UN marks 75 years of existence

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The UN Charter “brought rules and hope to a world in ruins”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a virtual ceremony last Friday, commemorating 75 years since the organisation’s founding text was signed.

Adopted by member states as the Second World War was coming to a close, the UN chief noted the world today was marking the milestone anniversary “as global pressures spiral up”.

The Charter was signed in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 and came into force on 24 October the same year.

Conceived as a means to save future generations from the scourge of war, the Charter calls for the UN to maintain international peace and security; promote social progress and better standards of life; strengthen international law and promote human rights.

“The Charter’s vision stands the test of time and its values will continue to carry us forward. It remains our touchstone for a world mired in a pandemic, torn by discrimination, endangered by climate change and scarred by poverty, inequality and war,” Guterres said.

Against a backdrop of a global reckoning with racism, environmental degradation, increasing cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation, corruption and a pushback on basic human rights, he noted that back in 1945 delegates in San Francisco – who also lived through a global pandemic, depression and war – “seized the opportunity to plant the seeds of something better and new”.

“Today, we must do the same. To achieve that watershed moment, we need to re-imagine multilateralism, give it teeth to function as the founders intended and ensure effective global governance is a reality when needed,” he said.

Inclusive multilateralism today requires the “essential voices” of civil society, cities, the private sector and young people to shape the world.

Drawing inspiration

There is “much to encourage and drive us onward”, he said. This includes the general level of solidarity shown in responding to the pandemic, embracing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recent activism of racial justice protesters to advancing equality, climate action and a green economy.

Paying tribute to the service and sacrifice of peacekeepers, staff and others who gave their lives advancing UN values, Guterres said: “I am inspired by what has been built and achieved over 75 years”.

“Now is the time to persevere, press ahead, pursue our goals, show responsibility for our world and take care of each other. It is up to us to rise to the test of this pivotal moment for our future”.

The Charter signatories “dared to imagine a better world defined by peace and equality”, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande told the commemoration.

“As we work towards the future we want and the UN we need, we must be results focused. Now more than ever, we need a strong UN development system and effective collaboration between the UN and international financial institutions”.

In pursuit of inclusive multi-lateralism the Assembly president said the full participation of voices “unheard for too long”, such as women, youth, indigenous persons and people with disabilities, was needed.

“This is a moment of reckoning for our shared planet and future. This is a time for action, ambition and partnership”, he said.

Closing Muhammad-Bande pointed out three-quarters of a century ago, sceptics doubted the resolve of UN member states, saying, “cynicism did not prevail then, nor will it now.

“‘We, the people remain nations, united and guided by the principles of our Charter”, he said.