Letter: More power to the UN if it is to 'put blue on the map'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Douglas Hurd's desire to see the UN given greater authority (19 September) should be welcomed. He is right to recognise that in this 'new phase in the world's history' there are total breakdowns of order, as in Somalia, that are causing millions of innocent human beings to suffer agonisingly, while helpless observers are ashamed of the powerlessness of our international authorities to assist them.

But how one wishes he had not used the words 'imperial role' for the UN. I recognise and applaud the intention behind that phrase. There are cases of human need that call for the world to brush aside any opposition based on the sacred cow of 'national sovereignty'. But Mr Hurd compounded the problem by saying,

When bits of Africa collapsed in chaos in the last century, colonial powers came in and there was the scramble for Africa. But that's not on; they're not going to do that again, and therefore it is only going to be the UN.

The European colonial powers came in, not to help the Africans, but to compete against each other for political, strategic and commercial advantage. In so doing, they smashed ancient tribal and cultural patterns that over centuries had been brought into some kind of balance. At the UN, where I served for 30 years, delegates of Third World countries deeply suspect that there is a new colonialism, a cabal of major powers and their strategic interests. They feel isolated outside the magic circle of power, as in colonial days.

Yet the UN must urgently address itself to strengthening its authority. In the political vacuums around the world, ancient hatreds and modern greeds are free to multiply and spread like bacteria into the arteries of regions and the veins of the world. Culture has come to mean the place, or the plate, on which the virus of violence is warmed to breed, multiply and spread.

Mr Hurd is right. The United Nations is now the only place at which to try to resolve the spreading anarchy that threatens to engulf us all, rich and poor, large and small. The Third World must be brought into the magic circle.

Yours sincerely,

GEORGE IVAN SMITH

Stroud, Gloucestershire

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