Time for change at the UN?

James Brennan ’21
Chief Editor

I’ve always thought that we need a Canadian as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Not to dive into clichés and stereotypes, but we have a solid track record of producing great leaders on the world stage: people like Lester B. Pearson, Roméo Dallaire, Chris Hadfield, and Stephen Lewis come to mind. Canada has consistently been a key contributor to peacekeeping missions, humanitarian efforts, emergency relief, and global development. So why haven’t we run the UN?

Throughout the UN’s 75-year history, there have been nine secretaries-general, hailing from a variety of countries, including Norway, Peru, South Korea, and Ghana. In February, 34-year-old Arora Akanksha made history by announcing that she’d be the first person to challenge an incumbent secretary-general. While her candidacy might seem like a long shot, there are reasons to celebrate this shake to the system. After spending her early life in India and Saudi Arabia, Ms. Arora (her family name) came to Canada to pursue administrative studies at York University. From there, she went on to work as an audit coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme in New York City.

Ms. Arora’s platform is simple: it’s time for a change at the UN. Too much of the UN’s budget is wasted on administrative costs and bureaucracy instead of actual solutions to problems. Her three main promises are an end to the refugee crisis, concrete action against climate change, and expanding access to technology and education. This includes more funding for humanitarian solutions, youth empowerment, sustainable development, and improvements to internet access around the globe. She believes in a new generation of leaders, female empowerment, and enabling the UN to live up to its original promises.

Her opponent is António Guterres, the current secretary-general. The 72-year-old is a former Portuguese prime minister and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He is running for his second term after a contested election in 2016. Guterres has the support of the UN establishment-types, and his election to a second term is still seen as incontrovertible. For someone to be considered an official candidate, they must be sponsored by at least one UN member state. Ms. Arora has spoken with the Canadian government to request its support, but she (so far) does not have it.

The Canadian government should nominate Ms. Arora to show that we are unafraid to challenge the status quo and provide a new vision for the UN. Many people have become disillusioned with the UN, thinking it’s just a good-for-nothing bunch of political hacks that would rather obstruct than make progress.

While there is some truth to that, the UN is the only international organization that brings together the countries of the world, so I believe reform is better than renunciation. This 2021 secretary-general election is riddled with flaws—Ms. Arora has slammed it as a “hypocritical sham”—but if the UN wants to show its commitment to fairness and transparency, they’ll let Ms. Arora run.

Note: as The Crusader News went to print, Mr. Guterres was re-elected for his second term on June 18, 2021. He faced no verified challengers.

Photo Credit: Investopedia/Charles Potters

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