United Nations Turned 76 Years Last Sunday

Guterres
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UN Secretary General Guterres. Photo Credit: Eric Bridiers

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

The United Nations celebrated its 76th anniversary on Sunday with pomp and pageantry. United Nations Day was observed for the first time in 1948 when I was barely one year old which my son Matthew Acemah will find hard to believe.

The theme for United Nations Day 2021 was: “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.” It was a day that appreciated and celebrated diversity of cultures, races, religions and languages in the world; a day on which countries of the world came together to spread ideas of peace, harmony and goodwill among all peoples on earth.

Several activities were planned to celebrate UN Day at UN headquarters, New York, at UN centers in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna, UN country offices worldwide and in all member states, including Uganda which joined the world organization on October 25, 1962 as the 110th member state of the UN.

The Charter of the UN was signed in San Francisco, USA on June 26, 1945 by 51 original member states at the end of the “United Nations Conference on International Organization” convened to draw up the Charter. Only four African countries were among the original members, namely Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia and South Africa. The name “United Nations” was coined by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was used in the “Declaration by United Nations” issued during World War II by 26 countries on January 1, 1942.

The United Nations Organization came into existence formally on October 24, 1945 when the Charter was ratified by all 5 permanent members of the Security Council, namely, China, France, UK, USSR and USA and a majority of the original member states. Hence UN Day is celebrated annually on October 24.

 The United Nations is a multilateral organization consisting of 193 member states and two observers, the Holy See (Vatican) and Palestine. The term multilateralism refers to coordinated diplomatic interaction between three or more countries in international politics for peaceful cooperation in economic, political or security matters and is the opposite of bilateral or unilateral actions by states. IGAD, EAC, SADC, ECOWAS, AU and UN are all fruits of multilateralism.

The preamble to the Charter of the UN commits member states to “employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of peoples.”

Multilateralism is derived from the purposes of the United Nations stipulated in the UN Charter, namely: to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character; to promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve the goals of the organization.

The commitment, determination and record of the UN in efforts to promote multilateralism at regional and global levels are self-evident and commendable not only in Uganda, but elsewhere in Africa and the world. The UN’s efforts to address global problems, such as, Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and global warming are only a few of the several challenges which demand and require collective commitment to multilateralism.

No country, however powerful and wealthy, can solve such problems unilaterally, as former US President Donald Trump mistakenly tried to do with his misguided “America first” and “Make America great again” approach and mindset. Thank God, Americans denied Trump a second term as President of the USA. I am glad President Joe Biden has moved swiftly since January 20 to reverse most of the isolationist policies Trump introduced and pursued recklessly during his administration, which antagonized the USA from the UN and from America’s traditional allies, NATO and European Union.

On the occasion of the just celebrated United Nations Day, I would like to salute UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and members of staff at UN headquarters, in Uganda and throughout the world. I wish all of them every success.

Arua, Uganda

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