Saturday, July 17, 2004

UN relevance.


         Over the last 2 years, the U.N has been the subject of great debate in America. The relevance of the U.N has come into question and many have called for the disavowal of the organization, or doomed it to the fate of its predecessor the League of Nations. One of the greatest proponents of withdrawal is former U.S congressman Joe Scaborough. In 1995 Scaborough introduced the "U.N withdrawal act of 1995" to the United States congress. If this bill had been enacted into law, the U.S would have withdrawn from the U.N by the year 2000. According to a summary of the bill, the rationale for withdrawing was: " The United Nations no longer serves the national interests [of the U.S], has become a bureaucratic nightmare consuming $4 billion to not positive end" (American society of international law 2). In a 2003 broadcast of his T.V show MSNBC Reports (Now Scaborough country), Scaborough, identified a number of other issues that make him and others believe that the U.N is an irrelevant organization. Principal among them was the debate on what to do with Iraq, in light of its failure to disarm. He pointed out that 17 resolutions had been passed in 12 years, but Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction. He also pointed out the fact that the head of the U.N human rights committee was none other than Libya, a country with one of the worst human rights records; moreover, that thousands had died in Rwanda and Bosnia due to U.N inaction. In addition, he argued that the U.N has become a mere debating society that is weak kneed, refuses to enforce its resolutions, panders to the despots of this world, is anti-American and a colossal waste of American taxpayers money. And now the OIL FOR FOOD SCANDAL.These are views that have become quite prevalent in the last couple of months and the fervor they are gaining is quite disturbing.
        Is the U.N a relevant organization? Well according to David Scheffer, senior vice president of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A, it is. In October 2002, he gave a talk titled: "The relevance of the U.N and International law" in his presentation he included the following narration: "Imagine standing in a small hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in February 1999 and scattered before you are scores of mutilated children. One young girl, no more than 10, is burned only on the front side of her body, from her face to her toes, because rebels had thrown her into the fire of her burning home. Another teenage girl lies still, her eyes having been incinerated with acid following a gang rape by rebels." (UNAUSA 2).
This is a scene in your typical war zone, may it be Bosnia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, or Liberia. This is what goes on in a war torn country. Untold suffering and pain. The U.N has and will continue to be the most relevant and important international organization in the world. As long as people are in need of assistance, the U.N will live on. Through its various organs the U.N has assisted many people in dire straits; from UNICEF dealing with malnourished children; UNAIDS working to ease the suffering of an AIDS victim, or the UNDP working with a third world country to alleviate poverty and the WFP working to feed Afghans. In its 50 plus years of existence it has done more good than harm and I believe it will continue to do so. These organizations have helped billions of people improve their lives and have a modicum of the life that most Americans would take for granted
        The principle aim of the organization is to foster international peace, this is mainly achieved through debate and open discussion amongst the member states - something that is meant to mimic democracy. So far various conflicts have been averted through this system; an example would be the Cuban missile crisis (it is worth noting that no world war has occurred since its inception). In addition, the U.N has been the purveyor of most international law and has been the principle organ for the legitimization of international law. The laws that deal with interstate relationships, have their roots in this organization and I believe will continue to grow through this organization. One only need to look at such treaties as the nuclear test ban treaty, the Chemical weapons convention, the Biological weapons convention and the universal declaration on human rights. These may not be perfect treaties and not all nations have abided by them, but where would this world be without them? If the U.N were to become irrelevant and abandoned, what would happen to its various organs? What would happen to all the treaties signed under the aegis of the U.N? What will replace the U.N? and what will happen to the various U.N programs currently in progress?
          Does the U.N need reform? In all probability it does. The U.N needs more power in order to deal with emergencies such as Rwanda, Bosnia and now Darfur (issues that
it currently cannot deal with due to questions about sovereignty); more power to enforce resolutions - no country should be allowed to flout any U.N resolution.  And reduced power for the 5 permanent members of the Security Council - issues at the U.N have boiled done to conflict between the permanent 5 far too often.
         Will the above happen, probably not, but should the U.N be abandoned, certainly not. The U.N has weathered many storms and this current debate is but another test to the resilience of its member states to uphold the values that the U.N has been built upon. The debate is lessabout the U.N and more about the member states. As a Constructicist would say:
The U.N is what states make of it.

Works Cited
ASIL. "U.N Withdrawal Act." American Society of International Law Sept 1996: 1

Scheffer, David "The Relevance of the U.N and International Law." United
Nations Association of the U.S.A convention. Dallas. 25th – 26th October


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

AH THANK YOU. i had to do a project on the relevance of UN in today's world and you saved my life. THANKS MATE!!

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