There has been a lot said about the United Nations. In his speech before the General Assembly, President Trump said the U.N. had a bloated bureaucracy.
He said: "In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement. … We are not seeing the results in line with this investment." He also criticized the United Nations treatment of Israel. Trump said in his speech last week, "[There's] such tremendous potential, and I think we'll be able to do this," arguing that the U.N. can be great.
I have covered the United Nations for many years now, and there are certainly problems. Any institution that has 193 countries represented would have problems. That number of countries represents many different kinds of people and cultures. However, it is important to know what the United Nations does.
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Last week was the opening of the General Assembly. Many meetings took place that showed what the United Nations does. The Security Council took up arms and other issues happening with the Central African Republic, or CAR. It had established a panel of experts on the Central African Republic. It found that "Illegal exploitation of natural recourses by the armed groups and arms-trafficking from several neighboring states continued in violation of the sanctions regime." In addition, "[The] Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic expressed the view that the cooperation of regional states was crucial in ensuring the implementation of the travel ban … countering illicit arms-trafficking and cross-border smuggling of natural resources." This may seem to be a no-brainer to those reading this column, but without the U.N., none of this would come to light – let alone be stopped or even to have a representative from CAR make a statement.
On Sept. 20, the secretary general said: "For almost 20 years, with the sole exception of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (known to Americans as North Korea), all counties possessing nuclear weapons have help to create a global culture against nuclear testing through their voluntary unilateral moratoria. The voluntary moratorium is the pillar of the global norm against nuclear testing."
We now know that the U.S. and North Korea are talking, but how much of that has taken place due to what the United Nations has done? We don't know, but I would hazard a guess that, without the United Nations, there would be no discussion.
Perhaps one of the most recent interventions has been in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). On Friday, the secretary general's spokesperson said the U.N. disagreed with statements made by press in Myanmar. The resident coordinator in Myanmar has also been working with a wide range of human rights groups. He also said the secretary general wants the return of refugees. Over a half million people have fled to Bangladesh. An invitation was extended for the secretary general to visit. The secretary general has now taken the invitation under consideration. Before the development of the U.N., there would have been no resident coordinator, and there would have been no invitation to visit. It would have been an isolated country with the world not caring. Now, things are so very different.
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The U.S. left Iraq. Many have questioned the wisdom of going in the first place and leaving there as well. However, now a good portion of the world is working together to defeat ISIS or, as it is also called, Ds'esh. The Security Council has met and unanimously decided to collect evidence of war crimes by Ds'esh. That is extraordinary, as it is often difficult to get the Security Council to unanimously agree on anything. There is a veto that certain countries can use with the Security Council, but unanimously agreeing is something quite different. It shows that, on issues such as war crimes, there can be a united front from all the world's major powers. Sweden weighed in on the treatment of women. The United Kingdom also voiced its opinion and support, as did Ambassador Nikki Haley. Also China and Russia were heard, not just their votes but also their actual support for holding ISIS/ Ds'esh accountable.
The U.N. has problems. Anyone who spends time there can tell you that. However, it is the only world body we have. It is the only world body that can hold people responsible for war crimes and can put governments around the same table. We need to recognize its function and support what it does. Changes to be made? Yes, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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