Kit is our correspondent with UNA. He writes:
Our Local Bury St Edmunds Meeting has for some years been a subscribing member of the UK United Nations Association (UNA/UK). UNA/UK may be described as a sort of friends of the UN – not to be confused with the UN itself! I have been appointed as ‘correspondent’ for UNA/UK and am writing this introductory letter to members and attenders.
UNA/UK, UN and Quakers
I believe the UN has a vital role to play in the current challenges of creating sustainable global development. With the vast range of UN activities, from refugees, world health, education, poverty and justice to peacemaking and human rights, I believe the world is better for its work and, in spite of faults and failures, it is an indispensable positive element in global human development. It needs both support for its work and critical reform of its weaknesses and that is what UNA is for.
The UNA/UK aims to support, review and constructively criticise the UN and the UK Government’s involvement in it. It describes itself as a ‘grassroots movement campaigning for a safer, fairer and more sustainable world’. This clearly echoes the Quaker testimonies of equality, peace, simplicity and truth.
Quakers were crucially involved in the foundation of the UN in 1945 and its Declaration of Human Rights and are actively engaged through the work of QUNO (Quaker UN Offices in Geneva and New York) and QPSW (Quaker Peace and Social Witness). Quakers have been and are involved with the UN in many specific campaigns, such as nuclear disarmament, control of the arms trade, women’s and children’s rights, the banning of land mines, cluster bombs and drones, the abolition of capital punishment, and the right to conscientious objection to conscription.
I hope this explains why our Local Meeting subscribes to UNA/UK. However, as correspondent, I find it hard to be clear just who I am to correspond with, how and about what? The range of UN is so wide and complex that I have considerable doubts as to my sanity in taking on this role! However I hope that there will be sufficient interest to make this a two-way correspondence.
I intend to send letters at not too frequent intervals, reasonably brief (please believe me!), focussing on what seem relevant issues, achievements and problems involving UN and Quaker faith and practice.
In this first letter I want to focus briefly on two things. First, the availability of the UNA/UK magazine and Reports in our library. Secondly, the immense but exciting challenges of creating new sustainable UN development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals from 2015.
1. Publications in Library
UNA/UK publishes a quarterly magazine “New World”, which is available in our Meeting House library. The latest New World Issues (Winter 2013 to Summer 2014) are available on the mobile trolley in the library. UNA/UK also publishes special reports. The latest of these is entitled ‘Global Development Goals: leaving no one behind’. This too is available, currently, on the trolley.
One book, among many in our library, which I can recommend if you have not already read it, is:
‘Snakes and Ladders’ by Rachel Brett. This Swarthmore lecture of 2012 describes Rachel Brett’s personal experience of Quaker work for Human Rights at the UN.
2. Post 2015 UN Agenda for Global Development.
The report ‘Global Development Goals; leaving no one behind’, mentioned above, is a comprehensive review of the successes and failures in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015, and the setting of a new agenda for the next few decades of global development. In his foreword, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon writes that the challenges of climate change, rising inequality, and the emergence of new economic powers, ‘demand a new vision’. ‘Sustainable development – enabled by the integration of economic growth, social justice and environmental stewardship must become our global guiding principle.’
A ‘Briefing’ in the Winter 2013 Issue of New World, (p. 10-13) (available on the Library trolley) gives a summary of the achievements and failures of the Millennium Development Goals so far. One key question for post 2015 development is how to move away from the top down policy of the Millennium Goals, which many have criticised as leaving out the poorest and most vulnerable. A second question is how to link the local with the global, involving more people at every level across nations, creeds and cultures in a rapidly changing world. We have also still much to learn about how to manage our conflicts and differences constructively without violence.
I do realise that this connection with UNA/UK is only one among a great many activities and concerns with which Bury St Edmunds Quakers continue to be involved. I would however be very glad to hear from anyone interested in the links and involvement we can have as Quakers with the work of the UNA/UK and the UN.