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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The new world disorder

If America pulls back from global institutions, other powers must step forward
Seventy-five years ago in San Francisco 50 countries signed the charter that created the United Nations—they left a blank space for Poland, which became the 51st founding member a few months later. In some ways the un has exceeded expectations. Unlike the League of Nations, set up after the first world war, it has survived. Thanks largely to decolonisation, its membership has grown to 193. There has been no third world war.

And yet the un is struggling, as are many of the structures, like the World Trade Organisation (wto) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (npt), designed to help create order out of chaos. This system, with the un at its apex, is beset by internal problems, by the global struggle to cope with the rise of China, and most of all by the neglect—antipathy even—of the country that was its chief architect and sponsor, the United States.
The threat to the global order weighs on everyone, including America. But if the United States pulls back, then everyone must step forward, and none more so than the middling powers like Japan and Germany, and the rising ones like India and Indonesia, which have all become accustomed to America doing the heavy lifting. If they hesitate, they will risk a great unravelling—much like the nightmare in the 1920s and 1930s that first impelled the allies to create the un and its siblings.

The un is bureaucratic and infuriating. Its agencies fall prey to showboating and hypocrisy, as when despots on its Human Rights Council censure Israel yet again. The Security Council gives vetoes to Britain and France, much diminished powers since 1945, but no permanent membership to Japan, India, Brazil, Germany or any African country. Alas, it looks virtually unreformable.

Nonetheless, the global order is worth saving. As Dag Hammarskjold, a celebrated secretary-general, said, the un “was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.” Our special report this week explains how the un does that essential job, as do many other multilateral institutions. Its peacekeepers protect 125m people on a budget only a bit bigger than New York City Police Department’s. It says it is helping provide life-saving assistance to 103m. For all the Security Council’s flaws, it would be missed.

That is because, left to themselves, countries drift into antagonism. Witness the fatal clash of Indian and Chinese forces this week over a border dispute both sides are too proud to defuse (see article). Multilateral endeavours like the un, nato and the npt cannot ensure peace, but they do make war less likely and more limited. France and its allies are helping contain the conflict spreading across the Sahel.

Without a multilateral effort, old problems are likely to deepen—even Syria, after nine bloody years, will one day be ready for the un envoy’s plans for peace. Meanwhile new problems are more likely to go unsolved. The pandemic is an example. The virus not only calls for global solutions, like treatments and vaccines, but it also aggravates local insecurity (see article). It is the same with climate change and organised crime.

Protecting the system from the forces of disorder is easier said than done. One threat is antagonism between America and China, which could create gridlock in global bodies, exacerbated by competing parallel financial and security arrangements. Another is that America may continue its careless treatment of multilateral institutions—especially if President Donald Trump behaves as badly in a second term as a devastating new book by John Bolton, his former national security adviser, says he has in his first (see article). Mr Trump has undermined the World Health Organisation and the wto, and this month said that he would pull out a third of the American troops stationed in Germany, enfeebling nato and limiting America’s scope to project power from Europe into Africa.

Happily, the world has not yet reached the point of no return. For decades the middling powers have depended on America for the system’s routine maintenance. Today they need to take on more of the work themselves. France and Germany have created an alliance for multilateralism, an initiative that is open to other countries. Another idea is for nine democracies, including Japan, Germany, Australia and Canada, which together generate a third of world gdp, to form a “committee to save the world order”.

Although America is dominant, other countries can still get things done—with or without help from the White House. Sometimes the aim is to bind in America. After a chemical-weapons attack on Sergei Skripal, a Russian ex-spy living in Britain, Western countries’ imposition of sanctions on the Kremlin swept up America, too. The Quad is an emerging coalition between India, Australia, Japan and America, which are all alarmed at Chinese expansion, including in the South China Sea (see article).

Sometimes, however, the world must work without America even if that is second-best. After Mr Trump walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge trade deal, the other members went ahead on their own. Stymied at the wto, countries are instead forming regional and bilateral trade arrangements, such as one between Japan and the European Union and another between 28 countries in Africa.

Defending the international order is necessary, too. China’s stature is growing along with its contributions—it now pays 12% of the un budget compared with 1% in 2000. Its diplomats head four of the un’s 15 specialised agencies, and America just one. If other countries do not act, the system will come to reflect China’s expansive views of national sovereignty and resistance to intervention, even in the face of gross human-rights violations.

Some think the job of middling powers is triage, to keep the system going until America returns to the party under a different president. It is more than that. Although polls suggest that most Americans would like to play a bigger global role, there is no going back to the “unipolar moment” after the Soviet collapse, when America ran the show single-handed. Not only did that provoke a backlash abroad, exploited by Russia and China, but it also stirred up resentment at home.

At the time, President Barack Obama responded by asking like-minded countries to help America make the world safe. They shrugged. They must not make the same mistake again.


