Analysis: A ‘United’ Nations, navigating a fractured world

2021-09-22 21:00:03 –

New York — When the United Nations rose from the rubble of World War II, its birth reflected a broad desire to lift humanity and send it to a positive path. Their leader. It requires tenacity, compromise, and above all, hope.

Four generations later, the theme of this year’s mid-pandemic UN General Assembly leaders’ meeting reflects that ideal. “Build resilience through hope.” But at this week’s UN headquarters, while tenacity looks abundant, hope is a rare product.

The General Assembly is unfolding this week under a deep pessimistic thundercloud. Coherence is uneven. Two ever-increasing types of unwanted information (mis and dis) are running around unchecked. And that sincere and unified effort? Completely in an era when the rest of us couldn’t even agree to check the doors to see if anyone had a deadly virus that overturned humanity’s best plans. It feels like it doesn’t exist, if not outdated.

“Our world has never been more threatened or divided,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his first words at the meeting on Tuesday. .. “The world has to wake up,” he said.

But the leaders he summoned are fragmented and moody, and when they hear them say it, they are anxious and threatened by pandemics, polarization, and climate-fueled natural disasters. .. And the question that leaders continue to imply in their speeches after their speeches at the United Nations this week is one of the most basic and complex ones out there: what are we doing on Earth right now? ??

Some of the answers, or at least clues as to why they have not yet been answered, are contained in the nature of the United Nations itself.

Promising nations to unite and actually doing so is not easy in a collapsed world full of problems, the weakest and often the most difficult. The notion of countries playing in the field of equality may sound fair and just, but smaller countries claim that the principles collapse when the dynamics of power act.

Moreover, the whole concept of “multilateralism” is an ever-present UN priority based on decentralized solutions and a layer of consensus that gives small countries a say, and the charisma that the West has embraced for centuries. Clash with the myth of leadership.

It overlaps with the problem that the structure of the United Nations does not match the times when the United Nations was active. This has long been acknowledged by UN leaders and members. This is an organization founded in the mid-20th century, when many of the best and most talented people believed that the world could work together and coherently.

But even in the context of unified nations, a serious imbalance of power was burned from the beginning. The United Nations has built its greatest authority on a council of five permanent members representing the most powerful and dominant countries in the world. Inevitably, they often operated with their own interests in mind.

The structure remains to this day, and many voices that have not been amplified in the past are being heard more and more, and some say they are out of step with the fragmented world that they expect to be noticed. For example, African countries have demanded for years to have a permanent member of the Security Council for 1.2 billion people. “We must eradicate the hierarchy of power,” said Julius Maada Bio, president of Sierra Leone.

But so far, that hasn’t happened. And many leaders, especially those of small countries, consider such inequality to be the exact opposite of the UN picture. It is a place that represents all of the United Nations and forms a whole that benefits all.

That progress is not completely lacking at UN conferences. On Tuesday, both the United States and China took separate notable steps in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions that drive global warming. And this time last year, the coronavirus vaccine was not deployed. Today, billions are being injected in one of several iterations.

“Sure, we are in a much better place than it was a year ago,” Slovak President Zuzana Chaptova said on Tuesday. From Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, “The pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives, but it has also provided us with the opportunity to learn, adapt and improve things. “

Did you seize those opportunities? For example, Guterres is skeptical and he is not the only one. The emotional, psychological and political baggage of the world recovering from a constant crisis is clear this year. Even compared to a few years ago, the words and thoughts of the leaders are desperate with such a recommendation from Egyptian President Abdel Fatta Elsisi. “Stand together and save ourselves before it’s too late.”

And listen to what Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso Mendoza said. He made a bigger claim when he said, “Health has no idealism.” Still he ran into some of the problems: everything is political. Health was plagued elsewhere, but revealed a crack in the idealism that exposed the pandemic. The same story as climate change, as leaders recovering from the summer of natural disasters sounded louder and louder alarms.

“This precious blue sphere with eggshell skin and atmosphere is not an indestructible toy, but an elastic plastic romper room that you can throw to your heart’s content,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I will talk to the world. On Wednesday night, the mood said in his unique and colorful way.

For now, the overall principles of the United Nations remain the same and are sincerely advocated. Stick together. Continue to challenge. Please do not give up. Success is still possible. It’s all a brand. For all of the post-war practicalism of the era that created it, the United Nations was founded on optimism: what would happen to the world, what would happen if people and nations worked together.

“The United Nations is like a retired superhero who has long forgotten its greatness,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This week they are here. They are talking. They are still committed and still determined. Yes, the topic can go towards existentialism and extinction, but nevertheless promises to understand everything in the sea of ​​words, ideas and plans, rather than just boarding a boat. Perhaps — again, maintaining the brand — it’s ultimately building resilience through hope.


Ted Anthony, director of the Associated Press’s new storytelling and newsroom innovation, has been writing about international affairs since 1995. Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/anthonyted).

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