Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem provides an interesting analysis on the United Nations.

Over 170 Presidents, Prime Ministers, Monarchs and
other assorted heads of one forgettable or even
immemorable state or the other converged in New York
for the UN’s Annual General Assembly. To mark the 6Oth
anniversary of the founding of the organisation the UN
had called a World Summit of leaders .

The media has already dubbed it the largest gathering
ever of the world Body. And it could not have been
more dogged by more pressing issues as in the past
few years. It is not just the authority of the UN as
an institution but also the personal authority of the
UN secretary-General and senior management of the
organisation that have taken serious battering. If it
was a private company the whole board would have been
dismissed by their shareholders and each member should
be facing criminal charges with prospects of long term
jails or spending the rest of their lives in court.

But it is not just the UN officials that would have
been in the dock. The member states , big and small,
would also face concurrent charges of neglect,
perfidy, obstruction, complacency and other vicarious
charges in aiding and abetting UN to its present
state. The powerful countries especially those with
Veto powers who manipulate the UN or use it as an
'after sales ' service station to justify their
illegal and immoral acts against other countries and
the human race cannot absolve themselves of
responsibility. How can Bush be moralising on
corruption in the UN when his illegal occupation of
Iraq has never been made accountable to his American
electorate let alone the citizens of Iraq they are
lording it over? Now we know what happened with 'Oil
for For Food' can we move on to investigating what is
happening today?
However a purely legalistic of view of the challenges
facing the world Body misses the whole essence of the
organisation as the foremost global diplomatic and
political institution. It works on the barest of
political consensus possible between 191 states.
States, even the most insignificant, are jealously
protective of their juridical sovereignty and
theoretical equality with other states. The General
Assembly is where everybody can be heard and therefore
most difficult to forge consensus on the highest of
common denominators hence it is always a race for the
lowest common factor.
Politics will always dominate and triumph at the end
of the day. In that sense the current Summit is not
different from previous ones.

