Home > Interviews, LIBYA, UN Security Council > Does UN need reforming? Interview

Does UN need reforming? Interview

Friday, April 15, 2011

Laaska News April 15,2011

Kudashkina Ekaterina (Apr 14 VOR)

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Interview with Alexander Gorelik, the Director of the UN Information Center in Moscow, Russia.

Mr Gorelik, thank you very much for joining us. As far as I understand, the discussions about the need to reform the United Nations have been there for quite a long time. So when and how did they start?

First of all, UN reform is a very broad issue, and, as far as I can understand, this is mainly the reform of the Security Council, because UN reform has to do with the way manual bodies are being governed or organized, but also it has to do with the way the UN system works, with some agencies being more prominent, more proactive, than others; member states willing to reshape the UN system, but my feeling is that in a day-communiqué in the statement, that’s you are referring to, members of big groups, most possibly they concentrate on the Security Council.

And what could be the reform of the Security Council? Could you explain it in more detail?

Basically, it is an important political issue, one of the very few issues on the UN agenda, that are really sensitive in terms of affecting the global affairs. There is a broadly showed view among member states and in the international community, that the UN Security Council has to be reformed, has to be enlarged to better reflect realities of the Post-Cold War Era. Negotiations on reforming the council have been on going for quite a while since mid 90s, and while there is a strong feeling among very many member states, that Security Council has to be enlarged, has to become more representative. Still there are divisions as to how to reform the Security Council, what member states should be on the council (permanently a few wish), what prerogatives new members would have, whether they would handle the so-called veto and so on. So it is a broad geopolitical issue.

But Mr Gorelik, as I have been talking to different experts, some of them were telling me that now there is a separate issue of the UN image at search. Are there any image-building measures, the United Nations is going to take to strengthen its image?

The UN image is linked to the efficiency and the effectiveness of the United Nations; it is not only about reforming the body, it has to do with the way the UN grapples with the major global problems. Of late some of these steps, taken by the United Nations, including its Security Council, basically testified these renewed willingness to be relevant to remain at the center of global affairs; like the way the United Nations has been handling the crises in Northern Africa, in the Middle East. So these are examples of UN new proactivness.

I have actually read an interesting analysis by the Professor of International Relations in the American University in Washington, David Bosco. He is saying that the UN decisions in Libya and in Côte d’Ivoire reflect effect; that the UN is now going through a “forceful period”. But those instances were also the ones, that seemed to have been joined most criticism of the UN Security Council, because some observers were saying, that the UN Security Council mandate or the resolutions, adopted by the UN SC do not envisage the use of force, which they observed in Côte d’Ivoire, for instance. So how do we deal with this issue?

It is a big issue, it is a never ending story, and I wouldn’t say that it is directly linked to the question, we are discussing with you now, UN reform. Basically, the UN is always in a very specific situation, because there are almost 200 member states, and you cannot satisfy such a big group, whatever you do or whenever you abstain from doing something. There are big groups of states within the United Nations, whose national interests differ; and most of the time decisions taken by the UN, they are sort of compromises, and when you compromise, it is very hard to satisfy all participants to negotiations to talks. The UN seem to be becoming more proactive, again I’m using the term in a cautious way, because there are critics already, who say that the decisions, the United Nations Security Council adopted, regarding Libya or Côte d’Ivoire, those decisions do not make the UN a neutral participant to negotiations or political processes, they do not make it an honest broker, but this criticism has been there for quite a while, and critics will always be saying that the UN should remain something like framework, sort of nice guy without rank to impose solutions on member states. For others the United Nations has to become authoritative, aggressive, proactive, and they would not be satisfied whenever the UN takes balanced cautious steps.

Do I get you right, that the United Stations is first of all an organization, that is supposed to take cautious steps and a well-balance to approach? Or this role of the UN is also to be revised?

The United Nations is not an independent actor, the UN is an international organization, managed by member states. Whatever political decisions are taken within the UN framework, those decisions are not adopted by UN Secretary-General or his staff. The most important decisions are being taken by member states; they are to be welcomed, to be praised or to be criticized for decisions that are being adopted at the United Nations. The UN is a reflection of the world, it is not an independent actor.

Interview with George Verghese, Professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, India.


Why would Mr Manmohan Singh raised the issue about the reform of the UN and other international bodies?

The old UN system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Cooperation, all were set up in 1945-1947; the membership, the voting structure, the rules, they are all out-of-date, and the UN must reflect the modern world. That time the UN and the World Bank had about 40–45 members, now there are almost 180-190 members, and many of these have come recently, and they also have to be properly accommodated. I’m not sure that Mr Manmohan Singh is mentioning this, but I’m mentioning this. There is a growing concern in India about the resolution, taken by the UN, to support the action in Libya, and then one doesn’t know, what is happening then, and now NATO has taken over. And where will it end – now the UN is there; everyone is made responsible within the UN, but it is a purely American-British-French operation. That is extremely worrying; and in Afghanistan also NATO has come to that, and all the insolence is on the United Nations. I’m not sure, that Manmohan Singh touched that; our country is the third ally to the fact. The Britain World Conference, which was called in late 1980s or earlier 1990s, was invented by UN for some of these matters. These old structures call for some review and some kind of better accommodation of all the UN countries.

I have seen some queer, to my mind, pieces of analyses, which say that the role UN has been playing in Libya and in Ivory Coast seems to signify, that this organization tries to update its image, being active, taking on responsibility for something, even amounting to military strikes. Do you think that is a valid explanation of what is going on in Libya and in Ivory Coast?

In Libya there is UN resolution, but all the idea was to protect civilians from being attacked by Gaddafi’s army, but now it became a sort of civil war, and the question is who are the rebels, are they one group, are they many? Libya has tribal society, so this became a tribal fight. Of course Gaddafi is still the Head of State, but a lot of tribes interested in rivalry on their own. It is to realize, what the UN supposed to be doing, who is supposed to be fighting, who is supposed to be protecting; and civilians have been killed in the process, and then inquiry is going on. The Ivory Coast is another matter. What is being used more is this resolution; the UN has a right to protect, when a government violates the human rights, when the citizens are helpless, then the United Nations has the right to protect the people, and that give it the right to interfere. Now the international role of the UN is growing, but how is this done. All these questions need to be looked at. We need to have a look at these bodies: one is economic-financial body, the other are the political and social bodies of the United Nations, because all these bodies have the illimitable membership, and their functions are now rather out-of-dating.

Am I correct in my perception, that several decades ago the image of UN was much healthier, than it is now?

I think, it was healthier, but that is much more a body; in the last 20-30 years the membership is probably doubled; there was the African decolonization in the late 60s-70s, so about 40-50 new states were accepted. Now figures are higher. But certainly the War in Iraq or in Afghanistan, all these have devalued the UN. Now Libya is a question mark, as what is happening there and what will follow next.

Do you see any completion to UN, coming from search new international organizations like BRICS, for instance?

People don’t find the UN satisfactory for some reasons. Now the Western Alliance doesn’t find the UN satisfactory for using NATO more and more. That is one example. So you have bodies like that. And then in some cases one sees that another reasonable bodies, the organizations in African community, the Shanghai group may not be very effective bodies, but regional bodies look at things in their own way, try to sort the things out. They are obliged to support the Libya issue, but now they are not very certain, whether they are very happy with it. There is an old question mark, one doesn’t know, how things would change, but the idea, that it rather will happen, when the crisis is up.

Laaska News.