UN @ 70: Bridging divides

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The United Nations was born 70 years ago after the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco, California, USA on October 24, 1945 with the express mandate to rid the world of the scourge of war. Unfortunately the UN is still mired in some intractable conflicts worldwide resulting to loss of many lives to war. In the midst of all of these, more than a billion suffer as they still do, from the violence of poverty, torture of ignorance and disease, and the cruel wounds of global warming and disaster.

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At the heart of these sufferings is deprivation. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), now Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will remain hollow until we win the fight against fear and against want. I believe that this fight could be won by bridging three (3) divides, namely: (1) those of the past and the future; (2) of experience and vision; and (3) of promise and fulfilment.

Bridging the past and the future

In 1945, a global community was no more than an ideal, remote and all but removed from everyday lives of mostly pastoral populations. Now, we are all part of the global village. Interdependence is a fact of our daily life. This inevitable trend belongs to the people of the world, whether high-born or lowly; to both the strong and the weak.

“Wiring” the world’s cities unto the information grid of the 21st century is one wise investment we are making today. But if anyone were left out, if the “digital” divide were but to echo social injustice on the global scale, we would not have moved too far from where we started. The past would simply repeat itself.

To empower people is to build our bridge to the future. The world leaders were therefore on the mark when they enshrined freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility as the fundamental values.

The SDGs which contain the follow-up measures to the MDGs until 2030 has 17 goals and 169 targets. The SDGs should practically be an integral part of the medium-term development plan of member states. There should be a separate chapter on women bearing in mind that there are more women than men in the world’s population. The issue of migration can be included in this chapter, considering that migration has the face of women.

One crucial women’s issue is linked to land reform, decentralization and re-orientation of the economy such as rural women’s rights, women’s equal access to and control over economic resources, including land property rights, right to inheritance, credit and traditional saving schemes such as women’s banks and cooperatives.

Inter alia, another SDG goal of interest to women is to ensure that the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality is a health priority and that women have ready access to essential obstetric care, well-equipped and adequately staffed maternal health-care services, skilled attendance at delivery, emergency obstetric care, when necessary, post-partum care and family planning.

Bridging experience and vision

For the new covenant on peace to prosper, the UN must remain without doubt, the first and last peacemaker and peace-keeper of the world. It should be the vanguard that champions rule of law in international as well as in internal affairs.

Preventive diplomacy is the principal tool for warding off conflict. There must be reduction of the use of force. But where we need to use it as in self-defence, as contained in Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the parties concerned should be guided by legal norm and practice.

The UN must gather together the political will of all nations to bring about the final stage of disarmament and a nuclear-weapons free world. The central role of the UN should start and end on matters of international security. The UN is at the heart of prosperity for all to undertake efforts to half by this year, the proportion of people in absolute poverty.

Together with the Bretton-Woods Institutions and like-minded forums such as APEC, the UN can make significant contributions to the reform of the global economic and financial systems. Our goal is not only to have a borderless world for unfettered trade and investment. We want a global economic regime that builds productive capacities not income gaps; that promotes openness not corruption, and that rewards enterprise not greed.

What we are trying to build in the UN is an order where human security is greater than military security; where law upholds human dignity, and both people and state uphold the law, as well as where political pluralism and cultural diversity and the attainment of common human destiny exist and persist.

In other words, peace and prosperity must rest more on human cooperation as the only tenable way to bridge experience and vision.

Bridging promise and fulfilment

The UN Millennium Declaration embodies collective hope; the promise of a true community of nations working together for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.

We know that between this promise and fulfilment is a tortuous road, yet we need to tread along. In this journey, the first and most important step we should take is to stem the greatest source of danger and discord, which is underdevelopment. I believe that to be free from fear, one must be free from want.

In the developing countries, the toll from decades of turmoil and underdevelopment has been so debilitating that only international relief can help these countries get back to their feet. There must be a new and more effective deal for poor countries.

The women can help build these bridges to peace and prosperity as they perform their own unique role of peacemaker in the family, in school, in the community, in the nation and the world, and their special development role as entrepreneurs and business development managers. The UN and humanity has the face of women. United and given an enabling environment and God’s grace, women can help bring peace and joy to our world.

 (c) 2015, The Washington Post Writers Group

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