Speaking to a crowd of about 50 students — many of whom were Australian — at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea on Tuesday, Australian Ambassador to the United Nations John Dauth painted a worrisome picture of the international organization.
The Yale International Relations Association, or YIRA, invited Dauth to speak at the University. Dauth has served his country as a foreign minister in countries from Iran to Malaysia over the past few decades.
Since his appointment as Australia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in 2001, Dauth has grown increasingly distressed by the organization’s failings, he said. Dauth said he was particularly distressed by the Security Council’s handling of the situation in Iraq.
“We can’t avoid the reality that, certainly in Australia’s view, the Security Council let us down on Iraq,” Dauth said. “But … the failings of the Council on Iraq trouble me less than the failings of the United Nations organization more generally.”
Dauth said President George W. Bush ’68 tried his best to convince the Security Council to pass a resolution in support of military actions, but gave up when it became clear that the council would pass no such resolution — even though Iraq “continued to be in flagrant violation of 12 U.N. resolutions.” Dauth attributed Germany’s opposition to election year politicking by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Dauth said United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix, whom he referred to as his close friend, never tried to say that Iraq had complied with previous resolutions. Dauth also said that although Blix did not favor military action, he believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq “until the last minute.”
Dauth described shortcomings of both the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole, claiming the United Nations is bogged down by bureaucracy and petty politics.
“The committee structure under the General Assembly consists of large numbers of mostly junior diplomats conducting themselves as if they were infants in sand pits,” Dauth said. “The Economic and Social Council barely functions at all — It is, in effect, little more than a vote-trading hall. A bit like a Middle East rug bazaar.”
Dauth complained that the “trans-Atlantic axis” of D.C., London, Paris, and Moscow dominates the focus of the United Nations. He said that although this group has pushed for positive issues, such as increased concentration on Africa, other areas of the world have been largely ignored.
But the faults of the United Nations are not irreparable, Dauth said. He expressed support for U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan’s blue-ribbon panel, a commission aimed at reforming the United Nations.
“The panel has got a huge responsibility,” he said. “I believe that it is, in effect, the last best chance for the United Nations to renew itself and to re-establish a position of respect and authority in the world.”
Many students who attended the tea were receptive to Dauth’s speech, thanking him with a warm round of applause after his talk.
“He’s great because he always knows what’s going on,” Rawen Huang ’07, who hails from Australia, said. “I’m glad he was able to speak so frankly about how national self-interest is so prevalent in international systems.”
YIRA President Beth Dolinsky ’04 said she was pleased with the tea.
“We’re always excited to have ambassadors and other international figures of his quality at Yale,” she said.