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Four Priorities for the United Nations in a Changing World

Photo by Ashitaka San, Flickr

The eyes of the world remain on Boston in the wake of Monday’s bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attacks, which killed three, were described by President Obama as an act of terror.

While the incident was not as deadly as the 9/11 attacks, it was a reminder that in a global context, terrorism is a sad and frequent fact of life around the world. It’s one confronted by police forces and government agencies, but also by the United Nations.

But some question whether the United Nations, created in the wake of World War II, is equipped to handle problems, including and beyond terrorism, in a more complex world.

"The quintessential challenge to the United Nations is how does it reorganize itself to be able to deal with the changing times that we're in," says Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Guillermo Rishchynski.

Rishchynski, who was in Milwaukee this week, identified four major challenges currently on the UN's docket.

Global terrorism

Rishchynski says to fight terrorism, the UN must change how it works. When the organization was founded, wars were fought between nations; now, splinter groups pose threats from both within and outside a country's borders. That poses a challenge to an organization whose members represent nation-states, but Rishchynski says the UN is uniquely positioned to address the issue.

While it is a local phenomenon at times, these networks are hugely sophisticated. But collective approaches, which is the raison d'etre of why the UN exists, is very much at the fore in terms of how this is being combated worldwide. - Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski

Haitian elections

The United Nations must continue pressuring Haiti to hold elections, Rishchynski says. He is in a good position to talk about Haiti, as Canada has been very involved in development efforts there.

He says Haiti has been slow to demonstrate that it can provide solutions to its instability from within, which is testing the patience of some in the world community.

Guillermo Rishchynski

North Korea's rhetoric

Rishchynski says the world should take North Korea's recent threats and heightened rhetoric seriously. But he says the world community needs to speak in a unified voice in addressing North Korea - and that's where the UN should step in.

Syrian casualties

Rishchynski is concerned about preventing future mass casualties in Syria. The UN not only needs to address the refugee crisis, he says, but it also needs to ensure a lasting peaceful resolution in the country. He says even if we can intervene now to stop the immediate bloodshed, the UN must make sure that any resolution met does not result in one side going to seek later vengeance and inflicting more casualties.

In the past, Rishchynski served as Canada’s ambassador to Colombia and to Mexico and served as a diplomat in Chicago, as well. He was in Milwaukee yesterday to speak to the Rotary Club and at Marquette University.