The United Nations – and Wisconsin’s Role in the World
“The U.N. is not just a product of do-gooders. It is harshly real. The day will come when men will see the U.N. and what it means, clearly. Everything will be all right – you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as some weird Picasso abstraction, and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”
So said Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish diplomat who was the U.N.’s first Secretary General.
Dr. Ralph Bunche, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and U.S. Medal of Freedom, and also one of the drafters of the U.N. Charter, considered that “The United Nations is our one great hope for a peaceful and free world.”
Adlai Stevenson, President John Kennedy’s Ambassador to the U.N., said, “The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations – great or small – to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to, to be a part of the twentieth century.” I have no doubt that Stevenson would include the twenty-first century as well.
These quotes emphasize what should be the most important aspects of the United Nations: the fact that all of the citizens of the world should be represented and heard if the world body is to fulfill its challenge. But do all Americans really understand that challenge, much less the goals, successes and occasional failings of the U.N.?
The Commission is charged with supervising the state’s observance of United Nations Day on October 24th, the anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Charter in 1945, and International Human Rights Day on December 10th, which also marks the anniversary of the signing of the International Declaration on Human Rights. The Commission does significant outreach to schools and civic organizations to provide knowledge of the United Nations, its history and goals. It also expresses “its views on issues affecting the U.N., and communicates its views to public officials and the news media.”
Our current commissioners were appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors. I myself was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations by Governor Doyle in 2004, and I am honored to have been so chosen. It has been a very satisfying experience getting to know my fellow commissioners, and I am firmly of the opinion that we have done valuable work.
Incidentally, the Commission has operated under an informal budget of about $2,000 per annum, to be used primarily for travel, and has hardly ever been used. All of us volunteer our time and expenses for this cause.
But Governor Scott Walker doesn’t think we need this unique institution. Weeks before his contentious budget repair bill was announced, each member of the Commission received an official letter from Eric Esser, the governor’s appointments director, stating that “the decision was made to not reestablish the Governor’s Commission on the United Nations. As a result of this decision, pursuant to Wisconsin Statute, section 14.019, the board [sic] no longer exists at this time.”
A Wisconsin institution with a 52-year history, the only one of its kind in the United States, is no more. It has not been an expensive program, and has lent our state considerable prestige in international circles. In this increasingly global environment, doesn’t it make sense to educate Americans on the role of the United Nations?
I think we deserve an answer to that question.