Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Shake up at the UN

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Helen Clark is front-runner to be the next UN Secretary-General. Photo / Supplied
Helen Clark is front-runner to be the next UN Secretary-General. Photo / Supplied

They have a fantastic view of New York's East River from the United Nations building.

I spent the best part of an hour staring at this river to numb the sound of three UN staffers undermining any lingering good perceptions of the place.

The three sat opposite me at the end of a big desk. The guy to the left of me fell asleep. I wrote down four things.

The most interesting was: "The UN still has a decolonisation unit". When the UN was established in 1945, 750 million people lived under the rule of a colonising country. Now, only 2 million people do.

Helen Clark should think about ditching that unit if she wins the election for Secretary-General. She might also want to take a look at these three staffers, especially the one who tells us he can't remember what the letters CSDP stand for.

I thought this guy said he works on the Europe region. CSDP stands for the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union.

That's also in the Europe region.

Clark has her work cut out if she gets this job. This big rectangular building will be her new Beehive, New York City will be her new Wellington, the world will be her new New Zealand.

She'll be in charge of soldiers who are rarely allowed to fire their guns, much like the soldiers she was in charge of before. She'll run an entity the US flagrantly ignores, which, again, isn't too dissimilar to running New Zealand.

She'll be tasked with fixing the world, but she'll need to start by fixing the UN. In 1945, the overriding objective of the UN was "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

The UN has failed. Sure, maybe the UN's existence has prevented World War III - we'll never know - but wars continue to rage.

The UN has failed the children of Syria, Vietnam, Rwanda and Korea.

The UN begged for peace in Syria, while the country it is headquartered in gave guns to Syrian rebels.

When countries around the world liberalised drug laws, the UN passed a resolution supporting the war on drugs every right-minded person knows has failed.

This organisation behaves as if World War II happened yesterday.

Someone needs to have a chat with the Security Council about how unfair the right to veto is, and how if we are going to continue letting the five big kids overrule everyone else, then maybe it's time to permanently include India. Or Japan. Or Germany.

Clark and the other candidates say they'll reform the place if elected. None of them can. The Security Council is a case in point. Including any other big nation in the five permanent members would need the consent of all five. But Russia and China are not going to agree because it would mean they would have less power.

The good news is the UN knows it needs to be dragged into the new millennium. That self awareness is part of the reason Clark has a good chance of taking out this election.

In 70 years, all eight UN bosses have been men. Now, dozens of member countries want a woman.

And for the first time, the UN hasn't selected its Secretary-General behind closed doors. It is doing it in public. Clark is the front-runner.

If she takes it, she'll have a massive job on her hands.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something trying very hard to avoid growing up. So far it’s working, except for the husband, the mortgage and the proper job. She lives between Auckland and Wellington. When she’s not writing for the Herald on Sunday, she co-hosts TV3’s 7pm current affairs programme Story.

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