Reaction to Amal Clooney’s UN speech

Amal Clooney’s speech directed at member states of the UN, but more specifically at Iraq’s prime minister, is a very powerful one that raises many concerns and questions regarding this issue. Upon reading the transcript of the speech, I am left with feelings of confusion and bewilderment at the inaction of all states involved. Amal is pleading with Iraq and other States to accelerate the process by which the UN and Iraq would take action by conducting investigations on war crimes committed by ISIS members, in order to bring them to justice in trial.

The human rights lawyer states: “killing ISIS on the battlefield is not enough: we must also kill the idea behind ISIS by exposing its brutality and bringing individual criminals to justice”. This is personally the first time that I have heard about a strategy to fight ISIS by putting on trial and convicting individual members of the terrorist organization, but however unconventional the strategy may be, it is clear that something more must be done. Although, I must admit, I do not know much about all that is being done to fight ISIS, I am saddened at the fact that the obvious inefficiency of what IS being done does not seem to motivate any more effort from the UN regarding this issue.

Upon reading the speech again, there is something that caught my attention that I would like to address. Although this speech is a powerful call to action, it also brings to light some deep-rooted issues, regarding the essence of what the UN is, and why it was created. Clooney states: “As a human rights lawyer I am often told that my cause, while commendable, cannot succeed because of political realities”. This statement, if true, is the saddest reality of our world today. She further comments: “The UN was created as the world’s way of saying ‘never again’ to the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. And yet here we are, 70 years later, discussing the UN’s inaction in the face of a genocide that we all know about, and that is ongoing. So is it that the political interests of powerful states stand in the way of accountability?” This is a deep philosophical subject regarding the UN and politics in general, which has been on my mind for a while now, and is the reason for my skepticism when it comes to politics, and government in general. This speech, gives me the opportunity to raise questions that have been on my mind, although I must admit I do not have any sort of answers to these questions.

The United Nations, when it was created, had five main objectives it was to pursue. By affiliation, all the member states of the UN agree with this mission and are to help it become reality. These five goals, which can be found on are as follows: Maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, promote sustainable development, and uphold international law. Of course, for any organization or institution to survive, there must be rules, regulations, governance, and direction. But what happens when the rules and regulations on ‘how things get done’ inhibit the accomplishment of that which the organization was created for? In other words, when do the politics become a hindrance rather than an aid? Furthermore, how is it even possible for the political interests of one state to come before or hamper the realization of such important results, especially when dealing with ISIS.

The word politics today has somewhat of a negative connotation to it in certain contexts. For example, when I played soccer at my first two years of college, there were several players that felt they didn’t get much playing time either because they were freshmen, or because they felt the coach favored other players. In one case, a winger felt he was better than the player starting in front of him at wing but was not playing much because the starting player’s father was a huge donor to the soccer program. This is what we called ‘the politics’ of college soccer. When individual interests take the place of the ultimate goal of an organization. This is often seen in government and business. Although it is all inexcusable, I cannot understand how this could be the case in this situation when the stakes are so high.

Although Iran may have good reason for it, I cannot comprehend how this one state could slow the process by which such evil could be stopped, even on a small scale. How has it come down to a civil rights lawyer having to literally plead with member states of the UN to take action?

One might say, it is a much more complicated issue than that. I agree — that is the politics of it, and the result is that the UN is not doing what it was created for.


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