The UN: Not quite useless

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It’s not a perfect institution, but it’s the best we have.

It speaks for the global community and unilateralism is wrong.

It’s a force for peace on the world stage.

These are the kinds of statements apologists for the United Nations like to make.

A Toronto newspaper came at the UN with both barrels recently: in one article, disparaging its ineffectiveness in Syria; in another, listing the ridiculous appointments the international body has made, from allowing Zimbabwe to co-sponsor next year’s general assembly of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, to putting Libya on their Human Rights Council back in 2010, when despot Moammar Qadafi was still in power. And there are other examples.

The United Nations does serve a useful purpose: it presents opportunities for dialogue. The articles point out other worthwhile functions, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

But the sanctity of those services should not trump righteous action on the part of the world’s democracies.

Do we really believe nations like Canada, the U.S and the U.K. need the approval of China and Russia before moving against dictators? In the war for freedom taking place in Syria, Russia is siding with the tyrant Assad.

Then there’s the ghastly debacle of Rwanda, where Hutus, using machetes, butchered more than half a million Tutsis in about three months.

The UN was there doing what it so often does: sitting on the sidelines, documenting. Much of that failure was due to inaction on the part of the United States and others, but that doesn’t much diminish the argument: the UN can be ineffective even on missions backed by the West.

So here are some accurate statements about the UN.

Too many chefs spoil the soup.

When action is determined by global consensus, you’re just watering down democratic ideals with the repellent views of despots and demagogues.

Even when resolutions are passed, the UN cries foul if one nation ‘unilaterally’ enforces the terms.

It’s a far from perfect institution. We should keep it and use it, but regularly ignore its edicts. It’s a tool, not a higher power.

Organizations: United Nations, World Tourism Organization, Human Rights Council World Health Organization UNICEF

Geographic location: Syria, Toronto, Russia Zimbabwe Libya Canada U.K. China Rwanda United States

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