CHICAGO: Lebanon’s former United Nations Ambassador Amal Mudallali said there is growing pressure to reform the 78-year-old international body in order to force its five founding members to share power with the rest of the world and keep the organization relevant.
The UN was founded in 1945 and consists of two major bodies: the UN Security Council, which includes five founding members with the power to veto any action or proposal; and the General Assembly, which has grown from 51 members to 193 today, and can adopt resolutions with moral authority, but no enforcement.
Mudallali acknowledged that although the UN has had some successes, failure to reform combined with growing inequity between nations of the “global north” and “global south” has resulted in a rise in competing but narrowly focused international coalitions such as BRICS, which was founded in 2010, but in recent years has become much more influential.
“If you look at the last 78 years, the world averted a big war, a third world war. And I think a lot of it has a lot to do with the fact that all these big powers and small powers and all these countries sit together there and work on trying to find solutions, and that is very important. It avoided a nuclear war. It created a big, huge system of development, helping poor countries around the world everywhere,” Mudallali said during the taping of “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” on Wednesday (Sept. 20, 2023).
“The problem is that the system that was created after the Second World War has not been reformed. It has been so static. There has been no change, no reform. Because the big powers who are now, and they gave themselves more power by creating the Security Council and they have veto power. They are the ones who control whether there is any change or not. The big powers are the ones who can do it.”
Mudallali added: “There is a new movement in the United Nations and the General Assembly to challenge the veto because the veto is preventing the Security Council from any decisions that are very important, and central to peace and security, especially when you need it when you have like the war in Ukraine. The Security Council has been gridlocked and there has been no resolution on Ukraine.”
Failure to reform has resulted in many nations contesting the old power structure that the UN of 1945 represented compared with the changing world balance today, with the rise of small groups of independent member-nation organizations, such as BRICS and the G20.
“But today, as we talk, it is really an interesting General Assembly because it comes on the heels of the BRICS meeting in South Africa. It comes after the G20 meeting, where the global south is rising. Their voice is rising. There is a new narrative now. They are telling the north, as people say, that things are not going to go on as business as usual,” Mudallali said.
“We need reform and this time our life depends on it. Because the international world order that we set up in 1945 and that served the world beautifully for the last 78 years and advanced economies, social issues and prevented wars, but now is not working. Because it has to be more equitable. It has to represent the diversity, that the world has changed. Because the volume of the world economy and the power is shifting. There is a shift in dynamics from the north to the south. There is a shift in the dynamics of power, not only the economic power but the political power. People are contesting the order.”
Over the years, the world has seen the rising influence of new limited member-nation coalitions, such as BRICS and the G20, seen as competing with the UN, which is supposed to represent the interests of all nations on all issues.
Groups such as BRICS, founded in 2010 by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have grown significantly since the start of the Ukraine war. BRICS has raised some concerns about its intent, to “contest the international order” or “undermine the domination of certain countries” such as the US, Mudalalli said.
“If BRICS’ only objective is to change the order, it means like if it is international competition with the US only, this is not going to be good for anybody. But if they are doing it because they really want to reform the system and they want to have a better way, a diversified way of doing business with everybody, I think that would be good,” said Mudallali, now a respected international affairs analyst.
“And, then, maybe you can see, hopefully you can see a constructive role they can play in the international economy and this. But it really not good for the world if it is seen or it is perceived as only a competition between the US and China, and the world is being divided now into groups. If you weaken the UN, and if you weaken the state institutions that you put there to bring peace and security and economic prosperity and stuff like that and to get the world to work together, and you go and work outside it, this is very dangerous and this is no good for world peace.”
Many “global south” nations are wondering if the UN can be inclusive to address their needs, Mudallali said, noting that the UN plan to advance 17 Sustainable Development Goals is halfway through its 10-year timeframe and has achieved only 12 to 15 percent of its stated goals.
“As long as these countries, what you call them the global south, the rest of the world — not the Security Council and the big powers — see that they have no stake at the UN, and they see there is no movement to be inclusive and be representative of the world as it is today, you are going to see a very divided world order,” Mudallali said.
“You are going to have a splintering of different groups, people shopping for different alliances and things like that, because the central forum for bringing them together, to work together, is being weakened if it is not being reformed.”
The dramatic growth of debt among countries of the global south is of immediate concern, Mudallali said.
But it was discouraging that the leader of only one of the Security Council’s founding members, the US, addressed the UN General Assembly this week, with the leaders of Russia, France, the UK and China absent.
Mudallali made her comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” which is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 Radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 radio on the US Arab Radio Network.
You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.