September 21, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Organization, with leaders from all over the world taking the opportunity to celebrate the occasion mainly through recorded messages, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging worldwide.
The Signing of the UN Charter in 1945
The signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945 saw the world coming out of the Second World War with great resolve for a fresh start. A series of significant developments have occurred during these 75 years, with the United Nations having contributed to the end of colonialism, the universal declaration of human rights, mediation and peacekeeping missions in conflict areas across the globe, aid programs for developing countries and more recently the fight against climate change. The UN also managed to prevent a direct superpower conflict between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War despite the arms race and numerous regional conflicts.
The UN’s Many Accomplishments
Another major UN accomplishment was the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, which were succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. The latter cover a wide range of issues, such as poverty, health, education, climate change, energy, livable cities, natural ecosystems, good governance, and partnerships. Seventeen in total, they constitute a roadmap for any nation wishing to safeguard its prosperity in the long term.
The year 2015 also marked by the adoption of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aiming to “combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions needed for a sustainable low carbon future.”
The UN’S Serious Challenges
Despite the aforementioned key moments and undeniable breakthroughs, the UN has been facing some serious challenges, especially since the rise to power of US President Donald Trump and other like-minded world leaders who question their countries’ international commitments and pursue more unilateral economic, trade and security policies. The European Union is now the strongest proponent of multilateralism and diplomacy, however its endemic disunity prevents it from articulating a coherent voice on the global stage.
The UN’s 75th anniversary finds the organization at a critical point. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated in the most flagrant manner how interconnected and interdependent our world has become. It has also shown how vital cooperation and concerted action proves to be when dealing with border crossing phenomena, while exposing at the same time preexisting inefficiencies and leadership gaps.
The ability to intervene effectively in terms of peace, security, sustainable development and human rights issues will determine the UN’s chances to survive in a constantly changing and perplexing world. Possible inability to do so could mean global anarchy, the prevalence of power over international law, the dismissal of international treaties and agreements, uncontrollable conflicts and even full-scale warfare.
Seventy-five years of peace should not be taken for granted. As challenges and expectations continue to change, the same should be expected from the United Nations and the multilateral, rules-based system as a whole.
Past accomplishments do not guarantee a successful future and a quick revisiting of history books is enough to remind us of how quick humanity is to nurture its self-destructive instincts.