a-new-world-order-on-un-reforms

 

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Context: October 24 marks the diamond jubilee of the United Nations. It is an occasion to sombrely reflect on why the UN is stagnating at 75 and how it can regain its lost lustre.

Background: 

  • United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.
  • The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the UN Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories. 

An assessment of United nations’ performance

  • Avoiding a repeat of the League of Nations : Keeping all the major powers together and reasonably happy through joint control over the UNSC was intended to be a pragmatic step to avoid another world war. 
  • The Cold War, which left the UN little room to implement noble visions of peace, development and human rights. 
  • In the U.S.-led ‘new world order’ of the 1990s the UN could spring back to life and embark on peacekeeping missions, nation-building interventions and promotion of universal human rights. 

Challenges

A.  Tussle between ‘principle’ and ‘power’

  • On the one hand, the UN represents hopes of a peaceful and just world order through multilateral cooperation, abidance by international law, and uplift of the downtrodden. 
  • On the other, the institution has been designed to privilege the most powerful states of the post-World War II dispensation by granting them veto power and permanent seats in the Security Council (UNSC).

B. Geopolitical tensions

  • The phrase ‘new Cold War’ depicts the clash between China and the U.S. Tensions involving other players like Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in West Asia, as well as between China and its neighbours in Asia, are at an all-time high.
    • The UN is only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals.
  • Pandemic: The UN failed to cooperate against the immediate global threat of the pandemic due to rivalry between members.

Need for UN reforms

Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has hotly debated Council reform but has not been able to reach agreement.  

  • Inequality: The membership of the Security Council has changed very little since its inception in 1945, even though the number of UN member states has almost quadrupled.
    • The UNSC does not include a permanent member from the African, Australian and South American continents, the G-4 group of Brazil, India, Germany and Japan.
  • Exclusiveness: The differences between permanent and non-permanent seats produce a highly unequal and inefficient Security Council. 
    • The five permanent members (P5) – Britain, France, United States, Russia and China – possess permanent seats and have the privilege of the veto whilst the status of non-permanent members is low.
  • The performance of the Security Council in maintaining international peace and security has been poor. It failed in its actions in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.
  • Stalled  InterGovernmental Negotiations (IGN): The UN’s reform process, held through IGN has not made progress over decades, despite commitments. 
    • Intergovernmental Negotiations framework (IGN) is a group within the United Nations that looks into UNSC reforms but it has made no progress since 2009 when it was formed. The group's conversation is considered 'informal' in nature.

What constitutes the UNSC reform agenda? 

  • The current negotiation process is based on Decision 62/557 which was adopted in 2008. 
  • It defines five key issues for reform
    • Categories of membership, 
    • The question of the veto, 
    • Regional representation, 
    • The size of an enlarged Security Council and its working methods, and 
    • The relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly. 
  • Decision 62/557 also stipulates that any solution must garner “the widest possible political acceptance”, although in 1998 the UN General Assembly already agreed that the support of two-thirds of UN member states is sufficient. 
  • Yet even if these conditions are met any of the P5 will still be able to veto the final resolution. For example, China and Russia have previously stated that reform should be based on a consensus and not on a majority vote.

India and UN reforms:

  • Reformed Multilateralism guides India’s approach to the United Nations.
  • India has long  sought a permanent seat at the Council.
  • It is also a proponent of other UNSC reforms — such as increasing the number of permanent (currently five) and non-permanent (currently 10) seats and ensuring greater representation for Africa. 
  • India is claiming a permanent seat at the UNSC on the basis of following arguments:
  • It's a regular contributor to the UN's peacekeeping missions.
  • It's one of the main financial backers of the UN.
  • It's the world's largest democracy.
  • It's the world's second most populous country.
  • It maintains one of the largest armies in the world.
  • It possesses nuclear power.
  • India has been elected seven times to the UN Security Council, most recently from 2021 to 2022 after receiving 184 of 192 votes.
  • As a member of G4: The G4 consists of Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. The G4 mainly seek permanent seats for themselves, but are willing to forego their veto rights for fifteen years or possibly even longer.
  • They also demand that Africa should be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of membership of a reformed and expanded Security Council to correct the historical injustice against this continent.

Way forward:

  • Text-based negotiations should be initiated immediately. It is the process used to translate words into action in the United Nations.
  • Reforming UNSC:
    • Enlargement in both the permanent and non-permanent categories was required.
    • Enhancing regional representation in the Security Council by ensuring that the concerns and aspirations of unrepresented or underrepresented regions are adequately taken into consideration
  • Removing obstacles to reforms
    • At the core of the paralysis of the UN is the phenomenon of P-5 countries (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) blocking reforms. 
    • If a simple majority voting method could replace the P-5 consensus method, the obstacles to UNSC reforms would reduce.

On the 75th anniversary of the UN, there must be a global push against ossifying ‘rules’ which have privileged ‘rule’ of the few over the many. That is the only way to restore some balance between ‘power’ and ‘principle’ and ensure a renaissance of the UN.

About UN: 

  • The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. 
  • It is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. 
  • Headquarter:  New York City
  • Other main offices are in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague.
  • Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations is a member of the General Assembly.States are admitted to membership in the UN by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
  • The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat.  All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded. 
  • The Secretary-General of the United Nations is a symbol of the Organization's ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable. 
  • The UN system, also known unofficially as the 'UN family', is made up of the UN itself and many programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, all with their own leadership and budget.  
  • Source of funding: The programmes and funds are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions. The Specialized Agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.

Image source: ToI

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Q) Enhancing regional representation in the UN Security Council is the way forward for the United Nations reforms. Analyze. (250 words)