• Lauren Napier

UN75: Reflecting Over 75 Years – Working Toward a Better Future

The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) and on 21 September 2020 a high-level meeting was conducted within the UN General Assembly (UNGA) where the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations was adopted. Additionally, the UN75 Report: The Future We Want, the UN We Need was finalized in English and French (with Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish coming soon). The UN75 initiative is touting the year 2020 as the much-needed year of dialogue. This global dialogue initiative includes youth and is also online. In fact, I just took the one-minute survey on where I think the UN global priorities should be now and in the long-term. The UN emphasises that in the midst of the global pandemic cooperation across borders is key to creating a better world for tomorrow. 

UN75 Declaration

Looking first at the UN75 Declaration, there are twelve key aspirations which are closely connected to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Here are the 12:

  1. We will leave no one behind

  2. We will protect our planet

  3. We will promote peace and prevent conflicts

  4. We will abide by international law and ensure justice

  5. We will place women and girls at the centre

  6. We will build trust

  7. We will improve digital cooperation

  8. We will upgrade the United Nations

  9. We will ensure sustainable financing 

  10. We will boost partnerships

  11. We will listen to and work with youth

  12. We will be prepared

The UN75 Declaration goes into detail on each of the twelve points. What can be understood is the aim is to align this declaration with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Paris Agreement, the UN Charter and UN-led initiatives. It is also inclusive of the need to make these changes, with COVID-19 at the forefront as one of the biggest challenges we are currently facing because the global pandemic has exacerbated the other challenges and shown how unprepared we as a global society are in facing and finding solutions that can support us all. It is this call for cooperation that is a reminder of how the challenges we face today do not care about politics, borders, or individual preferences. The challenges we face today affect everyone and this UN75 Declaration and the UN75 Report underline just how important dialogue really is between States, cultures, individuals, and generations. 

UN75 Report

The UN75 Report is a collection of global data, collected from surveys and dialogues, asking people about their thoughts on the challenges we face and the future we hope to see.  It asked for immediate and long-term considerations. Not surprising, the immediate priority, as is discussed in Key Finding 1, is improvement to basic services, such as healthcare, safe water and sanitation, and education. In light of COVID-19, Key Finding 2 reports the next main priority is for greater international solidarity and increased support in locations affected the most by COVID-19.  Key Finding 3 suggests access to education and women’s rights should improve. The priority in the long-term, as is discussed in Key Finding 4, is the climate crisis. Other long-term priorities, in Key Finding 5, mention human rights, poverty, and reducing corruption.

“87% of those surveyed believe international cooperation is vital to deal with today’s challenges” - Key Finding 7, UN75 Report 
“Looking to the future, 74% see the UN as “essential” in tackling global challenges” - Key Finding 8, UN75 Report

What I found interesting about the data is that from the 50,000 people in over 80 countries, the majority of the respondents were aged 16-30, and the younger age groups were found to be more optimistic about the future than older age groups, as was mentioned in Key Finding 6. This inclusion of a large number of young respondents showcases that the UN is supporting the voices of the youth and young professionals which I actually thought was quite impressive. Additionally, the data is said to be gender balanced with an almost 50% - 50% split which is important as women do represent half the population and should have a stronger voice in global discourse. What struck me as most important, was the differences in answers between regions. North America and Europe had similar views but they differed from other regions, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa. This data should serve as a reminder that it is not only Western, white males that make global decisions and have answers to the challenges we face. There are other voices that need to be heard and need to be heard equally. All regions did have access to healthcare in their top 5 – which again, given the global pandemic, is not surprising. When asked about long-term priorities, all regions apart from one – Sub-Saharan Africa – mentioned environmental protection in their top 3 (this question only asked for 3 instead of 5). Again, this sheds light on the fact that different regions perceive different priorities as key for their stability now and in the future. Therefore, it is critical that all regions are at the proverbial table to deliberate and find solutions to global challenges. This also showcases how important communication and cooperation and how the UN can act as a broker or forum. 

I would also like to draw a bit more detailed attention to Key Finding 9 and Key Finding 10 in the UN75 Report. Key Finding 9 included a discussion on how the UN could be more inclusive of diversity, which in today’s political climate is something that needs to be addressed and done with more precision. The 8 responses included, just to highlight a few, aspects such as involving more women, giving youth a stronger voice, working with the private sector, and creating more opportunities for regional and global cooperation. Key Finding 9 illustrates the necessity of having dialogues with a diverse range of people in order to find solutions that are applicable and positive for a wider range of society. Within the international outer space community, these discussions happen at the UN level as well as at various conferences and through other international organizations. As the space community is continuously increasing with State and non-State actors, it is imperative that dialogues between governments and private actors continue to strengthen so that all actors understand the importance of a safe, secure, and sustainable space for the short- and long-term duration.

Key Finding 10 discusses the role the UN should play in global dialogues. The 6 responses include:

  1. Foster greater global coordination

  2. Increase accountability and transparency

  3. Upgrade the UN

  4. Provide strong leadership and advocate for Member States to cooperate

  5. Regularly communicate with the global public

  6. Bolster implementation through improved monitoring, evaluation, and review

Key Finding 10 illustrates that there is much work to be done at the UN and global level on how we work together to solve global challenges. This finding should be disseminated into offices and specialized agencies of the UN for consideration at committee meetings, working groups, and other UN platforms of discussion. I support the utilisation of the UN as a global platform for deliberations and see the UN as a support mechanism for global interaction and initiatives. Key Finding 10 illuminates that the world sees change in needed within the UN system in order to better support the current aspirations of the global society. These findings, are not inherently new, per se, as these themes have been – and are – addressed in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) and its subcommittees regarding the UN in support of actors’ peaceful uses of space.

Concluding Thoughts

I would like to mention that the key themes and recommendations mentioned here through the UN75 Declaration and the UN75 Report are already under consideration, at least from what I have seen at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), however there is still much work to be done – especially now because of the global pandemic and the spin-off effects COVID-19 has had on our economy and other sectors. I would also like to add that these challenges cannot, and should not, be considered through a siloed approach. It is critical that we take a cross-sectorial approach to creating initiatives and finding solutions because this cooperative effort that the UN champions cannot be done otherwise. This means creating a web of synergies across State and non-State actors, across sectors, across academic disciplines, across regions, across genders, and across race. The global pandemic has shown us just how interconnected and global we really are and what that means when tragedy strikes worldwide. If this does not make us wake up and pay attention that it is time to act together then the whole process of working toward a long-term sustainability plan will be made in vain. 

Have your say! Take the one-minute survey and contribute to the UN75 discussion. Your voice should be heard!

If you liked this post, check out the #UN75 – UN Charter Day post by the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization Executive Director, Dr. Thomas Cheney!

The opinions expressed in these blogs posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization or anyone else.

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