United Nations Association

Refugees Agency in Iraq sounds alarm for more support as fighting continues

The Real World the UN lives and works in

The crises in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have led to a 20-year high in battlefield deaths and the largest number of people forced to flee since records began. Add to this a string of extremist attacks, natural disasters, the Zika virus and an upsurge in xenophobia and insularity in the US and EU, it’s hard to be cheerful. And that is before reading reports that 2016 was the hottest year on record, meaning, we have passed the threshold for avoiding a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature. But it is not the time for hand-wringing and apathy. Here are 10 good things that did happen in 2016.

1 The historic Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force on 4th November.

2 Peace in Colombia between FARC and government, monitored by the UN Mission there.

3 First LGBT rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

4 Cultural heritage conviction sentencing Malian extremist for directing attacks at monuments in Timbuktu. The court marked such destructions as a war crime.

5 UN action on sexual abuse by peacekeepers. UN troops really remain under the jurisdiction of their own states, until this ruling.

6 States resolve to tackle anti-microbial resistance.

7 Solar-power super-grid switched on in Morocco in February due to be completed in 2018, the world’s largest generating 580 megawatts.

8 Refugees take part in the Rio games for the first time, 6 Syrian, 2 from DRC, 1 Iranian and 1 Ethiopian. UNHCR hails “it as a tribute to the courage of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future”.

9 Largest protected marine area declared in Ross Sea Antarctica.

10 The appointment of Antonio Guterres as UN Secretary General in the most transparent process in UN history.

Many of us have concerns about the creeping mood of nationalism and isolationism in the UK and beyond. The US president has declared his view of the UN, which may well be shared by many in this country. People across the developed world are feeling increasingly disconnected from post-war institutions that have protected all of us for so long.

I call on local branches to connect up to discuss how we take the movement forward in the UK. Contact us, let's get together to keep the torch alight?