Author Lee McKnight
The United Nations and its specialized agencies are far from perfect, as anyone associated with any part of the sprawling organization – including the well-known General Assembly where Heads of State meet in New York City every September, and the Security Council, would agree.
The World Health Organization is among the less-controversial UN agencies, supporting global health. As health epidemics such as Ebola do not respect national borders, the need for global cooperation is obvious, even as the United Nations as a supposedly distant from real life entity serves as a convenient boogeyman for many politicians and polarized for profit media of the left and right railing against globalization’s impact on their communities – even as their users personally spend much of their time on Facebook, or watching Netflix – worldwide.
Meanwhile, the unheralded International Telecommunication Union has (since 1865!) been promoting communication standards and for over a century, frequency use, as well as for more than 50 years, orbital arc allocation policies. Taken together, these permit folks like, and different from you, to communicate. Including over the 5G standard to be set by the ITU in 2020. It is ITU standards which already permit you to stream Netflix to your smartphone – worldwide – over (ITU-standardized) 4G mobile networks. Of course it is global industry, researchers and innovators worldwide which put in the hard work in advance, before the UN (ITU) seal of approval for a global standard is bestowed.
So to put it in plain English: You all rely on the UN, every single day: every time you glance at your smartphone, the UN is working for you, without most ever realizing its indispensable role in coordinating intrinsically shared global resources such as earth orbital arcs, frequencies, oceans, and much more.
Meanwhile, United Nations ‘White Helmet’ Peacekeeping forces have been involved in many efforts, some tragically still ongoing, to separate combatants and (hopefully) permit cooler heads to determine a less violent way out of any particular conflict – anywhere, worldwide, whenever called upon.
The United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights in other words, are the only common legs the entire world order stands upon today, however imperfectly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on 10 December 1948 as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. The Declaration laid out 30 – aspirational – rights for all people. More recently, former Liberian President (and Nobel Prize, and Mo Ibrahim Prize-winning) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf co-chaired the UN’s Panel of Eminent Persons which outlined the path toward Sustainable Development Goals, including support mechanisms for sustainable growth with equity, creating wealth through sustainable and transparent management of natural resources, and supporting partnerships towards those goals.
Those need to be achieved as quickly as possible many would agree, as barely more than half the planet has access to the Internet presently, a contemporary requirement for education, health, business, and social engagement (for better or worse). But why should we stop at 30 Human Rights, as if the planet was frozen in time in 1948? We can also all recognize the present imperatives of claiming our Right to our own intrinsic human data, for privacy and security as well as for equity reasons. Why not? With today’s technology, including blockchain, we can all claim and trust assertions of more,not fewer, human rights for all. From our (UN-approved) smartphones.
The truth is the United Nations has been working for all of us for 73 years. The truth is much more needs to be done, locally and globally, to sustain a livable planet for – anyone. Since present company cannot be excluded from the global and local forces that we must all face up to, sooner or later.
Speaking for myself and my Syracuse University colleagues, we will be participating in the United Nations Internet Governance Forum November 12-14, 2018 as well as the Paris Peace Forum November 11-13, 2018, as we recognize paths towards the future where our students may continue to engage, in real-time, including in public-private-philanthropic partnerships with a build-transfer-operate model, to digitally and sustainably contribute transforming resilient nations. We can do this, again.
Therefore: Be it Resolved on this coming 24th Day of October, 2018, that – you – will do something for all of our future. Claim #My31 if you agree you should own your own data. Read up on the United Nations agencies, and your national, state and local governments, and any partnerships you may be interested in. And, help change the world. Again.