Downtown Westport was transformed Wednesday into a varicolored totem of multinationalism as the flags of dozens of member states of the United Nations lined the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge across the Saugatuck River.
The display of those national standards marked the town's recognition of UN Day, commemorating the enactment of the UN's charter on Oct. 24, 1945, which facilitated the official establishment of the international organization. Less than a mile away, on the front steps of Town Hall, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff gathered with several UN representatives for a ceremony to observe the charter's 67th anniversary.
"It's a year that I'm very fond of because I was born then," Joseloff said of the UN's founding year. "The importance of the UN grows with each passing year."
Joseloff then read a proclamation highlighting some of the United Nations' top goals, which include maintaining international peace and security, developing "friendly relations" among nations and promoting "social progress, better living standards and human rights."
Westport has longstanding ties to the UN. Each June, it welcomes UN staff and delegates to the town for jUNe Day, which commemorates the signing of the UN charter on June 26, 1945. The jUNe Day event was founded in 1965 by the late Steinkraus-Cohen.
Bill Hass, president of the southwestern Connecticut chapter of the United Nations Association, read a UN Day message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, which outlined the organization's major challenges.
"We are living through a period of profound turmoil, transition and transformation," Ban said in the message. "Insecurity, inequality and intolerance are spreading. Global and national institutions are being put to the test. With so much at stake, the United Nations must keep pace across the spectrum of its activities -- peace, development, human rights, the rule of law, the empowerment of the world's women and youth."
Hass also emphasized the importance of local support for the United Nations.
"For the UN to be successful as an international organization, it depends on its member states for support and political commitment," he said. "Unless they hear from the citizens, your congressmen and your senators' support isn't as strong as it needs to be in these endeavors."
"Often, without a lot of attention, the UN works behind the scenes to resolve conflicts," she said. "It doesn't always get credit for it, but sometimes that's the best way to get things done. In this increasingly interconnected world, we need to have an organization where every single country in the world can come together and talk to one another and try to resolve these issues."
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