Can we imagine our world without the United Nations?
The 24th October each year celebrates the birth of the UN. The date marks the anniversary of the launch of the United Nations Charter in 1945. United Nations Day is marked throughout the world  by meetings, discussions and exhibits on the achievements and goals of the UN.

The purposes of the United Nations, identified in its charter include: maintaining international peace and security, solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and promoting respect for human rights. It also campaigns on environmental issues, develops friendly relations between countries and attempts to curb poverty, illiteracy and disease. The UN has 15 different agencies to promote and deliver its goals.

The UN was set up after World War 2 to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. The head of the UN is the Secretary General, the current Secretary General is Ban-Ki Moon from the Republic of Korea. There is also a security council to decide issues consisting of five main powers, United Kingdom, USA, France, China and Russia. They are the permanent members of the council, with 10 more countries elected to it to stand for two year terms. Each Council Member has one vote and nine of the 15 members need to be in agreement for action to take place.

Last year, Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon commented,

Sixty-five years ago on this date, the founding Charter of the United Nations entered into force.  Every year on UN Day, we reaffirm our global mission.  We reassert the universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.  And we recognize the progress we have made together: gains in literacy and life expectancy… the spread of knowledge and technology… advances in democracy and the rule of law.

But above all, UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more.  More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity; more to meet the Millennium Development Goals.’

How do we celebrate UN day?

Tradtionally, UN day is celebrated with an international concert in the General Assembly Hall. Last year, the Korean Symphony Orchestra played with the Westminster Choir College of America and the concert was addressed by the Secretary General.

This year, One World Week has an environmental theme, Living for One World’ , it helps us to value and understand our world and those living in it. One World Week is taking place this year between the 23rd-30th October 2011. It raises awareness of global issues and asks us to take action and make change. The Week was established in 1978, and it seeks to encourage the community to take action on issues as far ranging as poverty and environmental issues. It celebrates us being in a diverse but interconnected world.  This year’s three themes are:

Did you know, there are still an estimated 12.3 million people across
the world in slavery today
, forced to work with very little or no pay? Anti-Slavery Day was set up to raise awareness of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. The trans-atlantic slave trade was abolished in 1807 and slavery is prohibited under Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. In April 2010, the UK Anti Slavery Act was passed into law and 2010 saw the first Anti Slavery Day take place on 18th October.

The eradication of poverty has become a development priority. At the Millennium Summit, world leaders committed to cutting by half by the year 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty (those whose income is less than a dollar a day). Poverty is seen as a violation of human rights. The 17th October has therefore become a day where we acknowledge the struggle of those living in poverty and is a chance for them to have their voices heard.

The UN has designated the 17th October each year, to be the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It aims to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries, particularly developing countries.  The day was founded by the General Assembly in 1993.

The 2011 theme for World Food Day is ‘Food Prices from Crisis to
’, with a focus on what can be done to relieve the impact of the current food crisis on the world’s most vulnerable people. Price swings can represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. The poor are the often the hardest hit. According to the World Bank, rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people in extreme poverty in 2010-11. The UN General Assembly has declared 16th October every year to be World Food Day. The day is for raising awareness of food security as well as strengthening solidarity in the struggle against world hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

The day of the Rural Women is celebrated directly before World Food
Day in order to highlight the role played by rural women. In developing countries, women often play a direct and vital role in the rural economy. They are often involved in crop production and livestock care and provide food and water for their families. The UN has designated the 15th October to be the day to recognise the role of women in improving rural development and food security.  The first day was celebrated in 2008 and it recognises, ‘the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty’

The 2011 day is about using children and young people as
partners in Disaster Risk Reduction
. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is about assessing and analysing casual factors of disasters, thereby attempting to reduce disasters from occurring. The International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction takes place on the 13th October each year. It aims to promote worldwide awareness of disaster reduction  as well as finding ways to be more prepared for global disasters. It was implemented in 1989 by the UN General Assembly.

Today the festival of Sukkot begins. Sukkot last for seven days as is
known as the festival of rejoicing. It takes place on the fifth day of Yom Kippur and is quite a drastic transition from one of the most solemn holidays in the Jewish year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. The holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Sukkot is also a harvest festival, and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif, the Festival of Ingathering.

Black History Month (BHM) is held every October in Britain and every
February in USA and Canada. Its aims are to:

  • Promote knowledge of  Black History and Cultural Heritage
  • Disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society
  • Heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people to their cultural heritage.

This October there are nearly twenty independence days from countries
all over the world. Countries as wide ranging as China to Zambia are celebrating this month.  A very Happy Independence Day to all!

People’s Republic of China – October 1-2, Nigeria – October 1, Guinea – October 2, Lesotho October 4, Fiji – October 7, Germany – October 3, Uganda – October 9, Republic of China/Taiwan – October 10, Spain – October 12, Zambia – October 24, Iran – October 26, South Vietnam – October 26, St Vincent and Grenadines – October 27, Turkey – October 29