The United Nations: Linchpin of a Multipolar World

One of the great challenges of the new global reality which has emerged since the end of the Cold War is the modernisation of the United Nations. Its integrity and role as a unique, integrating international body must be preserved in a world that is undergoing profound changes. To meet the demands of the 21st century and to keep its position as the pivot of the international community, the UN must identify the main geopolitical features of the new epoch. To do that, it has to reject some dangerous shibboleths of the past.

Despite earlier predictions, the post-Cold War world is more complex, contradictory and fluid than the bipolar system which preceded it. In many respects the world is becoming no more, and in some instances less, secure and safe. At the same time, we have new opportunities to improve our lives, which we cannot afford to squander. There are no automatic stabilisers or autopilots to get us over present upheavals, and there are no predetermined paths for human development. To a large extent our prospects depend upon the political will of the UN and its members.

If the UN succumbs to the thesis that the intrinsic nature of our new world is a slide towards homogeneity and conformity based on the liberal democratic orthodoxy of "the end of history", it will not live up to the challenges it faces. Neither will it do so if the opposing concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations is imposed on the world community. The UN should steer clear of these two extremes, disregarding both idealists and scaremongers. An ill-considered acceptance of either view will corrode the UN's ideological foundations. A clear assessment of these fashionable new concepts is complicated by the fact that they are promoted not only by those who sincerely believe in them (true idealists or true scaremongers) but also by those who merely pay lip-service to them (false idealists or false scaremongers).

False idealists proudly proclaim the predominance of a global liberal ideology. They use it to benefit the affluent West and present it as proof of increasing world harmony. The UN is dismissed as an outdated mechanism which is bound to be marginalised by other organisations allegedly more fit to guide today's world community. False idealists argue that the UN is rooted in the days of the Cold War and that its overhaul, a divisive and time-consuming business, is not worth the effort. Other organisations, which embody the necessary "Atlantic virtues", should become the trendsetters in the "New World Order", in which America is both the gatekeeper and the model. False idealists are confident that

…it is better to recognise openly that there will be conflicts in future when UN action is blocked but inaction is unacceptable. In those circumstances, the US, Britain and as many of their allies as can be persuaded should be prepared to resort to military force without UN authorisation, acting as a "coalition of the willing. (1)

If this view becomes fact, the UN will be sidelined and downgraded to a Davos-style talking club. 

True idealists are no less dangerous. They look at the world through rosy glasses, idealise America and convince themselves and others that the remaining economic, political and cultural differences among nations are artificial and that First World-style globalisation is not a zero-sum game. Why resist change if it is inevitable? In their opinion the UN is too weighed down by its contradictory history to be able to preside over world harmony. True idealists are echoed by moralists who consider nation states obsolete objects of international law which obstruct the expansion of human rights. The rights of individuals or minority groups predominate over the rights of the wider community. Against this background the doctrine of "humanitarian intervention" arises. As a result, the UN is portrayed as a bulwark of those egoistic nation states that seek to infringe the rights of minorities. This view is a mere reanimation of the doctrine of "Wilsonian idealism" which was designed to correct "the moral shortcomings of foreign nations":

In the 21st century, a new doctrine of preventive diplomacy will require balancing the rights of a sovereign state and the human rights of its citizens…Oppressive regimes can no longer hide behind the UN Charter…[W]hile the rehabilitation of failed states is best served by acting through an international framework, US leadership may be essential. (2)


True scaremongers argue that in our new world major conflicts are inescapable and that we should prepare ourselves for their eruption. There is nothing self-regulating in the world order: periods of relative stability inevitably alternate with periods of disruption. At present, the world-no longer fettered by superpower ideological rivalry-is divided by the fault-lines of ethnicity, religion and culture. The UN's sole use is as a steam-valve; it cannot by itself prevent future clashes. In this worldview, therefore, other international or regional institutions should be the ones to undertake the task of conflict resolution because they are militarily and ideologically better equipped to do so than the UN:

…the lesson of Kosovo is not that we do not need Nato: it is that Nato is the only effective instrument we have for preventing the worst abuses of human rights…We will not always be at war. But we had better get used to the sad business of keeping the peace. This is how it is going to be from now on. (3)

False scaremongers are those "realists" who assert that the basis of international relations is realpolitik. They depict geopolitics as a "grand chessboard" on which one player must outwit the other. They understand national interest as the need to maximise one's position in the world arena, whatever the cost to others. Long after the scapegoat of an "evil empire" has ceased to exist, they persist in conjuring up the ghosts of the Cold War and in looking for new enemies. They know that globalisation in its present form does not benefit everybody; they understand perfectly well that the national interests of many countries diverge and cannot be fully reconciled. They also oppose any substantial effort to achieve long-lasting accommodation with "geopolitical rivals". Why beat swords into ploughshares if it is possible to extract further concessions from a weakened counterpart? Won't we regret having done so if and when fortunes change? 

In this context the UN is obviously an obstacle. "Realists" may pay it lip-service, but nothing more. They believe it should be stripped of the power to preside over questions of international war and peace. Concepts of a "just war" and "ethical imperialism" are much more useful these days. Nato's war against Yugoslavia is their model. Their next targets may very well be Chechyna or Tibet. They draw their own lessons from the war in Kosovo:

Once Milosevic had capitulated, the alliance's priority should have been to facilitate the task of its peacekeepers. That would have meant continuing to bypass the UN…and completing on its own the job which it had unilaterally begun. (4)

Balance of Power

A delusion common to all these widespread theories is that they overlook one underlying feature of world history-the rise and fall of great powers and the law of gravity whereby international relations always seek a state of equilibrium. This is not the same as equalisation. The weight of different units in the system may vary, but the pattern of distribution of power in the international arena is such that no block of units may acquire, except for brief periods of history, political, economic or cultural dominance in world affairs.

At the same time, neither a state of total equilibrium nor of total imbalance can ever be achieved. Different centres of world power compete in a constant state of flux; the point of absolute rest is never reached. An end of history in politics-the state of total rest in political theory and practice-is a phantom. It is doomed by the same forces which will destroy a monopoly in any economy or in any other sphere of human activity.

Nevertheless, many thinkers who willingly embrace the concepts of an open society and an integrated global economy, both of which envisage a complex system of checks and balances, make a rapid U-turn when they interpret contemporary international relations. They see its future as a rigid pyramid topped with a single super-power or a tight alliance of powers which aspires to shape every corner of the world according to its vision. The simple truth is that there is nothing unique in such aspirations. They only bear out a well-known historical phenomenon, that a world power begins to decline when it overstretches itself strategically and makes claims of absolute authority.

The end of the Cold War prompted a fundamental realignment of global power, including spiralling uneven development between countries and the almost unfettered predominance of one political pole over all others. The illusion spread that world history had reached its final destination. New forms of globalisation, admittedly ingenious and innovative in many instances, have been endowed with almost supernatural qualities. 

The Asian financial crisis of 1997-8 and those that followed it showed the fallacy of assuming that the world can be turned into a uniform, synchronised mechanism subordinated to the rules of socio-economic integration and favouring only one region of the world. But if such uniformity cannot be attained, then it is impossible to rule the world according to one grand design. However, acolytes of neoliberal globalisation have persisted in portraying the financial crises of the late 1990s as regrettable but singular diversions from the norm. Their voices receive less and less attention. 

The interregnum in world politics which began in 1991 is drawing to a close. The US will continue to lead the world for some years to come, but it has passed its peak of power.


Since 1991 the US has sought to establish itself as the sole superpower. Nato is the only active military-political bloc, while the US and Western Europe constitute the strongest financial-economic centre of power. The "final victory" of liberal-democratic ideology has been declared. In the West, most political scientists equate the disintegration of the Soviet Union with "the collapse of communism". 

In the 1990s it was almost axiomatic in Russia to assert, for example, that "modern foreign policy is free of ideology", that "the world is becoming one united organism", that Nato is being transformed into "a peaceful organisation" and that "globalisation is inevitable and unquestionable". These pronouncements are only partially true, and they give a dangerously simplistic, incomplete view of the world.

