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					                                                   ESSAY




UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM

                                              RAMESH THAKUR


  Much has changed since the United Nations was established in 1945. New challenges confront
  the organization including global warming, global diseases and global terrorism. Responding to
  these challenges requires continual change, adaptation and learning – a hallmark of the stew-
  ardship of current UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In 1997 Annan announced major struc-
  tural changes to streamline the organization, follow up five years later by another initiative to
  clarify, simplify and rationalize the organization and subsequent efforts to streamline UN peace-
  keeping. The UN has also forged new partnerships with civil society and the private sector.
  Important as these changes are, reform of the General Assembly and the Security Council hold
  the organization hostage to the vested interests of key member states. There are a number of
  options to make the Council more representative including regionalism, population distribu-
  tion, economic weight, culture/religion/civilization and democracy. Clearly the largest chal-
  lenge is the absence of representation for Asia, Africa and Latin America. Currently Germany,
  Japan, India and Brazil have strong claims - plus at least one candidate from Africa. Should
  these four countries decide to act in unison, they could force reform of the Security Council



Speaking in the General Assembly in                           If the organisation is in crisis, it is a crisis of
September 2003, UN Secretary-General Kofi                      expectations.
Annan remarked that the United Nations had                        Its Charter begins with the grand words, ‘We
come to a fork in the road, a moment no less                  the peoples of the world’. The reality is that it
decisive than when the organisation was                       functions as an organisation of, by and for
founded in 1945. Yogi Berra’s advised us that                 member states. The great Soviet-era dissident
when we find ourselves at a fork in the road, we               Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed that, at the
should take it. Given popular perceptions                     UN, the people of the world are served up to
about the UN in parts of the world, the organ-                the designs of governments. The United
isation might well heed his advice.                           Nations needs to achieve a better balance
   And yet … A wag is said to have remarked                   between
that ‘The interesting thing about Richard                     • the wish of the peoples and the will of gov-
Wagner’s music is that it ain’t as bad as it                     ernments;
sounds’. The same might be said of the United                 • the aspirations for a better world and its per-
Nations: it is not quite as bad as often believed.               formance in the real world; and

RAMESH THAKUR, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University, and Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations.
This is a lecture delivered at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, 18 November 2004
68                                                            African Security Review 13(3) • 2004


• the enduring political reality enveloping and      warming, global diseases, and global terror-
   at times threatening to suffocate it and the      ism.
   vision of an uplifting world that has inspired       Reflecting the conviction that the use of
   generations of dreamers and idealists to work     force under international auspices may some-
   for the betterment of humanity across cul-        times be necessary, even in the cause of peace,
   tural, religious and political borders.           chapter 7 of the UN Charter spells out many
The United Nations is at once the symbol of          provisions in relation to collective enforce-
humanity’s collective aspirations to a better life   ment. Yet one of the lessons of recent times is
in a safer world for all, a forum for negotiating    that the UN is not good at waging wars. By
the terms of converting these collective aspira-     contrast, the organisation has been especially
tions into a common programme of action,             good at a slow, steady and unremitting effort
and the principal international instrument for       to find political, economic, legal and institu-
the realisation of the aspirations and the imple-    tional alternatives to military force as a way of
mentation of the plans. The organisation has to      tackling problems of security as well as devel-
strike a balance between realism and idealism,       opment, good governance and environmental
between the desirable and the possible. Its deci-    protection. In popular parlance, the United
sions must reflect current realities of military      States may be from Mars but the UN is from
and economic power. In a world in which there        Venus.
is only one universal international organisation        The ambitious project of international
but also only one superpower, the UN must            institution building is far from complete. The
tread a fine line so as to become neither irrele-     system of collective security proved illusory
vant to the security imperatives of the US nor       from the start, and the procedures for resolv-
a mere rubber stamp for US designs.                  ing disputes peacefully have also proven to be
                                                     generally elusive. The major UN contribution
                                                     to peace and security during the Cold War
The changing world context
                                                     took the form of consensual peacekeeping
The world has changed profoundly and fun-            operations. After the Cold War, this expanded
damentally, in ways both good and bad, since         to multidimensional peace operations to
the birth of the United Nations after the            reflect the more demanding complex human-
Second World War. With the new realities and         itarian emergencies.
challenges have come corresponding new                  In the meantime, however, the human
expectations for action and new standards of         rights and human security agenda had greatly
conduct in national and international affairs.       expanded and in the 1990s were often
Alongside a growth in the number of states,          expressed in the form of the so-called chal-
for example, there has occurred the rise of          lenge of humanitarian intervention.
civil society actors who have mediated               Increasing use was also made of sanctions as
state–citizen relations and brought a wide           an instrument of international statecraft.
range of new voices, perspectives, interests,        Often, the developing countries found them-
experiences and aspirations. Together, they          selves scrambling to resist, typically in UN
have added depth and texture to the increas-         forums, the fast-changing norms of humani-
ingly rich tapestry of international society and     tarian action and compulsory disarmament,
brought important institutional credibility          even pre-emptive disarmament and regime
and practical expertise to policy debates.           change. At the same time, the rapid pace of
   Yearly we face the paradox of the major           events placed increased demands on the
challenges remaining constant, while many of         creaking UN system and intensified the
the contingencies demanding urgent and               urgency of demands for changes in the work-
immediate action are inherently unanticipat-         ings, structures and policy responses of the
ed and unpredictable. But we also face today         organisation.
some challenges that were not and could not
have been foreseen in 1945, including global
Essay                                                                                             69


