The Un-united Nations

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    UN Members A Bigger Problem than Kofigate
    By Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian
    07sep05

    John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the UN, was roundly condemned for once saying "there is no such thing as the United Nations". Yet Bolton is right. How often has the UN been united enough to act? Not on Iraq. The Security Council passed a dozen or so resolutions against Saddam but enforced none of them. Not in Yugoslavia. The Americans responded to that civil war. Not in Rwanda. Not in Darfur. Not in Zimbabwe.

    Indeed, as The Economist points out, by one count the body set up to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" has sat by while countries have taken up arms against one another 680 times between 1945 and 1989. That's a lot of un-united nations.

    Bolton also once quipped that if the UN secretariat building in New York lost 10 storeys, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Again, he's not far off the mark: if the UN is to continue to do nothing, it may as well do nothing for less money.

    So, where is all this bad news taking us? Next week, at a special world summit in New York, the UN will attempt its biggest overhaul yet. More than 170 world leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard, will listen to highfalutin talk about refocusing the UN to reduce poverty and deal with climate change, genocide, arms control and peacekeeping. There will be much talk about structural reform by introducing more Security Council members. That is all well and good. And the oil-for-food scandal suggests the UN needs a large dose of transparency and the occasional audit. But in the end, the real stumbling block for the UN will always be the same: its members.

    Since its inception, UN supporters have looked to the UN with unworkable idealism about what it represents and what it could achieve. Given that it is nothing more than a collection of despots, dictators and the odd democrat, it was never going to be more than its members allowed it to be. The oil-for-food program was corrupt because members allowed it to be.

    This is not to say the UN is useless. It is a useful talking shop, and to jaw-jaw is, as Winston Churchill said, better than to war-war. Though, even here, don't expect stellar results. The UN hasn't yet agreed on a definition of terrorism, no doubt because some members dabble in terrorism. And therein lies the rub. While reform may at least reduce corruption in the administration of the UN, it can never make member countries less corrupt or more democratic. So, we should never take the UN too seriously. More to the point, we should never cede sovereignty to it. It is, inevitably, as deeply flawed as its members.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,16515960,00.html

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