How sustainable development plays a role in the UN’s Culture of Peace Initiative
Here I set out two proposals which I presented to the Peace and Security workshop in the WhatNext4U Festival held to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
My first proposal concerns the call for a global ceasefire which the UN General Assembly supported by Resolution back in April 2020. Action needs to be taken immediately in this direction. As UNICEF said, ‘’for 250 million children caught in the nightmare of armed conflict, a global ceasefire could be the difference between life and death’’. We know that, unless armed conflict stops, it will be impossible for people to deliver COVID-related medical help to reach communities in conflict in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. We also know that hospitals have been a common target for airstrikes and, even if a ceasefire is achieved, delivery of humanitarian help will not be without challenges. Therefore, this Resolution aims to push for a global advocacy for a ceasefire.
The obstacle right now is that powerful countries choose the horse-shoe table of the UN Security Council to continue their traditional rivalries. This is to everyone’s loss, especially to those for whom the underpinning message of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – that none should be left behind – is most relevant. The US and Russia claim they must continue with counter-terrorism operations while China fights over having a “nice paragraph” referring to the World Health Organisation.
However, there is one Resolution that the General Assembly can use to its advantage. The 70-year-old Uniting for Peace Resolution came about when, in 1950, the Security Council failed to act, empowering the General Assembly to consider the matter immediately and “use all means to maintain international peace and security”. Therefore, I hope you agree that the UN should continue to push for a global ceasefire, an important way in arresting the spread of the COVID pandemic. Despite inherent difficulties, the principle behind the Uniting for Peace Resolution is recognition that there will be times when the global community, acting together, makes it clear to the Great Powers that, even though they led the fight against tyranny seventy-five years ago, the future of humankind trumps their replaying Cold War games.
Therefore, my first proposal identifies with one detailed in Stepping Stones for a better future published by Together First. It is that we demand a Security Council that acts or gets out of the way.
My second proposal introduces the Smart Sustainable Cities project which aims to integrate technology with sustainable management strategies for utilising resources in a more efficient way. This initiative has already been embraced by many countries: we can see how in Copenhagen, streetlights have efficient lamps adjusted on an algorithm with lighting triggered by human movement and with intensity adjusted at night for efficiency. Worldwide, Zurich and Stockholm are in the top ranks, followed by Geneva and Vienna.
Why is this important? Because 30 years from now it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities so the concept of Sustainable Cities makes it an important as well as an efficient resolution to the environmental effects of the world’s growing population. However, cities need more preparation before they can offer a healthy life to all their inhabitants, despite their economic power. Look at Paris where one year living in its streets is the equivalent of smoking 90 packs of cigarettes. In light of these and other data, we need cities to continue to improve their infrastructure, becoming more sustainable, also sharing their knowledge with cities in developing countries, reducing the knowledge gap. It is important to help the environment in a holistic way: from improving waste management to optimising traffic flow and sanitation systems. Some businesses have aligned with environmental goals – for example, the ride-sharer Uber has committed to carbon-free rides by 2040.
The Smart Sustainable Cities project resonates completely with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Yes, some initiatives have to be global, but we need to engage communities better than we have done so far. Current disagreement between national and local government leaders in England regarding COVID-19 shows these challenges. With their engagement and leadership, an important condition for the Culture of Peace Initiative is secured.
Therefore, my second proposal is to encourage city leaders in richer countries to embrace the Smart Sustainable Cities project and similar initiatives, and to share them with poorer cities.