United Nations at crossroads
Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 19
By Alan Hope - Trend:
On Sept. 18 the President of the United States Donald Trump had addressed the world leaders in a much-anticipated high-level meeting on the United Nations reform proposal. As the world, fueled by that speech, holds its breath in anticipation Trumps inaugural speech at the General Assembly floor on Sept. 19 a deeper look at the US supported UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s reform initiatives proves to be prudent, if not imperative.
What is UN?
The United Nations Organization (UN) was created by the 51 original member states as an intergovernmental organization tasked with the promotion of international co-operation on Oct 24, 1945. It was established after the end of World War II, as a functionally decentralized system, organized as a set of loosely connected communities of interest, effectively replacing the inept League of Nations.
At that time, the ongoing decolonization processes, as well as the onset of the Cold War, had derailed UN’s original mission, forcing it to focus mainly on the support of a large number of newly independent states. During the Cold War, the UN had played a role of a diplomatic platform that, to some extent, helped in handling the intricacies of the bipolar world’s reality. With the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of globalization, many had hoped for the UN lead development decade, which unfortunately was faltered by its fizzled peace keeping missions.
In the post-9/11 era, the UN has played a certain role in strengthening the international cooperation and capacities in the global fight against terrorism, yet not as effectively as it could have as it was held back by its bureaucracy.
As of late, the UN had become a complex system of organizations, agencies, funds, programs, and other bodies, the financing of which is very multifaceted and complex. Its funding is comprised of the assessed (obligatory payments made by member states to finance the UN regular budget and peacekeeping operations) and voluntary (left to the discretion of each member state) contributions.
Due largely to the increase of the UN mandates, the organization’s overall budget, formation of which is frequently referred to as opaque (as an overload of data with little or no explanation), grew significantly over the past decade, which brought UN’s annual expenditures to almost $49B in 2016.
Adding to UN’s bureaucratic and budgetary problems of the voting structure (one-country-one-vote) of the General Assembly constantly brings forth the complaints of a free-rider problem, whereby countries that contribute relatively minimal resources still have voting power and maintain control over financial decisions. As such, 77 states, whose membership includes over two-thirds of the General Assembly, consistently favor budget increases, while the countries which account for more than 85 percent of the UN budget are unable to prevent them.
Thus, the present-day UN had turned into an overstaffed well-oiled bureaucratic machine, which doesn’t provide much needed impact on the current problems, including unraveling and frozen conflicts, constant humanitarian disasters etc., as its decisions and resolutions still carry more of an advisory, rather than obligatory character.
It became an overspending enterprise with tarnished reputation, unjustifiably mismanaged and abused. Indeed, in view of ongoing military crises in Syria and Ukraine, frozen conflicts in Nagorno Karabakh and Transnistria, nuclear threats of North Korea, continuous humanitarian crisis in Myanmar amongst many others, the UN is proven itself ineffective, almost destined to follow the path of its predecessor.
What Trump wants?
Within the view of the abovementioned what does US President Donald Trump want of the UN?
First of all, like with many other things, Trump views the United Nations as a business enterprise that can be salvaged, if properly restructured and managed. Thus, Trump encourages the organizational reform of the UN, aiming at the corporate restructuring, which could enhance the accountability framework aligning “authority with responsibility.”
He wants to end the “business as usual” practice, by redesigning the UN’s mandate procedures, to exclude further redundancies and overlaps. Trump calls for the improvement of the UN’s management policies, including the human resources management, aiming at widening the geographical base to include those who are closer to the problem and may have an insider view of its resolution.
As a true businessman, the US president perfectly knows that the UN peacekeeping operations are cost-effective, as UN missions overall are eight times cheaper than U.S. forces acting alone. They also constitute the largest deployed multinational military force in the world (125,000 personnel on 16 missions). Thus, by optimizing the UN peacekeeping efforts Trump wants to keep American boots off the ground of a conflict zone, and simultaneously preserve US lives and save money diverting it to more pressing domestic matters.
At the same time, as UN’s prime donor, providing 22 percent of the organization’s biannual operating budget totaling at $5.4B, with the US’s total budgeted financial contribution of almost $5B in 2017 alone, Trump calls for fiscal responsibility.
That call is not for intended for decrease of the US’s financial contributions share, but aimed to see “results in line with [its] investment,” an also to ease the “disproportionate [militarily or financial] share of the burden.”
All-in-all, some adversaries of the Trump declaration are calling it autocratic and viewing it as a hostile takeover to be followed by the corporate raid. The reality of the fact is that present-day UN is already a lame duck, if not the one already dead in the water, which urgently needs a shock therapy. Fortunately, US president was bold enough to call on the so-much needed reforms as UN stands at the crossroads of following in its predecessor’s path or serving its true purpose.