Barry Soper: Leaders week an opportunity for reflection

By Barry Soper

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, at U.N. headquarters. Photo / AP
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, at U.N. headquarters. Photo / AP

Leaders week at the United Nations is more about clinking cocktail glasses and glad handing than it is about tangibly addressing the real issues facing the world. It certainly isn't about navel gazing, which is a pity because for the UN that's exactly what it should be about, having a good, objective look at what's the point of it all.

The organisation was set up 70 years ago with New Zealand as one of its founding members, essentially to stop another world war. Well there may not have been one but there have been many skirmishes since and the one we're grappling with at the moment has most of the world involved, the fight against ISIS, a bunch of terrorists the world was unfortunately introduced to just a few years ago.

And of course the UN couldn't prevent, try as it did, to stop the United States and Britain from invading Iraq in 2003 which some would say, with good reason, spawned the Islamic terrorists.

The United Nations, and in particular its power base, the Security Council is like a toothless tiger. And that'll always be the case when the real power vested in just five countries who can use their veto and thwart any meaningful resolutions.

It was a point laboured by John Key, who chaired the council overnight, when he addressed the General Assembly. Unfortunately being a blip on the radar screen at the bottom of the world, see New Zealand's speaking slot at the end of the end of the day when most of the big hitters have long since left the auditorium.

And that's a pity, because Key's message was a strong one, telling those who stayed on to listen that it was troubling to see the Council, the preeminent body for international peace and security, failing to live up to its responsibilities on the biggest crisis of our time taking place in Syria.

Essentially it's a squabble, as it usually is, between the United States and Russia who tend to put their own interests before almost anything else. That was Key's contention, although he diplomatically didn't name names.

In a departure from what is usual for leaders, Key sold Helen Clark's credentials as the right person for the job of UN Secretary General. This is not a business as usual position, he intoned, it's a job for someone who'll effect change which is long overdue.

Currently the United Nations, which costs us tens of million of dollars a year to belong to, spends much more on peacekeeping than it does on preventing the peace from being disrupted in the first place.

And that is truly closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We clearly need a better stable hand!

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 03 Dec 2016 09:54:30 Processing Time: 477ms