10 January 2010


Over the course of our evolution as a species, our social group identities have increased in size and complexity. Early on we were first and moremost members of our immediate, nuclear family. As we progressed from nomadic hunger-gatherers to settled agriculture, and thence to communities which enabled wider commerce, we also progressed to organization in clans, tribes, villages, towns, city-states, and nations -- all the while retaining our connections with the smaller groups which went before.

On this day in 1946 a global governing body, the United Nations (UN), held its first general assembly. Membership has increased from the founding 51 nations to 192 currently, with developing countries making up two-thirds of UN membership. It is the only successful assembly of nations yet devised (unlike the antecedent League of Nations), a vital forum for discussion, debate and resolution of conflicts between nations. Those who criticize the UN as purportedly being an ineffective body should recall that the UN charter does not provide for enforcement powers, a tragic omission. Imagine a city with no police force, a nation with no army. When the UN does decide to intervene militarily to settle a dispute (as in the Korean War), the contribution of forces by member nations is voluntary, not compulsory. This has the effect of crippling the UN in both military and humanitarian endeavors.

Nevertheless, the UN is presently our best (and only) hope for positive change as we deal with human overpopulation, famine relief, genocide, war, and other issues of national and international importance. It is critical that all nations, rich and poor, be afforded the opportunity to voice their concerns in a civilized forum, and have those concerns addressed. Just as our national government does nothing to detract from our identities as residents of a state or community or family, so does the UN not threaten our identities as citizens of our nation. The opposite is true. A world that is secure and at peace, in which all peoples are free from hunger and war, and free to celebrate their cultural heritage, is a better world for its diversity.

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