It is 2015 and the United Nations celebrates its 70th anniversary. The UN Charter came into force on October 24, 1945 and it would be impossible to imagine international order functioning without the United Nations today. Nevertheless the importance of the UN is constantly debated and its authority on the international arena is often questioned. The main problem is that the scope of international conflicts deteriorates at a faster pace than that at which operational framework of the UN evolves.
The United Nations emerged to replace the League of Nations as a result of the League’s inability to serve its peacemaking purpose and prevent another war. First talks about a new international organization necessary for the post World War II order began in 1941. The idea continued to actively evolve when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter back in August, 1941. The Charter aimed to initiate international cooperation based on principles, which would sustain peace and security. As a result, Roosevelt created the term «United Nations» in reference to the nations allied against the Axis powers, which consisted of Germany, Italy and Japan. The United Nations Conference on International Organization, which gathered representatives of 50 nations, took place in April, 1945 in San Francisco. Three months later, the delegates signed the UN Charter and it officially came into force on October 24, 1945. The Charter invoked the UN’s responsibility “to maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law, and promote the expansion of human rights”.
Today, the United Nations has overall the same values, though, the pursuit of them led to an unbalanced ratio of ups and downs with the latter dominating. That is why the success of meetings at the UN General Assembly, that started two weeks ago, is crucial for the organization’s effective role in the future. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) were a priority on the leaders’ agenda for both those who could not wait to implement them, and for others who could not wait to express their disagreements over certain aspects of them. Generally speaking, the SDG’s are 17 new objectives around which leaders agreed to frame their policies until 2030. The new goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) that are to expire at the end of 2015. Unlike the SDG’s 17 points, MDG’s addressed eight issues such as poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, environment and global partnership. According to The Guardian, the UN considers the MDG’s to be “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”. The SDG’s appear to be more precise in their scope. The first goal focuses on poverty reduction, which aims to reduce the number of people living in poverty by half in the next 15 years, as well as to eliminate extreme poverty in which people live on less than $1.25 a day.
The major differences between Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals are that this time, the UN tried very hard to reach out to people worldwide and involve them in brainstorming processes regarding a new set of goals. Although the majority of the governments approve of the outlined goals, there are a couple of countries who consider a framework comprising 17 goals to be “too unwieldy to implement or sell to the public”. There shouldn’t be any concerns about the latter if people worldwide were truly a part of the process and their opinions were taken into account. The number of goals certainly exceeds the former amount but so does the amount of conflicts today. “Some believe the underlying reason is to get rid of some of the more uncomfortable goals, such as those relating to the environment,” reports The Guardian in an attempt to explain a narrower brief requested by some leaders. If that is the case, it is very unfortunate that after many environmental disasters, some still underestimate the potential devastating consequences of unresolved environmental issues. Environmental sustainability was one of the MDG’s addressed in 2000 and yet, the mission remains unaccomplished in 2015. It is frustrating considering the fact that the well-being of the environment is interrelated with the well-being of humanity. “Protecting the integrity of forests, maintaining the health of fish stocks and keeping the ozone layer intact are of fundamental, not tangential, importance for human well-being,” emphasizes the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD). “If we can’t all swim together, we will sink. There is no plan B, because there is no planet B,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Climate Week NYC back in 2014. Though the phrase particularly addresses climate change problem, it can be universal in its meaning and be therefore applied to each problem on the UN’s agenda.
There is no doubt that changing circumstances and increased scope of complex conflicts observed in the past two or three years, indeed, call for new means of peacekeeping strategies and redefined priorities. Given the frequency with which the refugee crisis appears in the headlines of all major newspapers worldwide, it remains the main priority on the international agenda and the most difficult for which a solution can be found. This is true especially when the UN’s humanitarian agencies are a few steps away from bankruptcy. Increasing refugee crises in Europe, the Middle East and Africa emptied the organization’s humanitarian aid budget and invoked panic among those who rely on the UN the most — refugees. Voluntary donations coming from individual governments are falling significantly behind the usual amount. “Our income in 2015 will be around 10% less than 2014. The global humanitarian community is not broken — as a whole they are more effective than ever before. But we are financially broke,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. Therefore, healthcare services and food rations are being heavily cut, which in turn, causes refugees to consider either returning back to Syria or looking for help elsewhere in Europe.
It is crucial that the United Nations gets back on track. The key to restoring its strength and efficiency is obviously collaboration. However, states often forget that collaboration signed on paper implies a division of labor in practice and an attempt to solve the same conflict without clearly dividing the responsibilities. Today’s conflicts are often multi-layered and when everyone concentrates on the same aspect of it, it will take a long time to proceed with its resolution. Thus, there are 17 goals and 15 more years to make this world a better place. Today, it might seem impossible but impossible to-date crises require impossible to-date action plans.