Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the Future of the United Nations

Chronique de Rodrigue Tremblay

[The] "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the
equal and inalienable rights of all members of the
human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and
peace in the world."

Preamble- United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights
"Today's human rights violations are the causes of
tomorrow's conflicts."

Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights
"The United States... simply doesn't give a damn about
the United Nations, international law or critical
dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant."

Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Laureate for Literature
"The United Nations charter has a provision which was
agreed to by the United States, formulated by the
United States in fact, after World War II. Its says
that from now on, no nation can use armed force
without the permission of the U.N. Security Council.
They can use force in connection with self-defense,
but a country can't use force in anticipation of
self-defense. — Regarding Iraq... the United States
went to war, in violation of the charter."

Benjamin Ferencz, Chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg
A new [Secretary-General has presided over the United
for more than a year, but most people ignore this
fact. They can be forgiven, because very little has
resulted from the October 13, 2006 election by the
192-member United Nations General Assembly of a shy
South Korean diplomat, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon,as the U.N.
Secretary-General. On January 1, 2007, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
took office as the eighth U. N. Secretary-General,
succeeding Mr. Kofi Annan, for a first term lasting
until December 31, 2011. He was a compromise candidate among
seven candidates for the post, and he succeeded in
avoiding a veto from any of the five permanent members
of the Security Council. He was particularly popular
with the Bush-Cheney administration because, in his
capacity of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he
had pushed his own government to send South Korean
troops to Iraq.
We should recall that one of the first moves by Mr.
Ban Ki-moon, soon after he took office, was to reverse
a long-standing United Nations opposition to the death
penalty as a human rights concern. Indeed, [he condoned
the death penalty
->] that had
been [handed down on the deposed Iraqi President Saddam
->] by
the Iraqi High Tribunal, stating, "The issue of
capital punishment is for each and every member State
to decide."
Mr. Ban Ki-moon has also been criticized for
appointing a large number of his fellow South Korean
nationals to key U. N. posts, and for showing nepotism in appointing
his own son-in-law to a key United Nations post in
It remains to be seen if Mr. Ban Ki-moon has the
vision, the credibility and the moral authority to
bring forward the reforms that the United Nations
urgently needs, if it is going to avoid [the fate of
irrelevancy that beset the League of Nations.
->] So
far, the only reforms the new Secretary-General has
espoused have been minor administrative
arrangements—and even those were contested—such as
splitting the U. N. peacekeeping operation into one
department handling operations and another handling
arms. His proposal to combine the political affairs
and disarmament department was even rejected outright.
What the United Nations needs is more than simply
shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. It
needs a fundamental structural reorganization if it is
to play the role it was assigned originally in 1945,
that is to say to promote international cooperation
and to maintain international peace and security. This
overall goal can only be achieved if the United
Nations has the legitimacy and the means to prevent
wars and to promote human rights throughout the world.
But, what should the Secretary-General, with the
support of member states, do? —Logically, Mr. Ban
Ki-moon should begin by declaring that the post World
War II era is over and that the main obstacle to any
substantial reform of the U. N. should be removed.
There is, indeed, a relic of the Second World War
which is still in place, It is the veto power
that the five winning nations (USA, Russia, China,
U.K. and France) gave themselves after WWII in the
functioning of the U. N. Security Council. Mr. Ban
Ki-moon should plead with the five above countries to
show magnanimity and, while retaining their permanent
status at the Security Council as an historical given,
convince them that [they should voluntarily forgot the
antiquated veto->]
that paralyses any attempt at [reforming the United
at making it a functional organization. Presently,
because of the veto feature, each time one of the five
permanent member states is involved in a crisis or in
an international dispute, the Security Council and the
entire United Nations are paralyzed.

