The time has come to talk about a new world order. The United Nations marked its 70th anniversary last month with the launch of a "new universal agenda for humanity", whose overarching goal is to "transform our world for the better by 2030".
To reach that aim countries will work determinedly toward 17 sustainable development goals and 169 sustainable development targets. The agenda is a plan of action, for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen “universal peace in larger freedom”.
Eradicating poverty in all of its forms, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and
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At September’s launch of the 2030 agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proclaimed it would bring the international community “to the cusp of decisions that can help realise the … dream of a world of peace and dignity for all”.
The agenda alone, however, is not enough. Much more is needed before the international community can claim it is a blueprint for a new world order.
In order to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom, the world community needs to work toward revitalising the UN Security Council (UNSC) – as it stands the UN’s most powerful decision-making body is considered a glaring anachronism. Only then will we be able to talk about a new world order, a concept framed in 1942 by US president Franklin D Roosevelt. “The United States, Russia, England and possibly China”, he said “should police the world and enforce disarmament by inspection after the war”.
Since small nations were believed incapable of defending themselves against powerful aggressors, Roosevelt continued “they might just as well remain unarmed after the war, thus relieving their people of a heavy economic burden. If any of them would try to violate the prohibition against armaments, the policing powers could then threaten to quarantine the offending state and, if that did not work, to bomb some part of it”.
Two days later, after reporting back to the Kremlin, Russian Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov made it known that Roosevelt’s suggestion had “the full approval of the Soviet government”.
This is how the UN collective security system was born. President Roosevelt’s four policemen, with France added after the war, were authorised to take military action to maintain or restore peace
Roosevelt’s vision of the Security Council as an international policing entity was crippled by the power of veto afforded to the five permanent UN Security Council members.
During the Cold War, the UN collective security system was never implemented as intended, and it was not until the Gulf War in 1990 that a joint international enforcement action was undertaken, against Iraq. In the euphoria that followed the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, which ended the Cold War, the world community was better prepared than ever to implement the vision of a new world order. But though hopes were high, the UN collective security system failed to operate as envisaged as the veto continued to cripple the Security Council.
The inability to forge collective action in Ukraine, in Syria and against the Islamic State demonstrates that the time has come to revamp the UNSC. Otherwise the UN risks a potentially fatal loss of credibility.
Since the UN was established in 1945 the number of member states has surged from 51 to 193, but there has been no parallel expansion in the ranks of the UNSC policemen. Most UN member states want the UNSC to be expanded.
But the central question remains: How should the UNSC be redesigned to face today’s realities?
The most obvious solution, the Gordian knot-approach, is based on one that mirrors the value system of the UN, which is a common understanding of how we want the world to be and to function. We want it to be more democratic, representative, and based on the rule of law and we want to safeguard coming generations from the scourge of war.
But the UN Charter makes clear that the Security Council must remain the master of its own rules and procedures. As such an alteration or expansion of the veto is unlikely to happen any time soon. And while that remains the case, the conditions remain bleak for the blossoming of the new world order.
PER SEVASTIK has taught international human rights law as a visiting professor at various universities in Asia.