THE TIMES KUWAIT REPORT
United Nations Day, celebrated each year on 24 October, commemorates the founding of the United Nations (UN) on this day in 1945. Against the somber backdrop of unprecedented death and destruction witnessed during World War II, the United Nations was established with the fervent hope that it would help prevent another devastating war like the one the world had just lived through.
In April 1945, at a time when nations were in ruins and the world yearned for peace, representatives from 50 nations gathered at San Francisco in the United States to attend the United Nations Conference on International Organization. Over the next two months, they discussed, drafted and then signed a seminal document, the UN Charter. Four months after the San Francisco Conference, and following ratification of the Charter by majority of signatory governments, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945.
Today, no other global organization wields the same legitimacy, convening power, and normative impact as the United Nations. The UN is the only global entity capable of providing relief and care, and extending hope to millions of people engulfed in crises and conflicts around the world. As the sole international organization with the means and the reach to provide support to people everywhere, the UN helps realize the aspirations of impoverished and discriminated people even in the furthest corners of the world.
Kuwait has actively promoted the principles and values enshrined by the UN Charter. It was only two years later, on 7 May 1963, that the United Nations Security Council unanimously decided to recommend to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that Kuwait be admitted to the UN membership. Accordingly, a week later on 14 May, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 1872 admitting Kuwait as the 111th member state of the United Nation.
In his first address to the UNGA in 1963, the late Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, back then the country’s foreign minister, said: “Kuwait’s participation in international activities clearly indicates that the independence of Kuwait and its membership in the UN are not an end in themselves, rather they are a means by which Kuwait would shoulder its responsibility of improving the lives of people in our country and around the world.”
More recently, while addressing the 77th session of the UNGA, His HIghness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah called for increased global cooperation and multilateralism to tackle the challenges and crises facing the world, and bring about lasting peace. He added, “The experiences of modern history have proven to us that peace, and its related mechanism of mediation and dialogue, is and will always be the ideal resolution to conflicts, no matter how protracted they are.”
Over the past 60 years, and In line with its principled and responsible stance, Kuwait has made significant contributions to the work of the United Nations, and has been an active partner in UN efforts to promote global sustainable development, support humanitarian activities, and maintain and sustain international peace and security around the world.
Shortly after its independence in 1961, Kuwait established the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) to provide economic assistance to fellow developing countries. Since its establishment the Kuwait Fund has provided over 900 development assistance loans to over 100 nations totaling over US$20 billion, making Kuwait one of the most active players in the field of development. Additionally, in 2015 Kuwait announced that over the next 15 years it would provide $15 billion in support of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda.
Kuwait has also been in the forefront of supporting global humanitarian activities, and a reliable partner of the UN in providing aid and assistance to countries facing crises, including natural calamities, and man-made conflicts. More specifically, Kuwait has led and encouraged attempts by the UN to support refugees and internally displaced people fleeing the fighting in Syria that broke out in 2011, and has remained unresolved to date.
In response to the calamitous humanitarian situation arising from the Syrian conflict, and at the request of the then United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kuwait hosted three ‘International Humanitarian Pledging Conferences for Syria’. Held in Kuwait consecutively in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the three pledging conferences together raised more than US$7 billion to alleviate suffering and provide solace to those afflicted by the Syrian crisis. In addition to pledging $1.3 billion at these three conferences, Kuwait also pledged a further $300 million at the ‘Supporting Syria and the Region Conference’ that it co-hosted in London in 2016, along with the UK, Germany and Norway.
Kuwait’s leadership in global humanitarian action was recognized by the United Nations at a ceremony held at the UN Headquarters on 9 September 2014, when the late Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in recognition of His Highness’ generous contributions, efforts, and continuous support as a ‘Humanitarian Leader’ towards the United Nations humanitarian operations.
