Crisis Situation Near and Far

August 22, 2011|by Patrick Madden, UNA-USA Executive Director
We have a crisis situation. Hunger? National debt? Climate Change? Political partisanship? Poverty? Yes. But which country am I speaking of – Somalia? Haiti? Syria? U.S.? Yes.


We have a crisis situation. As I write this, the media reports news of more than 29,000 children – twenty-nine thousand children – that have died in the past three months in Somalia and Kenya because of the famine. A famine that was preventable. The world’s largest slum now exists on the Somali boarder in Kenya. The slum initially held 90,000 and now nearly 500,000 populate this site. That’s more people than live in Miami, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Oakland, Pittsburgh, or St Louis to name a few U.S. cities. If the entire population of one of these U.S. cities was living in abject poverty, squalid conditions with no running water or sanitation, no access to proper healthcare for infants and no access to minimal food needs, would we as a country sit-by and just watch the news stories? Of course not. Citizens would be angry. They would take action personally and expect action from their elected leaders. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor in the world and the Obama Administration has freed up funding to get into the crisis area quickly, but it’s not enough.


We have a crisis of leadership. This humanitarian situation in Somalia is just one example of some of our current global problems that the UN is addressing. Some Americans have donated funds to the UN agencies working on the ground. Others have taken action by providing resources to international NGO’s support of relief efforts. As a country, we have a vital role in the response and long-term solution: the UN. We need the leadership in Congress to demonstrate that our country will not turn our back on human tragedy inside our borders or abroad. Despite our financial woes nationally, the world’s leading country is expected to show the world its compassion, its support, and its strength in times of need.  Our elected leaders can do this by providing the UN with the proper resources – the U.S.’s dues for UN operations and peacekeeping. Today it’s neither convenient nor easy to support international initiatives politically. Times are tough in our own country but we cannot shy away from international engagement. U.S. citizens take pride in the results our country has delivered around the world to help stop the spread of disease and deliver aid in developing countries. This is only possible when we work with other countries and the UN to solve global problems.


Unfortunately, short-sighted elected officials watch weekend poll numbers from their district as a guidepost to their voting stance. Where are the champions of humanity in Congress? They are not in the majority leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee – a group that recently put forward a bill that would essentially roll back funding for the UN to 2008 levels, require extreme measures of change, and do nothing to show that the U.S. is a world leader. As the key committee responsible for funding economically wise programs and initiatives, what thinking was behind taking us out of the international dialogue at the UN when our investments in its programs SAVES the government money? It’s quite simple, when all the countries put funds into the UN, our pooled resources are directed at global solutions at a much lower expense to the U.S. If the UN becomes dysfunctional because it is starved of resources to meet today’s challenges, what country will the world look to as the place to solve global problems? The U.S. When the U.S. falls behind in our dues payments important efforts like emergency response in Sudan, peacekeeping missions, and strengthening fragile democracies also fall behind. One can point to numerous moments in our history where we have turned away from problems on the other side of the planet only to become engaged years later to “fix” the problem at a much greater cost to the country in servicemen and women and financial resources.


We have a crisis situation and the UN needs your help. This fall Congress will work through its annual appropriations process as well as debate the recommendations of the new super-committee that will be formed from the debt reduction deal. There will be a great deal of haggling that happens publically and privately. It is critical that you, a UN-supporter, voice your opinion to your elected officials now. The UN will suffer greatly and the U.S. will suffer in the long-term. What should you do exactly?

  • First, become educated on our issues.
  • Second, follow UNA-USA this fall as we roll out a series of efforts to engage UNA-USA members with the facts of the debate, the statistics and details of the UN’s positive work and impact, and the key points to make to your elected officials. Tough times call for determination.
  • Third, now’s the time  for you to respond to the crisis. Tell your Congressman – this is serious, it matters to you, and you are watching how they vote. Then tell a friend to do the same.

“If the United Nations is to survive, those who represent it must bolster it; those who advocate it must submit to it; and those who believe in it must fight for it” (American essayist Norman Cousins). The UN cannot just survive – it must thrive. Polling this spring showed that nearly 85% of Americans think we should pay our dues to the UN on time. You and UNA-USA can help carry the case on behalf of the UN – this crisis has a solution and we are part of it. Let’s take action!

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