Why the US needs the United Nations

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Last month, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice spoke at the World Affairs Council of Oregon on Facing 21st Century Threats: Why America Needs the UN.  This speech came at a time when some in Congress were asking the question, “why does the US need the UN?” – a question they continue to ask.

Ambassador Rice outlines benefits of the United States participation in the UN that include the following:

  • The UN helps prevent conflict and keep the peace around the globe;
  • The UN helps halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons;
  • UN humanitarian agencies go where nobody else will go to provide desperately needed food, shelter, and medicine;
  • The UN helps countries combat poverty, including by championing the lifesaving Millennium Development Goals;
  • The UN helps foster democracy by providing expertise and oversight to strengthen fragile state institutions and support elections worldwide; and
  • The UN is a place where countries can come together to advance universal human rights and condemn the world's worst indignities.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) also has an interest in the United Nations. Presbyterians have played an important role in the creation, functioning and reform of the United Nations system. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations has addressed the UN and related issues on many occasions.

In 1947, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America said “We believe that under the providence of God the United Nations may achieve such stature as to constitute a vitally needed instrument of salvation in the area of world order, justice, and peace. We therefore commend our government for the pursuance of a foreign policy based upon the full and vigorous participation of the United States in the United Nations…” (PCUSA, 1947, p.208). 

Presbyterians recognize, as does Ambassador Rice, that the United Nations system is not perfect, but still worth engaging. In 1954, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America stated, “…The United Nations, despite its imperfections, stands as a bastion against international anarchy.  It is the symbol of the expressed design of men [and women] and nations who seek through peaceful means to establish world order…” (PCUSA, 1954, p.182).

Presbyterians and Ambassador Rice both recognize the challenging work and great importance of the United Nations system in US foreign policy. Let us not stand and say that the UN is perfect, but let us, like Presbyterian General Assemblies and ambassadors before us, work together in our commitment to peace and justice in our world.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations works to equip and inspire Presbyterians individually and corporately for service as global disciples following Jesus. The ministry also engages in advocacy in the UN community guided by the statements of the General Assembly.


Image from www.un.org.

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