The reforming of the UN has
always been discussed. But at the end of the Cold War, when in 1992,
at India’s initiative, the General Assembly was consulted about
the reforming of the institution, the majority of the states were in
favor of this idea, stressing upon the reforming of the Security Council.
It was a signal that the members of the organization had a correct perception
on the necessity and on the key-point that had to be aimed at.
Subsequently a new reforming trend appeared and the General
Secretary, Boutros Boutros Ghali, admitted having studied 22 reorganization
proposals. All these had certain consequences, but one could speak of
changes rather than of an actual reform.
Around the jubilee of 50 years of existence, the pro-reformist trend
became more conspicuous and so did the differences between the outlooks.
On the one hand, European and American proposals mentioned the re-inventing
or the re-creation of the organization, the reduction of budget (to
which the USA contribute in the highest degree) and the transfer of
the UN’s economic and social activities to the Bretton Woods institutions
(IMF and BIRD). On the other hand, the proposals of developing countries
were oriented more towards the organization’s democratization
and a higher representation of their problems. It was seen that the
Americans and the Europeans conceive of the reform rather in the sense
of an increase of the efficiency, while the others stressed upon legitimacy.
Eventually, in 1996, Boutros Boutros Ghali became undesirable to the
US, which accused him of opposing the reform. The USA reduced their
contribution to the organization’s budget and then used the right
of veto against the Egyptian diplomat.
Thanks to his successor, Kofi Annan, the report entitled
The Renewal of the United Nations. A Reform Program was drawn
up. According to the new General Secretary, this document contained
“the most daring and important reforms from the 52 years history
of the organization”
Nevertheless the entire “reform” program contained only
structural and administrative changes of the kind of those made in a
company to increase profitability.
Besides the initiatives of the General Secretary, the reform
was in the attention of the 5 work groups established by the General
Assembly in 1992. The group in charge with the reform of the Security
Council discussed the problem of representation, of the increase of
the number of members in this forum and of decisional procedures (including
the right of veto). Obviously all these being related were approached
together. In general, many countries were attracted by the increase
of the number of members, as the extension proposals insisted especially
on the inclusion of representatives of developing countries in Asia,
South America and Africa, besides Germany and Japan as acknowledged
industrialized states. It was considered that the extension of the Security
Council would increase the representativeness of this forum and
would also emphasize its democratic character and stress the
legitimacy of its decisions. Of course, but this would not increase
the authority and efficiency of its decisions, and this
objection was expressed by some states. Putting the Great Powers into
inferiority by stressing upon democracy would determine these powers
not to be interested to support the organization, which would grow weak
without their support. Therefore there is a problem. In 1945, at the
founding of the organization, this democratic principle was combined
with an elitist one by creating the restricted club of some permanent
members having the right of veto and the criterion of this inequality
was Power exclusively. Pleasant or not, the mixture of the two principles,
democratic and elitist, was a formula that before anything else was
aimed at giving the world stability. And in spite of the numerous criticisms
that can be easily made, it can be said to have been a good and, to
a great extent, a successful formula.
This is why, although the reform is undoubtedly necessary,
the modification of the present formula through projects of reorganization
of the Security Council is an extremely delicate aspect. Stressing upon
democracy cannot be seen as good in itself with no regard to other reasons.
A very democratic, but weak and lacking in authority organization wouldn’t
serve anybody and especially wouldn’t serve the weak developing
states, which need exactly the contrary. Power has its role and is indispensable.
As far as the USA are concerned, they pointed on several occasions to
this truth and gave the UN to understand that without their help the
UN is condemned.
On the other hand, the reverse situation, the reforming
by stressing upon the elitist principle of power, isn’t a desirable
formula either, because, in the last analysis, it would be made by sacrificing
stability too. Power is necessary, but it creates stability only when
acknowledged, accepted and changed into authority. But after the Cold
War the US seem seduced especially by a reform of the elitist type.
In one of the projects they proposed an extension of only five members
of the Security Council, an extension very much below what the developing
states propose. But it isn’t so much the small number that draws
the attention, but the fact that these new members should be Japan,
Germany and other three developed states. Such a project that would
extend the Council only to turn it into a club of rich and developed
states presents the advantage that it would rapidly be efficient, but
only on short term. On long term it would compromise the organization.
