Friday, September 22, 2006

The United Nations: Fix it, before it’s too late

By Nicholas Allanach

The 61st meeting of the United Nation’s General Assembly was likely one of the most contentious. Clearly reform is needed. However, it would be foolish to assume change should only happen to the UN alone; after all, action cannot be taken (such as sending a peacekeeping force to stop the Janjaweed initiated genocide in Darfur) if individual members of the body are unable to agree on ways—or more importantly, commit resources—to deal with such crises. Reform can only take place if members agree to build more bridges than they prefer to perpetually burn down.

The United Nations was established as a governing body to maintain peace and assure economic stability while encouraging cooperation amongst its diverse members. Unfortunately, this past week revealed how dangerously close this body is in becoming completely ineffectual. A scary thought, indeed; especially when considering the highly flammable geopolitical landscape that is either smoldering one week or exploding the next. Admittedly, no organization is perfect; moreover, to place all the weight of this very heavy world on the back of one system alone is bound to bring Atlas (no matter how strong) to his quivering knees. Thus, the real road to reform begins with the individual members themselves.

Secretary General Koffi Annan—in his farewell address to the Assembly—candidly explained that "an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law…have not resolved, but [have] sharpened" during his tenor, which will, presumably, end on December 31st. Who will take over for Secretary Annan is anyone’s guess; nevertheless, whomever takes over for him should pay heed to his observation or else suffer the consequences of governing an inept and/or failed body.

Of course, it is not at all surpising to see the UN trying to hang on to some kind of legitimacy. After all, when the world is in such turmoil, why wouldn’t this same world’s voice and face suffer the same? Arguably, we can look back over the past half decade and see an increasly banal and cynical environment developing. Much of this cynicism could be a result of the bullying tactics of the United States, whose go-it-alone arrogance and deceiptful presentation to the security council before the lead up to war in Iraq has, in fact, created a climate of hypocrisy and suspicion. Why wouldn’t Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez give a raucous (and at times pertinent) assessment of the UN and its obvious pandering to US interests? If President Bush can get out front of this international body and assume his government deserves the right to have the last word in all instances, then why shouldn’t other members decide to call his bluf and become just as arrogant? Ahmadinejad may be a theocratic whack-job, but he makes a good point when asking, “If the US or the UK…commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the organs of the UN can take them to account?”

Like John Bolton’s hair-do, the UN desperately needs a make-over an dpart of this new look should be to consider the power the US holds over this body. Unfortunately, such change cannot take place until a certain amount of respectability is regained on the lecturn. It is not in anyone’s best interest to avoid or insult presidents and representatives of the UN (sorry John for ragging on your hair). When dialogue breaks down, violence is the inevitable result. Thus, if the UN and the individual members that make up its body are unable to begin speaking to eachother coherently, frankly, and respectfully, one can only expect larger disagreements –such as the very conflicts the UN was established to prevent.

A scary thought, indeed.

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