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Jake the Plumber
01-11-2005, 07:37 AM
I think that a statement like, "the United Nations is a positive force in establishing diplomatic dialog and increased communication between disparate nations" would be agreed with by almost everyone.

I also think almost everyone would also agree with, "the United Nations is a worthless pile of crap."

As you may note, I am somewhat a pessimist regarding the UN. It is not nearly proactive enough to be considered a factor in most cases. But that is beside the fact. My point of debate is this: The structure of the United Nations is antiquated, and crippled by this inability to adapt to the modern world.

Now, please note that I don't see the UN doing a massive structural rebuilding any time in the future; I seriously doubt that China, Russia, the US, England and France would all be for taking off the mantle of complete veto power and dillute their diplomatic advantages so granted.

However, I think it is pretty clear that the UN isn't cut out for the modern world. It worked great during the Cold War - it really did - but that was an age ago. The world doesn't revolve around some of the 5 big guys at the center anymore. The world is catching up (well, the parts that aren't cesspools of violence and corruption dating from poorly executed colonialism), and the UN needs to adapt to the change.

Until then, we'll see continuing trends of continental unification (following my hypothesis of national expanding development; roughly, tribe, village, town, city, state, empire, nation, continent, wolrd) instead of global. Europe is leading the charge to continentalization.

I doubt we'll see anything like a representation by population, because the US would never accept being overpowered by China and India. Similarly, China would never allow it to be overpowered by the US - so any resolution to change the structure would simply be vetoed. Unfortunately, I can't think of any way around that stumbling block, and that is the nature of this post. How the UN can adapt and survive. If not, it will die off slowly from its inability to, well, do anything.

My requirements for the UN to adapt to the modern world are that it become less centralized around the 5 powers, that it maintain its own armed forces (not on a large scale, but for intervention. Any larger conflict would follow the modern example of countries volunteering participation). Basically, it needs to work more like a federalist government, treating each nation as a state, and being united in a parliament-type system with the various committees that exist now.

Now, before you leap at my throat, yes, this is globalization. My response is: tough cookies, it'll happen eventually anyway. We might as well pave the road for it. I don't think even an optimal plan can be implemented for another 50-100 years, since (as I hypothseized above) continentalization needs to take place first.

But until then, we have to look at making the UN less of a paper tiger.

SentientMeat
01-11-2005, 08:03 AM
The UN is its member states. If its most powerful member ignores the charter it signed (http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/) (heck, practically wrote), the "ineffectiveness of the UN" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

RickJay
01-11-2005, 08:46 AM
Jake, your post reminds me of my job.

I work in a company of about 1000 people, in an independent division of maybe 200 people. We reorganize the company every year. Sometimes twice a year. Every six to twelve months we suddenly decide, to "increase efficiency" and "be more competitive" that we have to change the way people report to other people and go in and change all the technical procedures.

Amazingly, this never helps. Whaddya know.

The manner in which something is organized is rarely the problem. The problem with the UN is that its member states doesn't really give a shit about it; the United Nations really has no legitimacy as a governing body, because it is granted no legitimacy by its members. The USA is among the worst in the world about that; the USA criticizing the UN for ineffectiveness is like a convicted thief criticizing the prison for having so many thieves around the cellblock. But the rest of the countries aren't much better, if at all, and some are worse.

duality72
01-11-2005, 02:16 PM
The manner in which something is organized is rarely the problem.

While I'm sure you're right in your specific case and most others, I'm also pretty sure the UN is one of the rare instances where the organization is the problem. If the New York, California, and Texas delegations could veto any resolution in Congress, I have little doubt we'd consider that a broken organization.

As for discussing alternative arrangements, here's an idea I posted not too long ago to another messageboard. Any thoughts about it are welcome.

Ditch the Security Council altogether. All resolutions will be addressed in the General Assembly like so: each country makes its vote normally (yea or nay), but that vote affects three spheres of influence. One sphere is the straight-up national vote like the Assembly has now. The second sphere is determined proportional to population size (http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/idbrank.pl); the larger the nation, the more its vote counts in this sphere. The third sphere is determined proportional to economic power (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/rankorder/2001rank.html) as measured by GDP; the larger the economy, the more its vote counts in this sphere. In order for a resolution to pass, it must have a majority in all three spheres.

