WORKING at the United Nations (UN) is “maddening”, but it is also “truly amazing, wonderful and important” former High Court of Australia judge Michael Kirby said last week.
Kirby, who gave the annual Hadassah Australia Oration about whether the UN is the best chance for global peace, said he recognises that many supporters of Israel are concerned about the organisation but we musn’t just focus on its failings.
“If we didn’t have the United Nations, who would take the lead in ensuring that people everywhere would get access to essential medicines and who would take the lead of dealing with the problem of proliferation of nuclear weapons which could be destructive for the whole human species? Everybody,” Kirby said.
“With all their agreements and disagreements, we’d just all end up being incinerated.”
Kirby served as chairman of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on crimes against humanity in North Korea and has been a member of the High Level Panel on Access to Essential Healthcare, established by the former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.
He also played an integral part in the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the goal that by 2030, every person in the world will have access to essential medicines.
The global access to medicine is a value which Kirby parallels with those represented by Hadassah.
“We must think globally. But at home and abroad, like Hadassah, we must be willing and able to act locally, including in the most challenging of heath care circumstances,” Kirby implored.
“Nothing less will fulfil the obligations and promises of universal human rights.”
“[Hadassah] reaches out to people of all religions — and of no religion — and is just looking after people who are sick. That is something I strongly support”, affirmed Kirby.
Following Kirby’s oration, former NSW governor Dame Marie Bashir presented the Hadassah Tikkun Olam Award to Professor Emeritus Les White.
White, a paediatric oncologist, has served as the executive director of Sydney Children’s Hospital and more recently, as NSW chief paediatrician. White told The AJN that he was “overwhelmed, delighted, and very humbled”.
“[White] has contributed to the betterment of society in Australia and overseas, and his example is a tribute to the academic and clinical excellence of Australian scientists and researchers,” noted Ron Finkel, president of Hadassah Australia.
While his professional accomplishments and credentials are expansive, it is his passion for his young patients and their families which drive him.
“When looking after children with cancer, curing them … you literally spend years with that family, going through chemo, and the follow-up afterwards,” he said.
“On a personal level, that is the most rewarding.”