EDITORIAL: Africa On UN Day

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Though the United Nations Day is devoted to making known to people of the world the aims and achievements of the Organisation, it is also important to observe that beyond the celebratory side to it, the world has reasons to be grateful for the existence of the international body that came into being on this day in 1948. Like every such organisation that aims at bringing people of diverse cultures and background together, the United Nations may not be perfect in its application of basic rules.

However, many experts are of the opinion that without the UN, the world would have had to deal with enormous levels of conflict and chaos that would have required the establishment of an international governmental body to maintain the world’s national and political equilibrium.  To that extent, therefore, it behoves every nation to work towards the realization of the dream behind the body–world unity.

The Secretary General, António Guterres, in a short speech to mark the day acknowledged the indispensability of the body and noted that even with the United Nations in place, the world still faces many grave challenges such as widening conflicts and inequality, extreme weather, deadly intolerance and security threats – including of nuclear weapons. Optimistically, he also said that the world has the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All that is needed is the will.

The world’s problems, he said, transcends borders and that means that the peoples of the world must have to transcend their differences to transform their collective future. The way to go, Guterres stressed, is to try to achieve human rights and human dignity for all people, build a peaceful, sustainable and just world. And on this day, the world owes itself a duty to make this vision a reality.

The world has good reasons to celebrate the existence of the United Nations. While world media attention focuses on the international controversies and the policy intervention failures, it rarely covers the UN’s powerful lifesaving work with its agencies like the World Food Programme, WFP, the Peacekeeping forces and the many other agencies.

It is pertinent to note that WFP feeds 90 million people in 80 countries every year just as its programmes for women promote maternal and child health, saving the lives of 30 million women a year and vaccinates 58 per cent of the world’s children, which saves three million lives every year. Also worthy of note is that the world body helps refugees. Every year, it assists 38 million refugees, saving them from wars, conflicts, famine and persecution.

The UN has been in the fore front of fighting climate change or global warming, promotes Sustainable Development and protects the environment through fostering knowledge, research and brokering of international climate treaties.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly declared 24 October, the anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, as which “shall be devoted to making known to the people of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations and to gaining their support for” its work.

In 1971 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a further resolution (United Nations Resolution 2782) declaring that United Nations Day shall be an international holiday and recommended that it should be observed as a public holiday by all member states.

UN Day has traditionally been marked throughout the world with meetings, discussions and exhibits about the achievements and goals of the organisation. That’s because the 24th of October marks that fall day in New York City in 1945 when nations ratified the Charter of the UN and launched humanity’s second major attempt at forming a world Parliament. By far its most successful, this second attempt at global negotiation and cooperation has stopped famine, averted wars and given the world hope. Starting with just 51 member nations, the UN now has 193 members. The first major attempt, the League of Nations, collapsed after little more than a decade–but the United Nations has lasted now for almost 70 years.

However, in our opinion, UN with all its claim to achievement, must accept that it is not yet a democratic organisation. It overly favours western notion of democracy as a system of government which it is helping to ram down the throat of developing nations. As it strives to maintain equilibrium in world affairs, it must also address the injustice of having five so called permanent members in the security council with veto powers to overrule decisions taken by 193 member General Assembly. On this day, we urge it to resolve to review the world economic order that is skewed against developing nations especially Africa. That continent is poor because the UN turns a blind eye to trade agreements that further impoverish the people.