Don't Expect Much From UNGA

Long gone are the days when PLO leader Yasser Arafat showed up wielding a pistol, or Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk. Nowadays the annual United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) opening ceremony is a confab of long-winded heads of state, lofty promises, and missed opportunities. It is perhaps the last place on earth where foreign policy is advanced forward in any meaningful way.

Having covered this opening session for the past several years, I have yet to witness a single important breakthrough. It is a pointless charade of world bonhomie and backslapping, where differences are papered over and nothing of substance is discussed.


The only headlines come in the form of harangues from Iran's or Venezuela's tin-pot presidents, whose theatrics receive way too much attention. (That said, who can forget Hugo Chavez's devilish "it smells of sulfur still" comment about our former President?) Last year's events were noteworthy solely because of the sideshow of Sarah Palin bouncing around New York, chatting up heads of state and mangling their names.

This year the only buzz has been generated by Obama's apparent snub of Moammar Khadafy, by not inviting the Libyan leader to his annual reception for world leaders (ostensibly because of the recent Lockerbie bomber release). And this year's festivities will be even less newsworthy than previous sessions, since they will be overshadowed by the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh.

Nor has Obama said much about how he would reform the UN. Take the General Assembly itself, a feckless body with very few actual powers (the General Assembly exists really only to oversee the UN budget and pass resolutions, which are mostly ignored, though some do get cemented into international law). The body is composed of 192 member-states, each with its own petty ax to grind, which inevitably results in gridlock.

The only thing more predictable than the UNGA ceremony's dullness is the inevitable traffic jams that arise each year, thanks to the long convoys of limos ferrying self-important dignitaries around town. Were the leaders of the world to actually accomplish something, I might forgive them for shutting down Manhattan's East Side.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1949) is considered one of America's great writers.
  • Poe penned his most famous poem, The Raven, in his 30s.
  • Originally, the poem's feathered subject was a bit flamboyant.
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Ernst Haeckel
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less