Book Review:

 “INTERVENTIONS – A Life in War and Peace”, by Kofi Annan.

Now that he is no longer the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation, Kofi Annan feels more able to express his true feelings. Previously, he felt obliged to use the roundabout language of International Diplomacy.

His great learning while he was the S-G (which he equates with “Scape-Goat”), was that it is high time that the Security Council gets transformed, to do away with the Veto Power of the Big Nations.

Furthermore,he says, it is time that “Human Rights” gets recognized to be more important than “National Sovereignty”. After all, the International Declaration of Human Rights which founded the United Nations, begins with the words “We, the People…”, and not “We, the Governments…”  Why is there no automatic review clause? 

Time and time again – in the Middle East, in Palestine, in Rwanda, in Kosovo, in Timor, in Somalia, in Afghanistan, in Kenya, in Syria – the representatives of the Big Powers have used their Veto in the Security Council. They have often given the UN the responsibility – but not the money, the resources, the personpower – to halt warfare, murder, rape and pillage.

But this alone would not be enough to avoid the basic problem. As Annan sees it, the U.N. Peacekeeping Force needs to have the “Power” – the teeth and the claws (armaments) – to ensure that its ‘orders’ are followed by disputing parties between countries, and particularly those within (i.e. inside) countries.

It would seem that only superior fire-power - armed force, deterrent weapons – is enough to Force disputants to cease killing each other – and civilians and women and children (the “collateral damage”) – and to listen carefully and constructively to each other.

Are “We, the People….” going to agree to this?

And are the Big nations going to hand over enough money, enough soldiers, enough tanks and howitzers and mines and aircraft and ships, putting them into the hands of the United Nations only?

Dream on…..

For who is going to monitor the monitors?

As an African himself, Annan feels entitled to speak more frankly about evil dictatorships and struggles for power and resources on that continent. But there “Diplomacy” stands in the way. In Kenya, while thousands of people were being tortured and shot outside, the parties to a peace discussion stood at loggerheads about whether or not one of the claimants to the Presidency of Kenya should be allowed to sit in “his” Presidential Chair during the talks. The other party had won an election, but the “President: would not stand down. Still not resolved.

 Time and time again, year after bloody year, in such a situation as that involving Israel and Palestine, a few mere WORDS stymie negotiations around a polished conference table, while thousands more innocent people are being killed outside. Still not resolved.

The book is frustrating. The problems seem to be insoluble. The hidden agendas of  the Big Nations continue to remain hidden. And Peace and Justice continue to beat against a firmly-closed door.


Meanwhile, the Quaker office at the United Nations continues to try and persuade national representatives to listen to each other…… What else can “we” do?

Can “we” put pressure on candidates at the forthcoming General Election in New Zealand, to press globally for changes in the UNO structure?

Or is it too late, once the political party systems have selected “their” candidates, and have then made them promise to follow the dictates of the Party Whips?


                                                                                                 Peter Creevey. January 2014