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General Assembly Reflects World’s Ideal of Hope

UN General Assembly 73 session 25 September 2018 UN photo by Cia Pak

UN General Assembly 73 session 25 September 2018 UN photo by Cia Pak

By Ted Anthony - NEW YORK (AP) — When the United Nations rose from World War II’s rubble, its birth reflected a widespread aspiration that humanity could be lifted up and dispatched down a positive path — if only there was a coherent, informed, unified effort of good faith among countries and their leaders. That would require persistence, compromise and, above all, hope.

Four generations later, the theme of this year’s mid-pandemic U.N. General Assembly leaders’ meeting reflects that ideal: “Building resilience through hope.” But at U.N. headquarters this week, while persistence seems abundant, hope is a scarce commodity.

The General Assembly is unfolding this week under a thundercloud of deep pessimism. Coherence is spotty. Two growing kinds of unwanted information — mis and dis — are scurrying around unchecked. And that unified effort of good faith? It feels absent, if not outright outdated, in an era when those responsible for the rest of us can’t even agree to check at the door to see if everyone is free of the deadly virus that has upended humanity’s best-laid plans.

“Our world has never been more threatened, or more divided,” the U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said Tuesday, setting the tone with his first words as he opened the meeting. “The world,” he said, “must wake up.”

But the leaders he summoned are fragmented and cranky and, to hear them tell it, unsettled and intimidated by pandemic, polarization and climate-fueled natural disaster. And the question that leaders keep implying at the United Nations this week, in speech after speech, is both one of the most basic and intricate that there is: What on Earth do we do now?

Part of the answer — or at least, a clue to why it hasn’t been answered yet — is contained in the nature of the United Nations itself.

For nations to commit to being united — and to actually follow through — isn’t easy in a fractured world brimming with problems that often come down hardest on the least powerful. The notion of nations playing on a level field may sound fair and just, but smaller countries insist that principle crumbles when power dynamics come into play.

What’s more, the whole concept of “multilateralism,” an ever-present U.N. priority based on distributed solutions and layers of agreements that gives smaller countries a voice, clashes with the mythology of charismatic leadership embraced by the West for centuries.

Overlaid atop all that is the problem that the United Nations’ structure doesn’t match the era in which it is operating — something its leaders and members have long acknowledged. This is, remember, an organization founded in an age — the mid-20th century — when many of the best and brightest believed the world could act in concert and coherence.

Read full story at Associated Press website – here

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