Sat, 16 Sep 2000

Structure and function of UNSC is in question

NEW DELHI: The structure and functioning of the Security Council is just one aspect of the overall relationship the world body has with its members, and it is in question in so far as the relationship itself is in question.

The Security Council no longer represents the balance of power it did during the Cold War. What it does represent is the will of what was known during the Gulf War as the Western Alliance, with most of whose interests Russia and China wish to ally themselves.

In other words, the strength of the Security Council is, now, vested in institutions built by the United States and its allies. We saw this during the NATO action in Kosovo when the United States and Britain bypassed the authority of an ineffectual UN. Russia made feeble noises.

It is part of the G-8, depends heavily on it for investments and credit. This de facto hegemony of the Western allies is also reflected in the fact pointed out by Gen. Romeo Dallaire, head of the peacekeeping operations in Rwanda: they intervene massively only when their own interests are directly threatened.

Kosovo is the only area where the UN has been able to establish an administration. Would that have been possible without NATO?

Look at what is happening in East Timor. National sovereignty is not a big problem either, wherever the right conjunction of factors occurs -- see the U.S. action against bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The facts that interest the future of the United Nations are as follows: 14.3 percent of the population in developing countries are not expected to survive beyond the age of 40, over half of them have no access to sanitation whereas the portion of the population earning less than a dollar a day varies from 20 percent in Uruguay to 86 percent in Zambia.

The bulk of the poor live in sub-Saharan Africa and, unfortunately, South Asia. International financial institutions are controlled by the donor countries -- again the G-8 -- and FDI flows cannot eliminate massive poverty.

Therefore, when President Clinton talks about reinforcing the UN's peacekeeping role, the concept of hegemony, comes into play very strongly, even though the peacekeepers themselves are often drawn from developing countries.

In Sierra Leone, it is the British presence which stopped the RUF and not the 11,000 peacekeepers who had been around for over a year. The United Nations will, therefore, continue to reflect this disbalance of wealth and technology generated by the unequal patterns of global trade.

New players will emerge in function of their importance in the global trading and strategic systems. The Security Council may undergo a new definition and new permanent membership may be created to include countries such as India. But we are talking about effective power here.

This may have shifted away from the United Nations which may be left with only moral power. Important but not enough.

-- The statesman/Asia News Network