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Home > Politics

Summit Happened, Nothing Happened

17 September 2005

The United Nations is a laughing stock, an ineffective bag of bones and blubber wrapped in an oxymoron, an organisation that may very well be on its last legs. This week's summit, the largest assembly of world leaders in the history of the UN, has been - for those who hoped for more than a microscopic hill of beans - something of a disappointment. Tarnished by a failure to agree not only on basic policy but also on the actual definition of fundamental words, coupled with the irascibility of the President's bladder, this momentous occasion is summit of a shambles. Or so it seems. Maybe behind the scenes, it's all order and progress. No. It's a shambles.

On the first day of the summit, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan decided it was time to be frank. 'We have not yet achieved,' he said frankly, 'the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required.' Now it's Friday and the summit is coming to a close, what exactly have they achieved? Well, apart from agreeing that genocide such as that in Rwanda must never be allowed to happen again - which anyone outside of the KKK could have told you - they have achieved nothing. The Millennium Development Goals are looking less realistic than ever. So much so that you've probably more chance of meeting a WMD than an MDG. In short, squabbling, corruption, ineffectitude and all, the UN are a great big waste of space. Bless them.

Rather like a large room of children pretending to be adults, each of the delegates, when it comes to their turn to speak, takes his (or her, although rarely) place at the microphone and says, basically, 'We want to be more involved. We want to be a valid and important part of the international community. But everybody else must pull their weight too. We must all work together. Oh, and we abhor terrorism. Hello Cleveland!' Then they sit down.

It can't be easy of course, getting the headstrong and ultimately wholly self-centred representatives from almost 200 countries to stumble upon common ground. Especially not with such gargantuan issues on the agenda. It's hard enough for two people to agree on what film to rent on a Friday night without having to agree - on behalf of millions of other people - on the ins and outs of global security, global development and global warming. Then there's the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on poverty, the war on violence - can you really have a war on violence? Sounds rather like fighting for an end to fighting, which in turn sounds rather like fucking for celibacy. But if we can have a war on terror, we can surely have a war on violence. Yeah, why not. But we certainly can't agree on what it means.

Perhaps the fundamental problem of the UN stems from the fact that if countries were people, there wouldn't be a single one in the world that wasn't at least to some extent psychopathic. All countries - even Sweden for God's sake - have deep-rooted psychological problems. From this point of view, it's really insane to think that getting all these countries together is going to result in world peace. Even a heartfelt singalong of 'We Are the World' is probably expecting way too much. But still, you think they'd be able to figure out what a terrorist is.

It's a beautiful idea, the UN - collective effectiveness - one goal, one mission, one heart, one vision. All that. One flesh, one bone, one voice, one hope. It's a beautiful dream. But perhaps we have to face the fact that turning that dream into reality is beyond us. As a species, we're just not up to the task of uniting.

Geldof gave the UN summit four out of ten. We give it two.

Now come on, the UN. Pull yourself together!



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