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Mobilization for Alienation vs. Catalysis for Participation

The critical choice for the United Nations system (Part #1)

Published in: International Associations 25, 1973, August-September, pp. 407-412 [PDF version]. Slightly revised version reprinted under the title: Mobilization of Public Opinion: yesterday's reponse to today's problems Transnational Associations 31, 1/2, 1979, pp. 8-14 [PDF version]
The Problem
The UN Response
An Analysis
The NGO Role
The Current Reality
The Critical Choice

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The Problem

The United Nations often appear to be rapidly destroying itself. Books now appear with titles such as The Defeat of an Ideal; the self-destruction of the United Nations (Shirley Hazzard. Macmillan, 1973). Disillusionment concerning the capacity of international organization to solve world problems is now widespread. This is particularly true of the United Nations system of organizations (and extends corrosively to staff members of each secretariat).

The 'image' of the system has rightly ations and hopes have been disappointed, and a feeling of uncertainty and doubt defenders of its ideals" (Mahdi Elmandjra. The United Nations System; an analysis. Faber and Faber 1973.).

This disillusionment, and the realization that we may have to live with the problems and adapt to them, has lead to severe cuts in United Nations and. Agency programme budgets now viewed as increasingly symbolic in value. The U.N. has even had difficulties in meeting its payroll and other day-to-day obligations. The situation has been considerably aggravated by the recent dollar devaluations (The pensions of retired United Nations civil servants have been effectively reduced by 30-40 % with no possibility of compensation under present circumstances.). All available facts and figures indicate that a major crisis cannot be much longer postponed" says one UN General Assembly document. "Clearly, if a full, final and viable settlement of the Organization's urgent financial difficulties is to stand any chance ofsuccess, substantial voluntary contributions (or their equivalent) additional to those already paid or pledged must be assured. Whether they will be forthcoming in sufficient amount will be very much dependent on the response made, in the first instance, by the major Powers of the United Nations". They have not been forthcoming. Politically the major Powers no longer have any great need for the United Nations (For example : the European Security Conference, the Middle East. Vietnam the hijacking issue, etc.).

On the whole the United Nations system of intergovernmental organizations have become less and less effective as matrixes for international cooperation, particularly In regard to problems where substantial interests of the great powers and generally the developed countries are directly or indireclly involved" (Gunnar Myrdal. In: Mahdi Elmandjra. Op cit. p. 13.).

With the exception of some specialized technical agencies, it has become an arena in which developing countries are placated and contained by encouraging them to spend endless hours in formulating toothless resolutions with little hope of implementation (Chadwick F. Alger. International Associations 1972. pp. 461-464: "The analysis has shown that only 53 of some 2000 (less than 3%) decisions in the assemblies and executive bodies of the UN, ILO and WHO created new activities in the years 1955. 1960 and 1965..).

e bodies of the UN, ILO and WHO created new activities in the years 1955. 1960 and 1965..).

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