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United Nations as One Mind United Nations as One Mind
by Rene Wadlow
2017-01-11 11:02:24
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Dag Hammarshjold has written that the United Nations was “the beginning of an organic process through which the diversity of peoples and their governments are struggling to find common ground upon which they can live together in the one world which has been thrust upon us before we were ready.”

un01_400_07As the incoming Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has said “In times of insecurity, when people feel uncertain about their future, when anxieties and fears are promoted and exploited by political populists, old-fashioned nationalists or religious fundamentalists, the success of the UN and the international community lies in our common commitment to our common values.”

Basically, the function of the UN is to create consensus (being of one mind) on crucial world issues.  Such consensus-building is slow, and it is done by repeating endlessly in resolutions of the General Assembly and other UN bodies, year after year, the same idea until it becomes common place.  Slowly national governments align their policies upon this common core as non-governmental organizations and the media take up the issue — sometimes a little ahead of governments and sometimes only later.

Since 1945, there have been six issues which have moved from the stage of the ideas of a few to become common policy, the one mind of the UN. This is about one idea per decade, although often the idea was presented early, and it took more than one decade to build consensus. I see the six issues on which one mind was formed as follows:

1) Direct colonialism should end. From the idea of a few in 1945 until the mid-1960s, the idea grew that colonial administration had ended its usefulness as a form of government.  The end of direct colonialism owes much to the UN system, though, of course, inequality and domination, the signs of colonial status, have not been overcome.

2) Apartheid was a bad structure for South Africa and for other countries in southern Africa tempted by similar structures of racial division.  This idea was the theme of many resolutions and speeches.  Slowly, the image of a multi-racial and multi-cultural society took hold, encouraged by enlightened leadership at the national level in South Africa.

3) There are basic human rights, and these should be respected.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 — the ‘Magna Carta’ for all humanity.  The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Preamble to the UN Charter are the two inspirational texts out of the millions of words written in UN documents that are likely to last as guides for the future.

4) Closely related to the idea of human rights but needing a special effort at consensus building is the idea that women are equal to men and should be so treated.  Although the idea is obvious, both the UN and national governments have found it difficult to put into place.

5) The ecological balance of the world is in danger and needs remedial action.  The ecological efforts of the UN began in 1971 and are enshrined in the Covenant with Nature — a text of equal importance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although not as well known. Current efforts to limit global warming are growing out of this basic ecological awareness.

6) There should be a Palestinian state.  From the 1947 partition plan to today, this idea has been repeated. There is a broad consensus, but such a state has not been created.  Without the constant discussion in the UN, the Israel-Palestine tensions would have become a bilateral issue of interest to few other states, as the issue of Kashmir, created at the same time, has faded from the UN stage to become an India-Pakistan issue.

Now there is a seventh idea developing, increasingly articulated but not yet manifested as consensus.  The idea is that there is a relationship between security, development, and human rights. “It is clear that security cannot be enjoyed without development, that development cannot be enjoyed without security, and neither can be enjoyed without respect for human rights” as stated by the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  Antonio Guterres has stressed the same theme.”The UN faces new challenges in ensuring pace and security, promoting sustainable development, protecting human rights and delivering humanitarian aid.  The UN is uniquely placed to connect the dots to overcome these challenges.  To succeed it must further strengthen the nexus between peace and security, sustainable development and human rights policies  - a holistic approach to the mutually-reinforcing linkages between its three pillars.”

We must not underestimate the time and difficulty that it takes to build consensus within the UN, but I believe that a holistic approach is the next “big idea”, the seventh , whose time has come to the UN.

 *******************************************

Rene Wadlow, President and Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens


        
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