Talk:United Nations

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Icon politics.svg

This Organizations related article has not received a brainstar for quality. Please consider expanding the article appropriately. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.



Your edits confuse me. When, recently, has the US supported anything the UN has done? (Esp. during the Bush administration.) The US has routinely ignored everything, and when they can't get their way, has gone around the UN's back. (See: Iraq War.) Could you explain that some, please? Researcher 16:01, 25 October 2007 (EDT)

What is it exactly that US "Conservatives" have against the UN?[edit]

So, I've been listening to the latest exciting instalment of Eagle Forum's wonderfully stupid radio programme (I know I shouldn't, since it rots the brain, but it's so difficult to take the piss if you don't know what they think) and this week it was about how the UN wants to take over the US education system, using the EVIL International Baccalaureate.

This struck me as a completely novel perspective coming from the UK education debate, considering here the Conservative party is mostly in favour of the IB. The IB is seen as academically rigorous and as an antidote to "dumbing down" in schools.

Anyway, in the second half of the show, they rather got off topic and started basing the UN for things like "pantheism" (It's so difficult as a good little brainwashed lefty to remember what I'm supposed to believe this week. I thought I was supposed to be atheist?) and the old bugbear, global warming. The depth of hatred these people seem to have for an organisation that at best could be described as "mostly harmless" makes me think there's some deeper reason that I'm missing. Why exactly do they hate the UN so much? — Unsigned, by: Jeeves / talk / contribs

There are a few parts to the antipathy that US conservatives have towards the UN. Firstly, there is the (mostly correct) view that many of the nations in the UN hate the US. There are whole blocs in the UN (mostly of the underdeveloped nations) that seek to balance the US (which is, from an IR perspective, the exact thing they should be trying to do.) However, the idea that some people cannot understand that everything the US does is great leaves a few conservatives cold.
Moreover, there is an older fear that being part of the UN means giving up a good deal of the US's sovereignty. In a completely literal sense, this is very true. By binding itself to international treaties, the US (and other states) do give up some of their sovereignty. (Of course, most of the treaties the US is bound to are ones the US designed.)
Lastly, there is an old conspiracy theory that the UN is secretly run by Communists (or whomever) and seeking to destroy the US. (See New World Order.) Researcher 19:25, 12 December 2007 (EST)

Yeah, I find this fascinating. My guess is that it has something to do with the notion that the US, having been established by and for 'free' people, should never again suffer 'taxation without representation', or more precisely, rule by anyone other than the elected Government of the US - it being the only body that has domain over US citizens. It's to do with the paranoid fear of the UN 'taking control' of the US and subjecting it to filthy, foreign ways - beacuse of course the ways of the US (waterboarding, etc) are on such a higher plane than any other society that EVER LIVED. And, finally, some of these boobs genuinely believe the UN represents the coming of the New World Order, which Biblically speaking is the work of Beelzebub himself and is yet another mark of the End Times. Hence the UN=Satan. Really. They think this. Google 'UN military vehicles on US soil' and the like. Fun fun. DogP 19:30, 12 December 2007 (EST)

Yikes. Just did the aforementioned Google search. someone has to tell these guys that there is no such a thing as "UN Forces." When the UN sends a peacekeeping mission, say, into some horrific place, it's the member states that pony up the forces to run the mission. It's not like the UN has its own standing army or anything. Those UN vehicles on American soil probably belong to the American army, on loan to the UN for a mission in Bosnia or something, and are being shuttled around the US for repairs/refits/or to be re-painted back into US colours at the end of the contract. PFoster 19:41, 12 December 2007 (EST)

Yes, that's exactly what's going on - they're either going out to UN duty or returning. However, you're missing the secret agenda: 'They' are building sooper-seekrit armies of death that are going to sweep aside the great US military and make us all eat croissants for breakfast, or onions. And sit with our hands dangling in that pansy Euro way. DogP 19:46, 12 December 2007 (EST)

That's nothing--in the 50's and early 60's the John Birch Society was convinced that there were thousands of "Afro-Cuban" troops in the American South, participating in war games with the US and the UN, that were going to be loosed as part of the attempt to bring the US firmly under the UN's heel. Researcher 19:54, 12 December 2007 (EST)

Boutros-Boutros Ghali[edit]

Weren't there allegations that he had been abducted by aliens (which he denied).

