A former President of the United Nations General Assembly outlined last Thursday his "rich and most rewarding experience" in the UN. Charles Malik, Professor of Philosophy at the American University of Beirut, recounted his years in the Assembly to a full house Burr B audience.
Speaking in general terms, he first delineated the responsibilities of UN delegates. "One soon acquires a strange principle of identifying oneself with general principles," be commented, since delegates must purge themselves of "personal whims and opinions."
At the same time, however representatives to the UN must not lose then "primary identification" with their own nations: only with "experience and suffering" can they maintain independent dignity. Since life at the UN is "a world in itself," delegates must guard carefully against imbuing the international spirit too deeply.
Frustration at UN
Although Malik called work at the organization "rewarding," he also deemed it "frustrating." Representatives are hemmed between home governments and responsibility toward the UN itself, with the vagaries of national policy adding difficulties Frustration comes also when delegates "idolize" the UN or expect too much from it.
Malik suggested the UN should be regarded in a different light. "The UN is constituted by problems; it is nothing without them." And by joining the work of the organization, men gain an "active connection with what is going on in the world."
In his conclusion, Malik cited the benefits brought by participation in the UN. In addition to testing character, work there "enlarges the mind" and "tests the spirit." These three benefits. Malik implied, make participation in international organization worthwhile.