Is the United Nations dead in the water? That's a common opinion in global leadership circles. In mid-summer 2003, I took part in a workshop in Sweden that brought together highly influential leadersexecutive officers of major corporations, government ministers, and members of parliamentsto discuss trends in economic development and international governance. Participants hailed from around the globe: China, India, Africa, the United States, and Europe. Perhaps what is unique about this annual gatheringbeyond the fact that no media are invited and no press releases issuedis that priority is placed on initiatives to increase human dignity and social justice in the world.
Though I had a very positive experience at the workshop, I left with the alarming realization that many leaders consider the United Nations a lost cause. Representatives of the developing nations railed against the double standards of U.N. declarations and the structural inequity posed by the Security Council. Europeans despaired at the U.N.'s impotence, pointing to its inability to establish effective mediation in the high stakes game of power politics over Iraq.
These premature post-mortems will sound like music to the ears of the neoconservatives who set the agenda at the White House. Nelson Warfield, a former press secretary for Sen. Robert Dole and a key Republican strategist, said it well in the International Herald Tribune: "Just about every conservative is thrilled with a president who tells the U.N. to take a hike." I wonder if more-progressive political operatives consider the alternatives when they so cynically undermine the United Nations?