By Cathie Burton
October 24th, and the newspapers make for sorry reading. Violence and conflict top the bulletins, vying for place with killer diseases and environmental challenges bringing weather of biblical proportions. Yet today is a day of celebration: 69 years of the United Nations, 69 years of governments working together for the common good.
Why should we be celebrating against the backdrop of bad news? First of all, imagine what the world would be like without the UN. There would be no human rights convention, no global means of protecting the vulnerable and no mechanism for countries to meet together to collectively find ways out of common dilemmas. If you take away what the UN has given, the vision becomes very frightening indeed.
Hard though it may be to believe, the world in 2014 is less violent than at other periods of history. Perhaps this is because our ways of dealing with conflict have changed – dialogue and diplomacy is seen as the route to solving problems, and though the world still has many prolonged conflicts, it also has the mechanisms to bring about change – slow though it may sometimes be – by bringing all sides around the table to resolve their conflicts through dialogue and political means.
Here is where the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe meet, for although the two are independent and separate, we spring from the same philosophy and can often be found working daily, at many different levels, to tackle the world’s problems. Both organisations are now active working on ways to defuse the crisis in and around Ukraine; both are working on entrenched modern problems such as cybercrime, terrorism and distribution of resources which sap many countries’ economies and societies. The UN and the OSCE, along with the EU, jointly chair the Geneva Discussions taking place in the wake of the conflict in Georgia, and the symbiotic relationship that exists between the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and the OSCE’s Mission in Kosovo is a testament to many long years of co-operation in South East Europe.
The OSCE is proud to describe itself as the geographically largest regional partner under the UN’s Chapter VIII on the involvement of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security for which the Security Council is primarily responsible. As UN Day is celebrated, it is time to remember the value of organisations working together to pool their own strengths and specificities, and to mark a relationship that is key to advances in international diplomacy.
As for the bleak picture painted by the international news, let’s take a steer from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon: “The United Nations is needed more than ever at this time of multiple crises. […] At this critical moment, let us reaffirm our commitment to empowering the marginalised and vulnerable. On United Nations Day, I call on Governments and individuals to work in common cause for the common good.”
Cathie Burton is the spokesperson for the OSCE office in Vienna.