Why Not Firm Call for UN Reform?

Why Not Firm Call for UN Reform?

FINANCIAL TIMES 05/16/08
By Michael Shank

Sir, Heavy on protestation, light on substance, Robert Kagan’s call for a concert of democratic countries begs a hypothetical test run (“The case for a league of democracies”, May 14).

Test three of the globe’s burning blisters – genocide, climate change and human rights violations – to determine how a league might more effectively lean on such ills and the results hardly generate momentum.

Why? Because the league leader, Mr Kagan’s own United States, will remain intransigent regardless of the venue. One of the United Nations Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, the US has obfuscated major movement on all three conflicts.

On genocide, the US first failed Rwanda by fettering UN action and is now moving weakly on Darfur. Sudan’s dead number in the hundreds of thousands, yet US government intervention remains feeble and its rhetoric shallow.

On climate change, the US failed not only the UN but the majority of the world’s democracies, by refusing to ratify the greenhouse gas-reducing Kyoto protocol. Even democratic allies such as the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Japan signed and ratified the treaty, leaving the leading emitter of the would-be league isolated.

On human rights, the US has yet to endorse the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, breaking ranks yet again. Is recognising “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” ultimately that difficult for the world’s presumed democratic leader?

Mr Kagan’s clarion call should summon, instead, a reform of the existing league – that of the UN. But not in the manner Mr Kagan and others might envision. What is undermining “the responsibility to protect” is not the absence of a democratic quorum, but the presence of a permanent imposter.

Michael Shank,
Government Relations Adviser,
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,
George Mason University,
Arlington, VA 22201, US