December 5, 2009 by cgsstlouischapter
Ron Glossop’s report on this U.N. Day event is based on excerpts from Dorothy Poor’s report in the WILPF newsletter of November, 2009.
On United Nations Day (October 24, 2009) some 50 members of the five co-sponsoring organizations met to hear a panel discuss ideas on “How to Make the UN More Effective.”
Judith Smart of the League of Women Voters of St. Louis discussed the status of the U.N.’s eight Millennium Development Goals targeted for 2015: eradication of extreme poverty, full productive employment, empowerment of women via CEDAW, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health, universal access to reproductive health information, reduction of AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera, climate sustainability, and global participation in development. The LWV has an official observer at the UN.
With persisting problems such as incomes less than $1 a day, early marriage of girls, high mortality rate of children under five, clear cutting of forests and lack of clean water, progress remains difficult.
But not impossible, as Rea Kleeman of the LWV noted in recommending the book The End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs. He was chosen by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to guide work on the development goals. Quoting from Sachs’ book, Kleeman said 15,000 Africans die every day of preventable diseases, and an estimated $15 billion would get rid of extreme poverty that contributes to such diseases. World population increase adds to the problems.
Speaking for the UNA, Dr. Jean Robert Leguey-Feilleux of St. Louis University said to improve the UN we need to make more use of it with professional diplomats and the new leadership of President Obama. “He’s turning the page and rebuilding trust in government, but leadership starts with us,” he said. “We have to convince people that the multilateral approach in foreign policy is best, and we need to keep ourselves informed.”
Yvonne Logan, WILPF vice president, suggested Americans show more respect for the UN by standing behind treaties and supporting the proposal of a standing UN army. She pointed out that WILPF works for disarmament and women’s rights as a member of GEAR, the Gender Equality Architecture Reform Coalition which coordinates women’s issues at the UN. Currently WILPF is working for Senate ratification of the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) without the addition of compromising Reservations, Understandings and Declarations (RUDS) detrimental to women’s reproductive rights. WILPF continues to co-sponsor international protests against the weaponization of space and to call for reducing the U.S. military budget.
Ron Glossop, Chair of the local chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions, acknowledged that he was “talking to the choir,” but encouraged the audience to bone up by reading A Global Agenda: Issues Before the UN 2009-10 which is available at <http://www.unausa.org/publications>. Electing President Obama has been a great help toward changing our foreign policy, he said, and now we need to get the right people into Congress.
He made these points:
1. The UN needs more money. For the two years 2008-09 the UN regular budget is $4.572 billion, and the U.S. share is only $500 million a year. The expenditure for the whole UN system (almost 20 different international organizations) is about $13 billion a year while Missouri’s 2009 budget is $22.4 billion. The UN’s total budget for the two years 2008-09 for 16 peacekeeping operations is $7.08 billion, and the U.S. share is $1.856 billion a year.
2. The UN can’t borrow money and consequently regularly faces financial crises. Glossop suggested it needs to have independent sources of income such as the proposed Tobin Tax on short-term currency exchanges, a tax on each country’s military spending, or a fee on international airplane flights.
3. A better civil service system is needed to get more professionalism in the staff: more emphasis on ability and less on political considerations.
4. In addition to the existing General Assembly where each country has one vote regardless of size and all votes are merely recommendations, the UN should have an advisory Parliamentary Assembly where representatives would be members of the national legislature elected by their colleagues and where there would be weighted voting depending on a country’s population. As it gained more legitimacy, it could be given more real decision-making power. One of its advantages is that non-democratic countries without national parliaments would not be able participate.
5. The UN should have its own individually recruited UN Emergency Peace Service. This force would consist of some 15,000 specially trained persons able to respond quickly to crisis situations whether natural disasters, genocides, or military actions condemned by the UN. A critical matter to be decided is determining which UN body would have the authority to direct and control the UNEPS.
The Ethical Action Committee of the Ethical Society was thanked for co-sponsoring the event and providing the meeting room at the Ethical Society of St. Louis.