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Presentation on theme: "INTL 101: INTRODUCTION TO GLOBAL POLITICS Week 11"— Presentation transcript:

Is the United Nations Fundamentally Flawed? Week 11

2 LECTURE CONTENT 1. Background information and some facts about the UN
2. Argument in favour of the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed and needs an extensive reform 3. Argument against the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed

3 What is the United Nations?
UN – The world’s largest international organization was founded in 1945 in San Francisco by 51 states. It was the successor to the League of Nations which was founded at the end of the First World War in 1919 but had failed to effectively counter aggression in the 1930s. Like the League of Nations, the UN was founded to maintain peace and security at the global scale, to increase international order and the rule of law to prevent armed conflicts. Over the last six decades, the organization’s membership structure and capacity dramatically increased and today the UN has 191 member states with its main headquarters in New York city.

4 Main Bodies of the UN The Security Council – is responsible for maintaining peace and security, and for restoring peace when it breaks down. Its decisions are binding on all UN member states. In the last 60 years, the Security Council has passed over 1,400 resolutions, with new ones being added each week.

5 The Security Council The Security Council has 15 members in total. 5 of them are permanent members and they have the veto power. These are the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. The Council also has 10 non-permanent (temporary) members who rotate every 2 years. Non-permanent members are elected (5 each year) by the General Assembly. The Council’s chairperson rotates among the Council members monthly.

6 The General Assembly The General Assembly is like a world forum and is made up of all 191 member states of the UN, each with one vote. It usually meets every year, from late September through January, in plenary sessions. Heads of the states or foreign ministers generally come through one by one to address the General Assembly.

7 The Secretariat The Secretariat of the UN is its executive branch, headed by the secretary-general. It is a bureaucratic structure for administering UN policy and programs. The secretary-general of the UN is the closest thing to a “president of the world” that exists and in security matters, the secretary-general personally works with the Security Council.

8 UN Secretary-General The secretary-general is nominated by the Security Council who requires the consent of all five permanent members and must be approved by the General Assembly. The term of office is five years and may be renewed. The current UN Secretary-General since 1996 is Kofi Annan from Ghana and by the end of 2006, he will be replaced by Ban Ki-Moon who is the former minister of foreign affairs of South Korea. Kofi Annan has been the first to rise through the UN bureaucracy to the top position. He has also been the first UN Secretary-General who served for two consecutive terms.

9 UN Programs and Autonomous Agencies
All around the world, the UN runs a high number of programs and has many autonomous agencies, each of them having a specialized field of work and expertise. Most prominent examples are UNICEF (UN International Children’s Emergency Fund), UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), UNDP (UN Development Program), UNEP (UN Environment Program), WHO (World Health Organization), FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), ILO (International Labour Organization), UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

10 Argument in favor of the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed and needs an extensive reform
Brett D. Schaefer, from The Heritage Foundation, contends that the UN is not doing as well as it should in championing the principles set forth in its charter and that, therefore, a fundamental UN reform is required.

11 Argument in favor of the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed and needs an extensive reform
To justify his point of view, Schaefer makes references to some facts saying that despite the UN’s continued efforts, military conflicts as well as other sorts of violence did not stop and there have been nearly 300 wars since 1945 and over 22 million deaths resulted from these wars . For Schaefer, the most urgent threat to international peace and security today is terrorism. However, the UN cannot even agree upon a definition for terrorism – in large part because it counts terror-sponsoring states among its membership. Moreover, The UN counts the world’s leading human rights violators and repressive governments among its memberhip. Even worse is that those members are disproportionately represented among the 53 countries elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights with Libya serving as chairman recently. .

12 Argument in favor of the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed and needs an extensive reform
Schaefer argues that amending the UN Charter is a very difficult process and this also makes the UN less efficient and therefore requiring reform. He also thinks that those countries which contribute to the UN budget with high figures should have more say in the decision-making mechanisms. He further argues that giving one vote to each member state in the General Assembly is not a good and fair system. He asks “how can the tiny country of Tuvalu and a superpower , like the United States, both have one vote?”

13 Argument against the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed
Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, and the former president of Ireland, argues that despite all the United Nations’ shortcomings and criticism, the UN is as relevant as it was when created in 1945.

14 Argument against the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed
Robinson thinks that rather than the need for a fundamental reform in the UN, it is significant to observe that the organization has an international legitimacy problem. She says that she found great skepticism in which the people viewed UN resolutions, declarations and treaties as commitments that are routinely ignored by governments or worse still, selectively implemented to benefit the strong at the exclusion of the weak.

15 Argument against the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed
For Robinson, large masses of people in various parts of the world felt that all the fine words about protecting human rights, eliminating poverty and ensuring sustainable development were only paper promises and that the UN was unable to hold its member states accountable for the commitments they had made. Therefore, a key challenge for the UN is to find new and innovative ways of developing greater accountability for the decisions its member states make. This is a process which also requires a greater involvement of civil society in the work of the organization despite the fact that the global civil society movement today faces strong criticisms.

16 Argument against the view that the UN is fundamentally flawed
For Robinson, one way of achieving a more efficient UN with an improved image is through being aware of the fact that humanitarian action cannot and must not be an extension of a political or military struggle. It must be ensured that the UN retains the right and the ability to reach all those in need regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. She urges the UN system to recognize that defending space for NGOs is vital for defending its own future. While concluding, Mary Robinson reminds us Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words about who says that “without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world”.

17 CONCLUSION Evaluating the United Nations and its performance six decades after its foundation seems to be a multi-dimensional task which requires a well-informed analysis and attention. It is probably also a matter of whether a glass is half full or half empty. Undoubtedly, the UN has not come anywhere near achieving the great goals set out in its Charter. By this criterion, the evaluative glass is at least half empty. However, it can also be rightly said that the UN has accomplished a great deal. Several UN peacekeeping operations have been fielded and some of them have made an important contribution. In spite of all the deprivations that remain, there is greater justice and better living conditions in the world now than existed a few decades ago.


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