The United Nations, the leading international organization for the preservation and promotion of world peace and security, celebrates 74 years since the ratification of its founding Charter, with which the organization began working to maintain peace and security in the world, promote friendship among nations, improve the standard of living and defend human rights.
The United Nations has become the principal forum for addressing issues that transcend national borders and cannot be resolved by a country acting alone, whether diplomatic, economic or humanitarian. Together with its specialised bodies, the UN has been adding new objectives throughout these seven decades such as climate change, refugees, education, the empowerment of women, the peaceful use of atomic energy and AIDS, in which Spain has played a very important role.
Spain has not only become a global benchmark in the fight against international terrorism, the protection of human rights, especially gender equality, and sustainable development, among others, but also one of the largest contributors to UN funding and one of the countries most involved in peace missions.
States unite to preserve peace
October 24th marks the anniversary of when the United Nations Charter came into force in 1945, but the idea of an international organization that would bring together all the States of the world to foster friendship among nations and defend peace as a unifying force which would allow them to work towards achieving universal goals.
Prior to the formation of the United Nations, an organization called the League of Nations existed. The organization was established in 1919, but the outbreak of the Second World War exposed the failure of this organization. It was not until the end of the conflict that the representatives of 51 States drafted and signed the United Nations Charter. Now, there are 193 member states, the last of them South Sudan, which joined in 2011.
Spain’s commitment to the United Nations
Spain has a fundamental role in the United Nations, derived from its weight on a global level and within the organization itself. Sixty-four years together have served to reinforce Spain’s commitment to the principles, values and work of the UN.
Spain joined the UN in 1955 after (in 1946) the UN ruled in resolution 39 that, for as long as Franco’s regime lasted, Spain could not be part of the body. In 1950, the UN changed its mind and, in its resolution 386, opted to allow Spain to join the organisation and to lift the diplomatic veto.
Throughout these years, Spain has proved to be a reliable partner, capable of generating consensus and very active in areas such as the fight against terrorism, women’s rights and peace and security. In addition, Spain ranks eleventh on the scale of financial contributions to the United Nations Regular Budget and is a member of the Geneva Group, made up of the largest contributors.
Up to 16 permanent ambassadors have passed through the organization, from José Félix de Lequerica to the current ambassador, Agustín Santos Maraver. One of them, permanent ambassador Jaime de Piniés, became president of the fortieth session of the General Assembly in 1985. In addition, today Spain has more than 1,500 Spanish professionals working at the United Nations.
The Spanish Government has been a member of the United Nations Security Council on five occasions and hopes that for the biennium 2031-2032 it will be re-elected as a non-permanent member, as it was in the bienniums 1969-1970, 1981-1982, 1993-1994 and 2003-2004 and 2015-2016, approximately once a decade.
Spain is now a member of the Human Rights Council again during the 2018-2020 mandate, after a first period between 2011 and 2013. In addition, our country, a world leader in organ donations, will this year chair the United Nations Humanitarian Donor Group and also return to the donor community of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with a donation of 100 million euros in five years.
Spain leads the fight against climate change and inequality at the UN
Spain showed its commitment to the current challenges of climate change and inequality once again at the last Climate Action Summit, organised at the United Nations headquarters in New York, in which our country has led, together with Peru, an international initiative on climate justice that has managed to involve 45 Member States in order to include women in decision-making against climate change and to promote air quality and just transition.
The acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has also announced that Spain will contribute 150 million euros to the Green Climate Fund over the next few years and another 100 million euros over five years to the United Nations Joint Fund for Sustainable Development Goals.
Spain has always demonstrated its solidarity and is a partner committed to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it stands out in several development sectors such as access to water and sanitation and is instrumental in the fight against poverty. In this area, Spain has shown itself to be a pioneer in establishing the only logistics centre for the distribution of humanitarian aid in Europe in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Gender equality is another area in which Spain has become a reference with initiatives such as supporting the creation of UN Women, in which our country has been the main contributor. Within the framework of our mandate as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, we got behind the process of revising Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, which led to the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2242 on 13 October 2015.
Spain’s commitment to peace and the protection of human rights
The fight against terrorism, the defence of human rights, strengthening peace and disarmament structures are just some of the ways in which Spain has contributed to the United Nations.
Spain was involved in the creation of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council and has participated in agreements on international judicial cooperation in the area of terrorism.
Likewise, in its years at the United Nations, Spain has also contributed to strengthening disarmament and non-proliferation policies. This work was recognized in 2015 with the Spanish presidency of three committees linked to disarmament and non-proliferation issues during our presence as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
Spain has also opted for mediation and preventive diplomacy. In this area, Spain, together with Turkey, launched the Alliance of Civilizations; the Mediterranean Mediation Initiative, launched jointly with Morocco; and the Centre for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue KAIICID, created in 2012 by Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia and the Holy See.
Since the transition to democracy, Spain’s commitment to human rights has been unwavering, both in their protection and in their promotion. In particular, Spain’s action in this area focuses on abolishing the death penalty, non-discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, the protection of human rights defenders, the rights of people with disabilities and access to drinking water and sanitation.
Spain has been contributing to United Nations peacekeeping operations for 30 years, having participated in some 50 missions on four continents in which it has deployed more than 160,000 civilian and military personnel, as well as State Security Forces. At present, the Spanish military effort in United Nations operations is concentrated in Lebanon, while the National Police Force and the Guardia Civil make an outstanding contribution to police forces in Colombia, as well as in other Missions in Mali, the Central African Republic and Haiti. In addition, our country is the tenth largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget.