UN charter reform Can Nepal benefit from it?

Madhav Shrestha

Clamour for reorganising the United Nations to make it effective echoed across the world some two years ago. This resonance has awakened conscious people to an urgent need for reorganisation of the UN to better fulfil the aspirations of the world population. Secretary General Kofi Annan himself declared that the aging world body had reached the “fork in the road”. This remark points to the staggering situation the UN has been thrown into. Aware of the urgent need for the UN’s reorganisation, he constituted a panel of eminent dignitaries drawn from various parts of the world to recommend a reform package for the UN.

The panel, after conclusive deliberation, came up with bold ideas. He embraced what the panel had suggested. Last March, Annan presented before the General Assembly a radical reform proposal “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All” to make the UN system more effective and responsive to the pressing needs of the world. He took the opportunity to remind the Assembly of terrorism, organised crimes and WMDs as serious threats to word peace.

The reform proposal has emphasised the need for development, better security and protection of human rights with the creation of well-knit Human Rights Council. He called for the summit of the UN this September to deliberate on his proposal. Following the introduction of the proposal, the General Assembly has received it with caution. Interestingly, the lone superpower, the USA, has not been hostile to it. Let no other big “no” come in its way either

Annan’s proposal triggered intense discussions on its several aspects, in particular on the expansion of the Security Council. A flurry of diplomatic activities the world over have taken place to interact on the expansion of the Council that consists of two models. Each model plans to increase the number of the Council membership from 15 to 24; one creates six new permanent member seats and three new non-permanent member seats, while the other creates nine new non-permanent seats. But neither model expands the veto power currently enjoyed by five permanent members.

The latest model suggested by the group “Uniting for Consensus” aims to limit permanent members only to the original five with 20 non-permanent members. The projected expansion of the Security Council under any of the models has generated an increased interest with much of the attention focused on that centric point of gravitation. These Security Council centred activities have diminished other activities relegating even the priority of development and others to the background.

Viewed in the context of Nepal’s probable role in the Charter remaking process, some pertinent ideas deserve attention. Nepal’s financial and diplomatic contributions may not be so spectacular. However, the enormous contributions of the determined and disciplined Nepali peacekeeping forces have been both noteworthy and internationally acclaimed. These exemplary contributions should decisively inspire her to seek a niche in the security system and security related body to be instituted for maintaining the world security.

Closely related and important to the security system would be the proposed institution of the “Peace-building Commission” — an intergovernmental organ in the UN, which will take special notice of the extent of the military support provided to the UN, among other things. It would be appropriate if Nepal could occupy a worthy berth on her own in this peace-projecting organ.

Nepal as a smaller and less influential state needs to meticulously examine three models so far put forth for the enlargement of the Security Council. Experienced observers believe that to be better positioned on her own stance Nepal should opt for the model that ensures a good deal of opportunities for countries like Nepal to serve in the world body.

Sustained development to alleviate poverty is essentially the primary target set by every least developed country. Nepal, along with like-minded countries, has to make concentrated efforts to search for an appropriate place, regular or alternate, for better representation to effectively participate in the development related organ. The present Charter reflects the realities of the immediate post Second World War period lacking in democratic process to the disadvantage of the less developed countries. Nepal should be able to put in her ability and energy to compensate for this lacuna.

The holding of the proposed summit will be an occasion of historic significance. The occasion demands from every participating member state the valued services of persons of greater calibre and enriched with diplomatic capabilities and experiences of UN affairs. The newer mindset and better attitudes, especially of big participants, deemed propitious to the prevailing international scenario, will be required if the UN is to be shaped as a true promoter of peace and a genuine catalyst of development.

Shrestha is a former foreign ministry official