Sharing the UN

I like the United Nations. Sure, they’ve got their problems, but what large, multi-leveled bureaucracy doesn’t? And, like those other bureaucracies, it has its good and bad points.

A few billion dollars here or there will occasionally disappear. Folks like the Libyans and the Cubans get to sit in judgment of others’ human rights abuses. Millions are spent on fancy buildings and offices around the world in order to bring help to the planet’s suffering masses. Diplomatic immunity allows a few thousand parking tickets in New York City to go unpaid. Despots and thugs get to share the international stage with actual democratically-elected officials. Countries from all over the world have a forum from which to denounce the United States and/or Israel. And, thanks to the Security Council, France gets to keep pretending it’s important. However, all in all, it seems like a nice place to work.

So don’t count me among those on the Right who want either to do away with the U.N. or at least get the United States out of it. In fact, I think it’s such a swell organization that we are selfish to keep it all to ourselves. Therefore, I propose a rotating U.N. Headquarters. Every, oh, say, four years (like the Olympic Games) the U.N. would move to another nation. There would be some additional expenses, but I suspect member countries would be happy to pony up the costs for the honor of having this prestigious outfit eventually headquartered within their borders.

There are a lot of details to be worked out. Would every country qualify? Would civil war, famine, genocide or political repression prove too difficult? But these are trifling matters. If the United Nations is to be truly an international organization, it must be sure its delegates really get to experience other countries and other cultures. Why should New Yorkers have all the fun and benefits?

The fairest system would be to go alphabetically. That means Afghanistan would have the first chance to be the new host. There would be some embarrassment, I suppose, given the U.N.’s opposition to the United States’ ousting of the Taliban, resulting in free elections in that country. And I’m not sure the Kabul Restaurant Association is quite ready for the expensive and varied tastes of the delegates, though they’ll have a few years to prepare.

The next two hosts, Albania and Algeria, provide their own unique sets of challenges. My guess is that, given the current leadership in those countries, at least the delegates would be more likely to pay their parking fines.

It would be sad to see the U.N. moving out of the United States in 2008. But take heart. Depending on how many countries want to host the organization in the meantime, it could be back in just a few hundred years. Alphabetically, that would place us right after the United Arab Emirates.