The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization usually referred to as the U.N. That Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, sixty-seven years ago this week.
It took only about four months for the five permanent members of the Security Council and the majority of the other signatories to ratify the Charter. Thus, on October 24, 1945, the U.N. was formally established for the purpose of maintaining peace in the world.
There are now many critics of the United Nations, as there have been through the years. There are, to be sure, many weaknesses in it—as there are in all human institutions. But, at least and surely partly due to the work of the U.N., there has not been another world war since it was founded in the year the Second World War ended. (It is interesting to note that the Charter was approved even before WWII ended in the Pacific.)
In this country, part of the opposition to the U.N. comes from those who affirm the concept of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism.” If the USA is unique and qualitatively different from all the other countries in the world, belonging to an organization that basically recognizes the equality of nations is not seen as something positive.
For many years the U.N. has been working on issues such as the deterioration of the natural environment and the problem of climate change (global warming). Just last week (June 20-22), the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (That meeting was also called Rio+20, as the Earth Summit was held in Rio in 1992.)
Some people think that concern for the environment is bad for business and say that human-caused global warming is nonsense. Such persons are less than enthusiastic about the work of the U.N. and the UNCSD, which emphasized, among other things, “a green economy.”
On the other hand, before and during the Rio+20 meetings, there was criticism of the UNCSD from the other side of the spectrum. The People’s Summit, which also convened in Rio, charged that the U.N. conference was making too many concessions to the world’s biggest corporations and to global capitalism.
Similarly, according to Ecumenical News International, “The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) said that while the conference’s final document . . . . acknowledged that access to food is a human right, it did not pay adequate attention to needed changes in agriculture that favor the small farmer over big corporations.”
|Ban Ki-moon (b. 1944)|
The theme of the Rio+20 conference was “The Future We Want.” In a YouTube video, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon spoke about the kind of future he wants: a future where everyone can breathe clean air, drink safe water, and have enough to eat.
Ban’s hopes for the future of humanity are good ones. If the United Nations doesn’t take the lead in seeking to reach those goals for the peoples of the world, who will?