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Burma:United Nations: A lame Duck?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 8, 2007


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Ibrahim Gambari (left) and Ban Ki Moon addressed the UN in New York today, Oct 5

The UN Secretary-General today attacked the Burmese military junta’s “abhorrent and unacceptable” crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Rangoon.

Ban Ki Moon demanded that Burma “take bold actions towards democratisation and respect for human rights” after demonstrations led by Buddhist monks were crushed by the army.

The Secretary-General was addressing the Security Council before Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy who returned from Burma this week, raised concerns about continuing human rights abuses.

Mr Gambari met General Than Shwe, the head of the Burmese junta, and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a four-day trip to the country. Through shuttle diplomacy he was able to open the lines of communication between the Government and Ms Suu Kyi for the first time in years. From Times Online

UN has been criticized because its mandate to stop violations of human rights in any nation is weakened by it’s own set-up, which at one time has been voted on and accepted by 192 world nations. Or as TimesOnline put it:

“Calls for sanctions to be levied by the UN Security Council will go unheeded, however, as China is prepared to veto any punitive move. They claim that there is no reason to intervene in a purely domestic dispute.”

In a nutshell this is UN’s main problem in regards to actually making a difference in cases such as Burma – there will always be one or other Member of the Security Council to use their veto to put any measures proposed off indefinitely.

While non-binding resolutions and condemnations go on each nations record as they are issued, they have very little force exactly because they are non-binding:

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Faced with mounting world outrage over violence in Myanmar, the UN Security Council was to meet Monday under pressure to quickly condemn the military regime for crushing pro-democracy protests.

The 15-member body was to weigh a draft statement that would condemn “the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations” by Myanmar’s rulers, urge them to “cease repressive measures” and release detainees as well as all political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The non-binding text, drafted by the United States, Britain and was submitted Friday to the full council after members heard a report from UN emissary Ibrahim Gambari on his recent mission to defuse the crisis.

The Burmese Junta can leisurely meet with UN envoys this and that, and then do as they wish any way. I am thinking back to South Africa during the Apartheid era. What was it that eventually made the oppressive government buckle and fall?

One thing I remember: Individual Nations banded together, without the UN, and imposed financial sanctions. It’s hard to function if you have no trade-partners. Popular opinion and protests – world wide protests.

One thing’s for sure, it didn’t happen because of UN Resolutions.

UN wasn’t thought up to be a lame duck. It was meant to be a true World Government, with the power to actually make peace, safe-guard human rights and be an instrument of what is good – unfortunately for us all petty grievances over this and that piece of power put forward by individual nations have put the UN in a position where any of the above positive is not really achievable.

Perhaps we all need to petition our governments to recant some of their demands on the UN, so the UN can become something more than just an abbreviation we learn about in school, so maybe the UN can become The United Nations. Any time to do what is right is the right time, and the crisis in Burma is as good as any.

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