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UN Speeches signal move to realign the world
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, September 23, 2006

The UN, at least during the tenure of soon to depart Kofi Annan, has become nothing more than a third-word debating club, long on meaningless resolutions and very short on any action.

But this week's meetings at the UN found significant demands being made of the world body by nonaligned nations. During the week members of the bloc of Nonaligned nations (G77) made their presence known with a direct attack on the power of the G8 nations (generally and the US specifically) calling for significant structural changes in the world body and how it functions.

As an example, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe - a man who has presided in one of the worst economic trainwrecks in history highlighted by his cronyism and assaults on property rights - had this to say [pdf] to the UN last week:
The status quo in the Council, where a few powerful countries hold the world to ransom is no longer tenable. There is therefore a strong case here for addressing the core issue of the democratisation of international governance. Africa remains the only continent which does not have a permanent seat with veto power in the Security Council. That situation is unacceptable.

It needs to be corrected and corrected now. The position of the African Union on this issue is very clear. Africa demands two permanent seats, complete with veto power, plus two additional non-permanent seats. We will not compromise on this matter until our concerns are adequately addressed.
And of course he wasn’t the only one. Having just left the summit of the Nonaligned Movement, in Cuba, as had Zimbabwe, the presidents of Iran, Venezuela and Bolivia used their speeches to make the same point.

William H. Luers points out:
The polarized atmosphere at the UN has grown in the past year between the so-called Group of 77—a block of 132 developing nations also known as the G77—and developed nations, in particular the US. The increased level of rancor was revealed most recently at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana on the eve of the general debate at the UN. As the anti-US rhetoric grows, it is clear that the larger and more vocal presence of new powers including China, India and Brazil—each of which has important relations with the G77 and the US—has increasingly tended to moderate the shriller voices. Once again, however, the potential for anti-US rhetoric is disturbing as leaders of that movement including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran seek a larger voice within the G77 and on the world scene.
This goes back to my point yesterday about the US taking Chavez more seriously than it seemingly has in the past. In fact, just as seriously as it takes the president of Iran. Chavez is the heir apparent in Latin America when Castro dies, but he wants more than that. And the G77 is the perfect vehicle. Chaves wants to be a member of the “axis of evil” because, in the sphere in which he seeks power, that is a badge of honor. His speech this week was his coming out party in his quest for the leadership of the G77 bloc.

0ne of the places in which he will attempt to increase their power is in the UN. There are a couple of ways he’ll attempt that:
Iran's nuclear program is one of the hottest topics before the UN Security Council as the US and its European partners seek to move toward a sanctions regime if Iran does not cease its enrichment of uranium. Many of the G77 member states are likely to express support for Iran's program at the UN General Assembly and in the corridors, while China and Russia on the sidelines seem inclined to delay sanctions. Iran's seeming willingness to reach a middle ground in order to continue negotiations is likely to be the subject for debate in many of the bilateral and multilateral gatherings in and around the General Assembly.
But Chavez, like Mugabe, knows such support depends on attracting the support of one of the permanent members on the Security Council with veto power. So the real power lays not in such demonstrations of support, but by getting a piece of the real nexus of power in the UN: the Security Council. Speaking to the General Assembly, Chavez said:
But we, the assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, 20 September, that we re-establish the United Nations.

Last year, Madam, we made four modest proposals that we felt to be crucially important. We have to assume the responsibility our heads of state, our ambassadors, our representatives, and we have to discuss it.

The first is expansion, and Mullah (ph) talked about this yesterday right here. The Security Council, both as it has permanent and non-permanent categories, (inaudible) developing countries and LDCs must be given access as new permanent members. That's step one.

Second, effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts, transparent decisions.

Point three, the immediate suppression — and that is something everyone's calling for — of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.

Let me give you a recent example. The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented.

