United Nations

Friday, March 20, 2009

“Get the US out of the UN”. This sentiment, sometimes seen on bumper stickers, runs counter to the leadership role we need to play in a fractured world.

During the time I lived in Connecticut and worked in New York, I volunteered with the Christian Mission to the United Nations Community, an NGO (non-governmental organization) working within the structure of the UN.

As a result of that experience, I want to defend the UN…… sort of.

First, after meeting with hundreds of diplomats during my 10-year involvement with the Christian Mission, I am convinced that the UN as an institution and the large majority of the diplomats who serve there are well-intentioned. Well-intentioned and hardworking, but not always effective.

Second, I believe the UN is widely misunderstood in the US. It is viewed as a counterweight to our power. Although not stated this way in their charter, I’m convinced that the real purpose of the UN is to give a voice to the marginalized people of the world, and that is a noble purpose.

The day-to-day activities of the UN are carried out through a handful of large committees that range from peacekeeping to economic development to global health. One of these committees covers human rights, including children’s rights. This is where the UN intersects with the mission of Gladney.

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 and is considered a binding treaty among member nations. Its provisions focus on the rights, the dignity, the welfare and the protection of the child, as well as the preeminence of the family. It states: “The child should grow up in a family environment” and with respect to inter-country adoption, “the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration”.

What if the world really operated this way ? What if these provisions were actually enforced ? We can dream, and we can try and work with the relevant UN agencies. Which brings us to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). UNICEF is part of the solution and part of the problem. UNICEF has done wonderful work around the world for the benefit of impoverished children. Sadly though, they are not inclined to see inter-country adoption as part of the solution to the millions of children in orphanages and on the streets. Nor do they give much credence to the efforts of adoption agencies to invest in the countries where they work, which Gladney does extensively.

The UN and UNICEF are not perfect, far from it. However, I am convinced they are well-meaning and capable of change. At Gladney, I encourage collaboration and Gladney has taken initiative to foster more collaborative behavior with other adoption agencies. My hope is that the US will begin to work more collaboratively within the walls of the UN, and that UNICEF and international adoption agencies would not work at cross purposes, but instead would collaborate effectively to improve the lives of children everywhere, especially the millions who have no concept of family.

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