Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Chance to Reshape the United Nations

Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Chance to Reshape the United Nations

Article excerpt

"Global affairs are no longer the exclusive province of foreign ministries, nor are States the sole source of solutions for our small planet's many problems. Many diverse and increasingly influential non-State actors have joined with national decision makers to improvise new forms of global governance. The more complex the problem at hand ... the more likely we are to find NGOs, private sector institutions and multilateral agencies working sovereign States to find consensus solutions."

THE UNITED NATIONS REMAINS the only global institution with the legitimacy and scope that derive from universal membership, and a mandate that encompasses development, security and human rights, as well as the environment; it is unique in world affairs.

IT IS AN ORGANIZATION without independent military capability. It disposes of relatively modest economic resources. Its influence derives not from exercise of power, but the force of values; from helping to establish and sustain global norms; the ability to stimulate global concern and action; and the trust it enjoys for practical work on the ground to improve people's lives.

WAR, ONCE A NORMAL INSTRUMENT of statecraft, is now universally proscribed, except in very specific circumstances. Democracy is generally seen as the most legitimate and desirable form of government. Human rights, once considered the province of sovereign States alone, are now a universal concern transcending both Governments and borders.

THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCES of the 1990s have played a central role in forging normative consensus and spelling out practical solutions on the great issues of the day.

AN UPSURGE has been seen of transnational single-issue campaigns, often conducted in concert with the United Nations, to strengthen norms and build legal regimes, such as the banning of landmines, or enhanced debt relief for the most heavily indebted poor countries, to raise--and alter--international consciousness and the behaviour of States.

THE UNITED NATIONS CREATES and sustains the global rules without which modern societies cannot function. The World Health Organization sets quality criteria for the pharmaceutical industry worldwide. The World Meteorological Office collates weather data from individual States and redistributes it, which in turn improves global weather forecasting. The World Intellectual Property Organization protects trademarks and patents outside their country of origin. Commercial airlines' rights to fly over borders derive from agreements negotiated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The UN Statistical Commission helps secure uniformity in accounting standards.

AN OPEN WORLD ECONOMY, in the place of mercantilism; a gradual decrease in the importance of competitive military alliances coupled with a Security Council more often able to reach decisions; the General Assembly or great gatherings of States and civil society organizations addressing humanity's common concerns--these are some of the signs, partial and halting though they may be, of an indispensable multilateral system in action.

What We The Peoples Can Do

Enhance the rule of law by signing and ratifying international treaties and conventions.

Tackle without delay the challenge of reforming the Security Council, which must work effectively but also must enjoy unquestioned legitimacy. …

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