THE Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold said at one time, "The United Nations was not created to take humanity to paradise but rather to save it from hell."
Erected on the rubble of WWII, the principal goal of the UN was to avoid another conflagration that would endanger the survival of the human race. Nevertheless, more than seven decades later, there are many, varied challenges to be faced by the international organization, where almost all of the planet's nations sit down together to dialogue.
The current world situation is very different from the postwar era, when a handful of nations pulled the strings. The former colonies are now emerging independent nations, which compete in terms of development and resources with those who were once their colonial masters.
Change in the United Nations is imperative to improve effectiveness, eliminate archaic structures, and adapt to a multi-polar 21st century. But efforts by some nations to divert the desire for change, to use it in their own interest, are troubling.
Before giving his first speech to the General Assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump held an event in New York on reforming the UN.
He invited other countries to add their voices to a ten-point "Political Declaration," written by Washington, which he hopes will become a road map for the UN.
It is noteworthy that a document with global aspirations was not freely and openly debated by the UN's 193 member states, nor were they consulted about the kinds of changes they would like to see.
In the high level debate, like that beginning at this time, it is common to hear calls to strengthen the role of the General Assembly, the only body in which all countries are represented.
Also heard repeatedly is criticism of the lack of democracy in the Security Council, which has binding powers, although a small group of countries are granted special prerogatives, including the ability to veto any decision.
The U.S. text, on the contrary, calls for strengthening interference in the sovereignty of states in regards to humanitarian issues, development, and peace, instead of correcting the distortions which have been criticized in the General Assembly.
Cuba did not endorse the declaration, and neither did a significant group of countries including Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council.
Beyond the authority the United States presumes to exercise, many fear that the Trump administration is more concerned about its wallet than the future of the organization, which Trump described, as a candidate in 2016, as "a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time."
Trump complained again on September 18 that the U.S. contributes too much money to the organization, saying that no member country should be expected to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility, "militarily or financially."
The United States, with the world's largest economy, funds 22% of the UN's biennial budget of 5.4 billion dollars for peacekeeping efforts.
Almost no one doubts that, at 72 years of age, the United Nations needs a profound transformation, but what is to be changed, and how, is a question that can only be answered by member states in consensus, not imposed by the few powerful. On the contrary, the paradise they promise could be hell.