29
Jul

By Richard N. Haass

0af13a9e73dd91bb4ea10ed01bdfb606.portrait

Whenever something bad happens – Iran moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, North Korea firing another missile, civilian deaths reaching another grim milestone in Syria’s civil war, satellites revealing an alarming rate of polar-ice melt – some official or observer will call upon the international community to act. There is only one problem: there is no “international community.”

Part of the reason stems from the absence of any mechanism for “the world” to come together. The United Nations General Assembly comes closest, but little can be expected from an organization that equates the United States or China with, say, Fiji or Guinea-Bissau.

To be fair, those who founded the UN after World War II created the Security Council as the venue in which major powers would meet to determine the world’s fate. But even that has not worked out as planned, partly because the world of 2013 bears little resemblance to that of 1945. How else could one explain that Britain and France, but not Germany, Japan, or India, are permanent, veto-wielding members?

Alas, there is no agreement on how to update the Security Council. Efforts like the G-20 are welcome, but they lack authority and capacity, in addition to suffering from excessive size. The result is “multilateralism’s dilemma”:  the inclusion of more actors increases an organization’s legitimacy at the expense of its utility.

No amount of UN reform could make things fundamentally different. Today’s major powers do not agree on the rules that ought to govern the world, much less on the penalties for breaking them. Even where there is accord in principle, there is little agreement in practice. The result is a world that is messier and more dangerous than it should be.

Consider climate change. Burning fossil fuels is having a measurable impact on the earth’s temperature. But reducing carbon emissions has proved impossible, because such a commitment could constrain GDP growth (anathema to developed countries mired in economic malaise) and impede access to energy and electricity for billions of people in developing countries, which is unacceptable to China and India.

Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons would seem a more promising issue for global collaboration. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) limits the right to possess nuclear weapons to the Security Council’s five permanent members, and then only temporarily. Read more…

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on July 24, 2013.

Comments

website August 12, 2013 - 6:45 am

Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!
It is the little changes which will make the most significant
changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

Leave a Comment

*

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept