It is a beautiful day in Groningen. The sun is shining and, although it is at least 5 degrees too cold, everyone is wearing shorts. The Noorderplantsoen is covered with sunburnt necks and frosty white legs, and the smell of barbecue and the sounds of music and laughter fill the air.
While I sit down on my newly captured, perfect spot in the park, I open my newspaper. The laughter and music fade away into the background as I doze off in the warm summer sun. Thankfully, I startle awake when a Frisbee almost hits my head, and I start reading the paper with newly captured concentration.
When I open the newspaper in the midst of this murmur, the articles seem to be nothing more than a depressing story; a story that is difficult to capture with the enjoyment of a cold beer and the warm sun; a story that seems nothing more than ink on paper as soon as I put the newspaper aside.
However, it is no fiction that the world seems to be burning. Wars, famines, natural disasters. When you think of all this misery, the warm, cosy summer sun returns to being the fireball it actually is.
You can quickly reassure yourself with the idea that we do not work on an individual, but on a collective basis to extinguish or at least control the burning world. At a national, but especially at an international level, we tend to attack these problems in the form of organisations such as the United Nations.
As it slowly turns colder, and the visitors of the park clear off, I wonder if this idea is not too short-sighted. The United Nations are often criticised. Peace missions, for example, receive as much praise as criticism. Think of Sudan, Congo and Bosnia. These are all examples of missions that can be seen as failures. Besides that, bad behaviour by peacekeepers is not unheard of; sexual misconduct of UN personnel in Congo, for example.
The sun disappears behind a cloud. I close the newspaper and put my arms around me against the cold. I look around one last time and feel grateful for the luck I have had, being born in this country and being able to live in this beautiful city. As I walk home, I realise how important it is to be aware of everything that happens in the world, but also to remain critical of yourself, your country and the world around you.
For everyone who wants to know more on this topic: on April 30th, Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of UN Watch, will visit SIB-Groningen to give a lecture about “Failures of the UN”. This lecture is free and open to everyone. For more information, please visit www.sib-groningen.nl
With over 400 members, SIB is the largest international student organization in Groningen. We organize weekly activities, which include lectures, symposia and debates. These events are free and open for everyone.