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The 24th of October is United Nations (UN) Day. The date marks the anniversary of the UN Charter entering into force in 1945. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, the United Nations officially came into being.
The UN was first established for the maintenance of peace and security in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Charter outlines the importance of reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, justice and social progress. Above all the Charter calls for peace, tolerance and the working together of all nations towards the advancement of peoples.
Today there are 193 member states, compared to the 50 nations that met in San Francisco in 1945 to draw up the document that would see the beginning of the global organisation. Alongside the growth in membership, over the intervening years the UN has grown beyond its principal organs and is now a vast system with Specialised Agencies and Related Organisations all working towards the aims first outlined in the Charter. Despite this growth, peace and security remain at the very core of all operations. The latest agenda from the UN focuses on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. There are 17 SDGs in total and they are underpinned by 169 specific targets. The Goals were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. They are designed to unite all appropriate actors with a single vision of a safer and more prosperous planet by 2030.
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In order to see the vision become a reality, there will need to be more than just public bodies working towards them. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has highlighted a funding gap between what would be needed to achieve the SDGs and the actual financial resources that are available1, it makes for sobering reading. In 2017, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated that achieving the SDGs will take between US$5 to $7 trillion2. By way of comparison, the entire recommended UN Budget for 2018-19 is $5.4 billion3. The latest OECD Development Assistance Committee report shows that foreign aid from official donors totalled $146.6 billion in 20174, which is still one order of magnitude smaller than is needed. It is clear that the private sector needs to step in and take action to support UN agencies to achieve these goals that stand to benefit us all. Steps can be taken to bridge this funding gap through Thoughtful Investing in those corporations seeking to benefit from our changing planet and provide solutions to the challenges facing humanity.
A report from the Business & Sustainable Development Commission estimated that understanding and working towards the SDGs could be a source of opportunities valued at $12 trillion5. These opportunities present themselves in a range of markets including food and agriculture, health and well-being, new financial products and services, impact investing and harnessing technology. Alongside providing investment opportunities, the achievement of the goals could see the creation of 380 million new jobs by 2030. The report paints a compelling picture for the consideration of the SDGs not only from the position of global citizens with the power to produce positive change, but from a business standpoint too.
The UN has evolved significantly between 1945 and 2018. It has grown and adapted to the changing challenges facing the planet. However, the UN Charter, signed 73 years ago today, is still the focal point for uniting people across the globe with a vision of peace and wellbeing. The anniversary is an opportunity for us all to consider how we might work to advance this vision too.
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