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UN official visits UI to discuss the UN’s global importance

BY NATHANIEL OTJEN | OCTOBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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The United Nations’ outreach extends globally, and every citizen, including Iowans, should know and understand the role of the organization. That was the main message of Robert Skinner, the director of the U.N. Foundation’s New York headquarters, when he spoke on the University of Iowa campus Wednesday evening.

His lecture was a part of 170 events being held across the country celebrating United Nations Day.
 U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a statement Wednesday morning stating the day reaffirms the commitment to the ideals of maintaining international peace and to uphold human rights, as outlined in the the United Nations’ charter.

In stressing U.N.’s role, Skinner tried to break down the complicated structure of the United Nations, while answering questions from students and community members in attendance.

Skinner explained the organization has four components that make it function, including national appointed figures from each participating nation, peacekeepers and those conducting relief efforts, country officials who advocate for a country’s needs, and global citizens themselves.

“A lot of people, I think, aren’t aware of a lot of these issues,” said Yashar Vasef, the executive director of the Iowa City-based Iowa United Nations Association.

He said though it seems as if the United Nations is mainly involved in war or other negative events, it does see a lot of growth and prosperity globally.

“The talking that goes on around the U.N. is not negative,” he said. “Day in, day out, senior government officials from every country in the world are meeting and trying to figure out these problems.”

When asked why the United Natopms hasn’t been discussed much during the presidential election, Skinner said the organization should be discussed more and that citizens of the United States, which is considered a major world leader, should be more aware of their country’s role in the United Nations.

“It’s also critical to understand that the U.S. is critical to the U.N.,” he said. “Having active U.S. participation is important to the U.N..”

 “When they asked us if we wanted to cosponsor, I jumped at the chance,” said UI law student Sara Ghadiri, the president of the Middle Eastern Law Students Association, which cosponsored the event.

Ghadiri said that while she supports the United Nations’ efforts, she it they could see more successful peacekeeping actions.

“It still has been a major player in facilitating responses to human crises,” she said.

Skinner said the United Nations is typically the largest responder to major humanitarian crises and peacekeeping actions, in places where only the United Nations’ forces can go.

“[The U.N.] needs the proper authority to go into whatever situation it is,” he said. “It generally goes to places where no single country or regional groups of countries can or will go.”

Vasef and the Iowa United Nations Association helped to organize the event to help inform community members about the organization.

Vasef said Iowans shouldn’t feel separated from the United Natlions’ efforts.

“Here in Iowa we shouldn’t think we are so distanced,” he said.

He believes Iowa aids in feeding the world, bringing the state much closer to the United Nations.

“Here in Iowa, we’re helping to feed the world and that’s one of the missions of the U.N.,” Vasef said.


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