An occasion to reflect and celebrate
The UN is 70. It celebrated its anniversary on 24 October 2015. The organisation has accompanied the transformation of the world after Second World War in the fields of peace and security, development and human rights. It is also facing the challenges of the 21st century with the new 2030 agenda just adopted by the UN General Assembly in September.
The UN is now composed of 193 Member States, compared to 51 in 1945, which often struggle to reach joint decisions for the common good of humanity. It is highly dependent on the will of these Member states and it reflects the balance of power between political blocks and regions while at the same time offering a unique space for dialogue among nations and with civil society, which represents the voice of the people. The UN has a mitigated track record of successes and failures having been unable to prevent some of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century while at the same time having paved the way to development, reduction of extreme poverty and of child mortality. It is now a huge system with 20 specialised agencies and has reached a point where substantive reforms are imperative to stay connected to changing political and societal realities, globalisation and the digital age.
The history of Geneva is inseparable from the United Nations. “As the main operational hub of the multilateral system, Geneva hosts many UN agencies that work on peace, rights and well-being” said Michael Moller Director General of the UN Office in Geneva who inspired the organisation of an Open Day at the Palais des Nations, on 24 October, to discover and reflect on the UN accomplishments.
Terre des Hommes associated itself to this joyful celebration in close collaboration with major child rights NGOs (Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision International). These NGOs organised together a “children corner” where activities and games were set up for children and youth to create awareness about children’s rights and about the importance of children and youth as builders of their own society. Terre des Hommes is actively engaged with the UN work intern alia to convey field realities regarding children to the heart of global decisions having an impact upon them.
The Open Day was a great success with 18’000 participants eager to visit some of the mythical places where international negotiations are held. This interest from the public indicates that though it is doubtful if the UN of today is truly fit for purpose, it is believed that the world would be a much worse place to live in without it.
Terre des Hommes and its relation with the UN
Terre des Hommes also celebrates close to 30 years of a formal office in Geneva for the relations with the UN. Terre des Hommes has now worked for three decades to connect UN human rights systems to the daily realities of children’s lives. What we now call internally the “alignment” from operational level to different levels of advocacy including the global level.
Terre des Hommes has special ECOSOC consultative status at the United Nations and takes part in Geneva and in New York in United Nations deliberations. Terre des Hommes has contributed to influencing major child rights developments such as the drafting of some of the treaties and optional protocols on child rights.
Within alliances, Terre des Hommes continues to play an important role in key child rights developments at international level and at national levels. A representative of Terre des Hommes is Vice-Chair of Child Rights Connect. Terre des Hommes is considered as a leading expert on topics such as the rights of children in the context of migration and ecological rights with which it collaborates closely with the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Terre des Hommes is preparing with the Committee the next Day of General Discussion in September 2016 on “The right of the child to a healthy environment”.
A stronger and more agile UN
With the perspectives of action around the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the world’s peoples yearn for a fairer, more peaceful world, where new generations can grow up in confidence. A stronger, more agile UN is needed not of the UN to enter into irrelevance, as the League of Nations did in the 1930s.
Terre des Hommes believes timely changes are needed in the composition and working of the UN Security Council for instance. It has to be more democratic, more representative of the world of today, and more effective in its mission of preventing and addressing armed conflict. Amongst others, groups representing people in zones of conflict have to have a greater opportunity to inform and influence Council decisions and this includes the views and opinions of children.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has a bit more than one year remaining in his second term. His successor will be chosen by the General Assembly in October 2016. How to strengthen the US Secretary General’s independence and avoid the perception that he or she is guided by electoral concerns? Should the next Secretary General be a woman, regardless of region? Will candidates publicize their interest as in 2006, and if so, what role could social media play in their campaigns?