One war too many; one misery, all miseries; one dream, all dreams… This was the context, extent, and intent that led to the founding of the United Nations Organisation from the ashes of the Second World War that engulfed humanity on a scale unprecedented and desolation unimaginable. The United Nations came into existence on October 24, 1945, when the UN Charter was officially ratified by the five permanent members and a majority of other signatories, with the cherished aim ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’.
Signed 75 years ago today, on June 26, 1945 at San Francisco, the United Nations Charter enshrines the most fundamental and comprehensive aspirations of humanity and the obligations of member-states to enable the flourishing of life and conduct of nations befitting the human of the species. The many organs that constitute the United Nations Organisation are mandated to fulfil the foundational aims of the world body in letter and in spirit.
In its chequered journey, the United Nations has come a long way. With all its imperfections, the United Nations remains the most important, truly international institution comprising some 193 sovereign, independent states from across the globe as its members. It symbolises the most fervent hope of humanity for peace, security, and a life of dignity and respect in an environment of inter-state, inter-regional, and inter-national relationship based on mutual tolerance, integrity, and goodwill.
Despite the threats to its basic goals that were unleashed almost from day one with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the blatant violations of membership obligations, challenges posed by human and environmental crises, cyber-security threats, and a host of other compelling issues that claim the attention of the United Nations at different points, it remains the most reassuring symbol of hope and sanity in the world today.
With all its imperfections, it is thanks to the sustained efforts of the United Nations that the world is this much safer, the human lot this much better, and the future still worth-working for. Often close to the brink, yet short of strike, a global conflagration of a Third World War has been avoided, humanitarian crises mitigated, and chances for peace enhanced. The UN is the first and the last point of reference for standards of good behaviour for governments and nations around the world.
Successive secretaries-general, heads of agencies, regional as well as country chiefs and functionaries at all levels, past and present, have each brought to bear their individual convictions and professional commitments on the discharge of their duties and advanced the goals of the United Nations and given it cause for legitimacy and worth often in the face of cynicism and threat.
Come 2021, it will be half a century of exemplary partnership between the Kingdom of Bhutan and the United Nations. Becoming the 128th member of the United Nations Organisation on September 21, 1971, thanks to the far-sighted vision of the Father of Modern Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, has immensely benefitted the country, both in tangible as well as symbolical terms, advancing thereby the foundational ideals of United Nations to which Bhutan is fully committed and enhancing the overall development goals of the country through targeted, strategic support provided by the UN system.
Having started its operations in the country as early as 1973, the office of the United Nations Development Programme was formally established in 1979. Currently, it has some 26 agencies of the UN working in the country under the auspices of the Delivery as One approach with the Resident Coordinator as the overall chief.
Each head of the UN system in Bhutan and their colleagues have made their own unique contributions to the advancement of the country’s development goals particularly in the human resource capacity building and governance areas with significant, visible results in diverse sectors they have been involved in.
As a passionate believer in the noble ideals of the UN Charter, Bhutan has been playing its role, albeit modest, by participating actively in deliberations in the different bodies, advocating the foundational vision of the organisation, and in more recent years contributing volunteers to peace-building and peace-keeping missions in some of the most challenging hot-spots in the world.
Bhutan’s holistic development vision of Gross National Happiness, articulated by His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, has found deep resonance with the long-term development goals of the UN. Endorsed as the ninth Millennium Development Goal, the UN General Assembly adopted pursuit of happiness as a basic human right and declared March 20th as the International Day of Happiness in 2012. Several themes of the 17-point Agenda 2030 draw their inspiration from the work of the high-level international experts’ team, including Nobel Laureates, appointed by His Majesty the King in 2012 to chart the post-2015 development road-map.
As the world celebrates the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter, it is a moment for some deep soul-searching, to reflect on the vision of the founding-fathers and the distance we have covered. How might the world look like without the United Nations? How might we make it more efficient, effective and fair? How do we hold the defaulters to account?
For Bhutan though, the benefits that have come through our membership to this pre-eminent extended family of nations have given to us a global platform to share the country’s unique vision of holistic development dedicated to human and societal flourishing within mutually supportive planetary boundaries. This membership has allowed us to make our own the all-embracing foundational ideals of the United Nations.
Inspired by Friendship in all Seasons, “working together to ensure no one is left behind is at the heart of our work in Bhutan and we are grateful for these partnerships”, in the words of the current UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Gerald Daly.
This is the inescapable fact. The ideals of the UN are human ideals, conceived and communicated in time for a time beyond time. The UN is us and ours. So are its ideals. They survive and thrive through individual faith and conviction. It is the integrity of individual leaders and individual nations and their citizens to breathe life into the UN and live out its noble ideals in their life and action. The soul of the UN expresses itself in the role of its functionaries and signatories.
For me as an individual, and a man of faith, the United Nations still represents the best of human yearning and the noblest of collective striving. If not for Covid-19, I should have been at Seville in Spain this moment to partake of the historic 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter as a special invitee.
May the ideals of our United Nations flower and flourish in all realms, at all times, and in all lives…
Thakur S Powdyel
Former Minister of