Happy Birthday UN

Seventy years ago on 10 January 1945, the UN General Assembly convened for the very first time. The 51 nations met in London, at that time “a grim capital, bleak and seared” from the war. Beneath their meeting room, hundreds of people had taken shelter during air raids. On 24 January of that year, the Assembly adopted its very first resolution, creating a commission to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy and to eliminate all major weapons of mass destruction.  And yet, 70 years after that…, there are people in all of our nations who do not believe that the UN has l2ived up to its purpose. They see it as a broken institution, defined more by what divides Member States than what binds them together; an institution of inaction in the face of too much pain around the world. It is not hard to understand why people feel this way. There are many UN aspirations that do remain unfulfilled; look at its apparent helplessness in the face of the Syrian Crisis! Hundreds of thousands of people are being deliberately besieged, deliberately starved. There are 62 million girls who are still not in school. Look at the devastating impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable. It feels sometimes as though rights are being trampled and dignity is being denied all over the world.

But we have seen how the UN can play a truly pivotal role in tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time, confronting deadly epidemics like HIV/AIDS or Ebola; protecting civilians from atrocities in some of the most violent conflicts in the world; applying collective pressure of the kind that led Iran to agree to a deal to stop producing nuclear weapons; or mobilizing global action to combat climate change and to eliminate extreme poverty. This is, again, why this institution exists; a forum for mobilizing collective action.

(adapted from comments by Samantha Power, US Representative to the UN).