Is it a proposal from an ‘angry European’, upset with Washington’s attitude towards the UN during the Iraq crisis ? Is it an idea from enemies of US influence on world affairs ? Is it a ‘French’ pervasive proposal, somehow elaborated together with Muslim terrorists (you never know with the French), aiming at fighting US hyper-power ? Is it the last Russian plot in order to restore the might of ex-USSR? Or is it maybe the ultimate attempt by the Chinese government to fasten its long march to world leadership?
No, you are all wrong. It’s just the last public campaign launched by ‘Move America Forward’ , the pro-Bush conservative organization, which is airing a 60 seconds anti-UN commercial on US TV channels, while launching a petition to reach this goal.
Let’s face it. The idea comes at the right time , at a time when on the one hand, the UN is starting a crucial debate on its future, its structure and therefore why not, on its locations; and when on the other hand, following the invasion of Iraq and the divorce between the USA and the UN, a growing number of people in the world are wondering why is the UN headquarter in the USA.
Thanks to ‘Move America Forward’ the debate on this issue may start in the open. Though it has already begun behind the curtains of the UN itself. For months already, officials from the US and from the rest of the world are wrangling on the key question of who will pay for the new UN building which is needed in coming years. The number of UN Member States has been multiplied by 5 since 1945, as did the number of UN agencies. So the organization requires an infrastructure adapted to the 21 st century world, not to the 1950s. It exactly mirrors the question regarding its internal organization. And today the USA are very reluctant to pay for the new construction, though, the tradition with international organizations, is that the State which wants an organization pays for its location infrastructure. As far as it seems, the rest of the world doers not see why there should be an exception for the USA in the case of the UN headquarter. But maybe those US officials in charge of the discussion are secret members of Move America Forward; and they just expect the rest of the world to be consistent and do move the UN headquarter away from the USA?
One thing is certain though: with all these trends converging, it seems that time has come to search for an alternative seat for the UN. Away from diplomatic horse trading, let’s have a look at the options with a very simple test: which continent is the most convenient for diplomats, experts and Ngos to travel to ? Then, it will be easy to generate candidate countries from this continent to host the future UN headquarter.
The question is simple as is the answer: it’s Europe and the Mediterranean area. They are within direct flights range of less than 10 hours from almost three fourth of the planet; while New-York is currently having only one fourth of the planet within this range. Indeed Africa, most of Asia, the whole Middle-East, half of Latin America, two-third of North America and the whole of Europe of course are within this range, and most of them even closer (5/6 hours). None of the other continents offer a similar location, easily accessible from almost all parts of the world.
Then, you add the basic requirements for a very good infrastructure of transportation and communication, plus a solid reputation for political stability; and of course, a long tradition of democracy; and suddenly, your case is made: it should be in Geneva , which, by the way already host the other major seat of the UN, with 1.600 UN employees working there. Switzerland looks indeed like the best location for hosting the global authority of the UN as it is a country emblematic for centuries of the very concept of neutrality, home to scores of international organizations, speaking different languages and inventor of the Red Cross? Geneva is a much quieter place to discuss complex diplomatic issues than vibrant New York City; and is very well connected to the world.
Meanwhile it is at the core of the best localized continent to host such an headquarter; and surrounded by populations who do care of the UN and would be honoured to host it (a feeling obviously foregone for a significant part of US population).
So let’s help Move America Forward get a big success with their petition to outs the UN from the US; and let’s start prepare for hosting the future UN headquarter in Geneva. If I were to be the Swiss authorities, I would immediately start thinking of recruiting architects and funds. Even if it takes a decade to be decided upon, a decade is a short time in this matter.
Franck Biancheri, 07/12/2004