With United Nations Credibility, Leadership Role in Jeopardy, World Leaders Warn Only 'Radical Overhaul' Can Bring Organization Fully into Twenty-First Century

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 24 Sep 2010 View Original
GA/10999

Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Plenary
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

Annual General Debate Continues With Calls for Security Council Reform

A shifting power balance and rapid globalization of threats - from economic crisis and drug trafficking to pollution and terrorism - taken together, had ushered in a new world order, challenging the United Nations to update its anachronistic structures and mindsets so it could truly lead in the twenty-first century, world leaders told the General Assembly today as it moved into day two of its annual general debate.

Such reforms, many of the day's nearly 40 speakers argued, must include a Security Council that reflected the views of developing countries and emerging economies, which were currently sidelined from that powerful decision-making table. Africa's voice in particular should be heard on compelling peace and security issues, as well as water management, poverty eradication and women's empowerment. Some urged that blocs like the European Union be represented in the General Assembly, while others were hopeful that a broad international push over the next year could lead to the addition of a new member, Palestine. The key to making headway on all those issues was a United Nations that was more responsive to changed circumstances.

"We are not doing anything like what we must," said Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In recent years, global institutions had sometimes struggled to adapt to new circumstances. Reform was essential, he said, adding: "All of us have to respond to a world that is profoundly altered." Without a radical overhaul, the United Nations would not provide the needed leadership. The Security Council must reflect the new geography of power, with permanent seats for Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, as well as African representation. The European Union's vital role in promoting prosperity should be represented in the Assembly. As a community of nations, he said the United Nations faces three challenges: redrawing of the map of power; globalization of problems, including terrorism and climate change; and increasingly fluid forms of identity.

Pressing further, Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal, pointed out that the Organizations very Charter bore the "stigma of colonial prejudice" as it still referred to the notion of an "enemy State" and general principles of law recognized by "civilized" nations, as if there existed uncivilized ones. Composed of 51 Members in 1945, the United Nations today counted 192. Meanwhile, the Security Council's membership had changed only once - in 1965 - and 17 years of discussion on the matter had passed without much progress. He said maintaining the status quo would only expose that body to more criticism. "Inertia can be very dangerous," he said. The United Nations could never be credible without a permanent Security Council seat for Africa with veto rights.

For some, it seemed as though the United Nations had evolved into a two-tier Organization, reflecting a world that was divided into two groups, one with inherent laudable values, rights and liberties, and another that needed coaching on those principles. Rwanda, said its President, Paul Kagame, seemed to have been relegated to the latter, along with other developing nations. "Marginalized and disenfranchised, we are also considered chronic violators of our own human rights," he said. An accountability deficit worked against the idea that the United Nations was credible, relevant and democratic. He urged that it did not become a tool for the powerful to subjugate others.

Supporting that point, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda, said Africa's economic re-awakening was a strong building block that would strengthen the United Nations. Some Western groups had begun to talk of African "lions", equating their performance to that of Asian "tigers" of the past, with estimates projecting African consumption to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020.

In some areas, a disconnect was seen in more general but equally important work to reach the Millennium Development Goals, other speakers said. There were times it felt like the international system set out to put hurdles in the path of its own efforts to overcome challenges, said Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana, pointing to a lack of coherence between aid, trade and climate, which made it difficult for poor countries seeking progress. The United Nations should establish global accountability indicators to transparently monitor whether States were pursuing policies that helped them discharge their global duties in a holistic manner. Better accountability, properly understood, could help the United Nations rise to current challenges.

As for building peace and security, resumed dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was "really good news," said Christine Fernandez, President of Argentina. During the current session, she hoped to see a State of Palestine seated in the Assembly Hall. That would contribute greatly to global peace and security.

Offering a fresh perspective, Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovi? said that his country, as the youngest member of the United Nations, welcomed the adoption of the resolution on system-wide coherence and supported United Nations efforts to fight transboundary problems like organized crime, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings. He also underlined his appreciation for United Nations peacekeeping missions, saying "a decades-long experience in peacekeeping operations confirmed the justification and relevance of this concept and strategic policy of the UN." Montenegro was continuously enhancing its participation.