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Every year the U.N. and its member nations observe October 24th as United Nations Day around the world.
That’s because the 24th of October marks that fall day in New York City in 1945 when nations ratified the Charter of the U.N. and launched humanity’s second major attempt at forming a world Parliament. By far our most successful, this second attempt at global negotiation and cooperation has stopped famine, averted wars and given the world hope. Starting with just 51 member nations, the U.N. now has 193. The first major attempt, the League of Nations, collapsed after little more than a decade–but the United Nations has lasted now for almost 70 years.
While they recognize that the United Nations isn’t perfect, some Baha’is choose to observe and celebrate this unique day, and work toward the realization of the great dream behind the U.N. — world unity.
Why should we celebrate? Here are three excellent reasons:
The U.N. saves lives. While world media attention focuses on the international controversies and the policy intervention failures, it rarely covers the U.N.’s powerful lifesaving work with its agencies like the World Food Program, the U.N. Peacekeeping forces and the many other U.N. agencies. One example: WFP feeds 90 million people in 80 countries every year. Another: the U.N.’s programs for women promote maternal and child health, saving the lives of 30 million women a year. Another: the U.N. vaccinates 58% of the world’s children, which saves 3 million lives every year.
The U.N. helps refugees. Every year, the United Nations assists 38 million refugees, saving them from wars, conflicts, famine and persecution.
The U.N. Fights Climate Change and Promotes Sustainable Development. No organization on Earth does more to protect the environment than the United Nations, which fosters knowledge, conducts research and brokers international climate treaties.
Without the work of the United Nations, many experts believe, the world would have to deal with enormous levels of conflict and chaos—and would have to establish an international governmental body to maintain the world’s national and political equilibrium anyway.
This global vision, the central Baha’i principle of universal democracy and a world Parliament— what the Baha’i teachings call “the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity” – forms the primary ideal of all Baha’is.
And even if the current structure of the United Nations doesn’t currently meet that egalitarian ideal, the Baha’i writings urge everyone to work toward attaining the goal of a united world. In his book “The Promulgation of Universal Peace,” Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote: “All nations will join in adopting the teachings of Baha’u’llah revealed more than fifty years ago. In His Epistles He asked the parliaments of the world to send their wisest and best men to an international world conference which should decide all questions between the peoples and establish universal peace. This would be the highest court of appeal… but when we have the interparliamentary body composed of delegates from all the nations of the world and devoted to the maintenance of agreement and goodwill, the utopian dream of sages and poets, the parliament of man, will be realized.”
In the Baha’i teachings, the outworn institutions of nationalism and the contentious and warlike national policies it engenders now threaten all humanity. Rather than continuing down the same uncivilized and barbaric path that brought us two World Wars during the 20th century, Baha’is believe, all the people of the planet must unite. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
“True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns — the shining exemplars of devotion and determination — shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking — the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world — should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant.”