Internal United Nations reforms                        units often working together with partners
                                                       from government, civil society and the pri-
Thus the United Nations has to operate today
                                                       vate sector. This places a premium on co-
in a global environment that is vastly more
                                                       ordination.
challenging, complex and demanding than
                                                     • There has been a serious disconnection
the world of 1945 with respect to the norms,
                                                       between the establishment of programme
issues and challenges demanding urgent atten-
                                                       priorities and the allocation of resources to
tion; the actors in world affairs; and the struc-
                                                       achieve common goals. Decisions on insti-
tures in which their patterns of interaction are
                                                       tutional priorities are being made in isola-
embedded. The price of continued relevance
                                                       tion from decisions on the use of scarce
and survival of the UN is continual change,
                                                       resources.
adaptation and learning by the organisation.
                                                     • Finally, the report looked at how to attract
Set up to manage the world in the revolution-
                                                       and keep the best people as UN staff. The
ary conditions prevailing after a major world
                                                       organisation has to be lean, but cannot be
war, the organisation has had simultaneously
                                                       mean. Cost-cutting should not be driven
to reflect, regulate and respond to the chang-
                                                       by ideological extremism to the point where
ing circumstances around it. To be faithful to
                                                       relentless shedding of ‘excess’ fat turns it
the nations and peoples of the world who
                                                       into ‘UN Lite’.
have kept faith in it for six decades, the UN
                                                     Efforts to emphasise reform as an ongoing
must persevere in its efforts to consolidate
                                                     process are also reflected in a number of exter-
strengths, fill in the gaps, and eliminate waste-
                                                     nal reviews, initiatives and developments. The
ful habits and procedures.
                                                     Brahimi Panel looked back on the half-centu-
    Under Kofi Annan’s stewardship, the UN
                                                     ry’s experience of peacekeeping in order to
has been receptive rather than resistant to
                                                     bring it into line with the realities of the new
reform. In 1997 Annan announced major
                                                     century. In an externally commissioned report
structural changes alongside budget and staff
                                                     on the genocide in Rwanda, and through a
cuts in order to streamline the unwieldy body.
                                                     report of the Secretary-General himself on the
In 2002 he unveiled the second stage of his
                                                     fall of Srebrenica, the UN offered unprece-
reform programme, calling for a shift away
                                                     dented, candid and critical accounts of the
from endless meetings and reports and a
                                                     shortcomings in UN peacekeeping for public
greater focus on the things that really matter
                                                     debate and reflection.
to the world’s people. The philosophy under-
                                                        There have also been procedural improve-
pinning the 2002 report, in which I had the
                                                     ments in the workings of the Security
privilege to be closely involved, can be
                                                     Council, the General Assembly and the
summed up in a few words: clarify, simplify,
                                                     Economic, Social and Cultural Council
rationalise, streamline and evaluate. There
                                                     (ECOSOC), with greater transparency, wider
were five principal messages in it.
                                                     consultations, and a more focused and practi-
• Staff have to be clear on what to do before
                                                     cal treatment of strategic agenda items. The
   they can learn how to do it well. There is a
                                                     2002 Arab Human Development Report marked
   need to shed some accumulated responsi-
                                                     a milestone in the UN, saying what needed to
   bilities that are no longer relevant in today’s
                                                     be said with regard to good governance in a
   world in order to devote more focused
                                                     key region.
   attention to urgent issues of the day. The
                                                        To achieve its goals, the UN involves all
   UN has to simplify and rationalise its rules
                                                     stakeholders and forges new partnerships with
   of procedure and processes in order to
                                                     governments, the private sector and NGOs.
   reduce complexity, cut paperwork and time,
                                                     The UN works closely with civil society
   and increase efficiency and cost-effective-
                                                     organisations to combat disease, poverty and
   ness. Staff have to guard against becoming
                                                     humanitarian disasters, and to build, consoli-
   captive to the tyranny of trivia.
                                                     date and monitor norms. Another Annan
• The UN system is dispersed across the
                                                     achievement has been to make the UN much
   world, comprising a number of different
70                                                          African Security Review 13(3) • 2004