List of Untied Nations Secretaries General would be useful. (talk) 14:41, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

UN Parliamentary Assembly[edit]

It's not exactly clear who would be eligible to serve as members of a UNPA, and how they would be chosen. It seems like three proposals are (1) they would be members of national parliaments, so for instance the U.S. Congress could send a few of its members to serve; (2) they could be any people the national governments saw fit to send to represent them; or (3) they could be directly elected by the people. Landmartian (talk) 19:13, 17 December 2014 (UTC)

(1) or (2) are the most likely, and I really doubt anyone are seriously contemplating (3). I guess that (2) would be easier to get approved, because the governments who are the actual members of the U.N. are probably more likely to accept a suggestion which would still leave them as gatekeepers. However, the question is whether national parliaments would accept it, or manage to pressure governments into accepting (1), which is pretty much the "standard model" for similar parliamentary assemblies. The problem with (2) is that it would pretty much render the whole idea of a UNPA meaningless, since the argument for it is that (in contrast to the General Assembly) it would be composed of members with a clear popular mandate without the governments being able to dictate who can and can't join it. However, considering how long a UNPA has been discussed I'm doubtful that it's about to be created. Another intergovernmental organisation which was created without such a PA, NATO, has refused to grant formal recognition to the NATO-PA created by national parliamentarians in 1955, and as such NATO-PA remains a separate organisation whose recommendations are only accepted by the North Atlantic Council as a matter of courtesy and practice (i.e. the NAC has no legal obligations to even read NATO-PA's recommendations, and could, as they did in the past, simply refuse to even receive them). ScepticWombat (talk) 19:29, 17 December 2014 (UTC)
Probably the UNPA would be established in a similar way as the International Criminal Court, that is, by a treaty entirely separate from the United Nations Charter. Thus, it might be able to go into effect with the approval of only a small number of countries (much as the ICCt was established by 60 members originally). Probably the main impediment would be the question of what purpose it would serve; the ICCt, by contrast, had an obvious purpose. One of the criticisms, by the way, of the ICCt, is that it's a court without a legislature, so political decisions end up being made by judges; maybe the treaty could be amended to allow the UNPA to serve a legislative role.
There's been some support (if memory serves, especially in some of the European countries that are already accustomed to directly electing their MEPs) for having the delegates be directly elected. The decision of whether to do that could be left up to the members at first, and then perhaps there could be a later amendment to require direct election. Landmartian (talk) 19:43, 17 December 2014 (UTC)
The reason that I doubt the directly elected model is that practically no other parliamentary assembly is constituted this way, the EP being the exception that proves the rule (and even it wasn't directly elected for the first 27 years of its existence). Again, your idea of an ICC-like multi-tempo UNPA would probably lead to problems because it would need either to be fitted into a UN framework, despite not representing all UN member states (an iffy legal prospect, I'd wager), or it would be something like the NATO-PA and thus kept legally separate from the UN, which might lead to the same turf wars and refusal from the government-controlled UN to cooperate with the UNPA that NATO-PA experienced vis-a-vis NATO for decades until the present modus vivendi was reached.
As to the purpose a UNPA would serve, that would be quite clear (to me at least): It would probably be a sort of deliberative assembly that is quite prevalent in other intergovernmental organisations (e.g. PACE in the Council of Europe).
One interesting suggestion that has been floating around is to tie the oldest of these parliamentary assemblies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU, founded in 1889), to the UN and thus use this existing worldwide assembly as a UNPA. ScepticWombat (talk) 20:31, 17 December 2014 (UTC)
Jo Leinen wrote, "The EU parliament started as a consultative body with representations from the various national parliaments and very quickly we went towards the direct election of the members of the EU parliament parallel with new competencies of legislation, budget power, and scrutiny of the executive, so I think that this is the first example worldwide of a transnational parliament at the end directly elected by the citizens and this could be a blueprint, a sort of model, how we envisage the UN Parliamentary Assembly to start as an advisory body and then, little by little, to gain power and to control decision making and as well to make decisions with world wide dimension."
I think what made it easier for the EU to integrate the EP into its decision-making is that plans for European integration made it necessary to keep revamping the EU through new treaties, and each treaty was another opportunity to gradually increase the power of the EP within that framework. There are sometimes U.N. conferences to draft new treaties and create new international organizations, and each of these could be an opportunity to carve out a role for a UNPA in global governance, once a UNPA has been created. I doubt the Permanent Five will be willing to dilute their power over the U.N. by amending the U.N. Charter to give more power to a UNPA, so probably a successor organization to the U.N. would need to be created without their consent (much as the ICCt was created without the consent of the U.S.). The term "U.N. Parliamentary Assembly", then, could end up being a misnomer because it might end up having power over newer organizations but not over the U.N.
One of the differences between the EU and U.N. is that economic integration was done through the former, while on the global level, economic integration was done through new organizations like the WTO. So there weren't the same opportunities to revamp the U.N.'s structure through new treaties as there were for the EU. Landmartian (talk) 21:37, 17 December 2014 (UTC)
