Today’s commemoration of United Nations Day comes at a time when the world needs this organisation more than ever. Threats of nuclear conflagration due to bellicose world leaders, the crisis of climate change, the prospect of an “antibiotic apocalypse,” terrorism and a surge in bigoted ideology all currently conspire to create the perfect storm. Only a strong international organisation devoted to maintaining world peace and stability can help us ride the rough waters.
With the 1945 United Nations Charter, the world pledged “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” and “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”
Today, the UN can be proud of the great progress that has been made in all of these areas. In many respects the world today is a safer place than it was six decades ago. But there is still clearly a long way to go.
Locally, we continue to benefit tremendously from the presence of the UN. Its various agencies are active in a range of areas both nationally and regionally. The UN’s sustainable development goals have influenced actors in the international sphere, colouring how we relate to the global community. The United National Population Fund continues to advocate for reproductive and health rights as well as the tackling of economic inequality.
The UN is also an important forum in which small nations have their voices heard.
A good example was last month’s meeting of the General Assembly at which our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dennis Moses, made an impassioned plea for measures to address climate change.
“The events of the last months in the Caribbean once more remind us all that small island developing States remain at the forefront of the impact of climate change,” Moses stated. “Yet, in light of their categorisation as high-income countries on … outdated formulae of GDP per capita, Caribbean countries, in their time of need, will not qualify for aid and development assistance. I join my Caribbean colleagues in calling for a multidimensional approach that takes into consideration real national needs and priorities.”
The question is how responsive will the UN be to calls such as the one made by Moses?
Going forward, this is among the organisation’s greatest challenges. While it has done work in countries all over the world, it has struggled to shake off the perception that it is simply at the behest of larger superpowers. Small nations have a vote, but not all of them get to effectively influence the outcome of higher-level matters such as those concerning aid, trade and security.
And with US President Donald Trump calling for reform of the UN, this is likely to become a greater challenge. Bigger States are increasingly viewing the UN as a business investment as opposed to a vital ideological organisation.
The UN must remain responsive and accountable for its own actions when things go wrong. The problems in Haiti and the UN’s slowness to admit responsibility in a cholera outbreak did great damage.
That notwithstanding, there is much to laud.
Today, we acknowledge the vital role played by the UN. Many of its agencies are taken for granted. For the sake of future generations we must continue to be committed to this entity which remains relevant, powerful and pivotal in our own destiny as an independent nation.