The New United Nations

The United Nations is an utterly defunct institution. The Security Council, while occasionally effective, is too exclusive and too often held hostage to the interests of the major powers. The General Assembly is useless, and is most productive as a forum for criticism of Israel, which is routinely discriminated against, most egregiously in a 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. The Human Rights Council (and its previous incarnation the Commission on Human Rights) has handed forty percent of its condemnations to Israel, while despite recent reform countries such as Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia sit on the council. While the United States simply ignored the U.N. in invading Iraq, what is more depressing is China’s ability to work through the Security Council to protect the genocidal regime in Khartoum.

What is to be done about this sad state of affairs? The problem, unfortunately, cannot be solved through structural change. Any body that seeks to represent every nation of the world must, at the present, admit that a number of them will be corrupt, morally bankrupt dictatorships that simply do not deserve a voice on the global stage. Rwanda was allowed to sit on the Security Council and delay debate as it massacred its minority Tutsi population, yet this was viewed as mere coincidence, not egregious failure. What the democracies of the world need to realize is that they do not need to include murderous regimes in the important task of global cooperation.

What is needed is a new United Nations, but one that consists solely of established democracies. The Community of Democracies is a good step in the right direction, but in addition to its somewhat lax membership standards, it seeks to work within the broken framework of the United Nations. A U.N. that consisted entirely of democracies, in addition to being a much more responsible global body, could incentivize democratic transitions by holding out rewards (developmental aid, free trade, etc.) for membership. Such an institution, instead of being held hostage to the interests of anti-democratic governments, could function as the League of Nations and the United Nations were intended, to make the world a safer and more humane place.

There are problems with such an approach. One of (and perhaps the only) strengths of the United Nations is that it is a forum for discussion among all nations, and helps to prevent warfare by engaging the most belligerent nations in diplomacy. Ultimately, I see little reason to believe that this approach has been successful over the last fifty years, as nations large and small routinely thwart the U.N. with scant consequence. Another possible protestation is that whatever its failures, the U.N. is an established framework for international cooperation, and its institutions should not be so lightly cast aside. To this I would reply not only that the institutions are all either defunct or easily replaceable, but also that the transition would be gradual, as members of the democratic body participated in the U.N. as well, gradual usurping its importance.

The United Nations has had its successes, but it is difficult to find an example where democratic and anti-democratic nations have cooperated successfully. It is time to acknowledge both the failure of the U.N. and its source, and create a global body that we can be proud to be a part of.

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