University of Newcastle American history academic, Dr Michael Ondaatje, joined an honour roll that includes former West Australian Governor Ken Michael and Defence Minister Robert Hill when he delivered the key note address at a prestigious human rights conference today in Perth.
The annual John Huelin Memorial Lecture for the United Nations (UN) Association of Australia is held ahead of UN Human Rights Day on Saturday 10th December.
Dr Ondaajte discussed the challenges facing the UN that include poverty, racism and militarism as seen through the prism of Martin Luther King's life.
During Dr Ondaatje’s speech he linked scholarly interests in domestic African American history with contemporary issues surrounding international struggle for human rights.
“It was Martin Luther King, who once said: ‘I have the audacity to believe that people every-where can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,’” Dr Ondaajte said.
“Martin Luther King identified the UN as our best hope for achieving these things around the world.”
Dr Ondaatje said we should work to strengthen, not undermine the UN in its bid to help advance social justice and human rights.
Some suggestions for reform included the UN acquiring intelligence gathering aspects of its own, implementing more efficient decision-making processes and trimming overlapping committees, Dr Ondaatje said.