Saturday, June 30, 2012

The United Nations and the Future We Want

The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization usually referred to as the U.N. That Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, sixty-seven years ago this week.
It took only about four months for the five permanent members of the Security Council and the majority of the other signatories to ratify the Charter. Thus, on October 24, 1945, the U.N. was formally established for the purpose of maintaining peace in the world. 
There are now many critics of the United Nations, as there have been through the years. There are, to be sure, many weaknesses in it—as there are in all human institutions. But, at least and surely partly due to the work of the U.N., there has not been another world war since it was founded in the year the Second World War ended. (It is interesting to note that the Charter was approved even before WWII ended in the Pacific.)
In this country, part of the opposition to the U.N. comes from those who affirm the concept of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism.” If the USA is unique and qualitatively different from all the other countries in the world, belonging to an organization that basically recognizes the equality of nations is not seen as something positive.
For many years the U.N. has been working on issues such as the deterioration of the natural environment and the problem of climate change (global warming). Just last week (June 20-22), the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (That meeting was also called Rio+20, as the Earth Summit was held in Rio in 1992.)
Some people think that concern for the environment is bad for business and say that human-caused global warming is nonsense. Such persons are less than enthusiastic about the work of the U.N. and the UNCSD, which emphasized, among other things, “a green economy.”
On the other hand, before and during the Rio+20 meetings, there was criticism of the UNCSD from the other side of the spectrum. The People’s Summit, which also convened in Rio, charged that the U.N. conference was making too many concessions to the world’s biggest corporations and to global capitalism.
Similarly, according to Ecumenical News International, “The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) said that while the conference’s final document . . . . acknowledged that access to food is a human right, it did not pay adequate attention to needed changes in agriculture that favor the small farmer over big corporations.”
Ban Ki-moon (b. 1944)
The theme of the Rio+20 conference was “The Future We Want.” In a YouTube video, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon spoke about the kind of future he wants: a future where everyone can breathe clean air, drink safe water, and have enough to eat.
Ban’s hopes for the future of humanity are good ones. If the United Nations doesn’t take the lead in seeking to reach those goals for the peoples of the world, who will?


  1. A Thinking Friend in Tennessee sent these comments:

    "I support the basic goals of the UN. I believe that the malfunction of the organization is caused by the same basic problems that also prevent our US government from functioning more effectively: namely, SIN. Greed, pride, the love of power, and similar matters disrupt life that God intended to be better than it is for most of humanity.

    "As persons who know Christ, our failure to follow Christ's will, brings part of the responsibility for humanity's problems back to us who know Him. The Gospel is not only to help individuals achieve a right relationship with God and others, but also to help individuals and people groups to achieve a right relationship with God and with others."

  2. This comment came from a Thinking Friend in Kentucky:

    "Thanks for sounding that positive note for the U.N., Leroy. I cringe to think what our world would be like today without it."

  3. A local Thinking Friend sent the following comments, which I post here with his permission.

    "Although I don't follow the U.N. and its activities closely, I have normally supported its good work.

    "The criticisms I hear most commonly about the U.N. complain about the amount of money the U.S. contributes in relationship to what the U.S. gets out of the U.N. efforts, and about the way deferring to the U.N. may limit American sovereignty and freedom.

    "It's not so clear to me that the U.N. is responsible, partly, for no world wars since WWII. I suppose that 'partly' might range from 1% to 99%, but that doesn't say much. I'm inclined to look first at specific episodes that might have escalated into a larger war. We have the N. Korean invasion of S. Korea, but in that one the U.N. supported military resistance to N.K. And we have the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Kennedy and Khrushchev negotiated, apart from the U.N. if I remember rightly, to stop a war. I suppose that the U.N. might have done something to make war less likely during the Cold War, but I'm not sure how I would go about making a case for this."

  4. Yesterday evening I received this comment from a Thinking Friend in Arizona:

    "Thanks for the blog about the U.N. Only time will tell how effective it has been in keeping world peace but it has made many other humanitarian strides to benefit third-world countries and the environment."