Letter: Commercial restraints limit UN's effectiveness

Sir: When I and other senior recruits to the UN were briefed at Fontainebleau in 1969 we were told that the main purpose of our missions was to assist in keeping international peace, a point that I disputed. I pointed out that my job was to help with the application of social science research to development and that I would not be prepared to assist in any international process that discouraged conflict in opposition to corruption and misgovernment.

Whether in peace-keeping or in development, the goals of the UN (which most certainly include that of continuing to work for a new world order) will not be achievable while it permits internal corruption and incompetence that would be opposed within any of its member states. The weary resignation of your leading article ('Trouble spots within the UN', 28 August) pays little attention, however, to the continuing relevance of the UN Charter or to the possibilities that it contains for reform.

The UN has, since its debut, suffered from the failure of the international community to permit it to extend its remit to the monitoring of international investment programmes. Instead, we have had to accept a spurious separation of technical assistance from development financing in the operations of the international agencies and the World Bank family, and member governments have sat idly by while the lack of influence over commercial lending has contributed, for example, to the prevention of Nigeria's and Kenya's emergence as modern, democratic states.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN PILGRIM

Shepton Mallet, Somerset

28 August

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