Is the United Nations Still Relevant?

Is the United Nations Still Relevant?

By Roxanne Hughes-Wheatland


On October 24, 2020 the United Nations (UN) will celebrate 75 years since its birth.  Commemoration of this historic event will occur in the midst of many crises that include a global pandemic, global economic decline, and multiple environmental disasters – to name a few.  Among the crises is the question, "Is the United Nations still relevant?"  Despite a 6.5 billion dollar budget for peace keeping operations, the UN has been for the most part ineffective in dealing with the conflicts in Yemen, Libya, and Syria (Gladstone, 2020).  Furthermore, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues with no end in sight.  While the UN has lived up to its goal of preventing another world war, more recently Secretary General António Guterres has not been able to motivate the international community to seriously address the needs of the most vulnerable.  The feeling among those who study international affairs is that the UN is currently on a downward trend in terms of influence and effectiveness largely because most countries have turned inward, especially due to the pandemic, to focus on their own needs.  Many countries are now not as interested in multilateralism that requires cooperating with other countries to solve global problems. 


Part of the problem is that the structure of the UN has kept power in the hands of the victors of World War II – Britain, Russia, United States, France, and China – and given little significant power to the General Assembly with its 193 member states (Gladstone, 2020).  In addition, the fact that Britain, Russia, United States, France, and China are permanent members of the 15-seat Security Council and have veto power has been a major impediment to addressing international problems.  This is because they often deadlock on issues and they also do not represent the current balance of power in the world.  Furthermore, the dysfunctional relationship between the United States, China, and Russia has not helped.  Moreover, these five permanent members of the Security Council are not keen on making structural changes to the organization.  The problems with the UN structure not only imperil the lives of those impacted by conflict, but also are imperiling the ability of countries to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (  These 17 goals aim to fast-track for those furthest behind a reduction in poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls by 2030. 


Another challenge that is impacting the UN is the present autocratic leadership in several countries that does not see value in international cooperation and collective security.  According to an article written by Patrick Wintour, diplomatic editor at the Guardian, on 23 July 2020, David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee believes that we are now," living through an age of impunity" where there are no limits on behavior and the external power constraints that the UN Security Council should be able to provide are not there. 


However, despite its challenges some ambassadors still see value in the UN system, if only as a place for member countries to air their grievances and "defuse the domestic pressure exerted on governments faced with intractable problems."  There are also proposals to do, as Samantha Power, the former United States Ambassador to the UN has said, "workarounds" that would allow work to be done outside the UN Security Council, such as in the UN Human Rights Council where the veto does not exist (Wintour, 2020).  Because of its role as the only international body where countries can come together to discuss their multiple concerns and challenges, the UN still has relevance in today's world. 


As Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed, President of the International Court of Justice said in a recent article published in the UN Chronicle (Ahmed, 2020), "…if the UN did not exist today, it would have to be invented."  However, a UN 2020 would likely not be invented with the same structure.  He further explained that after all, the current UN system is "not carved in stone."  It has been adjusted in the past and "can be modified again" for the common good of humanity (Ahmed, 2020).


There is hope that the needed alterations to the UN system will be done by the younger generation of leaders who see borders not as limits but as opportunities to ensure that humanity is treated equally and fairly.  Certainly any changes in the UN system will not happen overnight, but in order for this much needed international organization to continue to be relevant and address future challenges, the balance of power will need to change so that it better reflects the current needs of the international community.



Black, M. (2008).  The no-nonsense guide to the United Nations.  Toronto, Canada:  New Internationalist Publications.

Gladstone, R. (2020, September 16).  The United Nations turns 75 amid calamity and conflict, The New York Times, p. A7. 

Publications Department United Nations Association, USA (2005).  The ABCs of the UN. 

United Nations Development Programme.  (2020). The sustainable development goals.  Retrieved from

Wintour, P. (2020, July 23).  What is the future of the UN in the age of impunity?  The Guardian.  Retrieved from

Yusuf, A. A. (2020, July 10).  The charter of the United Nations after 75 years:  Personal reflections.  UN Chronicle.  Retrieved from



Election Protection Hotline Is Live, Everyday

Cynthia Williams, Our President, recently attended Election Protection Training, and has this to share:

The Election Protection hotline is now live seven days a week, with attorneys and other legal professional answering calls from voters across the country. Voters can call 866-OUR-VOTE to get voting help regarding issues from registration challenges to vote-by-mail information to polling place lookups. 

