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Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad

Conference on

UN@70: Achievements, Failures and the Way Forward
October 6, 201t
(Conference Report)

The United Nations has completed 70 years of its existence on October 24, 2015. The global body
was formed at the end of WWII, and was hailed as an unprecedented consensus among the comity
of nations. It came at a particular time, and thus, was welcomed universally. Over the past seven
decades, UN has evolved into a much larger organization with a very vast agenda and scope
spanning over security, economic and social spheres. There is little doubt that UN, during this
period of its existence, has witnessed noticeable success.
Nonetheless, while at one hand it is fact that there has not been any conflict matching the
devastation caused by of WWII, during past seven decades; there also are certain questions on the
overall success of the United Nations Organization, particularly so in view of its Charter. The talk
of ‘reforms’ in the UN is also not new, and has seen many ups and downs over past two decades
in particular. While modalities of the ‘reforms’ may be hard to agree upon by all the member
countries, a consensus is there on the very need for structural changes in the UN at broader levels
ranging from its decision making mechanism to its global security apparatus and onwards to its
global developmental and social agendas. An intensive academic debate has been ensuing on the
subject and related issues all around the world over past few years
It was in this background that the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) organized a seminar titled “UN
@ 70: Achievements, Failures and the Way Forward” on October 6, 2015. Comprising of two
sessions, the seminar was chaired by the former senator and secretary general, Akram Zaki, and
the panel included three speakers including Ambassador (r) Asif Ezdi, a career diplomat, Bilal
Ahmed Soofi, Barrister and the head of RSIL, and Ambassador (r) Masood Khan, Pakistan’s
former Representative to the UN and presently the Director General of the Institute of Strategic
Studies, Islamabad. The three experts presented their thoughts and analyses on a range of aspects
and dimensions of UN’s role and performance during its seventy years, characterizing them as its
achievements and shortfalls.
Commencing the session the DG IPS, Mr. Khalid Rehman, evoked some thought on UN’s
accomplishments over the years. He said that as the UN celebrates its 70th anniversary and its
member states draw a consensus on the ambitious post-2015 development agenda, namely the 17
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this new development has coincided with the start of
Russian bombing in Syria, further complicating a conflict well into its fifth year and with no end
in sight. The two developments, he highlighted, denote the success on one hand and an ostensible
failure on the other, on part of the global body.
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While deliberating on ‘UN and the World Peace’ Ambassador (r) Asif Ezdi delved on two broad
aspects, UN’s role in various crises over its tenure of seventy years and structural reforms. He
opined that the UN has leveraged itself as the center of mankind’s efforts for a better and a just
world and holds credit to many advances made in the field of socioeconomic and human rights, it
has been largely ineffective in maintaining international peace and resolving international
conflicts. However, he also presented some glaring examples of UN’s failures including the
present Syrian crisis, the massacre of Bosnian Muslims between 1992 and 1995, the genocide of
Rwanda of 1994, etc. According to Ezdi, the failings of UN can be attributed to its most powerful
organ, the Security Council (SC) and more specifically its permanent members, also known as the
P5. The ability of the P5 members to exercise their veto power over any decision which is in
contravention of their national interest, has hijacked the efforts for resolving crises and maintaining
peace all around the world. This privilege has placed these states above the law and has enabled
them to use the SC as an instrument of their national and foreign policy and to impose their will
on other member states.
Going back to the time of creation of the UN, Amb. Ezdi dwelled on how the P5 members
garlanded themselves with this in-commensurate freedom. There were only two real victors in the
Second World War, the US and Soviet Union. Britain, as a principal ally of the US and still a major
colonialist power, also qualified as a ‘victor’. Pre-communist China, then under the nationalists,
was also included into the SC as the permanent member on the proposal of President Roosevelt
who wished to set up a world order that would have four global policemen. France, which had
remained under the German occupation throughout the war, was sponsored by the British Prime
Minister Churchill who wanted to restore it to the Great Power status to serve as the buffer state
against the rise of Germany. If the P5 got their seats in 1945, it was not necessarily so because
they were real great powers, and if some of them revel in that status today only because they are
permanent member of the SC. If it was not the pride of these seats, they’d be relegated to the
position of the middle ranking powers. That is certainly true of Britain and France! It is therefore,
no wonder that they are determined to cling to their SC seats at all costs and for as long as they
possibly can.
The claim of the P5 to the veto power is becoming more and more difficult to defend with the
passage of time, especially with the rise of new emerging powers which no longer appear prepared
to act in a global system run by a few self-appointed global policemen. Its only supporters are P5
and the countries of the G4 including India, which itself aspires to wean the power. The structure
and the composition of the SC have remained unchanged since it was founded in 1945 except for
the small increase in the number of its rotating members from 6 to 10 in 1985 and does little to
loosen the stranglehold of the P5 over the SC.
Amb. Ezdi identified a few emerging realities which has made the structural reform of the UN
more imminent, however he refuted the demands of the G4 as illegitimate and unjustified. One,
the UN was founded in 1945 by the victor powers who dictated that how the new world structure
would be governed by the new world powers. The other countries had no choice but to accept a
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second class status, because either they had been vanquished or were too weak. Presently, a few
of those countries are claiming the privileges of the victor powers, which is simply against the
logic of geopolitical realities -- no country in history has ever gained the fruit of victory without
having won a war. Two, the reality of today is that the military and economic power is no longer
concentrated in a handful of countries but is diffused among a couple of dozen large states. Many
of these countries are uniting for a Consensus Group which opposes the creation of new permanent
