The United Nations at 70

Nos. 1 & 2 Vol. LII 2015

This special double issue of the UN Chronicle celebrates the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations under the theme “Strong UN. Better World.” A select group of eminent contributors highlight key moments and achievements, challenges and obstacles and the role played by the United Nations during the past 70 years. They also reflect upon the future and what would make the Organization stronger and better able to serve humanity.

Maher Nasser


In the spring of 2014, we started preparations for the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in 2015 and began exploring options that, in addition to being celebratory, would also contribute to substantive discussions about our Organization. Producing this special double issue of the UN Chronicle was at the top of the list of platforms for such discussions.

© UN Photo/ Eskinder Debebe
Ban Ki-moon

Message on the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations

On this anniversary and on every single day, we must use our power and influence to do what is right and what is necessary to uphold the Charter. While we cannot prevent earthquakes and tsunamis, we can do much to address the disasters that arise from human folly and short-sightedness. This is a time of test but far more one of tremendous opportunity. As the distinctions between the national and the international continue to fall away, we can and must use the lessons of 70 years to come together as a single human family and chart a course towards a safer and more sustainable future for all.

© UN Photo/ Paulo Filgueiras
Kofi A. Annan

Reflections on the UN at 70

Forty years with the United Nations taught me many lessons, but one remains foremost in my mind, that healthy and sustainable societies are based on three pillars: peace and security, sustainable development, the rule of law and respect for human rights. There can be no long-term security without development; there can be no long-term development without security; and no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights.

© UN Photo/ Fabrice Ribère
Boutros Boutros-Ghali

Seventy Years of the United Nations

I am confident that the United Nations, our United Nations, will continue to lead in innovation so that we reach the aim of the Charter for life in larger freedom.

© UN Photo/ Evan Schneider
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Independence and Impartiality as the Heart and Soul of the Secretary-General

When I attempt to distill my experience to its most precious essence, I come up with a single word: independence. That word encapsulates what gave me the strength and the ability to make a positive difference regarding a number of seemingly intractable issues that had bedeviled the international community, defying solution for years and years.

© UN Photo/ Mark Garten
Sam Kahamba Kutesa

A Reflection on the Role of the United Nations in Ensuring a Secure, Prosperous and Equitable World

The work of the United Nations impacts people around the world on issues related to peace and security, development and human rights; from disarmament to efforts to combat terrorism and extremism; from conflict prevention to peacekeeping and peacebuilding; from disease prevention to the promotion of gender equality and universal education; from refugee resettlement to humanitarian assistance; from the rule of law to the fight against transnational crime. ... As we mark 70 years of existence, we have every reason to celebrate all that our community of nations has achieved. In doing so, we should also look to the future and strive to transform the United Nations to ensure that it remains effective and relevant in a dynamic and globalized new world.

© UN Photo/ Saw Lwin
Mikhail Gorbachev

Towards a More Secure, Just and Humane Future

There is no doubt that today, much depends on leadership. If leaders acknowledge their responsibility and overcome long-standing disagreements, including subjective grievances, it will be possible to find a way out of the impasse. Thirty years ago, we managed to do so under much more difficult circumstances, when the political stand-off seemed insuperable and the stockpiles of nuclear weapons were much larger than now. Today, we must not panic, nor cave in to pessimism. Figuratively speaking, it is possible to clear the skies over the United Nations Headquarters and create conditions for the global Organization to fulfil its mission.

© UN Photo/ Paulo Filgueiras
Gro Harlem Brundtland

A Time for Bold Reforms

In this 70th anniversary year, the United Nations must show itself to be mature and responsible enough to make bold reforms that can secure its long-term effectiveness. It must also exhibit humility and engage with ordinary citizens in its Member States, listen to their views, recognize their respective contributions to development, and show that it is relevant to their lives, and to the lives and prospects of their children.

© Pierre O. Tulkens
Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré

The United Nations at 70: Working as One to Deliver a Healthy Future for All

Good health cannot be achieved in a vacuum, however. If we are to truly create a healthier world, we must employ a health for all mentality and work across sectors to fully understand and respond to all social and environmental determinants of health

© UN Photo/ Eskinder Debebe
Álvaro de Soto

A Key United Nations Moment and its Lessons

In the spirit of the times, something of a clamour for transparency and participation is rising. That is understandable, but it reflects a misunderstanding of the nature and texture of the position and the role of the Security Council. The Secretary-General must play a crucial role as a partner of the Council if the system is to work....

Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, 1994 © LGenDallaire
Roméo Dallaire and Shelly Whitman

Preventing the Use of Child Soldiers, Preventing Genocide

With the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2171 (2014), the Security Council committed itself to better utilizing all tools of the United Nations system to ensure that warning signs of impending bloodshed translated into 'concrete preventative action' (United Nations, 2014). Such action may be illustrated in prioritizing the protection of children on the peace and security agenda, which could warn us of possible genocide.