more welcoming towards the private sector.         become battlegrounds for vested groups to
The Global Compact provides the UN with a          carry on ideological trench warfare by other
framework of ten core principles, drawn from       means. Of the two major summits held in
human rights, labour and environmental stan-       South Africa in recent memory, this was not
dards, for involving the private sector in its     true of the Johannesburg summit on sustain-
various development goals. It has the poten-       able development; it was true of the Durban
tial to be an important instrument for instill-    conference against racism. But the burden of
ing civic virtue in the global marketplace.        changing all this rests with governments, not
                                                   the organisation. The reform of the United
                                                   Nations is vital, but root-and-branch reform
Reform as work in progress
                                                   has been held hostage to the vested interests
This does not mean that the organisation can       of member states.
rest on its laurels. It must not change reluc-
tantly, adapting only grudgingly to the pres-
sure of circumstances. Rather, it must
                                                   Security Council reforms
anticipate change, lead change, embrace            There is widespread concern at how unrepre-
change. The responses to date to calls for UN      sentative the UN Security Council has
action have been neither as prompt and effec-      become. The UN membership has grown
tive nor as uniform as they should be. The gap     from 51 in 1945 to 191 today. The newer
between the UN’s promise and performance           members have typically been developing and
remains unacceptably large. Few can be confi-       ex-colonial countries who brought to the UN
dent that the next group turning to the UN         their own set of priorities and concerns and
for protection will not be cruelly betrayed        thereby altered the balance of the organisa-
because the world body lacks the ability to        tion’s work agenda. The Security Council has
make critical decisions quickly, or the man-       grown from 11 members in 1945 to 15 today.
date and resources to act.                         Its permanent membership remains restricted
   For most people, the mention of UN              to five: essentially a self-appointed oligarchy
reform conjures up either one of two scenar-       who wrote their own exalted status into the
ios: reforming the structure, composition and      Charter.
procedures of the Security Council; or elimi-         When challenged to demonstrate its rele-
nating waste, inefficiency, bureaucratic rigidi-   vance, senior officials point to the UN’s
ty, costliness and so on associated with the       uniqueness as the locus of legitimate interna-
world organisation.                                tional authority. But its legitimacy is increas-
   Many are frustrated with the protracted,        ingly clouded as it becomes less and less
wasteful and counter-productive posturing in       representative of the international communi-
the General Assembly. The smaller states find       ty, stuck in a time warp. And as its legitimacy
the present processes too complex, protracted      erodes, its capacity to regulate the behaviour
and demanding, and altogether too formida-         of member states diminishes. This would
ble to be genuine participants and not merely      become a still more debilitating weakness if
ringside spectators. The frequent policy paral-    the Security Council were to become more
ysis in the two major political organs also        active and assertive: those who no longer per-
places a premium on the political role of the      ceive the UN as an authentic voice of the
Secretary-General. It is difficult, perhaps even   international community would simply disre-
impossible, for any one office to bear such a      gard its edicts.
heavy burden of global responsibility. Where          For example, in Israeli eyes, the UN lacks
the Security Council is united, the Secretary-     legitimacy because of the history of obsessive
General cannot possibly be an alternative          and disproportionate focus on alleged Israeli
focus of global dissent; where it is divided, he   sins, inability to assure Israeli security when-
cannot be an alternative rallying point for        ever the nation has been under threat, and
international action. Summit conferences           failure to condemn atrocities by many other
Essay                                                                                            71


