Reform of the United Nations

Ever growing numbers of Refugees and Migrants – a reason to modernize the international political order

The global population is currently roughly 8 billion people. 65 million of these are refugees and/or migrants, to escape from civil war, poverty and discrimination. In addition, there are migrants who seek education or employment in another country, with a legal or illegal status. Percentage-wise these are a small number of the global population, but these numbers mask millions of sometimes painful individual lives.

What can be done? We have to act on article 109 of the UN charter

On the one hand, we can manage the flow of refugees and migrants much better. I have published a blog on this topic earlier. But we also have to debate how we can reorganize the international political order, which was created at the end of the Second World War, in particular through the founding of the United Nations.
The United Nations have to operate differently in today’s world than it has so far. A critical review of the charter by member states and a revision of its modus operandi are needed. In that context, the reform of the Security Council is necessary. But not only that! We have to request the activation of article 109. In this article the founding members of the UN stipulated that a General Conference of all member states is convened every 10 years in order to review whether the UN is still functioning well and addressing the needs of maintaining international peace and stability adequately. If necessary, revisions to the charter and the UN should be agreed upon.

The Reform of the Security Council

Clearly the reform of the council is necessary in order to become more representative of the current membership. My thoughts can be summarized as follows: The world should be divided into 8 regions and each region should have 2 seats, one permanent and one rotational. Veto rights should be maintained, but only a qualified veto would be permissible. That means, only when a draft resolution violates the spirit and the letter of the charter, can it be vetoed. In situations where the council members cannot resolve the issue, the International Court in The Hague should be asked to make a ruling. For further details please see my website under “Publikationen”.

Revising Article 76 about the trusteeship system

We do not have colonies anymore which need a transition government under a UN mandate, before they can be given a self-determined national government. But we have a number of failed states. Humanitarian aid should be continued to help the suffering populations, but this is not enough. We need a mechanism which allows the international community under a Security Council mandate to end a civil war. A general weapon’s embargo to all warring parties, a temporary government under UN leadership, and a peace-building military and police force under UN command should be instituted, when national political parties cannot reach agreements which avoid military conflicts. Today’s Syria, Yemen, Southern Sudan and possibly Libya are candidates for such a role of the UN. The agreement between Syria’s neighbours and the government in Damascus for peace zones should receive a UN Security Council mandate to reinforce the agreement.

The way forward

Regrettably it is unrealistic to assume that 193 member states of the UN will soon meet in a General Conference. However, countries like Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa should work for such a convocation and thus show their commitment to shoulder more responsibility for international peace and stability and their support for the UN and its peace-building role.
Article 109 paragraph 3 should no longer be ignored. This paragraph says that the General Assembly should put the convocation of the General Conference of its next agenda, and that a simple majority and the positive vote of 7 Security Council members suffice to call for such a conference.
Of course, such a conference will need careful preparation. But the UN secretariat has a lot of experience in this regard. In the 1990s the then secretary-general invited to a Millennium Summit in New York and 149 heads of state and government followed his invitation. It does not look that the current secretary-general will take such an initiative therefore member states should formulate such a request.
For too long have we published and criticized the disparities, the civil wars and discriminations in today’s world. The need of people to flee their countries should no longer be acceptable. Otherwise we shall all suffer, in the countries of their origin as well as in receiving countries, dire consequences. The UN member states have to pursue actively the protection of human rights in all countries. Law experts accept that the protection of human rights is a higher legal value than national sovereignty. We need political instruments to act on this.
In order to intervene in crisis situations we need to strengthen our existing tools. Instead of permanent members of the Security Council to unilaterally engage in civil wars, the cooperation agreement between the UN and NATO should be activated and peace-building troops should together with those of non-NATO members be sent to the territory of failed states under a Security Council mandate and with the aim of ending a civil war and to protect the civilian population.
We need a broad based consensus, that the international community can not only grant, but also withdraw recognition of a national state authority, when governments violate their obligations towards their people. It is time that the UN Charter is filled with new life in the interest of all peoples of this earth, for which they were founded in 1945.

Autor: Kerstin Leitner

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