The UN’s structures built in 1945 are not fit for 2020, let alone beyond it

Grand redesigns

“If you didn’t have the un you really would have to reinvent it,” says Stephen Schlesinger, author of a history of its founding. Maybe, but nobody in their right mind would design it as it exists today. Insiders complain of a tangle of overlapping agencies, senseless silos and barricaded budgets. “If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex,” one departing official despaired. Outsiders face a forbidding confusion of agencies with acronyms. Many do great work (wfp and unhcr), others have a mixed record (who and fao), a few are useless (unido). And at the top the structure reflects the world of 1945, as if little had changed since.

This was not what the founders envisaged. Hailing the charter, Truman said it had “not been poured into a fixed mould”, but would be adjusted in line with changing conditions. In fact the only changes have been minor ones, to take account of the growth of un membership. In 1965 the Security Council expanded from 11 members to 15. But whereas it included 22% of General Assembly members in 1945, it now has just 8%. Its veto-wielding p5 remain the victorious powers of 75 years ago, with no representation from Latin America, Africa or South Asia. Without change, the legitimacy gap will only grow.
This might matter less if the council were working effectively, but it is not. There have been worse periods. In 1959 the council passed just one resolution, to appoint a committee to report on Laos. “By historical standards, this is still a reasonably active institution,” says Mr Gowan of the icg. But it is increasingly crippled by great-power rivalry. The relationship between the three biggest powers, America, China and Russia, “has never been as dysfunctional as it is today,” says Mr Guterres.

Veto use has risen. In the past five years Russia has wielded 14 vetoes, China five and America two (Britain and France have refrained from using theirs since 1989). In response to the Ebola crisis in west Africa in 2014 the Security Council passed a resolution calling the outbreak “a threat to international peace and security”. Over covid-19 it dithered for weeks and then struggled to agree to a resolution calling for a 90-day pause in hostilities in conflict-ridden countries, as China and America quarrelled over whether to refer to the who (China said yes, knowing America would say no). Instead of putting momentum behind the secretary-general’s ceasefire appeal, the council stayed paralysed.

Its credibility is slipping. The arms embargo on Libya is ignored. Russia’s behaviour is a big worry. “The existential problem is that countries respect the decisions of the Security Council less and less,” says Karen Pierce, until recently Britain’s ambassador at the un, now its ambassador in Washington. Normally the p5 is there to uphold the rules, says Ms Pierce, but, referring to Russia’s support for Syria, “for a p5 member to think it’s ok to condone the use of chemical weapons is quite a major shift.”
Could reform help? To ensure that the council remains representative, suggests Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think-tank, “ideally you’d have something like the Premier League, with relegation and promotion.” But try agreeing on a formula. For over a decade, an intergovernmental group at the un has grappled with how the council might take in more countries. Which ones? Should they be permanent with a veto, or non-permanent without one? Or perhaps something in-between, with longer non-permanent terms?

A group of four (g4) countries with the strongest claims to the top table—Brazil, Germany, India and Japan—are keen to get a move on. Africans see it as a historical injustice that they did not get a permanent seat at the outset, but their own rivalries stop them specifying which countries they would pick, so they stick with an overall demand for two permanent seats plus an expansion of non-permanent ones. Another group of a dozen countries wary of the g4, including Argentina, Italy, Pakistan and South Korea, argue against expansion of permanent members and instead want more non-permanent ones. One approach could be to look at non-permanent ones first, and come back to the permanent ones later. But the g4 resist this as a recipe for denying their claims.

If new permanent members were agreed to, a bigger Security Council might not be more effective

In this process, you get “some of the most creative, passionate, articulate speeches that I see permanent representatives give,” says Lana Nusseibeh, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the un, who co-chairs the intergovernmental group, “because this issue speaks to their core national interests.” And even if new permanent members were agreed to, a bigger Security Council might not be more effective. Any change needs an amendment of the charter, which requires the votes of two-thirds of the General Assembly and the approval of the current p5. In short, many stars would have to align. In the meantime, lesser changes could help. For example, many would like the Security Council to become more transparent in its work.

To be the very model of a modern multilateral
In the un secretariat itself, reform is also a hard slog. Power rests in the member countries, which limit freedom of manoeuvre, not least over the budget. The regular budget of about $3bn (there is a separate one for peacekeeping) relies on national contributions, assessed through a formula based largely on economic size. America’s share, at 22%, remains the biggest, though China’s has risen fast, overtaking Japan’s. Once the budget is set, countries are supposed to pay up within 30 days. But roughly 30% of the money comes in the final two months of the year, creating the risk of a cash crunch in September, just when the un hosts its General Assembly. It has a reserve of only about $350m and is not allowed to borrow. Last year escalators were switched off for a while at the New York headquarters to conserve cash. Earlier this year payments for peacekeepers were delayed.
Worse still is the budget’s rigidity. Bosses cannot use savings in one area to spend in another. Decisions have to go laboriously through the bureaucracy, with scrutiny from something called the Fifth Committee and a fun-sounding Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. Even moving a mid-level post requires the unanimous approval of all 193 countries. “It’s crazy that the secretary-general doesn’t have more flexibility,” says one Western diplomat on the Fifth Committee.

