51st General Assembly 

On Tuesday, September 17, 1996, the 51st Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations commenced with the election of a distinguished and capable diplomat, Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia, as President of the General Assembly. However, in general, the session began without much fanfare.

The organization is faced with its worst financial crisis resulting from the failure of some member states, at the forefront of which is the U.S., to fulfill payment obligations. Also, no serious changes have taken effect with regard to the structure of various U.N. organs and their mandates, including the predicted changes in the composition and work of the Security Council.

In addition, and in spite of the work done by the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in streamlining the work of the Secretariat, the issue of electing the Secretary-General for a second term remains unresolved due to American objection. The African States insist on a second term for Africa and endorsing Mr. Boutros-Ghali and the Arab states along with many others continue to stand solidly behind his reelection.

In a broader context, it seems that member states and many intellectuals around the globe are still seeking to define the exact role of the U.N. in the post cold war era and to determine what the U.N. can do best. What remains certain today is that the U.N. is indispensable and that most of its shortcomings result from the policies of its members.

The world would have been a much worse place without the United Nations. Hopefully, the world will become a better place as a result of the consolidation of the will of member states to give it what it needs to make a difference.

The Charter of the United Nations speaks on behalf of the peoples of the U.N., and indeed the organization is most important for the peoples of the world. For us, the Palestinian people, however, it might be even more important. Our cause has been intricately bound with the U.N. It was the General Assembly that partitioned mandated Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum (separate entity). But it was also the General Assembly, some years later, in addition to other U.N. organs, which upheld the rights of the Palestinian people. For us, one more General Assembly might make a difference in our march for freedom.