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04 June 2020
The Complexity of the UN 75th Birthday and Global Grief

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

Dear Friends, We had planned that this year, the 75th anniversary of the UN, 2020 would be an opportunity to review the organization’s history and progress since its establishment in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.  There is much to celebrate across the UN’s past 75 years: the maintenance of peace and security, the promotion of social and economic development, the championing of human rights, and now its ability to commune nations so that they may collectively address the challenge of climate change. On the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary, the UN Secretary General has called upon the world’s citizens and leaders alike to review and recommend the ways to strengthen the UN between 2020 and 2050. 

Amidst a year intended for reflection, planning, and celebration, the Covid-19 pandemic has upended our lives. In almost every community, this pandemic has disproportionately attacked the most vulnerable – the elderly, the poor, and people of color suffering from chronic illnesses that are directly attributable to enduring generations of systemic discrimination. The actions and rhetoric from both our national leaders and local police departments over the past week have crystalized just how much further we have to go before we acheive the UN’s charter and mission of respecting the human rights of all people. 

While we have witnessed significant progress by public health systems globally, regionally, and nationally in response to epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio, SARS, and MERS, we now realize that these tools and capacities succeed only when leaders of countries bring to bear a spirit of collaboration.  Our leaders must recognize that the technical and scientific knowledge – developed and maintained by their own institutions – must be made available for open and transparent exchange through and with UN agencies such as World Health Organization. As we have learned in past epidemics, when mistakes are made due to either political or self-interested actions, they must be admitted and addressed, for the benefit of all nations. During COIVD-19, unfortunately, blunders, misunderstandings, and mistakes have undermined the benefits of multilateral collaboration.  To date during this crisis, US decision-making has thwarted greater collaboration – the most clear evidence being the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, a dramatic and destructive course of action that will have profound impacts upon global public health.  This, in the midst of a pandemic, and without any thoughtful or open assessment. 

This pandemic has also exposed our nation’s historical and lasting systems of racial imbalance in economic opportunity, education, housing, and employment. Deaths during the pandemic among minority groups are 50% higher than for white Americans, while the economic impact has had a devastating impact upon their economic stability and safety, many of whom work in the service economy as front-line workers supporting the health and safety of us all. These citizens deserve fair and just treatment of their human rights. 

In the midst of this pandemic, the ugly face of broad racial and economic injustice has burst forth once again with the visible murder of George Floyd in broad daylight by Minneapolis police. A murder, a strangulation –  a black man pleading for a breath while showing no resistance.  No wonder that millions of American citizens reject, and protest, against this and so many other wrongful killings of black men, women, and youth across the nation. 

While some taking part in the protests have violent intent, most participants are peaceful – peaceful but enraged at the epidemic of police violence. This administration, and the president himself, show no understanding of, or empathy for, the racial injustice around them, offering only threats,  condemnation and taking unconstitutional military actions against our own citizens. The mostly peaceful protests that have erupted across the nation in more than 100 cities are a plea to bring an end to both the killings and to a discriminatory judicial system that has dismissed almost all of the police killings of black citizens over the past three or more decades.

UNA-NCA’s mission is to champion the foundational values of the UN as a forum for peacemaking and as an entity capable of deploying peacekeeping forces around the globe, as well as to advocate for the US to meet its financial obligations to the UN, including the World Health organization, Human Rights Council, and support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Failure to act on these interrelated needs, can bring about the greater susceptibility of the most vulnerable people both here and abroad.  

This year we proudly celebrate the UN’s accomplishments while recommending improvements for the future of the UN. The UN has great support among American citizens and unusually bipartisan support in the Congress. The US has been, and can still be, one of the world’s great nations by being a concerned and compassionate multilateral partner that works with others to address our global challenges.