Tipping the Iceberg

Road signs that are uniform across the world. The specifications of your seatbelt. The three-letter airport codes that facilitate international travel. The classification of the fruit you had for breakfast and the data used for the weather forecast you watched while eating it. Dialing codes that allow us to call other countries. Properly-tested vaccines. The ban on hormone-altering alterations in baby bottles.

What do all of these seemingly random and rather disparate issues have in common? Answer: they have their origins with the United Nations. They are part of the dense web of standards, frameworks and policies generated by the United Nations to make our daily lives possible. Every day and everywhere.

But you would never know from reading today's news stream. The news about the United Nations that makes its way into the media shows only a fraction of what the organization does. And usually it is focused narrowly on international crises and the international community's inability to do much about them. They must be reported, that is clear, but they do not even begin to tell the whole story about the work of the United Nations and its impact on people across the planet.
This is problematic -- not simply because it distorts reality but also because it potentially undermines support for the United Nations from the very people that it serves on a daily basis.

The media show only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of the United Nations. Usually, the part of the iceberg that lies beneath the surface presents the bigger problem. With the United Nations, the opposite is true. The great majority of what goes on off the radar of global media has the greatest and most positive impact on the largest number of people.

As I write, the United Nations is clearing landmines, helping governments with elections, vaccinating children, improving global trade, lifting people out of poverty, protecting human rights, securing education for all, and continuously bringing the world together around one table to solve our global challenges together. This is not what we see on TV every day or read about in the papers.

Next time you come across news with the United Nations only in a negative light, look beneath the surface for the full story.