by Andreea Prisecaru
A strong plan for global development that counteracts violence and promotes the progress of a peaceful civilization could build bridges for harmonious growth on an international level. This idea is encompassed in the UN’s Culture of Peace. At the Peace and Security workshop for the UN75 festival in October 2020, one of the questions participants discussed was: ”what are current priorities for sustainable development?”.
The first proposal concerns the call for a global ceasefire – the General Assembly supported this back in April. Action needs to be taken immediately in this direction – as UNICEF said: ‘’for 250 million children caught in the nightmare of armed conflict, a global ceasefire could be the difference between life and death’’. We know for sure that unless armed conflict stops, it will be impossible for people delivering Covid-related medical help to reach communities in conflict in Libya Syria, and elsewhere. We also know that hospitals have been a common target for airstrikes and even if a ceasefire is achieved, delivery of humanitarian help will not be without challenges. Therefore, this resolution aims to push for global advocacy for a ceasefire. The obstacle right now is that powerful countries choose the Security Council table to continue their traditional conflicts, to everyone’s loss, especially those who the Sustainable Development Goals have committed should not be left behind. The US and Russia claim they must continue with counter-terrorism operations while China fights over having a nice paragraph referring to the World Health Organization. However, there is one resolution the General Assembly can use in its advantage. The 70-years old Uniting for Peace resolution came about when in 1950 the Security Council failed to act, empowering the General Assembly to consider the matter immediately and use all means to maintain international peace and security. Therefore, I hope you agree that the UN should continue to push for a global ceasefire, one important way in arresting the spread of the COVID pandemic. Despite inherent difficulties, the principle behind the Uniting for Peace resolution is the recognition that there will be times when the global community, acting together, makes it clear to the Great Powers that even though they led the fight against tyranny seventy five years ago, the future of humankind trumps their replaying Cold War games.
My first proposal identifies with one of the proposals detailed in Stepping Stones for a better future published by Together First: We demand a Security Council that acts or gets out of the way’
My second proposal introduces the Smart Sustainable Cities project, which aims to integrate technology with sustainable management strategies for utilising resources in a more efficient way. This initiative has already been embraced by many countries – we can see how in Copenhagen, street lights have efficient/ lamps /adjusted/ on an algorithm /with /lighting/ triggered by human activity and with intensity adjusted at night for efficiency. Worldwide, Zurich and Stockholm are in the top ranks, followed by Geneva and Vienna. Why is this important? Because 30 years from now it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities so the concept of Sustainable Cities makes it an important, as well as an efficient resolution to the world’s growing population. However, cities need more preparation before they can offer a healthy life for all their inhabitants, despite their economic power. Look at Paris where one year of living in its streets is the equivalent of smoking 90 packs of cigarettes. In light of these and other data, we need cities to continue to improve their infrastructure, becoming more sustainable, also sharing their knowledge with those cities in developing countries, reducing the knowledge gap. It is important to help the environment in a holistic way: from improving waste management to optimising traffic flow and sanitation systems. Some businesses have aligned with environmental goals – for example, the ride-sharer Uber has committed to carbon-free rides by 2040. The Smart Sustainable Cities project resonates completely with the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. Yes, some initiatives have to be global, but we need to engage communities better than we have done so far. The current disagreement between national and local government leaders in England regarding COVID19 shows these challenges. With their engagement and leadership, an important condition for the Culture of Peace Initiative is secured.
My second proposal: Encourage city leaders in richer countries to embrace the Smart Sustainable Cities project and similar initiatives and to share them with poorer cities.