An Evolving United Nations


Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, spoke recently at Chatham House on the topic 'Shaping a stronger United Nations' in which he eloquently makes the case that todays threats to international peace and stability are as likely to come from non-state actors as they are from states themselves. The UN Charter, held sacrosanct by many, in no way addresses this reality and it is only through political will that the organisation can be made to work in todays world.

The inadequacies of the United Nations long predate both Blair and Bush, through the cold war (which constitutes the greater part of the UN's life) there was often impasse and the UN was impotent to act. Only recently has the UN fashioned a role of sorts in sanctioning interventions, a role it has not historically proven much good at and even today falls short of expectations in Darfur.

Straw makes clear that change to the Charter is not the most important consideration - "UN peacekeeping, for example, is nowhere mentioned in the Charter, but it has been one of the Organisation's great successes" - but emphasises that the "organisation is a flexible instrument which is able to adapt though again, it has done so when and only when its members have been willing to drive that change."

There is much work to be done at an International level where cooperation on many matters will yield preferable results to those embarked upon alone. It is important that those who hide behind the UN Charter as it now stands accept new realities and embrace its evolution. The risk of not doing so is that it becomes irrelevant and illegitimate and subsequently unable to perform adequately even those tasks at which it currently excels.

Posted by Paul in United Nations Politics at September 20, 2004 05:17 AM | 0 Comments