Rebuilding the United Nations

By Eric Fawcett

The workshop on United Nations Reform organized by Science for Peace for November 23 and 24, 1993, operated with the express mandate, "to make recommendations on United Nations Reform relevant to the mandate of the Commission on Global Governance."

The following recommendations were developed from papers presented at the Workshop, and from their subsequent discussion in each of the three sessions scheduled. The authors of the papers, as listed below, have indicated their approval of the recommendations: Geoffrey Pearson, Director of the Group of 78, former Director of CIIPS; Newton Bowles, former Director of the UNICEF Program, U.N. Representative for the Group of 78; Professor David Cox, Political Science, Queen's University, former Director of CIIPS; Professor Dietrich Fischer, Political Science, Pace University, Consultant to U.N. Agencies; Dr. Hanna Newcombe, Director of the Peace Research Institute, Dundas; Dieter Heinrich, World Federalists Council, former President of W.F. Canada; Professor K. Venkata Raman, Law Faculty, Queen's University, former UNITAR Senior Fellow; Peter Padbury, Canadian Council for International Cooperation; Robert O. Matthews, Political Science, University of Toronto; Professor Eric Fawcett, Chairperson of the Workshop.

The Recommendations

  1. The U.N. should have two Assemblies: one of them, the present General Assembly, in which states are represented; the other, the U.N. Parliamentary Assembly, This assembly would comprise parliamentarians selected by their peers and supplemented in countries that do not have a parliamentary system by members elected by a process still to be worked out. Additionally, Non-Govern-mental Organizations (NGOs) should be involved to a considerable degree. The U.N. Parliamentary Assembly should act initially in an advisory capacity to the General Assembly, but its powers should widen in due course, as happened in the European Parliament.
  2. The U.N. Security Council should be reformed to represent continental or subcontinental regions, rather than selected and elected particular states as at present. since the U.N. Security Council now has a great deal of power and is not truly representative of the world community of nations, it should have an Advisory Body chosen by the General Assembly, this will help the Security Council become more representative of the world community.
  3. The veto in the Security Council may be modified: by requiring at least two regions to vote "no" before a resolution is defeated; by waiving the veto rule for some classes of resolutions; and by allowing the General Assembly to overrule the Security Council in certain cases. The International Court of Justice should serve as an appeal court for decisions made by the U.N. Security Council.
  4. In all U.N. interventions, we should ensure U.N. leadership and authority, and should not delegate these to any individual state(s). Traditional collective security measures, i.e., wars to repel or punish aggressors, should be considered only as a last resort, because they kill too many innocent people and sometimes leave the guilty ruler still in power. There should be a shift from military interventions, which endanger U.N. impartiality and lead to war casualties, to protection of civil order and delivery of needed supplies. Besides official diplomacy aimed at resolving conflicts, second-track or unofficial (citizen) diplomacy should be increasingly utilized, both being preventative in nature.
  5. A volunteer U.N. force of about 5,000 to 10,000 should be created, responsible to the U.N. Secretary-General, with some component ready to act at 24hours' notice. Women should constitute a considerable part of this force. Members of the U.N. force should receive anti-racist and anti-discrimination training, and be instructed to respect local cultures and customs.
  6. The U.N. should have at its disposal an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA), as originally proposed by France, in order to be able to monitor danger zones around the world and predict impending crises or wars, so that the U.N. can take appropriate preventative actions.
  7. A very urgent matter is to formulate new rules for U.N. humanitarian intervention in countries suffering from chaotic internal war, widespread famine, or gross violations of human rights. When and how the U.N. forces become involved should be carefully considered in each specific case.
  8. There should be an International Criminal Court to conduct trials of persons (including national leaders) or corporations accused of crimes against humanity, as defined in War Crimes trials after World War II.
  9. The NGO consensusbuilding process for seeking solutions to the great global problems, which was used successfully at the UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro (the people's treaties process), should be supported and further developed, to beincluded in globalinstitutional decision-making. Women should increasingly be included in the NGO process. The number of women participating in U.N. decision-making in general should be increased with the aim of soon achieving roughly equal gender representation.
  10. The Global Environmental Facility, which provides financial aid from rich industrialized countries to developing countries in order to help them avoid environmentally destructive practices in their development, should be supported and further developed.
  11. The U.N. needs an independent source of revenue. This mining or international flights or international money transactions, or from a combination of such taxes.
  12. The U.N. should have an International Democratic Elections Agency to supervise and monitor national elections, plebiscites or referenda, when so requested or when this is required to ensure fair election practices.

Eric Fawcett is a retired physics professor at the University of Toronto and founding president of Science for Peace.

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1994

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1994, page 20. Some rights reserved.

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