United Nations – Year in Review 2015
2015 – In another year of extraordinary challenges for the world community, the United Nations turned 70 – A time to look back at its founding document, the Charter – and to create a new vision of a future in peace and dignity for everyone, everywhere.
“We have reached a defining moment in human history.”
In September, member states united to adopt Agenda 2030 – promising they would act on a transformative vision by setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals, that span education to gender equality to good governance and sustainable energy for all. The Mission is to end extreme poverty in all its forms over the next 15 years. Historic Moment in Paris: World Leaders adopted an unprecedented climate change agreement.
Earlier in the year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an urgent change in priorities:
Ban Ki Moon:
“The world continues to squander trillions in wasteful military spending. Why is it easier to find the money to destroy people and planet than it is to protect them?”
Turmoil in Yemen, Syria, Libya, South Sudan and many other places brought suffering to new heights. At least 60 million people have fled their homes – the highest number of displaced since World War Two. On their perilous journey across the seas, more than 3500 refugees have died or are missing – including a little boy, whose image moved the world. The survivors – a mass movement seeking refuge – are often met by fences instead.
UN agencies, like the World Food Program, have seen growing funding gaps, prompting them to cut back on food and cash aid to refugees. The humanitarian system is stretched to the limits.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
“In the end there can be but one solution: we must tackle the causes of flight and expulsion.”
The reign of terror by fanatical groups like ISIL or Daesh not only sent millions of people in the Middle East running for their lives – their franchises spread fear throughout the world. In Kenya, 147 students died in a militant attack on Garissa University – a Russian passenger plane was brought down over the Sinai – bomb attacks in Beirut killed over 40 people in a busy shopping mall – Paris lost more than a hundred people in a night of mass shootings and terror. Some of the suicide bombers were only teenagers.
Earlier in the year, the UN Security Council discussed the role of youth in countering violent extremism, presided over by Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan, the youngest person ever to chair the Security Council.
“We have to fill this vacuum being exploited by enemies of humanity by building on the potential of youth and empowering them to achieve their ambitions.”
In September, World Leaders converged on the UN and took up the fight against terrorism.
Ban Ki-moon:
“We know violent extremism flourishes when human rights are violated, aspirations for inclusion are ignored, and too many people – especially the world’s young with their hopes and dreams – lack prospects and meaning in their lives.”
Ending the five-year old Syria conflict was seen as intricately linked to all other measures.
US President Barack Obama:
“Defeating ISIL requires – I believe – a new leader and an inclusive government that unites the Syrian people in the fight against terrorist groups. We are prepared to work with all countries, including Russia and Iran, to find a political mechanism in which it is possible to begin a transition process.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin shared a different vision with the General Assembly:
“We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face. We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and Kurdish militias are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria.”
Peace Talks in Vienna brought all stakeholders to the table – except the Syrians themselves:
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria:
“We never dreamed to have the Russian Federation and the Americans sitting and heading the same table, and on one side having Saudi Arabia and on the other one Iran, plus other countries. So that type of momentum that we have been waiting for, we need now to support.”
In November, the Security Council united to adopt a resolution to “take all possible measures” in compliance with the UN Charter, to prevent and suppress terrorist acts.
In YEMEN, insurgencies, air strikes and proxy battles have turned the country into a humanitarian catastrophe, leaving 80 % of the population in need of assistance. An average of eight children a day are killed or maimed as result of the conflict, two million children are severely malnourished, health centers and schools have closed down.
7 Year old
努尔·福艾德(7 岁):
“My sisters and I become so frightened when we hear the bullets. We are afraid that we will die. I do not like war, I like peace.”
Even so UN agencies like the World Food Programme have sent in emergency assistance, the country is one step away from famine.
Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief:
“We have got to help the people, we have got to make sure that we get the food, the security, the protection, the mine clearance and all the things which will give them some chance to feel safe.”
In December, during UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, a temporary suspension of hostilities in Yemen was announced. The UN urged parties to use this lull to advance the peace process.
In LIBYA, the UN brokered an agreement to form a new unity government after months of difficult talks between the rival parties,but conflict continues.
Ban Ki-moon:
“No agreement is perfect, but this document will help Libya move beyond the chaos and toward the creation of a stable and democratic state with a clear legal framework.”
Waves of terror hit NIGERIA, where BOKO HARAM has killed more than 20,000 people in the last 6 years. Two and a half million people either fled across borders or are homeless in their own country.
