Have you have considered the idea of a referendum on our UN membership? Yes it does sound that weird to even consider it. Nonetheless, if we are to continue to copy the Swiss in becoming referendum mad, it wouldn’t seem too bizarre given that they had one on UN membership in 2002. They voted to join by a percentage share of 54.6%.
This coming Wednesday will be UN Day, and after its creation in 1945 in San Francisco. The soul aim in practice was to prevent another world war, by twenty-nine nations ratifying the UN Charter.
Chapter 1 of the charter outlines the UN’s purpose as being to uphold the ‘equality and self-determination of nations, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms’ and ‘to use peaceful means to resolve conflicts.’ However, the UN has grown since to include co-operation on climate change, such as the Kyoto protocol, hence why now would make suitable timing to question our membership.
To provide a brief overview of the Swiss referendum, the No campaign said that UN membership would mean a loss of sovereignty, end Switzerland’s long-standing tradition of political neutrality, and that the country would be obliged to use its military in UN missions. This in essence, was a battle for the soul of the nation, yet voters opted to join. The Yes campaign stood on a platform to end what it called ‘isolationism’ so the country could fully take part in international requirements.
Furthermore, I believe the main advantage of UN membership stems from the idea that this intergovernmental organisation is universal, and isn’t just regionalist in outlook. It is global, to solve conflicts and disputes between parties by giving voice to both powerful and small nations alike via peacemaking.
One such example, in Sierra Leone was the upholding of the Lomé Peace Accord to end the decade long civil war, by weapon disarmament and to reestablish a ceasefire between rebels and government. This resulted in peace and an undisturbed democratic election aided by UN logistics due to peacemakers organised by the Security Council.
Also, during natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, the UN rarely hesitates from giving aid when needed. One such example being the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the security council deployed 3,500 troops with the World Bank providing $100m in restructuring funds.
Steps taken by The UN Refugee Agency, have promoted the upholding of refugee rights and well-being, to make sure that every individual has the right to claim asylum to flee danger or persecution in another state.
In addition, I do believe there’re deep issues with this organisation. The obvious being the prestige power of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council. The deadlock and power play prevented the UN from stopping the coalition invasion of Iraq which lead to the many failures we witness today in the Middle East, or the UN’s inability to prevent the Rwanda genocide of one million people, it biggest failure.
Another problem originates from the World Bank and the IMF, these institutions can force countries to undergo harsh austerity, under their ‘Structural adjustment policies’, as in Greece, whereby the Troika (EU, ECB & IMF) have imposed cuts to pensions, hiked up property taxes and cut government employees by 150,000. These UN linked institutions survive by making countries indebted, so it is in their interests to support a spiral of debt.
Along with the policies of CO2 reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, I believe this goes well beyond the UN’s remit as an organisation. The green agenda, in my opinion is wholly immoral, conjuring up CO2 targets and market regulation risks increasing consumer energy prices in member states, hitting the poorest the most, coupled with potential melding of member state’s energy policy. We also see wildly ideas of an international transaction tax to fund development projects, essentially creating a global welfare system in third world countries.
Looking from now onwards, maybe one means of improvement for conflict ravaged regions is to grant more nations permanent membership of the Security Council. This could include countries like India, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil so that more continents have a larger voice on vetoing powers, especially Africa and Asia of all places.
The idea of a referendum is wildly out of the question in Britain, but the processes and roles of the UN need continuous scrutiny, whether it be the complicated bureaucracy that stifles efficiency or the remoteness of the organisation.
Lastly, as a libertarian, UN Day seems ironic as we will see its proponents celebrate successes while standing alongside dictators. Awfully, one such being Saudi Arabia, not only having been elected by its fellow UN members to the Human Rights Council, but also it being chosen to chair a panel that vets the Council’s special rapporteurs. This is the striking truth of this irony, putting the idea of the UN’s human rights credentials into serious question.
“Le machin”, “the thing”, is what Charles de Gaulle notoriously called the UN, if this thing is unable to meet future challenges like the refugee crisis, it will end up becoming a hated institution by the masses, similar to the EU’s current situation. This week’s UN summit focused on refugees will test our expectations of the founding principles.