At 70, the United Nations is a necessary talking shop

Seven decades is a long time, and 192 states is a big mosaic representing race, religions and regions. Peace is not a common practise. The struggle for freedom and dignity is a human trait, but modern history suggests that it has been deficient. One organization, with all its satellite sub-organizations, is too little to cope with policing the daily grind of life, its natural disasters, death, hunger and conflicts.

Depending on the prism from which you look at the world today, you either see the United Nations as a relevant keeper of minimal common denominator of entente in the world, or you see that it has outgrown itself, and is a huge machine that freezes conflicts and issues, and delivers moderate results compared to the charter it once upheld, and that is to promote security and peace in the world.

It is difficult to see how relevant the United Nations is in today’s world, and one must not fool himself or expect much.

Mohamed Chebarro

The United Nations at 70 is the single diplomatic umbrella that keeps many discussions going. Those discussions could be about saving the planet in the face of global warming created by mankind, as we are often told. Or they could be about abolishing poverty and meeting millennium targets to close the wealth gap, specially that we are told the world is rich and can still feed its people.

Some discussions could be more pressing: about feeding refugees, protecting monuments or animals from extinction, or managing world population movement and distribution. However, the United Nations has become a specialist in discussions on resolving conflicts or preventing them from expanding.

To be fair, in the post-World War II era the best option was to divide everything where possible to appease ever-opposed East and West camps, led by the Soviet Union and the United States, respectively. As a result, Korea was split, Israel was established, Palestine is still waiting to be born, South Sudan emerged, and Yugoslavia became six nations.

The Kurds have so far managed autonomy in Iraq, with the hope of uniting Kurdish ethnic regions in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey in order to create historic greater Kurdistan. These are only small examples concerning what the United Nations did or did not do.

In recent years, U.N. work has dwindled to expressions of concern, condemnation, and calls on nations to abide by its charter, refrain from violence and uphold human rights

Mohamed Chebarro

It stood witness to genocides in Rwanda and Burundi, failed to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo, and failed to unite Afghanistan or carve it up - the same might be true for Iraq, and tomorrow Syria and Libya.
The United Nations also failed to curb the atomic arms race, and members of the nuclear club are growing in number, with Iran’s latest agreement to freeze at best its knowledge and activities, not cancel its ambition to be a nuclear player.

Relevance

It is difficult to see how relevant the United Nations is in today’s world, and one must not fool himself or expect much. The organization and its member states mirror the divided world and the many polarized interests of its many nations. It seems that no action is seen as essential to this organization’s survival. It remains a soft power handicapped by its members states’ many lobbies that define the world’s priorities.

Nothing irritates one more than hearing the vacant U.N. statement about its concerns over the fate of refugees or fighting in Syria, the bombing of mosques in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, and allegations bordering on crimes against humanity by Kurds against Arabs in Iraq, or by Shiite militia against Sunni civilians in Iraq’s war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In recent years, U.N. work has dwindled to expressions of concern, condemnation, and calls on nations to abide by its charter, refrain from violence and uphold human rights. As a journalist covering the Middle East and international affairs, it is often frustrating to listen to U.N. statements concerning natural or man-made crises.
Therefore, I would not go as far as the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon when he said: “Seven decades after its founding, the United Nations remains a beacon for all humanity.” Instead, I would endorse the organization’s real function as a forum that encourages warring parties to carry on talking. A marketing campaign for British Telecom in the 1990s advised us that “it’s good to talk.” The United Nations at 70 should borrow that slogan.
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Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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