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Audio Guide: The Next Page - Transcripts

Welcome to the UN Library and Archives Geneva's Audio Research Guide! Here you'll find episodes from our own podcast, The Next Page, as well as podcasts and audio from or on the UN system and multilateralism.

61: The Crossroads of Multiculturalism & Multilateralism with Ambassador Federica Villegas

by Natalie Alexander on 2021-09-30T16:29:32+02:00 | Comments

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

We decided the country, we decided that the multiculturalism, the diversity is something that is a value to society.

Tiffany Verga:

Hello and welcome back to the next page, the UN Library and Archives podcast designed to advance the conversation on multilateralism. My name is Tiffany Verga and If I sound unfamiliar to you that is because I’ve just started working here at the UN Library and Archives as a producer for the podcast.

 Tiffany Verga:

In today's episode you'll be hearing from Federico Villegas the new Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Mr Villegas spoke to our director Francesco Pisano about the history of Argentina, the countries approach to the 2030 agenda and how multiculturalism has influenced multilateralism in the country. Without further ado, we hope that you enjoy the conversation in today's episode.

 Francesco Pisano:

Ambassador welcome and please tell our audience a little bit about yourself and how you came to diplomacy.

 Ambassador Federico Villegas

Thank you, thank you very much and thank you to all the listeners and you for the invitation. Well, actually you know when I was a teenager, I was an exchange student in the United States, and I had to fill out a form when I was 17 years old. I had to fill out a form and there was a question that says which is your goal? And I typed in an Olivetti typewriter, I said become a lawyer and enter the foreign service and that was at 17 years old. And of course, that year abroad, I think confirmed the idea I had for my future.

So, I was born in the north of Argentina and Santiago, my hometown is closer to Bolivia than to Buenos Aires and then I went to study in Rosario and I studied law. But at the end of my career, I knew that I was willing to enter the foreign service, and that's how I became a diplomat.

 Francesco Pisano:

And you have a very long career, and I know that. You've been a client of our library for nearly 30 years, which means you were in and out of Geneva several times. So what was your impact with international diplomacy? What was the first time you went into a meeting as a diplomat?

 Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, it was actually at the privilege of coming for the first time in my life to Europe, arriving at the Geneva airport. So the first time I saw Europe was coming out of at Cornivan, I will remember the shops and the history  for me because it was the first time I was in Europe and it was because I was a United Nations disarmament fellow. I was selected as a UN Disarmament fellow and therefore the program, as you know, it's a very traditional program of the UN, very important. 30 diplomats from 30 countries come in doing actually like Jules Verne, the around the world in 80 days starting with 40 days in Geneva for the conference on disarmament and so that's how I came here.

And since then I dealt with disarmament issues, chemical weapons and then I was twice Director General of Human Rights. Therefore, whether for disarmament or for human rights I have been coming in and out of Geneva for the last 30 years and using this library especially at the times when we didn't have laptops or internet or cell. This was the heart of the of the UN for delegates to exchange or write our speeches, to look for information.

 Francesco Pisano:

So nice to hear that from an ambassador so thank you, thank you for that. So, before we go to the heart of our conversation, which is about Argentina and the UN and in the world. Let's have a little bit of a presentation of your country, so I know like everybody else, that Argentina is a rich and fascinating history. But for those who do not know your country well, I suppose everyone knows the name, but not so much the country perhaps. How would you present Argentina rapidly? What are the key moments of the history of your country?

 Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well Argentina is a country that is part of a world that as you know, was divided through colonialism first of all. So out of the of the members of the UN you have different historical processes. In our baggage we are part of the picture of Colonialism, the first colonialism was from Spain, our process was one of the first independence process. We had our revolution in May of 25th of 1810. As you know, 1808 was the first in the region, 1810 was Argentina and then the different countries, almost all of them after Argentina, so that came, and therefore the Spanish institutions, heritage etc. is very important for Argentina. Actually, you look at the last names you will find many, many Spanish descendants. But every country builds its present and future according to the values and social constructions that the majority of the society decides to do and at one point Argentina decided that we were a big country with few people and enormous potential. Therefore, there was at the end of the 19th century a decision of massively incorporating immigration in the country. We were one of the few countries in the world that had an article in the constitution that specifically called at that time for fostering immigration in a massive way. Therefore, in 1910, three out of four people walking in the city of Buenos Aires did not speak Spanish, were immigrants. The only city in the world that had the same ratio was New York City. Of the five countries in the world that have received the highest amount of immigration in a short period of time along with Canada, Australia, USA is Argentina. So that's part of our identity, but at the same time you know the different process of evolution of a country have elites in a way they're all run by elites, different elites whether cultural, economical, political. And at that time the elite did not have the evolution of democracy or full representation of the masses that came after all the revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Therefore, there was a huge social debt of a big country that was developing but had a lot of people that were not part of us as actors of that development, and therefore we had a huge process that that was the turning point in our history. A huge process that we decided that their development came from by inclusion of those masses and therefore, we had a systematic process of using our economic advantage that we had at that time in order to make the lowest class and middle class through a new deal basically, what we had as a country. And that is something that is very characteristic of Latin America. Any social scientist analyzes will see that the presence, a long-standing presence of the middle class as actors through public free education all over the country has been one of the characteristics of Argentina.

Unfortunately, then the other point in history, which is very sad. The darkest period of Argentina is that unfortunately the world and the UN was a hostage of these. They were only was divided since 1947 in the good and the evil and they decided that you had to choose sides and millions of people died on one side and on the other side because of that division. Unfortunately, we the countries were part of a bipolar clash, we were not creating that clash, but we end up being victims in that sense.

Argentina that had quite a history of military coup because of that tension with the social inclusion. Already in the 30s we had our first military coup where we deviated from the democratic trend that we were going. The coup in 1976 was a coup that started the cruelest and darkest period of history in dictatorship, and the UN has a lot to do with that because at that time we did not have Internet or WhatsApp or YouTube and it was written journalism basically that exposed what was happening in the different countries.

So they decided the dictatorship in Argentina to use the enforced disappearance of persons in a massive way in order precisely not to be exposed of what they were doing and they did it because of the Cold War they wanted to do things in order to eradicate and fight communism.

With that, the founder of the grandmothers of Plaza Imagio, which there the only crime they committed, was to go every Thursday at 3:00 PM, to find out what was happening with their kids and their daughters that were pregnant. The founding father, the mother of the class was abducted and thrown alive from a plane of the state to the Rio de La Plata and 20 years after that her remains were identified. Just to give you an example of what we are talking about, the clash of what the Cold War had an impact, and the UN had a lot to do because the 1st special mechanism on human Rights that was created in the Commission of Human Rights in the UN ever, was in 1980, a working group on enforced disappearance of persons.

And at the time, the real politics of the Cold War and the good relationships of the dictatorship prevented Argentina from being condemned, sanctioned here in the UN. So the victims many exiles that were living here that were saved from that process, they came here and they said we cannot create the punishment to the government in a political way in the Commission. So they started having our lines in the special rapporteurs people, amazing people that said, okay we have to look for special procedures to address what was happening in Argentina. And so the massive the massive information about what was being done ended up in the first special procedure on human rights in the UN, the Working group that until today is there and it's working. From there from the arc we came to the light in democracy in 83 after eight years, and we mature as a society and decided that human rights had to be part of our DNA as a democratic country.

And so that country that was an example for the bad in 1980 became the leading country in the negotiation and the International Convention against the enforced disappearance of persons. So that's that's a in a way the process of transition from darkness to lighting in Argentina.