Photo of Dag Hammarskjöld © UN Photo/ JO
Henrik Hammargren

For We, The Peoples...

Dag Hammarskjöld's integrity, determination and tireless work to adapt the Organization and find solutions through constructive application of the Charter remains a source of inspiration and a guiding compass.

© UN Photo/ Mark Garten
Ahmad Alhendawi

Young at 70: The Promise of the United Nations Work with and for Youth

The year 2015 is critical. We must continue to build upon the momentum to promote youth priorities and increase investment in young people worldwide.

© UN Photo/ Eskinder Debebe
David M. Malone

The United Nations and Its Discontents—An Academic View

While the next Secretary-General will face serious leadership challenges in nourishing the Organization and keeping it agile, the critical determinants of the future for the United Nations remain the Permanent Five, each of which may or may not be willing to face the urgent need for meaningful change.

© UN Photo/ Jean-Marc Ferré
Ian Richards

Three Simple Fixes for the Next 70 Years

In 2015, at the 70th anniversary of the birth of the United Nations, it is time to change that and to create a workplace in which talent, skill and determination can translate more easily into meaningful results. Here are some thoughts how.

© UN Photo/ Stephenie Hollyman
Edward Mortimer

The First 70 Years of the United Nations: Achievements and Challenges

The humanitarian challenges continue to be daunting, especially with the rising number of people displaced not only by conflict, but by a complex range of factors including climate change. Yet, whatever their criticisms, few see any body other than the United Nations capable of leading and coordinating the response.

© HeidiTworek
Heidi J. Tworek

From World Health to World Heritage: 70 Years of the United Nations

The history of the United Nations tells us more than just how the Organization emerged. It shows the dynamics of the Organization and its ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances. It is a story of cooperation across traditional enmities, which often played out behind the scenes and through little-known individuals.

© Dmitry Titov
Margaret Joan Anstee

Strong UN. Better World.

I have chosen to highlight the United Nations role in women's issues because it is an area in which progress has been made, and I was privileged to play some part. The role of a female pioneer is not easy: your performance has to be much greater than that of your male counterparts, and you are painfully aware that it is not just your personal career that is at stake, but also the prospects of other women who would like to follow in your footsteps.

© UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Navi Pillay

From Rhetoric to Reality

The United Nations provides us with a standard of values and norms, together with the tools to implement them. It has advanced resoundingly from a State-centred system of traditional international law, based on the pre-eminence of State sovereignty, into a norm-based institution. Its goals are clear: while respecting the freedom of sovereign States, it is also dedicated to protecting and promoting peace, security, development, rule of law and human rights for the people of the world.

© UN Photo/ Rick Bajornas
Sadako Ogata

Striving for Human Security

Since the United Nations was established, significant progress has occurred. When the Charter of the United Nations was ratified, most Asian and African countries were still European colonies. The United Nations started with 51 Member States, expanding over these 70 years to 193 Member States today. The evolving threats and challenges against which the Organization is tested may have outpaced the progress. Article 1 of the Charter proclaims that the first aim of the world Organization is to maintain international peace and security. If to be secure means to be free from being killed, persecuted or abused, free from extreme poverty that brings indignity and self-contempt, and free to make choices, then still too many people today cannot afford security.

Rima Khalaf

A New Agenda

The 70th anniversary of the United Nations presents an opportunity to take stock, recognizing our successes and acknowledging our shortcomings. The United Nations has indisputably made the world a better place over the past seven decades. We have succeeded in making the world recognize the wealth in its pluralism and diversity. For the first time in history, a consensus around human equality has been forged. No race or culture can claim to exclusively represent human civilization.

© UN Photo/ Devra Berkowitz
Amina J. Mohammed

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Business-as-usual will not lead the world to a sustainable development path and will not allow us to respond to the new and emerging challenges. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon phrased it in his Stanford address in 2013, There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.

© UN Photo/ Loey Felipe
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The UN at 70 and the Ongoing Quest for Gender Equality

Thanks to the determined contribution and vision of pioneering women (and men) throughout its history, gender equality and women's human rights have always been central to the three pillars of the work of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights.

© UN Photo/ Loey Felipe
Aïchatou Mindaoudou

From Independence to Long-term Stability: United Nations Efforts in Africa

With the establishment of multidimensional peace operations and political missions, the United Nations has not only contributed to the gradual stabilization of the entire West Africa region, but has greatly influenced the course of regional dynamics, politics and policies.

© Altitude Anyway
Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Living Together

The protection of the environment affects the preservation of the entire planet. It is also a subject closely related to provisions of the Charter, since a sustainable environment decidedly contributes to the assurance of the well-being of its inhabitants. United Nations initiatives are thus critical to finding solutions to most environmental challenges. Over the years, this question has become increasingly important in General Assembly deliberations and has been featured in its resolutions.