Trends by Martin Khor
5 June 2006
South fights for a fairer UN system
hosted foreign ministers of developing countries in the Non Aligned
Movement as well as the Group of 77 last week. The leaders vowed to
raise the voice of the South in international relations, including the
United Nations reform process.
played host last week to two meetings of Foreign Ministers of the developing
countries. They had come for Ministerial meetings of the two most important
of the groupings of the developing world – the Non Aligned Movement
(NAM) and the Group of 77 and China (G77).
meetings were all the more important as they come at a critical juncture.
The United Nations is undertaking a major reform process.
it goes well, there will be a strengthened UN. But if the developed
nations have their way, it may well weaken the UN further in its development
role and make it increasingly irrelevant to the developing countries.
has been the chair of the NAM the past three years. It steered the
preparations and organization of the NAM Ministerial in Putrajaya on
NAM meeting adopted a 58-page document with details and proposals on
the UN reform, as well as proclaiming the positions of the group on
a range of issues including terrorism, security, development, and regional
is a comprehensive compendium of where the South stands today on the
whole gamut of international issues. The document will be the major
input to the NAM Summit of political leaders in Havana in mid-September.
a world dominated by one superpower and where unilateral military actions
have become sidelined the UN, the NAM is just as relevant (if not more
so) than when it was formed to champion the political aspirations of
the newly independent countries.
NAM’s main focus is on political issues, it also voices views on development
issues. The G77 on the other hand focuses almost solely on economic
and social issues, and on UN activities linked to them.
At the half-day G77 Ministerial
meeting in Putrajaya on 29 May, Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid
Albar, who hosted the meeting, and who is also current NAM said the
UN reform could be cast as a clash of ideas of what the UN is all about
and what it stands for.
Syed Hamid Albar said the
G77 has the idea of the multilateral system at the heart of inter-state
relations, a system based on sovereign equality of nations, codified
in international law, embodied in the UN and its Charter. It is the
idea of countries working together in partnership to achieve the goals
in the Charter and major international conferences.
“Ranged against our concept
of the UN is their ideal of a multilateral system made up of a collection
of plurilateral systems, in which the UN is one out of many such systems.
Hence their efforts to reduce the UN to certain niche areas, to manage
the UN along the lines of a business and dilute the inter-governmental
nature of the UN,” he said.
On the UN budget, he said
“we are concerned at efforts to use the power of the purse to push for
reforms in a certain partisan direction, which serves the interests
of one or a small group of countries. These efforts are counter-productive
and they go against Charter obligations. It would destroy the UN’s
most precious asset, namely its legitimacy arising from its equitable
Syed Hamid Albar warned that
the “system wide coherence” review of the UN seeks to radically change
UN institutions. Developing countries should be aware of any effort
to use this process as a pretext to reduce and diminish the UN.
of other countries spoke up, with many sharing Malaysia’s view that
several countries stressed that the reforms must be driven by the desire
to strengthen the UN system to play the central role in development
at the centre of the multilateral system, and not weaken it or divert
it to only “niche issues’.
Ministers who spoke strongly criticised some developed countries for
placing a “spending cap” on the budget of the UN Secretary General in
an attempt to link financing of the UN to whether the UN reform is going
in the speed and direction they want.
Pahad, Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa (current chairperson
of the G77) said the group is concerned about the spending cap that
has been imposed on the UN Secretary-General by giving him only 50%
of the year’s budget so far. He asked for the cap to be lifted at the
end of June.
(the former G77 chair) said UN reform should make the UN more effective
in the field of development. It was opposed to reforms that weaken
the UN agencies.
is unjust to have a spending cap linked to the UN reform. The reform
should be to strengthen multilateralism and not narrow political interests.
said the IMF and World Bank have strayed far from their original roles.
These institutions have power but no mandate, while ECOSOC (the UN’s
economic and social council) has mandate but no power.
between these organizations should be based on leadership by the UN
on global economic issues.
said there should be equal decision-making among countries in the reform
process. It is important for developing countries to have a strategy
to protect their common interest.
Pahad concluded by saying the G77 would continue to dialogue with the
developed countries. The UN reform process should not be a case of
the strong dictating the weak.
meeting adopted a 32 paragraph statement on UN reform that will guide
its position in the talks ahead.
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