In the international arena, the interests of Nato countries differ significantly from those of, for instance, China, Russia, India, Belarus, Yugoslavia, Iran, Armenia, Syria and Cuba. Geopolitical and geo-economical conditions are hardening. 

These trends, and the strong desire of Washington to create a unipolar world, run counter to the mechanisms of the UN as we have known them since 1945. This universal organisation is the product of an international security system worked out at the end of the Second World War by the Soviet Union, the US and Britain, joined by China and France. The UN is a product of victory. In the years to come it will be under a reformist offensive to overhaul its founding charter, the activities of the General Assembly and especially of the Security Council. 

However, the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War, which appeared so sudden and complete, cannot preclude the emergence of new forces which will challenge the move to create a unipolar world.

In Russia, the year 1998 was an economic turning point and this year is proving to be the same politically. Russia has slowly begun to reconstruct its geopolitical interests and to reassemble a political and economic alliance which will seek a prominent role for Eurasia in global politics. The confrontational style of dealing with other powers may no longer dominate, but this does not alter the fact that nation states remain the chief players in the international arena, nor does it diminish their determination to safeguard their national interests.

For example, the US continues to act as it always has, protecting the interests of its allies and clients and clinging to its status as master of the global economy, even if this is to the detriment of the rest of the world. The basic rules of world order, as proponents of unipolarity see them, remain essentially the same. Abandonment of the ideological drapery of the Cold War revealed that

Underpinning US world order strategy is the belief that America must maintain what is in essence a military protectorate in economically critical regions to insure that America's vital trade and financial relations will not be disrupted by political upheavals. (5)

Yet the pursuit of Western interests can masquerade as the defence of values:

We need to enter a new millennium where dictators know that they cannot get away with ethnic cleansing…In this conflict [Kosovo] we are fighting not for territory but for values [italics added]. For a new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated. (6)

In Kosovo, "Wilsonian idealism" took a new twist. In order to enhance the geopolitical interests of the Western alliance and the personal interests of some top-brass officials, an ill-considered military adventure was staged. As a result, the UN fell prey to an egoistic interpretation of the pursuit of national interests, wrapped this time in a humanitarian mantle:

The attempt to convert a defensive alliance into an agent of ethical imperialism is fraught with danger. [Nato's] New Doctrine unashamedly identifies the good of the world with Anglo-American "values". (7)

One of the UN's top priorities is to direct the pursuit of national interests into a civilised channel and to reconcile the concepts of state and individual sovereignty. It is obvious, therefore, that the role of the UN in the post-Cold War world is becoming more, not less, important. If the multipolar epoch that seems to be opening before us inherits the expansionist features of the previous one coupled with strong internal, centrifugal forces, and if the multitude of political, economic and cultural interests persists, then the endless interplay of clashes and necessary accommodations strongly requires a viable system of international regulation. Moreover, globalisation is turning the world into a much denser place. In the absence of the straitjacket provided by the Cold War, the magnitude and range of potential quarrels are growing. 

In these circumstances the UN remains the single recognised global structure for peace which is capable of embracing and empowering the whole international community. Its demolition is pregnant with unpredictable dangers and dubious aims, while its modernisation and democratisation could bring obvious fruits. 

It is a mistake to portray the UN as a child of the Cold War and the bipolar world. Even though it was later marked by the rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, the UN preceded that conflict and was built on the universal foundations of the sovereignty of states and human rights. The principles embedded in the UN Charter can increasingly benefit the international community as it leaves the world of nuclear brinkmanship and explores the territory of multipolarity. But unless the UN is preserved and strengthened, the basic rules of the Old/New World Order will remain the same: the rule of law for the weak, the rule of force for the strong.