In addition to the hotline resources, Election Protection is now offering voters help via our new digital tools: texting via 866-687-8683, live chat via, and live chat via Election Protection’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Voters can now get help by (1) texting “MYVOTE” to 866-687-8683, (2) messaging us at, or (3) direct messaging us on Facebook (Election Protection) or Twitter (@866OURVOTE). 

Lastly, here are some sample messages/posts that can be shared via email or social media:

  • Call our Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE for LIVE help M-F from 9am-9pm ET. Call 866-687-8683 today!
    • Get help registering to vote
    • Check your registration status
    • Find out about early voting or absentee voting options in your state
  • Did you know that you can get voting help from Election Protection without calling the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline? Chat with @866OURVOTE at by clicking the chat icon in the upper righthand corner or text 866-687-8683. #ProtectOurVote
  • Text MYVOTE to 866-687-8683 to get voting help from a trained Election Protection volunteer. #DefendingDemocracy


Read more

Justice Ginsburg Remembered

Nearly 4 years after going viral for dressing like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Columbia girl fondly recalls her personal connection with the Justice

By Sameer Rao, Baltimore Sun, September 20, 2020


Many people have looked up to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a role model. Fewer have gotten a note from the trailblazing jurist after going viral for dressing like her.


That’s what happened to Michele Threefoot of Columbia in 2017. The then-8-year-old was inspired by reading Debbie Levy’s biographical picture book, “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark," that she and her mother, Krista Threefoot, created a costume for her school’s Superhero Day. Photos of Michele went far and wide online, and Ginsburg ultimately reached out to her through an assistant.

“Dear Michele, You look just like me! May you continue to thrive on reading and learning. Every good wish, Ruth Bader Ginsburg," the note from the justice read.

Michele Threefoot, now 12, still admires Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after making a special connection with her four years ago. (Krista Threefoot/Courtesy of Krista Threefoot)

Almost four years later, with many mourning Ginsburg’s death from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer on Friday, Michele Threefoot has not forgotten the gesture.

“She was there for me in my life for almost half of my life, and you can’t take that away,” the now-12-year-old said on Saturday. “She’s important to me and my family, and she’s the only hero I have that isn’t, like, my family.”

[More Maryland news] An unofficial car show that placed Ocean City ‘under siege’ last year begins Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know. »

Michele and Krista Threefoot both said they were shocked and saddened by the news of Ginsburg’s passing.

“It’s really sad, actually, because I didn’t really know she was sick until I heard that she had died,” Michele said. “It was kind of a big surprise for me, I did not expect her to die. I thought she was going to live to 90, I thought for sure.”

“We’re all mourning the loss of an icon, but I think a lot of people are really inspired by everything she fought for,” Krista added. “So, a sad moment, but also an invigorating moment.”




League Mourns Justice Ginsburg

League of Women Voters Mourns the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg


WASHINGTON—League of Women Voters president Deborah Turner and CEO Virginia Kase issued the following joint statement on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“It is with deep and profound sadness the League of Women Voters mourns the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A fierce advocate for women’s rights and civil rights, Justice Ginsburg’s vision for America transcended race, age, gender, and economic lines. She was a beloved champion of justice for all.

“Early in her career, she was a trailblazer who challenged the status quo and bucked tradition, upending gender norms and societal expectations of women through her strategic litigation approach. When she was denied opportunities, she created her own and ensured that the door was opened for others.

“Over Justice Ginsburg’s 27-year service on the United States Supreme Court, she was a champion of the Constitution , famously penning a stirring defense of the Voting Rights Act in her dissent to the Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision and the Court’s opinion in the United States v. Virginia, which struck down Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy.

“Justice Ginsburg’s wisdom, determination, and dedication to equal rights embodied the League’s belief in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy. She touched each and every one of our lives. May she rest in power.”


CONTACT: Sarah Courtney | 202-263-1332 |

September 2020 President's Report

President’s Report – Cynthia Williams

September 10, 2020 LWVHC

The Voter

We haven’t had a Voter for some time, now.  We need to work on a strategy to get it up and running again.