The Secretary-General should tackle the task of
improving the U. N.'s democratic legitimacy and
operational efficiency through [fundamental reforms of
the Security Council
and the General Assembly.
Both bodies are antiquated and ill adapted to fulfill
their tasks.
First, in a true 21st century spirit, the United
Nations Security Council (UNSC) should better reflect
the new demographic, political, and economic realities
that have emerged over the last sixty years. There is
a wide consensus that political and economic
powerhouses [such as Japan, India, Brazil and Germany,
the G4 nations,
->] should join
the current five permanent members in the Security
Council. These countries are large and stable
democracies and economic giants that should not be
left out of the world decision process.
With the current ten countries that join the Council
on a regional basis, in a rotating system, for
two-years terms, after having been elected by the
General Assembly, a new 19-member Security Council
would remain small enough to be efficient. As a
substitute to the present veto enjoyed by a few
members, a three-quarters majority rule could be
implemented in order to guarantee that the Council's
decisions reflect at all times a worldwide consensus.
This would mean that the decisions and measures,
couched in the form of resolutions, and which are
arrived at by the Council, would have to be supported
by at least fifteen members. Since all Members of the
United Nations agree to accept and carry out the
decisions of the Security Council, under the U. N.
Charter, such a requirement would seem to be necessary
if the U. N. actions are to carry a wide acceptance.
One big obstacle to enlarging the Security Council
comes from the insistence of some African countries to
have a permanent representative of their continent on
the Council. While this is a most legitimate claim in
principle, it is a difficult one to achieve in
practice. First, there is no consensus in Africa about
which candidate among three possible candidates
(Egypt, Nigeria or South Africa) should be elected.
And second, even among the later, none seems to meet
the requirements of long-term political stability and
economic dynamism and leadership that one would expect
from a permanent member. It would be most unfortunate
if the movement to reform the U. N. were to be
paralyzed because of these facts.
Presently, the presidency of the Security Council
rotates among the members of the Council monthly, in
alphabetical order. This leaves the U. N.
Secretary-General somewhat out of the loop, even
though he should be seen as the main spokesperson for
the United Nations. An obvious reform would be to
designate the Secretary-General as the ex officio
presiding officer of the Council. He would then cease
to be regarded as simply a dignified bureaucrat who
heads the U. N. Secretariat,
rather than being the main spokesperson for the whole
United Nations.
While it is true that [the U.N. is not a world
->] but
rather a forum for the world's 192 sovereign states to
debate issues and determine collective courses of
action, this does not mean that it should not improve
its democratic legitimacy, especially as the world has
become more and more globalized and is in need of new
institutions to reflect this new reality.
Presently the General Assembly
is composed of all member nations, and each one of
them has an equal number of representatives designated
by their respective governments. This world
parliament, which meets annually from September to
December, has important responsibilities, such as to
oversee the budget of the U. N., appoint the
non-permanent members to the Security Council, and
receive reports from other bodies of the U. N. —Such
important issues have to be decided by a two-thirds
majority of those members present and voting. —The
General Assembly can also adopt resolutions on other
subjects and this then only requires a simple
majority. —Each member country has one vote. —On the
other hand, such resolutions are not binding on the
member states and the Security Council has no
obligation to implement them, with the consequence
that in most cases, they remain pious wishes. We can
therefore say that the General Assembly de facto
functions as a limited world parliament, but only for
A possible reform designed to raise the democratic
profile and prestige of the General Assembly among
people worldwide would be to assign four
representatives to each member country and to
encourage countries to have half of them, or better
still, all of them, elected in country-wide general
elections. This could be the most important step to
insure that the United Nations be seen as a truly
representative international body.
On the other hand, since there is no proportional
representation in the U. N., and to insure that its
decisions are made and supported by a large worldwide
consensus, and especially to avoid a potentially
disastrous structural North-South split, a
three-quarters majority or even an eighty-percent
decision rule could be mandated for important
decisions. Presently, because of the one state, one
vote system, it is theoretically possible for small
states comprising just eight percent of the world
population to pass a resolution by a two-thirds vote.
No large country would ever accept to place its fate
and interests in the hands of such a small group of
This, of course, is an incomplete list of issues and
ideas about how to proceed to reform the United
Nations. You are most welcome to add your own views to
this important subject.
Rodrigue Tremblay

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