After three weeks of intense negotiations the General
assembly finally agreed a much-watered down 35-page
document for the Summit of World leaders to agree to.
Their Excellencies only provide higher grade fashion
parade, high voltage huffing and puffing and executive
posturing before ratifying what their diplomats have
agreed. The beleaguered UN secretary General, Mr. Kofi
Annan, had submitted a draft to the Assembly that was
considered both a personal and institutional auto
critique that was hoped will ensure that the UN never
repeats the mistakes of the past, defines a new
relevant role for itself and be better able to respond
to the needs of the peoples of the world.
They included some bold suggestions about reforming
the UN, Defining terrorism, meeting the UN commitment
in the Millennium Development Goals, addressing global
poverty, making the world safe from the proliferation
of Nuclear and weapons of mass destruction and
securing universal disarmament.
Instead the compromise agreed and being endorsed by
the Summit includes;
· Abandoning discussions about UN reform, which is now
deferred for the uptenth time. This is not surprising
because the countries that wield undemocratic power
especially in the UN Security Council do not want to
lose it. And those who aspire to join ‘the patented
club’ do not have consensus on how. None of them is
questioning the basis of the veto power rather they
are just in haste to join the club.
It is not just the powerful countries in the Security
Council that fear reform. The small countries will
also not want a reform of the voting system in the
General Assembly that (on several occasions) makes it
impossible to pass enforceable resolutions because of
the requirements of unanimity. Basically it gives
every state a veto in the Assembly. While it protects
their theoretical equality it often undermines
capacity for immediate collective action.
· Proposals to replace the discredited UN Human Rights
Commission has become a pledge to set up a new
council, without details on its membership and
significantly avoiding Mr. Annan’s proposal that
membership of the council should be by 2/3 majority
vote at the General Assembly so that States that
routinely ignore the human rights of their peoples do
not get elected on to the council.
· There was no agreement on defining terrorism because
the contradictory national and strategic interests of
the states were on collision course. Here again
decision is postponed. Part of the problem is the fact
that the Americans loyally backed by Britain would
like to impose their foot lose definition on the rest
of the world while many states would like a definition
that would make any of their real or imagined
opponents to be covered by the definition. All of them
want a state veto on who is a terrorist without
protection for peoples who are victims of state terror
or those engaged in legitimate struggle against
occupation, national liberation and resistance to
oppression. In spite of not agreeing to a definition
the British still managed to persuade the Summit to
pass a vacous resolution that criminalizes ‘incitement
to terrorism’. If we are not agreed on who is a
terrorist and what is terrorism what then constitute
incitement to it?
· There was no agreement on Non Proliferation and
Disarmament. Even the normally bland Kofi Annan called
this ‘a disgrace’ and hoped that the world leaders
will return to it at the Summit. They did but the
stalemate could not be broken. ON Wednesday Annan
could not hide his frustration further and castigated
the leaders of “…allowing posturing to get in the way
of results”. But it is clear why there cannot be
agreement. The five permanent members of the UN
Security Council between them control over 88% of
official global arms trade. A successful disarmament
will lose jobs for their citizens and may cause
boardroom coups and share collapse in their stock
markets. As Blair was blaring off in New York in his
pseudo- Churchillian call to arms against all manner
of global problems Britain was hosting its annual Arms
Bazaar, the largest weapons market in the world!
The nuclear proliferation issue is also fraught with
hypocrisy and inconsistency which that allows Israel
to continue to develop its capability while
threatening Iran to abandon its own. Also why should
the world feel safe that Nuclear weapons (until India
and Pakistan detonated theirs a few years ago ) was
mostly in western hands? Even Mahatma Ghandi would
have been wary of this “Nuclear WHITEMAIL’!
· A commitment to break down trade barriers was
substantially weakened by the contradictory interests
of the exploiting and exploited countries. The rich
and the poor cannot enter the market with equal power.
It will be a partnership of Mice and Cats. Free
Trade does not equal Fair trade. This has been
transferred to the next round of the WTO negotiations
where the Vultures hold sway.
With such modest concessions on all the big issues one
wonders what the leaders were in New York to do? But
the leaders and their diplomats are already talking up
the little concessions calling it yet another ‘break
through’ in two areas in particular. One, the creation
of a peace-building commission to help nations
emerging from war and on an obligation to intervene
when civilians face genocide and war crimes. Two,
the Assembly succeeded in fighting off the US
attempts to remove the largely unimplemented UN
Millennium Development Goals, as a long-term strategy
for eliminating world poverty.
Needless to say that NGOs and CSOs who spend a lot of
time and resources allegedly interfacing and doing
advocacy at these events are disappointed that their
Aid, Poverty, environment, Debt and Trade reform
issues have again become victims of global power
politics and horse trading between states.
In a year we are told is Africa’s year according to
Prophet Blair MDGs commitments have now become a
retreating pledge. If MDGs signed up to five years ago
remains a paper pledge what is the future for all the
‘good intentions’ that leading British NGOs , ageing
Rockers and assorted touchy-freely camp travelers,
became embedded with Tony Blair allegedly to save
For us and other poor countries in the world this is
yet another rude lesson that we cannot contract out
our development to the UN or the good will of the West
or their multi billion Charity-industrial complex.

Does that mean that the UN summits are completely
useless? My unqualified answer is NO. The world needs
the UN and the UN needs the World. But it needs to
reflect the wishes and aspirations of all peoples,
rich or poor, powerful or powerless. Its biggest
weakness is that it remains an arena for interstate
relations rather than a forum for cooperation between
While it is convenient to blame the UN for its
political failures adequate attention is not paid to
its many successes in Health, relief, development
programmes, welfare of children, promotion of
education, preserving global treasures, status of
women, and other marginalized groups but above all as
a court of global opinion. Its success requires a
willingness by all states to be willing to surrender
more of their much vaunted political sovereignty for
collective good. It is either we do this willingly
through the UN or continue to lose them incrementally
to even less democratic vultures in the IMF/World
Bank, WTO, G8 and faceless and unsavoury characters
who run global corporations in the name of