Contribution to Peace

The last decade has raised as many hopes as it has dashed, and it is especially irresponsible to diminish the role of the UN as it confronts a mounting pile of global challenges. On the contrary, it should be strengthened as soon as possible so that precious time is not lost. Since 1945, the UN has made a significant contribution to the pursuit of peace through its conflict-management mechanisms and confidence-building measures. It has played a part in substantially reducing the threat of nuclear conflict. The UN also has always been deeply concerned with matters of political freedom, arms proliferation, world poverty, underdevelopment and environmental protection. 

The UN promoted the decolonisation movement, which led to independence for more than 80 countries. Over the years its relief agencies have assisted more than 25 million refugees and displaced persons. In 1948 the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which formed the basis of more than 80 UN treaties promoting specific rights. The UN and its agencies provide over $25 billion a year in development assistance to poorer countries. The UN's World Food Programme is the world's largest food-aid organisation. 

The UN's list of achievements, however, is matched by a formidable accumulation of problems. In many areas the UN lags behind events and its total record is far from satisfactory. 

In 1999 the richest 20 per cent of the world's population possessed 86 per cent of global GDP, while the poorest 20 per cent enjoyed only 1 per cent. The 1990s saw an ever-widening gap between the developed countries and the rest of the world, with up to two billion people now estimated to be living on less than one dollar a day. The positive and negative results of globalisation are being distributed extremely unevenly. The "Washington consensus", built explicitly on the premise of open markets, but implicitly on the competitive advantages of developed countries and their control over transnational corporations, has turned out to be a one-way street for the rest of the world. It is no surprise, then, that despite countless relief efforts the total foreign debt of developing countries is increasing by an average of 5 per cent a year.

As social disparities worsen, they become a major source of intrastate and international conflict. Moreover, many results of globalisation which initially seemed to benefit developing countries were wiped out by the Asian crisis. The flight of foreign investments from the crisis-struck countries strengthened the US dollar and further deepened the economic and social disparities between nations.

If a new edifice for the global economy is to be constructed, then it is the UN, a uniquely universal institution, that should be allowed to tackle this mighty task. Global problems require global solutions. "In today's globalized world, the mechanisms available for global action are hardly more than embryonic," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned. (8) At the same time, the UN is no tabula rasa. It is the most elaborate international mechanism for settling a huge variety of problems. Its expertise and potential should not be neglected even though its structure needs thorough readjustment.

For example, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both agencies of the UN, have proved inadequate to the task of reining in the darker forces of globalisation. The problems of short-term, speculative capital have not been dealt with, and transnational corporations have shown themselves to be profit-making machines rather than benevolent bearers of the "rich man's burden". To fill these dangerous lacunae and address global economic disparities, the UN put forward in 1999 a set of initiatives within the framework of the UN Development Programme.

In January this year, the International Chamber of Commerce, which encompasses over 7,000 business associations and companies from more than 130 countries, urged the UN to take the lead in supporting an open, rules-based system of international trade and investment. The chamber urged that the relevant UN agreements and programmes, and not the multilateral trading system, should be the recognised global institutions for raising environmental and labour standards and promoting human rights. (9)

A new structure for global disarmament is also needed, and once again the UN, which since its creation has been involved in the issue, should have a vital role. The very first General Assembly resolution adopted by the UN was on disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament is one of the UN's major arms control institutions. Its recent achievements include negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1996. In 1995 it managed to secure unanimous support for indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, though this has been jeopardised by slow progress in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. 

However, since then there has been a stalemate in negotiating further disarmament agreements, mainly due to differences among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Nato's war against Yugoslavia in March to June 1999 triggered a surge in rearmament across Europe and beyond. In May 1999 the US Senate passed a bill to deploy the national missile defence system, which runs counter to the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the US in 1972. In October 1999 the US refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And the parliament of the Russian Federation has yet to ratify the Start-II treaty, signed as long ago as 1993. 

With the requisite political will by the major powers, especially the Security Council's five permanent members, the process of disarmament under the auspices of the UN can be revived. The fate of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is closely linked to the success of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Progress at the five-year review conference of the non-proliferation treaty, which was scheduled for April 2000, will to a large extent depend upon the readiness of those states with nuclear weapons to work towards disarmament. 

