The UN still serves a purpose

UN meetings remain a place where consensus is shaped around global issues.
Sunday 30/09/2018
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the UN General Assembly, on September 25. (AP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the UN General Assembly, on September 25. (AP)

Despite the usual misgivings and habitual expressions of dissatisfaction with the United Nations, this year’s UN General Assembly meetings have proven again that if the UN system didn’t exist it would have to be created.

The United Nations and its annual meetings serve a purpose. UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces summed it up when she said the General Assembly is “the only place where a meeting of this kind is possible,” one in which all countries “have the opportunity to hear and be heard.”

UN speeches draw attention to urgent matters in the world, including the Middle East. There has been a near consensus among world leaders on the need to revive peace talks in the region, especially between Palestinians and Israelis.

That consensus may have nudged US President Donald Trump away from his less-than-benign neglect of the Palestinian issue. “I like a two-state solution. That’s what I think works best … That’s my feeling,” Trump said while attending General Assembly meetings.

The “two-state-solution” has been the position of many past US administrations. Trump’s statement is a welcome reiteration of an internationally sanctioned process, away from previous pro-Israel unilateralism.

A more active role by the world community will be necessary to maintain momentum but it did not hurt that the US president set a personal deadline. “It is a dream of mine to get that done prior to the end of my first term,” Trump said, referring to the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

The UN system is not perfect. There are many countries clamouring for reform of the system, especially of the UN Security Council.

The Kuwaiti proposal of September 26 that a permanent Security Council seat should be dedicated to the Arab world is pertinent in this regard.

UN meetings remain a place where consensus is shaped around global issues such as fighting poverty, promoting education, managing the migration problem or addressing climate change.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed to the need for collective world action on many such issues. “In the face of massive, existential threats to people and planet… there is no way forward but collective, common-sense action for the common good,” he said.

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