UN75: Not quite a celebration, though hope prevails

On Monday the United Nations will be marking its 75th Anniversary. It will be a moment of reflection and looking forward under the theme, “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.

Perhaps the theme is self-explanatory, as the organisation has not always been perfect in discharging its mandate. This is not to say it has not been a force for good.


Among the highlights in the commemoration will be the adoption of a political declaration to reinforce global cooperation in a world still full of challenges — from climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic to armed conflict and inequalities.


It concedes how some of these challenges have been intractable, but it acknowledges the achievements and commitments since the organisation was “born out of the horrors of World War II”.


It notes the freedom the organisation has promoted, the norms it has shaped for international development and its work to eradicate disease.

Overall, the United Nations has worked to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including the equal rights of women and men.

While the declaration does not make special mention of Africa, the organisation’s achievements for the continent begin with decolonisation.

It may not be forgotten that at the end of World War II in 1945 nearly every country in Africa was subject to colonial rule or administration.

Africa is now virtually free from colonial rule with South Sudan being the continent’s newest country when it gained independence from the rest of Sudan in 2011.

The United Nations continues to be involved in the continent, as may be seen in its partnerships with the African Union to address the continent’s priorities and pressing needs.

This includes the continent’s future working with the AU to ensure the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 contribute to the continent’s development.

Deep challenges however persist. While Africa has strived to do well, ills such as corruption remain a daunting challenge to good governance, sustainable economic growth, peace, stability and development.

While the declaration takes a more global view, issues such as the growing inequality, poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, terrorism plague the continent.

Armed conflicts have long been an issue in Africa, and not since too long ago terrorism perpetrated by the likes of Al Shabaab and Boko Haram.

The United Nations has been involved in more than 70 peacekeeping operations around the world. More than 30 of these have been around the continent since 1960 when the UN first deployed a peacekeeping operation in the Republic of the Congo.

It is therefore a measure of the problem in the continent that conflicts still persist, impacting on security and the economy and, subsequently, lives, forcing many to make dangerous journeys in search of refuge and safety.

More therefore remain to be done, while the United Nation's role in resolving conflicts has had its missteps. The overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi is a symbolic example.

Depending on who you ask, the organisation more than faltered during his overthrow by western powers in 2011.

It is true that Col Gaddafi's was not always likable, particularly in the west, while his position in Africa was paradoxical; Just as he backed pro-democracy causes and played a key role in the formation of the African Union, he also fuelled rebellions in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

But in overthrowing him, similar to cases such as the 2003 US-British invasion of Iraq and the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, it has not presented the United Nations in the best of light about its effectiveness for having appeared powerless.

Some have therefore been cynical about the United Nations and sceptical whether it can ever be effective with its liquidity crises and accusations of being too bureaucratic and giving certain countries more power than others.

 Yet perhaps that is not the point. By being open to examine itself such as during this 75th Anniversary it gets clearer which global problems actually matter and the actions to take, which the declaration enumerates.

Thus, as it declares, we are not here to celebrate.


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