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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Neighbourhood Sit-Back-and-Watch

Yesterday's cute homily from Chris Gymer (Letters, 15/4) contrasted neighbourly disputes with foreign affairs. Clearly, we can't go around usurping the role of police by invading our neighbours' houses!

This analogy breaks down because the UN is not a police force: it is a structurally flawed club reflecting geopolitical realities from 50 years ago. For example, democratic nuclear-armed France (population 60 million) has a permanent seat on the Security Council while democratic nuclear-armed India (population one billion) does not. Due to its peculiar veto system it is demonstrably unable to respond effectively to crises. In a month when we remember the tragedy in Rwanda - and watch similar events unfolding now around the world - it is no suprise that reflective people the world over are questioning the UN's axiom that national sovereignty trumps human rights.

Whether or not we support direct military action without UN approval (such as in Kosovo), we should better think of the UN as a toothless Neighbourhood Watch committee operating in a police no-go zone. In this Hobbesian neighbourhood, sadly, posses are the only way to stop abuses within households. Before we take the next step of forming a global police force we must reform the UN to make it representative, resourced and responsible.


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