Actually, the most fundamental difference between the EU and UN is that the former is supranational, while the latter is intergovernmental. Also, I find it rather frustrating that far too many (incl. Jo Leinen in this case) try to "learn from" or at least draw parallels with the development of the EP, rather than other such parliamentary assemblies (PAs). While the EP is by far the best known of these PAs, it's also extremely unusual in having become co-legislative and directly elected, which no other PA is. This also flows from the supranational nature of the EU, while UN conventions are generally only binding on those states who assents to them. Even back in the ECSC days the "pre-EU" had a supranational element (the Commission) and an advisory/deliberative one (the Common Assembly) as well as the intergovernmental one (the Council).
The argument isn't that a UNPA should be a legislative forum, but just because a PA isn't legislative, doesn't mean that it's pointless. The (over)emphasis on the legislative aspect is another pet aversion of mine, because it tends to flow from a(n often unacknowledged) bias that perceives these PAs through the lens of the parliament they know from their homeland (this also pops up in the endless allegations of the EP not being a "real" parliament with the complaints typically being that the EP lacks some feature that the complainer's national parliament has). After all, the origin of the modern parliament wasn't legislative bodies, but the advisory fora of the middle ages (hell, even the Roman Senate was only advisory).
The various arguments in favour of a UNPA is basically that it would provide an advisory and deliberative forum for delegates who are selected on the basis of some form of popular mandate (the "standard" PA-model being the appointment of national MPs who cannot simultaneously be cabinet ministers) - think PACE or similar bodies, such as the Latin American Parliament or the OSCE-PA, not the (current) EP. By contrast, delegation practice to the General Assembly is completely controlled by governments, most of which tend to send solely or predominately civil servants, rather than elected officials. I really doubt the viability of creating a UNPA outside of the charter, exactly because it would run into the same problems as NATO-PA, which is why I doubt that it would even be attempted. Those democratic states who wish for parliamentary involvement in the UN already do this by including MPs in their General Assembly delegations, so I doubt that they'll be very eager to add a separate (pseudo-)UNPA outside of the existing legal framework of the UN.
Creating a "rival UN" (i.e. "a successor organization to the U.N.") seems to me to be an even less realistic prospect, no matter the dissatisfaction with the UN from multiple sides. Just look at how little has come out of the brouhaha about an "alliance of democracies" that would supposedly provide a better alternative to the UN. The problem is that these alternatives ignores the fact that unless you decide to go down the road (to nowhere, in my opinion) of "liberal imperialism" an alliance of democracies or similar alternatives to the UN would run the risk of becoming mere preaching to the choir, simply because non-members would be free to ignore it (national sovereignty and all that).
Nevertheless, it's quite interesting to note which intergovernmental organisations lack a(n integrated) PA: the UN, NATO and the WTO (I might throw in the IMF and World Bank too, but they're slightly different). All of these organisations are concerned with "classic" "high" politics (foreign policy, security/defence, and foreign trade). In other words, governments seem to have been very careful to guard their monopoly on these "classic" governmental (foreign/international) policy areas (in line with the old-school idea that governments are basically unitary foreign policy actors, and that parliamentary duties belong solely or primarily in the realm of domestic policy - at best assenting to or rejecting deals negotiated by cabinet ministers and diplomats). ScepticWombat (talk) 12:37, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
What would you regard as the defining characteristics of a supranational union? In my view, once a union has supremacy over its members in providing the state functions of police, courts, and defense, then it can be considered supranational. Up till the point at which the defense function is taken over by the union, the members are free to throw off the yoke whenever they want by asserting their sovereignty and backing it up with armed force. I would not consider the EU supranational yet, since the defense function is still fulfilled primarily by the member countries, and there aren't EU courts and EU police to enforce EU mandates by criminally prosecuting violators.
I guess it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to envision a UNPA fulfilling an advisory function, since even the UNGA is mostly an advisory body in the global scheme of things. Would you consider the WTO to be a supranational body, by the way, given that it has arbitration panels that render binding decisions? Landmartian (talk) 19:52, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
The EU may not be a fully fledged supranational union (i.e. the United States of Europe wet dream of EU federalists), but EU legislation is supranational in that it's binding on its member states and has to be implemented by them (again, unlike UN conventions). It is this difference that is central to understanding the differences between the EU and UN (and the fact that they've had very different institutional setups from the beginning, of course). As to the WTO, it certainly has at least some aspects of the supranational, insofar as its member states aren't free to either accept or reject its arbitration rulings. However, the WTO also has far stronger intergovernmental aspects, given that its rules are essentially made through haggling between governments and even the dispute settlement system has aspects of this, so I'd guess I'd place the WTO as a mainly intergovernmental organisation with some supranational features. The same could be said of NATO, btw. ScepticWombat (talk) 01:49, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