Developing states would see the Council as some kind of rich North club
realized by sacrificing the poor South. The suspicions that never disappeared
would increase so that the decisions would have the support of enough
power, but not of enough legitimacy. The formula would leave outside
the other side of the binomial and stability wouldn’t be obtained.
The world would be restless.
More or less explicitly there is an awareness of the fact
because we can follow its concrete manifestation. It is reflected by
the way in which various projects increase or diminish the number of
states which have to represent the problems of African, South American
and Asian states, in the way in which they establish the numerical report
between permanent and non-permanent members, in the way they rethink
the right of veto etc.
Therefore the entire problem of reforming the UN is reduced
to establishing how much power and how much legitimacy must be introduced
in the formula and assembled in order to be efficient. Since they both
are parameters whose dynamic registers different accelerations, the
reform of the UN becomes more and more imperative and cannot be limited
to structural and administrative changes within the province of the
General Secretary. The idea of a “re-invention” is to be
According to us, a world of the future that shall shelter
the transformations and convulsions of globalization cannot be imagined
in the absence of UN. It already seems worrying to us that many American
politicians and political analysts tend to ignore the UN that, after
the end of the Cold War, seems anachronistic, inefficient, disturbing
and difficult to reform. This can be explained. If during the Cold War
the US felt the necessity of the international institution because they
could ask there for the legitimacy of the actions of the rival superpower,
at the present time the same institution seems more useless, since,
as unique superpower, the same game can turn against themselves. But
leaving all these aside, for more profound and lasting reasons, the
system of the future world will have to contain an organization of this
kind, be it a profoundly reformed UN or a third institution like SN
and UN. A rethinking of the principle itself is therefore necessary.
All the parties must understand that compromises are necessary because
the alternative is an organization that some let die and others can’t
save. This is why UN has to be rethought as daringly and as radical
as it takes to give the world what it needs.
It is to be taken into consideration that the reform that
has become necessary will not be the last one. An institution of this
kind will permanently be threatened by the danger of remaining behind
the reality in which it has to function and consequently will periodically
find itself, like at the present time, in the situation of being profoundly
reformed. Little do we know about this and so far the experience is
not encouraging. No reform was made in the past, because the formula
of both SN and UN, after having been established, was maintained as
such until when the signs of a crisis appeared. Every time a cataclysmic
phenomenon was necessary for the pressure to be strong enough for the
formula to be established fast. But the end of the Cold War had nothing
of the pressure of a cataclysm, on the contrary, it created a depressurization
and the present conditions are totally inadequate for a founding consensus.
These conditions hide the answer of a future UN. The new
formula, on whatever period it may be projected, will have to be elaborated
staring from two analyses: an evaluation of power and legitimacy in
the present situation of the world system and a prognosis on the evolution
and the challenges the system will have to answer.
If we judge the present situation under the aspect of power,
two categories of states are interested in the existence of the UN.
Obviously, above all there are the numerous weak states
of the planet, whose condition turns them into marginal actors in international
life. Naturally all these states consider the UN to be a modality to
protect themselves from powerful states and therefore are interested
in the legitimacy of military interventions, that is, that these should
take place with the UN approval. There isn’t anything new about
this, but now, when international relations are dominated by the USA,
certain states in unstable regions have become particularly suspicious
about American actions. The disappearance of the bipolar system led
to the disappearance of that logic according to which the states hoped
to gain action field by speculating the rivalry of superpowers. In case
they sense a complex of insecurity, they are aware they can’t
protect themselves from the pressure of a superpower by resorting to
another. And, given that now and in the near future there is no credible
counterweight to the US, these states put their hope in the democratization
of international politics on the international scene and therefore on
the reinforcement of the UN’s role. There are paradoxical situations
when antidemocratic states ask for a democratization of international
life, whereas democratic states, especially the US, sometimes tend to
forget it. Garry Wilis considers his country chose to lead the world
by dismissing those regimes it identifies as enemies of freedom, although
sometimes they were elected by the people itself. Therefore the people
have the right to choose, but not also the right to choose not to choose
anymore. Now having the possibility to dictate, the US have become,
according to this author, a classical case in which the “leader”
demands: “Do what I say, not what I do!”.
