First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?
It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.
Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…
He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”
North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:
The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.
With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.
What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.
“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.
North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.
“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.
The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.
“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”
Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”
People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law. Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?
Look at these wonderful illustrations of 10 powerful women in history; the Telegraph reports on how the celebration of women started in 1908 with a march through New York City; Google’s Doodle is explained (see how many of the women you’d heard of before); the United Nations support the Day; and my personal favourite Netflix explaining how the world wouldn’t work without women.
In Religious Studies lessons about war and conflict whether it be in the Autumn term of Year 9 or the Autumn term of Year 10 at GCSE level we delve in to the organisation: The United Nations. We look at why it was created and what it does to promote world peace.
In recent days and I imagine in the weeks and months to come this organisation will appear increasingly in the news, or it certainly needs to. It will respond to world events concerning refugees and discrimination against Muslims, because that was what it was designed to do.
Today news reports say that the German Chancellor (Germany’s equivalent of Prime Minister) had to explain to the US President Donald Trump what the UN Geneva Refugee Convention means. Since 1951 the Refugee Convention has defined exactly what a refugee is and agreed that refugees should never be sent back to place where they face serious threats to the life and freedom. The UNHCFR, United Nations Refugee Agency, has some interested stories to tell of how British people have welcomed refugees. Sir Mo Farah the Olympic long distance runner who was a refugee from Somalia and settled in Britain as a child, has spoken out against the US President’s actions in recent days where certain nationalities (people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) have been banned from travelling to the US for 90 days, all of them Muslim majority countries.
A spokesperson for Angela Merkel said: “The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries. She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”
The United Nations believe that over 10,000 have been killed in the two years that conflict has resided in the Yemen. And that 3 million people have been displaced by the conflict.
The United Nations are urging the two sides to bring this conflict to a peaceful end so that the huge humanitarian costs can stop. So who is fighting? The Houthis group, backed by Iran, overthrew the president of Yemen two years ago and took over the capital. The Saudi Arabian backed president fled to the south of the country and is now being supported with the military might of Saudi Arabia. Adding to that, the Saudis are hugely supported by the US and UK.
When it comes to killing innocent civilians both sides can be found guilty. You can also add to the mix child soldiers and over 80% of the Yemen population requiring humanitarian aid to survive.
Isn’t it sad that nobody really talks about it; that so few people really know about it?
The United Nation’s Global Commission on Drug Policy has just released its annual report which states that civil and criminal punishments for drug use and possession should be abolished.
The former Swiss president and chair of the commission, Ruth Dreifuss, told the Guardian: “Politicians should show and prove to the people that what they are doing is to save the lives of these people and bring them to the health services they need to avoid overdoses and to create a climate so when these people are in need, they are able to find help.”
The report explains that even though most of the world has punitive harsh measures to try and deter people taking drugs the world has actually seen a 33% increase in the number of 15-64 year olds taking drugs in the last twelve months in the time period 2003-2014.
Do you think Britain should decriminalise drug taking and possession? Or do we need strict laws on drugs for the protection of British citizens?