[Ed. Note]: For this guest post, I invited fellow international relations blogger Sarah Bruso to help break down this month’s United Nations General Assembly meetings. Sarah and I met through a recent WordPress Blogging 201 course, and I really admired her ability to break down complex international negotiations into fun, relatable skits that distill countries into distinct (and funny) personalities.
After a few rather heavy posts in a row, I hope you enjoy this light-hearted yet informative take on the latest round of UN meetings. Share your thoughts on the posts and discussion questions below, and above all, please check out Sarah’s blog, Prejudice & Politics, for a regular dose of interesting and satirical analysis on the world’s key relationships. Thanks Sarah for providing this take on the UNGA (and for thinking so highly of Canada)!
Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly convened for its 70th session to talk about international peace. In the past, these debates have allowed countries to vent for about twenty minutes while making snide jabs, subtly or otherwise, at other countries they don’t like. This year was no different.
While each country had a lot of important things to say about security, terrorism, and human rights, you can read on for a concise and accurate synopsis of key speeches.
America: I’m proud of the world, of the United Nations, and especially of myself, for working toward an international order that punishes dictators and terrorists and advances democracy, liberty, and American hegemony. But, there’s a problem in international relations. We’re seeing strong countries imposing on small countries—not gonna name names, but, Russia, you know who you are.
Look, I can’t solve everybody’s problem. As great as I am, I’m still just one country. And it doesn’t help that some of us would rather militarize than sit down and talk things out. Seriously, Russia, stop being you. You’re ruining freedom, you’re ruining democracy, and you’re ruining my sphere of influence in the Middle East.
In closing, I’d like to encourage everyone. The United Nations can be effective. We can make a difference. We can change the world. All we need to do is believe in hope, in peace, and in me–because I know exactly what I’m doing.
Russia: To those criticizing the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council, I have one thing to say: you’re wrong. But that’s okay, because I forgive you. Now, it gives me no pleasure to say that we live in a troubling world. The international community, myself excluded, has failed to uphold international law. There are those who trample the sovereignty of other nations—world powers who invade and occupy weaker countries, taking advantage of them, isolating them, and seizing their territory. What monster would do something so treacherous? Thankfully, I, the Russian Federation, am part of the solution rather than the problem.
I want to fight terrorism. In fact, I want to fight terrorism so hard that I out-fight the United States in fighting terrorism. When you think of ‘anti-terrorism,’ think of Russia. And when you think of Russia, think of Russia doing what the US is doing, but better.
Colleagues, going forward we must learn from the past, should we hope to end the cycle of repeated mistakes. As an example, one country’s continuous errors were proven to be the sole causes of the crisis in the Middle East. Let us all do our best to not be like that county. I will not name names, but we all know who I’m talking about. America.
In contrast, China primarily focused on equality between the developed and developing worlds.
China: 70 years ago, I destroyed fascism in Asia. You’re welcome. Now, the foundation of all international relations should be these things: fairness, equality, and openness. We must abandon the old Cold War mentality that several of us cling to if we wish to see growth in the global community. In order to do this, we must look ahead. I believe that the future belongs firstly to China, and secondly to the very promising developing world. We must realize that there is no real difference between small countries and big countries. Well, realistically, there is, but idealistically, there is not. And idealism is what matters for this speech right now.
I will remind everyone that I, China, have always been committed to building world peace, contributing to global development, and upholding the international order. I want to let every country know, right now, that you have an ally in me. When you feel threatened by world powers, I will be there for you– but only with monetary aid, of course. I want you to associate China with friendship and justice, and countries like the United States and Russia with ambition and dominance. China is your friend. The rest of the Security Council is not. China. Friend. Alright, I believe I’m done here.
Refreshingly, Switzerland made a very brief speech.
Switzerland: Uh… War! What is it good for? …. That’s all I’ve got … Thank you. [Exits stage]
North Korea’s speech was very North Korean.
North Korea: To get my point across, I’m going to use vague and accusatory metaphors. I’m also going to play the innocent victim card. Alright. Here I go… Satellites! It was decided that every country has the right to use satellite. Well, I guess the Security Council doesn’t believe that the DPRK deserves the same rights as everyone else, because when I try to launch a satellite, I’m a ‘threat to global security.’
Like most of humankind, I have grown accustomed to living with a murky flame of war over my head. When the US and South Korea carry out provocative war exercises that threaten my country, the UN condemns me for being “aggressive” and “violent” when I rightfully react to defend my dignity.
Furthermore, the United Nations has repeatedly wronged the Korean peninsula, but mostly me, since 1945. How can we work toward peace and security when the Security Council fails to respect or protect sovereign equality? How can the UN truly claim to be for democracy and peace when it is led by a global dictator and has become a hiding haven that shelters corruption and bullies? You idiots–sorry, China–can’t even stop pointing a gun at me, much less each other. Here’s the bottom line. As long as the United States continues to be a bellicose militarist, I will continue to be as stubborn and uncooperative as possible. Out of spite.
By the time Canada spoke, most of the UNGA members had mentally checked-out.
Canada: I may not have a whole lot to say, because unlike a lot of people, I actually know how to bottle up my bitterness–which really only manifests itself every couple months in the form of me devouring an eight-stack alone on my couch while watching nature documentaries–oh, gosh, that got really personal! Where was I? Uh, basically, I want the world to be a better place! I’m all for development and equality and saving the planet! I think, deep down, that’s what everyone wants. We just all have different ideas of how to achieve that… And that’s kind of a bummer. But, we can’t just give up hope.
Over these five days, we’ve all made it clear that we believe in the United Nations and its goals. And, hey, there hasn’t been a World War since the 40s! I mean, we could talk all day about how the Security Council is broken, about how the UN isn’t doing enough to prevent this and that, but… we’re doing just what we said we would do when we signed that Charter in 1945. That’s something.
As we leave today… as we go back to our own problems… I want everyone to think about why we’ve been able to avoid another world war. And I want you to remind yourselves of those reasons every day. And maybe, if we do that for long enough, we’ll all be able to respect and understand each other a little better… but, hell, maybe we won’t. I’m just gonna… go back to my seat and think about pancakes.
The 70th session of the UNGA wrapped up and everyone did indeed go back to their own problems. However, on that day they left the UN Headquarters with a renewed sense a hope, a brighter outlook for the future, and, most importantly, plenty of new material to blast each other with via Twitter.
Suggested Discussion Questions
- Do you believe the United Nations has succeeded in its original mission to uphold international peace and security?
- Given what we know about each country’s place (power and influence) in the global community, what do the UNGA speeches mean for the future of international relations?