Of course thing are not exactly like this, but the perception is very
important. This is why one mustn’t be surprised that in the Gulf
for instance a state like Iran asks and will insistently ask for any
action using force to take place only under the UN’s warrant,
even when, as in its case, this force is directed against Iraq, its
old enemy and religious rival.
To sum up, as far as these states are concerned, nothing
new as principle can be noticed, only the need to strengthen the organization
increased after the end of the Cold War. And it is interesting to notice
in this context that some of these states are trying to turn the UN
into an organization protecting them from the US, the state that in
1918 demanded for and imposed this institution through the voice of
its president, so to say, the state most entitled to the paternity of
the institution. An American idea turned against America.
But the true novelty concerns the category of much more
powerful states, those that Samuel Huntington calls in a study “major
powers” and which
we traditionally call “great powers”, that is, states such
as France, Great Britain, Germany etc. The name matters less. These
are those states, not many, that after the apparition of superpowers
at the end of the Second World War placed themselves immediately after
these, and now are after the USA (Russia being now among themselves).
The characteristic of their position in the hierarchy is that they are
at a long distance from the existent superpower and from the other states
on the next level. This characteristic of the power hierarchy, the established
decision tasks discourage rivalries for now and constitute one of the
main explanations for which the present world system has had for over
a decade an exceptional stability.
But it is a dynamic stability (which is also desirable,
according to us). The internal agitation comes from the fact that, even
if the “concert” formula of the former power equilibrium
is outdated for good, something seems to return from the former logic
of the concert. The hegemonic superpower, which reunites all the dimensions
of power to an extent that has no historical precedent, is tempted to
detach itself more from the level of great powers.
If it did there would be an establishment of a mono-polar system which,
according to Huntington, would mean the US could solve any international
problem without the cooperation of any of the great powers (which at
the present moment are necessary to them) and even against the will
of the great powers if necessary. In this sense a series of actions
of the USA from the last decade could be interpreted as pressure put
more or less on the world system to push it into mono-polar formula.
By managing to regulate the situation in Bosnia, the US have proved
their capacity to solve overt problems, in this case in the heart of
Europe- the space of most great powers- and in situations in which the
great powers had failed. The intervention in Kosovo is somewhat different.
It is true it was made in partnership with some great powers, like the
recent NATO extension. It is true both these last actions implied partnership
with European great powers. Indeed, the US cannot do without their help
for wide-spreading actions on the international scene yet. But on the
other hand the US depend only partially on these and can defy them.
They only need allies in order not to seem to be isolate and promoting
a single point of view. The intervention in Kosovo proved the availability
to act against the will of one of the most suspicious of these great
powers (Russia) and especially the availability to take the risk of
an action in the absence of the legitimacy conferred by the UN, especially
if this last aspect of the intervention was felt as a powerful pressure
liable to push the world system into a mono-polar formula. Very recent
and particularly significant is the pressure put on the European Union
in favor of Turkey’s joining the EU and especially the project
that, at the moment of writing, seems to have been designed for a new
intervention in Iraq. Particularly significant in this context are the
reactions of some European great powers which, like France and Germany,
are more moderated than the US. Confronted by Great Britain’s
position as raisonneur, the French and German attitude of reserve is
meant to individualize the EU by proving that the Paris-Berlin axis
remains the Union’s spokesman, not the too obedient London. In
its turn, Russia’s reserve counterbalances Britain’s position.
Therefore the situation remains complex. Like during the
“concert”, the powers’ policy is aimed at hindering
the individual voluntarism of the hegemonic superpower. This has to
be put in connection with the observation made by Huntington in his
1999 study that international problems can be solved by the US only
through the coalition. In time, some of the US’s tendencies to
take action according to a mono-polar situation failed. Four year have
passed since the American political analyst’s affirmation (which
is a significant interval for the development speed of contemporary
processes), but the observation is still valid- a proof that in this
interval the great powers managed to moderate the hegemonic superpower
as efficiently as in the times of the “concert” equilibrium.
Unlike in those historical times, the great powers of the
present have a more equivocal position and a more varied attitude. For
half century they have been adapting to a secondary status in the system
and have achieved the skill to exploit its advantages, a fact that varies
more the relations between most great powers and the superpower. Their
policy of moderating the US is neither constant nor unitary. To those
European powers their civilization identity with the US makes more fundamental
interests overlap and in certain situations it becomes profitable that
some common goals should be achieved through the efforts of the superpower.
