The UN and The Queen
Queen in UN

The UN and The Queen

Will the Queen's visit to the UN influence the quest for world unity and peace? Or do actions speak louder than words?

Whenever you make a trip to Buckingham Palace, regardless of the day, month or year, American accents are always the most prominent intonation to be heard outside the palace, as eager tourists from the States excitedly ogle the British Monarch's abode. With such devoted enthusiasm, wonderment and intrigue many Americans hold of the British royal family, it was little wonder that New Yorkers were excitedly distracted by the drama of the Queen's recent visit to their city, with newspapers publishing tips of etiquette and what to say if they happened to bump into Her Majesty.

In her first visit to the UN for 53 years, Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II addressed the UN General Assembly this week and appealed for world unity and peace. The Queen praised the "remarkable" achievements of the UN, and said that "the waging of peace is the hardest form of leadership at all." But whilst the American love-affair with the British monarch may be an engaging indication of their intrigue and amusement towards what it is like 'to be British', will the Queen's speech to the congress and words of wisdom be met with similar devotion? Will the Queen's dialogue actually influence possibly the most pressing accomplishment of modern times – to achieve worldwide peace?

In 1957, when the Queen made a former visit to the UN, the world body was in its infancy, and as the Queen mentioned in her speech, there were just three United Nations operations overseas, now there are more than 126,000 people positioned in 26 missions across the globe. The phenomenal growth of the UN is indeed remarkable, as are its achievements in providing a better standard of living for the most vulnerable in humanity. Commending the UN's achievements, the Queen said:

"You have helped to reduce conflict, you have offered humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies, and you have been deeply committed to tackling the effects of poverty in many parts of the world".

Words of justifiable praise indeed, but as the Queen rightly added "so much remains to be done."

Although the UN has accomplished many commendable achievements throughout its history, to achieve "world unity and peace" more needs to happen outside of the UN and at an accelerated pace. For example, some argue that if the United States pulled its troops out of the "pointless war" in Afghanistan, world peace would be closer to being achieved. While other believe the answer to world unity and peace would be to free the free markets of the world, have a standard, open all borders world currency, and to limit governments in what they control.

Then of course there is the argument that the UN and its agencies could and should be doing more to achieve the Queen's burning pleas for world unity and peace. In September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit brought together the biggest congregation of world leaders in history where eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were agreed upon, committed to reducing global poverty by the year 2015. Ten years later the MDGs are facing criticism, that unless trends are altered, the goals will not be met. Referring to the importance of the MDG', the Queen mentioned in her speech that this September, world leaders will meet to talk about how to achieve the MDGs when each individual nation has its own distinctive contribution to make. Should this crucial meeting have been made five years earlier and by doing so made the goals more attainable in achieving their targets?

It is a fact that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II stirs up public emotion and intrigue and, true to form, her recent visit to the UN whipped up a renewed public interest into the UN by creating a media storm. Because of this, her speech may have caused greater public awareness to issues such as the Millennium Development Goals, achieving global unity and peace and even the UN itself, but essentially how can the actions of one woman really influence issues which are fraught in discrepancies and differences?

Setting aside the unlikelihood that one solitary figure could dramatically influence such a vast and complicated ambition, the fact that the Queen herself and what she represents does evoke such diverse opinions and emotions, raises doubt and questions how such a figure may influence people's perceptions of achieving world unity and peace. Diverging opinions of the Queen and her visit to the UN General Assembly is evident on many forums discussing the subject. Admiring the Queen's participation in the UN and its issues, John-Niles wrote:

"In a world of instability and disrespect, it is a comforting thought that there remain institutions that anchor civilization to higher ideals for the common good. In this, I refer to the United Nations and especially to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. God Save the Queen! And thanks to both of you for being here for the benefit of goodness."

On the same forum, 'Steffan', left a less complimentary comment: "No matter what good, bad or indifferent trials and tribulations continue on the rest of the world, this lady (and her heirs) will return to their fairy-tale castles, on acreage large enough to build cities, occupied by their maids, servants, chauffeurs, cooks, etc., supported by their struggling commoners. If they charged admission for the public to view their "grounds", they'd make more money than Disneyland."

The pros and cons of the monarchy will always spark debate, perhaps the biggest being, "do members of the royal family actually do anything?" At the age of 84, traveling to a blistering hot New York City, to make an inspiring speech about such controversial and pressing issues, in one of the most remarkably growing and accomplishing chambers in the world, has to be a commendable action and in itself has influenced insight into the UN and its goals. Whether or not the Queen's publicized aspirations will be any closer to be achieved, fundamentally lies with the leaders of the world.

Gabrielle Pickard

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HM The Queen's visit to the UN GA was both symbolic and important. Aside of the Queen's role as the constitutional head of a former Empire (where sun never used to set), it has signified the worldwide acceptance of women's role not just as mother and women, but someone who could bring sanity and soothing touch in troubled times.
As the UN voted recently to have an organisation dedicated to women's affairs, the member states should accept the offer of the State of Qatar to become the host for the UN Women HQ.  The seat of such an organisation in the Gulf would help bring about greater awareness and support movements towards meaningful freedom and empowerment of women in a region whose acceptance of women as equal partner is still hidden in clouds.