Birthday Body

Today is UN Day, the organization's 71st birthday. But as the United Nations enters its golden years, can we trust it to protect our future?

October 24, 2019

10:42 am

In today’s youth-obsessed culture, 71 is an age that doesn’t exactly get a lot of respect.

That’s an age about which (younger) folks are more likely to joke that (accurately, we’re sorry to report) one will likely need the assistance of one’s pre-teen granchild just to turn on the TV.

But the UN celebrates its 71st birthday today. And while some will snipe that the organization is age-appropriately sclerotic and fusty, it is important to note that the UN is also one of the most future-thinking bodies in the international space. Consider that it is the principal architect of the 2030 Agenda.

The twin engines of the 2030 Agenda are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. No two initiatives have done more to at least spark the conversation about what we as a planet need to do to be responsible custodians of its future, and to protect future generations themselves.

The SDGs are the blueprint to a more sustainable future for the planet, a 17-goal plan to tackling the planet’s most intractable problems. The Paris Agreement, meanwhile, is a voluntary effort for every nation on the planet to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and make the necessary adjustments to prepare for a more sustainable, low-carbon future.

Neither the SDGs nor the Paris Agreement are perfect: far from it. The Paris Agreement has been widely criticized for not going far enough, and for not holding governments accountable for their sometimes-weak commitments.”The final submissions are not enforceable, and carry no consequences beyond ‘shame’ for noncompliance — a fact bizarrely taken for granted by all involved,” opined Politico at the time.

And the SDGs, as the UN notes on its blog, do not have protections for older people — people who have reached the age that the UN has today: “Unlike refugees, women and children, persons with disabilities or other groups, older persons are not protected by any specific human rights instrument; which may explain the lack of representation of the unique challenges they face, in terms of global policy, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

But the SDGs and the Paris Agreement were passed unanimously. Think about that for a second: two major initiatives with an eye on protecting the future for youth were passed by every single member of the UN. These members can’t usually agree on cocktail napkins, but the fact that they can agree on something as vital to our future as these two efforts is worth celebrating — and that’s a birthday gift to all of us, UN supporters and critics alike.

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