UN at a Crossroads Part I

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The leaders of the UN member states will meet in New York in September 2005. Then they will try to agree on a set of reforms that will make the UN better able to cope with the challenges of our time. There was great interest in Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for UN reform in the report In Larger Freedom (March 2005). The report contains a number of comprehensive proposals for changes in both the UN’s political and bureaucratic bodies. It is these reform proposals – including the expansion of the Security Council – that the member states will now try to agree on.

  • Why is the attention around UN reform so great right now?
  • Why does the UN need to be reformed?
  • Which issues are most controversial, and why?

These questions have a short and a long answer. The short answer is that the reform is a direct result of the UN crisis over the handling of the Iraq issue in the autumn of 2002 and the spring of 2003. With Resolution 1441 in the Security Council, Iraq was given one last chance to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors and to document that the country had not weapons of mass destruction. The United States sought support for a new resolution, which would mandate the use of military force (go to war) to force Iraq to comply with UN demands. When France – one of the five permanent members of the Security Council (cf. veto) – made it clear that they (along with Russia, China and Germany) would not support the US draft resolution, the UN crisis was a fact.

The division was deep between the member states of the UN, and the United States went to war in violation of international law. Despite its 191 members, the UN largely functions effectively only when the United States views the UN as useful and relevant. The crisis over Iraq at the UN was not just about Iraq. It also brought out the contours of a deep and persistent disagreement over the UN’s role as a peacemaker in international politics. Would the United States move away from international agreements and multilateral cooperation to a greater extent than before?

2: UN High Level Panel

Against this background created Kofi Annan in autumn 2003 a high-level panel – High- Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. Other reasons for the creation include a. with the damage the Iraq crisis had inflicted on the UN. The task (mandate) of the panel was

  • to analyze the main threats and challenges facing the world in the field of peace and security
  • and recommend some forms of UN action.

The panel was thus to clarify how the UN could be given new life on the basis of a broad agreement on what kind of threats the world community faces. The High Level Panel’s report – A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility – contains as many as 101 proposals for UN reform. It is this report that forms the basis of the Secretary – General’s recommendations on UN reform in his report In Larger Freedom. In this way, the crisis over Iraq has given extra impetus to a debate that has been raging for decades – the one about the need to reform the UN. The Iraq crisis thus became a trigger for the increased awareness of UN reforms.

The High Level Panel’s report contains the core of the long answer to why there is now an intense political tug-of-war over the UN’s future structure and functioning. The UN Charter was negotiated towards the end of World War II. The UN’s structure thus came to reflect both the power relations of the time and prevailing perceptions of the threats facing the international community. But since 1945, the world has changed dramatically. The threat picture has changed, and there has been a greater gap and variation between UN member states about what they consider an important threat.

3: During the Cold War

What is defined as a threat is not natural. It is determined by social, economic and political conditions. Today, the United States and Europe view international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as the greatest threats. In Africa, poverty, HIV / AIDS and civil war are often considered the most important. What is considered a threat, and which threats the UN should prioritize, is therefore fundamentally a political question. It is about defining someone and someone’s threats and problems as so important that they get extra resources and attention. According to Psyknowhow, HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.

From 1945 until the end of the Cold War, threats were largely understood as military threats, in the form of armed attacks from one state on another state. After approx. In 1990, this threat understanding was increasingly expanded. The perspective became broader. Security was no longer just about the state and its survival. As early as the 1980s, discussions began about an expanded concept of security, in which security was given a broader content than the purely military.

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