Mr Guterres has sought to break down silos and improve co-ordination. But the pandemic has shown the need for a stronger form of governance, he believes. “Today we have a multilateralism that has no teeth,” he says, “and wherever there are teeth, as in the Security Council, there is no appetite to bite.” Multilateralism needs to evolve in two ways, he argues: it must become more “networked” and more “inclusive”. By networked he means working closely with other organisations, to achieve joined-up action on interconnected issues affecting a specific region or problem.

Take the Sahel. No single organisation can tackle its intertwined security, development and political troubles. Collaboration is needed with the African Union, the African Development Bank, the World Bank and other institutions. The un’s co-operation with the au is “fantastic in all areas”, Mr Guterres says, and that with the World Bank and imf deeper than ever. So he reckons this side of things is already on track. But inclusivity is not. National governments that control multilateral institutions resist letting businesses, trade unions, ngos, cities and regional administrations have any voice. Mr Guterres is using the 75th anniversary as an excuse for a campaign to open up global governance.

This article taken from economist

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Murder of the Russian Ambassador: More Questions to Turkish Security Forces

The murder of the Russian ambassador in Ankara indicates serious shortcomings in the security policy of the Turkish state and will have the negative impact on Russian-Turkish relations, despite the willingness of both sides to exercise closer relations, Valdai Club experts Hüseyin Bağcı and Yaşar Yakış told
On Monday night a 22-year-old police officer shot several times in the back of Andrey Karlov, Russian ambassador to Turkey, who opened a photo exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Ankara. The ambassador died at the scene from the injuries. On Tuesday, at a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the killing “a coward terrorist act”.

“For the first time a Russian diplomat is killed on Turkish soil. It is a new and tragic event in our shared history,” said Hüseyin Bağcı, Professor and Chair, Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University in Ankara, visiting professor at Berlin Humboldt University. “For the first time a high-ranking Russian diplomat murder happened in Ankara and, more importantly, there is a question to the government – why they could pass such a person at the event? This indicates to poor security policy, it creates a negative image. Despite this, the Turkish-Russian relations should continue in a constructive spirit, it is necessary to solve the existing problems and to fulfill the obligations. ”

A police officer Mevlut Mert Altyntash, who killed the Russian diplomat, served in the Department of Special Forces of the Ankara police and went to the exhibition, presenting his police ID card. According to RIA Novosti with reference to the Turkish media, last week Altyntash participated in the guarding of the Russian Embassy, when rallies took place next to it because of the situation in Aleppo. On the day of the murder of the Russian ambassador he took a vacation and booked the hotel room to plan the attack.

“Of course, this incident will not have the best impact on the Turkish-Russian relations – Hüseyin Bağcı said. – We’ll see the details, find out who this man was, how he could infiltrate the Ambassador’s guard. But he is, of course, an Islamist, this is evident even on the basis of images. ”

On the video depicting the murder of Andrey Karlov, the gunman shouted “Remember Aleppo, remember Syria. We will not leave you alone. Only death can stop me. We die for Aleppo, you will die here. ” During the police operation Altyntash was killed by the security forces.

“I think that the killer was dissatisfied with the development of the situation in Syria, in Aleppo in particular. A few days ago I was in Berlin. There was a demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy against actions of Iran in Syria. But there was also a smaller group of young people, who protested outside the Russian embassy. They publicly criticized the cooperation between Russia and Turkey. The killer also was a young man, his motives may be similar, and he could be inspired by similar protests, though, of course, the investigators know better, “- Yasar Yakis, former Turkish Foreign Minister, said in an interview to

“This terrorist act is likely to have been committed by the person who opposes the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia, – Yakis said. The Turkish-Russian relations have several dimensions, and this incident should not contribute to the deterioration in any of them, although it will be not easy. Our politicians need to express deep and sincere condolences over the incident, because they did not prevent the possibility of such a tragedy. ”

A similar opinion is shared by Hüseyin Bağcı: “I think that Putin and Erdogan should immediately talk to each other – directly. Nobody else – neither interior ministers or defense ministers or prime ministers. And I advise the Turkish government and the president that they spoke with the Russian colleagues quietly, without any negative statements and hints – like last year. This is actually the second crisis in our relations in a year. ”

According to former Foreign minister of Turkey, the incident will negatively affect the Russian-Turkish relations, despite the willingness by both sides to get closer.

“There is acute visa issue, the question of the visas abolition with Russia and this incident certainly showed that we all feel quite unsafe. The Russian authorities were right in claiming that, even though our government advocated the abolition of visas “, – Yakis said. – Diplomats should not be victims of circumstances, which they did not create. Unfortunately, we see that the Turkish security system often gives failures.”


Hüseyin Bağcı, Yaşar Yakış

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