The United Nations and the necessity of reformation

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Research Question

How important is organized concerted responding to global crisis, how does the cooperation have to be structured to solve the problems of the 21st century and how realistic is a reform of the United Nations right now

Thesis Statement

It is necessary to deal with the problems of the 21st century more united. The organization of United Nations is not appropriate anymore and needs to be reformed in order to overcome the serious crisis mankind is already facing today. Though the authority of the UN is undermined by power games and nationalism. That is why a more democratic structure with more competences is unrealistic right now. A change of thinking about common values in a respectful and responsible way can help uniting the world. But maybe we learn when it is too late.

The United Nations and the necessity of reformation

Introduction and why united acting is needed more than ever

In a time of globalization states are more and more connected, national governments have fewer and fewer influence on overcoming serious crisis. When looking at the main problems of the 21st century it is noticeable that there are more and more global crisis that have an impact on many states simultaneously and not just on one single nation. The most recent example is the credit and financial crises which is damaging American car companies as well as Icelandic banking houses. And of course the severest consequences will affect the less developed countries, because their weak economics will suffer the most from worldwide inflation and recession, nevertheless their responsibility for the formation of the crisis is no doubt minor. Probably the results of global warming will become even more serious. No single country can do much to stop the climate change, but every country will be affected by it. And I forecast that in general again the less developed countries will have to face the hardest consequences like crop failures and water shortages. That is why without shifting much more power to global organizations mankind will not be able to resolve the economical, social and environmental challenges we are already facing today.

The UN today and what the deficiencies are right now

The only organization that already has some legitimation and political power is the United Nations. Founded in 1945 to secure the peace and the the Human Rights in the world it had indeed promoted generally international cooperation and nearly every state on earth is a member today. The main administrative bodies besides the the Secretariat with its Secretary-General, the International Court of Justice and the Economic and Social Council are the General Assembly and the Security Council. In the General Assembly there are no elected representatives of the countries but diplomats and public servants, who are send by the governments of the states. There these persons cannot decide something that is binding, although or actually because every nation is a equal member with the same rights. So the General Assembly cannot be compared to a political parliament, which is a part in every western democracy and in fact it has no real power and its influence is very limited. The Security Council is able to decide about binding resolutions, which can carry some weight, if they were accepted by all permanent members. Besides the ten elected members the five permanent members have special conditions concerning the power of veto. From todays point of view the composition of the members can be criticized a lot, because there is no objective reason anymore why France with a population of about 60 million has a veto right, but entirely Africa with over 900 inhabitants million does not even have a permanent member in the council for example. Therefore the composition of the members cannot be called representative for the states or population the world.

Balance of power and how the UN is undermined

The Situation of the United Nations at the moment is obviously different from the time of its foundation in 1945, when it was necessary to rebuilt the world and to start corporate acting after the war. In times of the Cold War the UN-Security Council was not able to decide about a resolution which contacted the interests of the USSR or the USA in some way without being blocked by the power of veto. Today the balance of power has shifted and the United States are the only remained superpower in the world. Looking back at the time since the collapse of the USSR it is noticeable, that the cooperation of the USA with the UN has dramatically decreased. In fact most of the recent administrations had build their foreign policy more on bilateralism than on multilateralism. Concerning the security in the world the leaving administration has cared a lot more about the NATO and the coalition of the willing than about the UN. The invasion of Iraq can be seen as a violation of article 51 of the Charter of the UN and till this day the global war on terror is neither reprehended nor legitimated by the UN and its Security Council, in addition the International Court of Justice is not accepted by the United States. But not just the United States are undermining the authority of the UN. At the civil war in Dafur it is the Chinese veto that is blocking most of the resolutions that are meant to help easing or ending the conflict, because of economic interests. This trend has to be stopped, or the United Nations may meet the same fate like the League of Nations more than 60 years ago: The UN will become useless and inconsiderable.

Reformation and how the organization should look like

To gain more competences and power the UN definitely needs a major institutional reform and I do not mean that Germany needs a permanent seat in the Security Council as it is demanded by some German politicans. The only way to reorganize the structure is in my mind to do it very democratically. I cannot think about another political structure than a democratic one, that is able to represent all majorities and minorities in an adequate way. What is needed for more political power are real politicans and not just public servants as well as a new constitution about the changed authorities and the primary values the world can agree to. The valuequestion is maybe the toughest one of it all, because it seems that there are too many diverse ways of thinking about nearly every aspect in the world to find a conclusion. But besides the differences that are based on different social, cultural and ideological developments, there are still a couple of things which the huge majority on earth has in common, like the respect for Human Rights and nature, which are even explicit mentioned in probably all religions on earth. So what is needed is discussion about the similarities and not the differences in the world. I personally like the system of the European Union with the European Council and the Parliament, which are representing one the one hand the states and one the other hand the population. So the big states cannot dominate the smaller ones and also the majority of the people cannot be ignored. Of course capacity to act in the EU is already very limited with its 27 members, so it is more than questionable how this should work with 192 independent states. Because of that problem there are governments, which are legitimized by the parliament in most democratic countries. This role can play a restructured Security Council, which should be elected by a „worldparliament“ and has to represent approximately the geographic proportions in the world, like it is already done in other less important institutions of the UN. This new council should have the right to decide about issues that have to be dealt with in faster and less bureaucratic way. These cases, like responding to natural catastrophes or maybe terroristic attacks, of course have to be exactly regulated in the constitution.

Reality and what the obstacles are

The main question is how realistic such a huge reform is at the moment. Although a reformation of the United Nations is demanded very often, there are no signs of a general structural change. Especially the nations which have the power of veto in the Security Council are not interested in losing a lot of power, because of a reformation to another more democratic organization. By the way it is kind of paradoxical to democratize the Arabia and the Middle East, but not the United Nations. Furthermore it is not absurd to say that the UN is dominated by the western countries, because the organization is based on the values of and financed by the rich industrial states. In my mind the fear of losing power and influence in these countries is main responsible for the refusal of superior organizations and is the basic reason that prevents a major change in the structure of the UN. As we all know even in Europe, where the roots of enlightenment and humanism lie, there are huge problems to find a common constitution, because nationalism ans chauvinism are locking up united acting. Perhaps distinctive chauvinism was needed to assure the survival of the family or tribe in the past, but nowadays it is not helpful anymore in my mind, because nationalism or excessive patriotism has lead to so many misguided developments like racism or wars. On the other hand there is the not unjustified fear of giving to much power without adequate control and supervision to a single organization. As we all know there are several examples of very powerful and uncontrolled governments in the world which or do severe harm to the people they are supposed to act for. In order to prevent the UN from doing things, that are not legitimated, it is necessary to have an exact and explicit constitution with powerful control mechanisms.

Forecast and what has to happen

From today’s point of view it is more than unlikely that the states with the power of veto are willing to abandon their right. Nor is it conceivable that all the countries in the world will give up some of their power to a superior organization. So what is needed is a change in thinking about worldwide issues to a more respectful and responsible way in order to overcome political, religious and racial differences. But how can this happen in a world of cultural differences, political conflicts and social inequality? Looking at the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it needed the shocking experiences of the second world war to achieve this general commitment. I doubt that there would have been no dissenting votes without the the experiences of the genocide in the Third Reich. So maybe major changes have to follow major catastrophes. Also developments that lead to a more united acting in the world can be seen in a similar connections. So League of Nations that was founded in 1919 as a consequence of the 1st World War to secure the global peace. The idea of the UN as a indirect replacement of the League of Nations came during the 2nd World War again. So would such major steps to a more united world have happend without the recent experiences of these annihilating world wars? We will never know I guess, but if so, I do not want to know what has to happen until there is a global government on earth. I know this is a negative perspective, but at the moment I am not really convinced by the rationality of mankind, but I am open to being convinced otherwise.

Connections to other globalization topics:

List of References

  • Reform at the United Nations. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2008, from
    This official site deals with the aspired reform of the organization under Ban Ki-Moon to become more capable of acting in the future. A lot of information about how this improvement can affect different global problems in detail is given too. Indeed how close to reality this strategies and how big the current problems of achieving this reform are, may stay a bit inexact.
  • Albright, M.K. (2003).Think again: The United Nations. Retrieved December 1, 2008, from
    This article by former US Secretary of the State and US Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine K. Albright is about the growing weaknesses of the UN and especially the relationship between the UN and USA during the Bush-administration. Based on her membership of the Democratic Party you cannot call Albright objective when writing about mistakes of the republican administration, but because of her longtime responsibility for national and international affairs and her experience in global politics it will not be uninteresting and useless to take her opinions in account.
  • Köchler, H. (2004). Quo Vadis, United Nations? Retrieved December 1, 2008, from
    In „Quo Vadis, UN“ the Austrian professor of philosophy Hans Köchler describes the development of the UN, the international situation, the future challenges and as well a perspective to overcome to problems of today. Because of his presidency of the International Progress Organization and his contribution to international conferences it is unquestionable to call Köchler on of the main experts and think tanks of global governance.