Failures of United Nations (part 4 – possible solutions)

As it became clear from the first three parts of “Failures of United Nations,” there is much to do for the UN to look anything like what its charter’s pre-amble sets out for its vision.

To summarize the most generic and underlying (for all UN agencies) reasons of the UN failures are:

  1. The UN has deviated from its primary role of preventing conflicts and over-extended into fields extending from education, to health, to humanitarian issues, to social and cultural fields.
  2. The UN today has emerged as an overextended empire with vested interests to enlarging its extent from New York to Paris to Rome and all sorts of UN advisors present from Africa to East Timor.
  3. The UN bureaucracy is too heavy and flabby with no justifiable functions.
  4. Millions of US dollars are spent on United Nations functions and operations other than the primary role of conflict prevention.
  5. UN operations and functions which could be performed by regional organisations or players are abrogated or duplicated by United Nations organisations.
  6. Millions of UN dollars are spent on various committee meetings and honorariums to their select members which have no connection at all with global security.
  7. Non-traditional security threats are being given priority at the expense of conflict prevention. This again is part of United Nations empire-building by vested interests.

While admittedly there are worthwhile, inspiring stories and exceptions among UN agencies, the large chunk of the UN, like a dinosaur’s rotting flesh and bones, make the stink spread far and wide, obfuscating the few healthy and productive organs it has. As of 2011, the UN remains what it has always been: for most part a debating society, a humanitarian relief organization, and an occasionally useful resort for power diplomacy.

The part blame of UN failures rests with the mindset of UN administrators, who think that no problem in the world is too intractable to be solved by negotiation. These mandarins fail to grasp that men with guns do not respect men with lotus flower. A good example of this incomprehension was Annan’s negotiations with Saddam Hussein. In 1998, Annan undertook shuttle diplomacy to Baghdad, reached a deal with Saddam to continue weapons inspections, and declared him “a man I can do business with.” Almost immediately Saddam flouted his agreement with Annan.

No doubt the UN, conceived in the context (before discoveries/inventions/introduction of DNA, cell phones, computers/Internet, neurosciences, global economy, reserve currency, and the list goes on) and accordance to its own times and needs, must be either dissolved or reorganized into a modern, 21st century global entity. The UN is highly bureaucratic, inefficient and obsolete as it stands today, a far cry from a modern global and efficient framework assigned to address and solve virtually every problem the world has been facing since millennia and only became aware in the beginning of 20th century.  The immediacy that is common place today did not exist when the UN was founded. Much of the activities of the UN were not known to most of the world. This is why in the first 40 years sanctions by oppressive governments were largely ignored.

Soem of possible ways of fixing the UN, include:

  1. Abolish the SC. Can anyone envision PRC, Ghana and the Republic of Congo adheres to the same principles of human rights as Belgium, Italy and United Kingdom do? In practice, even if those conventions are ratified, there is little effort put in monitoring or enforcing them.
  2. Perform SWOT analysis of all UN agencies and either downsize or fully eliminate those which do not adhere to a number of pre-defined strict criteria. Agencies such as UNAIDS need to go or reinvent themselves dramatically.
  3. Drastically downsize the UN Secretariat and associated bureaucratic apparatus – it stands along the way of idea exchange, institutional innovation and cross-pollination. Bureaucracy needs to become a friend instead of being an enemy.
  4. Initiate a strong reassessment of UN human resources – downgrade/upgrade accordingly, in addition to tieing some of salary or other incentives to employee performance – yet another good business practice the UN can benefit from.
  5. Bring in network theory specialists and a study of how its practices can possibly be implemented inside various UN agencies in in order to increase impact and efficiency of their performances.
  6. The UN must loose/divert its military (and those adjacent complementing and leading to military) muscles. Passing meaningless resolutions against Israel, China, Russia, and the US with political agendas attached, historically served no purpose except to expose the UN’s weaknesses and soft political underbelly.
  7. Divert funds into world education, health and social development, letting go of political and economic aspirations in member countries.
  8. All UN member countries come to an agreement of having a “world police” –  the US tipped the prime first candidate (it can be rotational and performance-based). This country will not act under jurisdiction or other legal tie of the UN but independently as a legitimate representative of all the UN (and few non-UN) countries.
The above list is not comprehensive, but it can serve as a beginning.

The UN was designed to prevent the occurrence of another global war, which it did, without being able to prevent smaller wars/conflicts with even bigger human and other resource loses. Making the UN a more viable organization, more non-political and more relevant for the 21st century is essential for its survival and relevance in a modern world. Otherwise it should be relegated to the bone yard where its present course is now headed.