September 24, 2020

The United Nations at 75: An Urgent Need for Action

By John Romano and Claudia Villalona, TAP Network Secretariat 

The United Nations observes its 75th anniversary this month with the virtual opening of the General Assembly amidst the coronavirus pandemic and mounting existential crises. Civil society from around the world lead the call for urgent action to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda while leaving no one behind. 

Photo by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe: The General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly gets underway at UN Headquarters in New York. 

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, leaders from 193 member-states are to deliver their annual speeches virtually at the opening of the UN General Assembly (1). This year, the annual high-level meeting that formally opens the General Assembly Session, marked the United Nation’s 75th anniversary amidst the catastrophic coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly one million people and sickened 31 million worldwide (1). 

The planned celebrations ahead of the historic 75th session, which opened on September 15 and held the first high-level debate on the 22nd of September, were scrapped and moved to a primarily digital format in which only one mask-wearing representative from each member-state was allowed to attend at U.N. Headquarters in New York (2)(3). Under the theme The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism,” the session’s most pressing priority has shifted to recovering and rebuilding from the pandemic (2). 

In his speech to a socially-distant audience in the General Assembly chamber, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres painted a bleak picture of the challenges facing the world, including an epochal” health crisis, the biggest economic calamity and job losses since the Great Depression, threats to human rights, the threat of climate change and escalating geopolitical tensions (3). Guterres remarked that while the emergence of COVID-19 has “has brought the world to its knees, it is just a “dress rehearsal for the challenges to come” (3).

The UN prepares for the road ahead

The United Nations has made an effort to utilize these unprecedented times as an opportunity to reflect and regroup in order to effectively face these monumental challenges. Garnering over one million inputs in this “global consultation,” the UN has released a report with these findings called the UN75 report. The report calls for global solidarity stating the urgency for multilateralism and unity “has rarely been greater” to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and conflict, while also tackling poverty and reducing corruption (4).  

Civil society comes together with the UN2020 Declaration

Civil society around the world has also come together in putting forth the UN75 People’s Declaration and Plan for Global Action, “Humanity at a Crossroads: Global Solutions for Global Challenges— a call to action to forge a new foundation for a better path for humanity through a transformation of global governance to reflect a new reality. The declaration recognizes the importance of this year as a turning point for humanity in which global and inclusive cooperation and multilateralism is needed to rise to the challenge (5). To endorse the declaration, click here. 

The SDG16+ Community releases the Statement: Act Now for SDG16+

In this necessary moment of reflection, it is essential that we heed the Secretary-General’s call for cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations to recover and realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda (4). In other words, collective action and commitment to peace, justice, inclusion and the vision of the 2030 Agenda is more urgent now than ever. 

In the months leading up to UNGA75, the TAP Network and its partners in the SDG16+ Community have co-released the statement “Act Now for SDG16+: Peace, Justice, Inclusion and Strong Institutions in a Pandemic” recognizing the immense challenge in overcoming the pandemic crisis and calling on governments, the international community and leaders in every sector to urgently make SDG16+ the foundation for reset and recovery efforts, and for building more resilient societies and institutions going forward.

The statement, which has garnered support from nearly 90 organizations and partners, affirms that in the face of the global health crisis and other long-standing challenges, the implementation of SDG16+ is “critical to unlocking the 2030 Agenda as a whole” and leaving no one behind (6). To read and commit to the “Act Now for SDG16+” statement, please follow the link here

The Campaign for a Decade of Accountability for the SDGs

With just a decade to realize the 2030 Agenda, action must be accompanied by accountability. To that end, the TAP Network and its partners have launched the Campaign for a Decade of Accountability for the SDGs complementary to the Campaign for a Decade of Action and Delivery. The multi-stakeholder campaign aims to bolster concerted action and amplify efforts to hold duty-bearers accountable to commitments made to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The Campaign for a Decade of Accountability is driven by the principle that meaningful accountability is critical to rebuild, recover, and realize more inclusive and resilient societies as enshrined in the 2030 Agenda. 

The Campaign has launched a platform for SDG Accountability Champions, with commitments from diverse stakeholders around the world. It also launched and closed the SDG Accountability Survey, which is now currently being analyzed for the forthcoming Global SDG Accountability Report set to launch later this year. To learn more about the campaign and to become and SDG Accountability Champion, please follow the link here

As we take this moment to pause and reflect on the challenges before us, we must acknowledge that the world finds itself at a tipping point, requiring concerted and collective action in response. In the words of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s frailties. We can only address them together” (3). 

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on the TAP Network Blog Platform are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the TAP Network. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion.

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