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Thu 24 Feb 2011 05:58 PM

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Libya prompts a key question: what is the point of the United Nations?

Anil Bhoyrul ponders what, if anything, the United Nations' Ban Ki-moon has done for the Middle East

Libya prompts a key question: what is the point of the United Nations?
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General

Did
you see the speech? Rather silly wasn’t it. A bit of a ramble, often
incoherent, and at the end of it I was asking myself several questions. Why did
I waste my time listening to this man again? What exactly is the point of him?
How did he ever become leader in the first place? What will it really take to
get rid of him?

I
am talking about Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General. As the
Middle East and North Africa faces seismic changes - not to mention, as I write
this, unbelievable violence and carnage in Libya - the man we should be looking
to for leadership and solutions has again proved to be an irrelevance. If you think
that’s harsh, you should read a report from the UN’s own internal audit office
which recently warned that his leadership was “drifting into irrelevance.”

Let’s
take a quick look at Ban Ki-moon’s recent work. As Tunisia fell, he had
absolutely nothing to say. When Egypt fell, he had absolutely nothing to say.
When Muammar Gaddafi sent fighter jets to bomb his own people, and fly in death
squads from North Africa to continue his murderous reign, what did Ban Ki-moon
(and by definition the UN) do? Erm, nothing.

Well,
actually, to be fair to him, on Monday he did at least call Gaddafi, the guy he
had been cozying up to at the G8 leaders’ summit last March.

Hours
later, Gaddafi appeared live on television vowing to do a Tiananmen Square on
his own people.

Good
work, fella.

While
Libyans have been begging the outside world to come and rescue them – or at
least put in a no-fly zone to stop them being bombed – Ban Ki-moon has talked
about holding a security council meeting. No such meeting has happened.  It took him four days to even string together
a vaguely worded statement condemning Gaddafi’s actions.

On
Thursday 24 February, as massive global effort was underway to evacuate foreign
citizens from Libya, the UN boss vowed “to monitor the situation closely.”

Let’s
stop being nice about this. Ban Ki-moon is the eighth UN Secretary General, and
surely the very worst of the lot.  

Though
ironically, he may turn out to be the most significant. Thanks to his failure
to resolve or influence any recent world crisis (especially in the Arab world),
many nations are rightly now wondering what exactly is the point of the United
Nations. Does anyone take any notice what it says anymore?

Having
been founded in 1945 as a replacement to the League of Nations, the UN’s
official mandate is “facilitating cooperation in international law,
international security, economic development, social progress, human rights,
and achievement of world peace.”

 It all sounds very fancy, but does it actually
mean anything? Israel, as an example, has ignored 47 – yes 47 – of the
resolutions the UN has passed against it, yet is still one of the 192 member
states.  The most recent of these was
Resolution 1860 on January 9 2009, calling for “a full cessation of war between
Israel and Hamas.”

Like
Ban Ki-moon’s call to Gaddafi on Monday, nobody’s listening anymore.

Former
US president George Bush completely ignored the UN’s wishes when he stormed
into Iraq in 2003.  The UN’s only notable
contribution to the conflict in Iraq was its oil-for-food programe, which was exposed
in 2005 as being riddled with corruption.

So
where does all this leave Ban Ki-moon? There are two issues here, the UN and
him. Little has changed at the UN since 1945. Now would be a good time for
member states to look at the set up, structure and authority of the UN – and
what can be done to rescue it from its current status. Yes, I know the UN does
some great work on the humanitarian front, but maybe that is all it should be
employed to do.

As
for Ban Ki-moon, he will be up for re-election next year. During his last
campaign, his official bio claimed he was fluent in both English and French.
When he completely failed to answer questions in French during a Paris press
conference, he rather embarrassingly told reporters: “My French perhaps could
be improved, and I am continuing to work. I have taken French lessons over the
last few months. I think that, even if my French isn't perfect, I will continue
to study it.”

I
suspect he will soon have plenty of time to perfect his French.

 

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Neil 9 years ago

It is unfortunate but the guys who would be good in this role are never allowed to do it as the horse trading between regions and countries means they always go for someone they can push around or tell them what to do. Oh and as for getting rid of the UN it wont happen because there are far too many nice cushy positions for ex-politicains and civil servants to jump on to once they get shoved out of their own countries political systems. Note that UN folk tend to get paid fantastic salaries, access to duty free stuff (certainly within Europe), UN passports, gold plated pensions, kids through school/college etc etc, complete gravy train and no-one to tell it to stop...

HD 9 years ago

It seems that the UN has become an underdog of the rich and influential members !

So much can be done to bring it back to it's feet .....

gordon 9 years ago

in fact during the voting to expel Libya from the Human Rights comission, the people who voted against it was Russia,, various Islamic and Arabic states.

This does not sound like the members you were referring to.

gordon 9 years ago

HD that is an incorrect statement.
Economic and Social Council
Brazil, Cameroon, China, Congo, Iceland, Malaysia, Mozambique, Moldova, New Zealand, Niger, Pakistan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia

Check the other organisations.
Why do people always say it is run by the rich and powerful.

Libya is on the Human Rights Council

Saudi is on the Womans Human rights organisation.

It would appear that the UN is being run by the people it was designed to stop.

Abusidra 9 years ago

scrap the veto thing and make it irrelevant and the rest will collapse itself. How logical is it that 192 = 1 US veto favoring Israel?

KF 9 years ago

When has the UN been ever effective? Actions or whatever for the current events, Tunisia,Egypt, Libya etc, are no surprises to the capability of UN. this was very well demonstrated in Iraq when the Powers were making a case for the "WMD's" - which have been very elusive or invisible - or only visible to USA & UK. UN is nothing but a tool of the powerful, so forget it. It should be disbanded.

Francis G 9 years ago

Would Shashi Tharoor have made a better Secretary General? He withdrew his candidacy due to lack of support from the United States and Europe. In Ban Ki Moon the US/Europe seem to have got the person they wanted in that position - irrelevant.

Telcoguy 9 years ago

As logical as china vetoing anything about Sudan or Myanmar I guess.
You can nor have both an effective UN and national sovereignty as we understand it now, so while I agree that the US position on Anything related to Israel defies logic and morality, many other countries would oppose any serious reform that could solve it. Remember Israel may be the first, but then anyone could be next.

gordon 9 years ago

why is it always anti-america??

the one veto applies to more than just the USA. it is used many times by China, Russia etc.

pointing the finger at just one of the parties using the power of veto is not putting forward a balanced argument, merely bias...and this is what you are supposed to be fighting about....

Stephen 9 years ago

The UN.... hmmmmm....

Wonder where they were when almost 1,000,000 innocent people were raped, tortured, mutilated, murdered, buried in mass graves, amongst other unthinkable atrocities in Rwanda in only 3 months...

The UN security council then sat down and debated the issue and took another 6 years (Saturday 15 April 2000) to actually man up and say, yes we are completely responsible for failing to prevent the genocide.

What a waste of time the UN is. It's leaders are also puppets to the superpowers, China, Russia, the US, etc. It's so sad, I don't even bother listening to them talk... Boutros, Annan and now Moon.... and so the saga continues for this defunct organisation..

I guess in today's world, failure to lead, to stand up and be counted, to stand up for what is moral and right is acceptable.