New Straits Times

UN needs a makeover

It must be what it pretends to be: a world body relevant to all people


THE United Nations has lost its way. The signs are there for the world to see. Picture this: the UN Security Council, which has only five members — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France — has more bang than the 195-nation-strong UN General Assembly (UNGA). This is democracy deficit writ large. Armed with veto power, the five big powers dictate terms to the meek and the poor. The world, it seems, is there for their taking. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saw this as early as 1995 when he addressed the 50th UNGA. He was much troubled by the UN’s submission to the rich and powerful. He is similarly troubled 23 years hence. He was vintage Dr Mahathir when he took to the podium on Sept 28 at the 73rd UNGA: “When I last spoke here in 2003, I lamented how the world had lost its way. I bemoaned the fact that small countries continued to be at the mercy of the powerful. I argued the need for the developing world to push for reform, to enhance capacity building and diversify the economy. We need to maintain control of our destiny. ”

Iraq stands destroyed by the machinatio­ns of the powerful in the UN. And the world body stood by as the US-led coalition pummelled people and property on trumped-up charges. No weapons of mass destructio­n were found because there were none. The US and its allies knew it before they went to war. But the UN did not bring the US and its coalition members to account. Because it could not as they are powerful members of the Security Council. Iran is being similarly threatened by the US. No matter what Iran does to curb its nuclear ambitions, the US continues to threaten it with sanctions and regime change. Syria, too, continues to burn because of the involvemen­t of the big powers on both sides of the divide. Yemen is not spared either: there, the US and Britain are helping to maim and murder helpless civilians. We live in a world troubled by wars and conflicts, many of them caused by one or the other superpower.

This ailing world body needs a treatment and needs it now. Most importantl­y, the UN must be what it pretends to be: a world body relevant to all people. To do this, the UN needs a makeover. Not any makeover, but a serious transforma­tion. And it must start with the Security Council. In a world of 195 independen­t and sovereign nations, there is no place for a few countries to dictate the destiny of the many. As Dr Mahathir has suggested, every nation must be allowed to shape its own destiny. Veiled and real threats by powerful nations must cease. Countries that preach democracy must practise it. Do as I say but not as I do is no longer cool. Every nation, be it meek or strong, must be given space to build its future. Dr Mahathir’s “prosper-thy-neighbour” pill is a good one to swallow.

This ailing world body needs a treatment and needs it now.

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