A fight for the U.N.’s survival?
by Sayre Sheldon, WAND NGO Representative for the U.N. Working Group for Women, Peace, and Security, and WAND Ed Fund Board member/Treasurer
It may not be a day that resonates very much in the U.S. calendar of events, but United Nations Day (October 24) honors the world’s longest existence of an international organization for peace. Founded in 1945 after World War II, the United Nations (U.N.) has far outlasted an earlier attempt following World War I, The League of Nations.
We know that the U.N. is vital for global peace, so why am I looking at a letter mailed to our house asking us to sign a petition for cutting U.S. funding of the U.N? Where does this letter come from? Is it just an empty threat like so many of these letters we have received in the past and consigned, unopened, to our recycling pile?
The sender’s title, “President, National Committee Against the U.N. Takeover,” reveals the usual U.N. paranoia that haunts U.S. political discourse. The threat this time might be more real because the petition enclosed is directed to House Speaker John Boehner in support of House Bill (H.R. 2829), which would “shift the funding mechanism for the regular budget of the U.N. from an assessed to a voluntary basis” and already has 187 co-sponsors.
In case we don’t get the message of this mailing, the enclosed petition begins “The United Nations is one of the most anti-American organizations on the planet!” Below this is the usual list of the reasons the U.S. should not fund the U.N. any longer, including corruption and salary increases. The U.S. is a major contributor to the U.N., yet the requested federal budget for fiscal year 2013 only allotted $568 million for the U.N.’s regular budget. Meanwhile, a whopping $639 billion of discretionary funds was requested for the Pentagon to fund things like unnecessary wars and outdated nuclear weapons systems. Seems like cutting U.S. funding of the U.N. wouldn’t even make a dent in our national debt.
So why is this letter effective? First – fear implied by “takeover.” Most attacks on the U.N. express frustration with its not enough getting done. Here there is some justification: a global organization seldom reaches agreement. But a U.N. strong enough to take over the U.S.? Absurd. Nevertheless, fear is effective.
Secondly ignorance – the U.N.’s “anti-Americanism.” Tell this to the smaller countries in the U.N. who feel they are being steam-rolled by the major powers! Criticism by all nations is standard at the U.N. American tolerance for free speech is one of our greatest strengths as is evident in letters like these. But its authors evidently feel that free speech on an international level becomes anti-Americanism.
Again, ignorance is effective. But blaming the U.N. for anti-Americanism is a dangerous way of shielding the public from some of the very real opposition to our actions in the world: the invasion of Iraq, for example. And let’s not forget how important the U.N. is to cleaning up the mess we helped make for women and children in Afghanistan. U.N. Resolution 1325 “urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.” Our President has expressed his support for this resolution with his executive order to institute the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
So let’s have a U.N. Day that echoes with strong support for the world’s longest attempt to subdue fear and ignorance in all its countries and build a mutual support system for peace and security. Let’s make sure Washington knows our budget priorities and understands the vital role of women in peace processes. And let’s remember that world problems such as hunger, war, climate change, and human rights demand an organization containing all the world’s countries.
Once again, this letter travels to our waste-basket.