Student leaders, diplomats hold wide-ranging dialogue on UN's role in Iraq

Student leaders, diplomats hold wide-ranging dialogue on UN's role in Iraq

More than 150 student leaders met today with members of the United Nations diplomatic community and UN officials for a unique dialogue to better understand issues related to conflict resolution, particularly the world body's role in Iraq, and other matters of global concern.

The "Dare to Dream Conference for Peace" was held at UN Headquarters in New York and brought in high school students from the New York City area for a wide-ranging discussion with Ambassadors Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation, Kishore Mahbubani of Singapore and Mitra Vasisht of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The meeting was organized by the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL) - a non-governmental organization that aims to help students examine current events, develop leadership skills and create their own community service projects - and hosted by the UN CyberSchoolBus, a web site offering lesson plans and project ideas on global issues for teachers and students from around the world.

In his remarks, Ambassador Zeid Al-Hussein told the audience that it is important to remember that with its history, the United Nations is uniquely positioned to deal with future events in Iraq. "It is the repository of experience in terms of how you deal with issues concerning a country where there's no governing authority and you have to get everything back on line again," he noted.

Addressing the notion that the United Nations is "irrelevant," Ambassador Lavrov told the audience that the Organization's activities were not just limited to Iraq and cited examples of other tasks that it is engaged in, such as counter-terrorism, illegal drug trafficking and organized crime, civil aviation, maritime transportation and air frequencies for radio.

On the other hand, Ambassador Mahbubani said the situation in Iraq had opened some "serious wounds" related to the United Nations and the world order at large, including the breakdown in the unity of the Security Council and a change in thinking towards international law and the rule of law. "The problem we may have for the next 50 years [is that] the rules that were created in 1945 may no longer be valid, and you'll have to create new rules to ensure we don't have worst-case scenarios," he said.

For her part, Ms. Vasisht underscored the point that the UN's effectiveness "is equal to the desire of the Member States to keep it alive…[It] is not an outside entity, it does not have its own life - the United Nations can be alive as long as all the members want to keep it alive." But what is little understood, she added, "is that there is a body of people in the United Nations, staff members, who are diligently working…to ensure that development is helped, that human rights are helped, that the children, the women of the world - all are helped by the United Nations."