Statement of the Socialist International to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations
21 September 2020
Today, as the UN General Assembly holds a special session to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Socialist International, the global democratic socialist and social democratic political family and a firm advocate of the founding principles of the UN, once more reinforces its firm commitment to the goals for which the United Nations was created. This milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and history of the UN, recognise the challenges it faces today and look towards the future, ensuring that its crucial work will continue to benefit future generations for many years to come.
The UN was founded in the aftermath of World War II, and has from the very start represented the hope and aspiration that such horrors would never again be inflicted by or upon humanity. For more than seven decades it has been a symbol of what can be achieved when countries come together, acting as a catalyst for decolonisation, promoting sustainable international development and mitigating conflicts. The use of the good offices of the UN to prevent and resolve conflicts has undoubtedly saved a great many lives, and this work continues after the cessation of hostilities through the UN peacekeeping operations.
Since its inception, the UN has stood up for some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Many hundreds of millions of people have directly benefited from its initiatives and the work of its various agencies, including those who have received humanitarian assistance in the form of food, refuge, healthcare and vaccinations. In the area of democracy, it provides assistance to countries in the holding of elections and on human rights. The adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been the catalyst for a rich body of internationally binding human rights treaties representing the universal recognition that basic rights and fundamental freedoms are inherent to all human beings and equally applicable to everyone.
We also recognise that the UN and its organs are made up of individuals from all nations and all walks of life, working each day with a commitment and a dedication to fostering cooperation between peoples and advancing the values enshrined in the UN Charter. In many conflict zones around the world, UN peacekeepers have a key role in maintaining ceasefires and defending civilian populations and we pay tribute to those who have served under the UN flag in the service of peace.
The history of the UN has not been without setbacks, and it continues to face many challenges. Armed conflicts, insecurity and terrorism continue to claim lives, destabilise countries and regions and hinder development. There is still a long way to go before poverty and hunger can be eradicated, and inequality between and within societies continues to grow. Anti-democratic regimes still persist in many countries, and the process of ending human rights violations and bringing their perpetrators to justice is slow and complex. Likewise, finding international consensus on difficult yet crucial issues such as climate change, where compromise is required from all sides, is never straightforward
The UN as an organisation is a point of reference throughout the entire world. It needs to be able to operate in every country and requires the trust and cooperation of national governments, local institutions and citizens. We support all efforts to enhance the ability of the organisation to be more inclusive, to foster greater international cooperation across the globe, and to collectively respond to the new and complex challenges the world faces today.
Isolationism and divisions between nations continue to impact the ability of the UN to operate effectively, when its work is needed more than ever. It must be defended against challenges from those who seek to diminish and undermine it for narrow reasons of self-interest. The current power structure of the UN still allows those with the most historical political and military power to exert disproportionate influence, a situation that can limit the capacity of the UN to act and lead to a sense of unfairness and frustration. Compromise and concessions will be required in order to bring about change in a manner that is acceptable to all parties.
The current pandemic has exposed some of these fault lines and differences at a time when closer cooperation is needed, as a number of countries have taken a nationalistic approach in attempting to secure supplies of personal protective equipment and anti-viral drugs, with others trying to ensure priority access to a potential future COVID-19 vaccine. However, the devastating effect of the pandemic, and its negative impact on every country in the world, shows us that nationalism cannot be the answer. As long as the virus continues to exist and be spread anywhere in the world, it is a problem for the entire world, making concerted and coordinated international action vital. Global public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of multilateralism, with this support increasing since the pandemic.
Facing the future
The United Nations must continue to play a central role in building a better future for all peoples. From a development perspective, the coming Decade of Action to realise Agenda 2030 is an immense undertaking that has the potential to transform the lives of many hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable people on the planet. At the heart of this agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals, which encapsulate many of the policies for which our organisation has campaigned over many years and which governments led by SI member parties have sought to enact. The empowerment and equal participation of women is a key to achieving sustainable development, and an important reason why action taken by the UN to promote gender equality should be accelerated.
On the specific and ever increasing threat of catastrophic and irreversible climate change, more determined action is needed in order to implement and go beyond the measures contained in the Paris Agreement. Only within the framework of the United Nations has it been possible to negotiate legally binding obligations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing other climate change reduction measures.
The promotion of peace and work on conflict prevention and resolution will similarly continue to be an essential mission of the UN. As the nature of armed conflicts changes, we must redouble efforts to ensure enforcement and enhancement of measures such as international arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. Another key objective is the strengthening of international law and justice in order to end impunity, bring to justice those guilty of violations of human rights and offer protection to their victims.
The principles that define the identity of our political family are at the heart of what the United Nations stands for and was created to accomplish. Our calls for more environmental protection, less conflict and more respect for human rights are echoed in the results of the UN75 survey, where those concerns were given the highest priority by a quarter of a million people surveyed in 193 countries. The values of the UN are our values and its 75th anniversary an occasion for celebration, reflection and a renewed focus on the future role of the UN.
As we commemorate this anniversary it is clear that the work of the United Nations and its organs remains fundamental to our hopes and aspirations for a better world. In the face of the great challenges of today – from inequality to pandemics and from climate change to conflict – we believe that the past 75 years have shown us the value of multilateralism.
Our vision of multilateralism is one of cooperation among citizens, peoples and between nations. It is a future in which in the name of sustainability, the finite resources of the world are protected and fairly distributed and the burden of climate action is shared. It requires humanitarianism on a global scale, ensuring that the victims of disease, natural disasters and conflicts are not left to suffer. It is a prerequisite for a more peaceful future where disputes are solved through negotiation and diplomacy, and governments unite to confront and overcome threats to our common security. We are encouraged by the focus on the role of global cooperation in building a better future and fully endorse the reaffirmation of the collective commitment to multilateralism – for the future we want and the UN we need.