Global Challenges

The United Nations was, and is, a child of the mid twentieth century. It stemmed from the perception that modern problems required a new pattern of interchange to supplement the older processes of diplomacy. Human institutions evolve in response to felt needs, and some of our most serious international needs have only recently become evident. For mankind now shares a number of new and urgent problems, which stem from the contrast between man's progress in the technological arts and his shortcomings in achieving a stable organization for international cooperation. The world has grown small, and we live increasingly in what has been described as a "global village."

The world now has community problems such as the population explosion, the uses of the oceans and seabeds, maintenance of a healthy natural environment, control of drug abuse, deterrence of airplane hijackings and cooperation in the use of outer space. In last year's report, and in my two speeches to the General Assembly, I suggested these problems as appropriate for U.N. attention. The U.N. has made useful beginnings on most of them, and marked progress on some. These developments are discussed in the following section of this report, along with the measures taken outside the U.N. These global problems are not, of course, the exclusive property of the U.N., but it is uniquely qualified to focus the energies and attention of the world on them.

I want to take particular note of one instance in which the U.N. did precisely that in 1970, and on a matter of the deepest interest to the American people. In October I asked the General Assembly to express "the world interest" in the human rights of prisoners of war. I urged the Assembly to press all adversaries in the Vietnam conflict, and all other conflicts, to honor the Geneva Convention. In December, the General Assembly passed a resolution that fully met that request. This did not, of course, effect the release of our prisoners now in North Vietnam's hands, but it does bring to bear on North Vietnam the full weight of world opinion in favor of decent treatment of those prisoners. And the U.N. resolution specifically called for the repatriation of seriously ill or wounded prisoners, and of all prisoners who have endured a long period of captivity. The American people, I am sure, share my gratitude to the eleven states who stood with us in sponsoring this resolution, and the fifty five others whose support led to its passage.