Presidential Statement on United Nations Charter Day 2020

Presidential Statement on United Nations Charter Day 2020

Liberato C. Bautista, CoNGO President

26 June 2020

On June 26, 1945, a new dawn arose. On that day, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco, creating a successor to the League of Nations and declaring unambiguously that the new United Nations Organization’s goals were, among other things,

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good

The UN Charter, from the outset, established the world organization to be at the apex of solutions to the major global challenges that are necessary conditions for building a peaceful world, including international economic and social cooperation to ensure social and economic progress for all based on equal rights and self-determination of peoples. For the first time, human rights were made into a central objective of a world organization.

The United Nations Charter created the prime multilateral international institution that would be the linchpin for a complex but indispensable system of interdependencies. Governments and peoples had learned that the alternative to multilateralism—unilateralism and rote nationalism—had led the world to the disasters of two World Wars.

As civil society celebrates the values enshrined in the UN Charter—signed by governments on behalf of” We, the peoples”—and celebrates the values enshrined in the UN Charter, we cannot but ask: Why have wars between, among, and within nations so frequently recurred? Why are inequalities and uneven development between rich and poor increasing internationally and nationally? Why can international financial institutions continue to practice policies at odds with the UN while the Charter calls for coordinating all specialized agencies? Why is the unaccountable power of transnational corporations expanding? Why have the legacies of centuries of slavery, colonialism, and racism not been repaired? Why have treaties and international law been so frequently neglected or undermined? Why has disarmament become forgotten when the resources squandered on arms could add needed resources to sustainable development for all?

Civil society salutes the aims and purposes of the United Nations as defined in the Charter. It will continue to work for their achievement as it has been done untiringly for 75 years. We plead and demand that the governments of UN member states do no less: that they live up to their commitments and promises and take their Charter commitments seriously and unremittingly. As it has done for 72 of those years, since its founding in 1948, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) pleads and demands that governments recognize that the civil society organizations in their countries and internationally are powerful force working for the public good, acting selflessly to promote and expand those exact causes for which the United Nations was established.

Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door to non-governmental organizations. Over the years, there have been innumerable beneficial interactions between the UN and NGOs—in all their operational and terminological diversity. Establishing formal consultative status for NGOs with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was groundbreaking for the system of international relations. ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31  governs the establishment of consultative status and accreditation of a broader civil society group to United Nations conferences and consultations. It contains principles and modalities for regular NGO participation in designated United Nations bodies that have stood the test of time and enjoy broad NGO support. In that context, and in furtherance of the UN Charter values, CoNGO pleads and demands that governments take every opportunity to further incorporate into their deliberative and decision-making processes the competent voices of NGOs and all civil society. The encouragement and acceptance by governments of the input of the knowledge, competence, and experience of peoples and communities will consequently enhance the output of governmental mechanisms, thus making treaties, conventions, and other decisions more realistic and implementable. That would be wholly in line with the goals of the Charter.

It is time now to reaffirm the benefits, indeed the indispensability, of multilateralism. Renewed and reinvigorated multilateralism, especially in this year of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN, is fundamental to achieving two other of the UN Charter principles:

  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all

The UN Charter principles are crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which encapsulate the fundamental purpose of having an effective and reliable United Nations Organization devoted to “the advancement of all peoples” and shaping a more just, participatory, peaceable, and equitable world.

But for the United Nations System to be effective and reliable, it must be adequately resourced—in finance and personnel. CoNGO repeats its oft-expressed alarm over the adverse effects of the continuous shrinking of the regular budget of the United Nations. Significantly more than in 1945,   many of today’s world problems respect neither physical nor territorial boundaries. The unfinished agenda of decolonization and corollary issues related to self-determination cry out for attention.

The United Nations System is more and more the world’s “plumber” not of last but of first resort, called into service to “stop the leaks” before a deluge (climate change, a pandemic, natural disasters, weapons of mass destruction, endemic poverty, global hunger, forced migration, gender violence, and injustice, racism…) overwhelms our only planet. For this, we demand governments adopt a sufficiently increased UN regular budget this year and a generous increase over the long term. And, of course, governments pay their contributions fully and on time!

“Building Back Better” is not just a slogan for the post-COVID-19 recovery period (long as that may yet be) but a challenge to build better on the UN Charter. Even more urgent now is to go back beyond pandemic management and into addressing the roots of our global maladies by acting justly and peaceably and ensuring that peoples and communities reap and enjoy the benefits of multilateral negotiations equitably, foremost of which are agreements in the protection of human rights and ecological justice. And we must build back so that neither war, poverty, nor systemic racism is inevitable. The Charter is a tool and an opportunity. “We the peoples” plead and demand that governments work with us—in consultation, collaboration, and cooperation—to save succeeding generations from the scourges of the twenty-first century.

New York City

For further information:
Liberato C. Bautista, president@ngocongo.org