Presentation Explores Quaker United Nations Mission

With its mission of promoting peace and international cooperation, the United Nations is an institution that embodies core  Quaker values, Andrew Tomlinson said during a First Day presentation at HMM on March 18.

Established in 1945 after the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II, the United Nations initially enjoyed tremendous support from the United States, said Tomlinson, director of the Quaker UN Office in New York.

Though domestic support for the U.N. has fallen dramatically and the organization’s bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate, the institution retains a unique capacity to effect change, however modestly, Tomlinson said.

“Nothing else brings together every country in the world,” Tomlinson said.

The Quaker UN Office pursues a range of activities that promote peace and conflict prevention, including hosting off-the-record dialogues between groups that clash publicly, Tomlinson said.

On behalf of war-torn Somalia, which has lacked a functioning central government for decades, the QUNO has promoted peace by studying periods of stability in the country to help decision-makers envision what a sustainable period without violence would look like, Tomlinson said.

Although the UN will undoubtedly miss anti-poverty targets outlined in the Millenium Development Goals for 2015, Tomlinson said, there are opportunities to promote inclusive politics and craft opportunities for successful development, Tomlinson said.

A “real opportunity” exists to shift the balance toward the greater good, even though dramatic change will not occur quickly, Tomlinson said.

“One of the good things about being a Quaker is that we’re very used to incremental progress,” Tomlinson said, sparking laughter from the audience.

The QUNO, which receives financial support from the American Friends Service Committee, yearly meetings and outside donors, publishes reports and other materials on its website: http://www.quno.org/.

Submitted by Sarah Greenblatt

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