Sir Patrick Stewart at the UNA Forum

If Jean-Luc Picard, the revered Captain of Star Trek had one maxim alone, it was to treat every person, alien (or sentient object) he encountered with equal civility. On 14th July at the UK United Nations Association Forum, it was announced that Sir Patrick Stewart, who famously played Capt. Picard is to become the first Patron of the UNA-UK.

The Emmy-award winning actor addressed an audience of hundreds from around the world who had one thing in common: a deep-seated appreciation for the valuable work of the United Nations. 

Sir Patrick’s impassioned words were described as ‘icing on the cake’ for a day that was filled with stimulating discussions about the role of the UN in the future, the challenges of a world population of 7 billion, and the relevance of universal human rights. 

A debate on the Olympic Truce highlighted the value of sport in peace-keeping and conflict resolution. The Olympic ideal – whereby nations can temporarily set aside their differences and live together in harmony – asks that if they can do it for one day, they can do it forever.

Many of us are familiar with the story of the British and German fighters who laid down their guns and emerged from their trenches on Christmas Day to play a football match. There are countless other examples of sport uniting otherwise hostile groups, highlighting the potential value of sport as a peace-keeping tool.   

One of the most well attended sessions during the day was a seminar on ‘How to Work for the UN’ led by Dame Margaret Anstee - the first female Under-Secretary General, amongst others. Recounting experiences in the field in Philippines and as Head of the Mission to Angola, Dame Margaret presented a career that spanned the world and altered lives, whilst paving the way for women in a male-dominated institution. 

The attraction to working for the UN, however, comes from more than just wanting to be part of an international organisation that changes lives. It is about being part of a vision of the world, where people are of equal worth, and humans stand side by side to support each other. It is a utopian vision, but one that comes closer to achieving day by day. For that reason, Sir Patrick couldn’t have put it better in his closing remarks when he said, “the United Nations and UNA-UK must live long and prosper”. 

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