Where Is the United Nations Heading?
EACH year on October 24 the United Nations celebrates its anniversary. At that time a special concert is performed in its General Assembly hall. One particular piece of music occasionally used is the powerful choral section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Evidently, the words of this music about the brotherhood of man are felt to be in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the United Nations.
Yet today, after twenty-six years of U.N. existence, do we see the words “All men shall be brothers,” which have been sung so movingly, practiced by the member nations? Has that very General Assembly hall where this noble expression was sung been the scene of much unity during the many meetings of the United Nations?
On the contrary, in recent years the world has witnessed some very stormy sessions in the imposing U.N. buildings in midtown Manhattan. This has caused a growing number of thinking people to entertain serious doubts about the future of the U.N. They have become disillusioned with it. Perhaps you are one of these persons.
On the other hand, there are some who feel that the problems besetting the U.N. could be overcome if changes were made in it. What do you think?
Will Changes Help?
Cyrus R. Vance, former United States ambassador at the Paris peace talks, said recently: “We are definitely entering into a new phase in the history of the United Nations. This is an absolutely critical time to try to make of the organization what it must be if this is going to be the kind of world it should be.”
Are changes in the U.N. the answer? Consider the one that was made during the Korean War in the early 1950’s. At that time a resolution was passed that made a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly enough to override a veto by one of the members of the influential Security Council. It was believed that this modification in procedure would curtail any attempt by a Security Council member to hinder the peacemaking efforts of the United Nations.
Actually, this change was not drastic enough, as subsequent history has proved. In a crisis it was found that a two-thirds vote usually could not be mustered to overrule a veto. The influence of a larger nation in the Security Council has a great effect on how members of the General Assembly vote.
Efforts to resolve the recent India-Pakistani crisis were hampered by the veto in the Security Council. This caused the Pakistani Foreign Minister to cry out during a session of this council: “We have been frustrated by the veto. Let’s build a monument for the veto. Let’s build a monument for impotence and incapacity.”
Well, is there any hope that real changes will be made to improve the U.N.? What does the past record show? In 1966 an editorial in the Washington, D.C., publication Human Events warned that “only drastic reform will save [the United Nations] from the fate of the League of Nations [which failed in 1939].” In 1970 that call was still going out, for the New York Times published an article entitled “A Call for U.N. Reform.” It asked for a consideration of “how [the United Nations] can best be dismantled and reconstituted.”
Additionally, the comments made by this same newspaper at the close of the U.N.’s twenty-sixth session last December are not very hopeful. “There was no one at the end of the session who could honestly say that a promising new start had been made. . . . There was a strong feeling that the United Nations would go on, as it has in the past, busily attending to secondary issues but paralyzed or ignored by the big powers when big questions are involved.”
Why are more significant changes not being made? J. Russell Wiggins, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, answers: “Efforts to change the system would create ever bigger problems.” Obviously the United Nations is not improving. Instead, to many it appears to be headed for disintegration.
What About Its Achievements?
In the field of specialized services the United Nations has made some notable contributions. Education, health, aid to the poor, development of agriculture and industry are among these.
But these accomplishments, when compared to the magnitude of the world’s problems, pale into insignificance. Poverty, disease and hunger may have been attacked, but they are far from being vanquished. In 1965, the Saturday Review magazine bemoaned the fact that the U.N. “is having trouble bridging the moat that separates the ‘have’ from the ‘have-not’ nations. Sadly, the moat grows wider every day.” And if you review last year’s press reports about famine, poverty and disease riddling India, Pakistan and certain African nations, you could say that that moat still is not being bridged.
There are those who claim that a great achievement of the U.N. is that it has prevented a major war from breaking out. This is because the U.N. provides a place for men to talk things over. And, as Winston Churchill once said, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” While this might sound reasonable, former Secretary-General U Thant once warned that the United Nations was headed toward becoming “merely a debating forum, and nothing else.”
A realistic view of the world’s history of the past twenty-six years of U.N. existence shows that all too often there were times when war was felt to be better and more effective than debate. Member nations in different parts of the world marched off to the battlefield rather than to the conference table. In fact, since 1945, the year the United Nations was born, it is estimated that some fifty-five wars have been fought, including the third largest in United States history.
Also sobering is the fact that since then, according to one source, over three hundred revolutions, uprisings, coups, rebellions and insurrections have taken place world wide. Much more is needed than just discussion.
How Effective Are Its Sessions?
Mitchell Sharp, Canada’s Secretary of State for external affairs, complained about the tremendous amount of speech-making that goes on in the U.N. He said that the organization was drowning in a sea of words.
A former prime minister of Canada, Lester Pearson, agreed, and added that the United Nations is “suffocating in its own documents.” Does this sound as if its sessions are effective?
How all this can hamper efforts to resolve a crisis was demonstrated at the sessions held to consider the India-Pakistani war. Pakistani delegate Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said: “The Security Council, I am afraid, has excelled in the art of filibustering. With some cynicism I watched yesterday a full hour wasted on whether the members would be ready to meet at 9:30 A.M. or bed and breakfast required that they should meet at 11 A.M.” During this time hundreds of persons were dying in war.
A little over a week before this, a sharp dispute broke out that caused a meeting of the U.N. to be adjourned. A delegate shouted and shook his fist menacingly at the Undersecretary-General, demanding the right to speak before another delegate who was to give a report. They had to be separated before blows were struck. Certainly, incidents like this do not generate respect and confidence in this world body.
The United Nations’ 1971 budget was about 950 million dollars. But it was unable to meet it. According to one report, the world body is 189 million dollars in debt. Now with Nationalist China expelled, the situation has not improved, for its debt of thirty million dollars is unlikely to be paid by the incoming Chinese Communists. Furthermore, the number of nonpayers and slow payers is increasing among the 132 member nations.
Recently, there have been times when the U.N. has had to borrow from trust funds or special accounts just to meet staff salaries. Compounding the financial problems are those nations that refuse to pay for certain actions that they did not agree with. These feel no obligation to back up financially something they voted against. If these financial problems continue, the U.N. is headed for economic disaster.
Where Is It Really Heading?
The situation in which the United Nations finds itself today is bleak. There is little hope for its betterment. As one writer observed, “So long as the U.N. is composed of men with the limitations inherent in the human mind, it will talk peace and prepare for war.”
The late Adlai Stevenson described the problem in this way: “The central question is whether the wonderfully diverse and gifted assembly of human beings on this earth really knows how to run a civilization.” The answer is obviously No.
Why is this so? Because Jehovah God did not create man with ability to govern his kind. He needs God to do that for him. That is why man’s attempts to do it are running into so many difficulties. And this also helps us to appreciate where the U.N. is really heading and why!
In the eyes of God, the U.N. represents this world’s defiance of him and the heavenly government he has established to rule this earth, his kingdom by Christ. The U.N. thus attempts to do what God alone can and will do, namely, bring true brotherhood, permanent peace and security to this earth. Because of its defiance of him, it is headed for destruction at his hands.—Matt. 24:15; Rev. 17:8-11.
What will you do? Where will you place your confidence? Your decision involves your life.