Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

UN's value

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to New York last week, but he couldn't bother to walk a flew blocks and address the UN General Assembly, where leaders of other countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama, gave keynote speeches.

Then, on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stood in the front of the world body and dismissed it as a useless debating society that was preoccupied with "procedure and process." The Conservatives, Mr. Baird lectured, want "substance and results."

Well, welcome to the club. It's hard to find any country that believes the UN is doing the job for which it was established after the Second World War. There's no question it needs reform, particularly the Security Council, but so far no one has proposed a formula that would be accepted by the world's nations.

Despite its problems, the United Nations is still a useful forum for multilateral engagement, even if some of its members are considered anathema to Canadian and western interests. And if it is unable to project force into troubled areas, such as Syria today, it's because there is wide disagreement among the world's nations on how to solve the problems that have emerged in the last 25 years.

Mr. Harper's snub, followed by Mr. Baird's lecture, were both undiplomatic, but at least the Conservatives did not threaten to quit the UN or abandon multilateral engagement. Both are necessary, even if they do not always provide solutions to the problems facing the world.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2012 A8

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