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Saturday, October 28, 2017
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THE WORLD marked the foundation of the United Nations on Oct. 24. Since 1948, that date was celebrated as United Nations Day. In fact, in 1971 the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by member states as a public holiday.
But there was nary a hoot in this country. It wasn’t surprising, really. President Duterte has little regard for the international organization and has blasted it many times for “interference.” At one point, he even threatened to get the country out of the UN and proposed that he and the leaders of China and Russia form another similar international organization. Perhaps it was out of ignorant bravado that he said that. Or perhaps the septuagenarian President has forgotten that China and Russia are part of the exclusive five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the others being France, the United Kingdom and the United States) and would never drop the power and influence they have in the organization they helped found.
In 1945 nations were in ruins. World War II was over, and the world wanted peace. Fifty-one countries gathered in San Francisco that year to sign a document. The document was a Charter, creating a new organization, the United Nations. Seventy years later, the UN is maintaining international peace and security, although the work is definitely tough. It is promoting development and giving humanitarian assistance to those in need. It is upholding international law, protecting human rights, and promoting democracy. And now, its 193 member states are working together to fight climate change.
The mission and work of the UN are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter. Its Preamble summarizes these:
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind
to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small
to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained
to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom
For these ends, member states vow to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors; to unite their strength to maintain international peace and security; to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
Seventy-two years since UN’s founding, our world faces many grave challenges. The current secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, notes widening conflicts and inequality, extreme weather and deadly intolerance, security threats – including nuclear weapons.
But the world has the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will. The world’s problems transcend borders. We have to transcend our differences to transform our future.
Says Guterres: “When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world.” Let us make this vision a reality.