Fourthly, we have to strengthen, as we've always said, the role and the powers of the secretary general of the United Nations.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran also made the same points in his speech [pdf], an apparent result of talking points developed at the summit of Nonaligned nations:
The present structure and working methods of the Security Council, which are legacies of the Second World War, are not responsive to the expectations of the current generation and the contemporary needs of humanity.

Today, it is undeniable that the Security Council, most critically and urgently, needs legitimacy and effectiveness. It must be acknowledged that as long as the Council is unable to act on behalf of the entire international community in a transparent, just and democratic manner, it will neither be legitimate nor effective. Furthermore, the direct relation between the abuse of veto and the erosion of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Council has now been clearly and undeniably established. We cannot, and should not, expect the eradication, or even containment, of injustice, imposition and oppression without reforming the structure and working methods of the Council.

Is it appropriate to expect this generation to submit to the decisions and arrangements established over half a century ago? Doesn't this generation or future generations have the right to decide themselves about the world in which they want to live?

Today, serious reform in the structure and working methods of the Security Council is, more than ever before, necessary. Justice and democracy dictate that the role of the General Assembly, as the highest organ of the United Nations, must be respected. The General Assembly can then, through appropriate mechanisms, take on the task of reforming the Organization and particularly rescue the Security Council from its current state. In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African continent should each have a representative as a permanent member of the Security Council, with veto privilege. The resulting balance would hopefully prevent further trampling of the rights of nations.
This is a serious and popular movement within the body of the UN. And, in my opinion, it reflects a serious realignment within the world (driven by the demise of the USSR and, as strange as this may sound, the actual stability Cold War politics and diplomacy gave the world). But while I have some sympathy with both the movement and their demands, I have to admit reluctance to cede to them what they want at this time given those vying for leadership within the bloc.

Perhaps it is time to consider a restructuring of the UN and especially the Security Council. Like him or not, Chavez has a point when it comes to the General Assembly. It is nothing more than a deliberative body with no real power.

I can certainly understand the demand of other nations who feel excluded from the inner circle of the Security Council and thus virtually powerless. But - and you knew it was coming – I question the usefulness of such reform, at this time, given the emerging leadership of the G77 and it’s intent. So I would guess that the US will fight such restructuring for the time being until it is assured more moderate leadership among the G77 is prevalent.

That is why I feel Chavez’s “threat level” has just risen in terms of how he’s viewed by the US and other G8 powers. When you see the same talking points - such as those from Mugabe, Chavez and Amadinejad – presented at the UN, you begin to understand that the G77 is an organization to be taken seriously. It is no longer a lose confederation of what many would term the “have-nots” in the world. It is a growing and more tightly bound association of states that want a share of the power in the world and intend to attempt to get it, starting in the UN. Part of that is due to Chavez and Amadinejad.

The polarization within the UN which William Luers notes above is the result of a power realignment that is underway. The Cold War is finally truly over (that being especially evident now that China has chosen its path) and the vacuum left by the USSR is finally being filled (since China seems reluctant to do so and the EU and Russia have been unable to do so).

The world seems most comfortable with (or at least used too) the tension a bi-polar power arrangement brings. Chavez and Amadinejad seem determined to take the lead in providing that second pole through the G77. That obviously means, given their ideologies, that the nation to which they will direct most of their attention and enmity, the nation most unlike them and a perceived threat to their goals, is the US. What role Russia, China, and the EU will end up having in this global realignment is still open to question. But it could be significant.

Watch for the G77 nations to push very hard for the structural changes they talked about in their speeches, especially with a new General Secretary coming on board (and, I would assume they’d try to ensure a GS who is from their bloc and sympathetic to their cause is appointed - see Chavez's "point four"). Should they manage to somehow to get what they demand, and find themselves on the Security Council, all manner of mischief is possible with the type leadership now emerging.

Given that possibility, it can be said without fear of contradiction, we live in interesting times. And they'll only get more interesting.
 
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" Chavez has a point when it comes to the General Assembly. It is nothing more than a deliberative body with no real power."

