Saturday, October 20, 2012

(NEWZIMBABWE) Paying lip service to UN reform

Paying lip service to UN reform
20/10/2012 00:00:00
by Dancase B. Gideon

AS WELL as making a compulsive statement that the United Nations must be reformed today, the 67th UN General Assembly leaves no one under the illusion that member state speechifying in New York will one day somehow cause the needed UN reform.

Someone once said “repeating the same thing and expecting different results is insanity”. This observation could be applicable to the UN member states' repeated use of the New York podium as a reform tool.

The immediate challenge to UN member states advocating the reform of the UN is to conceive, assess and skilfully use new but appropriate reform methods.

The New York podium is useless as a reform tool to make the UN capable of responding effectively to the pressing 21st century global challenges.Member state delivery of speeches as a method calculated at reforming the United Nations has proved to be useless especially because the veto-power wielding member states in the UN Security Council listen to, but ignore, those speeches on purpose.

It appears member states with veto powers use the UN General Assembly podium essentially as a formal listening post while UN member states without veto powers use it as a podium for catharsis. This drama is inimical to world peace and security, it must be stopped forthwith.

The point which is not appropriately emphasised on the UN reform question is that it is not a right for America, Britain, Russia, France and China to have some veto powers; it is actually a privilege that can be withdrawn, or be shared among other UN member states.

The veto power wielding countries are acutely aware of their privileged position and judging by their everyday deeds, they seem to feel threatened by the call for the UN reform. They are bound to block or slow the reform process in one way, or the other. Who wants to give up power willingly?

Another option member states can pursue to their own peril is inaction, state member vegetation, when the need for UN reform is a matter of life and death given Libya, Syria, Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian question, the question of who should possess and use nuclear power, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudanese crisis, Mali, DRC, global climate issues and many other challenges.

Vegetation, or inaction, of all UN member states without veto powers to exercise in the United Nations Security Council is as good and useless today as seeking to reform the UN through the use of the United Nations General Assembly podium.

The pressing challenge today to reform the UN yesterday is inescapable. In particular, the UN Security Council, as currently constituted, is anachronistic in the 21st century; it is failing to justify why it should exist in that form in the face of democratic dictates and the flagrant abuse of international law emanating from certain state member hubris and the deplorable superpower mentality in certain member states.

In fact, inaction and member state speechifying at the UN headquarters constitute an endorsement of the current make-up of the UN Security Council. This is an unfortunate consequence, though unintended.

It is instructive to note that over the course of the existence of the UN, some veto wielding powers have perfected the skill of buying some non-veto wielding member states into contrived inaction to engender disunity among member states calling for the UN reform.

Engagement in vigorous UN reform activism by non-veto power wielding member states, supported by institutions and private citizens advocating democracy, good governance and justice is one method which when appropriately used is mostly likely to cause the reform of the United Nations sooner, rather than later.

For example, non-veto power wielding member states could resolve to boycott the 68th UN General Assembly unless the UN calls for an emergency meeting, before the 68th General Assembly is held, where the UN reform programme should be clearly discussed, formulated and adopted.

It should be emphasised that the UN member states should have a clear and common definition of the reform they plan the UN to undergo. Shall it be the increase in the number of veto power wielding countries only? Shall it be the abandonment of the Security Council as a UN institution? Will member states hold veto power on a termly or rotation basis? Will the UN be discarded altogether and a new truly democratic global institution formed in its place...?

The reform options are many, but global consensus on a single option is paramount as it attracts member states' dedicated participation in actualizing the UN reform blueprint. However, a piecemeal UN reform process will be as ineffective and offensive as not reforming the UN at all.

As part of activism, the non-veto wielding UN member states can decide to fly their national flags at half-mast whenever the UN Security Council deliberates on any matter. Flying national flags at half-mast should convey the message that the world is grieving over the lack of democracy at the UN.

Private citizens and institutions which fervently advocate the reform of the UN could keep a vigil at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until concrete steps, including the setting up of a timeframe, are made towards the reform of the UN.

The point the writer is making clear here is that there are many peaceful activist programmes which when used effectively, will definitely result in the much-needed reform of the United Nations. So far, there is a glaring and embarrassing lack of democracy in the United Nations Security Council to the extent that morally forbids veto-wielding powers to advocate democracy in any part of the globe.

Dancase Gideon is a freelance writer. E-mail him:



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