Panelists Discuss U.N.'s Role in Post-Cold War Era

* Celebration held to honor organization's birth

In celebration of the United Nations' (U.N.) birth 52 years ago on Friday, panelists discussed the organization's role in the post-Cold War era.

The panelists--Erik G. Yesson, lecturer of Government at Harvard, Kurt R. Dassel, lecturer of Government at Harvard and Jean-Rene Gehan, a fellow at the Center for International Affairs--focused the discussion on international security issues.

"To promote international security is still relevant after the collapse of the Cold War," said Gehan, former deputy assistant secretary for political affairs for Intergovernmental Organizations.

More than 110 students attended the Ticknor Lounge event and the cultural show which followed. The afternoon was co-sponsored by the Woodbridge Society for International Students and the Harvard International Relations Council (IRC).

Though the U.N. Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, in San Francisco, it was not enforced until October 24th of the same year.

Gehan provided an insider's perspective on the U.N. and said the future of the organization is very uncertain.

"Given the amount of ignorance about the U.N., events like this are very important," he said.

Recognizing the importance of structural reform of the U.N., Yesson said he supported the current bureaucratic reforms led by Kofi Annan, the new secretary general of the U.N.

Yesson also said fresh insights were crucial because of a host of new problems facing the world.

"We're living in a world today when new ideas are required about old institutions. Ideas need to flow from the bottom up," he said.

Dassel said many of the U.N.'s problems stem from a misunderstanding of what the organization can and cannot do.

"The U.N. cannot act as an independent agent," he said. "The U.N. can act as a forum."

Many students at the event said the discussion was informative.

"Discussions regarding the U.N. inevitably force us to see beyond our communities to the world around us and that's what allows us to function better within our own communities," said Deepti Choubey '98, president of IRC, who helped to organize the event.

Scott M. Singer '98, secretary general of Harvard National Model United Nations, said he was extremely pleased with the event.

"It was very successful. It drew attention to the U.N. and its importance in international relations and also talked about its current reforms," he said.

The event, a continuation of a program started by the Woodbridge Society last year to increase understanding of the last year to increase understanding of the U.N. at Harvard, was a great improvement from last year, said Darpan Kalra '99, president of Woodbridge Society.

"It's wonderful to see this interaction of culture and ideas," Kalra said, as he watched the cultural show.