Column : Reform call at the UN

U.N. logo pattern a press conference background at the United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

 BY: Yasin Aktay*

The 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York City, U.S. today. At the meeting, leaders of the UN member states will address the General Assembly concerning global problems. The objective of the annual General Assembly is primarily to bring a constant consultation mechanism together of the highest authorities to prevent what had happened before the Second World War from happening again. Hence, it aims is to make global peace and security sustainable and make the UN’s contribution to this sustainability effective

However, when the international disagreements and conflicts are examined globally, in terms of both the UN’s past and its present, it is difficult to say that the UN has come close to this goal. The reaction of the UN to the tragedy in Syria, where every kind of atrocity has occurred including chemical weapon attacks and mass murders, which as Turkey we experienced very closely and bitterly, was a great silence. It is also difficult to form sentences to describe the passivity of the UN regarding the conflicts occurring in Africa.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who emphasized that this organization was born out of the need for global peace and defended that it should be put into a reform process accordingly, stated that “The world is more than five,” which became a slogan of hope for oppressed geographies, and was an indicator pointing to a need concerning the inefficiency of the UN.

Another indication of this need came from the highest level, from U.S. President Trump, prior to this year’s General Assembly. The U.S. leader gave a speech at the meeting titled “UN Reform,” held by the U.S., at the UN before the General Assembly and he stated that the UN had not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement. The real tragedy was that UN Secretary General António Guterres, the public face of the UN, said that he agreed with Trump.

Reforming the UN is an issue which has been articulated for many years. One of the former Secretary Generals of the UN, Kofi Annan, had put an emphasis on this need in the 1990s and prepared a reform plan for the UN. Some changes in the decision-making mechanisms of the UN, which could be described as “not enough but yes,” were offered, but the plan couldn’t be put into effect since they were not in the interests of the U.S. back then. In those passing years, demands for a change were constantly put forward, but a result could not be achieved.

At this point, hearing the U.S. president talk about a reform at the UN awakens astonishment and curiosity. Because it was the U.S. administration that rendered the previous reform suggestion obsolete. However, when you analyze Trump’s reform suggestion and the Goodwill Document which was presented for signing by the U.S., you can easily grasp that the UN was not really suggested a reform and that  the impression of doing a great job, with trivial details, was trying to be presented.

According to Trump, the most important reason for the inefficiency of the UN is the intensive bureaucracy of the UN. The reason for this is that even though the number of the UN employees has increased by 140 percent since 2000, its efficiency has not improved. It seems like the real problem of the UN is that while the costs in the UN have been increasing, the work load has not increased. However, it can be understood that the problems such as having five permanent members in the Security Council, the executive organ of the UN and those members having double veto powers, the status of the non-permanent members of the Security Council and their efficiency in the decision-making mechanisms, and geographical distribution of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council does not reduce the UN’s efficiency, according to the U.S.

Under these circumstances, we are expected to believe that it is the employees working on a salary basis in the UN and civil servants putting extra burden on the U.S. finance who could not put an end to the humanity’s tragedy in Syria, not the five permanent member states of the Security Council of the UN!

The UN needs a radical reform. If this requirement can be seen and met today, bigger explosions will be prevented. Otherwise, there is no doubt that the UN will experience the same dramatic end as the League of Nations and that the destruction will be much greater this time. Trump’s reform suggestion is only significant in that it includes the word reform; the rest is just verbiage. A reform package that does not include the changes the UN needs will not even save the day when what has been happening in Syria and Rakhine are taken into consideration.


*Yasin Aktay is a member of the Turkish parliament and a leading figure of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey. (Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on September 20,  2017)