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Algarve History Association Events - January 2024

ahassociationThe next presentation by Peter will be on the Fátima Phenomenon.  He will examine the context in which the appearances of the Blessed Virgin took place, and how the Roman Church and the Portuguese State responded to the three children at the heart of this issue.  In particular, he shows why these appearances took place at that particular time, how local people responded to these events and what effect they had on the country as a whole.

More than a century later, how has the district of Fátima been affected by the outcome?  The Tavira presentation will be at 11h00 on Friday 26th January; that in Lagoa at 18h00 on Tuesday 30th January.  Anyone who wishes to join us for lunch after the talk in Tavira, please let me know on peterbooker1347@gmail.com.

In the 2023- 2024 series, Algarve History Association will sponsor our next concert at Quintinha da Música on Sunday 28th January at 16h00.  We shall host the violin duo Après un Duo, featuring Romeu Madeira and Ingrid Sotolarova.  They will present pieces by Dvořák, Janáček, Suk, Elgar, Fauré and Ravel among others. This concert promises an occasion to promote first class musicians resident here in the Algarve.  As usual, tickets at €25 are available from Peter at peterbooker1347@gmail.com.  He is also able to supply directions if necessary.

Our programme in February will feature a presentation by Henry Work on the History of Barrels.  He gave this presentation in Tavira two years ago, before people were properly ready for a re-start after the pandemic crisis.  He points out that all sea voyages, including those to India by Vasco da Gama, benefitted from the use of barrels, since there was no other way of storing liquids.  And the reliance on barrels has been long-lasting.  They were an important part of the export trade of fish from the Algarve until the invention and adoption of canning.  Barrels are used even today in the refining of wines and spirits, and are therefore still an important part of life.  The reasons for the different sizes of barrel, and their use for different purposes, is fascinating.  Dates for your diary: Tavira Friday, 23rd February and Lagoa Tuesday, 27th February.

The piece below appeared in the December issue of Jornal de Notícias História, written by João Pedro Teixeira Fernandes.  I have translated it, and added a few comments of my own at the end.

A crisis of legitimacy of the United Nations

Fragilities in the organization of the UN, such as its inability to adapt to an age different from that in which it was created, make it inoperative and remind us of the disintegration of the League of Nations and the catastrophic years that marked its end.

1. Founded in 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the United Nations (UN) organisation is visibly showing the wear and tear of its years. There have been several limits and obstacles to action since its beginning, because of the gap between its ambitious objectives and principles and the skills and means to implement them. The critical issue of international peace and security was largely handed over to the powers that won the war – the USA, the Soviet Union (later Russia), China, the United Kingdom and France.  These five permanent members of the Security Council are invested with veto rights. Such a solution reflects the logic of 1945, not that of 2023. The major transformations that have occurred in the meantime should lead, among other adaptations, to the extension of the Security Council to new members (Germany, Brazil, India, Japan……) and eventually to the suppression of the right of veto. This has been mission impossible.

2. The UN also faces deep internal fractures. The Israel-Palestine and Human Rights cases show the problem. Especially in the Global South, it is argued that United Nations General Assembly (GA) Resolution No. 181 of 1947 – providing for the partition of Palestine, (until then administered by the British under the mandate of the League of Nations) into two states, one for Jews, the other for Arab-Palestinians, was devoid of legitimacy. This Resolution planned to create a colonial state in the Middle East (Israel) founded in the Western majority at the time. This argument (and others) led the Arab states of the region to ignore this Resolution, and they declared war on the Jews in 1948. The consequence of that war, and only after the defeat of the Arab alliance, was that the State of Israel emerged in that territory. Other UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue were approved, especially from the 1960s onwards, but were ignored by Israel. Although not typically binding, General Assembly resolutions are a political barometer of the world, for better or worse. The majority of the 193 States that currently make up the UN are not democratic, under any minimally demanding criterion of democracy. Nor is the majority particularly respectful of Human Rights. Resolutions are often approved by majorities in which the votes of authoritarian states are decisive. The same problem occurs in the UN Human Rights Council, in which members such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Russia have participated, all known for their flagrant disregard for Human Rights.

3. In addition to the chronic problems that have been wearing down the organisation for a long time, the United Nations is going through a time when it is being questioned ever more intensely. In early 2022, the organization was paralysed in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The invasion (a clear violation of International Law) came from a permanent member of the Security Council with veto rights. Due to the functions and responsibilities assigned to the members of the Security Council, Russia should be a guarantor of peace and respect for International Law, not a transgressor. At the end of 2023, the war in the Middle East resurfaced, with a Hamas attack on Israel in another serious violation of International Law. This was followed by Israel's harsh military retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which caused a huge humanitarian crisis, raising the question of the lack of proportionality in the response, and the violation of International Law. Once again, the UN was unable to stop the war, enforce international law and manage the humanitarian crisis. Due to its impotence in resolving conflicts that affect global security and its inability to adapt to the new reality, is the UN becoming useless and drastically losing legitimacy? One historical antecedent comes to mind: the League of Nations in the world a century ago. Then the military aggressions of imperial Japan, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany led to the paralysis and irrelevance of the League in the 1930s. We know what followed. It would be good not to make the same mistakes again. 

Peter´s comments:
This commentary on the growing irrelevance of the UN could have been written some years ago.  We are witnessing today the attacks by Israel on Gaza and Russia on Ukraine, but there is no mention of the attacks by US, UK and their allies on Iraq, on Libya, on Syria.  Going further back, the UN was not successful in halting the Vietnam War. The piece also highlights the problem of the democratic Assembly now dominated by states which are not internally democratic; and the other problem of the resolutions of a democratic Assembly vitiated by the use of a veto by an undemocratically elected member of the security council. A major area not exposed by this piece is the cost of the UN, not only of running itself but in the military peace-keeping missions it sponsors in the world. I suspect that the US bears and has borne for years the major cost of running the UN (an internet search shows that US pays around a quarter of the UN budget).  This inequality in funding leads inevitably to the perhaps unacknowledged notion that the votes of those who bear the major cost should have increased weight. One last comment on the decreasing authority of the UN.  The sponsorship of IPCC and its scientifically dubious conclusion that the increased emission of carbon dioxide is responsible for global warming, or climate change, invites disagreement and dissension.  In particular, the declaration that “the science is settled” flies in the face of centuries of scientific experiment and enquiry, and the false predictions made by wild cards such as Al Gore on this issue are another element in the increasing irrelevance of the UN. It is all very well to point out the difficulties and increasing irrelevance of current institutions, but where do we go from here?  How should the world set about the reform of the UN?  Is it so irrelevant that it should be scrapped?  I for one find it difficult to imagine a world which does not have an international debating forum, flawed though it is.

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