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A Watershed Moment

Delia Chatoor, who will speak at our October 17 online event, “Poverty and the Bomb”, is a member of the Caribbean Climate Change Network. Here she unpicks the role of the United Nations, currently holding its 77th General Assembly

The 77th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly officially began on September 13, 2022 in New York with the theme A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges. The theme itself is very a propos as it recognises the various interconnected issues confronting the international community.

We still have before us the continuing effects of COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine, the humanitarian impact of unprecedented environmental disasters linked to climate change and an unpredictable economic future.

Over the next few months, members of the UN through its network of commissions, committees and specialised agencies will be called upon to confront these challenges and present workable and realistic solutions.

At the very heart of the deliberations must, however, be members of vulnerable groups in communities (women, children, differently abled, and the poor, the marginalised and indigenous groups) who daily cannot fend for themselves, including those affected by the continuing drought and conflict in Somalia and other parts of the world, and the devastating floods that can also be attributed to the climate emergency.

The UN Secretary-General has continued to urge governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. The reality is that human activities, including deforestation and continued investment in fossil fuels means there is the fear that the UNs sustainable development goals may not be attainable.

As Catholic Christians and members of the international community, we are called upon to show deeper concern for all these interlocking challenges. On the growing environment crisis as far back as 1979, St Pope John Paul II, in declaring St Francis of Assisi the patron saint of ecologists, encouraged the faithful “to embrace all creatures.” He reminded us that we all had a “serious obligation to care for all creation… [with] the commitment of believers to a healthy environment for everyone [stemming] directly from their belief in God their creator.”

            Each of us, therefore, in our own individual way, is expected to be transformative and to contribute in meaningful ways so that innovative solutions can be forthcoming. This can only be achieved through the mobilisation of human and financial resources. Such response must take into account the systemic ills plaguing us.

One growing concern is the negative impact COVID has had, and is still having, on our youth and this can be gauged from the recent examination results, with children still struggling to readjust to some measure of normalcy in education systems.

And even as world leaders gather in New York to elucidate their governments’ policies and propose measures to address global inequalities, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency warns of situation threatening the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and the continuing unrealistic military action. In calling for the cessation of hostilities and for the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone, he is alerting the international community to what could happen were there be a nuclear accident.

At the close of the Season of Creation on the feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4, may we adopt his call to be instruments of peace and to have a deep respect for all of God’s creation. We call upon the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts and minds of world leaders and delegates as they seek to harmonise solutions for the benefit of all.

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