Roundtable considers future of UN

By Alex Park

Last weekend’s International Roundtable was a great success, said organizers and student attendees. The subject, The United Nation Organization: What Future?, was both timely and relevant, many said, since the Organization itself is due to experience a change of leadership in the near future.”I thought it was very thought-provoking,” said Paul Bisca ’08, who works in the International Studies department. “I’ve been to three and this was the best one. The speakers this year were especially well chosen.”

The event kicked off Thursday afternoon at Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel with opening comments from President Brian Rosenberg that would set the tone for the next three days. Reading from an essay by then-president Charles Joseph Turck, published in The Mac Weekly in August 1945, immediately following the end of World War II, Rosenberg emphasized the urgent need for global citizenship and Macalester’s commitment to that calling.

“There must be no doubt in your minds, dear friends, as you enter upon your college studies … that the age of the great nations is gone, and the age of a world society is here,” he said to the near-capacity audience.

The discussion that followed featured differing, often clashing, views on the subject of the United Nations and its future in the world. Leading the three distinguished speakers was Janice Gross Stein of the University of Toronto, who took the middle ground of the three positions. She acknowledged both the need for an international mediating body and the inhibiting problems afflicting the United Nations today.

The other two speakers presented their opposing opinions on the subject on the second day of the Roundtable. All three addresses were met with long lines of students and community visitors waiting to ask questions.

“I loved it,” Kabir Sethi ’09 said. “It was great to see such an intense academic debate on campus, especially because the views of Dr. [Nile] Gardiner are not usually expressed here.”

Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and a commentator on Fox News, was the second speaker. Easily the most critical of the three, Gardiner spoke for 20 minutes on why he thought the U.N. was essentially useless, either as a mediating body or an administrative unit. Gardiner briefly addressed the leadership of Kofi Annan ’61, calling Annan a poor manager of the organization.

Though it was controversial, Ahmed Samatar, Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship and one of the event’s main organizers, said that it was important to hear Gardiner’s opinion.

“The idea is to get differing views on the subject,” Samatar said. Gardiner’s opinion is relevant “and we need to engage that line.”

Francis M. Deng, formerly the U.N.’s Special Representative on Internally Displaced People and is currently a professor at Johns Hopkins, was the third and perhaps highest profile speaker. Drawing from his experience within the organization itself, Deng spoke about the critical role of the U.N. in abating the Darfur crisis in his native Sudan.

Samatar said that next year’s International Roundtable will take a different track, this time focusing on the arts. The chosen title, The Musical Imagination in the Age of Globalization, was announced on the last day of this year’s event.

The essays of Janice Stein, Nile Gardiner and Francis Deng commissioned for this year’s International Roundtable are available on the CLICnet reserve system. To access the essays, go to the Dewitt-Wallace Library web site, click on “reserves,” and write in “Samatar” for the name of the instructor.