Francesco Pisano:

And that's why I said fascinating history, It's a fascinating history. Thank you for summarizing so well with this turning point I'm sure the audience is enjoying this a lot. Let's go back now to the role of Argentina in in the Americas and in the war. You mentioned Argentina is a big country, it actually is the second largest in the American continent and is the 4th largest in the Americas. It's the second largest in South America because Brazil is number one but you also the 8th largest country on Earth, and so it's a big country. So, what is the place in the American continent, from a political and strategic point of view, and what can be said about your relations with your American neighbors?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, I like to quote former President of Uruguay, who I think is very wise Pepe Mujica, until some years ago. He said that we are, “Estamos cosidos de por vida.” Which means we our son, you know like a tissue we our son for life, our countries. So the thing is, if you know that you are in a neighborhood and you live in a house and you know for sure that all your life you will live in that house forever and you have a neighbor in the other house, that will also leave for eternity in the next house. The question is, what is the smartest thing to do? To get along well with that neighbor that for eternity will be together or not? And in a way that's what happened in Latin America and Argentina and Brazil. The two were the leading countries in this new phase of the relationship that of course came because of recovering democracy in our countries.

Unfortunately, our military still had a war games in the military academies analyzing conflict hypothesis of problems among the countries, it was natural for military academies to make war games, exercising an invasion. And we were on the brink of an armed conflict in Chile in 1979 because of a territorial dispute and we were glad that both countries were glad to end up in an arbitration that prevented the war. Therefore, the role of Argentina is along with Brazil and other countries to foster these common values, common interests, common realities, common cultural heritage, and therefore our agenda. We can have sometimes disputed and different approaches to certain things, but we have been very coherent in understanding that our Latin America has a place in the world if we are together.

Francesco Pisano:

Thank you for the powerful message there, I like the analogy of people living in houses next to each other. Let's go back to something you said before talking about these economic growth, economic power. Now everybody knows that South America has experienced unprecedented development in our modern history, economically and financially speaking. But few know that nothing really compares with the performance of Argentina, who had the world’s, highest real GDP already at the end of the 19th century, so in 1895, Argentina economy was number one, world real GDP we're talking about. It was consistently in the top ten, at least until 1920, when we look at that powerful role, probably fueled by several conditions locally, including immigration that you mentioned before. When we look at Argentina what can you say about Argentina’s place in the world today?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, Argentina doesn't have hard power in the traditional terms of international relationships. We are not a country that the way we approach our relation to the world is through weapons or arms or armies, or that's not our approach and also is not the economic influence in other countries that we look for it is not a hard power of finances or decision making on the future of other countries. You know that some countries have legislators that with one vote, decide the assistant development for a country very far away that can change the life of that country. If that development is approved or not in in the Congress, for example of the country, that that's not Argentina. What we have is of course, something which is always is called soft power, and the soft power is the way that we decided as a society to move forward in improving our values whether it's political, social, or economic organization.

So of course, each country is like every human being of the seven million that we are around or more has its own place in the world. We always say we are individuals and there's not a single person that is exactly like the other. The countries is the same thing, the 195, we are each country. It's a construction of a society with values with social historical context and ambitions for the future. In our case, we decided that we want a society with inclusion. A society that cannot wait for society exclusively in a spontaneous way to change for better. The best creation of the social tissue of Argentina is by far the human rights movement. If we had to be proud about something that we created as a society, it was the human rights movement that in the UN is very well known because we have been actually one of the main actors in the progressive development of human rights at large since we came back from democracy, so that construction for us now is the leadership in deciding we can have a better society and we can have a positive impact in the world to create a better society. I give you just one example. We were like in many other societies traditional of course, and we had this historic background but still one day we decided that sexual orientation should not be a cause for exclusion, discrimination, influence and we were able and at the time that we were one of the first countries in the world to have same sex marriage something that is being discussed today in the radio in 2021 and we had it for many years. And the 100 out of the 190 countries, approximately 77 still consider homosexuality a crime, and on the other side you have countries that have decided their societies that not only we don't consider a crime we consider that anybody can love whoever he or she wants and so those are examples of a society that is dynamic in the discussion, dynamic and looking for new faces of evolution.

Of course, with difficulties with this and with the political debate, huge political debates we are very active where Argentina is a country that I'm sure everybody surprised that when you get a cab driver the cab driver in Argentina is able to talk fluidly about political reality, not only of Argentina internationally. If you get a cab driver tomorrow, I I can bet you then at one point very nice people they will start talking about Afghanistan and the Taliban and it's happening in the news. I don't say that they go and and read the New York Times, but they are informed people so when you have a society that is not dormant that is not of course it's our responsibility to manage a society that is so dynamic active, so engaged.

