Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last week that the United Nations was "of vital importance to humanity." Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case.
As U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, recently pointed out, the United Nations failed to stop the genocide in Rwanda.
It appointed some of the world's most repressive governments to serve on its human rights commission. It adopted dozens of resolutions dealing with Iraq but didn't want to follow through on them.
Some U.N. employees, according to various news sources, siphoned off oil-for-food money intended for impoverished Iraqis.
Peacekeepers have been accused of sexual exploitation in Bosnia, Cambodia and the Congo.
Syndicated columnist Don Feder reported several years ago that from 1945 to 1990, the United Nations failed to prevent 80 wars that ultimately claimed 30 million lives. That hardly makes the world body "vital."
The United Nations was born of the best intentions. Its charter is a magnificent document. The problem is that few member nations take the charter seriously.
They use the General Assembly not as a great debating hall to promote peace, prosperity and human rights but rather as a forum to promote their own narrow self-interest.
Every reasonable person supports the world body's mission, but few believe it is achieving those lofty goals.
Right or wrong, conservative pundit Mark Smith spoke for a lot of Americans when, in The Official Handbook of the Right-Wing Conspiracy, he described the United Nations as "anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-democracy."
Nobody expects the United Nations to be a "rubber stamp" for U.S. foreign policy, but its actions and rhetoric should at least be consistent with its own principles.
Crenshaw has introduced a bill in Congress to appoint an independent commission to propose reforms. The bill should be passed but, as a practical matter, it probably won't help. The problem isn't structural. The problem is a lack of will to do what everyone knows is right and that, unfortunately, cannot be legislated away.
Until there is a change of heart in the international capitals, the United Nations will continue to be of limited relevance.
No organization is any better than the aggregate of its membership.
The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
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