UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina reflects on the year behind us and key priorities emerging from UN75 conversations in BiH, marking UN Day 2020
At the start of 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a global conversation on the world’s future to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Over one million people joined the conversation, including 1,400 people from across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
People from all walks of life clearly articulated their top priorities for ‘The Future We Want’: improved access to quality services, especially healthcare and education; greater solidarity between people and nations; and fairer access to dignified jobs for all. There was tremendous concern with the climate crisis and the need to see greater environmental protection, less conflict, the elimination of corruption, enhanced respect for human rights, more gender parity and poverty eradication.
The global conversation reminded us of the United Nations foundations and is helping to reimagine our future. In 1945, in the aftermath of the horrors of WWII, the hopes of ‘We the Peoples’ were set out in the United Nations Charter. With the UN at its’ core, the international system was intended to deliver a more just, fair, dignified, prosperous, and peaceful world for all. The global conversation validated that this vision is as vital today, as it was 75 years ago, but contributors also highlighted the need for the UN to be more inclusive, diverse, transparent and accountable.
UN Secretary-General Guterres identified four threats at the start of 2020 endangering our common future: the highest global geo-strategic tensions in years; an existential climate crisis; deep and growing global mistrust; and, the dark side of the digital world. Yet, it was a global pandemic that swept the world in 2020, upending lives, economies and societies and significantly impacting, if not reversing substantial progress achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals.
Today, the COVID19 pandemic continues to wreck havoc on public health systems, destabilising economies, undermining livelihoods and increasing inequalities. It has exposed the fragilities and fractures within our societies, disproportionality impacting those who were already the most vulnerable and marginalized, whilst also providing fertile ground for the rapid spread of misinformation and fear. Yet, as the 1,400 voices in BiH highlighted, the pandemic has also reaffirmed the importance of the international system and the UN for mobilizing people, resources and solidarity across borders and generations. In partnership and solidarity with the authorities and our partners, the UN in BiH has implemented tens of millions of US dollars to the COVID19 response and recovery across the country, supporting the health and education systems, small and medium enterprises, and those who are most vulnerable, especially the elderly, women and children facing increased violence, and those who have lost their jobs.
Whilst BiH may now be facing its’ greatest COVID19 test with the rapid escalation in infections across the country and Europe, we need – now more than ever – a collective effort to re-establish genuine solidarity and build trust between people, as well as visionary and accountable leadership. The recovery provides a unique opportunity for BIH to take a leap forward in bolstering social protection, access to quality education and jobs; protecting nature and reducing air pollution; harnessing digital opportunities; and strengthening equality for women and girls, and those who are marginalized.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development committed to by all 193 Member States of the UN in 2015, provides an important blueprint for achieving such a transformative recovery from COVID19. It is a valuable global platform uniting BiH as part of the global community committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. But it also provides an opportunity for systematic, country-wide advancement of sustainable development at all levels in the country which can simultaneously support the COVID19 recovery, progress towards EU accession and harness the potential of regional cooperation in the Western Balkans.
BiH has made important progress with implementing the SDGs as demonstrated with the presentation of its’ ‘Voluntary National Review’ in New York last year and the highly consultative and participatory preparation of a comprehensive ‘SDGs Framework in BiH’ over the last two years. Similarly, as a UN Member State since 22 May 1992, BiH has actively contributed to the three pillars of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. Skilled women and men from BiH are regularly deployed to peace and security missions across the world, whilst BiH has fulfilled important roles including as a member of the Peace Building Commission, Human Rights Commission, and importantly serving as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. We look forward to strengthening our joint efforts and partnership with BiH in all of these areas with our new 2021 – 2025 BiH-UN Cooperation Framework.
Despite the challenges of 2020, the UN remains committed to a vision of our future that will be defined by those who work together and who reach out across lines of division and not by those who create them. Our 75th anniversary conversation has reconfirmed that this is the 'The Future We Want' across the globe and in BiH. Together, we have the blueprints to achieve success by buidling forward greener, fairer, more transparently and more inclusively as 'We the Peoples' of our, your and my, United Nations. As the UN Resident Coordinator in BiH, I reconfirm the commitment of the UN to redouble our efforts to work in partnership with all people in BiH to achieve this vision with sustainable development, human rights, peace, dignity and mutual respect at the core.