Tag Archives: UN 75

The Charter of the United Nations: Ideals for Shaping Our Reality

by Nicolas de Rivière, President of the Security Council for the month of June 2020 and Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations.

“Reconciling the requirements of the ideal with the possibilities of the real”: this is how Georges Bidault, Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the French delegation to the San Francisco conference, summed up the objective pursued by the drafters of the Charter of the United Nations. On the still living ashes of the Second World War, the fathers of an Organization charged with developing friendly relations between nations, promoting human rights and economic and social progress were less utopian than visionary. They understood that the community of States should have a common constitution. It has been tested by conflict, crisis and upheaval, but its resilience and strength have shaped the very structure of contemporary international relations.

The Charter brings us together. It defines the United Nations as “a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations”, where each member is treated as an equal across social, economic or political differences. With the quadrupling of the number of contracting parties since its inception, the Charter, which has become universal, truly expresses the values and aspirations of Humanity. That is why France attaches so much importance to ensuring that diversity—cultural, legal and linguistic—is duly reflected within the Organization, in its staff and in the way it operates: the United Nations has the heavy but noble task of ensuring the participation of all peoples in international discussion. As revealed by the major consultation under way in the context of the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary, 95 per cent of our contemporaries believe that only international cooperation will make it possible to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow. But it must also reflect their voice.

The Charter is the summit of an international order based on law: Article 103 gives it primacy over other international legal instruments. In the most difficult negotiations, it remains the frame of reference, and the precious Blue Booklet is never far away. It binds States as well as the principal organs of the United Nations. The Security Council thus exercises its responsibility as guarantor of the maintenance of international peace and security within the strict framework of the Charter, when deciding on measures to combat arms proliferation, establishing peacekeeping operations, authorizing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria or referring situations to the International Criminal Court. These decisions must be respected by all Member States in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter.

The Charter protects us. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for multilateralism, because the virus knows no borders, and no one is spared. The global and cross-cutting nature of the health crisis logically points to the United Nations as the only truly universal and multisector forum for responding to it.

It is France’s profound conviction that whenever we accept that the resolution of international crises takes place outside the multilateral framework, chaos threatens to prevail. That is particularly true today in the Middle East, where the risk of conflagration has never been greater. At a time when civilian populations have already suffered too much from the scourge of war and terrorism, we need more than ever to prevent a military spiral and to put an end to the serious human rights violations and humanitarian disasters that continue to take place, in this region as in other parts of the world.

As President Macron said in his address to the General Assembly on 24 September 2019, in a world that has become multipolar, we must reinvent “strong multilateralism”, as opposed to the temptation of national withdrawal. It was on the basis of that conviction that last year France, together with Germany, launched an Alliance for Multilateralism, a flexible framework bringing together countries of good will that wish to promote both the multilateral method and concrete initiatives in various areas that illustrate its importance.

Joseph Paul Boncour

Joseph Paul-Boncour, former Prime Minister and member of the delegation from France, signing the UN Charter at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building, San Francisco, United States, 26 June 1945.UN Photo/McCreary

To be strong, the multilateralism that we embody here in New York must be effective. It must address without delay the greatest challenges of our time, all of which are global: climate change, health and food security, the protection of biodiversity, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, inequalities, migration, massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and the new challenges posed by technology. The Charter, in its profound modernity, set the goal, 75 years ago, of achieving international cooperation in solving international problems in all these areas. France has taken the initiative to mobilize the international community on these issues, whether by launching the One Planet Summit with the United Nations and the World Bank, or by co-organizing the Generation Equality Forum in the near future, 25 years after the Beijing conference. In the face of global challenges, international cooperation is the only possible way forward; if we do not move forward, we will retreat.

The Charter is the foundation of our collective action. It offers a method, rules and tools. It enshrines negotiation as the main way forward. The principles it lays down, and in particular the universality of human rights, are non-negotiable. It provides several means of action, including peacekeeping operations and international sanctions. The specific prerogatives that it confers on certain members should not be received as licenses but as responsibilities. That is why France, together with Mexico, has, since 2013, called for the suspension of the veto in the event of mass atrocities in the form of a political, voluntary and collective commitment by the five permanent members of the Security Council. To date, 105 Member States have joined this initiative.

The Charter in no way prevents the necessary modernization of the Organization, which, on the contrary, has been constantly reinventing itself. The decompartmentalization of the various pillars and components of the United Nations galaxy, as reflected in the vision of “Delivering as One”, is necessary for the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The efforts undertaken in that regard, in particular the triple reform undertaken by the Secretary-General (reform of the peace and security architecture, development reform and management reform), must be supported. Each of the principal organs must play its part by optimizing its work.

Like a robust building that has stood the test of time, the Charter can be amended to better reflect the realities of the contemporary world. In that regard, France would like the Security Council to be expanded, as it was for the first time in 1963, to take into account the emergence of new Powers and to allow for a stronger presence on the African continent.

