United Nations’ Relevance and Reform

United Nations’ Relevance and Reform
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The United Nations (UN), conceived as the “Parliament of Man”, has been hobbled by structural and power political issues since its inception. The multi-tiered august international organization (INGO) emerged after the League of Nations’ failures and the detritus of the Second Great War. The UN’s track record has been rather mixed and opinion is divided over its efficacy and even rationale. In terms of “high” politics, the organizations successes have been rare but the relative success of its allied organizations, in the domain of “low” politics has been good. Given all this, does the world need the United Nations? Is it relevant in the contemporary world? And, does the august body need to be reformed? The fundamental and animating premise of world politics and international relations is power. We inhabit a bleak world of states which strive to maximize their power, interest and security. These dynamics make the world of states ultra- competitive and if the balances of power break down during states’ acquisition of power and maximization of interest(s), the international system can break down leading to war. This is the prosaic reality of world politics. The United Nations was conceived, among other things, as a corrective and remedy to this problem. So, from a conceptual sense or perspective, the organization is vitally important. But, the problems and or issues are threefold: one is that the United Nations’ record in preventing war has been rather abysmal. (Other structural features like the acquisition of nuclear weapons, complex interdependence and even balances of power are the actual causes of war prevention). Second, the United Nations is fundamentally an organization oriented towards the world of states. Third, the world body has often times been instrumentalized by states for forwarding and, or maximizing their respective interests. (This aspect pans out eloquently in the Security Council; and the General Assembly is more in the nature of a talk shop than anything else). These aspects or features incapacitate the United Nations. To ameliorate or overcome these issues, it has been suggested that the organization be subject to comprehensive reform which, among other things, must reflect underlying the distribution of power. While the idea of reform is prudent and much needed, given that the United Nations has utility in a range of domains, but holding power to be the determinant of reform, especially of the Security Council, is flawed. Rooting or employing this approach would mean validating power politics , against which the architects of the United Nations sought to define the organization. The august body must be reformed(which should also include reform of its bloated bureaucratic structures), but the animating principles of this reform must be both normative and based on power, with the caveat that it is actually the capacities and capabilities of the organization that must be augmented. Any other approach, especially one where membership of the United Nations is based on power and politics will not only hamstring the organization but gradually render it more impotent.

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