The UN is pushing ahead with negotiations to make Central Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone, with containing the negative effects of the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998 and with promoting this year's international conference on the illicit trade in small arms. In 1997, the UN supported the adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. Work on reaching an agreement on draft international conventions for suppressing nuclear terrorism and the financing of terrorism is nearing completion. All these are illuminating examples of the UN's key role in preventive diplomacy.

Unlike bilateral treaties or those covering only a restricted number of states, the UN's disarmament decision-making process has a universal character and is governed by consensus. It neither isolates the smallest states nor gives preference to the major ones and is as inclusive as possible. For example, the Conference on Disarmament has 66 members, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has 154 signatories and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty has 187. Though at times cumbersome and slow, this rule of consensus forces an eventual convergence of positions which ensures the creation of universal and durable treaties. 

Underlying this brief glimpse of the weighty issues with which the UN struggles to cope must be the acknowledgement that the world body's effectiveness depends, first and foremost, on the actions of the five permanent members of the Security Council. They should not deny their own responsibility for the UN's present malaise. 

A Vital Document

The Charter of the UN is the most outstanding international document of the 20th century. For more than 50 years it has stabilised international relations and upheld the norms of international law. The charter created the practical machinery that defends the whole international system of security. It is the fundamental instrument of the organisation which set the basis for world order after 1945. 

The authority of the UN Charter has been so great that it strongly influenced the drafting of Nato's own founding document. The latter stipulates the right of collective defence against attack by states outside Nato, but does not authorise military actions outside the alliance's territory. In fact, Nato's charter is defensive in character and was written so as not to contradict the rules of international law as based on the UN Charter.

The UN Charter codifies all the major principles of international relations. It emphasises a simple truth-all sovereign states are equal. The charter promotes ideas which are fundamental to tolerance and peace. It proclaims that armed forces shall not be used, save in the common interest. Its principles are constants, not variables, of international relations-the core rules that cement international law. More than 350 international treaties and agreements, worked out under the auspices of the UN, are based on the charter. Changes to the charter will leave these agreements open to "reinterpretation" and threaten the whole edifice of international law.

Supporters of the UN Charter as it stands are often represented as being against change per se. "Time marches on and the UN must keep pace with it," proclaim adherents of a "modernised UN". This argument is valid only up to a certain point; any modernisation should not undermine the foundations of this universal international organisation. Certain principles in the UN Charter must remain inviolable. They constitute the bedrock of the UN's strength.

Andrei Gromyko, who signed the UN Charter on behalf of the Soviet Union on 26 June 1945 and was its chief architect on the Soviet side, never wavered in his belief that it should be preserved intact. In particular, he vigorously opposed moves to dilute or abolish the veto powers of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which are enshrined in the charter. During his last years in power he said: 

The UN can remain effective only if the principle of the unanimous vote of the five permanent powers of the Security Council is preserved. Any attempt to change this fundamental rule under the pretext of refining the charter will bring the UN to crisis.
The Soviet leadership understood that if decisions at the UN were taken by a simple majority vote it would lead to a situation where a group of capitalist states might constantly strive to impose upon Moscow decisions against its interests. In this case the desire for a compromise might vanish. The unanimity rule is a compulsion to compromise. (10)

Gromyko regarded the unanimous vote of the permanent five as "a golden rule" in diplomacy. He believed that many politicians and diplomats had an idyllic view of international relations and did not understand the damage it would do to the UN if the Security Council's voting procedures were changed. He stressed that the spirit of harmony and accord, not of coercion, should reign in the UN.

