United Nations Needs Streamlining

Article excerpt

As a member of the Council to the United Nations Association, I spent two days recently consulting at the United Nations in New York. The secretary general, Kofi Annan, spoke at dinner reminding the 60-member group of the complexities of the 191 nations (192 if one includes the Holy See) that make up the United Nations.

The association has existed for some 40 years, urging, exhorting and inspiring the United Nations to streamline its outdated and ineffective structures. The obsolete mechanisms of the United Nations are self-evident. There is no reason why the victors in a war that ended in 1945 should be the five supreme rulers of an organization that embraces 6.1 billion persons alive today. Nor should a tiny nation like Togo have a vote equivalent to that cast

The United Nations Association and the World Federalists have been advocating the reform of the United Nations for many years. But a visit of 36 hours at the United Nations makes vivid the realization that it cannot be reformed without the active leadership of the United States. That leadership is nowhere in sight. Indeed it is clear in talking to the leaders of the United Nations that the United States is the elephant in the parlor. The United States has openly defied the United Nations in its war in Iraq. It has also aggressively opposed the development of the International Criminal Court, which would be a permanent Nuremberg--ideal for the forthcoming trial in Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

Kofi Annan, who grew up in Ghana, is a skilled diplomat who expressed in forthright terms his gratitude for the existence and the work of the United Nations Association. He also made clear that he is aware of the deep-seated indifference, even hostility, to the United Nations in parts of the American society. Among the influential people on the Council to the United Nations Association is the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Conference of Churches and a former member of Congress from Pennsylvania. He noted that United Nations Day, Oct. 24, falls this year on a Sunday. He expressed the hope that the 50 million congregants in the National Conference of Churches could this year, along with all believers, expressly pray for the United Nations that day. His pleas reminded me of the failure of Catholic leaders to work actively for restructuring the United Nations. For 50 years several popes have spoken to the General Assembly. …