The following are three of the highlights during the United Nations Week 2016:
1. The United Nations bids its farewell to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
As the end of the year approaches, so does the second and final term for the current secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. The decorated diplomat began his political career following his graduation from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University when he then entered the South Korean Foreign Service. Following a career of various diplomatic posts, Ban accepted the position after collecting 14 approval votes out of 15 voting members with a platform that emphasized ending violence against women.
Ten years later the secretary-general addresses the United Nation General Assembly for the last time. During his farewell speech at the United Nations Week 2016, Secretary-General Ki-moon reflected on accomplishments undertaken during his tenure (prioritizing the curbing of climate change), but also addressed issues still looming over the international community. “Gulfs of mistrust divide citizens from their leaders. Extremists push people into camps of “us” and “them”. The Earth assails us with rising seas, record heat and extreme storms. And danger defines the days of many.”
Change evokes excitement along with fresh ideas; however, departing with the compassion, intellect and efforts of the United Nations under Ki-moon brings a feeling of saudade. Mr. secretary-general, the international community will reflect fondly on your actions to support the impoverished.
2. The Paris Accord shows early signs of success.
December 2015 marked a fundamental pivot in the course of the world’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Efforts undertaken by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change eliminated the contrast of developed and developing nations in the fight to thwart the effects of climate change. The international community will now operate under a common framework: limit the global temperature increase beyond 2 degrees Celsius, increase nationally determined contributions and ensure regular reports of emission and implementation efforts.
The Paris Accord, however, is not fully implemented until “thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emission […]” have ratified the agreement. According to the Office of the Spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, over 60 countries have joined the agreement, but they only account for 47.5 percent of the global greenhouse gasses.
Secretary-General Ki-moon notes that the progress made thus far is laudable and he is confident the threshold will be surpassed as soon as significant contributors (Canada, the European Union and Australia) ratify the agreement.
3. What issues are on the docket for the next secretary-general?
As the search for the next secretary-general continues, member-states alike and the world more broadly are left with many daunting crises to combat.
The most arresting issue will be how the international community equitably and efficiently addresses the unprecedented number of refugees. Following a series of civil wars and acts of ethnic cleansing, member-states have yet to demonstrate its full commitment to offer a viable alternative for those fleeing a hostile environment.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights noted on Sep. 19, 2016 during his speech to the General Assembly, that “it is shameful that the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.”
In addition to matters of human rights violations, the global community is projected to undergo a health crisis that undermines the ability for immune systems to defeat infections by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.
Antimicrobial resistance happens from the overexposure to treatment (antibiotics). As a result, the bacteria evolve into a “superbug” with the capacity to defeat current forms of medication.
Consequences of the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance could result in increased health care costs, in the inability to treat common infectious diseases, in the destruction of gains made with the millennium development goals, as well as in the inhibition of the aspirations of the sustainable development goals.
The United Nations has demonstrated, time and time again, that it is one of the most effective, existing, regulatory and cooperative international bodies. Regardless of the secretary-general, the United Nations will have to continue, if not increase, its presence and efforts as the resources to combating global poverty have never been so plentiful.
– Adam George