THE UN AND WORLD GOVERNANCE
Sixty years of United Nations
With what resources?
The Collective-security Problem
Pre-eminence of the state
A narrow view of security
A (provisional) conclusion
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The document under discussion, The UN and World Governance, has elicited more than a dozen responses that address both the document itself and the questions that it was designed to raise. There proved to be little in the way of forceful reactions to the document itself, contrary to what one might have imagined given the nature of a subject matter that often provokes bitter debate. The document was nevertheless intended to provoke a reaction — which it certainly has — and most of the comments centre on how to move forward towards a possible future world governance.
Criticism is easy, art is difficult: in many ways this well-known saying sums up the main criticisms levelled against out analysis. Overall, most commentators were not dismissive of our criticisms of the UN, especially as we did not fall into the trap of limiting our criticisms to the age-old debate about enlarging the Security Council. Nevertheless, criticisms were raised on several occasions of an alleged over-emphasis on diagnosis that failed to come up with concrete proposals to remedy the problems that had been identified. “In conclusion,” one comment reads, “I feel that the diagnosis is correct (…), but I also feel that what is missing from this document are several possible options for the future, which could be used as basis from which to take the discussion forward. In particular, the final part of the document needs to be clearer in terms of the future role we envisage for the UN.”
A second series of critiques addressed our pessimistic view of states’ abilities to transcend their natural self-regard and to defend their “common” interests, which conflict at times with national interests. The following comment expresses this point well: “You can be absolutely certain that a large number of member states do not yet have the maturity required to place the common interest above their own neighbourhood quarrels. However, the challenges of globalisation and the depth of the changes that have come in its wake, as well as those posed by phenomena such as population growth and climate change, mean, to my mind, that we already seeing the emergence of a collective awareness, at least in the scientific community, which is gaining influence among politicians.”
Taking these criticisms as a starting point, three major themes emerge from the comments made. The first touches on the UN’s ability to deal with problems of world governance, be they associated with war and peace, the environment, the economy or hunger, to name just a few. The second is linked to the first to an extent, but is a problem in its own right: the role of the state. The third theme is that of the future itself, or more precisely, that of the management of collective problems, notably institutional changes in order to adapt to tomorrow’s challenges.