And Chavez is one of the reasons why that is a good thing. It is interesting that noone seems to want to "democratize" the funding of the UN. I think we should remind them just who is paying for the forum for their tantrums. If Chavez wants to subsidize the UN, I will vote for giving him a seat on the security council. As I said before, the UN was a nice idea, too bad it didn’t work. It is time for the grownups to form their own group and leave that playpen in New York to the kiddies.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
One might "understand the demand of other nations who feel excluded from the inner circle of the Security Council and thus virtually powerless"... but that doesn’t mean we need or should do anything about it. So the likes of Iran and Venenzuela and Zimbabwe are upset... why should we care?

I’ve long wondered why we are so inclined to accomodate countries such as these. They view the UN as a means of advancing their agenda... which, by definition, means working against the United States. What’s the point of pretending we all get along? And, true, our government might view the UN as a means of advancing the interests of the United States, but, frankly, we don’t need such a bureaucracy to get our point across to the people and countries that really truly matter.

Once upon a time, the UN might have made sense... back in the day when communications and transportation were such that it was advantangeous to have everybody in one place. But with modern communications and air travel, what difference does it really make if those we choose to ’consult’ with are in NYC or somewhere else?

Unfortunately, our leaders fail to acknowledge that it has become little more than a vehicle for expressing anti-American and anti-Western complaints. There’s no way we should be endorsing the power-grabbing moves by countries that are openly hostile to us... and, yet, if history is a predictor, we will.

 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: www.thoughtsonline.blogspot.com
If you work around the ideological sections, there’s some smart things in this post.

But, except for oil-producing states, the G77 is mired in a web of debt and trade-based dependancy.

People who think the UN is a failure are amusing - an organization that holds no territory, has no soldiers, and whose freedom of action depends on permission from its donors - mostly the G24 - is held up to every global problem and declared a failure when they fail to solve it. The UN is not an indepdendent, godlike agent created to end wars and solve problems. It’s powers, functions, and design have always been astronomically short of that. What it is, is a club where the countries causing the problems can occasionally agree on how to solve them or bandwagon to demand particular solutions.

Declaring the UN a failure because of Rwanda or Darfur is like blaming your treehouse when your kid Jimmy sticks a meat fork through your kid Jeffrey’s head.

Now, the League of Nations> was a failure. The criteria is, or should be: it self-dissolved. A few years later, coincidentally, we had the Second World War.

McQ is right - with the demise of the USSR, the Security Council seats are dangerously clustered in one corner of the spectrum of global interests. The G77 will never succeed in changing the system fundamentally. The Security Council veto powers won’t allow it.

Thus the real threat is that the G77 will collectively walk out. They have almost no leverage for anything short of that. They’ll make demands, and those will mostly be ignored. The leading demanding agents, as neccesary, will be bilaterally bought off and/or neutralized.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
This is great....anything that speeds up the demise of this organization is a good thing.

As for this:
It needs to be corrected and corrected now. The position of the African Union on this issue is very clear. Africa demands two permanent seats, complete with veto power, plus two additional non-permanent seats
My question to the African Union is: Why? Africa barely deserves what little reporsentation they have now. Try again when you get your collective sh*t together
 
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
One might "understand the demand of other nations who feel excluded from the inner circle of the Security Council and thus virtually powerless"... but that doesn’t mean we need or should do anything about it. So the likes of Iran and Venenzuela and Zimbabwe are upset... why should we care?
Read carefully Steve. I never said we should do anything at this time, even though I understand their complaint. My reason, however, is because of the emerging leadership, not because I don’t think their complaint has no validity.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Thus the real threat is that the G77 will collectively walk out. They have almost no leverage for anything short of that. They’ll make demands, and those will mostly be ignored. The leading demanding agents, as neccesary, will be bilaterally bought off and/or neutralized.
I’d have to disagree here. There is absolutely no advantage to be had by them by walking out or quitting the UN. The UN is the only organization in which they do have some sort of voice and it is much too useful to them to abandon.

