The UN Is Actually Relevant, Change the Lenses

Spending my formative years of higher learning in the International Relations and Political Science Department, it was quite common to get into a disparaging debate with others about the perceived usefulness of the UN. The debate largely came from the US perspective, where the UN was simply a periphery and largely toothless actor, passing resolutions and actions that had little impact in the real world. At best, it served a humanitarian cause and gave an arena to discuss world issues. At worst, it allowed the status-quo of North-South relations and was at the mercy of a few power players.

While I was a defender of the UN, it was hard not to recognize all the weaknesses and criticisms that surrounded it. Failed attempts at an international scale due to US and other super power vetoing on issues like solving global warming (Kyoto Protocol), humanitarian intervention (Sudan), or even something simple as equal rights (LGBT or persons with disabilities)were hard to personally resolve.

But after spending three plus years in Peru, the lenses changed slightly and I started understanding the UN in a different light. Peru is a supporter of UN resolutions and in fact uses them as basis and direction for their own national laws and programs. Legal documents frequently site UN Resolutions, Conventions, and Agreements as a legal base for other laws or legislation. Furthermore, resolutions and agreements passed in the UN are used to directly guide national agendas and laws. Even Peruvian law and legislation is written in a remarkably similar style to UN Resolutions with ambulatory clauses then moving on to declarations and 'action items' (the meat of the legislation). This format could be based on a previous template or rule style, or could simply be common practice in other countries as well.

It makes sense on a lot of levels. For one, with limited resources available, it's a form of outsourcing for Peru to use the UN to write legislation that the country can later adapt instead of having it clogging up the already congested Peruvian bureaucracy. Most of what is passed in the UN is technical, as well and considers marginalized populations, so that makes it passing in Peru that much easier. Further, a mountain of international organizations work in Peru; such as do-gooder NGOS, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, UNESCO, but also 'hard' organizations such as the International Labor Organization, the International Court of Justice (country to country disputes), the World Trade Organization. Operating under UN legislation makes it easier for organizations to function under known framework – but maybe that's a bit stretch as Peruvian bureaucracy and the legal system are challenging. Regardless, with so many international actors and organizations working with the Peruvian government, it makes sense to be working under international norms and standards.

The Model UN Geek in me content, and I'm sure Kent Kille is as well.   


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