Friday evening and Saturday,October 9&10, at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Dr. Joe Schwartzberg’s book, Transforming the United Nations System, will help focus attention on transformation of the United Nations, this year celebrating its 70th birthday. All details about this “Creating a Workable World” conference, including about conference convenor Joe Schwartzberg, can be seen here.
The conference promises to be a very interesting exchange of ideas about making the UN better.
There is no shortage of opinions about “the UN”. Far too many of these opinions, unfortunately, are ill- or un-informed.
Powerful people with their own agenda, who hate even the concept of the UN system, want it gone. Most of us have little or no knowledge of how the UN or its broad network (as World Health Organization et al) works. The UN is a complex system, a global community, which is often called upon to deal with impossible situations: hunger, refugees, atrocities, on and on.
One might call the UN a global mechanic, on call to take care of wrecks.
The UN was created out of the horrors of WWII, officially founded October 24, 1945, and during its entire history it has been called to help order chaos in an extraordinarily complex and imperfect world.
70 years after emerging from the ashes of WWII, it is still dominated by the five winning countries of that war: the United States, Russia (formerly Soviet Union), France, United Kingdom and China.
The most populous of its over 190 countries, China, outnumbers the smallest, Nauru, by a factor of 145,000 to one. Its power actors represent competing ideologies, only slightly dimmed by the end of the Cold War.
Dr. Schwartzberg’s academic work describes the UN system in understandable terms, and furthermore proposes a framework of solutions for the future. This major conference will be a unique opportunity to learn more, and engage in conversation, about the UN and its future role in the world.
I’ve read the book, and been part of a discussion group which talked about every chapter. It was a rich learning experience, a framework of reference.
What is the world that is the United Nations? There are endless examples….
A week ago I attended a talk by Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota which added greatly to my knowledge of how complex this world is.
Dr. Broadbent’s topic was very simple: watching how newspapers in 18 countries treated the topic of global climate change, thus assessing national attitudes. (His website can be accessed here.)
His powerpoint was simple and very complex. Here’s a photo of one slide:
(click to enlarge)
This slide shows two foci; a later slide introduced a third, called Mitigation, as an approach to climate change. It was all very complex, but at the same time understandable.
Near the end of the program, a black man, a native Oromo of Ethiopia, rose to powerfully observe that none of the data presented appears to represent Africa.
Indeed, that was true, because Africa does not have dominant newspapers from which to glean the data Dr. Broadbent seeks.
But the point was nonetheless made: Africa is already, and will doubtless increasingly be, bearing the brunt of the failures of the more developed world, with consequences for us all.
(Similarly, alternative media like Facebook, now dominant over print media in many quarters, are not yet part of the analysis. The research is still a work in progress.)
Whatever your knowledge, or your feelings, about the United Nations, the October 9 & 10 Workable World Conference will be worth your time. Check it out.
More on the general topic of the UN at 70 here.
The matter of the removal of the United Nations Flag at Hennepin County (MN) Plaza here.