Friday, June 30, 2006

Reforming the United Nations

On the 26th of June we celebrated the Anniversary of 50 nations coming together in San Francisco, in 1945, to sign the charter of the United Nations.

In synch with the political correctness of the post world-war days the UN charter established multiple ends for the vision of "a better world". The charter identified the purposes of the United Nations being the maintenance of international peace and security; development of friendly relations among nations; creation of cooperation in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and the promotion of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre to harmonize the actions of nations in attaining these ends.

The passage of time has transformed the world into a global village. The global demographics have altered. The movements of people, money, resources, goods and services have significantly increased and transformed the landscape of every country. The nature of global society has changed. The global economics is significantly interdependent; the global environment is a significant common challenge. The population age-structures, the needs of maintaining their living standards, renewing capital and servicing resource needs is no longer possible by the local geographies and their resource endowments.

Many countries have even far exceeded their carrying capacities for economic growth. Naturally they are pressed to seek economic growth by expansion of their geographic extents, by seeking resource controls, by innovating their business processes and extending the technologies to increase productivity. A failure to accomplish the end of economic growth through these means has pressed communities and even nation states to wars and genocide. We have built a global village without a means of governance.

How relevant, then, is the United Nations today? One way forward is to look at the operational success or failure of the ends within the UN charter. Another is to look at the relevance and integrity of the charter objectives themselves: what should be the real end, real purpose, or mission of a framework of global governance?

Should there be reforms in the UN or should we be reforming the United Nations? Reforms are a continuous process of adapting best practices, procedures, and changing business processes in a learning organization. Reforming would mean reinventing, redefining, re-looking at the purpose and ends themselves. Unless the purpose is different we will still continue do the same things but perhaps in a different way.

If we take the latter approach, what should be the fundamental end of the UN? Establishing a global government? Building a civilized world? Building a secure future for the world? Or really just building a secure world? Or building a just world? Should security encompass economic and resource security, dignity, and freedom? Or should it only mean physical security? What would the new charter look like?

The mission, the purpose, the ends are what shape and build the actions of the UN. That is why it is useful to look at the purposes, their relevance and role to make such an organization useful.

We all come with a history that we can do nothing about. Many a person or institution, even countries, may have fallen short of the desirable purpose, character and integrity. So why would the UN be any exception? But there is plenty we can do about things now, can we begin with what should the purpose be? History is useful to show us how today’s conditions are different, what structures are likely to fail, under what conditions they can fail, the frailty of human nature, greed; but history is a quicksand to submerge our efforts and to repeat itself if it were to be the basis of our present to do what we can and what we must!

So are we looking for reforms in the United Nations or are we reforming the United Nations?