For 75 years, the Charter has been our highest common denominator. Its relevance remains unaltered. Sometimes a home, sometimes a bulwark, it allows the pursuit of an ideal of peace and prosperity towards which we must strive, with modesty but also with courage. It is incumbent upon us to pass on its values and promises to future generations.

26 June 2020

Featured photo credit: Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region. New York, 3 October 2019. UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Reflections on the Charter of the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary

by Mona Juul, seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, written and signed during a period of great global change. Today, the world is again shifting beneath our feet. Yet, the Charter remains a firm foundation for our joint efforts.

These uncertain times of global disruption shine a light on the interdependences of our world. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the inequality it has exposed, are a global challenge that we must solve through global solutions. These solutions call for more, not less, cooperation across national borders.

Global cooperation is the enduring promise of the Charter of the United Nations. I am honoured to preside over the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the United Nations, at its 75th anniversary.

In January 1946, 18 members gathered for the inaugural meeting of ECOSOC under the leadership of its first President, Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar of India. ECOSOC was vested with a powerful mandate, to promote better living for all ­­by fostering international cooperation on economic, social and cultural issues.

The Charter recognizes the value of social and economic development as prerequisites for stability and well-being. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld once said that “while the Security Council exists primarily for settling conflicts […] the Economic and Social Council exists primarily to eliminate the causes of conflicts.”

For me, this is a reminder that sustainable peace and prosperity rely on global solidarity and cooperation.

Today, this unity of purpose to reach those furthest behind first is also the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda is our shared road map to transform the world as we recover better, protect our planet and leave no one behind. With ECOSOC serving as the unifying platform for integration, action, follow-up and review of the SDGs, our promise to eradicate poverty, achieve equality and stop climate change must drive our actions.

ECOSOC has the unique convening power to make this happen. It brings together valuable constituencies such as youth and the private sector to enhance our work and discussions. ECOSOC also remains the gateway for civil society engagement with the United Nations. Civil society has been central to progress on international economic, social and environmental cooperation, from the small but critical number of organizations present in San Francisco when the Charter was signed in 1945, to the 5,000-plus non-governmental organizations with ECOSOC consultative status today.

The Charter also outlines that ECOSOC should promote universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. While much has shifted in our world, this mandate remains just as important today as in 1945. After all, human rights are a part of the foundation of the United Nations, quite literally. When Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General and fellow Norwegian, laid the cornerstone of United Nations Headquarters at Turtle Bay in October 1949, it contained, together with the Charter, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights have always been a part of the work of ECOSOC. The Human Rights Commission was one of the first functional commissions created within ECOSOC and was charged with drafting the Universal Declaration. Today, ECOSOC remains committed to playing its part to promote all rights: civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Wilhelm Munthe Morgenstierne, Ambassador to the United States, member of the delegation from Norway, signing the Charter of the United Nations at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building in San Francisco, United States on 26 June 1945.UN Photo/McLain

In stark contrast to the 18 men who formed the first meeting of ECOSOC in 1946, I am proud to be the third consecutive female president of ECOSOC and one of five female presidents in its 75-year history. Although slow, this is progress, especially compared to 1945, when out of the 850 international delegates that convened in San Francisco to establish the Charter of the United Nations, only eight were women, and only four of them were signatories to the Charter. Today, the Secretary-General has achieved gender parity in all senior United Nations positions, and the Commission on the Status of Women is perhaps the highest profile part of the work of ECOSOC. The Commission’s annual session is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

ECOSOC must work to place gender equality at the heart of all our work. Women’s rights and gender equality are imperative to a just world. In all my endeavours, I strive to promote and advance these rights with a vision of a more prosperous, peaceful and fair world, for the benefit of women and girls—and men and boys alike.

Before the current crisis, more people around the world were living better lives compared to just a decade ago. More people have access to better health care, decent work and education than ever before. Nevertheless, inequality, climate change and the lasting negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to undo these gains. While we have technological and financial resources at our disposal, unprecedented changes will be needed to align resources with our sustainable development objectives. The United Nations must remain at the forefront of our collective efforts guided by our commitment to the Charter.

The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries experience improvement in their lives and societies. The United Nations must be of value to people. To our family. To our neighbours. To our friends. Unless we achieve this, our credibility is at stake.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, let us remind ourselves of the promise it embodies, to help the world become a more prosperous, just, equitable and peaceful place.

To me, the opening words of the Charter, “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS”, are a humble and empowering reminder of our capability to overcome current and future challenges. Even in troubling times, there remains great hope in the power of working together. That is the founding spirit of the United Nations—and in this 75th anniversary year, as we face grave and global challenges, it is the spirit we must summon today.

26 June 2020

About the author
Mona Juul is the seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: Inga Rhonda King (left), Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations and seventy-fourth President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), hands over the gavel to Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations and newly-elected seventy-fifth President of ECOSOC, at the opening meeting of the 2020 session of ECOSOC. New York, 25 July 2019. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.