Since its founding 75 years ago, the United Nations has proven, with the support of its member countries and other partners, its worth in complex problem-solving. That includes preventing great-power wars, remedying humanitarian emergencies, safeguarding human rights and reducing extreme poverty. But as we commemorate UN Day, with world leaders having marked the world body’s first 75 years in September by adopting an action-oriented UN75 Declaration, the UN must still evolve.
That work begins with focusing on the coronavirus recovery, inequalities, the climate crisis and, perhaps most alarming, the rise of extreme nationalism.
When we served our one-year terms as president of the General Assembly — back-to-back from September 2018 until September 2020 — the headlines and trend-lines foreshadowed the return of a virulent form of nationalism fueled by surging migration, perceived and real economic inequality and the emergence of leaders who dehumanize others and divide rather than unite. At the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, the world rallied around a defining issue of our time — the climate emergency — by reaffirming commitments and pledges made in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Regrettably, violent conflicts and environmental crises have grown more acute. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year, the World Bank estimates there will be a 5.2 percent contraction in 2020 in global GDP, ushering in a financial and economic crisis far greater than the one in 2008 to 2009. The international institutions built since the UN’s founding in 1945 to help nations manage and resolve their problems peacefully — and together — are being weakened to a degree not seen since they began functioning.
Yet dealing with global issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or abilities of any one country. Concerted action, coordination and cooperation are imperative to addressing today’s global challenges.
To galvanize action toward improving multilateral responses to the most pressing crises, we welcome the far-reaching and creative “Roadmap for the Future We Want & UN We Need,” a proposal presented last month to world leaders who attended the UN-75 virtual gathering of the General Assembly and showcased at the preceding UN75 Global Governance Forum. Having defended our nations’ foreign policies, we know firsthand the need for bold, original ideas to move complex multilateral negotiations toward results that strike a balance among local, national and global interests.
Covid-19 and its devastating social and economic consequences may be the greatest calamity to face the UN since its founding. However, the international community continues to also confront runaway climate change, growing mass violence in fragile states, weapons proliferation, cyberattacks, setbacks in women’s rights and empowerment and the serious possibility that the Sustainable Development Goals will be unattainable for many countries.
By promoting a UN that better harnesses the ideas, networks and abilities of diverse governments, businesses and civil society groups, the Roadmap recommends new tools, platforms and approaches to global governance for addressing 21st-century threats, challenges and opportunities. It raises ambitions to carry out the UN75 Declaration in two notable ways:
- First by initiating new partnerships among member states, civic actors, the private sector and the UN for mobilizing knowledge, technologies and financial resources that promote a truly people-centered architecture for global collective action
- Second by introducing carefully researched and debated institutional, policy and normative ideas to revitalize and strengthen global governance.
These ideas include upgrading and focusing the UN Peacebuilding Commission on prevention, strengthening the international rule of law and enhancing G20-UN relations to accelerate recovery from the pandemic.
Similar to the Roadmap, we place human rights, human solidarity and the need for a strong global civic ethic at the heart of an inclusive conception of governance across borders. We take an unapologetic stand against the rise of extreme nationalism, which corrodes efforts to upgrade essential structures of the international order, to abide by international law and to better manage global challenges.
The Roadmap leverages this year’s milestone to revisit, reaffirm and strengthen the UN’s role. Its recommendations and spirit also re-emphasize key ideas and sentiments voiced by citizens worldwide who participated in the UN secretary-general’s Global Conversation and Survey. By championing the UN75 Political Declaration and partnering with diverse civil society organizations to realize the UN’s potential, we will continue to take essential steps to ensure that the future we want, for this and future generations, becomes the future we get.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts?
María Fernanda Espinosa, from Ecuador, was President of the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. She is co-chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need Steering Committee, member of the Group of Women Leaders: Voices for Change and Inclusion and Fellow at the Bosch Academy.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, from Nigeria, was president of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
“Planning the future” needs to consist of building whole new cities for 10 million people, a fraction of the international homeless. Bangladesh itself, going underwater, will create huge displacement – already having huge flooding. Planning has to be actively “moving” NOW, with ground-breaking of infrastructure in planned locations, above sea-rise and supplied with life supporting utilities. Undocumented children and refugees need new “citizenship”, making them “existing persons” NOT to be forgotten. Those “NEW” cities should be “freedom cities” where the refugees can claim a “home” and participate in a “global civic ethic”. Huge (covid-19) profits by some few billionaires may need to be “seized” as they reap fortunes in the pandemic. But most of all, less talk, and more action to save millions of people in precarious situations. We already have people in “Survival Class” falling into violence just to gain food and shelter. The whole planet should perhaps willingly join that Survival Class before violence consumes many more. Lower Class, Middle Class and Upper Class are moot points when the entire Spaceship Earth threatens to become a tomb for life in the universe.
My personal opinion is if the UN going to survive this perilous time with the intentions it was created for and continue to achieve the mission why it was for, we cannot have some of the countries exercising more power that others; all countries should exercise the same rights as each vote has the same power and right as a country. . . .
We also cannot expect to create a more peaceful world, and expect the whole world to come to terms with our policies when we as a world allow some countries to have more weapons of mass destruction and we want to contain and control some countries not to build. . .
Then if the the country we trying to put under pressure do not comply to our demand and subjection to our terms we declare sanctions on them, and for the most part we put those people of that country on a perilous position of poverty while other countries have much more dangerous armaments to destroy the world than the little one we trying to pressure. . .
Remember to look at nature, you draw more animals with honey than with vinegar, more come to feast on sugar than on pepper. So the new world order should entail treating all people and nations with the same respect and concern of each life, either poor, rich, arrogant or barbaric because they all value the same; we just have to be smarter to bring them to the table of reasoning, and let them know they are as important as everyone else. No one is above the other, eitherr Jew, or Greek, poor or rich, free or slave; we all are of the same value in GOD’S sight.