By Richard Falk
The United Nations turns 70 today. It isn’t “we, the peoples” – it is “we, the governments”. It’s in need of reform but we must also remember that its first Secretary-General Trygve Lie said in 1948 – that it will never be stronger or better than the member states want to make it.
Whatever you think of it, we certainly can’t do without it, nor without its Charter that is still the most Gandhian document, all governments have ever signed.
If its member governments were not so navel-gazing, it would be the best vehicle for global governance – for globalising democracy in a world where the economy and the military as well as communication and culture are all globalizing while politics is still anchored in parliaments in increasingly irrelevant nation-states.
And why not set up a People’s Assembly? Establish UN Embassies in each member state and let people vote for who shall represent their country in the UN?
All doable with a little creativity and good will – for the common good, the common future.
Below, please find the thoughts at the UN’s 70th Anniversary of one of the finest international law and peace experts we have who has also worked with the UN for many years.
– Jan Oberg
A shorter somewhat modified version of this post was published in Al Jazeera Turka, but only in Turkish translation. The thesis set forth is that the UN has disappointed the expectations of those who took seriously its original promise of war prevention, but that it has over its lifetime done many things that need doing in the world.
It also provided a meeting place for all governments, and has developed the best networking sites for all those concerned with the state of the world and what can be done by way of improvement. The UN System faces an important test in the upcoming Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris at the end of November. The event is billed as the make or break session for the governments of the world to agree finally on a strong enough framework of constraint governing the release of greenhouse gasses to satisfy the scientific consensus.
If Paris is generally regarded as successful, the UN stock will rise steeply, but if it should fail, then its stature and role of the Organization could become even more marginalized. Either way, the UN as of 2015 is a very different kind of political actor than when it was founded in 1945, disappointing to those that hoped for permanent peace and some justice, while pleasing to those that sought from the outset a wider global agenda for the Organization and felt that its best contributions would likely be in a wide range of practical concerns where the interests of major political actors more or less overlap.
After 70 Years: The UN Falls Short, and Yet..
When the UN was established in the aftermath of the Second World War hopes were high that this new world organization would be a major force in world politics, and fulfill its Preamble pledge to prevent future wars. Seventy years later the UN disappoints many, and bores even more, appearing to be nothing more that a gathering place for the politically powerful.
I think such a negative image has taken hold because the UN these days seems more than ever like a spectator than a political actor in the several crises that dominate the current agenda of global politics. This impression of paralysis and impotence has risen to new heights in recent years.
When we consider the waves of migrants fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa or four years of devastating civil war in Syria or 68 years of failure to find a solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict or the inability to shape a treaty to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and on and on, it becomes clear that the UN is not Read More »