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60 years of wounds


On Monday, October 24, the United Nations turned 60 years old. It was a celebration with distaste. Not just because of the many natural disasters that the UN is now working to clean up, such as in earthquake-stricken Pakistan. There are also more fundamental problems the world organization is now facing. One thing is the fundamental reforms that are now needed – among other things in that large democracies such as India, Brazil and Japan should now have their rightful place in the Security Council. It should be the number of people you represent that should be decisive for gaining extra influence in the UN, not that power has been robbed in the world community by historically colonizing and occupying other countries.

Then we have the more acute and current crises the UN has undergone in recent years. Not just the recent scandals surrounding corruption in Iraq's oil-for-food program. The inability to find a solution to the Iraq crisis in the winter of 2002-2003 has also weakened the UN's role. The result – the George W. Bush-led invasion of Iraq with the support of Britain and Eastern European countries – was an example of how it can go when the UN system is abused to serve its own national interests.

This is in addition to the 1990s major UN sins, which really threatened the credibility of the organization: the unwillingness to do anything to save the nearly one million Tutsis and moderate huts slaughtered in Rwanda from April 1994. And the the lack of the will and ability to save the civilians in Bosnia during the 1992 to 1995 war, best symbolized by the UN forces' scandalous spectator role when Srebrenica was captured on July 11, 1995, and 8000 boys and men were executed.

It is little wonder, after all, that the UN has been through such historical crises. After all, when the United Nations has recovered from these disasters, and later even been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it testifies to the importance of international community in our common globalized world.

A new book by Japanese professor Toshiki Mogami, The United States and America, discusses precisely these perspectives. He points out former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarkjöld, who just before his death in 1961 stated to the Assembly: It is an exaggeration to say that the UN's job is to work for peace. The job is to build a pond to prevent a wave of violence and division.

Mogami's description in the autumn of 2005 reads as follows, according to the latest issue of Asahi Shimbun: "I believe the UN was created for humanity to prevent itself from being wiped out."

The same can be said. The UN needs more than ever, as the UN also needs its member countries.

A couple of weeks ago, just before the anniversary mark, the UN headquarters in New York had to close due to a water leak from the roof. The 60-year-old UN building is in dire need of rehabilitation and support. Like the organization itself.


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