Friday, September 24, 2004

UN-decisive

Even people like me who think the UN is a superb institution agree that it needs to be reformed. I agree that it failed in the Balkans, and I'd suggest it's currently failing in the Sudan. Expanding the Security Council is the current proposal - whether this will work, or just ensure that there are even more potential vetoes on any UN action, and thus that it becomes as ineffectual as certain Americans seem to think it is already remains to be seen.

Either way, it is about time that Japan and Germany were considered for permanent places on the Council. They are two of the largest economies in the world, and both have direct experience of being caught up in internal madness which has led to lots of death and destruction. The insight this might allow into future conflicts and the need for intervention could be invlauable.

Nonetheless, I can see where former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is coming from when he says "It's not in Germany's interest to take part in every important decision over war and peace around the world and be responsible for the consequences" - after all, look at the consequences facing Britain and the US after intervening in Iraq...

And while it seems only the Germans have a problem with Germany joining, Japan's potential membership is not so popular. the Japanese have been singularly unsuccessful in convincing their neighbours that they are no longer the same country that viciously invaded, raped, burned and gassed their populace during the 1930s and 1940s. Plus there's the slight problem of the Japanese Constitution which, though not quite so much of a sacred document as its American counterpart (on which it was heavily based) is nonetheless avowedly pacifist. How can a pacifist nation make a useful contribution to a council whose purpose is to decide on military intervention?

More confusing still is the inclusion of Brazil and India on the list of nominees. Include India, Pakistan will be pissed off - hardly a good idea after the on-off nuclear standoff in the Indian sub-continent of the last decade. Include Brazil, there is another country with a permanent seat (after China and, depending on who you ask, Russia) with a horrendous record of human rights abuses.

The UN needs to reorganise, that's for certain, but this whole thing sounds rather like it hasn't been properly thought through, or considered for long enough. A bit like my last post, now I come to think about it...

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