To most American citizens, October 24th is just another day on the calendar; daily routines and business is conducted without any inkling as to what the date represents.
For members of the United Nations Association and United Nations Foundation, there is a special meaning to the day; it is U.N. Day – a day that marks the anniversary of the founding of this global institution in 1945.
UNA-USA’s 2011 U.N. Day theme is “The United Nations – in Everyone’s Interest”. There is quite a bit of hard work that goes into this day by many good and thoughtful people. This is something to be kept firmly planted in our minds as we participate in activities commemorating this day. Unfortunately, many wish to see the world body diminished in its capacity to do its work.
THE U.N.: STILL RELEVANT 66 YEARS LATER
When leaders gathered in San Francisco in 1945, for what was formally known as the United Nations Conference on International Organization, the delegates could never have imagined that what they were about to do would still have such a profound impact on so many today.
On October 24, 1945, the required number of nations present at the conference ratified theCharter of the United Nations and this day officially became what we know today as U.N. Day. EDUCATING THE MASSES
When Americans think of the U.N., they envision images of blue-helmeted peacekeepers keeping the peace in a remote part of the world subsequent to some violent conflict.
While this is quite true, there is so much more the U.N. does around the world to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than those of us in the west. One of the missions of UNA-USA and UN Foundation is to inform, so it is incumbent upon the membership to educate the public about the wider role the U.N. plays; to change the perception portrayed in the media that is a debating society marred by corruption. Do problems exist? Of course they do. In any large organization, the size and scope of the U.N., issues are bound to develop. However, this should not detract from all of the accomplishments the U.N. has achieved through the years. VICTORIES WON
From Cambodia to Namibia, El Salvador to Eritrea, Mozambique to Nicaragua, South Africa to Kosovo, and from East Timor to the 193rd member of the U.N. and newest nation South Sudan, the U.N. has provided the assistance and wherewithal to allow people of these countries to participate in free and fair elections. An expansion of democratic freedoms is certainly “in everyone’s interest”.
In addition, the work of U.N. agencies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) are performing admirable work – in the harshest of circumstances – in places such as Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and in the Horn of Africa where famine threatens millions of people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Opponents argue, “Why are we (the United States) supporting U.N. work in such remote areas of the world?” There is, I would submit to you, a national interest in areas such as Yemen. The prevention of a failed state, particularly one suspected as being an al-Qaeda training ground, is clearly “in everyone’s interest”.
In the Horn of Africa, there is a moral imperative, a duty, and a responsibility of the international community to protect people at risk from a widespread humanitarian crisis.
Timothy E. Wirth, former U.S. Senator from Colorado and President of the U.N. Foundation, writing in the Spring 2011 edition of Harvard International Review in an article titled “The US-UN Partnership” said that “The United Nations is effectively operating in many places, so that the United States and our allies do not have to.” President Wirth continues in the piece by saying that the U.S. can exact change in the U.N. through its permanent seat on the Security Council and can exert influence through the corridors of the U.N. by working with, not against, the global community of nations. This is “in everyone’s interest.” U.S.-U.N. PARTNERSHIP JEOPARDIZED BY CONGRESSIONAL SHORTSIGHTEDNESS
Foremost, the funding of the global body is under attack in the House of Representatives. H.R. 2829 introduced by Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen would significantly alter the way the United States funds the U.N. The bill not only undermines vital financial resources, but it threatens U.S. credibility at the global institution.
This year, “in everyone’s interest”, means UNA-USA membership needs to let his or her elected representatives know that passage of this bill is the absolute wrong thing to do.
Positive work is done in many corners of the globe, but these efforts require significant revenue - something the Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would like to see drastically reduced.
This is one piece of legislation that cannot pass. Voices need to be heard- loudly– in opposition to H.R. 2829. Many acting in concert for a common purpose can make a huge difference – our common purpose is to defeat this bill, and send a message that U.N. funding is “in everyone’s interest”.