If this one sustains most of the costs and the benefits are divided
in a much more equilibrated proportion, the situation can be considered
as convenient for the great powers. In the conditions of a profitable
exploitation of the hegemonic superpower, which is impossible for any
of the great powers, the counter-balancing of the US can be achieved
by the European Union on its whole.
Inevitably, the UN was used in all this game of power.
The superpower perma-nently confronts itself to the demand of states
that ask for any action on the international scene to be legitimate.
According to the actual situation and the conjectural relations with
the US, some great powers invoked the necessity of legitimacy, making
this demand to be more or less unanimous. The great powers- not even
the European ones- haven’t a unitary position as far as the hegemonic
superpower is concerned. After 1989, no matter what position they may
adopt, be it restrictive or permissive, the great powers rarely do it
simultaneously, the case of the intervention in Iraq in 1990 being almost
unique. Only their reaction after September 11th 2001 show a similar
unanimity, but afterwards it diversified very fast. It is explicable,
because avoiding a mono-polar system is a reason only in the last analysis,
and beyond this the differences exceed the common points. It stands
to reason that China has its own motivations for its policy and doesn’t
join European states and so does Russia, which remains a “fascinating”
country, as M. Albright once said, that is, is indefinite and has an
equivocal position in the system. But neither are the Europeans unitary,
although they would have more solid reasons to be. Its belonging to
the EU doesn’t hinder Great Britain to support the US consistently;
Germany’s situation can be said to have a certain specificity
etc. it is clear then that the game of the great powers has to be deciphered
from case to case. Besides these particularities, the present level
of great powers is not represented symmetrically in the Security Council,
which makes these states relate themselves differently to the UN.
Like many great powers, but from different reasons, the
numerous weak states haven’t a unitary position either. They asses
the necessity of legitimacy of international actions, but usually their
historical past has taught them too well the lessons of political realism
to cherish illusions. They recur to the UN when they have no other solution.
Otherwise, whenever they have the possibility, they prefer a privileged
relation with the superpower. They are usually caught in intricate policies
at the level of their region or of their geopolitical unity and have
rivals or enemies at this level. Their outlook is less universalist,
because it is centered on territorial, ethnical or religious litigations
with regional meaning, like India and Pakistan etc. this is why their
way of conceiving of their security looks like Europe’s former
way, according to the logic of the “concert- like equilibrium”.
Almost all the time such a “concert” that developed its
functionality has to be found at the level of a regional geopolitical
unity. Therefore the “concert” hasn’t died but like
an outdated technology it was taken over by the peripheral parts of
the world system. In this situation every state of this kind is willing
to establish a relation with the superpower and uses this relation as
an argument in its local rivalries. When the US intervened in Afghanistan,
such a behavior could be seen in Pakistan’s case, which now avails
itself of the results of the relations with the superpower by continuing
to experiment the use of some missiles whose significance has to be
understood especially by India, its regional rival.
There is therefore no unitary or consistent position of
the states with regard to the superpower and this in spite of the fact
that the present distribution of power on the planet has a more stable
configuration than ever. Like the former League of Nations, the UN comes
to reflect these power relations and is weakened by the interests these
promote. Both weak and powerful states bring their contribution, so
the UN’s present situation is probably more confuse than in the
years of the Cold War. Many contemporary analysts, historians and jurists
have noticed that the prestige of the universal body is diminishing
and don’t hesitate to compare the situation with the agony of
the Society of Nations, like we did above. Of course there can be brought
counter-arguments like the one that the former League of Nations formed
without integrating very important states like the Soviet Russia and
Germany (by then defeated in the war), like the US (by then isolationist),
and on the way it lost Japan which defied it etc. So to say, the League
of Nations seems to have failed because it left outside vast entities
of power and it is unrealistic to discuss the viability of an international
institution outside this central component which is power. On the contrary,
the UN seems to have solved nowadays this problem by becoming all- inclusive.
Apparently exact, the argument is only partially correct.
In fact even nowadays vast entities of power are not correctly represented
or remain completely outside the organization and this under two aspects.
Firstly because great powers like Japan or Germany, although they have
representation, haven’t a correct one. As the organization was
conceived at the end of the last world war, it reflects the situation
at those times, while the contemporary reality is extremely different.
