I was in Manhattan last month for the 72nd UN General Assembly. It’s an extraordinary time to be in the city – leaders from the worlds of global politics, diplomacy, and development are all there. It’s a rallying point for citizens of the world, and an opportunity to lead change on a global scale. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan came to our Global Citizen Forum last year, and with the fifth, and most exciting edition of the GCF coming up in two weeks time – on The Age of Uncertainty at (the extraordinary) Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro – it’s a great opportunity for me to take stock, and reflect on recent events and the changes we are experiencing.
The election of Donald Trump, a nuclear North Korea, the development of artificial intelligence, a re-emergent Russia, drone technology, devestating hurricanes, climate change, a brexiting Britain, the explosion of social and non-mainstream media, and an awoken China are just a few of the challenging changes the world is facing.
One of the defining features of war over peace is the acceleration of change, and it strikes me that we have sped up rapidly: thankfully, the world as a whole remains at peace. However, many of the institutions that have guaranteed world order since WWII, both national and international, have become complacent, are hamstrung by their bureaucracy, or have only just begun to wake up to the scale and speed of a rapidly evolving world.
The theme of this year’s General Debate was “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet”. It is a noble and fitting aim, but it will be interesting to observe the outputs from it. Will there be real, tangible impact at a local level? Will the UN be able to act swiftly enough to ensure that impact is appropriate?
It is notoriously difficult to ensure that grand gestures and statements trickle down to where help is really needed.
That’s a challenge we’ll face at our Forum too; we are working with Antigua and Barbuba to raise money for rebuilding the devestated country after Hurricane Irma swept through, leaving destruction in its wake. We will ensure the impact is felt at a grassroots level.
Will the UN be able to weather the various storms it faces, and bring about true change in a world of shifting sands? In its long history it has so far proved to be a highly resilient organisation, that has done much good for the world: the conversations I had in NYC this month with key players like Robert De Niro, left me feeling really positive, and excited about our own conference in October, which is going to be fascinating. The future may be uncertain, but it’s definitely bright – and it’s up to us to make it brighter.