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Robert Muller's Website

Title: Robert Muller - UN Mainstay: Still Reasons for Optimism
Author: Tim Rogers
Date Published On GMW: May 1, 2003 | ID#: 0300502b
Category: Idea Dreams
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Robert Muller - UN Mainstay: Still Reasons for Optimism

By Tim Rogers
Staff, Tico Times, Cost Rica
March 28, 2003
Despite the UN Security Council's failure to prevent the United States and Great Britain from going to war with Iraq last week, Dr. Robert Muller - perhaps the UN's greatest believer and advocate - remains optimistic that something positive will come out of the current world crisis.
After 55 years of involvement with the UN, where he has held a variety of posts including Assistant Secretary General, Director of the Secretary General's Office and Secretary of the Economic and Social Council, the 80-year-old Muller jokes that he has never been as popular as he is now.
The reason for the Alsace-Lorraine- born activist's new-found fame is the unique and upbeat perspective called "waging peace" that he delivered recently to a group in San Francisco, and which has since made its way around the Internet and been reprinted in several newspapers, including last Friday's Tico Times (see March 21 "Perspective").
Muller, currently serving as the Chancellor Emeritus of the UN's University for Peace in Costa Rica, said he had no idea his speech - which he claims he improvised on the spot to cheer up a gloomy-looking crowd - would now be the subject of worldwide talk. But for a man whose past reads like an adventure novel, his internationally celebrated speech is just the latest chapter in a unique life.
"I remain optimistic even when there is a catastrophe or when something goes wrong," Muller said, adding that wars in the past have often produced new opportunities to explore better ways of governing the world.
"We had World War I, which was absolutely horrifying, but it gave birth to the League of Nations, which was drafted in the United States but unfortunately never ratified by the extreme right. So the League of Nations could not do much because the United States was not a member.
"World War II, the same situation -- an incredible war - that gave birth to the United Nations."
Muller, a member of the French Resistance who was persecuted by the Nazis, joined the UN in 1948 shortly after it was founded.
"I didn't want my children and grandchildren to see the horrors that I saw during the second World War," he said.
Muller was told by others not to waste his time with the UN because it wouldn't last more than five years. And, at the time, he believed it.
But more than 50 years later, Muller said, the UN is worldwide organization that plays a vital role.
"When I came to the UN I was a very pessimistic young man," he recalled. "After all the wars in Europe, I thought how can I expect that the UN, having to deal with capitalists and communists, with white people and black people, with 5,000 religions that all believe they have the truth and have made wars over the centuries, with the world population growing, prevent something from triggering off another World War?
"I thought then that we should have put a sign over the door saying 'You who enter here leave all hope.'
"But I have changed my views over the years because things have happened in the UN against my wildest expectations. I became an optimist - the UN's resident optimist."
In his recent essay "Safe Passage into the 21st Century," Muller listed 50 important accomplishments the UN has achieved over the years, including introducing the topics of human rights and environmental protection and humanitarian aid.
While Muller admits that the UN has not been a complete political success -- as evident by its inability to prevent a war in Iraq - he claims it was a minor victory that the U.S. for the first time ever brought the issue to the Security Council in the first place.
"The Security Council for the first time was able to operate and was turned to by the U.S. to consider the problem of Iraq," he said. "It was possible because the Cold War has ended. This is a novelty. It passed a very important step and it has received worldwide publicity, especially in the United States.
"Now the people say we never thought the UN could have a role like this, that it could be capable to be opposed to what the U.S. would do in Iraq and not give them the support for the war."
Although the U.S. went to war anyway, "at least the UN has played its role," Muller said. "I am hopeful. We have a disaster in Iraq, but like WW I and WWII, something positive will come out of it. We have a chance to reform the United Nations."
Muller said that already there are plans to hold a world conference next October to discuss the vital role of the United Nations and additional plans for a world conference to draft a World Constitution.
"What a tremendous dream!" he said.
Muller admits he thinks U.S. President George W. Bush might try to withdraw his country from the UN after the Iraq war - in which case, he says, the U.S. is out. But at this point, whatever doesn't kill the UN will only offer new opportunities to rejuvenate and strengthen its position as the "guardian of the world's problems."
Muller's philosophy is simple: "Even if it does not work today, we have to repeat it and repeat it until it works. And if you are stubborn enough to repeat an agenda that is not fulfilled, there comes a time when it will become a reality."
A father of four grown children and remarried five years after the death of his first wife, Muller now lives in a house overlooking the bucolic University for Peace campus and the Central Valley beyond, and dedicates his time to thinking positive thoughts and writing down one new idea each day. He is currently on idea 5,500, and - given his active mind and optimistic disposition - is sure to have many more.
"I want to live the rest of my life in Costa Rica because it is a country with no army," Muller stressed.
-Printed in The Tico Times March 28, 2003