Camille Dufresne ; translated into English by Claudia Bragman
On Thursday 25 October Mr Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, made a speech as part of the various programmes led by the University of Geneva to celebrate Switzerland’s 10-year membership to the UN. Mr Tokayev initially defined the current major upheavals; he then went on to discuss their repercussions on the UN.
A changing world
We are living a world that is increasingly complex and we are beset by increasingly globalised challenges. The UN was created to take on the responsibility of global governance. In particular, the organisation must regulate international issues and guarantee inalienable rights to all individuals. Since the UN was created, the global situation has greatly evolved on a political, economic and cultural level. However, the challenge remains unchanged: peace and security must be maintained throughout the world.
Various areas have recently evolved. Western countries were subject to the financial crisis of 2008 and its consequences: inflation, recession, the Euro crisis and the unstable economic situation in the United States. On the other side of the world, countries are booming and going full speed ahead: the population is rising and purchasing power and the level of education is increasing. The BRICS members (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are developing and this noticeably influences the global political and economic situation. This is shown by the recent creation of organisations such as the G20. The world is changing and becoming less safe; formerly effective international financial institutions are now at pains to restore global financial order.
We live in a world with more and more paradoxes and inequalities: the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. There are currently 2.3 million people with Internet access and yet 1.3 million people still have no electricity and one million of these live in serious poverty. Global demographics are also evolving: from 2015 onwards, the number of people over 60 years old will be superior to the number of people under 18.
An interconnected world
In 2011, over 6 million telephone subscriptions were sold worldwide (these figures come from ITU, the International Telecommunications Union). There has been much progress in the field of communication and this is one of the great things of our time. Yet, inequalities are still rife: ¾ of the population in developing countries still have no Internet access. This is the case, despite these countries having the highest telecommunications development rate. If we manage to integrate them sustainably into the network, interconnection will help us to solve world problems such as climate change, the proliferation of nuclear materiel, poverty and organ trafficking. The UN still has not been able to deal with such issues.
However, interconnection does generate new problems: it is difficult to meet the needs of a person halfway around the world that we have never met. And above all, there is a constant high risk of cyber attacks and information misuse.
Multiculturalism in crisis?
During his speech, Mr Tokayev reminded that the UN cannot complete its projects without strong political commitment on the behalf of its members. He also underlined how important it is for the United Nations to keep fighting for human rights in the world. The United Nations must constantly adapt their universal values to new materialising challenges. Yet, it is difficult to make these adjustments and to create new specialised bodies, which will only be justified in time. It is even harder to change people’s mind-sets. However, the real challenge today for the United Nations to respond to the world’s needs, if it can.
Nevertheless, the UN must continue to play a major role in various areas
Firstly, the UN has a duty to support any community that aspires to self-determination. It must also facilitate a transition towards sustainable changes, which result in peace and democracy. It is responsible for promoting and guaranteeing unalienable human rights at any given time and place. In times of political transition, the United Nations must particularly support the economy in order for it to stabilise. It must also support justice institutions. Both conditions are the sine qua non to establishing democracy.
It is also important to fight for women’s rights. Women currently represent over 50% of the population and half of them are under 25 years old. Therefore, they should have a place in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Moreover, their status is unstable in many regions: every year, 10 million young girls enter into forced marriages and half of these die in childbirth. Given their young age, they are not physically prepared to give birth. One could also refer to young Malala who was assaulted, only because she was fighting for an unchanging right: the right to go to school.
Furthermore, it is our duty to create a decent world that looks towards the future. Nowadays, over 75 million young people are unemployed. Generally speaking, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population. Young people must be able to develop. Looking towards the future means looking towards a sustainable economy. We are currently using 50% of the Earth’s long-term resources. This frantic pace cannot be sustained. The Millennium Goals must also be kept in mind and achieved. 35% of the population still cannot access sanitation, food speculation is spreading and malnutrition is still affecting a large number of countries. Some of the work will be left until after 2015. The UN must also emphasise its disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation policies. The global military budget is more than twice the United Nations’ annual budget.
Finally, it must be reminded that the UN is not a global government, but it belongs to everyone. It is an organisation that aims to improve our world on a day-to-day basis. Anyone can bring their two cents to the table and it is imperative that young people should not be excluded from its field of action.