United Nations: The New Road to Be Travelled
THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNITED NATIONS DAY
75 Years after the Signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco we need true reforms toward a world citizen institution for our common and planetary future.Dr. Alfredo Sfeir-Younis
There is no doubt about the importance of The UN Charter, The Dumbarton Oaks Declaration, The Atlantic Charter of 1941, The Declaration of Saint James Palace (1941), The Moscow Teheran Conference (1943), and the many documents of The League of Nations, were 75 years ago. This anniversary takes place in the middle of the most devastating health pandemic of the last one hundred years. To engage in this anniversary does not constitute some distraction from the challenges humanity faces today. On the contrary, I engage in this anniversary because the multilateral system is collapsing. The UN has been an influencer and at the center stage (responsible) of today’s planetary crisis. We are ridden by widely spread health pandemics and by a large number of old and unresolved problems like migration, global warming, biodiversity depletion, mismanagement of our global public goods, violations of human rights, lack of global governance, disregard for the children and youth, inadequate set of nature’s rights, spread of nuclear weapons, absence of private sector engagement, poor governments commitments, disregard for future generations, weakening of the global economic system… in addition to ethical and moral dilemmas.
World citizens are demanding major structural reforms and, if that is not possible, the elimination of the UN in exchange for a truly planetary organization.
The UN must change now. But the political dimensions are not trivial: the UN is an organization of governments and it is controlled by those governments’ politics and powers. Powers exercised by advocating individual country interests, and not a planetary vision. Given citizens’ deep mistrust on actual country and worldwide democracies, the demands for reforms is suffering from a great paradox: those who participate at the UN do not represents the large majority of world citizens. Thus, whenever there is an attempt for a UN reform, pushed by citizens, this runs against all sorts of questioning by governments and reforms are never implemented. Climate change is the best example.
In this era of global citizenship, a meaningful and consequential reform of the UN will never come from governments. Thus, we see the rapid implosion of the self-generating government based multilateralism. Many of the UN proposed reforms led by governments die within the UN. There is not enough political will at the global level, and an attempt for real structural reforms may end up with no UN at all. The countries that are pro-reforms do not have the power of convening or to get these reforms approved. To continue with marginal reforms is equivalent to no reforms at all.
If the founders were here today, what would they write about in the charter? What would they identify as the core vision, mission, intent and language of the charter? Would they include citizens’ organizations in the debate and in the signing of a new charter? What would a new economic and social order look like? What would it consider as true priorities today? What issue would be its unit of account? What institutional and governance structures would the UN have, in order to effectively face today’s concerns and include global citizens’ organizations? How does the UN become a real planetary organization? Should all indicators of progress and human welfare be material in nature, or would there be non-material indicators, spiritual indicators, of planetary welfare (e.g., happiness, compassion, sense of belonging, identity)? Should we start a peaceful transition now to a new UN, or wait for another world conflict and devastation to take place before we act diligently?
The core mission of a new UN is to heal the planet and to empower global citizens: material and spiritual empowerment for world peace.
A few central reflections:
(i) Nowhere in the original charter it appears the term environment, ecology or sustainable development.
(ii) The dominant philosophy of the original charter, including the concepts that emanated from it, was clearly the devastation of two world wars; it made sense at that time.
(iii) Peace and security continue to be relevant as all people want everlasting peace everywhere.
(iv) The present Charter begins with: “we, the peoples” and not with “we, the governments”; the people must be honored now.
(v) The world has changed and, thus, the essence of the UN must also change: not only concerned with “the threat of external peace and security” but also with the destruction of nature, the depletion of biodiversity, the contamination of our foods, the pollution of air and water, the elimination of animal and plant species, etc. Violence, insecurity, arise from water deprivation, climate and natural disasters, unsafe and contaminated foods…
(vi) The great conflicts originate in the progressive destruction of our natural resources, environment and ecology. Now, we must the term “security” for the term “eco-security” and change the term “justice” for “Intergenerational Justice” and “Climate Justice”, “Gender Justice” and so on.
A new charter has to emerge out of a new planetary vision. A vision that must emerge from a new collective consciousness. Otherwise, we will continue witnessing(i)the possession of immense material wealth, while millions of people are in extreme poverty and hunger; (ii) the concentration of material wealth in a few hands; (ii) the effects we have on global warming and climate change, biodiversity depletion, demise of natural forests…. (iii) the fact that our styles of life are neither feasible nor in harmony with the natural resources we have on this planet, despite the fact that science and common sense dictates otherwise; and (iv) the difficulties in moving from extractivism to conservation, from more quantity to more quality, from knowledge to wisdom, and from governments and the markets to citizenship.
If the UN will not transition onto becoming a planetary organization, my proposal is to create “The Planetary Citizens’ Organization (PCO)”.
But, if there is political will for structural reforms, several of them must be considered during this immediate transition. First, to open the door for an organic, meaningful participation and empowerment of citizens and organizations of civil society. Today, there is a good example in the Independent Forum of Indigenous Peoples. Second, to reach a new understanding of the International Trusteeship System, and the role that The Trusteeship Council of the UN should play. Specifically,
a. There should be a new definition of the so-called “Trust Territories”, to include all those spaces that are identified as crucial to humanity, because of their important ecological functions and services –oceans, glaciers, natural forests, wildlife reserves, biodiversity niches, etc. The new UN should administer and supervise these territories in agreement with the governments and non-government organizations.
b. To transform the Trusteeship Council into the Citizens for Peace and Environment Council.
c. To give to the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) a completely different status worldwide. Specifically, UNEP must become the World Environmental Organization (WEO).
Given all the above, the main pillars should include:
· A planetary vision to heal and regenerate the planet. This vision must emerge soon and be translated into institutions, organizations, jurisprudence, governance, etc. The sustainable development of the planet comes up for the very first time in human history.
· An understanding of Planet Earth as a live being (entity). It is clear that the planet is treated as a commodity. As a collection of balances of material things. The planet is a living being. It is a live entity, which has energy, memory, wisdom and consciousness. This is a huge departure from the present paradigm.
· A special attention, as stated earlier, to the natural environment and sustainable development, including climate change. Sustainable development is the only paradigm to be followed as a stage of development, a bundle of rights, a style of life, a structure of power, a collection of values, or a state of consciousness.
· A serious consideration of the citizen’s movement and empowerment. There will not be sustainable development without the empowerment of citizens. This should be an uncontested element of the new paradigm.
· A definite recognition of the rights of future generations and a clear message about intergenerational justice. Today, we are redistributing rights and responsibilities, whereby most rights are born by present generations, and most responsibilities by future generations.
· A definite recognition of the rights of all sentient beings and nature. This is an inevitable course of action and the jurisprudence must be established so those rights are recognized.
The above suggestions must be translated into actions. But, not any action. Examples of immediate “planetary actions” governments and planetary citizens may decide to undertake are: clean all surface and ground waters of the world; clean all oceans of the world; protect all natural forests; protect all endangered plant and animal species; protect and manage all natural and indigenous seeds; clean all air pollution from our cities; make all urban centers “green cities”.
It is fundamental to establish a new institutional framework for our planetary future.
Photo: Dr. Alfredo Sfeir-Younis at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building where the United Nations Charter was created and signed during the UNCIO conference April 25 to June 26, 1945.