Four Ways to Improve the United Nations
Foreign Policy Brief #174 | By: Inijah Quadri | February 22, 2023
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Photo taken from: United Nations Peacekeeping (.org)
The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945 with the aim of promoting international cooperation, peace, and security. Over the years the organization has evolved, taking on new roles and addressing new challenges. However, the UN is not without its shortcomings, and there have been calls for reform and improvement. In this article, we will explore some of the ways in which the UN could be improved.
1. Strengthening the Security Council
The Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. It is composed of five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and ten non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms.
The permanent members have veto power, which can be used to block any substantive resolution. This has led to criticism that the Security Council is undemocratic and unrepresentative.
To improve the Security Council there should be an increase in the number of permanent members to make it more representative of the world’s population, and to give more countries a say in global decision-making. There also a reform to the veto power, for example by limiting its use to issues that directly affect the national security of the veto-wielding state.
2. Reforming the General Assembly
The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the UN, where all member states have equal representation. However, it is often criticized as being too large and unwieldy, and its decisions are not legally binding. The General Assembly currently has 193 member states, with a range in population size from Nauru (around 10,000) to China (over 1 billion).
To make the General Assembly more effective there have been proposals to reduce its size and give it more authority. This could involve reducing the number of member states represented in the General Assembly or establishing a smaller body made up of representatives from different regions, with each region having an equal number of representatives.
The selection of countries for each region and the number of countries in each region would likely be decided through negotiations among member states, possibly through a process similar to the current system of regional groups within the UN. Such a body could be more efficient and effective in making decisions than the current General Assembly.
<< Top 5 nations / permanent UN members by number of vetoes issued against resolutions.
Chart taken from: The UN
(click or tap to enlargen)
3. Strengthening the UN’s Peacekeeping Operations
Peacekeeping is one of the core functions of the UN, and the organization has deployed peacekeeping missions to many conflict zones around the world. However, some peacekeeping operations have faced criticism for being underfunded, understaffed, and lacking in resources. To improve peacekeeping, we hope to see more proposals to increase funding and resources for peacekeeping operations, as well as to improve the training and preparation of peacekeepers. The current budget for UN peacekeeping operations is approximately $6.5 billion, and there are currently 12 active peacekeeping missions around the world. The types of missions range from helping to maintain a ceasefire to supporting political processes and protecting civilians.
In addition, incidents of abuse committed by peacekeepers, such as sexual exploitation of civilians, continue to tarnish the reputation of UN peacekeeping missions. These incidents are often underreported, and even when reported, the perpetrators often go unpunished. More needs to be done to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions and that victims receive justice and support. Examples of incidents of abuse committed by peacekeepers include cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic and Haiti.
Photo taken from: International Crisis Group
4. Addressing Human Rights Abuses
The UN has a responsibility to promote and protect human rights around the world. However, it has been criticized for not doing enough to address human rights abuses in countries such as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
The Commission on Human Rights, which was the main UN body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights until it was replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006, had several limitations that hindered its effectiveness. One of the most significant limitations was its membership, which was composed of member states elected by the UN General Assembly. The process of selecting members often resulted in countries with poor human rights records being elected to the Commission, which raised questions about the body’s credibility and independence. Examples of countries with poor human rights records that have sat on the Commission on Human Rights in the past include China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe. These countries could use their position to deflect attention from their own human rights violations and block efforts to investigate and address human rights abuses in other countries.
The UN is an essential organization for promoting international cooperation and maintaining global peace and security. However, it is not without its flaws, and there is a growing consensus that the organization needs to be reformed and improved. The proposals outlined in this article are just a few examples of the many ways in which the UN could be strengthened.
Ultimately, the success of the UN will depend on the commitment and dedication of its member states, as well as the willingness of civil society and other stakeholders to engage with the organization. By working together, we can ensure that the UN remains a vital force for good in the world.
Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available
Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action: (https://iecah.org/en/un-peacekeeping-stretched-to-its-limits/)
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner: (https://www.ohchr.org/en/about-us/high-commissioner)