Founded after the devastation of World War II, the United Nations (UN) has enshrined in its charter that all people are equal and entitled to the same respect, justice and human rights.
On the organisation’s 75th anniversary and the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN released a 30-minute film, directed by renowned film maker, Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and produced by the documentary film company, 72 Films.
Featuring leading activists – such as education advocate and UN Messenger of Peace, Malala Yousafzai, UN Goodwill Ambassadors Don Cheadle (UNEP) and Michelle Yeoh (UNDP), Sustainable Development Goals Advocate and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace, Forest Whitaker, actor and women’s rights activist Thandie Newton OBE, and Professor of Educational Technology, Sugata Mitra – the short film, titled “Nations United – Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times”, presents the world in the midst of a global pandemic that is already transforming it, setting out some hard facts and statistics about what must be done to tackle the world’s biggest issues in four chapters, each with a strong message of action and hope.
“Nothing can be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine the world anew. This one is no different. It’s a portal. A gateway between one world and the next.” – From ‘The Pandemic is a Portal’ by Arundhati Roy.
Chapter 1: Climate and Planet
This chapter provides a reminder that climate change is man made, its main driver is CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels and extreme weather displaces 20 million people a year. Examples of this displacement are clear for the world to see, from the devastating Australian bush fires and wild fires in Northern California, the deadly tropical Cyclone Amphan that battered areas of India and Bangladesh, floods in Jakarta, and locust swarms in East Africa.
The action needed:
- Half global emissions by 2030
- Invest in renewable energy
- No new coal plants
- Stop subsidising fossil fuels
- Shift tax from payrolls to carbon
- Stop deforestation, plant trees instead of chopping them down
- Consume responsibility
- Embrace healthy, nutritious diets and sustainable farming
- Reduce food waste
“Climate change and our treatment of the natural world are colliding and exacerbating each other to create a perfect storm. This cannot go on.” – Don Cheadle speaking in “Nations United”.
Chapter 2: Poverty and Inequality
Poverty is not natural, it’s man made. So it is not inevitable. One billion people have been lifted out of poverty from 1990 to 2015. But still, 10% of the human race live in extreme poverty, largely determined by where and what circumstances they were born into.
The action needed:
- Spend more public money on affordable, quality healthcare, including tools to fight Covid
- Provide social protection, workers’ rights, living wage and a limit on hours of work for everyone
- Access to quality education for all
- Access to the internet for everyone
- Fix the financial system to be one that works for everyone – including cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, which takes money away from crucial services, such as health, education, protection and green jobs
- Fix the debt problem
- Invest globally in peace
- Have free and fair elections
- Ensure a free, independent media and responsible social media platforms that encourage healthy debate
Chapter 3: Justice and Human Rights
Centred on a powerful reading from George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, this chapter focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement and includes a performance by Grammy Nominated Singer, Burna Boy, whilst reminding us that injustice – whether because of race, sex, religion, opinions, disability or other differences – is everywhere and is intolerable wherever it occurs.
“People [are] fighting for justice. But fighting for your justice, not just mine. And to see that without your justice, mine won’t be fulfilled either.” Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN.
Chapter 4: Gender Equality
The film’s presenter, Thandie Newton, reminds us that the majority of the world’s leaders, climate negotiators, decision makers and people at the peace table are men, despite the fact that when peace settlements include women, the negotiations and outcomes are more durable.
Newton goes on to detail hard statistics about domestic violence against women, the global gender pay gap and the ongoing issue of under-age marriage. This chapter also tells the story of the UN’s Messenger of Peace and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, who had a message for young people:
“My message right now is to young people. We are living in a world where things are not the way we want; we are getting a system, we are getting a world which is unequal, which is sexist, which is racist. We have systems which are discriminating against people, our climate or environment is at risk. There is so much that needs to be done but I hope that young people stand up, raise their voices, they start their activism right now.” – Malala Yousafzai.
The action needed:
- More women in positions of power at every level of government
- End laws that discriminate, so every women is entitled to a job, a national ID card and to own property (at a minimum)
- Women must be able to live free from violence and have the right to make decisions over their bodies and lives
- Full access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights
- Invest in female education and achieve economic empowerment for women
Epilogue: It can be done
A message of hope – we all have a part to play and it is possible to achieve all of this. There is power in every decision we make.
“Let’s be humble. Let’s recognise our fragilities. And let’s understand that only in unity and solidarity will we be able to address them.” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN.
And if you haven’t shed a tear yet, the film ends with a performance of “I was here” by the Queen herself – Beyonce.
Watch the full film below:
What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
On 25 September 2015, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). These are a series of ambitious objectives and targets to end extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change, by 2030:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and well-being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitisation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals