How the UN made itself redundant and what to do about it

Written by Tim King

The big loser in the past six months of world history has been the United Nations. The organization showed itself as a venue for political game playing rather than a means of standing for the ideas upon which it was founded. That UN declaration of rights looks remarkably similar to the United States one, but unlike the US one it applies to everyone in the world, not just those lucky enough to have US citizenship. Unfortunately, unlike the US, the UN doesn't have the will or the means to support its own charter of rights. The problem lies in the organization of the UN itself, which is inherently contradictory.

The UN charter states that all member nations have "sovereign equality" with each other. The UN universal declaration of human rights states a number of rights (life, liberty, security of person and fairness before the law among many others). The UDHR is a brilliant document that means absolutely nothing because UN members are all guaranteed equality with one another - even if they obviously aren't obeying one of its key standards.

Consider this: a democratically elected leader speaks for a majority of their population. Even in one of the worst democracies in the world, their leader still speaks for more than 75 million Americans (in GW's election less than 55% of Americans bothered to vote and GW got just over 50% of the ones who did). This means that only about a quarter of Americans voted for their leader, but this is still significantly more support than most dictators have. As well, apathy is not on the same level of oppression as is fear mongering, murder and torture - typical tools of the dictator.

Various dictatorships around the world, most of whom ignore the UN's human rights declaration entirely, are considered equal with a UN member that actually represents the people in their country, obeys the rule of law and works to secure freedoms for their people. How can the UN possibly function as a workable political power when it can't even consistently represent the very humanity it claims to empower? How does supporting dictatorships by calling them equal to representative governments help the UN in any way?

The US designs its foreign policy to the benefit of its people. Being a US citizen gives you a unique membership into a club that does everything it can to maximize your freedoms and promote your wealth. Their foreign policy works to this end tirelessly, often to the detriment of people in other countries, but that doesn't really matter. This is why you hear about how many Americans were killed in any situation before you hear (if you hear anything at all) about how many non-Americans were killed; they are fundamentally more important in American eyes because they are part of the club. The American bill of rights is a powerful piece of paper, but it only benefits Americans. In a strange twist, and in order to increase life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it has caused a lot of misery in the rest of the world. Americans can't buy cheap, imported goods if the people making them are living at the same standards that Americans are. Poor people make things cheaper, so keeping people poor ensures that Americans can buy goods cheaper and thus increases their standard of living.

If the US bill of rights in the form of the UN declaration of human rights, was applied world wide, it would undercut US foreign policy. Therefore, even the United States has no interest in seeing the UN successfully empowering humanity on a worldwide basis. Losing a massive pool of cheap labour doesn't support the US desire to maximize it's own population's wealth.

With all the self-serving motivations within the UN, it is little wonder that it is a useless organization. Perhaps, with the lone super power running roughshod over the world governing body, we will finally see a change in how the UN operates. How could the UN have saved itself? It has to decide what it stands for, and then stand for it. If the UN is serious about its declaration of human rights, then it should not accept members who do not adhere to it. Furthermore, it should be in the business of collecting members by working to install representative governments that support the rule of law and liberty for its members (who are the people of the world, not the governments that control them). If individual human empowerment is the goal of the UN, then it should not give voice to governments that work to oppose it.

The UN might have co-opted the US led attack on Iraq as a means of beginning this process. If the UN actually had a core of believers instead of opposing factions, that core could have agreed to apply UN support to the attack, minimized the US's control of the situation and restored freedom to Iraq. Rather than disband the invading force after that, the UN could start applying pressure to the many non-democratic dictators in the region. This would include dictators who support the US as well as ones that don't. Considering all the talk of liberty by the US administration, they would be hard pressed to back out of the UN coalition when it turned on US dictator allies.

Before it comes to war, the ideal way to deal with this is economically. If democratic nations refuse to deal with dictators in any way, they would be weakened to the point where they would fail. If a country became a democracy it would find immediate and sustained support from the wealthy democracies of the world and inclusion into the UN as a true equal. Regrettably, dictatorships are much more willing to go to war than democracies. As a result it is the responsibility of democracies to be prepared for that eventuality. This is something the United States understands and is a primary reason why it has become as successful as it has.

If world democracies suddenly stopped dealing with dictatorship/non-representative governments, one of the largest military powers in the world would suddenly find itself out in the cold. China's response to this, as its billion people began to starve would be to exercise its military might. If the UN had a standing army, it could move quickly with worldwide support to suppress the attack and set China on a course of representative government. The moment this happened China could find itself in the UN with support from the richest countries in the world. Complications abound in this scenario. Nuclear weapons mean that even if a country would eventually fail in war, they can always cause a stalemate/no win situation by evoking nuclear weapons. A coherent combination of political, economic and social pressure along with the support of a prepared military would diffuse that possibility though - just as it did in Russia.

Thinking that dictatorships will fall willingly shows a marked misunderstanding of how they operate. Dictatorships are, by their nature, militaristic and aggressive. If successful they tend to look for ways to use their militarism to their advantage and expand control in their region. Because they use fear and overt oppression to maintain control, it is very unlikely that they are capable of being removed internally. If the UN wants to stand for its declaration of human rights, then it needs to have a cohesive, militarily supported core of countries that adhere to its declaration and are willing to push that belief worldwide, even if it means suffering a drop in their own standards of living.