Three Views on the General Assembly

An IR realist view of the General Assembly:

This year, the U.N. circus was once again welcomed to New York by snarled traffic and snarling Manhattanites — all of whom almost certainly wish that just once, the entourages and press conferences and cocktail receptions and empty, rambling speeches would be directed to the citizens of somewhere else. Detroit’s been having a tough time, how about there? Or Athens? Or how about they just set up a Facebook page and let national governments simply post their speeches for all to see? Think of the savings. Or, to put it in better perspective: Think of what would be lost if we skipped the meeting altogether.

That’s right, nothing. Nothing at all

via How Not to Lead the World – By David Rothkopf | Foreign Policy.

And, another short piece that  realist diplomatic orator would love, “Great moments in U.N. prop use.”

And from the NYT’s UN correspondent, one of the best quotes I have heard in a long time about the melee that is the GA fall session:

Asked to summarize the entire event, one veteran diplomat riffed: “It is running from one meeting to another meeting; it is checking that the cars are there at the right moment; it is finding a restaurant when suddenly a minister says, ‘I want to eat a hamburger.’ It is sending a security guard to Abercrombie to buy a T-shirt for a teenager.”

“It is really an exciting thing,” he went on. “It is trying to find the minister of Uzbekistan without confusing him with the minister of Tajikistan. It is finding that North Lawn Building, Room 17 doesn’t exist. You discover that the interpreter only knows Italian when you needed Spanish and the minister only knows Russian.

“It is diplomacy at its worst,” he said.

via At United Nations General Assembly, a Chance to Lobby –


4 thoughts on “Three Views on the General Assembly”

  1. These articles provided a fascinating view of politics (and process) at the United Nations. The levity contained in each of these articles provided more than a few fleeting moments of mirth, but also raised a legitimate question: what role does the U.N., and the leaders associated with it, play? Is it an erroneous assumption to presume that the global heads of state know what they’re talking about? Or is negotiation at the UN nothing more than finding the right hamburger and acquiring the latest Abercrombie T-shirts? A thoughtful review of these questions prompted me to consider another pertinent question, namely, how much of what occurs at the UN is diplomatic negotiation of critical world issues and how much is merely superficial politicking?

    An interesting article about the behind-the-scenes negotiations before the War in Iraq.,8599,430689,00.html

  2. It’s hard to determine how accurate the second quote was regarding what goes down at the General Assembly but even if it’s only half as exaggerated as he says, then I am relatively disgusted by it. I would hope that the leaders of the nations in this world would be a bit more professional, organized, and focused on the tasks at hand. It seems as if they have forgotten the real reason why they are at the General Assembly; to unite our world for good.

  3. The sad thing about this article, and multiple articles in copies of the recent past of the New York Times, is that many delegates and leaders have spoken this way about the UN. Some have spoken in more subtle ways than others ( But the message has always been the same, that the UN is deeply flawed enough to the point where even many diplomats themselves do not believe in the UN as an institution. Something in the UN needs to change, in its structure or needs to be reformed in a way that can gain more confidence from the people it influences, starting with the diplomats.

  4. These were interesting articles and they really put into perspective how important the General Assembly meeting is. My news feed often has stories about how Syria or Indonesia were able to plead their case before the nations of the world, however, was anyone listening? This Reuters article reports that Obama and Netanyahu both felt like that they got what they wanted at the UN meeting, even though they never met (
    It’s easy to say, “That’s just politics. The UN is great in theory, but it’s a waste of time and resources.” Yet, I still want to believe that our “world leaders” will take the time to meet when they’re deciding the fate of nations, even if it’s just an excuse to get good dinner.

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