Tehran, YJC. Prior to the upcoming visit of the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson, to Iran during 28-30 October for high-level negotiations, IRNA spoke with UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran, Gary Lewis, on the UN’s role on the ground both in Iran and globally.
In the exclusive
interview carried out on the occasion of UN Day, Lewis noted the fact that Iran
is a founding member of the world body and underlined the presence of UN in
Iran since 1948 and the strong cooperation the UN currently has under its
5-years UN Development Assistance Framework for the period 2012 – 2016.
the UN in 1945, when we were created. It is a distinguished and long-standing
UN member state. We opened our first office in Iran in 1948. Currently, we have
18 UN agencies working on the ground in Iran to improve education, health,
poverty, disaster preparedness, respond to environmental challenges, care for
refugees and heal the scars left by drug trafficking and abuse,” he said
according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA.
that the UN has seemingly become largely synonymous, in the minds of many
Iranians, with resolutions adopted by the Security Council imposing sanctions which
have caused sufferings in Iran – and which may have also adversely affected UN
operations on the ground – Lewis said that he is very satisfied with the level
of cooperation extended by the government.
often a misplaced perception of the UN in the minds of some Iranian
citizens," he added. "But a close operational UN partnership with the
government – which produces real development and humanitarian results on the
ground – can help to diminish this perception."
effects of the sanctions on UN work have largely related to access to finance,
procurement of goods and services essential for project implementation and some
technical services, he explained.
But according to
the UNDP Representative, "Their impact on UN operations has obliged us to
work harder and put in much more time needed to secure special permissions
required – time that could have been spent on supporting implementation – for
According to Lewis,
who has been working in Iran for the past 18 months, the work of the UN – as
agreed with the government – focuses on the fields of public health,
environment, natural disaster risk reduction, inclusive growth, refugees, and
drug reduction and control.
"The way we
work is to deliver UN expertise and ensure that it complements the existing
government development and humanitarian infrastructure. For example, this is
how our partnership works best in combating HIV, TB, and malaria, the adverse
impact of climate change, countering organized crime, better water and land
management, coordinating the response to natural disasters and care for
On the necessity of
reforms in the United Nations, the UN envoy said that throughout his 27 years
of experience with the organization, this has always been an issue, which is
constantly being discussed, both within and outside the body.
"But our real
challenge,” he added, "is the need to increasingly turn our attention to how
the UN can prove more effective in responding to the real mega-threats of the
new millennium. At a time, when the world’s mega-challenges present ‘problems
without passports’, UN member states need to see that these challenges can only
be fixed by a vision that is willing to respond to these challenges at the regional
and global levels. We need to go beyond narrowly-defined national boundaries
He identified these
threats – at the global level – as climate change impact, pandemics (like the
Ebola which we now see erupting in west Africa), food insecurity, conflict over
resources like water, transnational organized crime and terrorism. "These,” he
said, "are the real human security challenges of the future.”
In Iran, he noted,
these were some of the challenges to which the 400 UN personnel – 90 per cent
of them being national staff serving their own country through the United
Nations – were dedicated.
To a query on what
being a UN representative means to him, Lewis commented with a positive
personal note. He said that he had dreamed about working with the UN ever since
he was 15 years old. Now, having served the organization for almost three
decades in numerous countries, Lewis observed that, working in the UN was for
him a dream job whereby he could try to make a positive difference in the lives
of other less fortunate people.
Lewis said that the
UN was, for him, "more an idea than just another international organization. It
is an idea containing values such as peace, human rights, justice and
development – our foundation values. You will find them in the Preamble to the
"I hope there
will be even greater appreciation of the UN’s role and its work in the eyes of
the Iranian people,” he observed, "and that we are striving to make this world
a safer one for everyone to live in."
initiative of President Hassan Rouhani on establishing a World Against Violence
and Extremism (WAVE), the UN Resident Coordinator said the proposal was in
conformity with the peace promotion clause stipulated in the UN Charter's Preamble.
He said he hoped
that this important initiative would receive greater international visibility
in the coming months and years.
Rouhani's WAVE proposal, the UN Resident Coordinator said, "It is not as
difficult a task as many people think to promote a culture of peace. And it
starts at the kitchen table when we teach our children mutual respect,
tolerance, listening and understanding of each other."