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United Nations Day
Every year, since 1948, United Nations Day has been celebrated on 24 October. This Day marks the observance of the anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter in 1945 when the organization officially came into being. Falling in October as it does, the Day is celebrated when the Main Segment of the General Assembly, which runs from September to December, is in full swing.
To celebrate the UN is to celebrate multilateralism and the international community. As the world community increasingly recognizes the interdependence of all countries, all constituencies and all peoples, the UN’s critical role in setting normative standards, on many crucial levels, is highlighted, underscored and reinforced. This was no more evident than during the first week of the opening of the current 74th Session of the General Assembly, last month in September, that included five high-level meetings with the participation of numerous Heads of State and Government and Ministers representing the 193 Member States of the UN.
On Monday, 23 September, the Climate Action Summit was convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Greatly increased ambitions and action toward the implementation of the Paris Agreement was the objective of this meeting. All, including Member States, regions, cities, companies, investors, and individual citizens were challenged to accelerate action in nine areas: mitigation; social and political drivers; youth and public mobilization; energy transition; climate finance and carbon pricing; industry transition; nature-based solutions; infrastructure, cities and local action; and resilience and adaptation. Governments and private sector entities made commitments, ranging in nature from contributions to the Green Climate Fund to the achievement of 100% renewable energy to carbon neutrality by 2025.
Two days prior to the Climate Action Summit, on 21 September, the UN hosted a Youth Climate Summit which provided an opportunity for young climate action leaders to outline their proposed solutions to the climate crisis, at the United Nations, and to meaningfully engage with a variety of decision-makers on this critical issue. Among other things, the youth demanded far swifter action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as one essential means of stemming the negative effects of climate change.
Another important event, on 23 September, was the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage. With a focus on SDG 3 – Good health and wellbeing, the Meeting adopted a Political Declaration entitled Moving Together to Build a Healthier World. Importantly, the Declaration encompasses the commitment of Member States to accomplish universal health coverage for all by 2030, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services, and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit spanned the two days of 24-25 September. It was the first meeting of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), convened under the auspices of the General Assembly, since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015. It provided the opportunity for the review, at the highest level, of progress made in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the attendant seventeen SDGs. The HLPF Political Declaration (A/HLPF/2019/L.1) was adopted by the Summit.
Similar to the Climate Action Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (FfD) was about acceleration of progress, but this time the focus was on the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and financing the 2030 Agenda. Toward this end, four interactive dialogues comprised the High-level Dialogue. The objective of the four dialogues was to stimulate growth and tackle challenges in the global economy; encourage and optimize public and private investment to align with the 2030 Agenda; and promote new and innovative initiatives that could alleviate and fill gaps in the financing for sustainable development.
Finally, on Friday, 27 September, the High-level Midterm Review of the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway took place. The meeting discussed progress made in addressing the priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway. The High-level review adopted a political declaration that charts the way forward for SIDS, taking into account their extreme vulnerability in the face of climate change.
H.E. Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the current 74th Session of the General Assembly, in speaking about the upcoming celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations in 2020, states: “We will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations next year. This presents a unique opportunity for us to reduce the trust deficit between nations, as we all share the same aspirations and we have no choice but to work together. If we will achieve the visions of our founding fathers, we must ensure that indifference and cynicism do not creep into our organization.”
As we celebrate UN Day, the foregoing high-level events, as well as the comment by the President of the General Assembly remind us all and underscore the vital importance of cooperation and support by all sectors of the world community in order to ensure progress on the achievement of the SDGs and the establishment of a peaceful and secure global community. Ultimately, this is what defines multilateralism in the reality of the current situation of our world. It is not only national governments that comprise the international community, but also fundamental to its composition are local governments, academia, the private sector, civil society, NGOs and indeed the individual that must ultimately benefit in the spirit of “leaving no one behind”.