Gongol.com Archives: September 2023

Brian Gongol

September 18, 2023

Threats and Hazards The membership we deserve

It is a question worth asking, as it already has been and will undoubtedly be asked again during the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations: Why does Russia retain a prominent seat at the table while it shamelessly pursues an unprovoked war against its neighbor? ■ The answer lies, in part, within an identity crisis for the UN. It is neither a purely neutral forum for the adjudication of international disputes, nor a truly values-driven institution. If it were a neutral forum with the sole purpose of stabilizing world affairs, then it would be small, disciplined, and entirely mission-focused. But the secretariat claims to employ "tens of thousands of UN staff members", reflecting the sort of mission creep that is extremely difficult to avoid within any organization prone to recruiting ambitious people. ■ If the UN were a truly values-driven institution, though, then Saudi Arabia would have to work harder to earn a seat at the Commission on the Status of Women and Russia would be suspended from the Security Council for invading a neighbor and gravely threatening the security of an entire continent (to choose just two significant examples). ■ A forum with a mission of offering a vital forum for discussions pointing towards peace and stability would focus single-mindedly on that objective. A club with principles wouldn't hesitate to eject members for violating the rules. In its incumbent form, the United Nations really ought to consider retrenching to that single-minded focus on acting as the world's irreplaceable forum. That would allow it to spin off its many values-driven subsidiary missions to their own standalone institutions, not because they are unimportant, but because they are too important to be diluted by their association with an organization that feels compelled to accept all comers. ■ A principle stripped of consequences is just a set of empty words. For the UN to tout a slogan of "Peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet" on its masthead at the same time as one of its most powerful members mines its neighbor, kidnaps 200,000 children (or more), and extorts the people whose land it occupies, is to undermine the actual gravity of those values.

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