Break up the old boy's club
Conference on UN backs neutrality
The Second World War ended 55 years ago. Out of the ashes arose
the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But the victors in the war were determined that their supremacy
would prevail and they contrived the Security Council as the real
controlling body of the UN. Imperialism triumphed over idealism.
Despite all that has happened in five and a half decades, those
WWII victors still control the UN. They are the Permanent Members
of the Security Council - the USA, Russia, China, France and
``The world's most powerful old boy's club'' was how former
Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Denis Halliday
described the Security Council. An Irishman, Halliday has won
worldwide respect for his opposition to Security Council
sanctions against Iraq. He resigned in protest at the sanctions,
which he estimates have killed as many as one million people,
mostly children denied proper medicine and food, in the past ten
Halliday was one of the keynote speakers at a conference in
Dublin last weekend jointly organised by the Peace and Neutrality
Alliance (PANA), UNICEF and the Irish United Nations Association
on the theme `Transforming the United Nations'.
In a hard-hitting speech, Halliday detailed from the inside the
many failings of the UN. But he stressed that it can and must be
changed: ``The UN we have today, discredited and humiliated in
Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, former Yugoslavia and elsewhere,
constitutes the only legitimate world body.''
He proposed the abolition of the Security Council and its
replacement by a democratic Council with equal representation
from all the regions of the world.
Halliday also strongly opposed the continuing erosion of Irish
neutrality, saying: ``Membership of NATO would destroy the
reputation of this country as a non-aligned independent country
of conscience, learned under a colonial regime and the resulting
famine and suffering. We know about humanitarian crises, we have
experienced genocide in our own country.''
This was very pertinent comment after the statement from Foreign
Affairs Minister Brian Cowen that those opposed to the
militarisation of the EU were ``isolationists''. Cowen's view was
ridiculed at the Conference at which virtually every group in
Ireland working on international affairs was represented. Roger
Cole of PANA, co-sponsors of the Conference, vowed to campaign
against the further integration of the state into EU `defence'
structures under the forthcoming Treaty of Nice at the end of
The most high profile speaker was former President Mary Robinson,
now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In a thinly veiled
reference to the US, Robinson said that ``many countries do not
wish the UN to interfere with their geo-political interests'' and
this was an obstacle to reform, although she believed it could be
overcome. Robinson was highly critical of the Irish government's
policy on refugees and asylum seekers:
``Ireland could be giving the lead in the fight against racism and
xenophobia but, unfortunately, that is not happening. I mentioned
earlier Ireland's high standing in UN circles. Well the reality
is that Ireland's image has been damaged by recent racist attacks
and by attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers.''
Tom Hyland of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign spoke of
his direct experience of UN failures. However it was the ``only
show in town'' and must be reformed. In an example to all
concerned with human rights Hyland, who was a lone campaigner for
East Timor in Ireland for many years, said that it would not be a
case now of him ``going back to walking my dogs around the park in
Ballyfermot''. He pledged his continuing commitment to peace and
justice in East Timor and worldwide.