This post was originally sent out on January 24 via a monthly email message from Director Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations. Subscribe to the UU@UN email list.
The United Nations Headquarters in New York City had hoped to begin 2022 by opening its doors and welcoming the world back home. However, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has disrupted UN plans as it has everyone else’s.
The UN will not have any in-person events in January and will assess what to do in the coming months. Those of us representing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations have not had regular access to the Headquarters since it shut down in March 2020. We are eager to return to in-person meetings, where our advocacy can be most effective.
The UN has promised to issue NGOs in consultative status (like the UU@UN) three passes to access the UN grounds, warning us the process will take time. (For perspective, pre-pandemic we were allowed about 20 UN passes.) We appreciate the UN’s caution in re-opening its building and we patiently anticipate access increasing in the coming months, depending on health and safety requirements.
In its efforts to address the ongoing global surges of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to urge vaccine equity. They have deplored the huge disparities in vaccine distribution: while rich nations have stockpiled vaccines, in 36 nations less than 10% of the population is vaccinated.
Beyond the pandemic, the UN is very concerned with addressing an array of disturbing and contentious issues including climate change; aggressive military actions by Russia, China, and North Korea; and ongoing human rights abuses in many countries.
The primary purpose of the UN is the maintain international peace and security and to prevent a third world war. It is also committed to turning back the planetary threat posed by climate change. Much of the UN’s power lies in convening member nations and persuading them to do what’s necessary to save the world from war and climate catastrophe.
The UU@UN remains a strong partner in holding the UN and its member nations accountable. The UN goals of human rights, democracy, global health, peace, and security are also our goals. How do we do this work? Through our alliances and organizations.
For 60 years, the UU@UN has played an outsized role in influencing policies at the UN. Throughout this time, we have remained committed to interfaith collaboration, helping to found Religions for Peace in the 1970s. I currently serve as co-moderator of Religions for Peace USA, which has produced excellent programming focused on dismantling white supremacy.
My work as co-chair of the NGO Committee on Human Rights is especially meaningful, continuing the legacy of our UU@UN forbears who played a critical role in establishing the International Criminal Court. I am proud to represent Unitarian Universalists, in close collaboration with partners in the UN community, to uphold sexual orientation and gender identity human rights, preserve biodiversity, demilitarize police globally, and promote antiracism.
Please join us and support this work—and be in touch. I hope to continue a dialogue with you about how the UU@UN can make this world a safer and better place.
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