U.S. must be at U.N. table

By Jeremy J. Brigham


The United States must actively support and participate in the United Nations in every way possible. Many reasons support this view.

Peacekeeping is paramount. Seventy-five percent of the U.N.’s budget is spent on peacekeeping, which is determined by the Security Council, where the United States is one of five countries with a veto. No peacekeeping effort occurs without U.S. support. It is a bargain for this country, as the U.N. Peacekeeping Force is eight times cheaper than a comparable U.S. force.

The U.N. Security Council authorized military action in Libya, leading to the end of Gadhafi’s dictatorial rule; imposed sanctions on Iran to stop its illicit nuclear weapons program; and set up peacekeeping missions to help South Sudan become better established as a brand new country. Coordinated international action is more effective than unilateral action, removing the basis for criticism of one country’s special interest in another country’s fate.

The United States should support UNESCO, which is engaged in literacy training for Afghan police, strengthening tsunami warnings in the Pacific Ocean, promoting technical and vocational training around the world as a way of combating unemployment, seeking to promote and evaluate education to combat HIV and AIDS in Central and Western Africa, and promoting cultural education at a university in Turkey as way to facilitate social inclusion and sustainable peace globally.

Why does the United States not support

UNESCO? UNESCO recognized Palestine, which violated two 1990s U.S. laws that prohibit support of any U.N. entity that recognizes Palestinians. These laws need to be revisited, but in the meantime, Congress should give the president a waiver so that we can fund UNESCO. The United States needs to be a fully supporting partner in all these worthy ventures.

The U.N. Population Fund deserves U.S. support. Its program is based on respect for human rights and dignity. Thus, it works to promote reproductive health in many parts of the world where it is in jeopardy. It seeks to reach out to youth in ways that are culturally sensitive.

In India UNFPA is working to end sex-selective abortion, while in Cambodia it is working with Buddhist monks and nuns to address the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDs.

The $34 million the United States withholds because of UNFPA’s work in China affects the

UNFPA everywhere in the world, while its programs in China seek to offer a greater range of alternatives, provide reproductive health care, and advocate against forced abortions. In parts of China where the UNFPA has been active, the abortion rate is lower than in the United States.

The United States should participate actively in the International Telecommunications Union, to keep open the global access to the Internet, while some countries are seeking to restrict access to it.

The U.N. has many open-ended ad hoc working groups. Sometimes their purpose is overtaken by events, such as a major global financial crisis. Ad hoc working groups are addressing marine biological diversity and standards for the arms trade. In addition, one group is addressing the protection of the human rights of older people, a growing issue in this and other developed nations.

These are only a few of the reasons the United States should fully and unequivocally support the U.N. It is a bargain in exchange for access to the greatest international forum on earth. But the U.S. must be seen as having a legitimate voice, which means paying its dues in full and on time.

Jeremy J. Brigham is adjunct assistant professor, International Programs, University of Iowa, and vice president of the Linn County United Nations Association. Comments:

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