72 years of United Nations
The 24th of October marks the anniversary of the UN charter coming into force in 1945. The UN was founded after the devastating events of World War II. It’s one central mission was to uphold peace and stop another war from starting. Since then the UN’s mission has expanded and grown to include, the protection of human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law.
The main event of the day is the annual UN Day concert. The theme of this year’s concert is “Potential in Diversity” and is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations.
The UN currently has 110,000 peacekeepers in 15 active missions all over the globe, from Kosovo to the Congo. The Troops watch over ceasefires and maintain peaceful borders while trying to help the areas negotiate a path out of conflict towards peace. Over 1 million people have served in the peacekeeping forces since 1945. Tragically 3500 of them have made the ultimate sacrifice for peace and part of celebrating this day is to honour those men and women who died, often far from home, to help preserve peace and in the words of the 1945 charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
Of course, the UN does far more than send troops out, one of the UN’s core values, which is expressed in the 1945 charter is “to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” UNICEF, The World Health Organisation and UNHCR, to name just a few, are all organisations who stem from the UN. Each of these alone has saved and changed the lives of countless of the most vulnerable people in our world.
The World Health Organisation, along with its partners, has managed to eradicate 99% of polio, a once feared global disease which could paralyse children. In 2015 alone UNICEF vaccinated 23 million children against a range of diseases. UNICEF is often working in some of the poorest and unstable regions in the world and since the outbreak of war in Syria, it has worked with 240,000 Syrian children to help them cope with the trauma they have seen. UNICEF has helped to globally reduce the under-five mortality rate from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 41 in 2016. Another offshoot of the UN, UNESCO, helps to preserve and care for our history and cultural sites and monuments.
The current Secretary-general of the UN is Antonio Guterres who is a Portuguese diplomat who was the Prime Minister of Portugal for two terms in 1995 to 2002. He then worked as High Commissioner for Refugees in the UN. Towards the end of his term, Guterres was one of the most outspoken advocates for a more effective and humane approach by Europe to the Syrian refugee crisis. He also launched the largest fundraising campaign in UNHCR’s history to attempt to deal with the Syria refugee crisis. He was one of the most prolific callers for aid for Syria describing it as “a matter of survival”. He was the second longest serving High Commissioner. On his first UN day as secretary-general he gave a speech asking the world to come together for peace and prosperity “We have to transcend our differences to transform our future,”
The UN’s deputy Secretary-general is Ms Amina J. Mohammed previously she was the was Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from November 2015 to December 2016. In that time, she helped to steer Nigeria on a environmentally sustainable path and solidified the countries dedication to fight climate change and preserve the natural environment.
The UN has come under a lot of scrutiny lately due to its high levels of bureaucracy and because some people have been questioning its effectiveness. Regardless of this the sheer amount of good the UN has done cannot be ignored and the world is a far better place for it.
“What is Peacekeeping” The UN Peacekeepers, 2016. https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/what-is-peacekeeping
“70 years and half a trillion dollars later: what has the UN achieved?” The Guardian, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/07/what-has-the-un-achieved-united-nations#img-9
“The State of The Worlds Children” UNICEF report, 2016. https://www.unicef.org/sowc2016/