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May 26, 2006
Blair's Next Project: UN Overhaul

Tony Blair has decided that the next Anglo-American project will be the overhaul of the United Nations, whose own reform efforts have been undermined by corruption and scandal. Blair will announce at an appearance today that the UN no longer functions as an effective organization in the post-Cold War era and must transform to retain any relevance:

Prime Minister Blair, whose close friendship with President Bush was forged in the heat of the war on terror, on Friday will urge radical reform of the United Nations, the culmination of that other great Anglo-American war partnership, between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.

Mr. Blair will argue that the various world institutions, set up 60 years ago to better facilitate a peaceful resolution of conflicts between states, are no longer suited to the present world's needs. He will question the role and membership of the Security Council and will plead for a major overhaul of the council to rehabilitate the United Nations in the eyes of the world.

He will tell an audience at Georgetown University that the lofty ideals that inspired Roosevelt and Churchill to set up the United Nations at the end of World War II are being betrayed today by small-mindedness, narrow national interests, irrelevant politicking, and corruption. The much-touted "reform" of the world body suggested by Secretary-General Annan has made minimal progress, yet until true reform is carried out, the United Nations will remain a mere talking shop with little influence and no power.

Mr. Blair has turned to U.N. reform - and the reform of world bodies like the International Monetary Fund and the G8 - because he feels it is time for America and Britain to move beyond the war in Iraq, a country he has said has been transformed by the democratic elections and Prime Minister Maliki's coalition government of many faiths that has followed.

At this point, about the only point on which the nations of the world can find agreement is the need for reform at Turtle Bay. With the Oil-for-Food debacle and the shameful ongoing degradation of women and young girls in UN refugee camps, the UN provides a smorgasbord of items for critics of all stripes.

Before reforming the UN, however, the world community has to decide what the UN represents. Its only real success has been as a platform for multilateral humanitarian efforts like UNICEF, although even those get distorted by politics and petty rivalries. It also serves as a convenient setting for multilateral debate, a world stage where heads of state and diplomats must converse openly in front of all the people.

It fails utterly, however, as a world government, for at least two fundamental and related reasons. The UN does not offer truly democratic representation of the world's population. Most of the nations represented at the UN have heads of state who seized power, through force of arms or hereditary means, who repress to some degree the people they claim to represent. While the US, UK, Indonesia, India, and others have representation at Turtle Bay that truly extends the prevailing desires of their people, too many others represent the interests of a tiny fraction of their populace, the ruling clique that exploits their subjects.

That leads to basic structural flaws within the UN itself. Its leadership mechanism reflects that of the majority of its members. Although the Secretary General serves finite terms of office, he or she has to provide no accountability for job performance. As we have seen in the OFF and prostitution scandals, the General Assembly has no method to remove a corrupt or incompetent Secretary General. That allows the SG to fill UN positions as sinecures for cronies without any oversight from any panel or committee within the UN. The SG becomes a term-limited dictator whose latitude approaches that of the most autocratic ruler represented within the UN.

This lack of accountability and democratic impulse within the organization leads to the multitude of abuses and embarrassments we have seen at Turtle Bay. Only an institution withot accountability would name Cuba and Saudi Arabia to a panel that supposedly exists to protect human rights. Only such an organization would continue to study the "problem" of its staff forcing refugee girls into prostitution in order to get food and water, more than two years after it was first revealed.

Until the world understands these basic reasons for failure at the UN, any attempts at reform will remain superficial at best and counterproductive as a rule. Tony Blair may well regret attempting this leviathan task as his swan song. It will take much more than just two leaders of the Anglosphere to put Turtle Bay into turnaround.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2006 6:42 AM

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