By leaving aside some remaining antipathies, these states and maybe
some other too should become permanent members of the Security Council.
In the meantime they have become again great powers, have stable and
responsible regimes and a certain military inferiority is not only easily
recoverable, but is not even very significant if related to the other
forms of power that these states fully possess. The efficiency, the
prestige and the authority of the organization would only benefit from
such an extinction of the Security Council. Until then there will be
non-represented power and the UN runs the risk of the League
of Nations’ lethargy. From the perspective of power and its representation
only a reform concerning the center of the Security Council would offer
a satisfactory solution. There are yet many hesitations about this and
many personalities which express their skepticism.
But how much power remains non-represented? And what
kind of power?
Much more than between the two world wars. There are no
more non-represented states, but now there are other great entities
of power of non- state nature.
In the half century since the conceiving of the UN’s
structure, the reality of power has become more subtle and polyform,
involving economical, financial, scientific, technological, informational
and even ideological, cultural and religious forms unequally distributed.
Of all, those forms favored by the scientific and technological
revolution have continuously enlarged and diversified the panoply of
developed states. In reflex, these states have generated international
institutions with financial, commercial, scientific, military etc character,
have become interconnected and have generated greater power. A proportional
representation of power would be in their favor more than ever in history.
The power excess which is not represented in the UN is to be found in
other international institutions (of which the most viable belong to
the developed states).
With a certain delay the reaction of the undeveloped states
has chaotically oriented itself towards the forms unaffected by the
technical and scientific revolution, by ideology culture, religion.
After the failures of African and Asian “democracy” or “socialism”
in the last decades, the only available forms of power remained traditional
culture and religion. Power has its alchemy that interchanges its forms.
Fundamentalist trends try to obtain the rest out of religion and traditionalism
and sometimes manage to do it so efficiently that they can obtain funds
and technology, conquer political power in certain states and undertake
against adversaries actions equivalent to those of classical military
power. In Iran and Afghanistan the revolution and the war resulted in
the conquering of the state institution. In Algeria there have been
similar attempts etc. In the Middle East the Palestinians have found
such a profitable alchemy between religion and military power that they
are causing the Israelis more casualties than any actual wars. The events
of September 11th 2001 were another proof of efficiency in
which goals usually achieved by means of military action were achieved
by means of terrorist actions with a religious basis. September 11th
marks a qualitative threshold: never before have the partisans or the
guerillas hit such targets. The importance of the phenomenon mustn’t
be minimized, but considered in relation with the goals it aims at and
achieves. It represents real power.
To sum up, we could say that if the polyformy of power
produced entities of non- state power in the developed world, the same
thing took place afterwards in the non- developed world. The first produced
transnational corporations, the latter transnational religious terrorism.
Both are non-representable in the UN.
Therefore the UN and any similar institution is and will
be aimed at contributing to the security and stability of the world.
This is a matter of law and power and the organization must be in very
explicit relations with both terms. The basic unit that reunited law
and power and which was the only operational one was the state and this
is why the state was put at the basis of the organization. The way in
which it was believed to achieve the goal of security and stability
was to represent the states as members enjoying the same rights.
In fact things happened differently. The state is in a
more and more equivocal relation with power although both the security
and stability of the world depend firstly on power not of a certain
form, but of all forms. It would have to represent it satisfactorily,
but this is unrealistic, firstly because partially power escapes the
working unit (the state) or appears outside the state. The contradiction
is between the fact that security and stability depend on all forms
and the UN represents only some of them. This is not something new,
but during the Cold War the fact was tolerable because rival superpowers
concentrated enormous powers and to a certain extent the other forms
of power were influenced by the gravitation of the poles. But nowadays
the dispersion is in continuous growth and very probably it will generate
surprising manifestations. Besides, in the shadow of the rivalries between
superpowers, the integrating processes gave birth to the European Union
and the future is not closed to other integrationist forms like this.
All these represent realities that can’t be noticed by the present
UN unless modified to enter the expression of the state. Without the
catastrophic imperative, the world could change radically before the
organization could react otherwise than under the vague forms of condemning
resolutions, humanitarian and peace maintaining missions etc. Representing
only the states, at the present the UN can intervene only for amelioration,
but not for prevention.
