Republican News · Thursday 13 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

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 Britain.

``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 years.

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 this year.

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.

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