Dialogue for Change

Recent events in the Middle East have dominated discourse in the media throughout the beginning of 2012. Syria, in particular, has been forefront in the deliberations of the United Nations over how best to deal with mounting civilian casualties. The withdrawal of the Arab League observers due to an increase in violence and Russia’s resistance to a UN-mandated intervention has left those at the hands of Assad’s regime in a precarious situation. A unanimous decision from the Security Council’s veto-wielding members on the use of force in Syria was always going to be tenuous in the wake of the Libyan conflict whilst the concurrent tension between Iran and Israel over Iran’s nuclear belligerence has stretched the political clout of would-be intervening authorities to their limit. Where then—I was recently asked—does this leave the UN in terms of its relevance, if it seems unable to act on the very issues it was designed to prevent? My response to this was to reference an article in today’s New York Times.

The article, entitled: “Brutal Crimes Grip an Indian Reservation”, describes a harrowing reality that has become almost commonplace in a number of reservations in the US (and, for that matter, in Canada): Substance abuse, in many cases, has normalised a level of violence that is out of proportion with comparable populations and undermined an entire culture’s methodology for overcoming adversity. The pattern of behaviours that lend themselves to disproportionate figures of physical, sexual and mental abuse appears endemic. As a recent immigrant to Canada in 2005, I worked in the youth care field in Northern British Columbia and was dismayed by the lack of federal legislation that would see substantive changes made to the living conditions—provisions for even the most basic of requirements under Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs—for those born into the poorest reserves in North America.

My own expertise in this field is self-admittedly far lower than is my motivation to ply for change—whatever that may look like. But it is the pursuit of solutions that allow those around us to share the same access to happiness that bonds us together as a community. DanO, A reader of the Times article, commented: “I’m sorry I don’t have any suggestions for fixing these problems, but I am proud of the people of the community who have commented on the article and care enough to start a dialogue about making a change to save this beautiful and tragic place.” This reader’s sentiment succinctly answers the question that was posed to me earlier on the relevance of the UN—solutions do not often present themselves easily and thus earnest and persistent dialogue is essential in any cooperative strategy to engender change. Just as those communities most affected by conditions on reserves, both in Canada and south of the border, must enter into open dialogue with those readily able to affect change, so too must the representatives of nations enter into—often belaboured—negotiations to chart a course for the improvement of our condition as a global community.

Theon Te Koeti

President, Victoria Branch

United Nations Assoc. in Canada

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