Letter to Irish Time-Public Debate on Global Issues

Letter to the Editor

President Higgins and role of the UN

Losing credibility?

Thu Sep 21 2023 – 00:12

Sir, – As a university educator in the field of global citizenship and development education, it is refreshing to see public discourse following a statement by President Michael D Higgins and Tánaiste on the role of the UN and the speech by the Taoiseach at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit (“Micheál Martin defends ‘relevance’ of UN after Michael D Higgins says it is ‘losing credibility’”, News, September 19th). These debates serve as a reminder of the complexities surrounding global institutions like the United Nations. They also serve as a reminder that, if you look at media coverage of important global developments, such as the SDGs, which impact on all of us all of the time, what is noticeable is the absence of such coverage in a way that really facilitates public debate and understanding.

President Higgins’s candid assessment of the UN’s perceived failures resonates with many who feel that international organisations often lack the enforcement mechanisms to bring about tangible change. The stark reality of ongoing wars, famines, and mismanaged migrations indeed paints a gloomy picture. Yet, as the Tánaiste argues, the UN isn’t just about the often-politicised Security Council. The UN’s myriad agencies touch the lives of countless individuals daily, providing relief, education, and sustenance. From the refugee camps in Jordan and Gaza to healthcare initiatives across Africa and Asia, the UN plays an undeniable role in alleviating suffering.

It is important that this discussion happens, that we understand the issues and that we can influence those who represent us, nationally and internationally. The dialogue around global development needs to be democratised. We must foster public debates that don’t just hinge on the failings or successes of institutions but deeply interrogate our shared responsibilities. Education plays a vital role but the media is also a cornerstone of such discourse. Understanding the interconnectedness of global issues allows for more informed decision-making, from grassroots activism to policy formulation.

Let’s nurture an informed, engaged society that holds both itself and its global institutions accountable. But it is up to all of us. – Yours, etc,


School of Education,

University College Cork.