In a stroke of serendipity, on a ten-hour Amtrak journey from Washington D.C. to Boston, I sat across the aisle from a member of the Spanish envoy to the United Nations, Felipe Victoria. We struck up a conversation, discussing everything from the Spanish government in the 1940s to President Trump’s use of Twitter. We exchanged contact information and agreed that we would meet sometime in the summer for a private tour of the United Nations Headquarters.
In July, my friend and I headed down to New York City where we met Felipe and toured the UN. The importance of the institution was palpable as Felipe led us through the UN General Assembly, Security Council room, private conference rooms, and gardens. He brought us to the location where the US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin had it out over the Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years ago. We walked into lounges surrounded by hand-woven tapestries and gold-plated picture frames, where diplomats carried out foreign policy conversations over a cup of coffee. We witnessed what the United Nations could be: a forum for diplomacy and collective action among countries with common interests and values. Unfortunately, the U.N. is broken.
Looking into the general assembly chambers, I knew that Iran has a seat even though it funds jihadist terror across the globe. Similarly, the Palestinian Liberation Organization is granted the privilege of addressing the world’s democracies from the UN rostrum. As such, the Iranian and Palestinian delegations have convinced the international community to condemn Israel and promote anti-Semitic resolutions. In the last meeting of the General Assembly, 20 resolutions condemned Israel for human rights violations—with zero for any other country. Regardless of one’s opinion on Israel, surely they are not alone in such violations.
In that building, China, which routinely violates internationally recognized boundaries in the South China Sea and currently holds thousands of Uyghur Muslims in “political education” camps, holds immense power. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, the delegates in those seats did nothing. It dawned on me as we walked past diplomats from around the world, that even if the UN wanted to do something about Chinese or Russian aggression, they couldn’t; both countries reserve veto powers in the UN Security Council.
In short, the structure of the UN unintentionally enables countries that violate the tenants of the institution, while it sandbags the countries that fight for the values the UN stands for.
The UN can be the institution I envisioned when I visited in July, an institution that plays a vital role in the promotion of human liberty and global peace, an institution where diplomats can solve global issues together. To be that institution, the UN must frustrate any country that threatens those causes and concurrently support allies. Until the UN changes in these ways, it will never be the institution it could be.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.