by Anura Guruge
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Click to access the official “United Nations Day” webpage at the U.N.
I am, unashamedly, a United Nations (UN), or to be more precise UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), brat. My adoptive father worked for UNESCO from 1967 till 1985, and then was an Ambassador to UNESCO from 1985 to 1992 and then was a consultant/affiliate of UNESCO till his death a few months ago.
So UNESCO came into my life when I was 15. UNESCO paid for my education and would have done so till I was 23 (I think). They were very generous THOUGH it meant that I was packed off to boarding school in Britain. I could have exploited it more BUT I didn’t. I will confess though that I used what was available to me to feed my passion for books. They had a funny rule. Not sure of the exact number but it might have been $100, $250 or $250. Whatever that number was they, i.e., UNESCO, would not reimburse me for books that I bought up to that number — with receipts, of course. BUT, if and when you went past that number they reimbursed, 100%, everything for what you could show a bona fide receipt. So if the number was $100 and I only spent $99 on books, I would get nada. But, if I had receipts to show that I bought $600 worth of books that I needed they would pay me all $600! And as you all know I love books. So I never had to economize on books when I was going to Uni — in Swansea.
So my feeling about the UN (and UNESCO) are obviously more tempered and complex than with those that only know of these organizations by what they hear on the news.
I do not think that the UN is all bad or all good. Yes, I can shock you with all of the waste (and I will not use the word ‘corruption’) that used to take place — and probably, of course, still does. But that is the nature of a beast like that. I know it does some good and that there are some very committed, dedicated and good people who work for the UN and all of its other organization. Yes, it is intensely political and 95% of the work done involves negotiating the politics and ‘taking care of themselves’. To be fair they all, rightly to an extent, feel that they are making a sacrifice by working for UN. Definitely was the case with me. My life, I am sure, would have been much better if my adoptive parents didn’t abandon me, all on my own, in Britain so that they could devote the rest of their lives to the UN and the rather nice lifestyle that it provides.
But, we shouldn’t begrudge them their day.
So, Happy United Nations Day, 2014.