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European Parliament dialogue with the UN Brussels Team

European Parliament dialogue with the UN Brussels Team

Address by Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, (Director, United Nations Brussels)

Strasbourg, 16 July 2019


Honourable members, dear colleagues and friends,  

Allow me to thank you on behalf of the UN for being with us this evening. We are here as the representatives of the UN agencies based in Brussels, working as ‘One UN’ to present a unified voice to European Union on key policy issues of common interest.

The UN in Brussels is a source of valuable knowledge on many issues you will encounter as parliamentarians.

Today we have the chance to meet each other and reflect upon our joint commitment to a better future for Europe and the world, and to understand how we can work together to achieve this aim.

During the past decade, the UN and the EU have been cooperating in Europe and almost every country around the world to build democratic and inclusive societies, promote decent work and sustainable development, lift people out of poverty and malnutrition, prevent and overcome crises and protect human rights, including social rights. We are jointly involved in many actions for global change, for example the Spotlight initiative to fight violence against women and girls.

The many challenges we face today are unprecedented in scale and intensity, and we need to join forces, speak with the same voice, act as one to tackle them in the next five years and beyond.

The Europe we want is the same that the European citizens, your constituencies, have asked for: a more secure, transparent and socially equitable Europe that delivers more and better jobs for all, that protects social and human rights and that promotes a greener and cleaner environment. In other words, a Europe that leaves no one behind, especially those 110 million citizens (or 22.4% of the total population) who live in households at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and who have been hit the hardest by the 2009 crisis. These are the same citizens who voted in the last elections, or often decided not to vote at all. The role of European parliamentarians and civil servants is vital to achieve these ambitious, yet attainable, goals.

This commitment to change has been expressed by the EU with the recent publication of the Reflection Paper ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030’, which will be presented in New York this week, and which I hope you are familiar with.

During the next five years, you will be protagonists in this quest for change. And us, the UN and its agencies, will be close allies in your efforts, to make sure that EU and UN policies have the strongest impact on sustainable development and that human lives are protected. The UN is not only a strategic partner for the EU at the global level. The UN also has the expertise, reach and authority to tackle issues which will be at the heart of your internal policy work, including civil liberties and rights, gender equality, environment, agriculture and food, public health, culture and education, employment and social affairs, trade, industry, technology and innovation.

Let’s be honest, the challenges ahead are difficult ones. Despite great improvements, 783 million people still live in extreme poverty around the world and one in nine people are undernourished. In recent years, it has become clear that the consequences of climate change promise to be worse than expected, with serious implications for migration, health, water and food security but also employment and economic growth. Also, millions of people including too many children are calling for international protection, peace and assistance to their basic needs in wars like Syria and Yemen, and in other emergencies and natural disasters.

Within and outside Europe, these issues cannot be resolved by single countries or organisations. The challenges defining our lifetime are global in nature and Europe’s future is closely connected to the rest of the world. For example, a transition to environmentally sustainable economies would not only benefit the planet, but also create a net gain of 18 million jobs by 2030, including two million in Europe.

Global challenges call for global solutions, and multilateralism is today more important than ever. The UN can help you linking the European and the global, to address challenges at the multilateral level, with the membership and authority of 193 sovereign states.

The EU and its member states have committed to our common 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and its Sustainable Development Goals, which has been defined and signed by all UN Member States at the highest political level, to ensure a better future for all. The 2015 Paris agreement, which has been substantially supported by the EU and its Member States, has raised the hopes of billions of people for a better future to our planet.

As it is being discussed in New York this week, four years have passed since these commitments, which we now need to urgently implement.

It will not be a leisurely stroll, but a race. A race we can win if we continue to work closely together, in an alliance to deliver sustainable development, human rights and peace in Europe and worldwide.


In an era of global uncertainty, the UN and the EU need each other more than ever. In September 2018, we have reaffirmed our strategic partnership and common values through four joint statements issued at the at the UN General Assembly. These statements are a powerful expression of our common strategic vision to work towards a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world for present and future generations.

The European Parliament, as the voice of the European citizens, has a fundamental role in this process. Internally, by fully using your legislative power to ensure that the EU leads by example in achieving a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development with the support of the UN. Externally, through your international cooperation activities, the supervision and monitoring of EU’s development and humanitarian initiatives, but also by defining the instruments and means of implementation that will make our partnership possible. The discussion and approval of an ambitious MFF will be key in the next few months.

Your support, leadership and ownership are needed more than ever.  We hope you will sign and share the pledge to leave no one behind that we will circulate again soon. This is to express your commitment to this Agenda, but also to inform your future work.

You will also receive a brochure that provides more information on the work of the UN and how you as parliamentarians can contribute to supporting multilateralism and achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

I hope you will count upon the UN for your future work, leading forward our strategic partnership and seeking for daily collaboration on the many topics of common interest.

Thank you for joining us this evening and for your kind attention.