Weekend Roundup: Where the UN Can Succeed Instead of Fail


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

The Paris climate accord, signed by 175 countries in April, was a high point of success for the United Nations. And the U.N. has also managed to focus governments around the world on sustainable development goals. Yet, on the security side of the equation, for which the U.N. was principally founded, the record is largely one of failure.

The international body has been unable to stop the carnage in Syria. North Korea continues to defy every successive U.N. resolution over its nuclear program. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without U.N. sanction — just as the former Soviet Union similarly invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and Czechoslovakia before that. The Vietnam and Korean wars were ended without U.N. involvement. And the U.N. had no role in the treaty between Egypt and Israel mediated by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

As former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali observed in a conversation with me in Paris in 2003 as the Iraq war got underway, the reality of big power geopolitics ultimately sidelines the U.N. on issues of war and peace. Its primary mission going forward, he felt, would no longer be security. Rather, “the United Nations will be compelled sooner or later to manage globalization since there is no other international organization,” he told me. “Financial flows, environmental degradation, new technology, diseases — all these are global challenges looking for an institutional response. That is the U.N. role in the future.”

This week, The WorldPost provided a unique platform for candidates seeking the position of the next U.N. secretary-general. For the first time under new transparency rules, candidacies can be declared and open campaigning for the post is allowed. The contributions we’ve published so far are remarkably in line with Boutros-Ghali’s vision of the U.N. — except for a mention here and there of “preventive diplomacy,” all focused their pitches on issues of development and globalization from poverty alleviation and climate to humanitarian aid, refugees and gender equality. It is a different organization, indeed, than the one envisioned by its architects in the wake of World War II. Each candidate laid out for The WorldPost his or her vision of the world and the U.N.’s role in it:

  • Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, argues that, “our global citizens, and in particular our young people, need to have confidence in [the U.N.’s] capacity to deliver results.”
  • Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, sees “the prevention of armed conflicts and violence” as possibly the most fundamental responsibility of the global community.
  • Srgjan Kerim, a former president of the U.N. General Assembly who focuses on management reform of the U.N. itself, says the role of the secretary-general is a task that, “requires passion, dedication, commitment and sacrifice.”
  • Vuk Jeremić, another former president of the U.N. General Assembly, says he would, “appoint qualified women to 50 percent of U.N. Under-Secretary-General or equivalent positions from Day One.”
  • Igor Luksic, a former prime minister of Montenegro, calls for, “a more robust position in the Deputy Secretary-General, who should have a leading role in dealing with regional and sub-regional arrangements, as well as in the field of mediation and prevention.”
  • Vesna Pusic, the first deputy prime minister of Croatia, believes, “the next Secretary-General should focus on enhancing the U.N.’s role in peace negotiations.”
  • António Guterres, who just stepped down as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, summarizes a view held by most of the other candidates that sees the U.N. role as stemming the root causes of violent conflict before it is too late: “The world spends much more energy and resources managing crises than preventing them,” he writes. “Thus, the U.N. must uphold a strategic commitment to a ‘culture of prevention.’”

The current secretary-general of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, also writes this week. In his piece, which was separate from the series, Ban echoes many of the candidates’ messages by highlighting perhaps the most urgent contemporary crisis: “War, human rights violations, underdevelopment, climate change and natural disasters are leading more people to leave their homes than at any time since we have had reliable data,” he writes. “More than 60 million people — half of them children — have fled violence or persecution and are now refugees and internally displaced persons. An additional 225 million are migrants who have left their countries in search of better opportunities or simply for survival.”

Writing about the consequences of U.N. failure from the front lines of the refugee crisis in Gaziantep, Turkey, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports on how the self-proclaimed Islamic State is trying to kill Syrian media activists working from exile across the border. “‘We will not give up,’” one writer says. “‘If we’re all afraid, then how will we bring about freedom?’”

In other major news this week, Brazil’s Senate voted to commence impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff just months before the Olympics. Nicholas Miriello and Nick Robins-Early trace the South American country’s descent into chaos. Grasielle Castro profiles the new Brazilian interim president, Michel Temer. Writing from Manila, Ramon Casiple analyzes the election this week of Rodrigo Duterte — “the Donald Trump of the Philippines” — who has promised to use strongman tactics to impose order and crack down on crime and drugs. Richard Heydarian also writes from Manila that, “The old order — a cacique democracy, undergirded by ‘managed competition’ among liberal oligarchs — is withering away. But it is far from certain whether the Philippines is on the cusp of salvation or instead diving straight into abyss.” We profile the new leader — who once called Pope Francis “a son of a whore” — here. As the U.S. presidential race continues to heat up, Chandran Nair writes from Hong Kong that Asia ought to take up Trump’s challenge to go beyond the World War II American-led alliance system and build its own security arrangement based on investment and trade instead of intervention in each other’s affairs. China’s top arms control official, Wang Qun, calls on the U.S. and China to agree on “rules-based” governance of cyberspace in talks that open this week.

In another plea for greater world collaboration, California Gov. Jerry Brown and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry call for more global cooperation, especially between America and Russia, to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear material. “The U.S. and Russia, the nations that possess 90 percent of the world’s fissile material,” they write, “should work closely together, including cooperation in intelligence about terror groups, to ensure that a terror group never obtains enough material to destroy one of their cities. After all, these two nations not only possess most of the fissile material, they are also the prime targets for a terror attack. Moscow and St. Petersburg are in as great a danger as Washington, D.C. and New York City.”

On another security front, former NATO commander James Stavridis advises the incoming commander, Army General Curtis Michael Scaparrotti, that NATO must stay the course — but also adapt. “We should not walk away from Afghanistan,” he says, but further notes that, “we also need a new strategy for the Arctic.” Writing from Rome for our “Following Francis“ series, Sébastien Maillard reports on how the pope sees his church helping Europe rediscover its unity beyond its Christian heritage. Maillard cites Francis as saying, “‘The identity of Europe is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity … the roots of Europe, were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures.’” The newly elected Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, tells HuffPost UK that it would be “wise” for him to visit the U.S. before a possible President Donald Trump could bar him from entering.

In advance of massive demonstrations last weekend against Poland’s hard shift to the right, Christian Borys wrote that many feel the new government is taking the country in an authoritarian direction. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden discuss a new study that shows Chinese companies in Africa tend to comply with high standards where rule of law is strong, while acting as “bad corporate citizens” where rule of law is weak. Krithika Varagur reports on a gathering this week in Indonesia of the world’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, to propose ways to combat extremism.

In a review, Bhaskar Chakravorti wonders whether “connectivity is destiny” as Parag Khanna writes in his new book, “Connectography.” Read Khanna’s recent article on The WorldPost here. Finally, in our Singularity series this week we examine how new technology won’t replace us, but instead force us to evolve.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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