In speaking to the U.N. General Assembly at the beginning of January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called 2015 a “year of opportunity” and urged nation-states to take action to “ensure sustainable development and human dignity for all.” The U.N. leader added, “2015 is a chance for major advances across the three inter-connected pillars of our work: development, peace and human rights.”
This three-pronged approach adds to the report titled, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet.” The aim of the report is to review the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – that will expire - and to look ahead to the post-2015 agenda. Mr. Ban Ki-moon indicated that the adoption of the post-2015 agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), would be the “signal moment” in 2015. This will not be without controversy as nations must negotiate the MDGs replacement. What makes the negotiations particularly contentious are the number of goals and targets – there are 17 goals and 169 targets. Conversely, the MDGs had only 8 specifically targeted goals. By many accounts, the new agenda is overly ambitious. Streamlining the goals may make them more manageable to handle and make success more likely to be achieved. It is incumbent upon the negotiators to forge a consensus with regard to this crucial matter.
A Look Ahead to Issues the U.N. Must Grapple With in 2015
There are a host of items on the U.N.’s plate in 2015 that will require its close attention. Topping the list is one of the core competencies of the U.N.: peacekeeping. A high-level panel will closely examine all peace operations for the first time in 15 years. This past year took quite a toll on peacekeeping operations and it placed an extraordinary burden upon its military and humanitarian capacities as a direct result of conflicts, terrorism and the subsequent displacement of peoples from their homeland.
The global health arm of the U.N., the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), has taken its share of criticism with regard to its handling of the Ebola outbreak. It would appear a review will occur during 2015. It is important to bear in mind that the W.H.O. is one of the few, if not the only, international organizations that can mobilize the resources necessary to respond to such crises in a short span of time.
The coming year will see the search begin in earnest for Ban Ki-moon’s successor as the Secretary-General’s term will conclude in 2016. What is of particular importance to note with respect to the search process for a successor is that is anticipated to be conducted in an open and transparent manner allowing for a closer examination of all the prospective candidates.
Later in the year an important and vital meeting will take place in Paris regarding climate change. This meeting is a follow-up to last year’s gathering in Lima, Peru. Climate change is at the heart of Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as Secretary-General and this only enhances the importance of the conference.
In 2005, a world summit took place that produced the doctrine known as “responsibility to protect” (R2P); it has had limited use and has generally been met with widespread controversy (important to note it was used most recently in Libya). The key point of contention with R2P is that nations feel its use infringes upon their sovereignty.
Also, adding to the already busy slate for the world body, is the 20th anniversary of the Fourth International Conference on Women that took place in Beijing, China in 1995. Progress has been made globally with respect to the rights of women, but there is much more that needs to be done.
An Institution That Continues to be a Force for Good
Seventy years ago, President Harry S. Truman stood before the delegates to the U.N. Conference on International Organization. Mr. Truman said the following, “The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. Between the victory in Europe and the final victory in Japan, in this most destructive of all wars, you have won a victory against war itself.”
This global body is not without its detractors, but as we have seen it has stood the test of time and will continue its mission of maintaining peace and security and going places where others dare not tread.