Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The United Nations – Why does it matter?

Image courtesy of sanjibakshi
By Katherine Brown


On March 7, 2017, the Center for Global Studies in conjunction with the European Union Center, and the Department of Political Science welcomed Paul Diehl from the University of Texas-Dallas to discuss evaluating the United Nations. In a packed event, Paul Diehl discussed methods in which we evaluate the United Nations, and ways we can combat typical issues brought up in debates. One of the most interesting portions of his talk was the discussion of the issue of relevance, especially to nations who may not depend or require foreign aid, humanitarian programs, or blue or white helmets. Diehl argues that developed countries still view the United Nations as a useful program. He discussed the utilization of the UN budget and voluntary donations to the United Nations from many European nations. These nations, he argues, would not give more than what is expected of them if they did not believe in the program or find it useful.

A question I did not get to ask (though I think it is relevant) is the utilization of sending funds to the United Nations as a means of ‘back-channeling.'  Based on the discussion at the lecture, perhaps some countries could send funds to the United Nations so that they can help countries or regions that they might not be able to directly work with due to domestic politics. A popular topic at the event was U.S President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin who have both made interesting comments regarding the United Nations. With many people in the United States and Europe becoming disillusioned with the media and elites, addressing concerns about funds being sent to the United Nations is critical. Perhaps the United Nations is not too far gone, and perhaps the common critiques are simply due to a lack of good outreach to developed countries’ citizens. Citizens in developed countries need to feel comfortable with their governments sending money that may not directly benefit them, and academia in particular is in a unique position to promote that message. It is critical to note that it is not enough anymore to tell citizens that the United Nations is good for their country; we must be able to articulate why.

Katherine Brown is a first year MAEUS student at the European Union Center

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