With unprecedented opportunities ahead to enhance the work of the United Nations, as well as that of the wider multilateral system, UN Member States have before them a straightforward “but not easy” road, the President of the General Assembly said today, starting by working harder to make their societies, their economies and their politics more inclusive and more sustainable.
“That is the message at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Mogens Lykketoft told participants at a round table with regional Cairo Centre for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa.
Too often, governments have failed to ensure that all segments of society benefit from economic development, or ignored the science of climate change and done far too little to shift to low-carbon climate resilient economies, he said, add, that too often, faced with security threats or demands for better governance, governments have reacted rashly – clamping down on civil society; eroding civil liberties or excluding political opponents.
“And while motivations may differ for taking such action, the impact is always the same – confidence in public institutions dwindles, societies become more polarized and people move closer to violence or extremism,” explained Mr. Lykketoft, echoing former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who said, 'there can be no peace without development, no development without peace and neither without human rights.'
At the same time, the international community and the UN especially, can and must do much more to support member states make progress across all three pillars. Indeed, the Assembly president continued, as the UN marks its 70th anniversary, the Organization itself is “very much at a cross roads, particularly in the area of peace and security” with the architecture developed over the seven decades now struggling to keep pace with today's and tomorrow's threats and geopolitical tensions, in a way that is undermining Member State trust.
Recalling that last year, Member States had joined hands in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mr. Lykketoft also noted that in the security sphere, ther had been renewed cooperation between major Powers on Iran, and even on Syria.
“Now, we must build on that spirit. With major UN reviews underway on peace and security matters and a new Secretary-General to be selected over the next six months, there is a real opportunity to do just,” he explained, spotlighting the particular need for “concrete action to make the UN more relevant, credible, legitimate and capable for major, regional and local powers alike.”
This world included, he said making the UN Security Council more representative and more effective, for example, by addressing the use of the veto in situations involving mass atrocity crimes. But it also includes agreeing budgetary and institutional reforms to prioritize political solutions and prevention across every aspect of the UN's approach to sustaining peace.
Mr. Lykketoft said the UN also needs to work more seamlessly across its peace and security, sustainable development and human rights pillars; engage more consistently with affected communities and ensure women are more involved in both preventing and resolving conflicts. Moreover, he highlighted the need to identify concrete ways for the Organization to help tackle global terrorism and prevent violent extremism, including in the context of UN mandated missions and operations.
And finally, he said there is a need for more strategic cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations and for opportunities to involve those member states who wish to play greater roles in global peace and security.
“The next UN Secretary-General will therefore have a unique window of opportunity early in her or his term to put those changes into place,” he said, noting that the new UN chief would need sustained from Member States, including regional powers like Egypt.
Before wrapping up his remarks, the Assembly President drew the attention of the roundtable to one other issue – the 60million people displaced in our world today. “Having just participated in the World Humanitarian Summit and visited a refugee camp in Turkey, regrettably, it seems that we remain a long way off the solutions that are desperately needed.”
With that in mind, he noted that on 19 September, Member States will gather in New York for a Summit on how to address large movements of refugees and migrants, and he expressed the sincere hope, the event will signal a shift in momentum so that those 60million people can begin to experience hope and the solidarity of the international community.