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UN Reform


Kevin over at DI yesterday set the ball rolling in terms of posting on the UN reform programme. His concise rundown of the issues at heart, i.e. the expansion of the Security Council to 25 seats with additional veto powers is excellent.
Myself I agree that fundamentally the UN is in serious need of some reform. The most fundamental value of the UN in all of its operations is democracy. For that reason it is highly ironic that all reform plans seem to do is exacerbate the current system which resembles the chinese communist party. Votes are only allowed on issues that cannot be affected or altered, in most cases General Assembly votes are meaningless and unreported especially if they dissent from the Security Council line.
Most major decisions are made by the cadres of the Victors in WWII. This is sadly resemblent of decision making in a Communist institution rather than one which supports and stands to represent global democratic spread. The UN really needs to represent and advocte the peoples will in its actions, not be seen as a rubber stamp for US led foreign policy and intervention. To this end the UN must be aware of the agendas at play in the debate over its future. Many in the US wish to see it as a docile puppet of foreign policy, divinely theirs to control by virtue of their status as sole super power. This is not by any means the only view, there are large numbers of multilateralists in the US who would wish to see the UN reformed along democratic and cooperative lines.
Although the Security Council is unlikely to disappear in favour of broad based democratic decision making in the Assembly, those within who value freedom and a free world need to consider the cyclical route history is taking. There is growing consensus that China is destined to challenge or replace the US as hegemon. Their actions resemble some of recent US foreign policy which secured global dominance, cosying up to Sudan and Iran and offering veto power as Security Council level is an old trick, more recently one being peddled by an emerging rather than receding power. If the chinese are on the rise and another cold-war style standoff ensyes then veto power at the SC spells another long period of ineffectiveness at international level.
The irony is that to effectively maintiain power over the system and prolong its influence the US now has to cooperate with calls for a more democratic UN and for removal of Veto power from those few states that feel they earned it. Expanding the Veto resembles electing more cadres to the governing committee of the communist party than the spread of global democracy.
The UN is not a representative body, we do not elect officials to it, but it can go much farther in it's current boundaires to ensure global consensus and the unyielding promotion of justice, fairness and democracy throughout the globe by ceasing to be hamstrung by the veto power of a few middle-aged western men.
More democracy is a simple call, scrapping the veto is the wise move. Should the US agree and others follow, we may all stand to benefit.

Bearing in mind, however, that the essential debate being waged here is impinging on a far greater process. As the IPS reports, it looks like the UN Millenium Summit in september is to be overshadowed by terrorism concerns and UN reform, instead of the promised focus on development issues. Many NGOs have been crying foul as the process moves emphasis from meeting the 2015 Millenuim Development Goals (MDGs) and toward powers to combat terror and increasing naval-gazing in the reform arena.
Above all else the UN must be relied upon to support the agenda that needs it most at a time when the West seeks to set sights on the issues of Terror etc. Global trade and debt have not been solved since G8, and unless progress is made in september look unlikely to be acted upon for some time.
The NGOs are right to start kicking up a fuss, this summiti was not intended to be a forum for reform but one which could focus all nations not just a select few, on the issues of the developing world. If in our willingness to debate political systems, we ignore the crises unfolding daily in Africa then shame on us.
As Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, whose country is opposed to an increase in permanent members in the Security Council, told the General Assembly last month, what is at stake is the success or failure of the September summit.

"At stake is whether we can achieve important decisions on development and genuine U.N. reform, or squander our political energies on a selfish and ultimately fruitless demand of a few ambitious states for unequal privileges.” (END/2005)


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