Friday, October 2, 2015

United Nations Still Essential But Needs Reform to Be ‘Fit for Purpose’ in Coming Decades

UN General Assembly - mPhoto taken from Asian News Channel
The United Nations, notwithstanding its inadequacies and failures, was an indispensable “family of nations” that had nurtured countries in search of equality, peace and prosperity, the General Assembly heard as it continued its annual debate.
Lauding the achievements of the Organization, which commemorates its seventieth anniversary in 2015, Heads of State and Government from across continents underscored the United Nations important and invaluable work in lifting nations out of poverty and conflict and in establishing democracies.  They also took a critical look at its next chapter, with many speakers calling for urgent reform to ensure the Organization was fit for purpose in coming decades.

Calling his country “a child of international solidarity, midwifed by the United Nations”, Hage G. Geingob, President of Namibia, said that following the end of South Africa’s mandate over his country, the Organization had assumed direct responsibility for it and helped it develop the building blocks for democracy.  Today, his country had the freest press in Africa.  It was rated the sixth best governed country by the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance and the seventh lowest in corruption.

Klaus Werner Iohannis, President of Romania, said that, in the aftermath of the cold war, the United Nations had also supported his country in its transition to democracy.  Now, after almost two decades as a recipient, Romania had become a provider of official development assistance (ODA) to neighbouring countries and beyond.  “The United Nations is nothing but ourselves, Member States, living on the trust and resources we invest in it,” he said.
Member States agreed that at the age of 70, the Organization had the wisdom and experience to recognize its mistakes and the strength to correct them.  In that regard, many speakers called attention to particular issues that still demanded the Organization’s urgent attention.  David

Arthur Granger, President of Guyana, said the border conflict between his country and Venezuela had deprived Guyana of its territory and natural resources, despite the Secretary-General’s efforts for a resolution over the past 25 years.  Urging a permanent solution to maintain the security of small States, he said “the United Nations remains our best hope.”

Also claiming aggression from a neighbouring State, Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, said the Russian Federation, a former strategic partner, had occupied Crimea in February.  An effective instrument that could bring an aggressor country to justice was needed, he urged, noting that the Russian Federation had used its veto twice during the Security Council’s consideration of his country.  The veto power should not become an act of grace and pardon for a crime.  He welcomed the French Government’s initiative to restrain veto use and supported an enlargement of the Council’s membership and improvement of its working methods.
“If you close your eyes to crimes, they do not disappear,” stressed President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, also addressing the use of the veto power in the Council.  Indeed, the ideals and principles of the United Nations were being threatened around the world.  It was crucial that the Organization be adapted to today’s realities and that it step up its efforts to tackle the underlying causes — not just the symptoms — of the crisis.  It must also improve its work in prevention and mediation in order to save lives.  In the twenty-first century, the world would need a strong and reformed Organization.  “The United Nations will cease to exist if people stop believing in it,” she stressed.

Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, was among other leaders who expressed the need for reform of the United Nations.  While recognizing the value of the Organization, he said that new global threats had emerged, such as climate change and environmental degradation, and that the United Nations must be adapted to meet those challenges.  Seventy years after its founding, the United Nations needed the world’s leaders to demonstrate statesmanship and vision so as to rebuild newly broken societies and find a path to renewal.

A number of countries called, in particular, for Africa to be represented in the Council’s permanent and non-permanent membership, noting that much of the 15-member body’s work focused on the African continent.  

Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that, while some efforts had been made to reform the Council, those efforts must accelerate during the Assembly’s current session. “For the United Nations Security Council to remain what it was 70 years ago is incomprehensible, and to say the least, unacceptable,” he stressed.

In that vein, Edgar Charwa Lungu, President of Zambia, said that, while the global community was today more united on some issues, it was equally if not more divided on who should make decisions on global peace and security.  There had been more conflicts in Africa over the past 70 years than on any other continent, yet there had been no move to end Africa’s “absolute exclusion” from decision-making on the Council.  Goal 10 of the 2030 Agenda, on reducing inequality within and among countries, would not be achieved without eradicating the inequality among countries in the 15-member body.

Several proposals for Council reform — and new ways to harness its power — emerged throughout the day’s debate.  On the issue of tackling terrorism, Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, stressed that words and declarations would never fully eradicate that scourge.  Instead he proposed coordinated action under the umbrella of the Council with the activation of the “sleeping structures” of the United Nations.  Under his proposal, the international community, led by the five permanent Council members, would mobilize small military units equipped with drones, helicopters and rangers, and join together to eliminate the leaders of terroristic groups — the nerve centre of those organizations.  As a historic optimist, it was his firm hope that one of the permanent members would propose such a resolution and see its value as a viable way forward.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government, as well as other high-ranking Government officials, from Rwanda, Tajikistan, Finland, Mongolia, Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Uruguay, Malawi, Japan, Kuwait, Italy, Armenia, Venezuela, Liberia, Estonia, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Yemen, Gambia, Thailand, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, Tonga, Australia, United Kingdom, and Mauritania, as well as the European Union.

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