A missed chance for leadership at the UN

Share
Related Topics

It would be naive to imagine that the world leaders who converged on New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week would succeed in resolving international conflict, find ways to defeat global terrorism or end world poverty.

It would be naive to imagine that the world leaders who converged on New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week would succeed in resolving international conflict, find ways to defeat global terrorism or end world poverty.

It is nevertheless regrettable at a time when genocide stalks Sudan, the Middle East peace process is moribund, and Iraq is illegally occupied and in worsening turmoil that a gathering of the planet's heads of state and government could report so few tangible achievements on the crises facing the world.

President George Bush made a grandstanding address on Tuesday in which he ignored the chance the debate offered to admit his mistakes on Iraq and seek international help to begin to put things right. Indeed, the average citizen might well wonder what the UN General Assembly and all its lavish trappings is for. Its resolutions are not binding. The media ignore the speeches of the leaders of the less powerful countries. The leaders themselves barely listen to each other.

But this forum deserves more respect. The General Assembly symbolises the UN's democracy. Without it, the organisation would be utterly dominated by the big five members with seats on the Security Council. The annual debate of the General Assembly is the only forum where the President of Vanuatu gets the same 15-minute speaking time as the President of America.

Smaller states also know that it provides them with a unique and televised platform for airing their concerns to the wider world, and forging regional alliances. Outside the main debate, serious work can be done in the bilateral meetings. The alphabetical seating plan means sworn enemies may be forced to sit side by side. Even the cocktail parties and dinners have their uses. At its best, it has in the past provided a lightning rod for urgent international attention on such global challenges as Aids and the environment.

But this year, more than ever, our leaders needed to use the assembly to set a forceful tone in support of the United Nations itself, to reassert the rule of international law, most urgently as it relates to Iraq, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Sudan and nuclear proliferation. If little or nothing flows from the debate, then it is an indictment of the political leadership of the UN nation states, rather than the unique multilateral forum they have inherited.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific