World leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York last week to take stock of the work of the world body in maintaining peace and security and to search for the often elusive solutions to outstanding world problems. They sat down to debate and chart the way forward. The gathering provided a glimpse into the thinking and mindset of world leaders as they sought to address the world on issues of conflict, peace and development. There was the usual razzmatazz and sabre rattling from some and the sobering voices of moderation from others. Some of the leaders spewed violent rhetoric while others breathed calm and reason. The New York meeting showed a divided world between the rich and powerful and the poor and weak nations. There was no meeting of the minds and no convergence of policies between the two. It was division and war all the way. The leaders of the world were hell-bent on out-smarting one another rather than seek common ground to resolve conflicts and move forward. That they achieved with great fanfare. In many ways, the UN meeting in New York represents a missed opportunity for world leaders to tackle the most divisive issues facing mankind and humanity today and an indictment against their leadership. History being the best judge will never forgive these leaders for turning this year’s session of the UN General Assembly into a talk-shop characterised by acrimonious exchanges that did not contribute to world peace. The showdown at the UN mainly centred around the need to reform the world body, especially the UN Security Council and the so-called war on terror. Leaders wasted more time attacking each other and talking to themselves instead of bridging the gap in terms of their differences. US President George W. Bush saintly talked about the source of terrorism, singling out other nations for condemnation. True to his doctrine of ‘you are either with us or against us’ he picked on his traditional nemeses – Iran, Syria, Hamas and Al Qaeda to make his case against terrorism. The US president elevated himself above the leaders of these nations by talking to their people directly and not through them. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who has borne the brunt of US policies and a close ally of Cuba tore into the character and integrity of Bush, leaving the US president politically bruised and injured. But it was Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who somewhat sprang a surprise. He systematically rolled back the US attack with logic and sound argument – this from a man who has always been presented as a rogue element that is obsessed with spreading terror and extremism. He talked about peace and dialogue between the west and his nation over the contentious issue of nuclear enrichment in his country. He also delved into the issue of reforming the UN, particularly the Security Council, whose domination by the big powers is increasingly becoming anathema to the rest of the world. How can the UN ensure peace and justice when it is dominated and controlled by the United States and Great Britain and in the event that these two powers are the guilty parties, how would the Security Council whip them into line or punish them, Ahmadinejad wanted to know. And this is a pertinent question. With the veto powers bestowed on only five nations, there are no checks on their violations of international law and imperial ambitions. Hence, the urgent need to reform the Security Council so that there is balance and equity. All nations are equal. No nation is superior to the other. The veto powers derive from the World War 2 victory over Nazism and fascism by the five powers. The veto power is no longer relevant. It makes the UN undemocratic and unjust. Not all was lost though. Darfur proved to be a convergence point as all agreed about the urgency to take action to avert mass killings and displacement of the victims of mass slaughter in Sudan. The world is being fragmented unnecessarily. George Bush of the United States wants to see the world change, but does not say how and into what. Blair in his farewell speech to his party said Britain must but take the lead in reforming the world. The Arab nations who have been targeted and blamed for all the violence have not said a thing. The Pope mistakenly blamed them also. Developing countries, mostly those in the African continent, took a common stand in Cuba during the non-aligned countries’ summit. Change is certainly needed but what change should it be? Not Bush’s nor that of Blair. The world must turn but to the advantage of the poor. So complex is our world today that we need a new breed of leaders. We do not need war leaders. War will end this world given our technological advancement. We need leaders of peace. We need great leaders of good vision. We need leaders with high moral values – great statesmen of peace and not war mongers.
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