Letter: Unwilling states hamper the UN

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Sir: Professor Adam Roberts makes the mistake of thinking the United Nations is greater than the sum of its parts ('All the troubles of the world on its shoulders', 21 December). If the UN has been ineffectual in dealing with the internal conflicts in the former Yugoslavia or anywhere else, it is because the UN's member states have not been willing to put enough energy into solving the problems.

It is for the world to decide whether it is prepared to commit its best troops, and its best diplomats, to dealing with civil wars far from home. As many of these conflicts were deliberately encouraged during the Cold War, there is at least a moral responsibility to do so. It also seems strange that the world's leading powers do not understand that they have the same interest in promoting peace that they had in promoting the Cold War conflict.

Despite its many problems the United Nations is still the best institution to coordinate the halting steps towards a 'new world order'. The UN has a reputation for impartiality no other organisation can equal. It also has peacekeeping and mediating skills nobody else can offer.

What is needed is a redoubled commitment to the United Nations by its member states. Britain could start the process by increasing the provision it made in the last defence review for just a handful of troops to be put under UN command.

The United Nations is not overstretched, it is under-used.

Yours faithfully,



New York

23 December

The writer is the BBC United

Nations correspondent.