members, whether in the UNSC or outside as demanded by G4 because such a step would relegate
them forever to a status of a second class country.
Barrister Ahmer Bilal Soofi presented his thoughts on UN’s achievements in light of the
International Legal Framework. He stressed that the rule of law invariably refers to the law as it
exists, in the constitution of a given state. It, he viewed, means upholding the constitution and the
laws which are made pursuant to the constitution and also implies upholding not only the domestic
law but also the international law and commitments that a state has ratified. This is one of the
greatest contributions of the UN and has given the management tool to the interstate relationship.
He added that although it is politically correct to say that we are an independent and sovereign
state, in reality we are subject to the treaty commitments. States can deflect local pressure but not
the pressure from the international binding. Therefore, treaty commitments, foreign policy
objectives and national policies have to be in harmony with each other.
He opined that one of the biggest achievements of the UN is Article 24. The article requires that
all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of use of force against the
territorial integrity or the political independence of any state or in any matter inconsistent with the
purposes of the UN. Mr. Soofi highlighted it as one of the most important legal formulations in
the history of mankind. Uptill 1945, before the formulation of this charter, a state could use force
against the other to occupy territory through force. After 1945, no state says that it is using force
to expand, but for self defence, however, the definition of self defence can be expanded. In 1971
India encircled Bangladesh but it did not lay claims on it, and had to declare it an independent state
although Pakistan had surrendered. It was due to Article 24, in his opinion!
Barrister Soofi deplored the inability of the UN to explain to the powers of the world that the use
of force has become unlawful is the failure of the UN. The achievement is that a state will not any
longer use force to acquire title and the failure is that you are unable to bring this point home to
the states and the non-state actors, and hence, this makes the failure linked with the achievement.
Concluding his thoughts, he observed that the UN is the only comprehensive organization which
has done reasonably well. It has a few shortcomings but it is very close to A grade. The UN has
prevented a global war, it has intervened and controlled certain local wars, and has a very elaborate
certain peace keeping operations in which Pakistan has also played important roles.
Ambassador Masood Khan maintained that the UN has been successful in many areas, for
instance, in social and economic development, in conducting powerful intervention for conflict
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resolution in Latin America, Asia and Africa. However, according to his understanding, the UN
has been a failure on big issues and the reason for this lies in the immobilization of UN when the
interests of the great powers, also known as the P5, are involved. Substantiating his view with the
example of Palestine, he remarked that the SC is a cosmetic body which passes a series of
resolutions on the Palestine issue but those resolutions are practically inoperative. Similar is the
case with Syria, Ukraine or any other issues like Kashmir or Chemical Weapons Convention in
the UN involving the US and Russia. The issue would be resolved by themselves and between
themso that both countries can come up with a workable formula, which can be endorsed and
implemented speedily by the SC without any impediments.
Amb. Khan further revealed that there is no talk of comprehensive reforms. The countries of G4,
India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, want reforms in terms of their inclusion and participation in the
permanent members and give the impression that the SC cannot be complete or fully legitimate
without them as they represent new power, new constituencies around the world.
Their best precipitation was in 2005 when Kofi Annan published a report on SC reforms and gave
two formulae, one which concentrated on increase in permanent seats and the others which stated
the demand of the United For Consensus (UFC) group, also colloquially known as Kofi club.
UFC’s stance or resolute determination is that there would be absolutely no permanent seat under
any circumstances. This stance is taken by 12 UFC countries including Pakistan, Italy, Indonesia,
Spain, Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Costa Rica. The UFC have two main arguments. The
first is that power configuration since the WWII has changed and the nations that were strong in
1945 are no more strong enough or have become relatively weaker, for e.g. UK and France. Also,
there has been a rise of new nations, like China. Thus, the power configuration is changing and
evolving so permanent status cannot be given practically for all time to come and strip all other
countries of this status no matter how strong they become. Their second argument is that the
comparison of the aggregate contribution of the P5 and the UFC countries in socio economic
development, peace keeping missions etc, is not just very close; in certain areas UFC outstrips the
P5. Therefore the UFC’s claim is that the dispensation of the permanent seat that was agreed in
1945 when the spoils were being shared among the victors of Second World War is no more
applicable.
UFC’s proposal is that there should be a longer term, electable seats comprising of four to eight
years but with gaps. UFC emphasizes that there are four big G4 countries, but there are also 12 to
20 medium sized countries which cannot be ignored. By the formula of longer term, electable
seats, any country which has a powerful GDP can take that seat and can serve 4+4 year-term. For
example, Brazil is eligible for this non-permanent seat. Similarly, if Pakistan emerges as a
powerful state, in ten years, it can also take that non-permanent, electable seat. It is a compromised
formula, a happy medium, which caters to both G4 and UFC.
Amb. (r) M. Akram Zaki, while concluding the event, maintained that the UN is the only global
body so far in the history of the world, which has done reasonably well, particularly so with regard
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to social and socio-economic agenda. It efforts to prevent global wars, and control, to an extent
local/regional wars are worth noting. UN also has an elaborate peacekeeping mission, in which
Pakistan has also been among the leading contributors. UN efforts for the welfare of refugees and
displaced people, trade and development, as well as for giving awareness regrading fundamental
rights are commendable. Yes, Mr. Zaki stressed, the global body also has few shortcoming which
necessitate reforms in its structure and functioning. It is upon the members to develop consensus
for a reforms package that is acceptable to all and is justifiable. [Report prepared by Ms. Kulsoom
Belal.]

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