No matter what the reform’s content may be, one thing
I for sure: the UN remains only the organization of states. In exchange,
a series of international institutions, born from the dynamic of power
in the last half century, expresses better the realities that inevitably
escape to the UN. What can be done in realistic terms is that the UN’s
reformation should be correlated more profoundly to the network of these
institutions. Its reform mustn’t be thought in itself, but must
be seen more and more as part of a system of international institutions
which is in continuos development. Its reform should be seen only in
correlation with theirs. The UN might be thought to lose thus a certain
personal dignity, but this is very unlikely to happen to an institution
that cannot be replaced as legitimacy provider. It could gain in exchange
a series of advantages, a tighter contact with very dynamic realities
that otherwise will make it be overwhelmed at shorter and shorter intervals.
It will get more of that power it cannot represent, or, more specifically,
of its usufruct. It will improve considerably its efficiency conditions.
It will increase its influence capacities over some centers of power
and alongside its prestige in the world system. There would be no more
attempts to escape it, but it would become the best and accepted place
All these could belong to the future. The UN reformation
presupposes a serious compromise capacity which presupposes a more complex
world system than that in which we live, a multi-polar world and a greater
dilemma. For the time being, in the present transition, the various
parties involved take up out of inertia the forms institutional formulas,
the imperative is too weak and will is separated from power. The will
to take a compromise is reduced. Far from considering that they have
to make concessions, many weakly developed states are reticent to the
transfer of economic and social problems to the Bretton Woods institutions
and to a Security Council extended in the advantage of the developed
states. They insist on democratization and legitimacy. On the other
side, the US mostly have a strong position and are little willing to
make concessions to a reform which in their opinion, wants to turn an
inefficient organization into a more inefficient one. They think they
can do without the UN and don’t want to finance their own opposition.
They therefore prefer to let the institution drift until it becomes
The great powers are not too interested in the reform either.
As it can be seen from the recent Iraqi problem, the present architecture
of the UN gives them enough possibilities to do their game with the
For the moment condemning resolutions, humanitarian and
peace maintaining missions are successful forms of activity (although
there have been failures too). But problems emerge here too when missions
involve military interventions or other intercessions, because of the
basic unit, the state, or because of the transformations it has undergone
in the last century. Sovereignty is redefined etc. Yet nothing will
replace the state as basic unit and it’s hard to imagine a mixture
in which other representations units can emerge alongside with the state.
Therefore, for the moment, the UN will stay mainly as it
is. Its transformation to correspond to the post Cold War world will
be slow and unspectacular. Excepting a not yet foreseeable multi-polar
system, only the catastrophic accentuation of global challenges could
In the interval of this transition, the reform, as much
as it will be, will have to discover its formula between power and legitimacy.
A system with a democratic hegemonic superpower leads to the idea that
the democratic legitimacy provider principle should and could be strengthened.
No matter what the reasons for which now both the great powers and the
weak states ask for legitimacy may be, historical experience in such
cases proves that even after having cancelled the causes the effect
persists. The first half of the 21st century will continue
to want to be legitimate.
But realism takes to the conclusion that in a hegemonic
system the democratic principle has to be strengthened alongside with
the elitist one. The affirmation mustn’t be understood as in favour
of the US, since, from their positions, the great powers wouldn’t
want anything else. The formula will have to be the proof that the two
are not incompatible.
This is what would happen if the Security Council would
be enlarged with an unexaggerated number of permanent members among
which the five developed states proposed by the American project (among
which Germany and Japan) and the most representative states of the undeveloped
world: India, Brazil, Nigeria. The inclusion of eight or nine states
would contribute a lot to the democratic mediation of the decision.
At the same time, the developed ones would lead to the increase of authority
and efficiency. The other three would include the developing world in
the elite of permanent members and would prevent suspicions concerning
the North’s domination. As far as the right of veto, that numerous
states would want abolished, is concerned, the elitist principle of
power will undoubtedly keep it, because its abolition is, as Paul Kennedy
and Bruce Russett say, “a splendid idea”,
but a fully unrealistic one. In exchange, we agree with their idea that
the right of veto could be limited to problems connected to solving
The finance of the organization and the military intervention
capacity are two of the most discussed problems and definitely some
the reform must take into account. The present quota system makes the
organization vulnerable either because the poor states are behind with
their payments or because the rich ones make pressure to condition their
quotas. In both situation an unhealthy atmosphere, which is incompatible
with any principle of the states’ equality of rights, is created
in the organization. There have been many discussions about another
finance system, for instance of putting a tax on some international
financial transactions. It is evident it would be the first thing to
be done to strengthen the organization. Although in our opinion as long
as there is the right of veto, this would not make the organization
more independent, because the taxes could be avoided like the quota,
much better results could be obtained according to the taxation system
and in any case the internal work climate would improve, which is very
important. Specialists think the opinion is feasible in its financial
aspect, but anyway the real problem were not money, but, as Richard
Falk says, the political
control over the organization.
