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Symposium Explores Greater UN / US Cooperation

USA-2008-06-16-Symposium Explores Greater UN / US Cooperation

About 100 diplomats, US Congressional representatives, and members of the NGO and faith communities gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on June 16 for the sixth United Nations / United States Symposium, convened by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). 

The UPF UN / US symposium attempts to promote improved dialogue, understanding and cooperation between the UN and the US so that they can work together towards peace, human development, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

“In some respects, the United States was a kind of forerunner of the United Nations, drawing people of every other nation, culture, religion, ethnicity, and race to its shores,” said Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, Co-Chairman of UPF. “Of course, like the United Nations, the USA has not always been able to live up to the noble ideals enshrined in its founding documents.” (Keynote Address)

In his remarks, Dr. Moon outlined three recommendations for creating a common ground that could improve UN / US relations, the first being a fresh effort to integrate religious wisdom with the political and diplomatic search for solutions to the world’s critical problems.

“When my father spoke here at the UN in August of 2000, he proposed the establishment of an interreligious council within the UN system,” said Moon, “His vision was not a narrow or sectarian view, but rather an interfaith vision, a vision of humanity being one family under God.”

UPF’s second recommendation is that the UN consider creating a world-level “peace corps” in cooperation with the United States. “If we are to achieve lasting peace, we must develop a culture of living for the sake of others,” Moon said. “We must face the reality that it is human selfishness and greed that give rise to corruption, the violation of human rights, monopolization of resources, abuse of the environment, and violence.”

Both the US and the UN could do more to promote educational programs that strengthen marriage, family, and parenting skills, Moon concluded.

Congressman Edolphus Towns, the 13-term US Congressman from New York, intrigued the diplomats with his adroit telling of a story illustrating the need for greater cooperation: A boy fell in a well, and three people came to help. They happened to be a political leader, a faith leader, and a teacher. Each of them had brought a pole to try to reach the boy, but none of the poles was long enough. After each had tried, they were on the point of agreeing that nothing further could be done when the boy called out in desperation from the bottom of the well, “Just join your poles together!”

“We need better dialogue between the United Nations and the United States, particularly the House of Representatives,” said Towns, who is Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee. “The UPF is right to say that we need to spend more time thinking about the needs of others than ourselves. Change is coming to the United States, and our younger generations are looking to us to see what we will do and what we are willing to do to create peace. Now is the time we must ‘join our poles together’ to help our youth and secure our future.”

In response, H.E. Mr. Yahya Mahmassani, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, agreed that the challenges of the twenty-first century could not be met by either the United Nations or the United States acting alone. “When we look at such problems as the growing world food crisis, global warming, corruption and the continued quest for human rights, it should be clear that we need each other,” Amb. Mahmassani said. “We are all sailing in the same boat.”

The symposium concluded with brief remarks from the US and the UN delegates present. “Global problems do require a global solution,” said H.E. Mr. Madhu Raman Achaya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nepal, “but too often it looks like every nation is in a race to fulfill its own interests.” Dr. Hamid Al-Bayati, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iraq, agreed, but added, “If we are to be together, and we are to be free, we need practical solutions, not just slogans.”

The Hon. Earl Hilliard, a former US Congressman from Alabama, replied that one practical step was indeed to develop more engagement from the faith community to help defuse tensions. Of course it would be vitally important for these faith leaders to moderate their positions in pursuit of real cooperation, he said.

H.E. Mr. Juan Federez, Ambassador-at-large from Timor Leste, agreed that UN reform must include serious consideration of inclusion of an interfaith perspective. “This is more necessary, not less, given the religious tensions at work in the world, and how often they lead to violence,” he said.

The next UN / US symposium is scheduled for Washington, DC, in mid-October.

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