United Nations (NYC#5)

When you visit the United Nations in New York you are no longer in the United States of America! The whole site is international land and all who visit are equal whatever their rank. This was one of many things I found out that really astounded me.

The UN’s purpose is three fold – to prevent a third world war, to promote equality and to encourage development. It was described as a three legged stool with each leg as strong as the others creating a stable entity. Our guide, a young Brazilian was so knowledgeable and passionate about the work the UN does that you just wished all member states were the same.

She took us to the Security Council chamber (we were unable to take photos as they were just going to start a meeting) and I was struck by the power that must exist here. The 5 permanent members – Russia, France, China, UK and USA – can all say ‘No’ and veto some very important decisions. This group was established in 1945 after WWII and of course the world is a very different place now. This structure is under debate and is likely to change at some point in the future as those countries that now lead the world want more say in what happens here.

The Assembly was another awe inspiring place to see. Here the 193 countries meet and discuss with everyone being as equal as each other no matter the size or military might. This is the forum for countries to bring their problems to share and hopefully come up with some solutions. In this place it is all about discussion and agreement – like friends agreeing to help each other. It only becomes formal when it is moved upstairs to the Security Council.

Two seats were of particular interest – one was that of the Vatican which is a country within Rome and the other was Palestine which although is not a country has put forward a motion to the Assembly to be recognised as one. Both these seats are used as observers rather than full members.

I know there is the view that the UN is not effective at all. That is takes too long to come to a decision and that those decisions cannot be enforced. However, isn’t it better for things to be agreed through discussion rather than enforcement? Surley things will be maintained if countries have discussed and formulated the way forward rather than an outside power coming in and using force? It may take longer but it has more chance of long term success.

One of the shocking parts of the tour was to hear the details of the destruction that land mines cause. You can buy one or get the equipment to make one for as little as $5 -$10. However, to remove them costs between $300 and $1000. They are the unseeing weapon – they have no eyes so are indiscriminate with who it kills.

I have already shown the blue helmet of the UN. Although within it’s complex in New York it has it’s own police force, fire brigade and postal service, it does not have an army. The forces that are sent to the various areas in the world is made up of troops from member states. The soldiers wear their national uniforms but they all wear the blue helmet which is a symbol that says ‘I am not here to judge but to help’.

Among the development work is the ‘School in a Box’ scheme. What a great idea!


So, my visit to the UN had me buzzing. I felt very small but also very empowered. I was as important as any of the director generals who act as a bridge between the Assembly and the individual members. I was uplifted to think that through dialogue we can sort out problems that affect our world. however, we are dealing with human beings so it is bound to take time!

This post is for the letter ‘U’ in Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe-Thursday. Do pop and see the others!

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