As far as the military force is concerned the same dependence
on the member states can be noticed; syncope and delays come up when
the states have to provide military units and hence failed actions.
On the field the UN troops find themselves often in the situation to
accomplish missions for whose difficulty they are numerically, logistically
etc. inferior. The Dutch UN troops failed in Bosnia because of material
and force inferiority, but the failure is perceived as a UN failure
and affects its prestige. Paul Kennedy and Bruce Russett come up with
the proposal of a rapid reaction force that would enable a prompt reaction.
But the weak part of the idea is only that these troops would have to
be provided by states whose task would be to prepare them and put them
at the UN’s disposition.
More appealing is Richard Falk’s idea that these forces should
be made up of volunteers so that states shouldn’t hesitate in
case the life of their own citizens should be in danger. Combining the
ideas, the solution would appear under the form of a professional military
force based on international volunteering, organized under the form
of fast intervention units permanently at the UN’s disposition
and financed in an independent system.
Undoubtedly, an independent finance and an armed force
of its own would give the organization some of the power it lacks. As
far as those inevitably non-represented forms of power, Richard Falk’s
opinion is somewhat like ours. As we further remain skeptical about
a representation in the UN of other operational units than those of
the states, we note with satisfaction an idea that couldn’t change
what has been said, but yet represents a step in this direction. R.
Falk thinks the UN could connect the civil society and provide it a
place in the structure in an Assembly of intergovernmental or non-governmental
circles. Besides an accentuation of the democratic character it has
been so much discussed about, such an opening could be a beginning in
order to operate with another basic unit than that of the state.
Similarly interesting, Falk comes up with the attractive
idea of an Economic Security Council created in the UN. Once again the
author is in favor of our ideas. Besides the fact that it would make
the institution more adequate to the representation of economic power
that has become very important in the last half century, such a creation
would facilitate the UN’s integration in the network of other
international economical institutions. Its reform would be connected
to their dynamic transformation and the UN would gain a more important
role in formulating the global economical policy. And obviously through
such activities the UN’s possibility to lead real prevention politics
could come true.
Therefore there are in the present reforming possibilities
of a certain consistency. Even if the motivation of the involved factors
is not very strong yet, the beginning of the reformist process before
the great problem comes up could provide these factors with a good occasion
to manifest that preventive wisdom the UN demands.
Since the beginning of 2003, the most recent events
on the international scene focus on the Iraqui problem and on the
possibility of a war in the area. The tension has risen to a situation
which might be qualified as equivalent with a crisis in the world
system. In this situation the UN proves to the full its unique position
of agora where legitimacy is obtained.
Less through the way in which it started and more through
the course subsequently imparted by a series of actors, the present
crisis achieved a maximum stake and has become one of those crises that
contribute to the formation of the new world order. Or if we take into
account the dimension of the stake, it is no longer surprising that
we assist to a series of new events. Among them, the appearance of a
separation in the UN and, more surprisingly, in the NATO. Prominent
members of the NATO like France and Germany have become closer to Russia’s
position and considerably distant to the UN’s. For the first time
in its history the alliance hasn’t had a unitary position with
regard to the guarantee of one of its members (Turkey) and at the same
time it marks an important landmark in the reforming of this military
organization. Similarly, a series of bilateral relations between the
USA and other actors have been or will have to be redefined in order
to be favourable to these. This will certainly mark the history of the
After more than a decade since the Cold War, we can now
see the first massive and articulate attempt to restrict the excess
of power. According to a now classical logic, it appears as a coagulation
at the secondary level of the great powers, but it uses the possibilities
offered by the UN, the configuration of the present Security Council
and the present voting system. It is evident that to the simple and
unambiguous policy of the US the great powers have responded with a
complicated and surprising political game that for the moment has confused
the hegemonic power and to a certain political extent has managed to
annihilate it. Aware of the fact that whatever it may be the solving
of the present crisis will create a precedent and will give the world
a moral, the US feel pushed into a difficult situation in which they
will pay an important price for any of the solutions they will choose.
