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The UN conundrum

Népszabadság Online - 24 mars, 2005
Hajnalka Vincze

If the year 2005 is that of United Nations, it is not so much because of the festivities around its 60th birthday, but rather because of the report of a High-level Panel of personalities, deposited last December on the request of the Secretary-General, and entitled "A more secure world". Indeed, the fate which will be reserved to the content of this document of a hundred pages will send a strong message, be it positive or negative, regarding the future of the organization.

The report itself had been used as a basis for the security-related part of the proposals presented by Kofi Annan to the Member States. It is like a true masterpiece of equilibrist: it succeeds in joining together under the same roof the refusal of American unilateralism and militarism on the one hand, and taking into account the concerns of the United States on the other. Nevertheless, the risk is great to see only one item, namely the reform of the Security Council to eclipse all of the recommendations, to which the contentious reform does not however constitute a prerequisite. Also would it be necessary to keep in mind the structural constraints of the United Nations. As was noticed by former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in its current form, the essential function of the UN is to be useful as an "alibi". Notwithstanding its impressive achievements in all fields not affecting "high" policy, it should be stressed that the Organization remains a fundamentally intergovernmental institution that its Member States use as they please, mostly to make thundering statements, to try to manipulate each other, or to mask their hesitations, their contradictions and their cowardice. The attitude of the United States constitutes a case particularly interesting to observe. This time, we will not go into the details of the ceaseless witch-hunts (attempts at ousting international civils servant who are not sufficiently sensitive to US pressures) or of initiatives to set up a kind of rival to the UN (a coalition of "reasonable" countries, under Washington’s leadership) - the two aspects being constant characteristics, which had already marked, among others, the Clinton era. As for current developments, we will limit ourselves to pointing out two significant episodes. The appointment of John Bolton - famous to have declared, this before 9/11, that “if the 38-storey UN building lost 10 storeys today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference” - is obviously not without significance. But the most revealing formulation of the American approach is to be found in their new “National Defense Strategy”. The document published in March 2005 stops short of equating, black on white, terrorism and international law. As it is written there: “Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak focusing on international fora, judicial processes and terrorism”.

Full text in Hungarian.



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