This article taken from economist

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Redefining National Security for the Post-Pandemic World

This article taken from


Three decades of efforts to broaden the definition of “national security” have largely failed, and it is time to try a new approach. Thinking instead in terms of global security would expand policy discussions beyond national governments and lead to a stronger emphasis on making societies more resilient.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world has spent the last 30 years trying to redefine “national security” in ways that will allow nation-states to prepare for and tackle a wider range of threats to our existence and wellbeing. Alternatively, national security has been juxtaposed with “human security,” again in an effort to focus money and energy on dangers to humanity as much as to national sovereignty.

But those efforts have largely failed, and it is time to try a new approach. Instead of widening our definition of national security, we need to start narrowing it. That means distinguishing national security from global security and putting military security in its place alongside many other equally important but distinct priorities.

We must begin by asking four essential questions: What or who is being protected? What threat or threats are they being protected against? Who is doing the protecting? And how is protection being provided?

In its classic form, national security involves protecting nation-states from military aggression. More precisely, as Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter states, it is about preventing or countering “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Nation-states now face other threats, including cyberattacks and terrorism, although such attacks generally must be sponsored by one state against another to threaten a country’s territorial integrity or political independence. Hence, these threats really qualify as subsets of military security. Climate change, on the other hand, poses an existential threat to many island states as a result of rising sea levels, and similarly endangers already arid countries by contributing to desertification and water scarcity.

Moreover, whereas the world of 1945 was almost entirely defined by nation-states, today’s security experts must also focus on threats that transcend national borders. Unlike military aggression, phenomena such as terrorism, pandemics, global criminal networks, disinformation campaigns, unregulated migration, and shortages of food, water, and energy do not necessarily threaten the political independence or territorial integrity of a particular state. But they do endanger the safety and wellbeing of the world’s people.

The distinction between national and global security is not just semantic. It goes to the heart of the third question: who is doing the protecting? National security is the province of national governments, and of a fairly small group of homogeneous people within them who traditionally have focused almost entirely on military security. Those establishments have expanded in recent years to take account of issues like cybersecurity, health security, and environmental security, but only at the margins.

Thinking in terms of global security, by contrast, opens the door to participation by a far wider group of people – starting with mayors and governors, who are directly responsible for the safety and welfare of the residents of their states, provinces, and cities. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, for example, US city and state officials have been actively engaged in preventing and protecting against future attacks. They are as likely to talk to their counterparts around the world as national diplomats or defense officials are.

Even more broadly, global security has no official designees. CEOs, civic groups, philanthropists, professors, and self-appointed leaders of every description can launch and join efforts to keep all of us safe. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has provided many instances of effective leadership from sources other than national governments.

For example, while the US and Chinese governments have used the pandemic to ratchet up bilateral tensions, myriad international networks of researchers, foundations, businesses, and government agencies have been working together to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, with little concern for nationality.

Broader participation in global-security efforts will also increasingly dissolve the boundary between “domestic” and “international” affairs and policy. Health, environment, energy, cybersecurity, and criminal justice have all traditionally been seen as domestic matters, with foreign-policy and security experts regarding defense, diplomacy, and development as entirely separate realms involving relations between countries and international organizations. But this distinction will progressively crumble.

These shifts will in turn create opportunities for a vastly more diverse range of people to sit at the table on global security issues. Despite some gradual changes in conventional military domains in recent years, far more women and people of color occupy prominent positions in city governments, and in fields like health and environmental protection, including environmental justice.

The final piece of the puzzle is how to provide global security. Traditional military security is ultimately focused on winning. But many global threats primarily call for greater resilience – that is, less winning than withstanding. As Sharon Burke of New America has argued, the goal is more to build security at home than to destroy enemies abroad.

We certainly still want to “win,” if winning means prevailing over a virus, or eradicating a terrorist cell or disinformation network. But the deep nature of global threats means they can be reduced, but almost never eliminated. Arming people with the means to recognize and avoid danger, survive trauma, and adapt to new circumstances is a better long-term strategy.

Nearly twice as many Americans have now died of COVID-19 than died in the Vietnam War. But many national leaders in the US and elsewhere remain focused on great-power competition, and appear less concerned with the pandemic’s mounting death toll than with distracting domestic publics by pointing fingers at other countries. And yet the lessons of this crisis will loom large in how we think about and provide for our security in the future.

That will be particularly true for younger generations. New America’s Alexandra Stark, for example, argues that COVID-19 is her generation’s 9/11. Instead of the highly militarized anti-terrorism response that the US adopted in the wake of those attacks, she calls for a new grand strategy “fundamentally oriented around human wellbeing,” refocusing on human health, prosperity, and opportunity. That sounds like security to me.

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Peace Support Operations[1] HASAN GOGUS

Peace Support Operations[1]


Let me start by welcoming our foreign guests to Turkey for this important conference jointly organized by Bilkent University and the Centre for European Security Studies. I am grateful for the opportunity to address this gathering of eminent academicians and senior officials. The subject matter of the deliberations today and tomorrow is a critical issue for the international community as a whole; how to conduct effective peace support operations in the 21st century, at a time of growing demands for international action in the face of instability and conflict in many parts of the world. I am especially pleased that the conference will have the benefit of the presence and active contribution of our friends from Groningen; an ancient city with a university dating back to the beginning of the 17th century.

