In pursuit of hope
Arthur Lyon Dahl
for UN high-level General Assembly week
16-22 September 2023
As we launch into a week of intense high-level debate including the Sustainable Development Goal Summit, the Climate Ambition Summit, and the Preparatory Meeting for the 2024 Summit of the Future, we need to ask what we might accomplish beyond the technical and policy issues on the table and the challenges in implementing what has already been agreed among States at the United Nations. Looking to the future, there is wide acknowledgement that we need a fundamental transformation in all dimensions of our present society: economic, social and environmental, but the forces of disintegration are still overpowering the efforts at integration into a global order based on justice for all.
The future belongs to the younger generations. They will inherit what we leave behind. Today they are largely disillusioned, depressed, victims of climate anxiety, justified by what they see around them and experience themselves. In so many nations old men driven by ego cling to power. Governments fail to deliver on peoples’ needs. There is massive corruption from concentrated wealth and vested interests. Failures of democracy push many to accept the vain promises of autocrats and populists.
More fundamentally, there is a vacuum of values. The dominant materialistic paradigm regardless of ideologies denies our true human potential, depicting us as self-interested consumers for the economic system to exploit and discard. Nothing is said about what can emerge as we refine our characters and acquire higher virtues, and our social role in building cohesive communities and advancing civilisation in all its dimensions and diversity.
To turn the corner, we need to offer something positive to the youth that they can believe in and channel their energies to accomplish. Words are not enough; actions are necessary, even if in small steps at first. We need to give them reasons to hope. This high level UN General Assembly week can be a first step as we go forward. Now is the time for creative ideas, for practical proposals to work around the roadblocks, for visions of the better world that can emerge as we unite our forces and move forward. We need to define actions that can start now.
Among these efforts, the Global Governance Forum and the Bahá’í International Community’s United Nations Office are organising a high-level side event on A Second Charter: Imagining a Renewed United Nations. This includes Collective Security and Disarmament, Sustainable Futures, and Imagining a Renewed United Nations. The International Environment Forum is holding six virtual events on the theme Implementing Solidarity – Global to Local, including What have we learned? – Sharing Local Experiences and Case Studies, Trust and Accountability: Bringing Values into our Future, Community engagement and diverse representation for social transformation, Global Environmental Governance, Global Solidarity Accountability: Values for Well-being, and a discussion on Where Do We Go from Here? Many other events are going in the same direction.
The challenge then for this high level week is to build a union of constructive forces, finding ways around the obstacles, to create a momentum for breakthroughs. This can inspire the younger generations to resist the negative forces that surround them and the self-serving commercial interests that try to trap them. They will then be able to prepare themselves for constructive careers, to engage in social action wherever they live, and to take part in positive discourses on the better future we can build together. May this week be an important step forward in pursuit of hope.
Last updated 14 September 2023