far more abusive regimes. And so, even when         for example, when elected to the Security
the World Court rightly judges the                  Council, act more as representatives of Asia-
wall/fence/barrier being built on occupied          Pacific than of ‘Western Europe’, to which
Palestinian territory to be illegal, the General    they are attached in the UN system of group-
Assembly’s call for the court’s verdict to be       ings.
respected fails to sway Israeli opinion.               The Council could be so composed as to
   The Security Council risks a similar loss of     reflect population distributions, in which case
legitimacy and a corresponding erosion of           India’s claim to permanent membership
effectiveness and efficacy if it fails once again   would be greater than that of any other, save
to implement significant structural and proce-       China. Most people seem surprised when
dural reforms. International stratification is       informed or reminded that India’s population
never rigid. States are upwardly and down-          is bigger than that of all of Africa.
wardly mobile. A static permanent member-              A third possible meaning would be in
ship of the Security Council undermines the         terms of economic weight, the argument on
logic of the status and diminishes the author-      which Japan is included in most lists. That
ity of the organisation. The central case for       Japan bears a heavy financial burden in the
Security Council reform must therefore rest         UN system without permanent Security
on making it more efficient and effective by        Council membership amounts to taxation
realigning its composition with contemporary        without representation.
realities – not historical nostalgia.                  Fourth, representation could refer to the
   The reform agenda is held hostage to a curi-     need for the Council to reflect the major cul-
ous oddity. While there is consensus on the         tures, religions and civilisations of the world.
need for reform in theory, the agreement            There is, for example, no Islamic permanent
breaks down as soon as any one particular for-      member. Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and
mula or package is proposed. Once people see        Pakistan become the major contenders on this
the details of a concrete proposal, losers and      criterion. This is an interesting way of looking
opponents always seem to outnumber win-             at it, for it helps to detach Pakistan from its
ners and supporters. The urgency for reform is      local rivalry with India and focus attention on
now extreme. The work of the high-level             Pakistan’s considerable assets and qualifica-
panel, plus the dynamics of the international       tions from an entirely novel yet, from a repre-
political environment, has created a window         sentational point of view, entirely appropriate
of opportunity that, once closed, may not           perspective.
open again for some time. Hence the impor-             But is there not a contradiction in advocat-
tance of seizing the moment and closing a           ing improved representation in the member-
deal.                                               ship of the Security Council if it leads to
   If we were to start afresh, what would the       membership of countries which are them-
Security Council look like? How can we make         selves not representative democracies? One of
the transition from what we have to what we         the major reasons for Western disenchant-
should have today?                                  ment with the UN is the nature of the regimes
                                                    that end up sitting in judgment on the great
                                                    issues of war and peace, as well as the human
A representative Security Council
                                                    rights records of democratic governments. So
One major explanation for the continuing            a fifth possible meaning of representation
stalemate on a new formula for Security             would be to favour membership of represen-
Council membership is that ‘representation’         tative democracies at the expense of others.
can have many different meanings.                      The most common meaning given to rep-
    MPs represent the interests of their con-       resentation is in terms of the different regions
stituents. From this viewpoint, a country need      of the world. Asia, the UN group that
not be a member of a group in order to repre-       accounts for more than half the world’s peo-
sent its interests. Australia and New Zealand,      ple in an organisation that supposedly sup-
72                                                            African Security Review 13(3) • 2004