Now this would probably still lead to a lot of gridlock, but I think bicameral legislatures have shown this not to be such a bad thing and at least none of it is completely unbreakable as the current Security Council veto is. The major powers still get their high level of influence, but small countries get to have their say also without having to be one of the select few on the SC. If it's too unyielding, perhaps two out of three spheres would be better. Or maybe additional spheres (land area?).

Debaser
01-11-2005, 02:54 PM
Any organization is only worth what it's members put in to it. As long as UN membership is open to every shady dictator and thug who can claim ownership of some third world shithole, then it will continue to be worthless.

Futhermore, the UN doesn't need to be replaced, any more than the Mafia needs to be replaced. You don't ask how to "fix" something that never even belonged in the first place. It needs to be abolished. Let nations work out their own differences. The US, as the lone superpower in the world, should support fellow democratic nations along with our allies.

Grey
01-11-2005, 03:07 PM
Similar thread from this time last year link (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=229962&page=2&pp=50).

Ok so letís reform the UN. It nearing the holidays, the office is comatose and Iím tired of producing other peopleís vapourware.

1. Split the General Assembly in two.
a. Assembly based on 1 country 1 vote
b. Senate based on GDP per capita, with the smallest members holding 1 vote and scaled up from there.
c. Requires a 50% + 1 in both houses to pass motions
i. Requires 2/3s in Assembly & 50% + 1 in Senate for deadlocked SC motions
d. Members of both houses are elected by their respective countries for period of 4 and 6 years respectively.
2. Reorganization of membership rights for members not on the SC
a. Full Member. Democratic, abides by basic human rights (Iceland)
b. Partial Member. Attempts to adhere to basic human rights (Turkey)
c. Observer: All others.
d. Membership is based on application by country and acceptance by 2/3 of the Assembly. No Senate vote required.
3. Voting rights of members
a. Military, full members only
b. Economic, Full and Partial members only
c. Health, Environment : Full, Partial and Observers
4. UN motions are legally binding within the Full and Partial membership countries. i.e. it must be specifically written into the Full and Partial members legal framework that the passed motions of the UN have full legal weight within the country.
5. The Senate is not allowed to introduce motions
6. SC make up remains the 5 permanent members (PM) and 14 rotating members (RM)
a. Permanent members possess 14 votes
b. Rotating members possess 1 vote
c. Motions pass on majority vote.
d. Deadlocks go to Assembly and the Senate, however SC members are not allowed to vote.

I still like the idea of restricting voting rights based on membership within the re-jigged UN. Of course who qualifies? How do you get Hell to freeze over before the Americans get on board? Problems, problems, problems....

ralph124c
01-11-2005, 04:22 PM
The UN is a bloated , unproductive group of people who waste resources. I agree that there should be a world forum, for resolution of disputes and conducting a dialogue between nations. But as it s currently set up, the UN does nothing efficiently. First:
-move it OUT of NYC. It should be in some neutral nation
-slash its budget by 50%
-let nations voluntarily contribute "peacekeeping" trops..we'll see how long that lasts.
Finally, get rid of the UN "cultural" organization. I don't care to subsidize bad fulms and lousy art.

Jake the Plumber
01-11-2005, 04:48 PM
The UN is a bloated , unproductive group of people who waste resources.
As it was said, an organization is only as good as the people who are in it. What the UN needs to do is attract more competent and efficient people. It doesn't approach programs from a business perspective, which would help trim a lot of fat on the programs it does run.


-move it OUT of NYC. It should be in some neutral nation
I agree. It should be akin to Washington DC or the Vatican - neutrally located. I'd consider an island in the Med to be a good place. Generally secure, centrally located to Europe, Asia, and Africa, equidistant to the US and China/India. Leave the NY UN office open as a center for the Americas (North and South) to make up for the distance issue.


-slash its budget by 50%
I don't see how that HELPS it...


-let nations voluntarily contribute "peacekeeping" trops..we'll see how long that lasts.
I'd prefer the UN to have a small standing army of volunteers, so that if a situation like Rwanda pops up, they can intervene rapidly and independent of relying on nations to volunteer, and train together to be a more effective fighting force. Something like a foreign legion.


Finally, get rid of the UN "cultural" organization. I don't care to subsidize bad fulms and lousy art.
As much I am devoted to the arts, I hesitantly have to agree with you; I'd cut a lot of that funding. Cultural preservation and art should be the business of the individuals and countries, not the UN.

