The United Nations is due for a revamping.
Last night, William Davis, the director of the U.N. Information Center, outlined a bit of its plans for the future.
“The U.N.’s job is to strengthen and encourage a pre-existing central peace,” he told the crowd gathered in the Koessler room in the Michigan League last night.
But it’s not an easy job.
The three most important forces at work for the future of the United Nations, Davis said, are the new secretary general, its plans for reform and its peacekeeping missions in embattled areas of the world.
The next secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, will take office on Jan. 1. Davis said the switch could mean big changes in all areas of policy.
“The secretary general is drawn into more issues than one can imagine,” he said.
The United Nations has already instigated substantial changes. One is the Human Rights Council, which Davis described as an improved mechanism to address human rights. Davis said strict qualifications for council membership should ensure better functioning of the human rights projects the organization is undertaking.
Further reforms include a greater emphasis on internal ethics, including additional training for every employee and new regulations to protect whistleblowers.
Davis said that while some plans will be implemented immediately, others may be more long-term.
“A lot remains to be done,” he said.
Peacekeeping missions, which Davis described as the other huge issue the United Nations faces, are a growing priority.
But aid isn’t always welcome, Davis said. The Sudanese government does not want the United Nations involved in Dafur, preferring the African Union, which does not have adequate resources, Davis said. It is among many problems the peacekeeping forces are facing that need immediate attention.
“Peacekeeping is an imperfect science at best,” he said.
Davis went on to address the importance of America’s role in the organization.
The United Nations affects the lives of Americans more than they realize, Davis said.
Its impact is felt through the actions of what he called “the U.N. family” – organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
The five members with veto power in the Security Council are still the allied countries that won World War II, and a major question is whether they should remain the only ones, Davis said.
He added that Security Council reform needs to happen, but that it is a Rubik’s Cube-like problem.
“No one has figured out the exact formula,” he said.
The body has had its fair share of problems and failures.
The Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 with a deadline of 2015, are a set of ambitious tasks that include getting rid of poverty and world hunger, combating diseases like HIV/AIDS and encouraging gender equality.
“We’re not going to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals,” Davis said.
But he added that since the beginning of the year, the United States is closer than it was before.
The event was hosted by the campus chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy as part of a speaker series featuring prominent leaders. This is the University chapter’s first semester on campus.