Is the United Nations irrelevant?


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And how might international institutions such as the United Nations be reformed to meet such threats? EIA Roundtable, This presents enormous challenges, such as mobilizing troops and resources, and deploying in a timely manner. He touches on the issues of aid, trade, UN reform, harmonization among donor organizations, and the struggle against corruption.


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Sachs, Director of the New Millennium Project, proposes ways to end extreme poverty all over the world within the next twenty years. Pogge says that even though affluent countries have endorsed the first UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the world's poor by , this does not necessarily signal a real commitment.

Achieving Global Justice Seminar, Yet just as in Rwanda ten years ago, the UN is reluctant to use the word "genocide" to describe Darfur. Myers Fellows Fund Past Programs. Essential Resources from the Carnegie Council December 19, Live Stream Newsletter.

He observes that, having reached a low point in , the relationship is finally on the mend and that the United States will likely seek a pragmatic engagement with the UN in the future. Aside from the anodyne point that the UN treaty framework generally does not make provision for states to leave it that would surely not otherwise deter a decision by the USA to withdraw , the United Nations is admittedly a powerful microphone.

US withdrawal would not decrease the number of public statements made in the UN context that are offensive to the United States. The US maintains considerable influence in the UN system, because its extensive network of bilateral political, diplomatic and commercial relationships with other states gives America formidable lobbying power. The US can persuade other countries to vote with them, or at least not to speak against them. The work of the UN Security Council is arguably valuable.


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The Council provides a forum for the P5 to discuss and seek to reach consensus upon international security policy crises. There is no real reason for the USA to withdraw from such a forum, since it is difficult to put together diplomats representing the P5 powers on short notice — with the exception of the UN Security Council. Moreover the USA is uniquely privileged by virtue of the fact that the UK always votes with the US on the Security Council except periodically on issues relating to the conflict between Israel an the Palestinians , and therefore the USA effectively wields two vetoes.

One might ask what the value is of two vetoes; and the answer is that in exercising its veto and more generally very rarely is the USA isolated on the UN Security Council. As a piece of pure multilateral diplomacy, it is hard to imagine the United States able to conceive an institution structure in which its position could be stronger. That is not true, by contrast, of some UN specialised agencies.

Its principal mandate is to classify historical and cultural sites as worthy of preservation, and it sends out missions to make the requisite evaluations. The problem with this mandate is that after a number of years, UNESCO discovered it had run out of colourable sites to classify; therefore to continue performance of its principal mandate it needed to find ever more imaginative destinations to investigate.

Politics soon get involved. They quit. Other states will fill in the funding gap left by the United States. They plough on notwithstanding. Hence this is one model for the United States to deal with errant branches of the United Nations: withdraw, discredit them, then ignore them; and leave someone else to pay. The only remaining questions are a why the US did not do this years ago; and bIy the every other member state does not withdraw too. I do not know the answers to these questions. I do not believe that voters in western democracies are influenced in their decision-making by membership of the state of their nationality in UNESCO or the activities on UNESCO, and hence we might imagine that UNESCO membership is electorally irrelevant for a state that accordingly has no reason to be a member of it.

But that is lobbying at its lowest, because it does not represent a genuine constituency.

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Why The UN Is In Danger Of Becoming Irrelevant

If member states fall for such a trick, then they should not. A functional democracy ought to call out such an act. The Human Rights Council is a committee of member states that vote, by simple majority, to open human rights investigations into anything they want in any corner of the world. Therefore the Human Rights Council acts as a rotating subcommittee of the UN General Assembly, creating numerical alliances of member states who open investigations either of mutual convenience, or mutual inconvenience, to other alliances of member states.

There is a tit-for-tat quality to the issues investigated by the UN human rights architecture, resulting in the most incredibly obscure human rights issues being investigated. They are substantially less important than the annual UN General Assembly meeting of world leaders making miscellaneous more or less credible speeches about their visions of world affairs.

The UN Irrelevant? Not Yet.

The Human Rights Council attracts a number of journalists. But the Human Rights Council gets relatively little publicity in the broader international public consciousness. Because journalists are present, a lot of absurd things are said by different diplomats seeking a rare opportunity to please their foreign ministers by making a statement in a public forum. The Human Rights Council is a farce. But it is basically an unimportant farce. It should be important, but it will need heavy reform before it can become so.

At the current time it is a source of low-grade hostile diplomatic publicity, either in Ambassadors saying something offensive for example, against Israel or an offensive investigation being initiated. But this may be one of those instances in which the best way of combatting offensive actions in the Human Rights Council is to deconstruct them — in the Human Rights Council. There is so much wrong with the way the Human Rights Council works that it is very easy to condemn the things it does.

The members of the Human Rights Council are obvious human rights abusers. The work of the Special Rapporteurs is often obviously bad.

The UN's decline: Timeline | News | Al Jazeera

Their reports are unreadable. Nobody has any illusions about this. Can the Council be reformed?

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Now outside it, the United States can encourage an increase in professionalism, through targeted budget reductions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and through media statements. The United States should not reduce its UN budget contributions en bloc.

The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century

It is not merely or even mostly a matter of money. There is so much fat in the United Nations that the organisation can always find a way to absorb budget cuts. Or, as it has done in the past, the United Nations can just wait until the United States changes its mind about budget cuts usually upon a change in the White House or the next time the United States wants something from the UN , and all back-payments are found. The United Nations is not sufficiently expensive, even for its two biggest donors, that curbing UN funding is really that important to anybody.

Instead the way you do UN reform via the tool of budget cuts is to make small, focused budget cuts to specific agencies with which you are unhappy, and accompany the announcement of a budget cut with reams of publicity criticising what that agency has done.

Or if you really want to apply extended pressure, you phase your budget cuts over time, each budget cut being trivial but accompanied by a barrage of new criticisms and condemnation. UN officials are paralysed by public criticism, particularly where it is focused upon specific individuals and departments.

Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?
Is the United Nations irrelevant? Is the United Nations irrelevant?

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