Annelie Börjesson, President of the UN Association of Sweden is our guest blogger this month as we celebrate UN Day. She started engaging with the United Nations in 2006 and was elected to her current position in 2018. The UN Association of Sweden is one out of about 100 UN Associations in the world, with the mission to strengthen the relationship between the people of Member States and the UN.
Let me start by giving you some glimpses from a few weeks in my role as President of the Swedish UN Association: A dialogue with the Swedish Foreign Minister on disarmament was directly followed by holding a speech outside the Russian Embassy in Stockholm. The next day I visited Kungsbacka, a small city on the west coast of Sweden, giving a lecture at the library about the UN, climate and hope. This gave me the opportunity to meet with some members engaged in the local UNA chapter, before being interviewed on our work by the local newspaper. A few days later a study trip for Swedish Parliamentarians to UN City in Copenhagen, followed by moderating a panel on Dag Hammarskjöld in Uppsala, talking to students in upper secondary school, and then going to the UN office in Geneva for a few intensive days. In-between a lot of paper work on strategy, statutes, budget and digital meetings on a wide range of topics.
As President for the UN Association of Sweden I get the chance to meet people of all ages and from all parts of society in various contexts: children, students, civil society, politicians, ambassadors and government ministers. On the one hand, interacting with diverse communities is indeed one of the most rewarding aspects of this position. On the other hand, it is challenging and requires both the ability to listen and the exquisite art of communicating. The great difference of settings and topics is thrilling.
The 100 UN Associations in the world serve as NGOs with the mission to strengthen the relationship between the people of Member States and the UN. This is mainly done by raising public awareness of the organisation and its work, and by promoting the general goals of the UN. It has become very clear to me that this is a huge undertaking, nevertheless of utter importance.
The support for the UN and for multilateralism is under severe pressure. It varies between countries, regions and individuals, but it is obvious that the support could be and needs to be broad and anchored. It is clear that there is a big gap to fill, and it seems it is getting bigger.
We the peoples need to know why the UN was founded, some of what it has achieved through the years, what the UN is doing today, and why the UN matters to you and me. We the peoples need to get together and stand up for the UN.
The United Nations and the rules based world order is crucial for humanity. What would happen if it fell apart? Would it be possible in today’s world to build something alike? Probably not. It took two horrendous world wars with pain, suffering and death beyond description to give birth to the United Nations. The preamble of the UN Charter says ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined, to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…’. That is where it starts – and that is what we all need to remind ourselves about.
Since 1945, the organisation has faced severe and multiple challenges. But the overlapping and cascading crises that the UN is encountering now are incomparable to what we have seen before. In recent years the landscape has changed dramatically. The COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine has to a large extent contributed to the current situation. At the same time the UN is needed more than ever to tackle climate change and walk the talk that is set out by the 2030 Agenda.
The world is becoming more divided and multipolar. The security council is sometimes dysfunctional. However, there are innumerous achievements delivered by the UN every day that mean a lot to billions of people. Yes, the UN has its flaws and is far from perfect, but it is what we have. It is the one and only platform where almost all countries meet, seek dialogue, discuss and try to find solutions. This is unique. Each and every one of us needs the UN, but far from all people alive today are aware of this. And that is dangerous. We the peoples need to know why the UN was founded, some of what it has achieved through the years, what the UN is doing today, and why the UN matters to you and me. We the peoples need to get together and stand up for the UN.
This is why the global UNA movement makes every effort to reach out to people. To inform, to engage, to mobilise. As mentioned, it is a huge undertaking of utter importance.
To me, it is a privilege to serve as an informative and communicative link between people, not seldom between ‘we the peoples’ and the people with power. However, sometimes the poorest person with little or no power knows why the UN matters, and sometimes the powerful person that works for the UN does not. There is much in this world that does not make sense. But the United Nations, despite all its flaws, does.