The United Nations struggles to meet the challenge of a changing world | ET REALITY


For more than a week, world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly to debate the world’s most pressing problems: the war in Ukraine, poverty, global warming and pandemics.

They also acknowledged that the UN’s main body, the Security Council, is broken. The Council has been paralyzed by the inability of its permanent members to act in unison as a bloody war rages in Europe.

As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey put it last week, “the Security Council has ceased to be the guarantor of global security and has become a battleground for the political strategies of just five countries.”

He was referring to the five permanent members with veto power: the United States, China, France, Britain and the nation that started that raging war, Russia, which has vetoed resolutions condemning its invasion of Ukraine and calling on it to withdraw its troops. .

UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave an even starker assessment, warning that the choice was between reform or rupture.

“The world has changed. Our institutions have not done so,” Guterres said in his speech to the General Assembly last week. “We cannot effectively address the problems as they appear. are If institutions do not reflect the world as it is. is. Instead of solving the problems, they risk becoming part of the problem.”

While calls to reform the Security Council have persisted for decades, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted to critics that the diplomatic infrastructure established after World War II has run its course and is failing in the 20th century world. XXI.

Deep divisions among the five permanent members have hampered collective action to stop deadly conflicts, human rights abuses and nuclear threats around the world, from Ukraine to Syria, from Mali to Myanmar, from South Sudan to North Korea.

But despite widespread calls for change and abundant evidence of the Council’s failures, breaking the deadlock preventing change is a near-impossible task.

The UN’s founding charter was designed to make amendments extremely difficult. And while several proposals and ideas have been floated to overhaul the Security Council, the necessary consensus is not within reach, according to world leaders, diplomats and UN officials.

“I think one of the challenges is that everyone agrees that there needs to be significant improvements. No one agrees on what those improvements are,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said last week in an interview with The New York Times. “Truly changing the architecture that we have will require a level of consensus that I think is probably a little beyond our reach right now.”

Any review of the Council requires a change to the UN charter – and that requires a two-thirds vote of the 193 member states – plus the approval of the Council’s five permanent members.

Even if the proposed changes were to overcome the UN’s formidable internal obstacles, then they would have to be “ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes” by two-thirds of member states.

Since the founding of the Security Council in 1945, when it was given the responsibility of preventing threats to global security and maintaining stability, the only change it has experienced came in 1965, when it expanded from 11 members to 15, adding four seats to both. -year of elected membership.

But no matter how much momentum there is now for change as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, removing Russia from the Council or stripping it of its veto power, as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has suggested, is not considered realistic.

That is not to say that the permanent members oppose the changes (all five have expressed support for some form of change), although it is considered unlikely that any of the five will ever give up veto power.

“We need to be able to break the deadlock that too often hinders progress and blocks consensus in the Council. We need more voices and more perspectives at the table,” President Biden said in his speech to the General Assembly last week. Biden called for reform of the Security Council in his UN speech a year ago, backing efforts for change with Washington’s weight.

One proposal calls for more permanent members of the Security Council, but it is unclear whether they would be given veto power. Japan, Brazil, India and Germany are contenders in this proposal. Africa’s leaders have demanded at least two permanent seats for the continent’s member states.

Another proposal favors adding more members to elected seats from different regions of the world and allowing them to serve longer, renewable terms. Among the defenders of this plan are Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, Turkey, Italy and Canada.

But any proposal could face intense opposition.

“For every country that wants a permanent seat, there are one or more that are determined to prevent it. Italy wants to stop Germany, Pakistan wants to stop India, China wants to stop Japan,” said Richard Gowan, director of the U.N. International Crisis Group, which has conducted extensive research on reform efforts.

Over the past year, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reached out to about 90 countries, sometimes individually and sometimes as a group, to hear proposals for changes, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Both Russia and China have also theoretically supported the change as part of their efforts to defend the interests of the Global South against the West. But in practice, Russia has repeatedly put up obstacles to collective action even beyond Ukraine. In July, vetoed a draft resolution That would have authorized a nine-month renewal of cross-border aid delivery to northern Syria, vetoed sanctions on people in Mali and blocked a unified response to North Korea’s ballistic missile launches.

The push for change at the United Nations is not limited to the Security Council. The organization has also been under pressure to streamline its stifling bureaucracy and rationalize its numerous agencies, with the aim of increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

The push for change in its financial institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has also gained momentum, with a summit dedicated to the issue on the sidelines of the General Assembly this year. Guterres has championed this cause by calling for more diverse representation on the boards of these institutions and changing their rules for poor and developing nations to allow for sovereign debt forgiveness and better lending terms.

Gowan said the Security Council’s credibility problem could only partially be resolved by changes to its composition, with no guarantee that collective action would be easier. A new and expanded Council could be just as paralyzed if divisions and tensions between world powers continue.

“It’s not just a math game,” he said. “You shouldn’t create too high expectations.”

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