Kuwait’s generosity and magnanimity has also been acknowledged and reciprocated by the global community. Just as one unanimous UN Security Council (UNSC) decision in 1963 led to Kuwait becoming a member of the global community, it was another unanimous UNSC decision in 1990 that led to Kuwait’s rebirth as a free and sovereign state following its liberation in 1991 from the invasion and occupation by Iraq.
In November 1990, the UNSC through its decision No.678 called on Iraq to unconditionally withdraw all its forces from Kuwait by mid-January 1991. Failure to comply with the decision set in motion a cascade of events that ultimately led to a 35-nation UN coalition force liberating Kuwait in February 1991. Having known the price of liberty, Kuwait has ever since its liberation been a staunch advocate of peace and freedom around the world.
In addition to supporting UN peace initiatives worldwide, Kuwait has also driven reconciliation efforts in the region and the wider Arab world. The country’s reputation as a neutral and fair mediator, as well as a generous and unconditional provider of humanitarian and development assistance to people everywhere, reinforced its credentials as a trusted partner and facilitated negotiations to end conflicts and reconcile differences among Arab states.
The intrinsic and inextricable link between supporting economic and social development on one hand, and achieving peace and stability on the other, as evidenced in Kuwait’s peace efforts, has also been established by the UN and by other academic and social institutions worldwide. The coupling of peace and progress is also reflected in the progress of nations in achieving their UN development goals over the past 22 years.
In the course of achieving the global development goals — first as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2000 to 2015, and since then, the 2015–2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — the global community has realized that peace and stability mutually reinforces development and human rights in a community or region. And, that it is not possible to effectively achieve one, without ensuring the other.
A review of the 15-year MDG period by UN analysts and experts revealed that while poverty and denial of human rights may not be direct causes of social and political conflicts or humanitarian upheavals, they undoubtedly increase the risk of instability and violence. Similarly, while war and humanitarian atrocities are far from the only reasons that countries are trapped in poverty, they definitely set back the development agenda.
More generally, people in the conflict-affected countries are not only deprived of their rights to live in dignity and seek opportunities to develop, they are also more likely to be impoverished, unable to pursue education, and denied access to basic health services and other public goods. Countries which are well-governed and respect the human rights of their citizens were found to be better at avoiding conflicts and overcoming obstacles to development.
The review also found that while conflicts disrupt and hamper progress towards achieving the MDGs and other development goals, the causality also runs the other way. Development stresses were found to be among the major root causes of serious conflicts. Studies on recent civil wars and other conflict situations have identified stresses in the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social, and environmental. In addition, stresses caused by human rights violations, and injustice were also found to exacerbate conflict and instability.
Among the economic stresses identified by the review were high unemployment, particularly among youth. A survey conducted by the World Bank in countries affected by conflicts indicated that unemployment and idleness were cited by survey respondents as the most important factor motivating young people to join protest movements. The review also found that social stresses, including disparity and discrimination in both opportunity and income could generate conflicts.
On a similar note, environmental stresses such as drought or flooding, could result in crop failures and loss of livelihood, increasing poverty and fueling displacement of people. These factors then directly or indirectly cause, or aggravate, conflicts. Besides sustainable development stresses, other factors, including injustice and discrimination in terms of ethnic or religious competition, human rights violations, and external invasion, can also fuel conflicts.
Based on these findings a consensus was reached that the post-2015 development agenda as outlined in the 17 SDGs should be firmly anchored in human rights and universally accepted values and principles of peace and stability. In particular, SDG 16 aims to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.
In today’s world, raked by crises and conflicts on multiple fronts, the relevance and the need to support the United Nations and to develop policies and strategies that break the vicious cycle between conflict and sustainable development stresses, and reinforce a virtuous cycle between development and peace and stability, has never been higher.
However, reading or watching recent headline news, it is quite relevant to ask ourselves whether ‘We, the people of the United Nations’, have lived up to the ideals, values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter that we ratified more than seven decades ago. The annual celebration of UN Day offers the opportunity for the global community to reaffirm our commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter that have guided and stood us in good stead since 1945.