The United Nations (UN) should be reformed but remains a useful, respected and legitimate organisation, according to Britain’s former UN ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Sir Jeremy was speaking ahead of his talk, entitled: The UN in a world of emergencies: indispensable or irrelevant? due to be held at the Victoria Gallery and Museum on Wednesday November 27.
He said: “We’re talking about the UN against a background of rapid change, where collective action at a global level is becoming more difficult, with more players and more independent voices. Issues are becoming very local, making it increasingly difficult to get consensus.
“But the organisation still commands a huge amount of respect from members of the public. It speaks of legitimacy, and legitimacy is extremely important in terms of principled support for good behaviour. The UN stands for that, and that’s why people keep on coming back.”
A member of the diplomatic service from 1969 to 2004, Sir Jeremy was Britain’s UN Ambassador for five years, alongside postings in Washington DC, Paris, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
But Sir Jeremy says the organisation should be recognised for the “enormously beneficial” work it does funding programmes to support children’s health or refugees, for example, which would leave a “much greater crisis” if abandoned.
He said: “Iraq was a failure in the way we treat the organisation. It’s easy to blame it because it’s there but it was a failure of people to analyse the truth of what was going on.”
And, although Sir Jeremy lays the majority of the blame for Iraq on the organisation’s members, rather than the organisation itself, he does feel its structure – still based largely on the great powers following the end of the Second World War – is in desperate need of reform.
He said: “It really needs to reform to meet how we are all changing. We are all national citizens or local members of an identity group but we need to leave some room in our behaviour for compromise at a global level and not be selfish about local interests. I find this resonates particularly with the younger generation, who are going to need to mop up some of the mess created by their parents.”
Sir Jeremy Greenstock will be delivering his lecture: The UN in a world of emergencies: indispensable or irrelevant? In the Victoria Gallery and Museum’s Leggate Theatre from 5.30pm on Wednesday November 27. Tickets are free but must be booked. For more, visit http://www.liv.ac.uk/events/ambassador/