19th Amendment 100th Anniversary Celebrations

We had a very nice celebration for the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment on August 18, 2020 in front of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.  The speakers included County Executive Calvin Ball, Delegate Jessica Feldmark, County Council Chair Deb Jung, and former County Executive and Delegate, Liz Bobo.  We were presented with 2 declarations and a citation.  The event was well attended.


Beth Hufnagel has moved the computer into the office and we’re happy to have Gina back in the office as well.

Candidate Forums

We will be doing candidate forums for the General Election on Oct. 2nd via Zoom.  Our partners will be the Association of Community Services of Howard County, the PTA Council of Howard County, and the Horizon Foundation.  The invitations have gone out to the candidates, and we’re waiting to hear back regarding their availability.  The Zoom rooms have been scheduled.  It has been advertised to our members and to some Facebook communities.  We’re speaking to our sponsors regarding what their responsibility is to be, and we’ve brought on another partner (Horizon Foundation) that will try to get us questions for the Circuit Court Judge forum (with Becca Niburg as backup).  We are hoping to have the forums streamed on Facebook in addition to being posted on our website. 

Poll Evaluation

We will not officially be doing poll evaluations for the General through the BOE, but some of us will probably being doing them for other organizations.  We have been working closely with the BOE to get the most accurate voter information for the General election.


We have sent out requests for donations in order to advertise the Voter Guide more effectively, as well as a t-shirt fundraiser.  Both are doing very well so far.


Our Letter to the Editor was published in the Columbia Flyer and the Howard County Times today.  We have been distributing our Voter FAQ sheet (Cheryle had it translated to Spanish) at farmer’s markets and CCC sites (when we have the volunteers or myself).  It has also been given to Delegate Courtney Watson, ACS, and the Horizon Foundation for distribution.  We contributed a slide to the Howard Hughes “Big” event on Friday.  NeighborRide is giving out cards to their passengers.  Attempted to get permission to hand out the Voter FAQ sheets at the landfill (they get 2,000 people in on a Saturday).  After much tussling, couldn’t get permission.


We held our Retreat via Zoom over 2 nights this time.  Discussed how to advertise the Voter Guide, whether or not to deliver ballots for people in nursing homes and assisted livings, what to talk to Guy Mickley (who we’ve been communicating with regarding voting info) about, doing the t-shirt fundraiser, and the signup sheet for volunteers.


National Registration Day September 22, 2020

Looks like the above will be at Howard County General Hospital headed up by Cheryle.  I was hoping to have more groups participating, but it’s not worked out that way.  We may get more volunteers out of it, though.  We’ve been mailed posters and stickers for the event.  We’ve committed to 100 registrations – basically a number pulled out of the air, but who knows?  **Update:  We will also be partnering with the YMCA in Howard on this day.

General Registration

Besides the Hospital, Cheryle has several registration opportunities scheduled (see her report).

Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Event

The Sheriff’s Dept. has agreed to partner with us for the above event.  There will be deputies located in various places in Downtown Old Ellicott City.  Several businesses have been contacted and they will support the event by putting the Voter FAQ sheet in their windows.  There may be donation boxes put in those shops if they allow it and containers can be found cheaply, which I may have just found.  The event has been advertised using ACS, our email blast, and various Facebook Communities.  Two TV news stations have been contacted in hope that they will cover the event.  The elected for the Ellicott City District have been contacted.  Hopefully it won’t rain.

Election Judges/Racial Equity Task Force

Cheryle, Beth, and Grace have all volunteered to be Election Judges and are going through the training.  Please let me know if I missed anyone.  Thanks go to all of them for their service.  Laura and Beth’s names have been put forward to join the above task force that is being put together by Councilmembers Opel Jones and Christiana Rigby.

Voter Guide

Barbara is working on it and hopes to have it completed mid-September.  Question remains whether or not to print it, and if so, how many copies?

Outside Presentations

We have been requested of late to do several presentations:  2 for Oakland Mills, 1 for HCC, 2 for AAUW, the HC Library system, and Sandy will be participating in the HCC Sustainability Day.

Unit Meetings

There are 3 Unit meetings – the September and October ones are regarding voting, and the November one will include State’s Attorney Rich Gibson, Sheriff Marcus Harris, and (hopefully) Police Chief Lisa Myers.  The September and October Unit meetings have Zoom rooms and have been advertised in the usual ways.  If I can figure it out, they will also stream on Facebook.