Giving up the started action would be a signal in the sense that they
have renounced imposing their own outlook to the historical process
and in this case the excess of power they have would reprezent costs
that bring no benefit and are therefore useless. Besides, the dismantling
of the huge force demonstration will certainly be interpreted as weakness
by the numerous hostile states and this might result into another series
of losses. In the opposite case, continuating the action without legitimacy
from the UN will put the US in the situation of confronting itself to
the solitude of power and of supporting compensatorily the costs of
the various parasites and interested friendships. On the other hand
it presents nevertheless the advantage of being the the only way to
obtain benefits, and historical initiative is not given up. The most
desirable alternative, that in which the US might take action according
to its own vision, but with the UN’s approval, seems to become
more and more improbable. But it would be so advantageous, that even
if the battle seems already lost from this point of view, the US keep
making efforts to meet the votes necessary to the resolution they want.
This is the implicit recognition of the UN’s importance of whose
necessity they sometimes affirm to doubt.
In the present international crisis the various analysts
can notice contradictory elements regarding the future UN reformation.
There will probably be voices affirming that in its present formula
it still proves its democratic functionality and even the capacity to
restrict the power.
But it is too early to state our opinion about this aspect.
What is certain is that the preat powers in the opposition have already
managed to moderate the US’s power by transfering to it almost
all the costs of any nature that the solving of the crisis involves.
And the most important of them are not the financial ones (although,
unlike other situations after 1989, the US will support all by themselves).
Paul, UN Reform: An Analysis
Ghali intended to reorganize the Secretariate, but the pressure put
on him especially by the USA determined him to abandon the idea.
such as the competence and the diminution of the staff’s age average,
the increase of the coherence between compartments were taken into consideration,
problems were re-grouped and certain committees were founded, departments
were reorganized, the role of regional commissions was re-examined etc.
Wilis, “Bully of the Free World”, in Foreign Affairs
1999, vol. 78, no. 2
Huntington, “The Lonely Superpower”, in Foreign Affairs
1999, vol. 78, nr. 2
recently, after the September 11th
events, the US have considerably
increased their defense expenses. The sums are by far higher than the
total of the budgets of the main European countries.
Howard considers the State Secretary Colin Powell made “an irrevocable
mistake” when he declared that the US is “at war”
with terrorism because thus terrorists are admitted to have a certain
status and a certain implicit legitimacy (Michael Howard, What’s
in a Name? How to Fight Terrorism, in “Foreign Affairs”,
2001, vol. 80, no. 6, p. 45). As far as we are concerned, we think the
American State Secretary as a military expressed correctly what he thought.
He didn’t acknowledge a certain legitimacy to the terrorists with
this expression, but a certain power, enough in his opinion to speak
Yet here a problem connected to power and legitimacy emerges.
Michael Howard is obviously right: terrorism is not to be negotiated
with, its legitimacy cannot be admitted. But this principle doesn’t
necessary discourage a terrorist organization and to a certain degree
it can be said to stimulate it. It hopes to accumulate enough power
to reach a level that would enable it to demand negotiations, recognition
and obtain legitimacy. Any organization’s dream is to do this
alchemy. Anything can be done with enough power is its motto. Two evolutions
are possible in this logic. The first one, in historical times, urged
to conquering power in a state. If the state is powerful enough, sooner
or later acknowledgement will come like in the case of Napoleon’s
France, of Soviet Russia etc. The Talibans’ Afghanistan would
have been recognized if it had had Russia’s or China’s power.
The second one is the present one that notices the impossibility of
such actions. This is why, in the latest forms, it avoids the state
and gives up conquering power in a state. For the religious terrorism
that took action on September 11th states are just hosts
and it lives beyond them. By taking action in Afghanistan the US killed
the dog, not the fleas.
Kennedy, Bruce Russett, “Reforming the UN”, in Foreign
, 1995, vol. 74, no. 5, p. 56-68
Kennedy, Bruce Russett, op. cit