On Oct. 24, we celebrate United Nations Day, the 77th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Charter entering into force in 1945.
UN Day offers an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm the principles of the Charter: to nonviolently resolve international disputes and sustain peace in the face of global challenges.
As we commemorate the successes of the UN system, we must also acknowledge that it is not without its flaws.
Over the past 77 years, the UN’s many agencies have coordinated critical life-saving aid in response to ever increasing global humanitarian crises. Notably, the World Food Programme is a main provider of food and cash assistance annually to over 120 million people around the world affected by conflict, climate shocks, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, UNICEF has provided life-saving immunizations to over 760 million children in the last 20 years.
These successes remind us that global responses built on multilateral cooperation are both possible and critical to responding to today’s many challenges. We cannot solve these problems alone. Achieving and maintaining peace requires cooperation.
Reforming the System
Yet, as we commemorate the successes of the UN system, we must also acknowledge that it is not without its flaws. From incidences of sexual violence committed by peacekeepers to the repeated failure to prevent wars of aggression, the need for better accountability and reform remains ongoing.
To help address some of the UN’s challenges, FCNL is committed to advocating for the passage of the U.S. Commitment to Peacekeeping Act (H.R. 4420). This legislation would push for critical reforms to UN peacekeeping operations, such as strengthening accountability measures for UN personnel involved in exploitation and abuse.
The U.S. Commitment to Peacekeeping Act would also permanently repeal the arbitrary 25 percent cap on U.S. contributions to the UN Peacekeeping budget. Since 2017, the United States has failed to pay over $1.1 billion pledged to the UN Peacekeeping budget despite agreeing to these contribution requirements in 2018.
While the United States pressures UN Member States to sanction and isolate Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, the United States is failing to meet its own obligations to the UN. By paying its peacekeeping dues in full, the United States can strengthen its credibility and increase goodwill at the UN to achieve our diplomatic goals – rather than relying on threats and coercion.
Challenges to Peace
The ongoing war in Ukraine also presents a striking challenge to the UN system and the larger international community. The resulting humanitarian catastrophe and diplomatic shortfalls have tested the efficacy of our global institutions.
Diplomacy is the only way to end the war and ensure sustainable peace.
The current U.S.-led responses to the war in Ukraine have not yet produced a diplomatic end to the conflict. While sweeping international sanctions aim to isolate and pressure Russian leaders, they have also directly contributed to a global food and energy crisis. Russia and Ukraine produce almost a third of global wheat supply and are the main exporters to several at-risk countries including Somalia, Yemen, and Syria. As the war persists, and as the United States continues to enact broad sanctions that disproportionally impact civilians, these crises will likely worsen.
Simultaneously, the United States and its allies continue to fuel the violence with weapons shipments and security assistance. The United States and the international community should instead prioritize non-violent and diplomatic approaches to resolving the conflict.
The war in Ukraine will not end with coercion, sanctions, or military force alone. Diplomacy is the only way to end the war and ensure sustainable peace.
UN Day is an opportunity for UN Member States, including the United States, to reaffirm their commitment to the UN Charter’s guiding principles of maintaining peace and security, ensuring respect, equality, and self-determination, cooperating to solve global problems, and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
This week, FCNL is similarly reaffirming our own guiding principles through a discussion of the Quaker Peace Testimony and its application the conflict in Ukraine. Join us at the Quaker Changemaker event this week, where we will discuss these issues with special guests Tim Gee, General Secretary of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva.