UN Day, October 24 marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter and has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. The theme of the United Nations Day Concert 2020, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, is “Reimagine, Rebalance, Restart: recovering together for our shared humanity” and was screened in UN General Assembly Hall at 12.00 noon on October 22. The concert included a performance featuring Roberto Bolle, accompanied by other world class etoiles as well as the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala, all recorded at La Scala Theater in Milan. A number of classical, modern and reimagined dances, curated specifically for the UN Day Concert, were performed. It is on Facebook live – very uplifting. Prior to the showing the Secretary General call yet again for a ‘global ceasefire.’
The 75th Session of the United Nations had its first plenary meeting on September 17th and the high level week began on September 21st with the commemoration and acknowledgement the 75th anniversary. The sessions were virtual with Permanent Representatives being present in the General Assembly Hall for the first time since the outbreak of COVID 19 in March 2020. The leaders adopted a declaration honouring the multilateral framework put in place in 1945 promising to live out the pledge to save succeeding generations from the scourage of war. The text outlines 12 commitments ” We will leave no one behind. We will protect our planet. We will promote peace and prevent conflicts. We will abide by international law and ensure justice. We will place women and girls at the centre. We will build trust. We will improve digital cooperation. We will upgrade the United Nations. We will ensure sustainable financing. We will boost partnerships. We will listen to and work with youth. We will be prepared.” Read the full text The declaration ends with “We commit to take the present declaration to our citizens, in the true spirit
of “We the peoples”.” My question have you heard this declaration being proclaimed in your country?
You can check out what your country said here. 130 of the 193 member states have contributed statements. 4 Youth representative – Ghana, Malaysia, Bahamas and France – addressed the General Assembly – a summary of their statements and video are available here.
On Sunday October 4 Pope Francis released his new encyclical. In it there is a call to the United Nations. Chapter 5 is entitled “A Better Kind of Politics” and includes paragraphs 154 to 197. Paragraph 170 – 175 has a subtitle ‘International Powers.’ Paragraph 172 starts with saying that we are witnessing a weakening of the power of nation states. This is what is happening when we refer to the failure of multilateralism at the UN. The Pope says that this has happening because economic and financial sectors prevail over the political. The encyclical places faith in the Charter of the United Nations. ‘There is a need to prevent the organizations from being delegitimized since its problems and shortcomings are capable of being jointly addressed and resolved.’
Quoting Paragraph 173 in full. “In this regard, I would also note the need for a reform of “the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth”. Needless to say, this calls for clear legal limits to avoid power being co-opted only by a few countries and to prevent cultural impositions or a restriction of the basic freedoms of weaker nations on the basis of ideological differences. For “the international community is a juridical community founded on the sovereignty of each member state, without bonds of subordination that deny or limit its independence”. At the same time, “the work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity… There is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm”. There is need to prevent this Organization from being delegitimized, since its problems and shortcomings are capable of being jointly addressed and resolved. (Bold print is mine)
Much time, thought and energy has been dedicated by the NGO Community at the United Nations to have the UN we need. UN 75 Peoples Declaration and Plan of Action entitled ‘Humanity at a Crossroads: Global Solutions for Global Problems’ seeks to address the failure of multilateralism and point the way forward. We have signed this as an organization. See It is also available in French, Spanish and Arabic.
Page 4 outlines essential elements required to create an enabling environment. Page 5 is a people’s commitment and page 6 recommendations to member states outlining three priorities which if implemented would lead to more effective global governance. (i) Establish a mandated post-2020 follow-up mechanism to enhance global
governance. (ii) Reliably and increasingly fund the United Nations. (iii) Enhance civil society and other stakeholders’ participation modalities. This is followed with an annex outlining (i) Immediate Action (ii) Medium term proposals and (iii) Long term aspirations. The document was handed over to the 74th President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande the Thursday May 14.
Watch a creative and moving rendition of ‘The People’s Declaration and Plan for Global Action’ filmed on YouTube by individuals globally from the confines of their home during this pandemic. Cecelia O’ Dwyer from the IBVM is featured towards the end and there is a collage of people echoing ‘Make UN 75 Count’
Catholic Religious at the UN also worked on a Statement entitled ‘A Faith-Based Vision for the UN at 75 and Beyond.’ It is a 10 page document and available in English, French, and Spanish. There are 4 specific calls a) make the role of civil society more central and meaningful in UN Processes; b) Reform the UN Security Council; c) Develop a UN body dedicated to coordination including national level reviews of implementation of UN treaties; and d) Scale up technologies to permit remote participation.
Much time and thought has gone into the various statements but I think it can be summed up in words from “A Governance Befitting” – “We therefore find ourselves at the threshold of a defining task: purposefully organizing our affairs in full consciousness of ourselves as one people in one shared homeland.” (page 4)