Global challenges : Necessity of a stronger UN

People in seven majority Muslim countries favour a more active United Nations with broader powers, while simultaneously viewing the world body as dominated by the United States and failing to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new poll by, a global network of research centres. The survey was conducted in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, the Palestinian Territories and Azerbaijan. Nigeria, which has a 50 per cent Muslim population, was also polled.

The survey found conflicted attitudes towards the United Nations. There was, however, clear support for a United Nations with much broader powers than it has today. Asked about a number of options for giving the United Nations greater powers, nearly all received strong support. Steven Kull, director of, said: “If we compare the results in Muslim-dominated countries to those in other regions, there is virtually consensus around the world on giving the United Nations more powers. This consensus is rather striking.”

“While many people in Muslim countries express disappointment with the United Nations, this actually masks their underlying desire for a United Nations that is robust and powerful,” Kull said. An average of 64 per cent of the people polled in all nations favoured the United Nations. Security Council having its own standing peacekeeping force. With 80 per cent, Nigeria supported this idea the most, whereas Egypt was the most torn nation on this issue with 53 per cent in favour of it and 47 per cent opposing a standing force.

An average of 63 per cent would like the Security Council to have the authority to go into countries to investigate human rights violations. Nigeria (79 per cent) and Azerbaijan (77 per cent) were the strongest supporters of this mandate, whereas Turkey (47 per cent) was the weakest. An average of 76 per cent of all people polled want the Security Council to have the right to authorise military force to stop a country from supporting terrorist groups or to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide (average 77 per cent). There was, however, a wide perception in the nations polled that the United Nations is dominated by the US.

“One of the reasons for this may be the fact that the US used their veto to prevent resolutions of the Security Council dealing with Israel,” Kull noted. In all but one nation, the most common view was that the “United States basically controls the United Nations and can almost always make

the United Nations do what the US wants”, as opposed to the view that “through its veto the US can stop the United Nations from doing things, but the United States cannot make the United Nations do things the US wants.”

The view of the United Nations as controlled by the US was endorsed by 68 per cent of Egyptians, 63 per cent of Palestinians, 59 per cent of Jordanians, and 53 per cent of Turks. In Indonesia, 43 per cent agree, while 13 per cent said the US can only stop the United Nations from doing things (44 per cent did not answer). The only exception was Azerbaijan, where a

plurality said the US can stop the United Nations from acting, but cannot make it

do what the United States wants (49

per cent to 36 per cent).

Respondents were also asked to assess a variety of UN efforts, rating them on a scale from zero, meaning “not all helpful”, to 10, meaning “extremely helpful.” Ratings were generally lukewarm at best, said. The lowest ratings were for UN efforts “to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” The mean response was 3.7 with the lowest ratings coming from Jordanians (2.5) and Palestinians (2.6). Only Azerbaijanis were above 5 (5.3). Low ratings of UN performance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict are highly correlated with the perception that the United States controls the UN.

Kull said: “People would like the United Nations to resolve the problems. They are disappointed that it has not occurred.” Also very low were ratings of UN efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur. The mean rating was 3.8. The lowest ratings came from Jordanians (2.6), and the highest from Indonesians (5.3). The most positive ratings were for the UN’s performance in providing humanitarian aid, ranging from 4.5 (Palestinians) to 7.8 (Indonesians), with a mean of 5.9. Nearly as high were United Nations peacekeeping operations, with a mean of 5.3, ranging from 3.5 (Palestinians) to 7.5 (Indonesians). UN efforts to address climate change received mixed reviews,

with three nations above 5, three below 5 and a mean of 4.6. is a project managed by the Programme on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. The survey was conducted in two waves over Jan 12-Feb 18 and July 21-Aug 31, 2008. Some 11,538 people participated. Margins of error range from +/-two to five percent. Not all questions were asked in all countries. — IPS