RickJay
01-11-2005, 05:08 PM
The UN is a bloated , unproductive group of people who waste resources. I agree that there should be a world forum, for resolution of disputes and conducting a dialogue between nations. But as it s currently set up, the UN does nothing efficiently. First:
-move it OUT of NYC. It should be in some neutral nation
Does it really make any difference whether the host nation is neutral or not? Have you noticed the UN doing whatever the USA wants lately?

New York City is a perfect place for it; not only is it one of the world's great and multicultural cities, but it's easy to fly to. You can fly to New York from almost anywhere. If you're going to have a UN, you need to make it accessible.

let nations voluntarily contribute "peacekeeping" trops..we'll see how long that lasts.
Umm... that's the way it works now, ralph. It seems to have lasted damn near 50 years now. What're you talking about?

Gorsnak
01-11-2005, 05:59 PM
The bigger a government is, the more dangerous it is. Hence, a truly effective global government is not something to be sought. However, some form of global forum is invaluable for diplomatic purposes. Being ineffective (ineffective at what, exactly?) isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Or, as someone else put it, "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war."

Jake the Plumber
01-11-2005, 06:09 PM
New York City is a perfect place for it; not only is it one of the world's great and multicultural cities, but it's easy to fly to. You can fly to New York from almost anywhere. If you're going to have a UN, you need to make it accessible.
I have to disagree with you. It may seem like a good place, but there are several reasons to have it elsewhere. It devalues the UN's neutrality in peacekeeping operations. It makes it more of "The West" that so many of the people in countries that need peace keeping abhor. There are other issues, like its broad target for terrorism.

I agree with the sentiment that we need to get the UN away from being built around the central powers.

RickJay
01-11-2005, 07:28 PM
I have to disagree with you. It may seem like a good place, but there are several reasons to have it elsewhere. It devalues the UN's neutrality in peacekeeping operations. It makes it more of "The West" that so many of the people in countries that need peace keeping abhor. There are other issues, like its broad target for terrorism.
Okay, Jake, but I am still waiting for someone to show me the evidence that the UN is unduly influenced by the United States. If that were true then why do they always seem to be pissed off at each other? Why is it that so much of UN peacekeeping forces are, in fact, from neutral countries?

Given the UN's limited budget, let's see a real, evidence-based case why it should spent millions of dollars relocating.

Jake the Plumber
01-11-2005, 07:34 PM
Okay, Jake, but I am still waiting for someone to show me the evidence that the UN is unduly influenced by the United States. If that were true then why do they always seem to be pissed off at each other? Why is it that so much of UN peacekeeping forces are, in fact, from neutral countries?

Given the UN's limited budget, let's see a real, evidence-based case why it should spent millions of dollars relocating.
Oh, I never said that it made the UN and US closer. We haven't gotten along for some time, mostly because of the 5 power veto system. We don't pay our dues, we don't supply troops for peace keeping operations, we ignore their resolutions, and we veto everything else. That's why this needs to be structured better.

BrainGlutton
01-13-2005, 03:45 PM
Any organization is only worth what it's members put in to it. As long as UN membership is open to every shady dictator and thug who can claim ownership of some third world shithole, then it will continue to be worthless.

That's the difference between the UN and the EU, Debaser. No country can apply for EU membership until it has reached a certain basic level of democratic government and respect for human rights; and then it gets the benefits of membership, including representation in the European Parliament and the right to trade freely within a continental customs union. The UN, OTOH, is not a government and barely even approaches the status or functions of one. It is not even a customs union. It is a standing permanent diplomatic negotiating forum. It only works as intended if every recognized sovereign state is eligible for membership. If that were not the case -- who would get to decide what regimes are "good enough" for membership? Remember, all sovereign states are equally sovereign, that's a basic principle of international relations.

Futhermore, the UN doesn't need to be replaced, any more than the Mafia needs to be replaced. You don't ask how to "fix" something that never even belonged in the first place. It needs to be abolished. Let nations work out their own differences. The US, as the lone superpower in the world, should support fellow democratic nations along with our allies.

Don't make us sic the black helicopters on your ass, D. ;) Look at it this way: Every State of the Union is well enough organized that it could work out its differences with other states, and in most cases without going to war on them; but that doesn't mean a federal government is not a good thing to have. And the UN, as noted above, is not even a government.

The US, as the lone superpower in the world, should support fellow democratic nations along with our allies.

At least you're honest enough to acknowledge a distinction between "democratic nations" and "our allies." But don't think the U.S. is fit to police the world or lead an alliance that polices it. We don't have the strength to go it alone -- that should be more obvious now than ever before -- and we've been systematically alienating our allies for two years now.