New Zealand and the Rule of international Law: erecting the governance architecture

UN HQ building New York

Blog No. 149.

“4. When a critical mass of nations is on board with the plan, start implementing the economic changes and erecting the global governance architecture required.”

I have written before on this subject at Blog No. 106. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=2552 What global governance architecture does exist around the globe’s multiple, self-interested sovereign nations is largely contained within the structure of the United Nations Organisation. The UNO was erected at the end of WWII by the victorious allies, long before most of the current member nations existed as sovereign entities. (There were 49 original national signatories, whose views would have been taken into consideration at the time of the UN’s foundation. 144 nations, whose views would not have been taken into consideration, have been subsequently admitted.)

The organisation is currently, and logically, structured along the lines of a giant corporation. Policy is decided by the Board of Directors (the SC, Security Council) who in theory have to answer at least once a year to the easily disunited shareholders (the GA, General Assembly) while the execution of the SC’s policies is distributed amongst multiple UN agencies. Where the analogy with a corporate falls down in that the organisation generates no revenue of its own and lives entirely off subsidies granted at the whim of its shareholders according to their means and dependent on the value they currently see in the organisation’s continuation of its functions.

Unsurprisingly, when establishing the initial structure, the most powerful founder members took good care to protect their interests. They guaranteed themselves permanent seats on the Security Council, the right to veto any motions that came before it and a constitution extremely resistant to amendment.

More than seventy years on, in the face of the immense and rapid change that the world has experienced in the post war years, the structure no longer is fit for its multiple functions, the most important of which is the prevention of war. If it is to retain any legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of its shareholders, it urgently requires radical reform or, if that proves impossible, its replacement by an alternative arrangement, better suited to its purpose. To date there has been no shortage of suggestions for incremental reform (just Google ‘UN reform’) but all hopes of radical reform come up against what the Veto wielding powers on the SC regard as being in their best national interest.

The organ most in need of reform is the SC. There are multiple proposals that its composition should better reflect the distribution of population among the shareholders. Britain (population 66 million) is one of the five permanent members of the board, India (population 1.3 billion) is lucky when it occasionally gets to occupy one of the ten rotating seats on the board.

Permanent members and Veto-holders China, USA & Russia feature. Veto-holders France and the UK don’t enter the top ten in population.

Islam is the second most followed religion and Hinduism the third, yet neither group is represented among the 5 veto-holders, of which 4 are Christian. Whereas Jewish Israel (Population 8 million) can borrow the USA’s veto whenever it wishes to assault its Moslem neighbours.

The most popular call for SC reform from those nations that don’t possess it, is that the veto should be abolished. Any veto holder can exercise its right on behalf of an allied party. Thus, in effect, Israel (population 8.5 million) the most egregious flouter and of international laws on aggression, has exercised the USA’s right of veto in the face of the opposition of the vast majority of GA members on more than forty-three occasions since 1972. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/blog/2017/12/19/how-many-times-has-us-backed-israel-at-un

We should all be grateful that, while the SC is composed of deeply factionalised nations looking after what they perceive as their individual national interests, as opposed to those of the global family of nations, that the veto continues to exist. It is an essential safety valve that to date has prevented any one faction being able to bludgeon its opponents into a corner from which their attempt to escape would have been likely to have ended in a nuclear war.

Given the success of the proposed New Zealand initiatives outlined in this series of blogs, a situation will be created in which a far larger proportion of the world’s statesmen and diplomats, as well as of the populations they represent, are better informed and have ready access to a more realistic view of global events and circumstances. An assessment of the situation based on reality, rather than national propaganda and spin, will make them more open to taking a global, as opposed to a narrow, national, view. Arguments for the necessary reforms to the UN’s grossly inadequate international peace-keeping and catastrophe-coping machinery, on which humanity has to rely at the present time, should no longer fall on deaf ears.

A concerted attempt to achieve such reform would have to start with a constitutional convention of which the composition (again to be at least partly selected by lot) is seen by all parties to be both legitimate and competent. It will be up to the organisers of this convention to decide the extent to which Abdullah Ocalan’s ideas, as set out in my Blog No 106, referred to in the opening paragraph, should be considered by the attendees.  By the stage at which such a constitutional convention is convened, the demand for reform should have reached the point by which it was accepted that it be empowered to insist that its recommendations be enforced.

Having spent the last several years reading around this topic, here are some suggestions as to matters for discussion and decision by such a convention.

