Letter : Time to write a new role for UN

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The Independent Online
Sir: The key objective of the United Nations remains, as it was in 1945, to prevent war and maintain peace and international security. But the high- profile failures in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia have shown that preventing the internal conflicts of today's world cannot be done by an under-resourced UN alone. A new approach is required.

In this context, Boutros Boutros-Ghali is right that governments have yet to define the role of the UN in the new post-Cold War international order (report, 17 September). Yet amidst the furore surrounding his future, this important consideration appears to have been overlooked.

The UN should be the framework within which a wide range of specialist actors, including UN bodies, governments, regional and non-governmental organisations, churches and businesses, can contribute to the cause of peace. The aim should be to build a network of concern involving the participation of a wide cross-section of the international community. The UN should be the forum which co-ordinates the range of actions, provides their legitimacy and ensures their coherence, consistency and accountability - not least that of Nato in Bosnia.

There is a real opportunity now for the international community to develop a new approach to preventing conflict, which addresses its root causes and enables the building of sustainable peace. The danger is real that this chance will be lost unless governments which have hitherto been reluctant to offer support ensure that the UN has the calibre of personnel and the financial backing it so badly needs. The strongest possible Secretary- General and an effective secretariat are essential.


(Lord Judd of Portsea)

Senior Fellow, Saferworld

London WC1