At the UN, what do we tell the world?

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | "Silence our war drums". That was what the president of the 73rd. United Nations General Assembly appealed to the delegates, pointing out to the increasing urgency to stop militarizing each other and antagonizing societies as we attempt to sustain the planet. Then there is the question whether the UN itself is, or has been, effective in silencing drums, ensuring human rights violations are reduced, protecting the environment, and making the world sustainable.

The UN is essentially a social club, and an elitist and expensive one to maintain, whose operations depend on member contributions. It is a place - since 73 years ago during the time of Woodrow Wilson's proclamation to end all wars - to air grievances, call for help from member states in cases of state-to-state aggression, and in general, to talk and perhaps walk the talk on issues of grave concern to the well-being of humanity and the environment.

I spend the day, whilst preparing my lectures on global issues, listening to speeches I felt highlight the perennial issues plaguing us. I sat and watched speeches by Donald Trump, Hasan Rouhani, Mahmoud Abas, president of the 73rd General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa, European Council president Donald Tusk, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since I started studying about the UN in the 80s, closely studying its function in the late 90s, visiting its New York headquarters many times, and today factoring in the UN sustainable development goals in my lectures on international affairs, focusing on the interplay between sustainability, human rights, peace, security, and justice, I have always wondered year after year, delegates have spoken about reforming the system, especially in the nature of its Security Council. Has it not been working well at all, to be calling for reform yearly?

There are comforting and troubling messages in the seven videos I watched and took notes on, reminiscent of my ethnographic "scratch-notes-taking sessions" of my dissertation-data gathering days at Columbia, analyzing hundreds of pages of speeches on the nation-state and cybernetic change, ploughing into data-sets daily, triangulating words with numbers, and visual images with statistics, and seeing the elegance of themes emerging as I tried to find explanation of a new Malaysian world emerging using the framework of grounded theory.

Fun stuff, ethnographic research on the anthropology of peace, economic development, and the emerging cybernetic state.

So, what did I find out today, concerning the world we are living in as represented and characterized by the heads of states of the leaders of today? And how must Malaysia proceed in her existence, after the regime change of the same-old-ideology perhaps, if she must honour the promises of globalism and the framework of the 17 UN sustainable development goals?...

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