There has been a substantial amount of academic and policy activity over the past decade to identify the best means for conducting an increased amount of peace support activity with essentially limited military and financial capabilities. Peacekeeping is a delicate and expensive undertaking, requiring a robust mandate, adequate force protection, deployment of scarce military capabilities and sustained political engagement. The major international organizations with specific responsibilities in this area, such as the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have all invested a considerable effort to review and revamp their procedures for executing their respective, and often complementary, field activities.

Naturally, Turkey fully supports these efforts. As Director General, in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for international organizations, I have daily oversight of all UN activities in this respect. We are confident that the establishment of the UN Peace building Commission, the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the formation of a separate Department of Field Support will serve to provide the international community with a higher-quality service. It has been 61 years since Winston Churchill called for equipping the United Nations with an international armed force, in the famous Iron Curtain speech. The world organization certainly has some military clout now; it is conducting 17 operations with more than 100.000 personnel.

Turkey is keen to sustain and enhance her contributions in this respect. The UN’s own data, as of September 2007, declares that Turkey is the 25th largest contributor to UN operations, with nearly one thousand troops on active duty, while, in terms of police contributions, we are ranked 14th among UN member states. We are, of course, also taking part in all NATO operations, with some 2.500 troops, and a further 2.750 troops on call in the NATO Response Force. We have commanded ISAF twice, and still have some 1.200 troops in Afghanistan, as well as a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Furthermore, we have supported the development of the European Security and Defence Policy from the outset and taken part in every EU operation to which we were invited. In fact, we are the leading non-EU European ally in terms of contributions to ESDP missions.

I see that there is an impressive congregation of experts here to deliberate the important topics on the agenda of the conference. Perhaps I should briefly touch upon one of those topics, namely national approaches to peace support operations, as Turkey has collected a considerable amount of experience in this field. As I said, we led ISAF twice; once as a UN operation and again as a NATO-led force. We also currently have nearly a thousand troops in UNIFIL in Lebanon. This body of experience makes it possible for me to make certain observations, especially with regard to political engagement between the peacekeeping force and the host country. This is a critical relationship for the success of any mission, in terms of ensuring force protection for our men and women on active duty in foreign lands, allowing timely exit from the host country and preventing a subsequent recurrence of hostilities.

The first of these observations is that the task of securing and maintaining the trust of our hosts is the most crucial aspect of peacekeeping work. Naturally, military planners will insist on the right mix of combat and support elements and the availability of critical enablers, but without this mutual trust, the endeavor will almost certainly fail in attaining its objectives. Experience has shown that remaining equi-distant to the ethnic and religious groups in the host country is essential. The Turkish military commanders and personnel also avoid any involvement in the domestic affairs of the country. Transparency in dealings with all local leaders, whether in government or not, helps to sustain a constructive two-way dialogue. Full respect for the customs, cultural values and religious beliefs of the local population is also essential.

We would probably all agree that local ownership of the responsibility for peace and stability is highly desirable. However, this will not be possible if local officials, community leaders and military commanders do not have a culture of working together, as is often the case. This may well be due to a lack of trust among those players because of past behavior. The commanding officers of a peacekeeping force will find it easier to persuade their local counterparts to cooperate with each other and thus facilitate the establishment of a broad-based national consensus in the host country, if they have already won their confidence and respect.

Friendly patrols on foot, rather than an excessive use of armored vehicles driven at high speed, are likely to win the hearts and minds of the population. Sensitive treatment at control posts, for example by ensuring that women are only searched by female officers, is also essential. Joint patrols with local forces or police officers may remove any grounds for suspicion by the population and government officials as to the activities of what is essentially a sizeable and well-armed group of foreigners. Conspicuous display of arms and weapons should be discouraged. Where such simple practices are not followed, the peacekeeping force may quickly resemble an army of occupation.

Regarding the composition of peacekeeping forces, I note that roughly ten percent of uniformed personnel in current UN peacekeeping forces is made up of police officers. This trend should be encouraged further, as the evolving nature of peacekeeping tasks requires a greater amount of conventional police work in post-conflict societies. We should also endeavor to get the right ratio of combat troops and support personnel, as many countries prefer not to provide combat forces or critical enablers like transport assets or intelligence units, which are all in short supply.

As a final remark, I would like to emphasize the need to integrate the political and socio-economic dimension of peace building into our peace support operations, in order to create societies that can sustain peace on their own long after peacekeeping forces depart their country.


[1] The text of a statement made by Ambassador Hasan Göğüş, Director General, Multi-lateral Political  Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs  during the conference on “Peace Support Operations” organized by Bilkent University and CESS of Netherlands on 12-13 November 2007.

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