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Despite all its detractors, the United Nations still makes a positive difference in the world.
By Ed Jones
Annan's bottom line is that, though the secretary-general has some leeway, he and the rest of the staff of the world body must still draw much of their power and support from the U.N. Security Council--a body wracked by fundamental disagreements among member nations. That division made it all but impossible for Annan to rein in the violence in Syria this year as a special U.N.-backed mediator.
Yet even with those restrictions, Annan found a way as secretary-general to push the world body into a new era. His greatest legacy was to restore the meaning of "we the peoples" from the Preamble to the U.N. Charter. For too long, the United Nations had been restricted from helping those in need by unreasonable deference to its member states over their internal affairs.
Under Annan, the world body moved toward a new doctrine incorporating the "responsibility to protect" endangered people all over the globe. That he was able to establish that principle, in the face of stubborn resistance, particularly from the developing world, is nothing short of a miracle.
The "responsibility to protect" is clearly in evidence in the eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which I visited in May. Among the teeming masses of displaced people from two decades of war, the blue helmets of U.N. humanitarian forces stand out as beacons of hope.
There is no military intervention planned, no formal execution of the "responsibility to protect," but the situation remains tense.
Anglican leaders in the DRC say the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, with half a million more people displaced by recent fighting involving renegade soldiers.
You can help by sending donations to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, 110 W. Franklin St., Richmond, Va. 23220-5095. The diocese is helping the Anglican Church of the Congo to care for the victims of violence.
As for the longer-term issues, there are no easy answers. But the legacy of men like Sergio Vieira de Mello reminds me that the possibilities for peace and justice are enhanced by the existence of the United Nations.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401