Stabroek News

Leadership at the United Nations

- By Dr Bertrand Ramcharan

The United Nations is the repository of the hopes and aspiration­s of the peoples of the world, especially in developing countries, for a safe and dignified existence, with equitable life chances, and with respect for their fundamenta­l human rights. The United Nations has never been more important than now, with multiple challenges facing humanity, including climate change, wars, pandemics, shocking violations of human rights, massive displaceme­nts of people, and deteriorat­ing living standards across the developing world.

Leadership at the United Nations is of the utmost importance, and the current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has been heroically calling humanity to conscience, in a series of initiative­s seeking to shape the United Nations to deal with the challenges of the present and the future.

Earlier in the year, in his wide-ranging briefing of 6 February to the UN General Assembly on priorities for 2023, Guterres warned that “The Doomsday Clock is now 90 seconds to midnight, which means 90 seconds to total global catastroph­e”. He set out his vision for “A transforma­tion grounded in everything that guides our work – starting with the Charter and the Universal Declaratio­n.”

He framed his briefing around seven sets of rights: first, the right to peace; second, social and economic rights and the right to developmen­t; third, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainabl­e environmen­t; fourth, respect for diversity and the universali­ty of cultural rights ; fifth, the right to full gender equality; sixth, civil and political rights as the basis of inclusive societies; and seventh, the rights of future generation­s: he emphasized that “we must recognize that all the threats we face undermine not only people’s rights today, but also the rights of future generation­s”.

He announced his intention to launch, later this year, A new Agenda for Peace to succeed the first Agenda for Peace of 1992 – of which the present author wrote the first draft. He would centre the New Agenda for Peace on a recommitme­nt to the Charter – putting human rights and dignity first, with prevention at the heart. He recalled his ‘Action for Peacekeepi­ng Plus’ initiative, and advocated a new generation of peace enforcemen­t missions and counter-terrorist operations. He warned that “We are at the highest risk in decades of a nuclear war that could start by accident or design. We need to end the threat posed by 13,000 nuclear weapons held in arsenals around the world.”

Guterres was building on three of his earlier major initiative­s: his Disarmamen­t Agenda (2018); his Call to Action for Human Rights (2020), and Our Common Agenda (2021). His Disarmamen­t Agenda (2018) set out three basic priorities: disarmamen­t to ‘save humanity’ (eliminatin­g weapons of mass destructio­n); disarmamen­t to ‘save lives’ (advancing convention­al arms control); and disarmamen­t ‘for future generation­s’ (addressing challenges posed by emerging issues and new technologi­es.

In his Call to Action for Human Rights (2020), Guterres’s articulate­d a human rights vision “that is transforma­tive, that provides solutions, and that speaks directly to each and every human being”. The Call to Action set out the following overarchin­g guiding principles: (1) rights at the core of sustainabl­e developmen­t; (2) rights in times of crisis; (3) gender equality and equal rights for women; (4) public participat­ion and civic space; (5) rights of future generation­s, especially climate justice; (6) rights at the heart of collective action; and (7) new frontiers of human rights.

In Our Common Agenda (2021) he called on the world to re-embrace global solidarity; to renew the social contract between Government­s and their people, and within societies; to end the ‘infodemic’ plaguing the world; to develop better measuremen­t of economic prosperity and progress; to think ahead for the long term, delivering more for young people and succeeding generation­s; and for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilater­al system anchored within the UN. He announced his intention to convene a Summit of the Future in 2024.

Guterres’ latest initiative was announced on Thursday 9 March, 2023, when he advocated the appointmen­t of a global envoy for future generation­s; the adoption of a political declaratio­n defining “our duties to the future;” and the establishm­ent of a dedicated inter-government­al forum where countries could build on the declaratio­n and share experience­s and innovation­s.

Guterres is in the seventh year of his stewardshi­p of the United Nations and people are already thinking about who can take the baton after him. It is widely expected that his successor will come from the Third World and there is a strong demand for it to be a woman. Names mentioned are the current Deputy SecretaryG­eneral, Ms. Amina Mohammed of Nigeria, and the Caribbean’s own stellar Prime Minister of Barbados, Ms Mia Mottley, a powerful intellect and electrifyi­ng speaker. Past leaders from the Third World have played a historic role in shaping the United Nations, notably U Thant of Burma, Boutros-Boutros Ghali of Egypt, and Kofi Annan of Ghana.

It would be fitting for CARICOM leaders to step up their reflection­s on the United Nations of the future and the kind of leadership CARICOM would wish to see. Should Guyana be successful in its bid for a seat on the Security Council it would be expected to influence the selection process. It should therefore be thinking intensely about the future leadership of the United Nations.

Mamma Mia!!!

 ?? ?? Dr Bertrand Ramcharan
Dr Bertrand Ramcharan

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