Leer este artículo en español. Traducción ofrecida por Adilia Caravaca Zuniga, ex presidenta de LIMPAL.

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly declared 21 September as the International Day of Peace – a day meant to inspire people and nations to double down on their commitments in pursuit of peace. 

In the midst of a global pandemic that has starkly exposed the failures of certain UN Member States – particularly the permanent members of the UN Security Council – to prioritise international peace and security over their own self interest, the UN has chosen “Shaping Peace Together” as the theme of International Day of Peace 2020

In naming this theme, the United Nations has asked people around the world to “stand together with the UN against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination and hatred.” 

Yet at the same time that the UN Secretariat implores governments and citizens to work together toward a future of peace, due to the behaviour of certain Member States the United Nations is no longer a functioning system capable of upholding the goals and principles on which it was founded.

As an early advocate of multilateralism and the formation of the United Nations, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom has long been an ally and observer of the UN, its systems, and its commitments as laid out in the Preamble of its Charter

But in 2020, 75 years after the United Nations was created, those systems are broken; those commitments are not being kept. 

We will not be silent on this declared “day of peace”. 

A world in crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extraordinary inequities and destructive systems plaguing our world, created and compounded by the profit-driven structures of capitalism, militarism, racism, and patriarchy. 

For example:

Each of these realities points to years of failure on the part of certain UN Member States, and specifically the UN Security Council, to live up to the principles and ideals on which the UN was founded 75 years ago. 

The UN and COVID-19: Dire lack of action and transparency 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the UN’s existing challenges and failures. 

For example: 

In the coming days, WILPF will publish a comprehensive analysis of the UN’s processes and forums during COVID-19 in the areas of disarmament, human rights, and women, peace, and security. Subscribe to News and Alerts to receive a copy as soon as it’s released. 

Moving forward and shaping peace, together 

If we want to truly shape peace together, we must acknowledge – the United Nations must acknowledge – that the current system is not working. And we must take action for change. 

Among WILPF’s key aims and principles is a commitment to multilateralism. That is not a commitment to upholding a system which exemplifies and sustains patriarchy and inequality. Changing the UN’s decision-making process and strengthening the spirit of its Charter is now an imperative if multilateralism is to survive. 

To this end, on International Day of Peace 2020, WILPF is putting forward the following recommendations to immediately reform or restore some of the critical systems and principles that have been degraded:

These recommendations and more will be shared in the aforementioned upcoming report analysing the UN’s activities during COVID-19. 

In addition to these immediate actions, WILPF also calls on global citizens to imagine a different way of pursuing peace that does not lean on corrupt and corruptible systems of government: the power of community organising and spaces for change to unite people in action toward a better world. 

If we can move beyond the systems and structures that are so prone to breakdown, exploitation, and lack of cooperation, if we can take back the power that’s been taken from us, we just might stand a chance of “shaping peace together”. 

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