Has the United Nations outlived its usefulness? The signs are that this organisation may go the way of former behemoths that once ruled but are now history. By Kwame Muzawazi
The cemetery of historical endeavours, be it in the private or public spheres, is full of behemoth organisations that once ran the world but died for one reason: they could not adapt to change fast enough – invariably, the leadership did not want to listen.
Do you recall the ‘the Kodak moment’ campaign when taking a photograph could only be done using Kodak equipment? And just over a decade ago, at least in Africa, Nokia was synonymous with mobile phones.
With this warning from history, it is perhaps time to consider the future longevity of the United Nations. The UN itself was born out of a failed organisation called The League of Nations. On the ground, and indeed on paper, the same factors that precipitated the fall of the League of Nations seem today to be abundantly present and threatening the ultimate failure of the UNs.
Some think the United Nations is ‘too big to fail’; yours truly warns that rather, the UN is too big-headed to succeed for much longer.
We wish there was enough space here to catalogue the UN’s successes and failures year by year since 1945. But for an organisation that was created primarily to maintain peace and security, the facts on the table are as astonishing as they are disappointing.
Under the watch of the UN, there have been genocides of biblical proportions in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. It is as ironic as it can be that during time of the UN, humanity has acquired greater capability to destroy the world in a few minutes. So much for an organisation that was formed to guarantee peace and security for all!
Voting irony of the Security Council
The UN Security Council is only good at making the United Nations look like the ‘Disunited Nations’. Decisions at the Security Council have made it clear that it is ultimately the interests of the five permanent members that take precedence over anything else. And the veto power that each of those enjoys usually turns the organisation into a circus.
It is also ironic that countries such as the UK, US and France, which have started wars elsewhere in the world on the gospel of democracy and one-person-one-vote, cannot at the Security Council, agree to one country one vote. We accept that at the UN General Assembly the principle of one country one vote is tolerated because the General Assembly is a toothless bulldog more used to passing ‘non-binding resolutions’.
Africa has not yet found a resourceful leader willing to mobilise the peoples of the world on the matter of UN reform. If seats at the General Assembly counted for anything, Africa would be the most powerful bloc in the world with 55 seats (almost 25% of the voting powers). Alas, despite this numerical superiority on paper, Africa is the weakest of the lot as it has allowed itself to be divided along a diverse number of self-defeating lines.
If the leaders of Africa truly had the appetite to see a reformed UN, why will they not take meaningful action? September is approaching, which means another diplomatic pilgrimage to New York by world leaders to pass yet more non-binding resolutions at the General Assembly.
Will African leaders boycott this year’s UNGA meeting to demonstrate their displeasure with an undemocratic UN that is no longer serving the needs of humanity?
This column has in the past advised African countries to expedite preparations for adjusting to the new emerging world order based on racial tribalism, elected illiberal governments and emphasis on individualism of the nations. It is highly likely that we shall start to hear of nations leaving or at least threatening to leave the UN and focus on their own regional or ideological blocs.
Just in the last 24 months, the US quit two UN agencies namely UNESCO and UN Human Rights Council to vent frustration over certain issues. It is high time Africa follow this very good example of an action-oriented approach and take solid action and quit where it must, boycott where it can.
The world has managed to continue taking even better pictures without Kodak. And we are now able to make even better use of our cell phones without Nokia. The writing is on the wall – humanity will continue to see the sun rise from East with or without the United Nations. NA