Looking back at the year 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summed it up in two words: “breakthrough and horror.”
On the positive side, as the UN turned 70 it took landmark steps toward charting a better future for people and the planet – adopting, in September, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 goals to end poverty and build peaceful societies.
Then, in December, countries adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, which after years of negotiations, surpassed expectations, according to the UN chief. “World leaders recognized that we could and must do better than settling for the lowest common denominator. So they reached higher,” he said.
Another milestone for the year included, in July, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – a blueprint for financing for development. “Investing in development early will avert crises down the road,” Mr. Ban said. Earlier, countries signed on to the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction – a plan to make the world safer from natural disasters that have been occurring with increased frequency.
But 2015 was also marked by upheaval and human suffering at levels not seen in a generation. With conflicts raging in many parts of the world, scores of people were compelled to flee their homes in record-breaking numbers and global forced displacement topped 60 million for the first time.
At the same time, extreme storms, drought and earthquakes threatened the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. The UN and its partners launched their largest-ever humanitarian appeal to deliver life-saving aid to more than 87.6 million people in need across 37 countries, most of which are in conflict.
The year was also witness to a proliferation of bombings, mass shootings and other atrocities committed in the name of religious extremism. In a Security Council debate on conflict prevention, Mr. Ban stressed that counter-terrorism efforts must also tackle root causes such as bad governance, injustice and exclusion. He also warned against reprisals against Muslims. At a meeting of the UN General Assembly on the refugee crisis that took place in the shadow of recent terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, top UN officials made a plea for countries not to shut their doors to refugees in the name of security.
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