Mapping a millennium

United Nations ambassadors from eight Asian countries responded to audience questions regarding the importance of both diplomacy and the U.N. to the contemporary world at a Portland State academic town hall forum, “Why Diplomacy Matters,” Tuesday.

The eight ambassadors discussed the Millennium Development Goals at length, after an audience member asked how effective the U.N. would be in using sustainable development and the Asian point of view in moving the project forward.

The U.N. initiated the Millennium Development Project in September 2000, marking eight goals the 191 U.N. countries hope to satisfy by 2015. Among those goals, the U.N. aims to achieve universal primary education, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and ensure environmental sustainability.

Japan’s U.N. minister, Jiro Kodera, said his country has been very involved within the Millennium Project and moving it forward.

“Whether or not the U.N. is effective, we can be effective,” he said, adding that integrity, intelligence and interest are most effective in working with the project. “We are very serious in this matter. We can do a lot.”

Beyond his work as a U.N. ambassador, Kodera worked as an ambassador to Moscow and the U.S., and also worked in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Like Kodera, Minister Yong-Wan Song of the Republic of Korea moved from a job as director-general in the Korean Foreign Ministry department of International Organizations.

Song said the U.N.’s ability to communicate with so many countries at one time is vital in moving projects like this forward. He said that as diplomats, U.N. ambassadors must focus on protecting international peace and security, cooperative development and the promotion of human rights.

“We know hurting others is hurting ourselves,” Song said. “We have to cooperate to help others achieve economic consensus.”

In a 2005 progress update of the Millennium Development Project, the U.N. reported that many of the eight goals are making progress, but persisted in requesting additional progress in order to reach the 2015 goals. The report said that universal education is developing in many countries, but there are still sections of the world that have none. It also focused on the lack of drug treatment to prevent HIV and AIDS.

Representative Adiyatwidi Adiwoso Asmady of Indonesia, who also serves as a vice president on the Bureau of the U.N. Development Program, said many countries in Asia are among the world’s highest in poverty.

“The U.N. is looking closely at how to make progress and growth for the poor,” she said. “All issues are interlinked and interdependent. We have to think on a macro level.”

Other representatives at the forum included ambassadors from China, Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Four total questions were discussed in the hour and a half assembly moderated by Vice Provost of International Affairs Gil Latz. Latz introduced PSU President Daniel Bernstine for opening remarks. Bernstine thanked the world leaders for attending the event and said he looked to keep PSU committed to being globally linked and globally sensitive.

Goli Ameri was also part of the forum and discussed ways in which students can get involved in diplomacy. President Bush appointed Ameri as the head of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. She is also the president of the Portland-based communications company eTinium, Inc.

“It’s pretty simple,” she said about how to get involved in international politics. “Join a group and meet people involved in bigger and better things.”

Representative of the Philippines Laurao Liboon Baja said people must be knowledgeable and involved with current international developments. He said it is important to understand and accept different points of view.

“We live in a global village,” he said.