Film Editor |Graciela Mae Chico
October 24 marks ‘United Nations Day’. Part of ‘United Nations Week’, which runs from October 20 to 26, it is the anniversary of the organisation’s establishment; the day has been celebrated since 1948 but was only recommended as a public holiday (for Member States) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1971. But more importantly, the day highlights the achievements and on-going objectives of the United Nations Organization – with diversity and the promotion and protection of human rights at the forefront. With the undeniably unending list of issues currently facing our society and planet, it’s importance is seemingly heightened now more than ever.
“Information and communications technologies have the potential to provide new solutions to development challenges, particularly in the context of globalization, and can foster economic growth, competitiveness, access to information and knowledge, poverty eradication and social inclusion.”
Who are the member states?
Out of the 195 countries in the world, 193 are members states of the United Nations – with the Holy See and the state of Palestine as non-member observer states. The United Nations does not include Taiwan as an independent country (as it observes it as a part of the People’s Republic of China), The Cook Islands and Niue (freely associated with New Zealand), Dependencies, and other countries which the UN recognises as not self-governing.
Out of this 195, there are the ‘5 permanent members’ consisting of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
What issues are currently at the forefront?
In the age of social media and ‘hashtag activism’, many of us are well aware of the various global issues facing our world. Nonetheless, there is always something more we can do to help bring these issues closer to an endpoint.
According to the UN, one in nine people does not get the sufficient amount of food to live active lives (795 million people in the world were estimated to be undernourished from 2014 – 2016). Hunger and malnutrition remain the “number one risk to health worldwide”.
The proclaimed organisation of the people around the world is undoubtedly the leader in making sure that every human is treated according to the standards declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN has recently faced controversy over the election of countries criticised for human rights abuses as part of the new Human Rights Council Members – namely, Bahrain and the Philippines.
The number of displaced people has hit an unprecedented number of 59.5 million – the highest number according to the UN. The UN has the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) dedicated to helping displaced persons, more than often it is displacement due to war.
This list merely scratches the surface of the issues facing the world today; from catastrophic issues such as climate change to basic necessities that we may not even realise is an issue for some people to acquire such as water, and peace and security.
A study released this month asserted that we currently only have a dozen years for ‘global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5c’. The report was authored by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While it certainly seems to have had an impact on social media, many sharing the report and campaigns for reducing our daily contribution to climate change, we must make sure that we also transform our words into deeds. With one of the UN’s biggest countries, the United States of America, currently being under a government which does not fully realise the scope and reality of this catastrophic issue, we must do our jobs as citizens of the world to counteract what was not stopped before; for the safety of the world’s future.
It’s hard not to overlook the endless good in the midst of an atmosphere of the severe division but, perhaps, days like UN Day will help in amending this; forcing us to focus, and do more, good. Many celebrities and known figures have collaborated and talked in front of the UN Committee to promote various causes they believe in – bringing the topics to the light of their fans, as well as new ones. Some examples include BTS’ collaboration with the UN for their ‘Love Myself’ Anti-Violence campaign and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Cate Blanchett’s appeal moving appeal for the Rohingya crisis.
How do different countries celebrate it?
As mentioned, the member states celebrate the day as a Public Holiday, with the United States issuing a proclamation annually. In countries such as the Philippines, local school children spend the day holding programmes which celebrate various cultures – many wearing the national dress/attire of the country they’re ‘representing’ for the day.
Essentially, today is the UN’s birthday. And we should celebrate it accordingly; educating ourselves in the different matters facing our world, doing our best to contribute for their reform, and – severely important now – celebrating the human spirit fuelled by unity and understanding beyond tolerance.