THE world is markedly different today than it was 75 years ago, when countries, scarred by the devastation of war, forged a pact for peace and prosperity.
Fifty-one nations penned the Charter that founded the United Nations (UN) and cemented the ideals of cooperation, the equality of nations and social progress as guiding principles for the global community.
That Charter came into force on October 24, 1945, now known as United Nations Day.
Tomorrow marks 75 years since that unifying mission began shaping the world.
Gone are the wartime armies of thousands storming a continent, but millions are now mobilised in a new fight.
There are no atomic weapons decimating cities, but there are mass casualties.
This time the threat is invisible and ubiquitous, an infectious microbe that has penetrated almost every corner of the globe.
Covid-19 has upended our way of life, no matter the size of a country, its place on the spectrum of economic development or its access to resources.
As we navigate the tectonic shocks triggered by this pandemic, the role of the UN in mobilising and harmonising action from the countries of the world remains as essential today as it was 75 years ago. More than a million lives have been lost to a single disease in less than 12 months. The socio-economic and financial crises unleashed by Covid-19 are unprecedented in scale.
Vulnerabilities and inequalities in both developing and developed countries have worsened or been exposed. The pandemic has underlined an undeniable link between public health and the broader resilience of economies and societies. Countries that were carving out significant progress in reducing poverty and improving food security to achieve the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, have suffered significant setbacks.
Now, more than ever, countries need to work together to solve their shared challenges.
No country will emerge from this pandemic unscathed. But we can all recover from it through multilateralism, solidarity and cooperation. These ideals are essential to rebooting development towards the people-centric, inclusive, participatory progress envisioned in the UN’s 2030 Agenda. The UN continues to be a powerful conduit for this dialogue.
Trinidad and Tobago recognised the value of the UN early in its life as a sovereign state. Within days of gaining independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago was a young, eager entrant to the UN family of nations, endorsing the belief that cooperation is the best way to improve the welfare of the peoples of the world. Since then, Trinidad and Tobago has partnered with the UN to help make its aspirations for its own people a reality. UN agencies have shared resources and offered technical support to strengthen government policy and meet development objectives. Trinidad and Tobago has worked with the UN on programmes for poverty reduction, education, climate change resilience, disaster preparedness, human rights, good governance and citizen security. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to partner with key UN agencies in addressing HIV and other infectious diseases as well as the impact of non-communicable diseases that remain significant threats to our health and wellness.
Like other countries in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has experienced the many vulnerabilities that come with being a small island developing state (SIDS) – an issue this country has championed directly on the UN General Assembly floor. For small island nations, Covid-19 has brought greater challenges to health systems, added obstacles to participation in global trade, shaken food security, cut revenues from tourism and taken away people’s livelihoods.
Add to this, the unique risks that islands like Trinidad and Tobago face because of climate change—a threat that endangers the planet’s very existence. This phenomenon disproportionately impacts small, developing countries exposed to coastal erosion from rising sea levels. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, of which Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries are Parties, will help fortify climate resilience in small island nations with limited finances.
At a time when countries may instinctively turn inward to respond to their individual needs, a robust multilateral response is needed to achieve common, essential goals. Only collaboration can solve our new and evolving dilemmas.
On this UN Day, the enduring ideals that compelled nations to come together 75 years ago find no greater cause for renewal than this time of tremendous suffering and uncertainty.
Trinidad and Tobago and the UN continue sharing the deep conviction that unified action will be the catalyst for overcoming the challenges that confront our world. We are all trying to chart a course through an unparalleled time in our planet’s history, but the 2030 Agenda remains a compass for Trinidad and Tobago and the community of nations. Trinidad and Tobago and the UN have built a partnership that can help make the SDGs a reality by the end of the “Decade of Action” in 2030. Together, we can fulfil the development needs of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, advocate for the concerns of small island nations in the Caribbean and shape a future that is equitable, fair, peaceful and just for all.
Together, we can build back better.
Dr Amery Browne is Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs and Ms Marina Walter is
UN Resident Co-ordinator for Trinidad and Tobago