Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Keeping an open mind on UN reform

Jan.22, 2008

Keeping an open mind

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is said to have launched secret talks with other world leaders on moves towards creating a "new world order" and "global society." He intends to start this with far-reaching reform of the United Nations Security Council, including an expansion of the number of permanent members in bring in countries like India, Germany, Japan and Brazil and one or two African countries. It seems unclear at this point whether the newcomers would have the same veto power as enjoyed by the current permanent members of the Security Council — the US, the UK, France, Russia and China.
Brown is said to have discussed his plans with Chinese and Indian leaders during his ongoing visit to Asia.
We do not know at this point the details of what Brown has in mind.
Demands for reform at the UN have been heard for long, but none of the big powers, notably the US, did not want to touch one of the root issues — the status of the current five permanent members of the Security Council as the ultimate authority to decide on world issues as guaranteed by in-built and tailor-made provisions in the UN Charter.
It is undisputed that the current UN structure, as created in 1945, does not reflect the challenges that the world has accumulated since then. The question that arises in the context of Brown's initiative is whether it agrees with the world view that too much power rests with the Big Five of the Security Council and that has been grossly misused by them whenever it suited their purposes and interests. And they sidestepped the world body when it did not suit their intentions, as the Iraq case proved. When it became clear to US President George W. Bush in March 2003 that the Security Council could not agree on a fresh resolution giving explicit approval for military action in Iraq, he acted unilaterally with support from the then British prime minister, Tony Blair.
Brown is expected unveil a proposal for the UN to spend about $200 million a year on setting up a "rapid reaction force" to stop "failed states" sliding back into chaos after a peace deal has been reached. And it would involve the collective work of civilians such as police, administrators, judges and lawyers as well as military peace-keepers.
In concept, it is a great idea. However, the first impression that we would get from the reported outline of Brown's initiative is that the "new world order" that he wants to shape would be geared to serve the interests of the Big Five plus the proposed newcomers as permanent members.
At this jucture, let us reserve our judgement until the skeleton proposal is fleshed out and determine whether it would be tailored to serve the interests of the world rather than its creators and masters.
After all, any reform in the UN would require 128 nations, two-thirds, to support it in the General Assembly, and everyone has grown smart enough to figure out the common interests of the international community.