Milliband Defends the UN

The new (and young) UK Foreign Minister David Milliband is blogging and appears to be doing it well. He’s making an effort to directly connect with other bloggers. As Blake noted, he sat down with Steve, Sameer, Blake, and I at an event coordinated by UN Dispatch when he was in town for the opening session of the UN General Assembly. And, he’s directly responding to comments.

Yesterday, he defended the UN.

Quite a few of the comments on the blog so far have attacked the UN for various failings. It’s not a perfect institution — shock. It should be reformed — of course. But don’t fall for the argument that because it’s not perfect it is not valuable.

The UN deploys the second-largest number of troops and police (over 80 000) and in operating 15 peacekeeping and political missions around the world. It organises peace negotiations for the some of the most difficult places — Darfur coming up. Its development fund has sponsored projects in over 100 countries for women’s health and safety. It raises more than $2 billion a year for devastating natural and humanitarian disasters. It oversees criminal tribunals on Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon. Immunisation rates for the six major vaccine-preventable diseases are up to over 75%. And it has unique authority to speak for decent opinion around the world.

To add to that, the UN peacekeepers he mentions are most often deployed to some of the world’s most complex conflict zones — including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Sudan, and Liberia. Were the UN unable to undertake these missions, the U.S., the U.K., and our allies would either be forced to do so themselves or allow the conflicts to fester and, in most cases, destabilize entire regions. The UN not only raises massive amounts of money for humanitarian relief, it undertakes often dangerous missions to conflict zones like southern Lebanon and souther Sudan and in the wake of earthquakes, tsunamis, and droughts to deliver that aid.

In addition to their unmatched vaccination work, the WHO and other UN agencies are also coordinating national and regional programs in over 100 nations to fight HIV/AIDS, working to halve the world’s malaria burden by 2010, and monitoring and coordinating responses to possible global epidemics, including avian flu. The UN eradicated smallpox in 1979 and has nearly done the same to polio.

The UN has monitored elections for over half of the world’s nations and has also coalesced the world behind a set of robust goals to reduce poverty and promote development. It inspects nuclear facilities in over 140 nations. And, perhaps most importantly, while it is sometimes difficult for the UN Member States to arrive at a consensus, when they do that consensus carries the weight of the world behind it.