A career diplomat since 1944, 67-year-old U.N. General Assembly President Jaime de Pinies of Spain has represented his country in that body for 29 sessions, longer than any other U.N. delegate. As the United Nations celebrates its 40th anniversary, and as the United States prepares to celebrate United Nations Day on Thursday, De Pinies reflects on the U.N.'s purpose, and on its future Q: How has the United Nations changed during your service there?
A: Well, I have seen great changes. First of all, I have seen the membership enlarge in such a way that it has very little resemblance to what it actually was in the beginning. When my country joined the organization at the end of 1955, we were at the time, I think, 85 member states. Since then, we have almost doubled the organization. You must consider that since the organization began, it has gone from 51 to 159 member states. So, the mere presence of all these countries makes the organization more difficult to handle--makes it more difficult to make decisions. Q: Have there been particular high points and low points for you over the years? A: Well, I remember very well the emergency sessions in '56 on the question of the Suez Canal invasion, and the question of Hungary. It's interesting to remember that in that very year, 1956, it was a (presidential) election year in this country; they decided to postpone the regular General Assembly until after the election. Then I remember the Bay of Pigs; then, before that, the presence in 1960 of 35 or 40 heads of state or chiefs of governments. That was the year in which Mr. (Nikita) Khrushchev came, Mr. (Harold) Macmillan, Mr. (Carlos P.) Romulo of the Philippines and so many; it was unbelievable. And then I remember the Six-Day War in 1967 in the Middle East. I remember the question of Czechoslovakia in 1968. I remember my tenure of office in the Security Council in '69 and '70. And then I remember the war of 1973 in Sinai. These are the highlights. About war, I will tell you, we were dealing with matters of war and peace, or peace and security. But the most important achievement of the United Nations in my opinion has been the emergence of so many countries. So the decolonization has made the United Nations almost universal. Q: What do you see as the mission of the United Nations? A: First of all, worldwide peace and security. But, you know, peace needs security. Security needs protection. And how are you going to achieve the security? Through armaments. And down the road we go to the armament race. And it's so unbelievable and so expensive. We are coming close to a trillion dollars. If only a small part would be designated to remedy the famine, to help the countries to develop, to advance further. Imagine! And then we are dealing with terrorism, and with drugs. We are dealing with so many items--but not always effectively. Q: Many U.N. critics suggest that the organization is out of date, anachronistic. How do you respond to such charges? A: I think that the United Nations is serving its purpose. First of all, we have avoided a third world war. Forty years. Don't forget that the age of the United Nations coincides with the age of the atomic era and coincides with the anniversary of the second World War. Q: Around the United States, many young people participate in model United Nations. Will the U.N. survive for this next generation? A: Well, if I have to judge from the letters I receive from the pupils in the United States, I think that there is a tremendous interest here in the United Nations. I think it's extremely important to see all these kids interested in knowing facts and trying to represent the country. I think they will continue the mission. Q: How do you characterize the United States' current relationship with the United Nations? A: I think it is friendly, yes. I have seen many Presidents, ever since Truman. I think the United States is playing its role. Don't forget that as a Spaniard, as a Westerner, I live under the umbrella of the United States. So, let us keep your country healthy. Q: What about terrorism? A: It goes on and on and on, because it's a plague in the world. The problem is whether you agree that terrorism in all its forms is the one (problem) we should tackle. It has to be solved, but how? You know, there are desperadoes, kamikazes, always. Q: You've described tensions, responsibilities, that would give most people ulcers. How do you avoid diplomatic burnout? A: Because we diplomats, by nature, are optimists always and think that everything is going to be solved. Q: And you believe that? A: I believe that. We have a saying in Spanish: There is no sin that lasts 100 years, because there is nobody who can stand it.