well, I had my first exam today for my latest class, a political science class called The United Nations in World Politics. I think I did really well on the exam, I normally do pretty well at exams because I can memorize large amounts of information for regurgitation purposes over a short amount of time. Also, I have a *somewhat* photographic memory, so if I can’t think of something, I can often picture it in my mind, where it was on the page, whether I highlighted it, and see it in my own handwriting. Then, I just copy it onto the exam booklet page and I’m good! Lucky me, right? I think that’s how I learned to spell so well when I was a child – I remember seeing the word in a book I was reading and then remembering it for spelling bees and whatnot. Kids in my classes didn’t believe me that I could remember things like that and learn how to spell words they hadn’t even heard about. But, that’s what you get when you learn to read at a very young age – just before the age of three – and combine it with a *somewhat* photographic memory. However, I always lost at those stupid math challenges. I wasn’t so good with numbers, it was a language that didn’t come easily to me. Words are better than numbers. The only way I could remember numbers was to make up little personalities for them, and picture them with faces and colours and little houses and stuff. But words – now those came easily.
The UN class is really interesting. I’m learning so many fascinating things about how the organization works, some of the politics involved, why the UN and the US have such a difficult relationship. More and more, I come to hate that cocksuck*r george bush. (Is cocksuck*r a bad word? I mean, I know it’s for *swearing*, but is it a derogatory term for gay men? I think maybe it is, so I’ll refrain from using it in the future. Can someone clarify?) Like for example, bush refused to sign onto the International Criminal Court (which is not a UN-affiliated organization, that’s the International Court of Justice) because he was afraid that US soldiers would be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He tried to negotiate with some 150 other countries for exclusive immunity from prosecution in the ICC for all american citizens. The European Union would accept only if bush agreed to seek prosecution of his citizens within the american justice system. He refused to accept even this concession, and instead pulled out of the whole ICC organization. My thought is, if you’re afraid your soldiers are being assholes out there and committing crimes against humanity during warfare, perhaps you should deal with that problem instead of seeking to grant them special privileges of immunity from prosecution for their actions.
bush’s ongoing unilateral actions, in areas like the environment and the Kyoto accord, the Iraq invasion, the ICC, many peacekeeping missions, and repeatedly vetoing any resolutions that would put an end to the strife in the Middle East – instead continually siding with Israel and refusing to acknowledge Israel’s wrongdoing in the region – all add up to major problems in the UN. I hope the next president changes this trend and gets more in line with what the UN mandates. The current american ambassador to the UN seemingly has absolutely no use for the organization, and Congress regularly refuses to ratify UN resolutions if they conflict with US interests – even if the whole rest of the world benefits. One of the biggest conflicts in the UN has to do with the G-77, a grouping of all the developing nations of the world. The G-77 has the voting power in the General Assembly to defeat any opposition on any issue, and quite often does just that. The US in particular gets really pissed off about this, because they feel since they contribute the most money (in dollars) to the UN, they should be able to decide how that money gets spent, and the G-77 quite often carries anti-colonialist, anti-american views. The G-77, on the other hand, contributes less money in dollars, but actually contributes MORE money according to ability to pay, which is the UN’s formula for deciding assessments. The poor countries of the world are not required to contribute much in terms of dollars – some are asked to contribute less than my yearly salary – but they do it, because they believe in the UN and its work. The US on the other hand is constantly trying to find ways out of paying their assessments. They frequently refuse to pay and go into arrears – this is especially true of peacekeeping missions with which they disagree politically, as in the case of El Salvador and Nicaragua – and when they do pay, they agree only to pay a reduced percentage of what they owe, 20% instead of 25% of the GNP at which they were assessed. This is millions of dollars of the UN budget that the US holds hostage. When the US doesn’t pay, everyone at the UN suffers – areas of conflict that need military support, development programs that support environmental sustainability, programs like the World Food Program, which ran out of funds this past March and had to cut rations to Kenya, and the secretariat, whose personnel mans the organization and does everything from get coffee to reasearch democratic elections in new and fragile governments post-conflict. The US should be paying interest on what they owe, not paying less than what they owed in the first place!
Another thing that bugs me is that the US holds a permanent seat on the Security Council, which comes with the power to veto any resolution, even when the rest of the council is in consensus. (4 other countries hold permanent seats – France, China, Russia, and UK – and they also have veto rights. the other ten seats are 2 year rotating positions: 5 go to Africa/Asia, 1 to Eastern Europe, 2 to Latin America, and 2 to Western Europe/other developed nations, like Canada and Australia.) To pass a resolution, a majority of 9 is needed with the support of all 5 permanent members. Therefore, when a peacekeeping mission (PKO) is approved, these are the people who approve it. However, the troops for peacekeeping missions almost always come from developing nations – Pakistan, India, Uruguay, Libya, Nigeria, Paraguay, etc. The country that has contributed most to PKOs is FIJI. Incidentally, Canada has contributed to every UN PKO ever deployed. The US? They don’t send their soldiers out to UN PKOs. Not ever. (I guess they must be too busy committing war crimes in countries they have no right to be in and that the international community disapproves of…)
UN reforms have been buzzing about for the last decade or so. A friend told me recently that the UN had tried to set forth some reforms, but that the G-77 had shot them down in the General Assembly because the reforms were too friendly to the US. It seems to me that any reforms have to suit the US, or they will simply pull out of the organization altogether and funding will suffer and programs will suffer and that means people will die, starve, kill one another, suffer, get sick, not learn how to read, etc. etc. The UN is too dependent on the US. It has no choice but to cow to them in order to put any reforms through. That seems wholly unfair, since most of the problems within the UN have to do with countries not ratifying UN mandates and acting unilaterally… and the US is the biggest perpetrator.
Anyway, this is the stuff I’ve been thinking about today. I thought I’d share. This stuff was, for the most part, news to me, so I thought just maybe it might be news to some of you, too. Go visit the UN website, it is fascinating!