First reform. The composition of the SC has to be changed. A possible solution would be that all fifteen seats be filled on a five year rotational basis. The seats be allocated by lot with say, all nations with populations of less than one hundred million having one entry in the draw and for each hundred million thereafter another entry into the draw. Thus India would have a thirteen-fold greater chance of its name being drawn than any of the European countries. The second provision would be that no nation may take up a seat more than once in a fifteen year period. The third provision would be that on being appointed to the SC the representatives temporarily renounce their national citizenship and take an oath to serve humanity as a Citizen of Planet Earth. Only when factionalism on the SC based on national alliances and allegiances no longer enters into the debate, can the veto rights of individual nations be done away with.

Second reform. The UN takes the power to become self-financing. There are several suggestions as to how this might be achieved ranging from a Tobin tax to taxes or tolls on the use of the international commons (seas and air-space.) My Blog No. 83 goes into more detail on this. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=1930

Third reform. The head-quarters of the UN moves to a more neutral location, closer to the centre of Earth’s population and less exposed to scrutiny and interference from state intelligence and security agencies.

Fourth reform. While employed by any UN agency, officials are required to abandon their national citizenship and swear the same oath to serve humanity as a Citizen of Planet Earth. Officials will be offered employment on criteria other than strict nationality quotas. Salaries and perks will be reduced to discourage those taking up employment for the money and to encourage those taking it up in order to serve an ideal.

Fifth reform. New agencies are created: firstly, a new UN Environmental Protection Agency. Also, additional agencies in line with James Ranney’s ideas as outlined in my Blog No. 139. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=3551

Ranney argues that nationalism is so powerful a force that it could never be overcome to the point when a global governmental structure was allowed to trump national sovereignty. Nevertheless, his argument continued, certain new international organs were required if a global rule of law, which did away with the need for war were to be established. He argued that the need for a central effective global governance structure could be circumvented by international treaty.

His proposal was that a World Conciliation Board and World Equity Tribunal should be created. All international disputes would have to go before this tribunal and be subjected to:

• Compulsory negotiation.

• Compulsory mediation.

• Compulsory Arbitration.

• Compulsory adjudication.

Ranney saw as a pre-condition for success in this endeavour, prior nuclear disarmament – but how is the latter to be achieved in the absence of the former?

Under the proposal set out in these blogs, the centralised body dealing with the prevention of war will have been established, thus enabling Ranney’s suggested agencies to be set up without further negotiation. There remains the final problem that Ranney attempted to tackle: enforcement of decisions. How does any alliance of non-nuclear armed states force a nuclear armed state to surrender its weapons and submit to international law?

I had originally proposed discussing this problem in a separate blog. However, its having to be faced up to seems so far in the future that such detailed discussion at this time would be too hypothetical.

If the newly reformed UN (or should that meet too dogged a resistance from the major powers, the parallel organisation set up by collaborating nations) encounters such problems, there should be no need for attempts to gather sufficient military force to ensure compliance. By the time this point has been reached, the crises of war, environment, climate and economy as well as global awareness of their true nature and causes, will have reached a point from where global (and internal) public opinion can be mobilised and, if required, other sanctions of economic and political ostracism can be applied to the extent that, no matter how obtuse a national government, continued resistance makes no sense.

Sixth reform. In time, as COPE numbers increase, it should become possible to add a democratic element to the General Assembly. This could be through enabling COPEs to vote in referenda on major matters. With recent developments in electronic voting procedures and by taking the best practice lessons to be learnt from the Swiss model, such a move will not only increase the legitimacy of the reformed UN’s decisions, but will also have a significant function as a disseminator of information and education.

In summary. What is proposed is that conditions should be created in which all inhabitants of the Earth come to view themselves as holding dual citizenship: both of whatever nationality they hold and of one much greater nation, that of Planet Earth.

There should be a central global governance body recognised by all people as impartial and fully legitimate. It would fully adhere to the principle of subsidiarity, leaving decisions which can be taken at national level, to be taken at that level. It would concern itself with matters which transcend national frontiers:

  • The global rule and development of international law.
  • The prevention of war and destructive conflicts between nations.
  • The protection of assets such as the oceans and the atmosphere, held in common by all nations.
  • The succour and welfare of all Citizens of Planet Earth when their primary nation’s resources are no longer able to cope.
  • The coordination of the simultaneous imposition of necessary climate saving measures between nations to ensure that none gain an unfair competitive economic advantage from the actions taken by others to reduce damage to the planet’s climate.

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