Instead I see attempts to much better organize the G77 into a real bloc, and use even the temporary SC seats they would have as a platform to loudly and persistently call for structural reform within the Security Council (until, they hope, by sheer weight of world opinion, the permanent SC members cave).

But leaving the UN, at least in my opinion, is not a valid option.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"What it is, is a club where the countries causing the problems can occasionally agree on how to solve them or bandwagon to demand particular solutions"

So why don’t we get a new clubhouse? One that is cheaper, more effective, and less noisy.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Now, the League of Nations> was a failure. The criteria is, or should be: it self-dissolved. A few years later, coincidentally, we had the Second World War.
That made absolutely no sense. What did you mean to say?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
That made absolutely no sense.

I’ll interpret this as, you didn’t understand what I was saying here, so I’ll restructure it for you.

If you want to talk about failed multinational institutions, let’s talk about the 1919-1945 (I forget) League of Nations. Rather than say the UN failed for being unable to make world problems dissapear, the League of Nations serves as a better example of multilateral institution failure. Its failure is demonstrated by - I’ll quote Wikipedia:

The League of Nations had 42 founding members with the notable exception of the United States of America, 16 of them left or withdrew from the international organization.

A bad sentence from Wiki, but to pull it together for you, close to 40% of the LoN quit, the organization essentially shut down during WWII, and the Allied Powers decided not to renew the League, but to basically start from (close to) scratch.

The Second World War itself is also a damning argument that the LoN failed - there’s no rigid line here, but a general sense of, "if total war arises between the leading world powers, the multinational institution designed to prevent war has definitely failed.

The League of Nations collapsed - suffered mass withdrawals - and WWII occured. That’s a pretty fundamental failure. The UN has not presided over anything like such a fundamental breakdown in global order.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
But leaving the UN, at least in my opinion, is not a valid option.
Well, I’m not sure how well it would work out for them either. Mass UN exodus would be a sign that the G77 has genuinely become unwilling to use patience & world opinion any longer, that’s all. Like anyone else who walks away from the table during negotitations, the idea is to send a message that they find prospects for a satisfactory conclusion basically pointless, absent a better offer.

There is a strong argument that this would never happen, because the West would hear word about it long before it was ready to roll and use concessions & floated retaliatory measures to defuse it. (shrug). Maybe.

Whether this happens or not, IMO, depends on how well the first-world accomodates valid G77 concerns without handing over actual structural changes. You see this happen already with issues like debt relief. Lucky for us, because I don’t think I will ever live to see fundamental changes in the War & Peace side of the Security Council. You only need five right now. I think you’ll only need the same five in fifty years.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
"The League of Nations collapsed - suffered mass withdrawals - and WWII occured"

I do hope you are not implying cause and effect here.

"The UN has not presided over anything like such a fundamental breakdown in global order."

Presided?



The UN, like its predecessor the LoN(or LoL), has neither the power nor the will to prevent war or any other breakdown in some global order. New York City has a more reliable peace-keeping ability. As bad as crime may be in NYC, one shudders to contemplate the chaos of a UN-run NYC.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Yeah, by all means, let’s see the G77 mini morons like Mugabe bite the hand that occasionally feeds them and walk out.

That countries like Zimbabwe even have an international voice is foolish.
Sorry, terribly cold hearted, but bring on the famines, diseases and petty wars that will surely follow (as if the ones that HAVE aren’t bad enough even WITH the UN in place). Let the clowns be reminded what the world was like before the West seriously decided we ought to care.
I’ll eagerly await the collapse as these non UN-countries await their salvation from Hug-o and Ah-mean-to-jihad.

I don’t like the UN, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to these yahoos. It’s the only place that makes their regimes quasi-legitimate in the first place.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
They will never leave the UN because that means all those third-world diplomats will have to go back and live in their own countries. There may be no place like home, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good place.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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