The case for global unity | Daily News

The case for global unity

In the words of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN’s mission is to “to repair broken trust, to heal our planet, to leave no one behind and to uphold dignity for one and all, as United Nations.”

Today, the UN marks its 73rd anniversary. The UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being. October 24 has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948 and some countries celebrate it as a holiday.

The UN and its Member States are facing a multitude of challenges today that are not easy to resolve by any means. The United Nations is needed more than ever at this time of multiple crises. Poverty, disease, terrorism, conflict, gender discrimination and climate change are exacting a heavy toll. Millions of people continue to suffer deplorable exploitation through bonded labour, human trafficking, sexual slavery or unsafe conditions in factories, fields and mines. The global economy remains an uneven playing field.

Contrary to popular opinion, the UN and its multiple agencies have had success on many fronts but there have been failures as well. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have inspired the most successful anti-poverty campaign ever. The many United Nations treaties on inequality, human rights, torture and racism have protected people, while several other agreements have safeguarded the environment. UN peacekeepers including those from Sri Lanka have ensured peace in some hostile areas of the world and its mediators have settled many disputes among nations.

The world is changing, and with it the demands on the United Nations. The UN provides a unique platform for international action. It offers unparalleled legitimacy for global engagement, owing to its universal membership. Yet, much needs to be done by the UN and its Member States. Today, the biggest threat facing the UN is that many countries are moving away from multilateralism. They not only seek to resolve their problems on their own, but also stop helping other nations via aid and other mechanisms. Several countries have pulled out of leading UN agencies. Many countries are choosing isolationism instead of international cooperation. This runs counter to the world order envisaged by the founding fathers of the UN.

There are several major issues facing the world today that can only be resolved through international cooperation. Terrorism and Climate Change are among those. Terrorism is raging around the world and even countries that were relatively ‘safe’ from terrorism had experienced it recently. The rapid spread of terror groups such as ISIS is alarming. Whole countries have been destabilized with the rise of terrorism. There are around 50 conflicts around the world which show no sign of ending. It is a challenge that the world has to fight together.

Despite the many obvious signs of Climate Change, several countries have denied its effects and even pulled out of the landmark Paris Accord. This could be a disaster for the Planet Earth. All efforts must be made to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accord despite the setbacks.

There are many other global issues that need our attention, including poverty, disease, population growth, and lack of access to education. These are challenges that the UN must tackle head-on. But doubts have been expressed whether the UN is strong enough and willing to do so. There is a notion that the UN system is dominated by a few powerful countries and the UN indeed has to do a lot of work to shed this image. There is also a notion that the UN needs to talk less and do more.

There have been many calls for strengthening and reforming the UN so that it becomes a more balanced, more effective organisation for international cooperation. There should be a constant emphasis on transparency, accountability, integrity, efficiency and flexibility. Since all countries contribute funds to the UN, the efficient use of these funds must be encouraged. For example, Sweden and Denmark have both decided to withhold funding for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), after reports about its director Erik Solheim’s extensive and expensive travel. It was revealed that he has reportedly been spending nearly 80 percent of his time out of the UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi, opting to travel extensively at a cost of around US$ 500,000 during his first 22 months in the job. His massive air travel has raised questions about the carbon emissions generated. Such glaring anomalies should be corrected.

The UN is all about global cooperation. It should provide an equal voice, an equal platform to all 193 Member States irrespective of their status. The UN should be an instrument for positive change across the world. It does a remarkable amount of work in all areas of the world but it needs more monetary and other resources to fulfill its wide ranging mandate. In doing so, it has the potential to ensure world peace and a bright future for all.


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