The powers given to the Council of Ministers, though, would tend to add weight to arguments that the EU has a strong intergovernmental aspect. It sounds like you're saying that self-executing treaties are what make an organization supranational. Landmartian (talk) 04:11, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

The difference is that it's not the Council alone which negotiates the legislation, though the Council has to give its assent. Also, Council decisions are mostly by majority vote with those states being outvoted still being bound by the majority decision (unlike self-executing treaties which only bind their signatories). This is quite unlike the kind of intergovernmentalism found in other (more purely) intergovernmental bodies, though I agree that the Council is the most intergovernmental of the EU decision-making bodies, possibly excepting the European Council (which is an odd latecomer to the party). ScepticWombat (talk) 08:10, 19 December 2014 (UTC)
These are good points. So I guess you would view a legislature able to pass legally binding or otherwise enforceable resolutions as being a key feature of a supranational body. In that sense, the UN Security Council is supranational, right? Landmartian (talk) 00:25, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
If the UNSC can be said to pass legislation, it's of a very particular nature, pertaining solely to maintaining international peace and security with its "supranational powers" consisting of approving "adverse initiatives" (sanctions, armed intervention) against a state without that state government's consent, so in that sense the UNSC does indeed have a supranational aspect. However, this is a bit of an odd one, since these kinds of action don't require their target to take action to implement them, rather it is those states making the decision which have to implement it, though, in the case of sanctions these are also binding on other UN member states which have had no say in the decisions, so this is a better case for the UNSC's supranational aspects.
Nevertheless, the UNSC decision process itself is intergovernmental, since it is only government representatives who bargain and negotiate, even if the scope or effect of UNSC decisions might be said to be supranational. This is quite unlike the EU system in which two supranational bodies (the EP and COM) are involved in the decision process and a third (the European Court of Justice) in monitoring compliance and implementation (in addition to the COM, of course). ScepticWombat (talk) 07:15, 20 December 2014 (UTC)