1. Why is the United Nations important to the world?
As former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said, The UN is "indispensable." Although the UN has imperfections and challenges, it is still the ONLY international forum that brings together the 193 countries of the world under one roof to deal with their problems peacefully, as opposed to the bloody way they did in world Wars I and II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and other visionaries such as Winston Churchill, knew they needed to create an organization out of the ashes of WWII that would be a place where all countries could meet, issues could be discussed, decisions could be made, and action would be taken. The UN was paralyzed during the Cold War. However, today, the UN is functioning moreso the way it was intended. The Security Council, which is the most powerful organ of the UN, had few successes until 1989, which marked the rusting of the Iron Curtain and the melting of the Cold War. The Security Council is now a forum for cooperation, rather than confrontation. Even when there is disagreement at the Security Council, as with the case of Syria, the UN System is on the ground in that country combating diseases, feeding and housing refugees, and providing a wide range of other humanitarian services. The UN of today is far more knowledgeable, transparent, accountable, efficient, and effective than the UN of 20 years ago.
2. How do the UN and its work affect your work or life?
There are dozens of areas the UN affects me but two in the professional arena are:
The UN is the central focus of my Global Connections Television program. Global Connections Television (GCTV) focuses on international issues that affect people from Frankfort, Ken. to Frankfurt, Germany and from Lima, Ohio to Lima, Peru. A secondary goal of GCTV is to highlight the logical and legal role of the UN in dealing with a myriad of international issues that have local implications, e.g. health, climate change, and drug abuse, to mention a few. GCTV is critical to fill the void and to provide basic information to the American and international publics because the media have failed to do so, especially when it comes to adequately covering the UN. GCTV has conducted interviews with UN officials, private sector leaders, representatives of faith-based groups and service clubs and other NGOs, etc.
Rotary International has teamed-up with UNICEF, WHO, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake the largest international health program ever: PolioPlus. When PolioPlus comes to fruition, it will save 50,000 children's lives per year and millions more who will not be afflicted with polio. U.S. taxpayers will save more than $300 million per year and taxpayers of the world will save more than $1.5 billion per year. To focus attention on the unique partnership between the UN and Rotary International, I was actively involved in launching Rotary Day at the United Nations, a program that brings together each year leaders from each organization to meet, review past joint programs and discuss future humanitarian endeavors. UNA leaders should meet regularly with their local Rotary Club leaders, given that the Rotary Board, in 1994, adopted a resolution encouraging Rotary Clubs to team up with UNA Chapters on various projects, such as a UN Day Program.
3. Why should Americans care about the UN’s work?
All 7.2 billion people on planet Earth are affected positively each day by the United Nations programs. The list is voluminous. For example, the UN has 17 peacekeeping missions in the field in some very dangerous areas, e.g. the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is extremely important because the UN can operate a peacekeeping mission eight times more inexpensively than a U.S. military mission. Not to mention, when UN forces can do the job, and at times they cannot, there are no U.S. military personnel on the front lines. Additionally, UN agencies combat diseases, help reduce poverty, promote educational opportunities, empower women, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, battle terrorism, and confront the AIDS pandemic. The UN has been the number one player-- through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN international climate change conferences, and the Herculean work of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon--in combating climate change, which is widely perceived as the number one problem affecting all living species. The UN assists U.S. businesses with intellectual property protection, as well as provides basic services to help move ships, aircraft, mail, and weather information in international airspace. For a more detailed overview of how you are affected, go to www.un.org/un60/60ways.
4. In your opinion, what has been the UN’s best moment to date?
The UN has had spectacular successes in eliminating smallpox, working to eliminate the scourge of polio, providing humanitarian assistance, and protecting millions of people through peacekeeping operations, but the most successful is probably one that cannot be proven--or disproven. Many UN observers will argue that the UN has probably helped avoid WWIII. There have been many flashpoints over the past 68 years of the short life of the UN. But the one that constantly is referenced is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The UN played a critical role in helping to defuse the most volatile and dangerous situation that ever confronted the world. The U.S. and U.S.S.R had reached the point of "red alert", which meant the next step was to push the button that would launch an atomic war between the two countries. Although the atomic weapons of 1962 were far less lethal than the nuclear weapons of today, if they had gone to war with one another, it is quite probable that large parts of the Earth would have been destroyed. The UN Secretary-General U Thant shuttled between the powers with various peace proposals, the Security Council provided a forum for public discussion of this problem, and the UN facility allowed diplomats to have "back-channel" discussions between Americans and Russians, as well as other countries working to resolve the crisis. It can be argued that the UN was a pivotal player in averting an atomic holocaust.
5. What do you think is the most exciting opportunity for the UN going forward?
No other organization in the world has the mission, credibility, authority and technical expertise as does the United Nations in dealing with international problems. As always, the UN has to balance the concerns of a board of directors of 193 countries and still carry out its major goals of eliminating the scourge of war, promoting social and economic development, and encouraging human rights. The UN rose, much like the mythical Phoenix Bird, out of the ashes of devastation of WWII. Europe lay in ruins, parts of Asia had been destroyed, and more than 60 million people died in the horrific carnage of WWII. The UN now faces the challenge of being a post-WWII organization and of moving into the 21st century as the leading player in dealing with intractable problems afflicting all living organisms: peace, climate change, and diseases. If it is to continue to be relevant, the key to the UN's success in the 21st century is to continue the reform efforts to improve the organization, evaluate the programs that are duplicative and merge or eliminate them, reach out to the various governments for enhanced assistance and support and continue to involve the private sector and NGOs in the programs. The UN cannot, as can no country or region, solve the problems by itself. It needs help and should coordinate with a large swath of the civil society to achieve its goals.
6. What is the most effective element of UNA-USA’s work?
The mission of the UNA-USA is to inform the American public about the UN, build support for a more effective and more efficient UN and do so in an objective manner. UNA has also done fairly well on reaching out through the social media to inform a small number of the public. To reach millions of Americans, UNA should prepare a monthly article and e-mail it to 3,000 small and medium-sized newspapers, as well as to the large newspapers; and, develop a generic monthly "Letter to the Editor" to be sent to the UNA chapters and divisions, with a request to get them into their local newspapers.