We have public free universities all over the country over 45 we are something that we have. We are very proud and is being admired by the rest of the world because for example, the University of Buenos Aires is in one of the top 100 universities in the world and is free and public and is probably one of the few examples in the world of that. And therefore, when you produce a society for example in human rights, imagine from a dictatorship we came to have 45 public universities with law schools where human rights is a compulsory obligatory matter. That means that thousands of lawyers are going out to the country already with the knowledge of human rights law, and they become judges, NGO's, diplomats. So the critical mass and since I have a passing disarmament, I end up always giving those examples and you know, for the creation of a nuclear bomb you need the enrichment of Uranium at a certain point, the critical mass of Uranium of 235, which is the the number that we usually use is is the one that creates the possibility of an expansion. So imagine what it means for society to create a critical mass in a rich uranium of knowledge of human rights in thousands of people every year when they graduate from Roscoe and they can go and defend people or be judged or be a diplomat.

So that's.

That's the way we relate.

Francesco Pisano:

And that is a perfect Segway to the next part of our conversation I would like to have with you.

Which is Argentina and UN, Argentina, India. And now what we know is Argentina is part of that nucleus of founding members of the United Nations. So Argentina was there when the United Nations was created. It was there also when the World Bank and the World Trade Organization Medical School were created. You're actually a founding member of a number of international organization and even when you were not founding member, you are known the world over for being a member of many, many regional and international.

So your acquaintance with multilateralism as a practice of dialogue and inclusion with other countries is an exceptional record that everybody knows about. You also served on the Security Council with distinction and on the Human Rights Council, of course. And listening to you, we now know much better though why you were so distinct in the Human Rights Council as a member. Now, what assessment can you make as an ambassador today of the Argentinian experience in the UN all along, let's say the recent history of the organization?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, for us the UN has been, as you mentioned, a place to debate how do we create a better humanity? A better future for the humanity, but how Argentina can contribute to that goal?

That's basically the way we approach the UN always. Because of this critical mass of thinking that has used the international arena as a place to debate, we were able to contribute along the way in disarmament and in human rights and also in social development. If I may make a comment. On the present debates that we have, you know, the Cold War when the Cold War ended, there was, we all thought and most of the scientists, political scientists thought that there was a revealed truth at that time after the Berlin Wall ended. The revealed truths that was. Expressed by many famous Bhutan scientists that we all know was that one side of the Cold War one over the other because they had a better way of organizing themselves socially, economically, and politically and because on the other side they did everything wrong this part won over the other. And as you all know, that's not true, there was not one good and one bad they revealed truth at that time that said and COVID showed us the misinterpretation of the reality that we had our time that the real truth was that the state should be minimum the absence of this state was a value at that time, the private sector was the only one the only driving force that could make societies evolve. Therefore, the world changing inequality increase immediately even though trade created democracy. That Of course we all agree, but it's not that everything was perfect in the way of approaching on one side. So now the the pendulum what is trying and that's the type of debates we have here in Geneva in every organization is how do we coexist with different ways of political, social and economic organization that each country each society has the right to decide it?

We have to accept that each society constructs itself the way to organize politically, socially and economically. Argentina decided when it was about to be independent there was somebody that said we should have a king, a local South American king that was one of the options and we decided not to have a monarchy, but as you know many countries do they have monarchies and that's the way that they decide to construct their society. So in the UN, that's the one of the essential debates that we have how to use the UN and the multilateralism to understand each other and respect each other in the way to approach our own values.

