by Douglas Roche
Published by: Embassy Magazine, Ottawa, September 17, 2014
Outside, the headlines blared the new war on the ISIS extremists in Syria and Iraq, but inside the United Nations headquarters in New York, the focus was on building a culture of peace and forging an agenda to wipe out the worst forms of poverty by 2030.
The tensions inside me were fierce as I watched debates play out in the one place charged by international law to protect the peace and security of the world.
The speeches were exhortatory. It was like standing on a mountain and reveling at the sight of the green fields below. But, at the same time, people over the horizon were being slaughtered by barbarians who have not the slightest regard for elementary humanitarian law.
For three days, I watched UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon open various meetings with words of encouragement, while he himself and the world body he represents were being completely ignored by United States President Barack Obama and the other kingmakers as they formed a new coalition to rout Middle East extremists.
I had come to New York to speak at a day-long forum to mark the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace. This set of actions centering on non-violence and an end to all forms of discrimination, taken up by hundreds of civil society organizations and not a few governments, was eclipsed by the militarism that followed 9/11.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with their devastating consequences, including giving birth to the extremists now running amok in the Middle East, have set the UN back. Yet the UN goes on planning for a better tomorrow.