Big dance in the big apple | Sunday Observer

Big dance in the big apple

26 September, 2021

“There is no such thing as the United Nations. If the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” – John R. Bolton (25th US Ambassador to the UN)

The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 76) was held in the city of New York (The Big Apple) from the of September 14 to the 21, 2021.

Every year the organisation spends millions of dollars to have this big gathering of the leaders of the member nations and of some non-member observer states at the headquarters of the organisation. For the leaders of some of the nations of course it is just another excuse to enjoy the trip to New York and the celebrations at the gathering with their families and close confidants at the expense of the taxpayers of their countries.

UN breaking Covid rules

This year the sessions were held in the hybrid mode giving the option of participating in person or via internet since US is averaging 2000 deaths per day due to Covid-19 at present. The UN mandate this year required all the participants to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and had to produce proof of vaccinations to receive the member passes.

As usual the agenda of the show included a segment catering to the pop culture and the youth fulfilled this time by the famous K-Pop group the BTS. While they promoted getting vaccinated against Covid, publicly declaring that all seven are vaccinated too, there was Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil attending the sessions proudly declaring that he has not been vaccinated and does not intend to do so either. He did this while he had the option to participate online from his home anyway. The office of the PGA (President of the General Assembly) issued a notice saying that Mr. Bolsonaro was given special permission to attend the proceedings in person, but he is not allowed to go to any restaurant in the city since the New York city has strict guidelines for employees and dine-in customers of restaurants.

This shows that money and power can get one special treatment even at the UN and in the US where any other traveler would have had to produce the proof of vaccination at the port of entry just to get into the country. The President of the General Assembly this year is from Maldives, and it is highly doubtful that anyone from Maldives will have the political or the economic power to implement the rules on Brazil which is a founding member and the eleventh largest financial contributor to the organisation waiting to be inducted into the Security Council as a permanent member with the veto power.

This is perhaps why John Bolton, the 25th ambassador to the UN from the US, has said: “If I were doing the Security Council today, I’d have one permanent member, the United States, because that is the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world. All international laws are invalid, meaningless attempts to constrict American power. In the US, there is a broadly shared view that the UN is one of many potential instruments to advance US issues, and we have to decide whether a particular issue is best done through the UN or through some other mechanism.” Bolton is not the first person to express this view.

In a letter written to Henry Ford for successfully completing the UN National Day activities in 1977, President Jimmy Carter has said: “Please let everyone involved know how much I appreciate the talent, time and effort that was expended so effectively on behalf of an institution that I see as one of the main supports of American foreign policy.”

UN turning a blind eye

Some decisions the UN has supported in the recent past such as: attacking Afghanistan after 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York while all the intelligence reports indicated that the terrorists involved were from Saudi Arabia, and not find anything wrong with negotiations the US had with Taliban, to hand over the country last month to the very same terrorists they were fighting against for twenty years, attacking Iraq under the false accusation of having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), not admitting Palestine as a full member even more than 70% of the member states have agreed with the resolution would certainly make it difficult for anyone to contradict what Bolton has said. If one analysed how other affiliated organisations such as the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council and UN Children’s Fund have been making some of their decisions such as: not calling for special meetings immediately when Israel starts attacking Palestine killing innocent civilians, accusing smaller nations of human rights violations and war crimes while turning a blind eye to similar involvements by powerful countries.

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and Drone attack by the US near Kabul airport that killed 10 civilians including seven children are two such examples where the UN has chosen to be silent. The US has admitted that the attack was a mistake and has apologised for it. Does that mean other nations also can just say “sorry” for the civilians they may have killed by mistake and be forgiven? Just recently there was a report by UNICEF indicating that there are a lot of children in grave danger due to lack of facilities in hospitals in Afghanistan.

One might wonder whether the hospitals in Afghanistan suddenly lost all the facilities in just three weeks after the US and the US installed government left the country or were they like that even during the US occupation. If the hospitals didn’t have ventilators and other facilities prior to US departure, why wasn’t the heart of the UNICEF melting about Afghan children at that time?

Money makes decisions

Of course, the US is the largest contributor to the UN shouldering 22% of the UN budget followed by China (12%), Japan (9%) and Germany (7%); together financing about 50% of the entire UN budget. However, if the monitory contribution is a deciding factor in the way the organisation makes decisions about the member nations, then it will be very hard for the nations that are not at least in the list of top fifty contributors to justify the reasons to continue to be a member of the “United” Nation.

One might even question the unity of these powerful nations when one sees the type of undercutting France alleged to have experienced in the hands of a secret deal among the US, UK and Australia in a buying and selling of submarines. The submarine may never be used in a war, but billions of dollars France would have got by selling it to Australia would have been a big boost for its economy, especially after the pandemic.

Though the world is still dealing in arms and nations are strengthening their militaries by spending the biggest portion of their budgets, they wouldn’t be using those traditional weapons anytime soon. If they did, it most probably will destroy the whole planet anyway and there wouldn’t be a need for any organisation as the “League of Nations”, which was formed after the WW I, and the “United Nations” formed after the WW II.

Irrespective of whether there will be a WW III or not, the next such organisation for global cooperation should be an organisation for Economic Cooperation, with genuine intentions and will to do good for the whole planet, which can undo the damage done by the predecessors such as the UN, WTO, World Bank, and IMF.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fourteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]