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What the UN Is and What It Is Not

September 20, 2023

The 78th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly began this week at its headquarters on the East River of New York City. Its name seems misleading today, Orwellian, as nations are far from being united. Obviously, this was the hope and goal of its founders when the international organization was established after the end of World War II. The aim and hope of its founders was that the UN would contribute to the maintenance of global peace. To prevent humanity from experiencing a similar tragedy again.

However, in parallel, they also established the Security Council – another Orwellian name – and gave each of its 5 permanent members – China, Russia, France, England, and the United States – the right to veto. Therefore, no decision can be made on major issues that come to its doorstep without the approval of all members of the Security Council. This is a rare occurrence.

Moreover, it is important to remember that the UN does not have its own Armed Forces. Therefore, even in the rare case that the members of the Security Council agree on a crisis, they have no way to enforce their decision. The UN does have peacekeeping forces, which it deploys after the event, as is the case in Cyprus.

I am making this introduction to get to my main point about what the UN is and what it is not.

What it is, and is indeed very useful, is a gathering place for leaders from all over the world – 193 countries are its members – to discuss and perhaps raise awareness of international issues. Because often, the discussion of national problems faced by countries is politically sensitive, and meetings of leaders in their own countries are not feasible. The UN provides an opportunity for such meetings – even secret ones – without causing a sense of insult to the national dignity.

Furthermore, the UN provides the opportunity for multiple meetings among leaders who are gathered in one place, something that would otherwise be impossible.

Additionally, through their speeches at the UN, leaders ‘communicate’ with each other and with the internal audience of their own countries.

Therefore, the UN facilitates the conduct of meetings and contacts, and sometimes offers ideas and suggestions for mediation, discussion of issues, and conflict resolution. But it does not really solve problems.

It still has a significant moral influence but no practical power. And in our era, the moral aspect does not prevail. The power of weapons prevails. And then come the UN peacekeeping troops.

Unfortunately, the UN provides the cover that heads of states need to hide their responsibility, their inadequacy, their inaction. They can talk without needing to act.

Time is our enemy; it erodes our memory – and it does not work in favor of the victims, those who have a reason for the UN to urgently solve their problems. And the UN gives leaders time. Because above all, it wants to ignore problems. It provides an alibi to politicians.

It is indifferent to the victims.


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