Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The United Nations Is One Big Joke, So Let's Replace It With Something Better: A Free United Nations

The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.  But what's there to celebrate?  Seventy years of ineptitude, incompetence and ineffectiveness perhaps?  In my honest opinion, the U.N. has gotten worse over the course of the past seven decades, and no more so than now.  It's failed to prevent one humanitarian catastrophe after another and spends a disproportionate amount of its time scolding champions of freedom and human rights, like Israel, instead of going after the world's real villains, like the despots who rule countries such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Not surprising though, since many if the U.N.'s member states are led by illegitimate, undemocratic regimes - and this, I think, is the U.N.'s main problem.  Seriously, how can the U.N. promote and uphold human rights when some of its members are the worst human rights offenders?  Does it make sense, for example, that Saudi Arabia, one of the worst human rights offenders in the world, is currently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, along with other frequent offenders, like Russia and China?  Heck, in the fall of last year, some of the world's worst human rights offenders were elected to the council of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), "a top U.N. body that regulates human rights groups, shapes the composition of key U.N. women's rights bodies, and adopts resolutions on subjects ranging from Internet freedom to female genital mutilation."  (see: Rights abusers win coveted UN rights posts).  These are just a couple of examples that demonstrate why the U.N. lacks any credibility whatsoever.  So what do we do about this?

Plenty of noted scholars and world leaders have talked about reforming the U.N. for years.  Ideas like expanding the Security Council and even giving the U.N. taxing powers to solve the organization's chronic underfunding have been juggled around for a long time.  But as good as these ideas may be in theory, they don't solve what I believe is the U.N.'s main problem: members that don't believe in the principles on which the U.N. was founded, especially human rights principles.  What I'm trying to say is that as long as the U.N. is largely influenced and sometimes even dominated by states that do not respect the basic values, rights and freedoms that the international organization is supposed to espouse, the world body will simply never work as it was intended to.  So is that it?  Are we stuck with a United Nations that will never work?  Certainly not, because free countries don't have to stick to the U.N.  They can form their own United Nations; a Free United Nations!

The Free United Nations:

Who's in and who's out?

Okay, so what do I mean by a Free United Nations?  Basically, I mean a group composed only of nation-states that are free countries.  But what is a "free country"?  This is an important question, because whoever founds a Free U.N. will have to define what a free country is so that it can be determined which countries can be members and which cannot.  From my perspective, a free country is a country governed by democracy and the rule of law, where political and civil liberties are respected.  Simple enough, right?  Not quite.  The truth is that some countries are freer than others and measuring freedom is a subjective science.  Hypothetically speaking, if I were one of the founding fathers of the Free U.N., I would probably define a free country using methodology similar to that of Freedom House.  Freedom House is an independent human rights watchdog based in the U.S. that monitors human rights around the world.  Each year, the organization puts out a report and rates each of the world's countries as "free", "partly free", or "not free" (see: https://freedomhouse.org.  So if I were to use Freedom House's benchmarks for determining what countries get to be part of the Free U.N., I would allow only those countries that the organization rates as "free" to be part of it.  And, if at any point, human rights in a particular country deteriorate to the point where that country is only "partly free" or even "not free", that country would be expelled from the Free U.N. until such time that it is considered "free" again.  Enforcing these kinds of standards will be crucial for ensuring that the Free U.N. is a credible organization that can uphold the principles on which the original U.N. was founded.

Organization Structure:

I don't want to go into too much detail about what I think the Free United Nations should be structured.  I will say, however, that it should not be structured like the current U.N.  Most importantly, I would argue that the Free U.N. should not be an organization of diplomats.  Rather, it should function like any democratic government, with an elected parliament, an executive branch that is accountable to that elected parliament, and an independent judicial branch.  I do not believe in vesting too much power in a body like the current U.N. Security Council, where only five of the world's countries have permanent representation and veto power to boot.  Put simply, I believe that a Free U.N. should function as if it were the government of all the free peoples of the world. 

Why a Free United Nations is Better:

I am a firm believer in what scholarly types call "democratic peace theory", a theory which holds that democracies do not engage in armed conflict and are therefore more predisposed to resolving conflicts peacefully.  For example, it is extremely difficult to imagine the U.S. and France going to war with each other so long as democracy and the rule of law are firmly entrenched in both countries. In contrast, it is very reasonable to expect that two countries ruled by despots, such as Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, would go to war with one another, or that a democracy like Israel would be dragged into a war with the autocratic regimes of her Arab neighbours.  Hence, a Free United Nations composed only of free, democratic countries that share the same values will run much more cooperatively and effectively than the current U.N., where the agenda is often dominated by dictators seeking to enrich themselves rather than attend to the needs of their people.

The Ultimate Goal of the Free United Nations:

I admit that there is one great flaw in my idea of a Free United Nations: the fact that many countries and much of the world would be left out.  Yes, it's true that if a Free U.N. were created with a membership composed only of free, democratic countries, there would be a lot of countries and people left out.  According to Freedom House, over two billion people live under oppressive rule (see: https://freedomhouse.org/about-us#.VUBGNJP75K0)  That's a lot of people whose countries would not be part of the Free U.N.  Ideally, however, this exclusion will not last long, for I believe that the ultimate goal of the Free U.N. should be to make free the countries that are not.  These newly free states would then be able to join the organization, and eventually the only countries in the world will be free countries. 


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