ports human security and popular sovereignty         European and Australasian countries are
as well as national security and state sover-        exemplars of good international citizenship.
eignty, is vastly under-represented. Similarly,      Their contributions make the UN system
it is unconscionable that Africa and Latin           work. They pay their dues on time and in full,
America are not among the permanent mem-             contribute diligently to peacekeeping opera-
bers of the Security Council.                        tions, and in a myriad other ways work hard
   Or should the Council’s permanent mem-            to keep the UN system ticking.
bership, in terms of its original logic, reflect         The world may have to address the ques-
the military power of states? The problem            tion of the unit of UN membership. If repre-
with this is the ‘moral hazard’ of rewarding         sentation is interpreted mainly in terms of
militarisation.                                      regional identity, it makes more sense to give
   Alternatively, should permanent member-           given permanent membership to regional
ship be a reward for or conditional on sizeable      organisations like the African Union, the
contributions to UN operations and activities:       European Union, and the Organisation of
representation on the frontline?                     American States. But what will happen then
   Against this, one could argue that Africa is      to Asia, whose pursuit of regional identity
the chief locale for the UN’s two great nor-         remains an aspiration more than a reality?
mative mandates of peace and security, and              Leaked reports suggest that the High-Level
development. Africans can contribute the             Panel might recommend a re-jigged variation
most to an informed debate of these two              of such an idea, with longer and renewable
issues based on direct experience, not book-         veto-less terms for major countries in desig-
based knowledge; Africans will have to live –        nated regions.1 Sadly, in the real world of bit-
and die – with the consequences of decisions         ter regional rivalries and enmity, this could
made and implemented; and therefore                  prove a pernicious formula for exacerbating
Africans should have equal voice in the struc-       existing tensions and conflicts in most
tures and processes of decision-making in the        regions. Just imagine India, Indonesia, Japan
Security Council.                                    and Pakistan – or Egypt, Nigeria and South
   It is also unfortunate that the permanent         Africa – forever fighting it out for one addi-
membership coincides with nuclear status. If         tional ‘second-class (with non-renewable, two-
one or more non-nuclear-weapon states were           year terms being the third class) seat on the
made permanent members, the status of great          Security Council.
power would effectively be divorced from the            Whatever formula is adopted, the challenge
possession of nuclear weapons.                       will be to combine the efficiency, representa-
   There is need also to provide a platform for      tional and value-order arguments. Membership
the views of NGOs and the private sector in          of the Council must reflect current global
the UN. They make up two important layers            power relationships but not be so large as to
of international civil society. Yet there is no      make it an unwieldy executive body.
official formula for their representation on the
Security Council. While there has been great
                                                     The lead contenders for permanent member-
effort in recent years to give NGOs a voice in
UN debates without giving them a vote in             ship
UN decisions, multinational corporations             A campaign for permanent membership of
remain disenfranchised in the UN.                    the Security Council cannot be based solely
   The United Nations, if it is to remain true       on asserting a claim of entitlement. Instead, it
to its soul, must be a place where ideas matter      must combine a mix of arguments aimed at
as much as realpolitik. On the criteria of per-      persuading the UN community of the merits
manent or continuing membership, an impor-           of the case; a strategy for lobbying jointly with
tant attribute ought to be good UN                   other leading candidates to forge a powerful
citizenship. Yet this is a criterion that seems to   winning coalition; and a strategy for identify-
be totally ignored. Canada, Northern                 ing and neutralising potential opponents.
Essay                                                                                             73


   Countries should be permanent members            four leading candidates – yet to prove it can
based on their representational credentials         take a genuinely independent stance. It is seen
and contributions of human, financial, mili-         too often as simply echoing the US position
tary and other resources to attaining UN            on issues of international security, when
goals. On these criteria, there is surprisingly     Washington is already far too dominant in the
broad agreement already on the leading can-         UN system. We need to avoid the twin traps
didates.                                            of slavish obedience (which would collapse
   If the Security Council were to have anoth-      the P5 or P10 into a P1) and instinctive oppo-
er five permanent members, four are clear-cut:       sition, which would ensure that it became the
Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. The fifth          Security Council of the permanently disunit-
would likely be Egypt, Nigeria or South             ed nations.
Africa. (If somehow the Europeans could be              Germany is Europe’s biggest and the
convinced to accept permanent membership            world’s third-largest economy. It has begun to
for only two of Britain, France and Germany,        play an increasingly active role in world
then Africa could also have two.)                   affairs, is contributing more militarily, and
   Opposition comes from three groups:              demonstrated the capacity to be independent
those with a vested interest in the status quo,     of Washington on the Iraq war. But Europe
especially the permanent five; the regional          already has two of the existing permanent
rivals of each of the leading candidate coun-       slots; does it really deserve three?
tries; and a large group who would see their            Brazil joins Germany and Japan in pressing
status diminished still further with the growth     to break the link between permanent mem-
of permanent members from five to ten. All           bership and nuclear status and carries the
three groups have found it expedient to adopt       most weight in Latin America. But in a
the tactic of divide-and-rule, convincing the       Spanish-language continent, Brazil is
leading contenders to compete with one              Portuguese speaking.
another. Only very recently have Brazil,                The four countries acting together can con-
Germany, India and Japan woken up to the            stitute a powerful bloc in world affairs. If they
realisation that either they will all become per-   form an issue-specific coalition and mobilise
manent members in one major round of                world opinion behind their joint campaign
reforms, or none will. Japan by itself, or          for permanent membership, few countries
together with Germany, would worsen what is         would be able to resist. Would the immovable
already a very badly skewed industrial–devel-       object of Security Council reform prove
oping country imbalance; adding Brazil and          stronger than the irresistible force of these
India would redress this.                           four exerting their full clout in the world of
   Each of the four has strong claims, as well      international diplomacy?
as at least one major, but far from fatal, weak-        The four have also been among the most
ness.                                               frequently elected to the Security Council as
   India, with more than 1 billion people, is       presently configured. If they really wanted to
the world’s biggest democracy and ranks             highlight the illegitimacy of the present sys-
among the biggest contributors to UN peace-         tem, they could collectively decide against
keeping missions. It is also nuclear armed, but     seeking elective membership any further. It is
its nuclear status is outside the                   hard to see how the Security Council would
Nonproliferation Treaty.                            have much credibility left if Brazil, Germany,
   Japan is the world’s second-biggest econo-       India and Japan stayed off it for a prolonged
my and contributes more to the UN regular           period.
budget than four permanent members com-                 While such a boycott would be dramatic, it
bined (Britain, China, France, and Russia).         carries all the risks of an essentially negative
There is growing resentment at being treated        tactic. In the meantime, there is the high-level
as an ATM at the service of the United              panel of eminent and highly experienced per-
Nations. But Japan also is the only one of the      sons from around the world. Their brief is to
74                                                             African Security Review 13(3) • 2004


