by Miriam Rossi * – Unimondo
78 years of feeling it all! The United Nations blows out its candles and is surrounded by smiling member States exchanging good wishes and good intentions, but it continues to express a wish, that of peace, that has not been fulfilled for 78 years. Future generations have not been saved from the scourge of war, as the States that defeated the Nazi-Fascist alliance of the Second World War in 1945 decided to create a new world order that would “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations great and small, to create the conditions in which justice and respect for obligations under treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, to promote social progress and a higher standard of living in larger freedom”.
Recently, the international community has shared concerns about Moscow’s nuclear threat in the conflict in Ukraine since last February and the possible escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the unstable international scene following the Hamas attack on 7 October. This is without mentioning the many violations of human rights, minorities and democracy that are taking place in so many places around the world, in the very Countries that have joined the Organisation. From Iran to Afghanistan, from Armenia to Somalia, from Syria to Libya. And beyond.
So why celebrate United Nations Day today? UN Secretary-General António Guterres begins a short video message by acknowledging that “we are a divided world. We can and must be a United Nations”. If indeed “the United Nations is a reflection of the world as it is – and an aspiration for the world we know it can be, we must strive to continue building a better world”. “According to our aspirations”, certainly those of the Statute signed by Guterres, but above all according to the rules of civilisation that prevent its own self-destruction.
We must therefore be truly ‘United Nations’ and commit ourselves to it, coordinating our words and actions. But this does not happen very often.“Equality, freedom and justice for all” is the central theme of the 2023 United Nations Day celebrations in the United States. Equality, freedom and justice for all. Yet the US itself continues to veto the Security Council’s decision on a resolution to impose a humanitarian pause to allow full, safe and unimpeded access for UN agencies and their partners to assist civilians in Gaza. If adopted, the resolution would have condemned all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism, and would have unequivocally rejected and condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel since 7 October.
In accordance with the principles of international humanitarian law, it would also have demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and the protection of medical and humanitarian personnel, hospitals and medical facilities. Where is the justice for all in this veto, including the obligation to take all possible measures to protect the population and civilian objects involved in a conflict?
In Italy, for some years now, the anniversary has not been celebrated with much ceremony. This is probably the same freedom that inspires the actions of the Meloni Government, the same freedom that strongly supports the fight for the freedom of the Ukrainians, but which has its limits when it comes to those who are denied this freedom. First of all, prisoners and asylum seekers. Recently, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for the living conditions and detention in the Lampedusa hotspot between 2017 and 2019 of three Tunisian migrants “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty”. Other judgments that regularly condemn and fine Italy for its treatment of prisoners speak of inhuman and degrading treatment. Where, in the behaviour of Italian Governments, and not just the current one, is respect for the values of the UN Charter?
On the cover photo, United Nations headquarters in New York City © Osugi/Shutterstock.com
* Miriam Rossi (Viterbo, 1981). She holds a PhD in the History of International Relations and is an expert in human rights, the UN and international politics. After 10 years in the world of research and as many in the field of international cooperation, she is currently working at the University of Trento