Friday, 1 June 2012

United Nations: A Need For Reform

It is June 2012 and the Arab Spring that started in January 2011 has changed the political map in the most spectacular and bloody fashion. Everything from protests to open warfare has been required to oust old and outworn regimes in favour of a more democratically accountable government system.

Some countries have succeeded better than others so far; it is early days. However, there are atrocities coming out of Syria that it seems we, as a world, are helpless to prevent. Ordinary people are being executed by militia attached to the Syrian government. There are United Nations (UN) monitors in the region and the UN ambassador, Kofi Annan, struggles like a toothless tiger to get the oppressive Syrian regime to halt the bloodshed.

The United Nations can do no more than send out strongly worded condemnations – and Syria knows this. There are two countries blocking more stringent action, Russian Federation and China, among the five permanent members with the power of veto and they will not agree to anything more than has already been done.

Not only does this leave the other three permanent members impotent, (United States, United Kingdom and France), it effectively ties the hands of all other nations (non permanent members) who can only sit and watch the genocide in one of the most politically sensitive areas in the world.

Surely in a world where reform and the demand for greater democratic accountability is costing lives, isn’t it about time that the United Nations itself was reformed?

The world has changed greatly since the original set up by the five permanent members. Perhaps at the time it was right that they possessed the power of veto to prevent any one of them being forced to agree to something that was against the interest of their country. And yet over the last 20 years or so, all the way back to the first Iraq war in 1981, it has been clear that the interest of the permanent member states have often restricted the correct course of action.

Therefore I suggest that now is the time for the five permanent members to give up their veto and for all countries participating in the United Nations to have an equal voice. Preventing genocide in Syria should not be blocked by Russia, China or any other country with a vested interest in that country or its resources.

Yes there may be issues with majority voting and how high a majority should be before a motion is carried. Yes there may be problems with how to tackle compliance from countries that may not agree with a United Nations ruling; perhaps there should be a rule book setting this out as part of the conditions for membership. But reform is clearly needed and maybe should be demanded by the people of the world.

We have risen up against oppressive regimes. We have rebelled against capitalist greed. We have rebelled against unnecessary war and yet we are stuck with the only global council, operating a system predating the mobile (cell) phone and the computer.

The Internet has made the world a smaller place. People in the world have access to interacting with geographical areas more than ever before. And they care. And they witness atrocity and wrong doing and wonder why the powers that be tinker with ineffective gestures.

The UN representatives are OUR representatives. Maybe we need to get involved by lobbying our governments – particularly the permanent member states. Perhaps a group like Avaaz would like to take the lead. The United Nations is no longer fit for purpose and must undergo a major transformation.


  1. This article was posted to Avaaz on 1st June 2012.

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