Gromyko remembered discussing "the unanimity vote" with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At first Roosevelt had doubts about the idea but on reflection came to agree with it. Later he convinced British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that such an approach was justified. At Yalta "the unanimity vote" was accepted by the three major Allied powers. "Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill," Gromyko used to say, "were the embodiment of the victors' will. When today stones are cast at the Security Council's veto procedure, they are directed not only at a 'stubborn' Moscow but at these three leaders." (11)

Gromyko considered the UN Charter a firm basis for international stability. "There are people who strive to change the charter radically. To achieve this aim they are in constant search of new arguments. If they succeed we will have a completely new organisation. It will be like a Pandora's box. The United Nations must not share the fate of the League of Nations." (12)

Gromyko also viewed moves to expand the Security Council as fraught with danger for the UN: 

There are states which want to become permanent members of the Security Council. For them its structure does not appear ideal. Who is eager to acquire a permanent seat on the council? First of all Germany and Japan-two states defeated in the Second World War. Both have historic claims against the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. Let us assume they receive the same rights as the victors. What will happen next? India, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria and others may be offended. Such reforms will end in the liquidation of the UN as we know it. (13)

The Quiet Revolution

Over the years, some reforms have been made to the UN, but they were relatively minor and did not undermine the veto rights of the Security Council's five permanent members. In all, four articles of the charter have been amended. In 1965 the membership of the Security Council was expanded from 11 to 15. The number of affirmative votes needed for a decision was raised from seven to nine, including the concurring vote of the five permanent members. This strict rule applies for all matters of substance rather than procedure. Again in 1965 the membership of the Economic and Social Council was expanded from 18 to 27, and in 1973 it was further increased to 54. In 1968 the number of Security Council votes required to convene a general conference to review the charter was increased from seven to nine.

The pace of reforms accelerated in the 1990s, especially under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has initiated a so-called quiet revolution intended to transform the UN into a more effective, compact organisation. In 1997 the General Assembly adopted an important administrative and organisational reform package. The UN's structure was streamlined and consolidated and administrative costs were sharply reduced. The UN's budget has been declining in real terms for several years. In 1999 the UN's regular budget totalled $1.26 billion, in comparison, for example, with the $4.8 billion which the European Union-comprising just 15 countries-spent in 1998 on its administration. 

These reforms have facilitated the UN's work in some areas, but they have also created new problems which undermine the organisation's effectiveness. For example, funding for peacekeeping operations, which have their own budgets, dropped from $3.5 billion in 1994 to below $1 billion in 1998-less than 0.2 per cent of the world's military spending. At the same time the military expenditures of Nato countries in 1998 amounted to $500 billion. The lack of necessary resources for UN peacekeeping operations has meant that other military organisations have supplanted the UN's role. No wonder, then, that in 1999 the UN was openly brushed aside by Nato during the Kosovo emergency. It is no coincidence that in 1998 the US owed the lion's share of overdue payments to the UN's peacekeeping budget-$958 million out of a total $1.7 billion. 

This pattern is duplicated in the UN's finances generally. The organisation is owed $3.5 billion by member states. By 1 February this year 52 of the UN's 188 member states had accumulated arrears equal to or greater than their assessments for the previous two years. In such circumstances, the charter deprives them of their vote in the General Assembly. 

By far the main reason for the arrears is not inability to pay but the desire to exert pressure on the UN. The US is the largest contributor to the UN (contributions are assessed on the basis of a country's wealth) but also its largest debtor. According to UN figures, Washington owes about $1.5 billion, although the US puts the figure at $926 million. The situation became so preposterous that the US was in danger of losing its vote in the General Assembly before it made last-minute payments by the 31 January deadline this year. No organisation, whether public or private, can function properly under such conditions. 

The year 2000 witnessed a historical moment for the UN - its 55th session, dubbed "The Millennium Assembly", followed by the "Millennium Summit of the United Nations". The results of these meetings will play a profound role in a major review of the UN's activities for the new century. The UN has been and will be criticised from many sides, with vociferous calls for fundamental changes. Well-wishers should energetically promote reforms that both permit the UN to live up to modern challenges and shield it from those who intend to emasculate it.

For example, the hierarchy of UN institutions should be kept intact. All members of the UN are bound by the charter to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. The council's functions cannot be overtaken either by the General Assembly or by the secretary-general. A fruitful way of improving the assembly would be, for example, to curtail its agenda to relieve it from secondary topics and focus the attention of the world community on important issues. The obligatory nature of the assembly's decisions could be widened. Meanwhile, the secretary-general must defend the values enshrined in the charter; he must speak and act for peace. It is his duty to perform his "good offices" impartially, and he should strive to use the limited powers of his post in the context of the broad guidelines set for him by world public opinion.