(Fatmata, Chadian IDP from Djangalima village)
“Boko Haram burnt my village. We fled that night.”
Food security in the region is a major challenge – UN agencies aim to feed 400,000 people a month, but with so many emergencies competing for funds, rations had to be cut everywhere.
In the Central African Republic, more than 500 children were released by militias and reintegrated into society. In May, 10 rival militia groups signed a deal to disarm, and to pursue a process of reconciliation and democratic elections. Violence has continued, disrupting the political process, and hindering the vital work of humanitarian agencies.
Peace Talks in South Sudan: South Sudan President Salva Kiir:
“I proceeded to sign the agreement in order to stop the war and give peace a chance.”
But fighting continued in various states despite a ceasefire deal, leading to yet another round of peace talks. Still more than a hundred thousand internally displaced people live in the UN protection sites. Mongolian women peacekeepers are helping create a secure environment and demonstrate the role of women in building peace. After years of crisis, almost 4 million people face hunger in South Sudan and during the rainy season many of them can only be reached by food air drops.
Despite BURUNDI’s election to the UN Human Rights Council, their own presidential elections in July were overshadowed by allegations of human rights violations.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“What the people of Burundi are telling us is that they fear their country is on the brink of devastating violence. The risk to human life, and to regional stability and development, is high.”
More than 100,000 Burundians have fled the country, many of them across the lake to Tanzania and Rwanda. While the UN’s Refugee Agency and UNICEF helped to provide shelter and relief from cholera and malnutrition, the Security Council urged all parties to enter political dialogue.
Signs of Success in Western Africa – the number of EBOLA cases has declined dramatically; thanks to collective action by communities, their governments and support from around the world. The outbreak is still not over, but with new rapid diagnostic tests and a promising new vaccine the communities now turn to a phase of vigilance to prevent the killer virus from taking hold once again.
Observer State PALESTINE now proudly flies its flag on UN premises – but recently flags were unfurled in mourning, when a new round of violence claimed more innocent Israelis and Palestinians.
Historic Nuclear Agreement with IRAN: Six major powers agreed to lift sanctions they had imposed on Iran if the country promised to scale back dramatically its nuclear program and to reduce by two thirds the number of centrifuges it possessed.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani:
“Where necessary, we moved forward and where necessary, we showed the courage for flexibility; and, at each point, we made use of the full capacity of international law and showcased the potentials of constructive dialogue.”
Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):
“Much work remains to be done, but I believe the significant progress made on the Iran nuclear issue represents a real success for diplomacy.”
In another breakthrough, the people of Myanmar went to the polls in November’s historic election that returned the party of Aung San Suu Kyi to power.
Ban Ki-moon congratulated the people of Myanmar for their “peaceful, dignified and enthusiastic” participation in the election process.
When central Myanmar was ravaged by floods this year, the UN supported rescue operations and sent basic assistance to people in distress.
Meanwhile, in NEPAL, a devastating 7.8-magnitude Earthquake presented unique challenges to the people – and the UN and its agencies: Delivering food and supplies to most inaccessible mountain areas, providing locals with shelter and cash grants to rebuild their houses and infrastructure – they even airlifted child monks when their monastery in the Himalayas got cut off from the rest of the world.
Cyclone Pam hit Pacific island state VANUATU and left a trail of destruction. Some of Vanuatu’s 80 islands are low-lying and starting to see signs of sea level rise as the earth warms and ice caps melt.
At his historic visit to the UN in September, Pope Francis made a strong appeal to world leaders to put care for the planet, humanity and nature at the top of their moral agenda.
“The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”
“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”
Travelling to Norway’s Arctic, Ban Ki-moon took a personal look at the shrinking glaciers he had visited six years ago.
Ban Ki-moon:
“I am alarmed that there are so many cracks that will soon break. They are melting very rapidly.” – “Unless we take action now we will have to regret. We have to keep global temperature rise below two degrees as soon as possible.”
Two weeks of tireless negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris led to a moment of triumph: for the first time, 195 countries adopted a universal agreement to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join hands to take common climate action. All countries agreed to hold the rise of global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Uniting in BLUE, the world remembered the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. New challenges wait in the next decade – achieving zero Hunger, finding solutions for conflicts and climate change.
Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai:
“I’m hopeful that we all in the UN will be united in the goal of education and peace, and that we will make this world not just a better place, but the best place to live.”