examine contemporary threats to internation-          in constant flux. Charged with the stewardship
al peace and security, and recommend how              of the world’s collective destiny, it is both the
the UN can remain relevant as the core of             symbol of a common future for the betterment
multilateral efforts to address the threats.          of all humanity and the institutional means of
   From the point of view of the leading con-         bringing about such a better future for all of us.
tenders, the composition of the panel reflects         The debate over Iraq in 2002–2004 demon-
what is wrong with the UN, in that the three          strated the true test of UN relevance: both as a
groups of opposing countries are much better          brake on an unjustified and unilateral resort to
represented than those with claims to perma-          war and as a forum for legitimising the collec-
nent membership. And yet, judgments before            tive decision to enforce community demands
the fact, that in their profiles they represent a      on outlaw regimes.
cross between nostalgia and déja vu – as an               Multilateralism is under unprecedented
unnamed senior official was reported to have          challenge, from arms control to climate
said – may prove premature. This will depend          change, international criminal justice, and the
on whether the panellists deliberate and              use of military force overseas. At such a time,
decide in their wisdom as representatives of          it becomes especially important to reaffirm
the country from which they come and its              the role of the United Nations as the principal
narrow national interests, or on the basis of         embodiment of the principle of multilateral-
individual reflections on what is best for the         ism, and the main forum for its pursuit.
future of the organisation and the world.                 The causes and consequences of public pol-
                                                      icy challenges and decisions are international,
                                                      but the authority for addressing them is still
Conclusion
                                                      vested in states. The UN’s mandates are glob-
The UN must continue to change the way                al, while its staffing and financial resources are
decisions are made. To deliver on the core            less than that of major municipal authorities.
missions of the organisation, UN capacity has         Hence the dilemma confronting the United
to be strengthened. Structural reforms in the         Nations of doing too little and too late, or
Security Council remain stalemated and most           being over-committed and over-stretched.
countries see it as having been captured by the           The UN remains our one and best hope for
major powers. It is neither democratic nor rep-       unity in diversity in a world in which global
resentative. The structural flaws and procedur-        problems require multilateral solutions. But if
al bottlenecks in the Council reflect power            we want multilateralism to be the preferred
imbalances and conflicting claims on values            route, then strengthening the UN and making
and interests along the North–South axis and          it more effective and relevant is imperative –
also, in very recent times, along an emerging         for its performance has been patchy and vari-
trans-Atlantic divide.                                able. It has been neither uniform in its response
   In 2005 the UN will celebrate its 60th birth-      nor consistent in the quality of services provid-
day. This has been the age of retirement for UN       ed. We must combine our efforts to redesign
officials. But it is also the age at which, accord-   and rededicate the organisation so that in its
ing to Japanese folklore, life begins anew.           structure and by its operations, it helps to bring
Which will be it for the United Nations – be          about a world where fear is changed to hope,
put to pasture, or revitalised and renewed?           want gives way to dignity, and apprehensions
   During the UN’s 60-year lifespan, both the         are turned into aspirations – above all for the
economic, political and military realities in the     people of this great continent.
world around us and the vision of a good inter-
national society – the goals, principles and val-     Notes
ues to which we subscribe of a world united in
action on the road to a common destiny – have         1   This lecture was delivered before the release of
                                                          the Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level
changed. The United Nations was established               Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.
to provide predictability and order in a world

				
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