At first glance, you might catch yourself thinking about what a pretentious title this article has. Why would the United Nations, huge institution created in 1945 to prevent us from another world war, need us? It is in writing this piece that I hope to establish an image of a reciprocal relationship between the United Nations and ordinary citizens.
I was never in any doubt about the overall necessity of the United Nations. However, much like the majority of people I know, I was considerably disappointed by the situation of the Security Council (UNSC) regarding some issues – most notably, Syria. This naturally led me to consider the overall effectiveness of these multinational bodies . A few months later, in Brisbane, I had the chance to meet and talk with Russell Trood, former President of the United Nations Association of Australia, who was giving a speech on the United Nations and its effectiveness. In the space of an hour, he demonstrated, how the institution is still largely effective.
Indeed, he United Nations is mainly represented by the United Nation Security Council, which is today – unfortunately – a disaster. It would seem that few are oblivious to this fact, with economic interests taking precedence over peacekeeping goals and mutual agreements. Syria is the perfect example, and it would be tiresome to list all of them. Furthermore, in all its potency, the international media do not help the United Nations either.
If you can find articles about United Nations agencies on specialised websites, on television, in radio and in newspapers, only the work of the UNSC, with declarations from UN Women and the Secretary General proving notable exceptions. The media attention is focused on the failure of the UNSC, and gives a poor and damaged image of the United Nations.
However, as Russell Trood confirmed, the United Nations is not only the UNSC. In reality, the United Nations’ system is much more complex. If we add together the funds, programs, subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly and of the UNSC, the functional and regional commissions, the specialised agencies, the departments and offices related to the Secretariat, we can identify around a hundred of agencies working together, finding solutions for a large range of problems across different fields.
These agencies bring countries to work together, to achieve goals and to create a rational, efficient framework which states can follow. By the time the Millennium Development Goals are about to reach their deadline, it is up to us to view the glass as either half empty or half full. Although numerous goals have yet to be achieved, 88% of the world population currently has enough food; 54 million more children in the Sub-Saharan Africa went to school; complications during pregnancy and birth felt by more than 47%. Compiling an exhaustive list of the United Nations’ successes would take days.
And here is my main point: as Trood said, “If you, young people, give up, it is the end”. Without any pretence, young people are the future, and some will be the next diplomats and ambassadors at the United Nation. If we give up and choose to see the glass half empty, and not focus on the United Nations’ success, then yes, this is the end.
Our duty does not stop here. If we refuse to give up, we also have to spread our optimism. The United Nations today suffers from endless stigmatisation. Instead of blaming the media and the people who refuse to know more about the it, it is our responsibility to enact small changes. These might include making the United Nations’ vocabulary easier and understandable by all, informing about the existence of other agencies, debating official statistics. Our role is not just to become diplomats and represent a country; our role is to defend as much as possible our beliefs and the truth about the United Nations.
I am not saying it will be easy. I am not suggesting that the media will begin to consider the United Nations as a collective number of interconnected organisations. Instead, I wish to assert the importance of sharing information about the United Nations to the best of one’s ability. The United Nations has a global vocation; it is not just about a small portion of the population. It is about everyone and everyone should be aware of its progress. And if one day you find yourself experiencing doubts, try to imagine a world without the it.
We are all ambassadors from the United Nations. And I truly believe that the United Nations need us.