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This Is Not Your Father’s United Nations

David Langness | Oct 24, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Oct 24, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Today, October 24th, 2020, is United Nations Day, when people all around the world will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, first formed on this day in 1945.

To mark this milestone – an unprecedented three-quarters of a century in the remarkable history of the world’s longest-lasting international forum – the U.N. launched its global dialogue initiative in January of 2020.

This unique initiative attempts to fulfill one of the U.N.’s primary goals, and also one of the main goals of the global Baha’i community – to engage all of the world’s people in discourse about the future of our planet and its governance. This discourse has to take place among regular people, not just diplomats and state leaders. Clearly, the bygone age of national sovereignty and hegemony has begun to give way to a realistic vision of the world’s interdependence and the unifying forces that continue to strengthen the bonds between nations and peoples.

The name "United Nations", coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.
The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

As the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected global leadership body of the worldwide Baha’i community wrote to the world’s religious leaders in 2002, “… no one can mistake the fact that the fetish of absolute national sovereignty is on its way to extinction.”

So what will replace it?

That’s up to us – all of us. First, though, we need to discuss it. In implementing the U.N.’s new initiative, discussions and discourse on the future of the U.N. have taken place in a variety of settings, from classrooms to boardrooms, across the world. To reach as many people as possible, the U.N. has built partnerships with youth, civil society, business and media organizations in most of the world’s countries, and also created a quick, easy-to-complete one-minute survey everyone can take.

To help frame and inspire the dialogues that result, the U.N. has put together a series of Issue Briefs which outline critical concerns such as the climate crisis, inequality, new forms of conflict and violence, and the rapid changes in demography and digital technologies. Those Issue Briefs can create fertile ground for discussions among friends, in classrooms, in seminars, at work, and in any conversation about the world’s future.

As the Baha’i teachings have long maintained, these issues all require effective cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. Today our main issues are global, which means our solutions must be global, too. That’s not just a dream, because many positive trends in the world, The Universal House of Justice wrote in 1985, indicate that humanity can effectively cooperate and unify:

Among the favourable signs are the steadily growing strength of the steps towards world order taken initially near the beginning of this century in the creation of the League of Nations, succeeded by the more broadly based United Nations Organization; the achievement since the Second World War of independence by the majority of all the nations on earth, indicating the completion of the process of nation building, and the involvement of these fledgling nations with older ones in matters of mutual concern; the consequent vast increase in cooperation among hitherto isolated and antagonistic peoples and groups in international undertakings in the scientific, educational, legal, economic and cultural fields; the rise in recent decades of an unprecedented number of international humanitarian organizations; the spread of women’s and youth movements calling for an end to war; and the spontaneous spawning of widening networks of ordinary people seeking understanding through personal communication.

So, on the subject of “seeking understanding through personal communication,” did you know you can personally engage with the U.N. online? The United Nations has always placed strong emphasis on online engagement, through virtual dialogues and social media, and has now increased these efforts in light of Covid-19. Various U.N. agencies are also working with partners to take planned events into the digital space, and find innovative ways to engage audiences in line with WHO guidelines and local health regulations.

Every year the U.N. and its member nations observe October 24th as United Nations Day around the world. This year, as the U.N. observes its 75th anniversary, Baha’is all over globe honor the ongoing existence of the United Nations, and continue their work to further advance and realize its essential underlying purpose – world unity. As the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith Shoghi Effendi wrote in the 1930s, the Baha’i teachings urge everyone to strive for the ultimate goal of a united world:

The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Baha’u’llah, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. The World Order of Baha’u’llah.

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