Guest article by Mr. Mikel Mancisidor
These days we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. The San Francisco Charter, the foundation treaty of the UN, was adopted after the Second World War in Europe on 26 June 1945 and came into force on 24 October, when the war had also ended in Japan.
We must go back in time, to that context of recovery from war, to understand the UN and its central mandate: the maintenance of international peace and security, that is, preventing countries from entering another war that would once again sweep the world. Other mandates were then added to the main one, for example, ensuring that the aforementioned peace was based on the respect for certain human rights for all (specifically at that time the non-racial discrimination) and on the idea that people under colonial control should achieve independence and exercise their free self-determination.
Later on, other core concepts were added: human development, gender equality, international cooperation, cultural diversity, environment, and climate change, among others.
Like all human-led institution, the UN has many flaws. Anyone who knows how difficult it is to build or manage institutions in a smaller setting can begin to imagine the challenge of creating larger and more complex spaces where people, states and cultures, traditions, religions, interests, ideologies and needs can share challenges and norms. It is neither easy, nor free of mistakes and inadequacies, but even so, the UN is the furthest humanity in its historical reality has come in its dream of building some kind of shared governance from common challenges.
Each line of work of the UN has yet much to achieve and build on. There is, however, a long trajectory and important accomplishments to be recognised.
When the UN was created, international law organised relations between states, understanding that states were the sole subjects of international society. Since then a lot has changed and nowadays, we can naturally observe how international organisations or even individuals have a personality and a role recognised by international law as subjects of rights and obligations, as actors. The same can be applied, although even more timidly, to companies.
Subnational political entities, whether local or regional, have also acquired an important role in international relations in general and in the work of the UN and other international organizations in particular. This is even more crucial in the field of sustainability.
The UN is well aware that the challenges that the international community faces in relation to sustainable development can only be tackled with the very direct participation of local actors and regional governments, since in many cases it is their competences that are key: from industrial, urban, waste, water, forest or transport policies to education, consumption, leisure or culture.
The withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement shows that it is the regions and cities that can take over and raise to the challenge, even when the central government is not up to the task. In less extreme cases, every day we see good practices that trigger the global changes and can even lead to the true transformation for those changes to actually happen.
At present, global governance is beginning to be shaped hand in hand with the regional authorities which, within their sphere of competence, are taking their share of responsibility and a step forward for the global goals. They are cooperating and leading with example in partnership with key actors, such as Regions4.
About the writer:
Mr Mikel Mancisidor is a Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2013-2024). He teaches Public International Law at Universidad de Deusto and International Human Rights Law at American University.