Krista and I attended a webinar regarding consensus and programs.  The Fall Workshop will be on Saturday, September 26, 2020 (via Zoom).  We will be expected to fill reach consensus on the programs they are putting forward, and fill out the form they provide by Monday, December 14, 2020.

19th Amendment Celebration on August 18th

Howard County Government and the Howard County Legistative Delegation honored the League of Women Voters on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Here are some highlights of the celebration: 


Listen to the Women's Rights Suffrage Song




Read more

Sign up for Voter Registration and Education

LWVHOWARDCOUNTY is meeting voters at Columbia Cares Food Pantry. Here is the link to sign up for Voter Registration and Voter Education.

Outdoor Voter Outreach Sign Up

Get Out the Vote with LWVHC - August

Help the League of Women Voters of Howard County GET OUT THE VOTE! The 2020 Election presents challenges to voting unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes. It's up to all of us to ensure that every single person who wishes to vote in this election is able to do so. THe LWVHC is asking for help staffing booths at Farmers Markets adn Columbia Community Cares locations. We'll provide resources on voter registration and vote-by-mail instructions. All you need to do is share them and encourage everyone you meet to vote!

Select a month, then choose your spots.



The League of Women Voters is looking for volunteers to contact colleges they care about (maybe as alums, faculty or parents of students) to ask for full student voter participation in those colleges. This campaign is called Ask Your College. Created by the Foundation for Civic Leadership (, it is a nonpartisan volunteer campaign to urge colleges and universities to ensure every eligible student votes.

To participate, contact your target college(s) and report back the response you receive from the colleges. Go to to get sample letters to write or email to your college leadership. If you want to check if your college(s) are already involved, go to the RESOURCES section at It lists colleges and universities that have already committed to advancing student voter participation as part of the nonpartisan All IN Campus Democracy Challenge. You can learn everything that campuses commit to do at

Please help us increase participation in our upcoming election!

Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions.  


Cynthia Williams, President



Rent and Eviction Relief Available!

Evictions Prohibited

“This Saturday (August 1st), many residents will face another month of missed rent due to income loss from COVID-19,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “It’s critical that tenants are aware of their rights. Under the current Executive Order issued by Governor Hogan, a court cannot order the eviction of any tenant who can show that their failure to pay rent was a result of COVID-19. While we’ve allocated $1.5 million towards rental and eviction relief, and promoted other relief programs, we know that this crisis is far from over.” 
Examples of COVID-19 related rent delinquency include losing employment, needing to care for a school-aged child, or being diagnosed with COVID-19. An additional emergency order prohibits electric, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies from shutting off any residential customer’s service or charging any late fees. For additional assistance with housing needs, utility shutoffs, family or financial issues, tenants should contact Maryland 2-1-1 by calling 211 or visiting 
For more guidelines for rental tenants, please click here. If you are in need of legal support, please contact Maryland Legal Aid, or Maryland Volunteer Legal Services.  

Rent Assistance Available

Howard County residents may apply for financial assistance to pay past due rent payments to prevent eviction. The $1.5 million in housing payment relief is being allocated through local non-profit partnerships. Applicants must be Howard County residents, provide proof of home address, and provide evidence of loss of income due to COVID-related job loss, reduction in hours, and/or medical illness. The maximum assistance per household is three months of housing expense. 
Residents may contact one of the participating providers for an application: 
•    Community Action Council,, 410-313-6440 
•    The United Way,, 211 
•    Grassroots,,, 410-531-6677 
•    Family and Children’s Services,,, 443-864-0379 
•    Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network (FIRN),,, 443-276-3166 
Applicants must also meet maximum household income limits, which are based on 80% of the Howard County area median income.  

Family Size and Amount:
One Person       $64,723  
Two Person       $73,969  
Three Persons   $83,215  
Four Persons     $92,461  
Five Persons      $99,858  
Six Persons       $107,255  
Seven Persons   $114,651  
Eight Persons    $122,048  
Partnership with Making Change
In County Executive Ball’s continued commitment to financial literacy, Howard County is partnering with Making Change, Inc. to provide free financial counseling to residents affected by a loss of income due to COVID-19. The counseling will include budget preparation and contacting creditors for assistance. The request form is available at or by emailing