You know, it's fascinating to be in Geneva in this moment I have a privilege at at the beginning it was a burden because some countries have the privilege of having three missions here in Geneva, most of them have two missions, WTO and UN and others have even disarmament. And o course to have only one mission, you have to rely on the enormous effort of the team you have. But COVID ended up showing that it's very useful to have one mission, because COVID has forced humanity, but in particular, international organizations to look at the solution to of everything in an interdisciplinary way. What I find my evaluation here of the UN in Geneva which is fascinating, is that I feel that the 35 international organizations here approximately were born in different contexts for different reason with different bureaucracies, different treaties etc but not necessarily have been dialoging among themselves. There was not, since the big establishment of international Geneva, something that forced those organizations to survive because it's a pandemic to talk and work together. Therefore, now we see all the time that the director of The WHO is talking with the Director of the WTO, and he's talking to the ILO and the President of the Human Rights Council. Why? Because in a couple of months we had a negotiation of a waiver on intellectual property and parallel in The WHO on proven vaccines, and parallel in the Human Rights Council a resolution on the equal access to vaccines as a human right, and that's just three examples every organization. So, I think it's a fascinating time for the UN to have a great brainstorming of these new opportunities of working together. Argentina will be part of all these discussions and we are very active in the progressive dinner of human rights of course not only on issues like enforced disappearance are related to our past which is the present unfortunately of many countries, but also on new issues for the future, business on human rights we were one of the leaders in bringing the idea here and now the the rights of older persons. But remember, you know we have international treaties of human rights specifically for structural vulnerabilities and we were able after long debates to have an instrument on children, which is very important, one of the most ratified treaties in the world.

And we were able to have one on women, of course, which is a huge debt that humanity has on discrimination against women and we have our instrument now we were able to create one in 2005. Four persons with disabilities, that was a huge stage after long debates we created and we changed the culture of approaching persons with disabilities, understanding them and moving beyond the traditional paternalistic and patronizing way of approaching. We change the culture on persons with disability in certain instrument and now Argentina is moving forward to convince that we need the next step, which is older person. Older persons and COVID has shown blandly unfortunately the vulnerability of other persons and the need for them to have a stronger international protection on their rights and that's for example, one of the leading initiatives that Argentina is moving in New York and here in Geneva also.

As a last comment on these, sometimes people say the UN, why do we need it? And another common theme in a barbecue is when I'm a diplomat and people ask, OK, what do you do? Why do we need the UN? And then the other typical thing is that these issues with human rights are something from the past, then it's not needed anymore, the Holocaust is long ago, it will not repeat itself.

And of course the two things are wrong and I started for the last, for 300 years since the creation of the state that we know you know, the notion of the state starting in 1648 and until 1948, for 300 years we had a state and the development of international law and the relationship between the states that was exclusively based on the national interests of those states. Whatever happened with the people inside those state was not an issue to other states, no matter discrimination, massacres, exclusion, whatever you want to do. It was not a matter, the international law for 300 years was based on the law of the seas or the rules of the war. In 1948 after the Holocaust, we decide as humanity that every human being had a right that internationally should be not only recognized by protective, regardless of he or her nationality. This goes beyond the notion of this right, but that it's 1948 we are talking about only 75 years. So my question is if for 300 years humanity had this approach of international law and we have been going through only 75 years, I understand that this is the tip of the iceberg of international human rights law, and we have a long way to go. So, we need institutions strong institutions to have a platform to continue growing, hopefully 300 years of progressive development. And the other thing why? Why do we need the UN? It's hard, you know, and I come from being ambassador in Mozambique. I opened the Embassy of Argentina and Mozambique, a privilege I had of being four years in Africa, and I came directly to my post in Geneva from Maputo from from Mozambique last year.

There are many ways to answer you know why do we need the UN? But among others I feel you know, international relations were based on power. That's not a scientific, political science scientific concept. It's a real concept. It's a concept that includes the life of people. As we all know, colonialism was a decision of powers in a conference that divided the continent among themselves. We're not judging, but the concept itself, the international relations at that time, for the absence of the eradication of war for the absence of not having multilateralism was that there was a power politic approach.

