The efforts of the United Nations and the global women’s movement to promote the women’s rights agenda and make it a top international priority saw its culmination in the creation of U.N. Women, by the General Assembly in 2010.
If there is any idea and cause for which the United Nations has been an indispensable engine of progress globally it is the cause of ending all forms of “discrimination and violence against women and girls, ensuring the realization of their equal rights and advancing their political, economic and social empowerment.
While member states, weakened in the neoliberal era, have pulled back from the U.N. and cut its budgets, a charity mentality has arisen at the world body. Corporations and the mega-rich have flocked to take advantage of the opportunity. They have looked for a quietly commanding role in the organisation’s political process and hoped to shape the institution to their own priorities.
It is hard to imagine today the public enthusiasm that greeted the founding of the U.N. in 1945. After massive suffering and social collapse resulting from the Second World War, the U.N. seemed almost miraculous – a means at last to build peace, democracy, and a just society on a global scale.
Seventy years since its inception, the United Nations remains at the core of the multilateral system. The world body, together with the Bretton Woods institutions, was conceived in the mid-1940s by the architects of the postwar order with the central aim of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war on the one hand, and the need to reconstruct and revive the global economy on the other.
With terrorism, migrant smuggling and trafficking in cultural property some of the world's most daunting challenges, "the magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done."
As the U.N. enters its 70th year, it is legitimate to ask whether it has been a success so far. Over the years, the media, in particular the Western media, has tended to highlight the U.N.'s failures.
When the Cold War ended in 1991, there was hope the U.N. Security Council would be able to take decisive action to create a more peaceful world. Early blue helmet successes in Cambodia, Namibia, Mozambique, and El Salvador seemed to vindicate that assessment.
Seventy years ago, with the founding of the United Nations, all nations reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.
The year 2015 marks an important milestone in Sri Lanka’s relationship with the United Nations. It is the 70th
anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and also the 60th
anniversary of Sri Lanka’s entry into the U.N. system.
Events are being organised around the world to celebrate the 70th
anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, but a recent seminar held in the Austrian capital was not held to applaud the body’s past contributions.
When, in 2003, Professor Richard Smalley, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, listed the top 10 problems facing humanity for the next 50 years in order of priority, energy was at the top of his list, followed by water, then food.
On Apr. 20, this year, four of my colleagues tragically lost their lives in Northern Somalia, when an explosive device ripped through their minibus as they travelled back to their guesthouse.
The United Nations was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, protect human rights, maintain international peace and security, and uphold international law. Its 70-year history is marked with many successes, but also disappointments. We need to look at both sides so that we can make the U.N. more effective in the future.
At key anniversaries of the U.N., there have been calls for compliance with international instruments.
When the founding fathers of the United Nations met in San Francisco 70 years ago, an American banker named Beardsley Ruml made a remark:
U.N. anniversaries are occasions for stocktaking - not all of it positive. But there is a lot of good that the U.N. has done and is doing and there are many good, dedicated people working silently but effectively within the U.N. system where I have also worked for a part of my long diplomatic career.