The United Nations’ International Day of Peace is celebrated all around the globe on 21 September. It aims to provide ‘an opportunity for all humanity to come together, in spirit and in action to forward the ideas of and conditions for peace.’
The 71st session of the General Assembly will allow for presidents, ministers, monarchs and others in power to engage in discussion and debate and to conclude international responses to global challenges. These include poverty, war, and climate change.
The theme for this year’s session is ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.’ It aims to address ‘the fundamental needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ There are 17 different Sustainable Development Goals which the UN will design and construct plans for. This will involve gathering financial resources, developing technology, and collaborating with other organisations in order achieve more effective and far-reaching results.
Of the all the issues the UN will be discussing, below are some of the most important:
- Refugees – On this matter, the new Assembly President, Peter Thomson of Fiji, said ‘I regret the evidence of widespread lack of empathy for people on the move, many of whom are fleeing from conflict, persecution, or climate change. I congratulate those who are not shirking from their decent responsibilities. It is time to turn down the rhetoric of intolerance and ratchet up a collective response based on our common humanity.’
- Climate Change – During the event, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will call an event to speed up the process towards enforcing the Paris Agreement on climate change.
- Tackling Terrorism – In his speech, Mr. Thomson said; ‘Building on the review of the Global Counter-Terrorism strategy, including the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, we will act on improving the UN architecture to face these threats…We must face this scourge together and must find the solutions together.’
- Ethics and Transparency – Following allegations of corruption against former Secretary-General John Ashe, the UN has created a Code of Ethics for the Presidency of the General Assembly. This will involve financial transparency being maintained by ensuring that all contributions to the Office will be entered into the Trust Fund and all the donors and expenditure will be public knowledge. Each new Secretary-General will be expected to take an ‘Oath of Office’; ‘It is now my high honour to take the Oath, within this historic fulcrum of the Community of nations, witnessed by you the anointed representatives of the nations and by the broad citizenry of humanity observing our proceedings today. I now raise my right hand the Charter of the United Nations and hereby affirm the prescribed Presidential Oath of Office.’
But there’s something missing in the list of issues the UN will be discussing this year. Should the 193 countries presently subscribed to the UN devolve more power to this institution?
It appears that the UN has become a wasteful bureaucracy where only few countries hold any real power, debating issues and adopting resolutions that result in little to no effect.
With a world in which climate change and political and religious extremism are real threats that are quickly plaguing the globe, the UN has a serious potential to play a more active role in promoting fundamental rights, and working towards greater social and economic equality for all.
However, this will only be possible if the members of the UN put forward a strategy of reform that will pride itself on greater accountability, cooperation, and social justice.
It is crucial now that we remind ourselves of the birth of the UN; to bring broken post-war nations together in unity; ‘United we stand, divided we fall,’ – a sentiment as relevant then as it is today.