So the ones that were in power decided to have the world moving forward in certain direction as so the most important sophisticated developed Juris in the world justified slavery and slave trade or colonialism so that was there was not a platform to discuss that that was wrong. So the countries in Africa that were the ones that were subject to that division and of course, all kinds of atrocities did not have a platform where to go to discuss and convince other regions of the world to say this is wrong, which is a platform that allowed those countries to become independent. The process of decolonization, and that's why for Argentina we will always continue in the UN moving forward to address the last situations of conversation that we have with the islands in the South of Argentina that we the UN soundly has said that this is sovereignty dispute that we should address with the United Kingdom, and we need to address that because it's part of the inheritance of colonialism that we are ready as humanity to move forward and turn the page on colonialism, and so it's it's fascinating to be here.

Francesco Pisano:

And from all you're saying, it's clear that the role of Argentina in the UN is very much alive, is powerful, and it's also leading in many, many sectors that resonate also with your internal values as a country and dialogue and debate. Now let's continue to talk about Argentina and the UN. I remember just after the adoption of Agenda 2030, we were in early 2016, when the Secretary general, then Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had an official visit to your country, and he famously said I congratulate Argentina for its commitment to the values of the UN and an early start on the implementation of Agenda 2030. Here we we're just in 2016,  and the document was just adopted September 2016 in the General Assembly, so it's brand new. So what is your view as an ambassador to the UN concerning Agenda 2030 and the SDG's for Latin America, let's say the Latin America of tomorrow. What is the potential of this agenda?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

I think that the agenda 2030 and SDG’S is an opportunity for Latin America to have a boost, a real boost in our development. Why? For two reasons, the first something that comes before the debate on climate change before the debate of the environment, which is the social inclusion. I always say what is the most important thing of development and the most important thing is that you are able to have development for all, but that is a construction, a social construction that has a philosophy behind which is the person that is wealthy needs to understand that if the person that is very poor improves its situation it is not only something that will benefit that person, it is something that will benefit the wealthy also because the whole society, those in the international discussions, we have exactly the same rationale. And COVID again showed us the importance of the interconnection.

There's no point in having an isolated development process in a country if we have so many countries that do not reach the level of development because if those countries go well and improve their situation, I will be better off and the SDG's is a way of approaching different issues across the board t o have genuinely this new face in and the international relationship of leveling the playing field of the different peoples of the world in development with inclusion in our case, opens up a whole discussion which is fascinating. For cases like Argentina on environment, because we have, we are privileged of course we are a country of the 8th country in the world, as you say, with enormous natural resources of all types, we have 36 million hectares producing agriculture and food for 500 million people. And you know, Mozambique has 36 million hectares that also could produce food, and today they are producing agriculture in 5,000,000 hectares because the agricultural revolution of Mozambique and many other African countries are going today as we speak. They're moving forward in the revolution of producing food in Africa, so that's the world that we got half and the SDG's in the case of Argentina puts us in the mirror of understanding the environmental agenda on renewable energies regardless of the huge resources that we have on oil and gas and others. We have all the social inclusion for example, in the WTO we are negotiating the first treaty, the agreement that will merge trade with sustainable development and in SDG, which is 14.6 which is subsidies for illegal undeclared unregulated fishing that is predating the stocks all over the world, which is an SDG itself. So, I think that the agenda 2030 is something but still is not as visible as I would like. I would like that every country be these sites strategically to identify the public policies, their legislation in each country and put it facing the mirror of the SDG's and have a strategic program to move forward in linking the public policies, and so it has to become the SDG's, has to become a household name like the UN Charter.

When we start. You know, recording by article 51 of the Charter or the veto power and the Hundred 08 article on the reform of the charge. I think we do it by heart because we it's already in our knowledge, SDG's should be in everywhere in the knowledge and should be even memorized by everybody and every time we address a public policy, look at this decision of humanity at the highest level of where do we want to go.

