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from issue no. 01 - 2004

Reform the UN to make it “ indispensable”

«The need for a new international order to bring to fruition the experience and the results achieved in these years by the United Nations Organization is increasingly felt.» So said the Pope in his homily on 1 January, the feast of Most Holy Mary, Mother of God, and the 37th World Peace Day.
The saying “if the UN did not exist, one would have to invent it” is not just a turn of phrase of inititiates, convinced proponents of multilateralism. It is shown by the fact that even President Bush, despite giving signs of wanting to go his own way – look at American policy on the Kyoto Protocol, the International Court of Justice, disarmament, the Iraqi question – is not hiding the need to obtain the imprimatur and a certain collaboration from the United Nations in the job of the democratic reconstruction of Iraq.
While this conviction, in some way shared by all, remains intact, there is no doubt that in the context in which we live, if the “indispensable” international forum of the United Nations is to be made operative and effective, work needs to be done quickly and without delay on its reform. In 1945 the UN came into being out of the wish to guarantee equilibrium and security in the Cold War context, and out of the need to codify a body of rules of conduct and of international laws geared towards organizing peaceful coexistence of mankind on the basis of human rights. Today the new political and economic world order must take into consideration, among other things, the interdependence of nations, solidarity, methods for putting to work the rich legacy of international law.
Pertinent to this the General Assembly, in the 58th Session which has just closed, held a debate on the reform of the institution and produced a resolution (A/58/L.49) that reflects the actual context of interdependence and aims at giving greater political power to the Assembly itself, renewing its procedures and the organization of its tasks. To tell the truth it is a modest step ahead but one that registers the effective wish not to stop at this stage. The United States representative even expressed regret that the text of the resolution “ had not fully achieved the purpose of revitalizing the Assembly”.

The real question does not concern the ways of drafting but rather those of getting resolutions, which are documents of political and not judicial value, fulfilled. In that aim, the resolution in question makes provision for measures of co-ordination between the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. A clear statement in the direction of subsidiarity, which would entrust mechanisms of checking and control to regional jurisdiction and the groups of countries originating resolution proposals, is struggling to emerge.
The most courageous reform will have to be made in the Security Council, on the issues of the veto and the widening of effective representation of countries according to geographical, cultural and economic development criteria. A commission of 16 experts was given the task of advancing proposals at the next session of the General Assembly.
A further reform is taking shape also in the Economic and Social Council: the need is felt to transform it from a rather “ academic” body into a council possessed of the political power to prevent and monitor the large financial, economic, social imbalances that arise – or are even shrewdly created – when the fate of world finances and the economy are left in the sole hands of experts and interpreters of national or corporative interests.

The exercise requires goodwill on the part of all the countries of the international community, none excluded. In fact, the unilateral decisions or the ones in any case less equitable and respectful of the common good that are often taken, come out of a narrow and politicized sense of national interest, defended to the last ditch, according to the current agenda, by all countries: large and small, developed and less so. Civil society itself which is increasingly associated with the UN, understood as an almost charismatic social force for interpreting the needs, consensus and the popular will and for actuating decisions at the national and international levels, requires a new heart. On penalty of decline into “democratic tyranny” by the few – better organized and equipped with resources – over the mass of the world population and over local governments.
In fact, the Pope continued on January 1 last, there is need of a new international order « that is capable of providing adequate solutions to problems, based on the dignity of the human person, on a wholesale development of society, on solidarity between rich and poor countries, on the sharing of resources and of the extraordinary results of scientific and technical progress».

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