Seventy years after its founding, the United Nations is facing unprecedented challenges. As the organization prepares to mark its anniversary next week, it is ever clearer that collective security and peacekeeping — roles that the United Nations has played since its beginnings — are now being threatened by highly intense local conflicts and terrorist barbarity.
Meanwhile, the ongoing turmoil of the economic crisis has, since 2008, led to increased levels of inequality and social exclusion, even as the world is confronted by the twin challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.
All of these issues require a global and coordinated response and some novel approaches to the new challenges we face. But while Brazil is determined and willing to meet its responsibilities in helping to promote a world of peace, progress, inclusion and sustainability, it must do so in cooperation with the international community, and specifically the United Nations.
Back in 1945, the international community gathered for the San Francisco Conference around the idea of building a world rooted in international law and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Originally composed of 51 states, the United Nations today comprises 193 members. And, as its membership has grown, so has its agenda, which now includes the environment, the eradication of poverty, social development and human rights, including fighting discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation.
Over seven decades, it has seen both progress and setbacks as it has pursued this agenda. Unfortunately, the mechanisms for underpinning these efforts through collective peace and security have proved ineffective. In fact, they are now obsolete, and the U.N. Security Council has not been able to rise to the challenge of its responsibilities, failing to reflect the balance of power that prevails in a world very different from what it was in 1945.
So Security Council reform is necessary. But not simply because it is a way of promoting democracy and legitimacy — it is indispensable for fulfilling the main objectives of the U.N. Charter.
One of the great challenges facing the international community today is the large number of refugees trying to find their way through the Mediterranean and across the roads of Europe from the Middle East and North Africa, where states have been destabilized by military action that undermines international law and stokes terrorism.
But in a world where goods, capital, information and ideas flow freely, it is absurd to try to impede the free migration of human beings. As my country has demonstrated throughout its history, differences can coexist side by side — Brazil is a multiethnic country that welcomes all who seek refuge. Even during difficult times, we have embraced with open arms those wishing to come to live, work and help us build a future of peaceful coexistence.
Meeting that goal — for Brazil and others — will require an agenda of sustainable development, one based on cooperation among states, key sectors of society and individuals. With that in mind, the 1992 Rio de Janeiro U.N. Conference on the Environment and Development helped open the way for the establishment of a new and just global sustainability partnership.
Twenty years later, U.N. members met again in Rio and agreed, as a basic principle of the Rio+20 Conference, that it is possible to grow even as we preserve, and protect. The resulting 2030 Agenda, discussed by the world’s leaders and officials over this past month, establishes the future we want, while its 17 Sustainable Development Goals reaffirm the need for solidarity and cooperation to promote economic growth, social inclusion and the protection of the environment.
Tied to the environment, Brazil’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution includes ambitious and comprehensive commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and diversifying our renewable energy sources. Based on our 2005 levels, we have pledged a 43% reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and guaranteed that we will derive 45% of our energy matrix from renewable energy sources — a much higher rate than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average of less than 10%.
This approach has been successful both in maintaining one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, and also reducing deforestation by more than 80% over the last 10 years. And we will continue to promote environmental programs aimed at fighting climate change and promoting increased global awareness of the need for urgent action.
After all, a focus on sustainable, environmentally friendly policies has helped Brazil achieve over the past decade one of history’s most successful processes of social inclusion. More than 36 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty, while 42 million Brazilians ascended to the middle class. As of last year, Brazil is no longer on the World Hunger Map.
These policies have proven successful because social well-being, income distribution and access to quality services are all seen as essential to development. But we also know that ending poverty is only the beginning of a long journey, and efforts to promote development must be global and collective. This is why we believe in cooperation and multilateralism as a means of facing these challenges and promoting good practice on the international stage.
The reality is that development that neglects protection of the environment cannot be sustainable, and the international community cannot shun its responsibilities. The past 70 years have taught us that global peace, security and sustainable development agendas are interconnected and interdependent, and that governments, civil society and individuals must follow a path that leads to commitment and cooperation.
In short, building the world we want will require courage and determination — from all of us.
Dilma Rousseff is the President of Brazil. The views expressed are her own.