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Review: United Nations Divided World

Roy McFarlane (reviewer) — October 1984

By Douglas Roche, NC Press, 152 pages, $8.95 (paperback).

“We the peoples of the United Nations. determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind ? “ - from the beginning of the preface to the Charter of the United Nations

The U.N., founded with those words in 1945, rose out of the ashes of World War II with the purpose of creating international dialogue and trust between nations. The politicians and diplomats who created the institution had just witnessed the bloodiest and most devastating war in the history of the human race; they did not want to sce such an event repeated.

Douglas Roche’s latest book, United NationsDivided World, comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the U.N. His support for the world body is obvious and clearly stated. Roche recognizes the shortcomings and failures of the United Nations, but at the same time establishes an inviting and encouraging argument for the potential inherent in this institution.

The failure though, according to Roche, is attributable not so much to the institution, but to its member states, particularly the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Each has used the U.N. as a forum to criticize and deride the other, while undertaking serious negotiations outside the U.N. on a bilateral basis. Other member states as well have ignored the work of the United Nations. As one illustration of this, Roche points to the war over the Falkland Islands and the snubbing received by UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar as he attempted to resolve the situation peacefully.

While member states have doggedly retained-the right to deal with political disputes through military means, and UN efforts to stop the arms race have been met with unrelenting frustration, the strength of the United Nations at the moment is in the field of international development. And the accomplishments are many.

In the Third World the United Nations, through its agencies, has improved irrigation, has multiplied annual food production, has increased literacy, has aided the handicapped, and has done all this on a surprisingly small budget. According to Roche, the United Naitons operates on an annual budget of $4 billion, one-twentieth of federal government spending in Canada. The UN has only 44,000 employees, roughly equal to the civil service of Alberta.

Roche lists the international political problems that surface through the United Nations, the ideological differences that threaten the very foundation of the institution, and the pressures exerted by both the wealthy North and the impoverished South.

As the United Nations enters its fifth decade, the world is on the brink of even .greater devastation than that witnessed by the institution’s founders. Roche asserts that the potential to avert that disaster lies with the United Nations, and a ppeals to governments and peoples io mark the 40th anniversary with a renewed effort to reaffirm the principles of the Charter and the purpose of its creation.