THE UNITED NATIONS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY:
A Vision for an Evolving World Order
A. Walter Dorn
Originally published in Dorn, A. Walter, ed., World Order for a New Millennium (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), pp. 118–135. © W. Dorn
How should we organize ourselves, as a human race, as a human family, at the highest level of governance—that is, on the level of nations, on the global level? How can we move towards a better world, a world that can provide greater peace and justice for all people in the twenty-first century and beyond? These are the grand issues I attempt to address in this chapter.
LESSONS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
There are many lessons that we can learn from the successes and failures, the gains and the follies of the present century as we step into the next one. The twentieth century has witnessed two world wars and unprecedented destruction; it is our moral, even sacred duty to make sure that no such global horrors happen again. The gradual evolution of world order and international institutions must serve as the basis of our hope and our vision.
Immediately after the First World War, the leading nations of the world, led by President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, decided that there needed to be new rules to help prevent nations from going to war and that there needed to be a forum in which to discuss all matters of international importance so that collective action could be taken to maintain peace. So the League of Nations was created in 1920. President Wilson wanted America to be the progressive leader of the League, but that was not to be. The great treaty debate of 1919-20 in the U.S. Senate showed very clearly the difference between broad-minded internationalism and narrow-minded nationalism. A band of conservative and crafty Republican senators prevented the United States from joining the League. The isolationists asked why America should be concerned if the European or Asian powers fought. The United States had, they argued, two oceans to fully protect it from harm. (The attack on Pearl Harbor certainly proved this theory to be erroneous.) Some senators, working for partisan gain and unwilling to directly confront the League ideal, called for amendments and reservations to the League Covenant, something that would have required the renegotiation of the entire treaty, which was clearly impossible. President Wilson made an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to "go to Caesar" (his term for the American people) but suffered a stroke during the grueling cross-country tour. In one of his final speeches of the voyage, he predicted that unless there was a concerted effort to support the League, another war, of greater intensity, fought with more powerful weapons—ones that would make the World War I weapons look like "toys," he said—would once again consume the youth of the world.
Since there was no leadership from America and little dedication to the ideals of the League on the part of the major European powers (who were mostly colonial powers), and since Japan was bent on its aggrandizement, the League was unable to halt the slide to World War II during the 1930s. As Wilson foresaw, a greater war fell upon humankind. As he also predicted, a new attempt was made to renew and rebuild international organization in the wake of this terrible destruction.
Near the end of the Second World War, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who had supported Wilson in his fight for the League of Nations some 25 years earlier, was able to put into place a stronger, greater organization, the United Nations, with the United States playing the leading role after the war. The Senate, realizing its former mistake, voted overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion and without reservations for U.S. membership in the UN.
However, in recent decades conservative elements in the U.S. Congress have once again raised their "America-first" attitude and turned a cold shoulder to the UN, refusing even to pay America's dues in full or on time. They made it clear that America would act for her own ends, not necessarily according to international law. This unilateralism of the 1980s and the isolationism of the 1920s, in fact, are two sides of the same coin. Both come from an unfortunate, narrow and self-centered attitude that is very unhealthy, not only for international order but also for the United States itself.
As fate would have it, while the United States under Reagan was turning against the UN, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev became a strong proponent of the international organization. It was because of Gorbachev's enlightened attitude that the Cold War came to a close in the second half of the l980s and that the UN could settle many conflicts.
The West greeted the new Soviet approach to the UN after Gorbachev's arrival with skepticism. The superpower policies virtually reversed themselves from the 1950s to the 1980s. Concepts that the United States had advocated in the 1950s and 1960s, such as a UN disarmament organization and a stronger UN Secretariat, were being boldly championed by Gorbachev's Russia and coldly rejected by Reagan's America. While the United States did not actively seek to undermine the UN, and thus allowed it to realize a remarkable number of achievements, it did not seek the UN's enhancement either. For over ten years, the UN has been struggling against financial hardships imposed largely by the United States.
At the end of the Cold War, the leading nations, particularly the United States, missed many opportunities to build a stronger UN and to create a foundation for peace in the coming century. The West talked of preventive diplomacy but did nothing to strengthen the UN machinery for such creative initiatives. As the UN's sphere of responsibility increased, it didn't expand the structure of the United Nations or give its Secretary-General more resources. Furthermore, the United States certainly didn't help the East bloc nations, especially Gorbachev's Russia, with the kind of generosity that it had helped the defeated powers after the Second World War (for example, with the Marshall Plan). The "new world order' a phrase used by President [H. W.] Bush, was just the same old world order except that instead of two superpowers there was now only one. Granted, the end of the Cold War made many things possible, but it still left many things undone and new challenges unmet.
To summarize our brief sweep through history in this century: After the First World War, we made progress by creating the League of Nations. After the Second World War, we made a further step by establishing the United Nations. But after the end of the Cold War, which consumed as much resources and finances as each of the previous two world wars (of course, over a time period about ten times longer), we simply relied on the institutions we had, without strengthening them. In short, there was a lack of forward-looking international leadership. Historians may well look back on this period as a time of missed opportunities.
The great people of the past, like George Washington, were those who built nations and national law and order, and the great persons of the future will be those who build international institutions and international law and order. However, very few such leaders have stepped forward—Mikhail Gorbachev being the most recent example. Progressive individuals and nations must now forge ties to move ahead on reforms without having to wait for the sole remaining superpower to take the lead.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
A person's vision of future progress depends a great deal on how far he or she is willing to look ahead. Many people, especially government representatives, reject good proposals because they cannot be implemented today. But if we dare to look beyond our present mandates, beyond our terms of office and even beyond our own lifetimes, there are new vistas to explore. The road to world peace and order may be long (perhaps endless!) and arduous, but progress is achieved with modest steps. With a long-term vision, we can, at least, the direction in which we want to go and the steps to be taken. Here, we aim for a world of greater peace, harmony and justice. The United Nations, in spite of all its shortcomings and limitations, is still the best avenue for progress towards such a world.