Francesco Pisano:

So perhaps let's touch on the last point concerning Argentina life in the UN as a global organization, you touched upon it a little bit, but I wanted to be more specific to this point together with Argentina is a paradigm of a multicultural country. I like to ask you how does this influence your view as a people of multilateralism and collective security?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, definitely when you think that you constructed your society with diversity, multilateralism becomes automatically a value. In the case of Argentina when we have to decide what shaped Argentina, it was shaped by the indigenous peoples that were living there. It was shaped by the immigration and that changed because we had European immigration massively until 1940s. But since 1940s, the 80% of our immigration has been from Latin America, so that's another stage of shaping that therefore we decided something very simple, but very difficult to achieve, which is to understand that diversity enriches our society, not the contrary. Sometimes unfortunately, because of different speeches on whether it's security terrorism, it doesn't matter, we are very lively listening to those discussions. Something that is different we end up having fear or mistrust because it's different. We feel better to continue in our comfort zone of the what we know. Argentina because of our history of construction of the society, we decided the contrary and we decided that the multiculturalism, the diversity and even the extraordinary coexistence of religions is something that is a value added value to society. And that's why we have been so actively using multilateralism for example for the eradication of patterns of discrimination, for example. After the Durban Conference in 2001, of course, the Durban Conference on discrimination has some parts of that conference that ended up in the media as a conflict. But that might be the case, but what came out of that conference is a new face of understanding by it against discrimination.

For example, if you look at the world now, the word tolerance, when do you use tolerance? At least in Spanish, and I think in English also, tolerate implies that you don't like what you tolerate. I tolerate something that includes an assumption that I don't like it, but I tolerate so intolerancia, intolerance was evolved to fight against discrimination and look what we are now. We are acquiring a new term in the world which is respect for diversity and that's the next stage. So, we were able to be at the forefront of this new decision. And that's why, after Durban at that time, the High Commissioner Robinson, one of the things that were approving was that each country should, could have a diagnosis of the patterns of discrimination in each country. In order to eradicate the obstacles to fight against. That and we came back from Durban and we were one of the few countries in the world that, with the High Commissioner, created a project and we approved a national plan against discrimination but not that many states done by independent experts with the help of the UN that travel around the country to talk to victims. Real people in discrimination and made the most important ever than diagnosis of the patterns of discrimination in our society with 240 concrete proposals of changes of laws and policies in order to eradicate that addressing all types of discrimination on colored people on indigenous people on immigration on LGBT, etc. And you know one that was approved in 2006, we had a tremendous political will that decided to approve the plan without changing a comma of what the independent experts did and ordered all the whole administration to follow that. Today we are proud to say that almost 90% of those 240 are in fact, and we're talking about the I already have been eradicated or changed and we're talking about very fascinating things that sometimes we don't even realize things like we have over 100 new legislation that came out of that plan. Things very simple like persons overweight that want to go to clothing store and have the right to have at least some sizes that allow them to enjoy fashion also, that regulates that every clothing store has to have a certain number of sizes to do for that, and. Many many, many over 240, so that's diversity, and therefore multilateralism for us is obviously our platform.

Francesco Pisano:

And that is so evident that multiculturalism is linked to multilaterals in your life as a nation. But we hope of course, that is a case that repeats itself in other nations as well. Ambassador Villegas as we wrap up this episode of the podcast and to conclude do you have any particular message for those who are listening to us? What do you want our audience to know?

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Well, I would like the audience to remember that there are many sources of information of what the UN is doing, and I think that people should be conscious that the UN is not an international bureaucracy in Geneva or New York. The UN is us, all the people, and the diplomats we are here because of the people.

Therefore, the next stage will be to use the social networks as a positive advancement to have a new face of ownership of the UN. Ownership by society at large to stop looking at the UN as something distant a bureaucracy and start owning the UN because the SDG's are for humanity and humanity is the one that will benefit.

Francesco Pisano:

That's very powerful, well said Ambassador Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations in Geneva. Thank you so much for taking the time for being with us.

Ambassador Federico Villegas:

Thank you, thank you very much and thank you for the invitation.

Tiffany Verga:

We hope that you enjoyed that conversation between Federico Vegas and our Director Francesco Pisano. If you'd like any more information, please don't hesitate to check out our show notes where we've put useful links for you. If you loved this episode of the Next page podcast, don't forget to subscribe rate a leave a review, or find us @UNOGLibrary on Twitter and UN Library and Archives. Geneva on Facebook. Don't forget to join us every fortnight on Fridays for the next episode. Thank you for listening.


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