Guest Columnist

United Nations turns 75

A United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) plane releases sacks of food during an airdrop near the town of Nyal, in Sou
A United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) plane releases sacks of food during an airdrop near the town of Nyal, in South Sudan August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

Oct. 24 was United Nations Day, and we need to celebrate all that it does around the world — especially this year, when President Donald Trump wants to diminish its role. With the coronavirus surging in our own country and in Iowa, other issues all seem impossible to solve.

On the other hand, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) which provides food assistance to millions.

The agency is recognized “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas, and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world. Last year, it assisted 97 million people in 88 countries. Its efforts focus on emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation, and development aid. Two-thirds of the work is in conflict-affected countries where people are three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries without conflict.

The COVID-19 crisis has added to global food insecurity. It is only the international community that can tackle such a challenge. Hailing the WFP as the “world’s first responder” on the front lines of food insecurity, Secretary-General António Guterres lauded the U.N. agency on winning the coveted award.

The U.N. is all of us working together to solve some of the most intractable problems we have. Relative to the coronavirus, the UN has learned much from the Enola crisis in West Africa and uses that to support at-risk countries around the world.

With the continuing challenges in solving international conflict, poverty, and medical crises, Americans believe the United States should be an active part in the United Nations. And, indeed it should pay its dues and make voluntary contributions to help with humanitarian needs.

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Remaining strongly engaged with the U.N. is not only the right thing to do as the world body tackles some of the biggest issues in human history — COVID-19, climate change, poverty — but it’s also the smart thing to do. We have much to learn from the UN and from other nations around the world.

We must all celebrate U.N. Day and all that the UN does, but our President also needs to step up and provide our share of support to help it run effectively.

Kathy Hansen of Iowa City serves on the boards of the Iowa United Nations Association the Johnson County UNA.

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