The events of the past decade have shown that the UN's abilities to prevent war as well to keep and impose peace should be strengthened. The UN has suffered not so much from bureaucratic inertia as from an incapacity to carry out its decisions autonomously. As a result, regional military organisations have found it possible to play, both legally and illegally, the role which should be the preserve of a UN military command. That led to the precarious practice of entrusting the command of peacekeeping forces to independent regional military institutions. This problem can be solved if the role of the UN Military Staff Committee is strengthened. For example, it could have at its disposal national military units on the basis of agreements with member states. This would help rid the UN of its dependency on other military organisations. The UN Charter itself envisages the creation of a standing army under the organisation's command with effective troops which could be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world. However, Nato in particular is likely to oppose such changes. 

Other changes can be made to the charter. Outdated articles which establish the relationship between member states and "enemy states" (countries defeated in the Second World War) may be deleted. The same applies to Chapters 12 and 13 of the charter, which cover the now obsolete international trusteeship system. Chapter 11 on non-self-governing territories is nearing its full implementation. Article 23 speaks about the Republic of China instead of the People's Republic of China and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics instead of the Russian Federation. 

At the same time the charter could acquire new articles. For example, priority of membership in the UN over membership in other international organisations could be established. New chapters on sanctions and on the status of military and peacekeeping forces could be added. Any decisions on "humanitarian intervention" should be firmly placed under the jurisdiction of the Security Council. 

The Pivot of Global Security

Reform of the Security Council is the most hotly disputed question facing the UN. Its chief importance stems from the fact that the council has the primary responsibility under the charter for maintaining international peace and security. It is the final authority in the UN structure. All members of the UN are obliged to accept and implement its decisions. No event highlighted the need to strengthen the council's legitimacy, coherence and effectiveness more than the Nato-led war against Yugoslavia. The council was bypassed and neglected as was the UN generally, and the entire international system of law received a severe blow. At the same time, the council is under pressure from the majority of developing countries to become more democratic and to make its procedures more transparent.

The structure of the Security Council has remained the same since its expansion in 1965 to reflect a burgeoning UN membership of 113 states. By the end of 1999 the UN had grown by nearly 60 per cent to 188 member states. However, the membership of the Security Council increased only from 11 to 15, while the number of permanent members has remained unchanged since 1945. 

Proposals on the size of an enlarged council vary from 20 to 26 members. The views of the permanent five essentially converge in that they all oppose any reforms that would threaten the ability of the council to carry out its responsibilities. But this agreement cannot conceal the fact that there is a division between Russia and China on the one hand, and between the US and Britain on the other, with France in the middle. Russian and China are motivated by a desire to preserve the UN-headed by the Security Council-as the highest authority in international affairs. The US and Britain, though defending their positions in the council, are keen to downgrade the UN's status as a whole. 

There are no serious objections from any quarter to granting permanent council membership to Germany and Japan (the strongest support for this idea comes from the US, France and Britain). Beyond that, it is unlikely that the council will expand by more than three additional permanent seats, allocated for the African, Asian (Russia is lobbying for India) and Latin American regional groups. Many countries in these groups incline to the option of rotating permanent seats to avoid clashes among their strongest contenders. Moreover, non-permanent seats may be increased to meet the demands of Africa, the Islamic states and the Non-aligned Movement as a whole. 

At the heart of the UN decision-making process is the unanimous vote of the permanent five. There have been only seven vetoes in the post-Cold War period compared to two hundred and forty in the UN's first forty-five years. All current permanent members firmly oppose any restriction or curtailment of the veto and look favourably on granting it to new permanent members. Russia rejects the claim that the need for unanimity among the permanent five paralyses the Security Council. It argues that such a view plays into the hands of those who use humanitarian or other pretexts to side-step the council and resort to military force. 

