Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Year of hope and threats for the UN

United Nations headquarters in New York.

United Nations headquarters in New York. Although the unilateralism thoughts displayed by the United States are worrisome to some extent, observers say, solidarity and unity of the UN are gaining momentum. PHOTO | file 

United Nations. Looking back at 2017, the United Nations, while trying hard to uphold international peace and security and committed to global governance, has withstood strains of severe traditional and non-traditional challenges and threats.

In the face of multiple unprecedented challenges and threats as well as snowballing difficulties of global governance, the vast majority of the UN member states are rallying around the lofty ideal: making the world a better and safer place to live.

Top concern: Korean Peninsula

In addition to augmenting traditional challenges and threats, non-traditional ones functioning as terrorism and extremism, nuclear crisis, trans-boundary crimes, refugee crisis, drug trafficking, climate change, cyber security and other global problems are running rampant, posing severe threats and challenges to the world. Among them, the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula has been recognised as the top security concern of the year, disturbing the relations among major powers.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached an unprecedented level in 2017 due to a nuclear test and multiple missile launches by the DPRK and constant US-South Korea joint military drills.

The crisis has also been worsened by the exchange of personal insults and confrontational rhetoric raising the specter of war between the United States and the DPRK.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on December 15 that he was deeply concerned over the risk of military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.

Describing the situation on the Korean Peninsula as “the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today,” he warned: “Any military action would have devastating and unpredictable consequences.”

The Security Council on December 22 unanimously approved new sanctions targeting DPRK’s economy following the launch of a ballistic missile on November 29 that the DPRK said it could target the entire continental US.

Manifold other challenges, threats

UN statistics show that an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights

The world’s fastest growing refugee crisis evolved in Myanmar. Driven by violence and human rights abuse, more than 600,000 stateless Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, where the fragile infrastructure is overwhelmed. Four famines, in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, are the result of unresolved conflicts exacerbated by droughts and missed harvests.

Peacekeepers attacked

In the deadliest attack on a UN peacekeeping mission in decades, 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers lost their lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It is another indication of the enormous sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace,” said the UN chief.

In Syria, six years of conflict have left 250,000 people dead and 5 million displaced. Temporary ceasefires were brokered and the UN’s special envoy for Syria has been working tirelessly to bring the parties to the negotiating table and for an end to the war.

Almost 100,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2017, and more than 3,000 have drowned. Most are fleeing poverty and conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa.

More than a million people were waiting for a passage in Libya, caught in an endless cycle of abuse, exploitation and even slavery.

Around the world, 130 million girls are still not going to school, which is unacceptable, said UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai.

“If we want to go forward, we have to give education to girls and once you educate girls, you change the whole community; you change the whole society,” said the 19-year-old Malala.

Shortly after the UN first Ocean Conference, a series of mega hurricanes cut a trail of destruction through the Caribbean. On some islands like Dominica, hardly a tree or house was left standing.

Scientists have already seen strong evidence that climate change magnified the strength of the storms and other natural disasters. Therefore, the UN called on countries to speed up the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

At the end of the year, global anti-terrorist pressure has not been alleviated by the disintegration of the Islamic State, UN said. Terrorism in new forms is emerging in the “Post-Islamic Era,” and global counter-terrorism faces new problems. (From suicide bomb attacks to storming of cities, from random attacks to the use the Internet, terrorist groups are developing themselves by making use of the divergence of the interests among countries, posing cutting challenges to the anti-terrorist abilities of all countries.

Embracing the future

Since taking office on Jan. 3, Guterres has been busy shuttling between countries, practising “good offices” among conflicting parties, attending international meetings now and then, and once and again urging countries to join efforts to realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the year, he has been making tireless efforts to make sweeping changes to the UN in hope of forging a “more effective, flexible and responsible” world body to manage the crisis of the 21st century.

However, because of the contrasting interests of different countries and the diverse cultures, religions and ideologies, UN reform cannot be achieved overnight, observers say.

The United Nations, the 72-year-old world body, is bidding farewell to another extraordinary year. Observers have happily found that while facing common challenges and threats, the vast majority of UN member states have shown unprecedented consensus at such world concerns as nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, climate change, fighting terrorism and extremism and other major threats and challenges.

Although the unilateralism thoughts displayed by the United States are worrisome to some extent, observers say, solidarity and unity of the UN are gaining momentum. This undoubtedly is bringing new hopes to the United Nations, which still has a long way to go. (Xinhua)