Mark Malloch Brown, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, discussed the U.N.’s evolution since the 2003 invasion of Iraq in a speech at the Yale Law School on Monday.
In a lecture entitled “The United Nations in the 21st Century: The Challenge of Managing Global Change,” Brown described his experience working with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reform the organization. He said the United States’ decision to invade Iraq without the backing of the U.N. Security Council represented an important moment in United States-United Nations relations.
Although critical of the United States’ invading without the support of the U.N., Brown expressed hope that the United States will continue to work with the United Nations to confront the major problems facing the world, such as the current Darfur crisis in the Sudan.
“It is the U.S. that has come back so strongly, utterly, laudably to seek U.N. involvement as a way out of the Darfur crisis,” Brown said.
Despite the United States’ support for action in the region, Brown said there is still a risk of more human rights abuse and death in Darfur. He discussed the Sudanese government’s hesitation to allow U.N. peacekeeping troops into the country and the potential for a solution to the conflict.
Brown also talked about the greater implications of the Darfur conflict and about how Annan’s reforms sought to bolster the United Nations’ role in dealing with similar situations. Brown said he worked with Annan to shape the U.N. from its 1945 incarnation as an organization able to deal with the problems of nation-states into a more robust entity today that is better equipped for dealing with global issues.
But Brown said he is unsure if these past U.N. reforms would translate into future success.
“The scorecard on what we did is mixed,” Brown said.
A British citizen, Brown worked for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 1979 to 1983. After a stint in the private sector, Brown served as the administrator of the United Nations Development Program. In 2005, he was appointed chief of staff to the U.N. secretary-general, a position he held until his March 2006 appointment as deputy secretary-general.
Students said they enjoyed Brown’s speech and gained a better understanding of the United Nations under Annan’s leadership. Bobby Gibbs ’10 said he appreciated Brown’s approach to global issues, especially his ability to combine idealism and pragmatism.
Medical school professor Michele Barry, who was present at the talk, said she empathized with Brown’s assessment of the U.N. and the state of the world.
“I resonated with his frustration of not being able to make larger changes,” Barry said.
But Jurist Tan ’09 said she was skeptical of Brown’s praise of President George W. Bush’s ’68 commitment to global development compared to the efforts of former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73.
“He should have highlighted the United States’ failure to contribute 0.7 percent of its GDP to global development rather than make the Bush Administration look good,” she said.
At the 1970 General Assembly, wealthy governments committed to contribute 0.7 percent of their gross national products to development assistance through the United Nations. That target was reaffirmed in the March 2002 Monterrey Consensus.
Brown has been criticized by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton ’70 LAW ’74 for what Bolton perceived as Brown’s inappropriate criticism of the United States-United Nations relationship. Brown said it is in the United States’ and the world’s interest for the United States to continue to work with and through the United Nations.
Brown and Annan’s terms will finish at the end of 2006, when South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon will become the next U.N. Secretary General.
In 2005, Brown was selected by “Time Magazine” as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.