran and President Rouhani himself have committed to achieving the above mentioned goals.

I believe this gathering affords us an opportunity to really share with you how the United Nations is here in Iran to support its member state and will always be. We take this responsibility very seriously.

So as we look to the past – with these photographs – let us also be thinking about how we can build on that relationship into the future.

I thank you for coming here and supporting our initiative.

Kheily mamnoon va sepas gozaram.

Last modified onWednesday, 10 August 2016 00:39
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