4 a.m conversation about U.N reform

2006-09-19 - oiwan

Rebecca encouraged me to participate in the Reuter upcoming event: a conversation on UN Reform with Ted Turner, I was hestitating because I have to stay till or wake up at 4 a.m. The underlying question is whether our opinion can make a difference when Mr. Annan's opinion on the Middle East War had been neglected by big countries.

I still remember Annan's article comparing U.N with World Cup, of course, the latter one is more fair and there is a set of rules that players would respect and follow. In the U.N security council there are too many back door deal and "evil" or "glory" allies.

Rebecca asked "When you talk, will the U.N's largest private donor listen to you? He should." My doubt is even if Ted Turner is listening, could U.N has substantial reform measure? And as Salam Adil pointed out this year the UN is on course to spend about $9 billion on peacekeeping alone. Ted's $1 billion is really like drops in oceans. And when we consider the war in Lebanon, I could not help wondering, why the expenses of the peacekeeper come from the U.N's budget while the ruins are caused by the irrational and inhumane bombing by some superpower allies. So what are you sponsoring, Ted?

Anyway, back to Rebecca's questions:

What is your opinion of the United Nations? What kind of impact has it had on your country and people? How should it be reformed? Who should lead it?


In Hong Kong, the greatest U.N presence was during the SARS epidemic in 2003, when WHO gave some advices and pressured mainland China to release information concerning the outbreak. Recently, Dr. Margaret Chan, the former Director of Health Department during the SARS period is nominated for the Secretary General of the WHO. Some of the Hong Kong people still remember she quitted her job just in time to avoid the investigation by the Legislative Council on the mishandling of SARS situation. Still, it is good to have Margaret Chan as
a candidate, as the local mainstream media treated it as an Olympic marching game, we get to know more about the voting system within WHO.


Another well known U.N body is the human rights commission. Some years ago, from time to time, we could hear the commission's criticism on China government for human rights abuses; in recent years, there are still some regular reports on human rights violations in China, but Chinese officials have learned how to play the game by criticizing U.S for their human rights abuse on racial, religious
minorities, within and outside the country, as the US has lost its moral ground.

A new development is that human rights abuse is becoming more serious in private sector. Transnational corporate in developing countries are abusing workers rights, working with the government to repress people's freedom in speech and expression (the Yahoo! case). Recently, GP Battery sues three
Hong Kong Non-government organizations for libel in order to stop them from exposing the intoxication of workers in their production line in China.

When the private sector is expanding, we need more support from local ngos to take up corporate watch and monitoring role, however, the U.N support to NGOs is usually indirect and minimal.


UNESCO is a rather popular UN branch and is welcomed by tourist departments in many developing countries, especially China. It is funny to see how the Dongbei province tries to justify the cultural heritage claim of ancient
kingdom at Northeastern border, which results in a nationalist history debate with Korea. And then develops into a conspiracy theory of territorial claim after the disintegration of North Korea. Well, this is a distinctive case, more often, after a cultural spot is designated as a world heritage by UNESCO in developing countries like China, it is most likely that we can find a MacDonald's on the site, not to mention that the natives' home land would become luxurious housing zone for the new rich. This is because the cultural perservation projects are usually monopolized by governments that work closely with capital rather than people. Yunan's Li-jiang is a most classical example.

There are many brilliant ideas in the declaration of cultural diversity: preservation of heritage, living culture, advocacy of sustainable development and intercultural dialogue. However, which agents are to carry out the ideas? Can we leave it to the local government?

Back to Hong Kong, the urban renewal in Hong Kong has destroyed much of our living culture by replacing streets with shopping mall. Recently the historical landmark, central star ferry pier, was demolished and replaced by a theme park style new pier. I wonder how cultural diversity can be achieved without people as agents?

Need to take a nap before the online chat. 4 a.m conversation, I haven't do that for years. See you later :)

photos from isotopp