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Ambassador William Luers

      . . . Chairman & President, United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). Ambassador Luers' distinguished diplomatic career spanned 31 years and much of the world.  He served as Ambassador both to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela. Then he was President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for 13 years before joining UNA-USA. An active member of the Council on Foreign Relations and other public policy organizations, Mr. Luers serves on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, speaks on policy and arts issues around the world and publishes widely on foreign policy issues.

Excerpts3:43 secs
[This Program was recorded April 6, 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

      The future of America depends on being cooperative, says Ambassador William H. Luers. American "engagement" is critical in the world's current high stakes poker. Humanity, he says, is waiting for America to be a part of it. Three billion people are living on the edge, waiting for us to address the division of riches and communications and access to the globe. If we decide not to cooperate, Ambassador Luers sees America's future destined to failure, its civilization at an end. Period.

      The message for the 21st Century is simple, says the Ambassador, a long-time career diplomat and now Chairman and President of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). We do better when we cooperate. Work with others. Negotiate. Find solutions together. The good news is that most Americans agree with Ambassador Luers, according to independent studies. Americans are, by and large, eager to share the burden of addressing the complex issues which characterize today's increasingly interconnected world.

      The U.N.'s peacemaking and peacekeeping activities dominate headlines, but fully 70% of the UN's resources are committed to NON-security activities. The UN facilitates the networking of vital organizations, world-wide, Ambassador Luers reports. It brings together traditional power centers -- governments, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and corporations -- plus non-traditional ones, including individuals in United Nations Associations around the world, including UNA-USA. UNA's membership covers the political landscape, ordinary people solving problems. When someone "Adopt(s) a Mine Field" (just one of UNA-USA's many projects,) fields currently harvesting death and dismemberment can return to a more productive use -- feeding hungry people.

      Today's need for cooperation is on a scale larger than that to which Americans are accustomed, Ambassador Luers understands. But he's hopeful that cooperation's benefits can wean America from its tendency toward insularity. As a nation made up of many cultures, the United States, he believes, is uniquely positioned to engage enormous problems, to be a kind of "Curator of the Whole," says this former President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After all, Ambassador Luers reminds us, America is a microcosm of the unity of human experience on the planet.

Conversation 1

Ambassador William Luers gives Paula Gordon and Bill Russell an overview of the history and mission of the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA), an organization which offers Americans alternatives to insular perspectives and foreign policies. Ambassador Luers compares the post-World War II world to today, with personal examples.

Conversation 2

The non-security work of the United Nations' system is examined. Ambassador Luers describes today's UN as a network facilitator for countries, people, corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He shows how the UN provides essential links for international cooperation benefiting every individual American and the world, from individual health to business. He stresses how practical and powerful cooperation is, assuring us that Americans' basic instinct is to work with others. He applauds Americans' rock bottom intelligence and wisdom in appreciating the value of the UN.

Conversation 3

Putting elite "chattering classes" into perspective, Ambassador Luers considers the very different roles of peace-maker and peace-keeper, mindful of the profound role the United States government plays in both. Ambassador Luers describes the growth of the non-security, humanitarian role of the UN (from infectious diseases to refugees), where 70% of the UN system's resources are spent. He cites many things in the world that the UN touches -- helping but not running things. Ambassador Luers' idea of "engagement" is considered. His messages for the 21st century? We have done better working with others than not. And the stakes for which we are playing are civilization itself.

Conversation 4

The Business Council for the United Nations and Secretary General Kofi Annan's "Global Compact" are described. "Globalization" is considered, as the UN tries to establish norms among governments, NGOs and corporations, a framework within which people can work through intrinsic conflicts. Remembering his years as head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ambassador Luers relates the strivings of 5,000 years of the world's cultures to a unity of human experience on this planet. He proposes "culture" as a powerful tool for enhancing the capacity of nations to work together. He sees potential for America -- uniquely qualified as a nation of many cultures -- to exercise leadership.

Conversation 5

Assuring us that the UNA-USA is a supporter, not a cheerleader, of the UN, Ambassador Luers gives examples of UNA-USA's work, from their public school efforts, including "Global Classrooms" curricula and Model UNs, to "Adopt a Minefield." He expands, showing the multitude of positive outcomes possible when people around the world cooperate to deal with a problem. World-wide, ordinary people in civil societies can and do solve problems, Ambassador Luers reports, based on his own experience organizing volunteers.

Conversation 6

Has The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, coming out of the 1950s, had an effect? Ambassador Luers answers with a resounding, "Yes!" He compares the "terrible" 20th Century to today's progress toward a more open world community.  He describes UNA-USA members, who cover the entire political spectrum. Human rights, he is confident, unify most UNA-USA members as it does most Americans.


Sybil Schmidt chaired the United Nations Association World Health Day 2001 at The Carter Center in Atlanta. She was key to bringing us together with Ambassador Luers and we are very grateful indeed. Arden Stone, president of the Atlanta chapter of the UNA-USA, was also most helpful.

It was a pleasure to work with Robert Thompson and Fiona Shukri from the UNA-USA national staff. We thank them both for their professionalism and courtesy.

Related Links:
Learn more about and/or become involved with the United Nations Association of the USA and the Business Council for the United Nations at their excellent website.
The website for the United Nations has a wealth of up-to-date information about today's world and the UN's vital part in it.

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