Buhari: “it is high time we stopped skirting round the issue and establish achievable benchmark and time frame for these reforms.”
The 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly of Heads of State and Governments in New York has ended without hope for the much-canvassed comprehensive reforms of the world body, particularly the Security Council, taking place soon. The Security Council is the highest decision-making organ. It needs to be enlarged and the number of permanent members increased to include the regions that do not have a representation.
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The calls for reforms have always resonated on the floor of the summit each year the annual ritual is held. It is of concern that a body like the UN should display total disregard for the yearnings of the majority as well as democratic values, as a minority group continues to hold to power for reasons of superiority in technology and financial might.
The situation has exposed the stench of hypocrisy of the Great Powers who control the organisation. It is illogical for the organisation and especially the six permanent members of the Security Council to preach democracy, equality, respect for human rights, win-win principles, inclusiveness in leadership, recognition and respect for sovereign states when they do not observe these core values with sincerity.
Undoubtedly, the stance of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China on the demands for reforms is an affront on the principles and objectives of the organisation. Of course, they know this even as they look to the other side. The frustration of leaders of the Third World was evident in the addresses they delivered at the summit. Their speeches did not end without a call for reforms, an action that is long overdue.
It need not be overemphasised that reforms would be the antidote urgently required now to reposition the organisation to adequately respond to the challenges of a changing world. Reforms will make the organisation to become more effective, efficient and inclusive.
The Great Powers have deliberately chosen to stick to the old structure so that they can remain the custodians of power and exercise overriding influence over the other member states. For the six permanent members to still believe that in the 21st century they are the only brainy group who can take appropriate policy decisions for the organisation is an oddity.
It is the global acceptance of the organisation that makes it tick. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the US and Europe have created the erroneous impression that the remaining member states, particularly third world countries, are more of observers and not bona fide members of the organisation. How else can it be explained that the door to the Security Council has remained shut against the majority members?
The system of nominating and rotating members from third world countries in the Security Council is most cosmetic and does not answer the yearnings and aspirations of the countries. The membership of the council should not, for whatever reason, be seen as a favour done to third world countries by the superpowers.
The General Assembly’s annual summit cannot but be described as mere jamboree, as the authorities have failed severally to accede to the demand for reforms, a demand that has always stood out in the agenda of many leaders attending the summit. Since the issue of comprehensive reforms came to the fore of discussions at the assembly, successive secretary-generals have been hamstrung to put it squarely on the agenda for debate and consequent implementation. That is because the superpowers will consider such a step as audacity that cannot be tolerated. Watchers of the affairs of the organisation know this too well. Whatever the contention over the demand for reforms, what is clear is that the advocates for reforms are not ready to give up until the restructuring of the organisation, particularly the Security Council, is done.
Arguments of pro-reform group
The arguments of the pro-reform group were re-echoed by several leaders in their addresses. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, while noting that the UN was the only global institutional framework “we have to address” challenges facing the world, said: “That is why we continue to call for the strengthening of the organisation and making it more effective by speeding up the pace of progress towards its reform, including that of its principal organ, the Security Council.”
Buhari made a bold statement when he said “the reconstitution of the Council to make it more equitable and more representative of our global community is both a political and moral imperative.”
Not done, the Nigerian President reminded those opposed to the comprehensive reform of the organisation that “a Security Council with expanded membership in both the permanent and non-permanent categories is in accord with prevailing international consensus,” just as he stressed “it is in our collective interest to do so.”
Buhari told his fellow Heads of State that “it is high time we stopped skirting round the issue and establish achievable benchmark and time frame for these reforms.”
In his address, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita called for “making the UN even more relevant and efficient for all by adopting reforms, including enlarging the 15-member Security Council.” He also called for an increase in the representation for Africa and other developing countries as well as the strengthening of the powers of the General Assembly.
Keita’s demand was germane because Africa has the largest number of countries in the General Assembly. Of course, the General Assembly is the only organ with equal representation but lacks the power to take and implement policy decision without reference to the Security Council.
Some countries made a call for reforms by emphasising the importance of multiculturalism in global affairs, a responsibility the UN is saddled with.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulad said: “Empathy, equality and efficiency should be the hallmark of the work of the United Nations.” She wants her fellow Heads of State to know that “being connected and dependent of each other more than ever, we simply cannot afford to be self-centred and ignorant. We all need to see the bigger picture.”
In his remarks, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi noted that “Egypt, like the vast majority of the world’s peoples and nations, has a vested interest in restoring the credibility of multilateral system with the United Nations at its forefront.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun challenged the world body to “show global leadership” just as he called for the “reforming of the UN Security Council.” He reportedly said the Council has “failed to adopt fair and sometimes defining resolutions,” blaming this development for the suffering at “the very heart of our region.”
He said, “there must be a reform project that sets out the enlargement of the Security Council, the increase of the number of member states and the adoption of a more transparent, more democratic and more balanced system.”
On his part, Namibian President Hage Geingbob charged his colleagues to “embrace multilateralism,” noting that though “democracy might have its flaws, but it is by far the best system that enables key values of the United Nations, necessary for sustained inclusive development.”
Curiously, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had warned ahead of the presentation of addresses by the Heads of State and Governments that the world was suffering from “trust deficit order.” When interpreted differently, the ‘cat and mouse’ relationship being witnessed in the affairs of the UN have created “trust deficit order.” And until the question of comprehensive reforms is addressed holistically, the voice of the ‘Lilliputians’ may not be heard in the organisation.
Other key issues raised
Sexual abuse: Guterres’s strategy to “prevent and end sexual exploitation and abuse” by UN personnel received a boost as over 69 sitting and former Heads of States and Governments became members of the ‘Circle of leadership’ created by the office of the Secretary-General to “demonstrate resolve and commitment, at the highest level, to eradicate the scourge.”
Already, the office of the Secretary General “has set up training for civilian, military and police personnel, improved and harmonised investigations, strengthened screening of personnel, and made sure that staff who are guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse can never find a job elsewhere in the system.” Guterres announced that “the era of silence and taboo is over.”
Iran nuclear deal: The summit provided another platform for US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tango in a bout of war of words over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which sealed the nuclear deal reached in 2015 by Iran, Germany, US, China, Britain, France and the European Union (EU).
Two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Some Leaders,including Buhari and Trump, called for a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was evidently clear that many leaders have become weary of the conflict.
Syria crisis: The Syria crisis featured prominently in the leaders expressing divergent views on how to end the conflict. Presidents Buhari, Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Aoun of Lebanon and Jordan’s King Abdullah were among those who drew attention to the conflict.
Denuclearisation: The threat of nuclear weapons to global security and peace was highlighted by several speakers, with a call for denuclearisation.
“The only sure way to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons is to eliminate the weapons themselves,” Guterres said.
He, however, noted that “such a challenging goal will not be achieved overnight,” stressing “we must take urgent steps now.”
Other issues: North Korea, climate change, the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin funding, Trump’s accusation of China meddling in US midterm elections, Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Qatar, UN Technology Bank established in June, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Rohingyas’ crisis and migration were other issues that were taken into consideration.