Day 6: Bryant Park and the United Nations.

New York Travel Blog

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Hot as Hell.

I'm still in NYC, sitting in Bryant Park in front of my laptop, surfing the net for free. I can't deny it is becoming very addictive and I'm already feeling the sorrow of when I'll have to rely on Internet cafes to check my mail - and update facebook.

In all truth, I have done something else today, something very different, for me at least (considering that this activity is the non-plus-ultra of the turn of century tourist): I have been on a guided tour of the United Nations!

Let's take a step back though, and explain where the idea comes from. Yesterday night, a friend of mine that works for the UN and I were sitting in this very same spot (or very near), drinking beer from paper coffee cups, when we started a conversation that verged mainly on the many obstacles the UN have to endure in order to carry on their task, which is to promote global peace and alleviate the suffering of nations and people in need.

Two aspects especially came to mind. First of all the gargantuan bureaucracy that is at the core of such a mammoth organisation %u2014 fundamental yet alarmingly painful to see in action my friend assures me %u2014, and the condition of often powerless captive of prominent member states and their agendas.

Now, this is no news, but I take this occasion to comment on it anyway. A couple of examples will clarify my point.

The UN receive huge amounts of money, both from private donors and members, to fund projects in areas affected by war or natural disasters. In order to channel this money where is more needed, studies assessing a specific situation are commissioned, and then presented as the key that will unlock and solve the issue. But sadly, more often than not these pseudo-reports don't even go near the core of the issue, as in the case of the assessment highlighting the role of small firearms in the Rwandan genocide %u2014 small firearms? Didn't we see a hell of a lot of machetes being swung nonchalantly here and there...?

After the study has been filed and the money unblocked, all the parts (donor and recipient) have to sign miles and miles of paperwork, and the latter will have to show the right papers to access promised funds when needed.

On the other hand, you have organisations like Hezbollah that, after the war kindly brought to Lebanon by Israel, were giving away wads of cash to whoever had their house or business destroyed or damaged in the conflict. Who wants to sign endless papers when you can get help around the CASH!

This is obviously not bail Hezbollah, which have caused mayhem in their own way, but as a result of their %u2014 populist if you will, but effective I say %u2014 policy, the UN ended up channelling those funds to the less developed North of the country instead, generating an outcry for the lack of help to the South.


The second aspect will be dealt with more quickly, but examples of it are several and can be seen daily and along the UN's entire history.

The main organ of the organisation is the General Assembly, where almost every country in the world, have a seat and the right of vote %u2014 192 states and territories, excluding some tiny island nations in the Pacific, the Holy See (that's the Vatican for you and me), and Taiwan, which, I've found out today, is recognised by the UN as being an integral part of China.

The BIG decisions though, the ones regarding wars and sanctions, are taken in the more restricted Security Council, where its five permanent members %u2014 US, UK, France, China and Russia %u2014 hold unchallenged sway over the remaining 10. Whenever a proposed resolution is disliked by one of the biggies, it is far to easy for them to botch it imposing their 'rightful' veto.

And the fact the all of them have skeletons hidden in their closet, make it almost impossible for stand against each other. Some sample crisis and ongoing issues for everybody to meditate on are the following (in no particular order): Iraq, Ivory Coast, Tibet, Chechnya....

Hope you enjoyed my quasi rant and you didn't find it too lengthy. If you got tingled and wanna know more, endless other sources can be found easily, but this is it from me.

Oh, I was almost forgetting the guided tour...It turned out to be too short, badly presented, and the certain parts of the UN buildings smelled of cheap food. Definitely worth the $8,50 (student rate) I forked out.

thanks for listening. Stay Tuned.
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photo by: herman_munster