Viva The United Nations!

Image Source: Creative Commons Public Domain

A certain prime minister is apparently worried about an often-ill-defined borderless global community and worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy. Sounds a bit like EU to me. Or the victors at Versailles in 1919. Could the right honourable gentleman be thinking of the United Nations? I hope not.

When I was a little boy of eight years, a man in a distant land coined the words “united nations.” That man was the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The year was 1942.

All that adult stuff was unknown to me at the time. But I did know a terrible war was raging. My family was involved in Tobruk, New Guinea and Changi. When I grew up I learned that the cliques ruling Germany, Japan and Italy were putting the interests of their own countries ahead of those of the rest of the world. Hitler had asked the world to respect the mandate of his 1934 electoral constituency. Some mandate! Some constituency! After a terrible conflict, millions of lives later, the selfish interests of the Axis powers faded into unsubstantiated fantasy as the world hit back.

In 1945 at war’s end, a vital international institution, the United Nations, was born. I was a little older in the late forties. I still remember my teenager’s idealism. So many nations, big and small, coming together for mutual benefit seemed so refreshing, so different from the dominant power struggle of the war years. The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945. The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter.

There was an important new spirit in the air at this time. I could feel it as a child. Later on I read and learned the details, for example of the Preamble below.

Preamble to UN Charter

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life- time has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

AND FOR THESE ENDS

to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

Source: https://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/preamble/ 6/10/19

When respecting the United Nations, it is hard for an Australian not to think of Dr Herbert Vere Evatt. His life is worth study. His work  for the UN should give us pride not antipathy. The following words from the Evatt Foundation deserve our attention.

Dr H V Evatt

As leader of the Australian delegation to the meeting that founded the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, he took the step of including a woman in the delegation. The woman was Jessie Street. This was a brave move for a political leader in those days, when women in politics were not highly regarded by most male politicians.

At the San Francisco Conference, Dr Evatt spoke to the Great Powers on behalf of the other nations of the world with a voice that commanded universal respect. After three months of diplomatic struggle, the Charter of the United Nations was adopted; a Charter that had become more humane and larger in scope, now containing provisions for the poor, the weak and the oppressed, provisions that had never been envisaged by the Great Powers. 

Source: https://evatt.org.au/about-us/doc-evatt.html 5/10/19

In 1948 Dr Evatt was elected President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the only Australian to have ever held the position. He presided over the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the cornerstone of human rights protection throughout the modern world. “It was the first occasion on which the organised community of nations had made a declaration of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, Evatt reflected, “millions of people, men, women and children all over the world would turn to it for help, guidance and inspiration.”

Source: loc.cit. 5/10/19

Now the Declaration has long been an inspiration for my work as a history teacher and more simply as a sentient human being. The UN is far from being an ill-defined borderless community and an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy. The Preamble below might help explain what I mean and emphasise once again the importance of this international institution.

Preamble: Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realisation of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 

SOURCE https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/  5/10/19

For this discussion of mine I draw attention to but two of the articles of the Declaration. I commend the others to you, but space here rules my pen. Source: loc.cit 5/10/19

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

This is such a strong denial of any “demand for conformity” by this international institution. Now look at this second reference to the Declaration.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

What more need be said? Such a legacy is this inheritance of vital global agendas. Surely we want the freedoms to be universal. We must not let individual, ruthless self interest weaken universal freedoms.

Viva the UNited Nations I say!

Viva the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016!

Viva The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)! 

Viva The International Court of Justice!

Down with ruthless self interest at the expense of our fellow human beings!