Saturday, May 24, 2008

The United Nations – Still Relevant?

When I was in the eighth grade in 1969, my class took a trip to New York City. The city was not in the best shape at the time, but we saw some memorable sights like the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, and the construction of the World Trade Center. But one place that had an amazingly peaceful atmosphere was the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The predominant color was a mild green, and the size of the cavernous room almost made for a cathedral-like environment. I was in awe. At the time, I thought that the UN was this place where worldly good was done, where officials protected and defended the people of the world who possibly could not protect themselves. As I grew older, I realized that I was just romanticizing what the UN stood for.

The United Nations was established in 1945, as a vehicle for world nations to avert war and to exchange dialog on their respective issues. Their focus is on peacekeeping and humanitarian issues. While the United Nations headquarters is in New York City, it’s considered international territory. There are other satellite locations in Geneva, Vienna, The Hague, and many others.

What I find disappointing is that it seems all the UN does now is talk, and this has been their method of operation for a long time. They talk and discuss and pontificate about world matters, and then do nothing. Genocide took place in Iraq, yet the UN refused to take significant action in the matter. Sadly, the US then went to war in Iraq, but not for the right reasons. The UN should have stepped in earlier, along with other countries, to stop the murders. And now, we see the same type situation – possibly worse – in areas of Africa such as Darfur. I don’t see the UN stepping in with any military initiatives to stop the senseless killing and starving of people in Africa. The UN also seemed slow to act in forcing any issue of aid to the people in Myanmar who were catastrophically affected by the recent typhoon.

If the UN can’t take any kind of aggressive action against what are clearly heinous crimes against humanity, then my opinion is that they are nothing but a group of ineffective, bloviating officials. If they were run like a business, they would have been out of business long ago for not living up to its mission and not taking care of its “customers” – people around the world.

It may be time for the UN to rethink its existence – or to find a way to reinvent itself so it can become what it aspires to be – peacekeepers and humanitarians.

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