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I recently tweeted, “Just curious what the U.N. is doing about all the killings in the Middle East. Another reminder how useless the U.N. is as an organization.” And my goodness, did it start up a firestorm. I had people direct message me and express some of their sentiments about what I mentioned. I didn’t know I would touch a nerve.
Therefore, let me explain where I am coming from and also give us a perspective on this. There are some lessons, not only related to the United Nations (U.N.) but also about organizations in general.
It is imperative that we first try to understand the purpose and the history of the U.N. Basically, the U.N. started in 1945 after World War II as a global organization to find common ground so that future wars can be avoided and peace can be promoted. Since then, it has branched out to address various other issues such as human rights, economic development, international law and security. Currently there are 192 member states that make up the U.N.
In theory and on paper, the purpose behind the U.N. sounds good. But the issues and sometimes the ineffectiveness of the organization come at several levels. First of all, in order for certain resolutions to be enacted, there has to be unanimous approval of the five permanent members of the U.N’s Security Council (China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). Now, tell me how easy it is to get these five countries to agree on anything. I believe in check and balances, as well as dialoguing on varying opinions, but unless there is a universal standard in which nations are willing to agree on, then things will get very political. In the history of the U.N., we have seen many times when the member states have been unwilling to achieve or enforce different Security Council resolutions.
Secondly, by the time there is unanimous support, it is too late in stopping wars and even some of the atrocities from occurring. This has led to various “failures” in fulfilling its own mission and purpose for existence. For example there is the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the situation in Somalia in 1993-1994, the Second Congo War from 1998-2002, the situation in Darfur which started in 2003 and is still going on, the war in Iraq in 2003, the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006, the conflict in Kosovo in 2007, the North Korea situation, and the list continues on.
In their stated objectives, it is noted that peacekeeping, security, and human rights are just a few of the things that the U.N. is purposed to do. But without the unity of the Security Council and the differing political stances of the permanent state members, they are falling short of their original purpose and mission.
Please don’t get me wrong. There some things that the U.N. has done well and made some contributions to the improvement of society through agencies such as the World health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
But the main point is to remember why this organization was founded back in 1945 and to ask if they are fulfilling its purpose now. If the U.N. is supposed to be a international organization that is “committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights” (from the U.N.’s website), then they should be doing something in the situation in the Middle East.
There are reports coming out that the Libyan leader, Colonel Moammar Qaddafi is killing his own people who are protesting against his government and even killing soldiers who refuse to carry out his orders on the basis of conscience. Already there are 70 human rights groups (yes, 70) who are calling for the U.N. Security Council and the Human Rights Council to convene in order to protect Libyan citizens. There is even a video, which is about a minute long that reportedly shows badly burned bodies of Libyan soldiers.
Even as facts are rapidly coming out, if the U.N. is either slow in taking decisive actions or fails in doing something, then I will continue to stick to my original tweet claiming that the U.N. is useless. Or if I have to rephrase it (a.k.a “be politically correct” and nice about it), I would say that “it has terribly lost its sense of purpose and mission;” therefore they will have to re-examine their reason for existence. If they are an organization that is supposed to promote peace, security and human rights, then the situation in the Middle East is a perfect platform to do something about it.
As I have been reflecting on the whole U.N.’s role in the Middle East, I was reminded about the purpose and mission of the church. It is easy for the church to fall into the same trap as the U.N. Often times, the church can lose it sense of purpose and mission because of distractions, disagreements, and disregard. Then the church will become an irrelevant, impotent and institutionalized organization that will not bring about the transformation that it is called to bring to the nations.
May the heartbeat of Christ, who started the Church beat passionately within us.
This is why we do what we do!