Why should we care about the United Nations?

By Andrew Popa

Although Americans generally have a love-hate relationship with the United Nations, two-thirds believe that it does play a necessary role in the world today (Gallup, 2013).  When it comes to job performance, however, only 38% believe the UN is doing a good job.  This perception is not all that different from the general satisfaction of the US public with the federal government, namely a 32% satisfaction rate according to another Gallup poll from April 2017.

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Having worked in international development and travelled the world for the last 12 years to various underdeveloped nations, I became acutely aware of the critical role of the government in the well being of a nation.  Most governments of very poor nations have extremely low capacity in dealing with daily crises, nervermind the development of coherent strategies aimed at helping the poor and the disabled. Not possessing the internal capacity, such a nation is dependent on the international community to support its development and help it overcome those internal destructive behaviors that keep it hostage through corruption, conflict, crime, rampant poverty, poor or no economic development, and low education levels.

Over the last quarter century, the UN has played an increasing role in addressing issues related to poverty, health, inclusion, gender, education, and disability.  The launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2000-2015 represents an important step forward through a concentrated effort to combat poverty, improve education, and reduce infant mortality and other diseases in the world.  All 191 UN member states committed to achieve the MDGs by 2015.  While after 15 years not all goals have been completely achieved, the MDG thrust has been felt worldwide and significant progress was achieved as a result of this coordinated effort.

Only a few years later, in 2006, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into force to provide needed protection to the 1 billion individuals with disabilities worldwide, 80% of whom live in developing nations.  This protection is about basic human rights related to safety, mobility, education, healthcare, etc.  As of 2016, 161 out of 193 nations ratified the CRPD, the United States not being one of them yet.

Following in the footsteps of the MDGs, the UN launched a new set of global goals, now called Sustainabile Development Goals (SDGs), for 2016-2030.  The new global thrust even more specifically incorporates disability in its language and vision, ensuring that people with various forms of disabilities worldwide will benefit from increased public awareness, greater assurance of basic human rights, better inclusion and access, and an overall lift from poverty.

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The UN is not a perfect organism, and no human construction will ever be, but it is a far better alternative to a complete lack of action and coordination, especially when it comes to dealing with poverty and vulnerable groups marginalized by society, such as children and people with disabilities.

As an organization active in international development, Mosaic seeks to influence decision making at the highest levels of government to benefit people with intellectual disabilities.  One way we do this is by leveraging international treaties and agreements such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals.  For this reason, yes, let’s care about the UN and its job performance, and let’s continue to hold the UN accountable for the benefit of those who depend on us all for a better future.

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