The United Nations was established on 24th oct 1945. This year marks the 75 anniversary of the institution. Coupled with unprecedented global pandemic, this is perhaps the right time to assess the workings of UN and discuss its relevance and future.
First of all, United Nations matters – because it is the only institution of global governance where all states are party. If it were to fail, that will erode the stability of an already fragile world order. The global axis of power is shifting from west to east and only an institution like UN has capacity to act as a stabilizing factor.
There is intense competition for resources all over the world. The possibility of war can never be denied. And therefore UN is necessary to facilitate the dialogue between states. As Churchill put it, jaw-jaw is better than war-war.
We are witnessing the increasing role of lethal non-state actors. And almost every country in the world has faced brunt of it. These players operate across national boundaries and are beyond the capacity of a host states to manage. They pay no heed to domestic or international law and therefore, very difficult to manage.
In addition we are witnessing newer problems in a present world. Climate change, Ozone layer depletion and a recent pandemic like COVID-19. Such issues are beyond the capacity of a single state to handle and necessarily demand a global, cohesive action.
Thus, United Nations is as relevent today, or perhaps more, than the time when it was created.
However, it will also be naive to assume that in its existing shape, United Nations will be able to address these problems. Reform and improvement are fundamental to any organisation to serve the needs of a changing environment. And the UN is no exception.
The biggest discussion is about the functioning of United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In 1992, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution wihch suggest what countries feel about UNSC.
The resolution reflected three main complaints:
1] The Security Council no longer represents contemporary political realities.
2] Its decisions reflect only Western values and interests and are dominated by a few powers.
3] It lacks equitable representation.
The number of permanent and non-permanent members of UNSC needs to be increased and should be made more equitable. The veto power enjoyed by P5 states gives an unfair advantage to these countries and therefore, is highly unjust. In addition, the presence of France and UK amongst P5 countries does not represent present political realities.
The juridiction of United Nations needs to be more clearly outlined. In absence of clear guidelines, Responsibility to Protect was misused by NATO in Libya. And ever since, China and Russia has blocked any such action by West. Unless reforms are made, the situation is not expected to change. There is also a need to recognize and develope a clear strategy to deal with the problem of terrorism.
United Nations is also expected to play an important role in environmental problems. Rather than a mute observer, United Nations should serve as a custodian of global commons. Climate change is real, and if countries continue to act with their narrow interests in mind, it will very soon become unmanagable.
We need United Nations which integrates peace, security, sustainable development, human rights at a strategic level. UN capable robust policy planning coupled with capacity and power to implement the same. The present United Nations is overly depedent on few countries for its fund and that affects its functioning. Financial independence of UN needs to be ensured.
We need United Nation which not only preaches, but also practices democracy. Great power equations have paralyzed the institution for long time, and will continue to do so unless reforms are made. Rather than a platform for great powers to prove themselves, we need United Nations which build bridges between them.
For the institution to remain relevant, a continuous reinvention is needed. While the challenges the UN faces are real, the answers really do lie within our grasp — if we can deploy the collective political will to make the change happen.