On October 24, Uganda together with member States of the United Nations and peoples of the world will celebrate United Nations Day at UN headquarters in New York, capitals of member States and elsewhere in most countries. UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter signed by the original 51 member States at San Francisco on June 26, 1945.
The theme of UN Day 2022 is “Our Planet. Our Future” while that of the United Nations is “End racism. Build peace.” UN Day has been celebrated annually since 1948. It’s an appropriate day and occasion to reflect of the achievements, challenges and problems which face the United Nations; to reflect on the future of the UN and this year to work relentlessly towards the goal of a world free of racism and racial discrimination.
October 24 is also the 58th anniversary of independence of our sister Republic of Zambia which achieved sovereignty in 1964 with Kenneth Kaunda as President and Simon Kapwepwe as Vice President. In the 1960s, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia belonged to a radical, progressive and revolutionary group called “Mulungushi Club” which played a leading, pivotal and vanguard role in the just, legitimate and succeessful struggle of Africans against racism, racial discrimination and apartheid in South Africa. These countries, Nigeria and a few other African countries were called “frontline states” in the struggle against racism and apartheid.
The United Nations has become a household name in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa because the UN is involved closely with activities which directly impact on and touch the lives of Ugandans and Africans. In three key sectors which are critical for all Ugandans, namely education, agriculture and health, UNESCO, FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, UNDP and WHO, to mention but a few, have supported Uganda and Africa and provided enormous and beneficial assistance to Ugandans and Africans.
The United Nations could have done a lot more for Uganda and Africa if the organization had abundant and sufficient resources at its disposal. For the year 2022, the regular budget of the United Nations is a meagre US$3.12 billion, approximately 20% of which is earmarked for special political missions. The budget is funded by all 193 member States who pay according to a scale of assessments determined by the UN General Assembly, the highest contribution of 22% is paid by the USA; other major contributors are China, Germany, Japan, France, Russia and the UK. Uganda and most African countries pay minimum assessment.
I believe that innovative ways and means must be found and encouraged to involve non-State actors in funding the global activities of the United Nations; for example, a tax on transnational corporations, a tax on wealthy individuals from all countries and voluntary contributions by “we the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war… which has brought untold sorrow to mankind,” as the UN Charter begins and laments.
On the political front, the United Nations must practise and promote what it preaches, especially in good governance and democracy. The UN Security Council must be reformed urgently to make it democratic like the UN General Assembly and hence accurately reflect the aspirations of humankind and objective realities of the world in the 21st century.
On the economic front, the UN should revive the 1974 quest and desire for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States in accordance with the spirit, purposes and principles of the UN charter. NIEO would eliminate the widening gap between developed and developing countries, expedite efforts to eradicate poverty and guarantee a bright future for our planet.