At the same time most member states regard the veto, at least in its present form, as obsolete and unjustified. Some want to limit its use with a view to abolishing it; others favour a unilateral commitment by permanent members to seek consensus in the council. Even the secretary-general has put forward a proposal to the effect that a qualified majority of council members might override the veto. 

In the end, permanent members might be persuaded to declare their willingness to work for consensus where possible, or they might accept some form of self-restriction, for example, that of explaining their use of the veto. They could decide to exercise the right of veto only when they consider the question to be of substantive, not procedural, importance. They might even voluntarily limit the veto to issues covered by Chapter VII of the charter, which allows "action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression". Any further changes would make it impossible to preserve the council as a collective and coherent body with unquestionable legitimate powers. The concurring vote of the permanent members is the best guarantee that confrontation can be reduced to a minimum and that the will of most member states is represented. The rule of consensus permeates the work of many other international organisations, for example, Nato and the EU, and its validity is not questioned there.

Global Governance

It is widely accepted these days that continuity and modernisation should go hand-in-hand to allow the world community to adapt itself to the process of global transformation. The era of both idealists and believers in realpolitik has passed. Continuity in international relations should consist of preserving the universal and regional organisations founded after 1945, primarily the UN. Yet their modernisation is equally important if we want to strengthen their legitimacy, democratic credentials and efficiency. Unlike the multipolarity at the end of the 19th century, the new model should be based on a culture of peace, conducive to the development of humanitarian values and ways of life. Pursuit of national interests will remain the heart of world politics, but it should acquire a human face. The transition from bipolarity to multipolarity demands as never before a strong co-operative mechanism to manage the interaction of numerous centres of power. 

The UN is such a mechanism. It is capable of ensuring, co-ordinating and monitoring the supremacy of law in international relations. The arsenal of threats to international peace is formidable: the danger of a proliferation in weapons of mass destruction; the growing number of regional conflicts; the spiralling arms race; the widening gap between rich and poor countries; the increase in organised crime, international terrorism and drug trafficking; the effects of environmental degradation and population growth. The UN is the sole international body capable of addressing such problems, and hindering its work is detrimental to global security.

The UN is the fulcrum of a new multipolar conception of the world in the 21st century. It must get ready to meet its modern challenges as soon as possible. These include: the democratisation of international relations, primarily the shaping of a just social, political and economic world order; and the humanisation of international relations, primarily the minimising of coercive measures permitted under international law and a review of the practice of imposing economic sanctions against states. A clear interpretation of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis, based on the norms of international law, is also needed, as is the demilitarisation of international relations via nuclear disarmament and the universalisation of non-proliferation, test-ban and anti-ballistic missile agreements.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of global governance depends upon the political will of states and their leaders.

1. Charles Powell, "Kosovo: A Lesson in the Art of Interference", Weekly Telegraph (London), 16 June 1999. 
2. David L. Phillips, "Sovereignty Is No Excuse for Tyranny", Wall Street Journal Europe, 22 June 1999. 
3. John Gray, "Keeping the Peace Is a Sad Business", Guardian Weekly (London), 2 May 1999.
4. Editorial, Daily Telegraph (London), 16 June 1999.
5. Christopher Layne and Benjamin Schwarz, "American Hegemony-Without an Enemy", Foreign Policy 92 (fall 1993).
6. Tony Blair, "A New Generation Draws the Line", Newsweek, 19 April 1999.
7. Robert Skidelsky, "The Flaws in the New World Order", Independent (London), 22 June 1999.
8. Quoted in Newsweek, 27 December 1999.
9. UN Press Release ECO/15 PI/1219, 26 January 2000.
10. See Anatoli Gromyko's memoir, Andrei Gromyko: v labirintakh Kremlia (vospominaniya i razmyshlenia syna) [Andrei Gromyko: In the Kremlin's labyrinth (recollections and reflections of the son)] (Moscow: Avtor, 1997), p. 179.
11. Ibid., p. 180.
12. Ibid., p. 179.
13. Ibid., p. 180.

With best regards,
Anatoli and Alexey Gromyko