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UN: a reality the world has left

Would the World be a better place without the UN?
Forfatter: Thomas G. Weiss
Forlag: Polity Press (USA)
We cannot do without the UN, but a more creative and efficient organization would be desirable.


It was the future of humanity that was at stake, and questions like "who wins the next election?" Were peripheral. "We, the People" could mobilize, but no one had predicted that "We, the Nature" had been a more appropriate slogan for our civilization and for the planet. The Founding of the United Nations (UN) on 24. October 1945 aims – in short – to ensure peace and interpersonal understanding. Since the establishment of the UN, the Nordic countries have been among the countries that have most actively supported the organization in word and deed.

A conglomerate of organizations. With the creation of the United Nations, the formation of dozens of UN organizations followed more specific tasks (eg WHO, UNESCO, UNEP, UNDP). But as early as July 1944, the United States and England had, with the Bretton Woods agreement, taken steps to establish a system of international institutions to support a recovery through global post-war economic cooperation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and what later became the World Trade Organization (WTO), were to form the backbone of a new post-war economic world order.

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The years went by, and the world has changed with economic globalization as a driving force. The Cold War cast long shadows on world developments with economic and social discipline, with the United States and the Soviet Union swinging the bar / whip. Among the events that contributed to a different complex world than at the end of the war are: the demolition and neocolonization, the alarming MIT report Limits to growth, neoliberalism, 11. September and the "fight against terrorism", breakdowns in Middle East peace talks, the Paris climate agreement, the Fukushima tragedy, China as a superpower, the financial crisis of 2008. Internet, digitalization.

The failure of the World Organization. Today, the post-war narrative about the UN is difficult with a number bad stories and reports of failure. Rwanda, the Oil-for-Food program and the absence of commitment and presence in, among others, Syria and Ukraine are examples of the failure of the world organization. But the UN is no stronger than what Member States allow or how far crisis awareness goes. For example, over the years, the UNHCR has had different aspirations for the world's refugees than what the UN is capable of today, including doing something about the underlying causes. In a "world without passports", global solutions through supranational and intergovernmental institutions are needed in order to achieve the hope that global problems can be solved.

Today, the post-war narrative about the UN is blacked out by a number bad stories and reports of failure.

Reform matter. Former attempts have been made to reform the UN. New approaches must be welcomed. In the book Would the World be a better place without the UN? Thomas G. Weiss has chosen to answer the following two counterfactual statements: "The World without the UN and its Ideas and Operations?" and "The World with a More Creative and Effective UN?" Former UN Secretary General Kofi A. Annan recommends in the foreword the book for anyone who cares about the future of the planet. The UN activities are based on three pillars: international peace and security, human rights and humanitarian interventions, and sustainable development. For each of these columns, the author then assesses whether it had made a difference, respectively, whether the UN existed or not and how the world had taken off in the event that the UN had been more creative and effective. The conclusion is predictable. We cannot do without the UN, but a more creative and effective UN would be desirable. A lot of essential information, but also necessary and painful issues, is presented along the way.

Global ambitions. The UN's new big initiative is the 17 World Goals (Sustainable Development Goals). This is what the UN Member States have been able to agree on for the period 2015-2030 and thus a political compromise. Compared to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2000-2015, which focused on the North-South development axis, the world goals obviously match better to a globalized world's interdependence and sustainability issues.

The 17 world goals have been launched as national platforms, with the commitment of municipalities. But with the launch of the 2030 target, the UN's systemic inadequacy will not disappear. At the same time as the UN Security Council is blocking too many decisions, the many focused UN organizations are preventing coherent decisions from being made on cross-cutting issues. In a historical period in which nations are increasingly closing in on themselves, economic growth is also leaving its mark on global warming, the decline in biodiversity and large refugee flows – problems that are probably so much national orientering fails to contain. And how do we get the imbalance in the ecological footprint between North and South focused via the national platforms?

New solutions? However, locally, new solutions exist. The reliance on the vital supply chains and early warning lights of the uncertain future has brought renewed attention to the resilience of national and local communities. Yes, think globally, shop locally! – But how do we raise public awareness and awareness of global ecological security (including the biosphere) as citizens of politicians increasingly spin into a local and national distorted reality? And with a mechanistic consciousness. The UN is spinning into a reality that the world has left, and the organization itself has committed too many legends to a more holistic perspective, including the consideration of future generations. The UN was not reformed as the world changed after the last world war. A roadmap for a systemic change to sustainability – far beyond the world goals – was released in 2014 by the UN subsidiary UNESCO, but it has been forgotten in the world's alarm. From a third UN subsidiary, UNFPA, it reads: To succeed in a transition to sustainability, it requires a spiritual transformation of ourselves as individual citizens and those of our organizations that will embrace the social, global and ecological levels. Will such an educational project be carried out based on the Nordic countries? Who else?

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Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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