Let us explore the future in three steps: the short term (5 years), the medium term (25 years) and the long term (50 years and examine beyond). Table 1 summarizes the current status of the UN system and the envisioned developments. These ideas for UN reform, many of them originally proposed by others, are placed into a chronological framework that gives some idea of how far down the line their implementation might be. Obviously the more far-reaching proposals will take longer to become reality and progress must be evolutionary. I concentrate on the principal organs of the UN: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice and the Secretariat.
Table 1: Reforming the UN System: Proposals and Predictions
Current Status (1999)
General Assembly (GA): 185 member states; majority voting
Security Council (SC):15 member states; 5 permanent (with veto)
Secretariat (Sec): approx. 10,000 international civil servants headed by the UN Secretary-General (SG)
International Court of Justice (ICJ): 15 judges; only states have standing
New International Bodies (IOs): World Trade Organization (WTO), Global Environment Facility (GEF), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty Organization, International Criminal Tribunals (Yugoslavia and Rwanda)
Military: ad hoc national contingents in peacekeeping forces
Next 5 Years
GA: membership increases to 190 (e.g., Switzerland, East Timor)
SC: membership increases to 20-22 through Charter amendment (Germany/EU, Japan & 3-5 developing countries, e.g., India, Brazil, South Africa and/or rotating seats; no new veto rights); more refined sanction system ("Smart sanctions")
Sec: SG develops early warning systems; plays more prominent role in preventive diplomacy
Legal: establishment (after sufficient ratifications) of an International Criminal Court [ICC]
Military: peacekeeping standby forces (nationally based)
Next 25 Years
GA: membership decreases to 180 (e.g., unification of Koreas)
SC: British, French, and German seats merge into powerful European Union seat (retaining the veto); new seats to Far Eastern nations; rules guiding use of veto and enforcement provisions (including advisory opinion and review of SC decisions by the ICJ)
Sec: revamped election procedure for SG; global open skies agreement with agency under SG reporting to SC; greatly improved early warning systems
ICJ: compulsory jurisdiction nearly universal
Legal: new treaties emphasize responsibilities of individuals in addition to that of states; expansion of International Criminal Court; verification of the ban on secret treaties (Art. 102)
Financial: non-governmental sources of revenue accepted
IOs: reorganization and amalgamation (e.g., of IVOs)
Military: standing peacekeeping forces (nucleus under direct UN employment)
Next 50 Years
GA: weighted voting
Parliamentary Assembly (PA):new body composed of parliamentarians (elected directly or sent from their parliaments) complements already existing UN bodies
SC: membership increases
Military: standing peacekeeping and peace-enforcement units
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The General Assembly is currently composed of 185 member states [193 since 2011]. The dream of universal membership, which the League never attained, has very nearly been achieved. I believe that within 5 or 10 years the few important non-members (including Switzerland and the Taiwanese Republic of China and several new states such as East Timor) will become members. This will increase the membership to an all-time high of 190. After national reunifications within the next 25 years (for example, possibly the Koreas, Chinas and a certain number of the former Soviet republics) we will come down to 180 or so. Over 50 years, with regional unifications, the number may fall even further.
The voting in the General Assembly is currently by majority (two-thirds majority on questions of substance). In the current system, San Marino, the United States and China have equal votes. Adding a weighted voting system (perhaps incorporating the important factors of population and financial contribution to the UN) will provide a more balanced approach. A vote on a given resolution could be considered in two fashions: by the regular majority approach and by the weighted majority approach. If both criteria were satisfied, then the resolution could be given more importance, even the force of law. To adopt this new approach to General Assembly voting would likely, but not necessarily, require Charter amendment. In any case, it may be many years before it is seriously considered.
THE SECURITY COUNCIL
The Security Council is arguably the most powerful body in the world today. Under the UN Charter, it has "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security" and it has the power to impose its decisions by force through sanctions or military measures (i.e., under Chapter VII of the Charter).
The most important victors of World War II, who were also the principal authors of the UN Charter, gave themselves permanent seats on the Council. These five permanent members (the P5-China,1 France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) also gained a "veto" right, which allows each of them to prevent a resolution from being adopted even when it is approved by all the rest.
The ten non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly on a rotating/regional basis for two years. Since the permanent seats were created to reflect "the reality of power in the international community," many have asked why have there been no changes in the permanent members as power has shifted over the decades. Countries like Germany and Japan, who now contribute in a major way to the world's economy and security, would like permanent seats. At present, [for a short period] Japan contributes the most financially to the UN; it beats the United States because that country is so much in arrears. [2023 update: The US is currently the largest contributor, followed by China, then Japan/]
For several years, there has been a push to reform the Security Council. I would dare to predict that within five years, Germany and Japan will be added to the Council. Since the developing world already complains about the "over-representation" of the developed world in the Council, it is likely that new seats will also be given to developing countries, either by country or region. Since a Council of more than 20 or 25 members is generally considered too unwieldy for rapid action, the number of seats given to developing countries as a whole or to some of the most important ones (Brazil and South Africa, for instance) would not be more than 3 to 5. Given the general discontentment with the use of the veto, it is unlikely that any of the new permanent members will be given the veto right.
In a quarter century, there will be even greater pressure for reform of the Council. If European integration continues, despite the obstacles and delays, then it is conceivable that the French, British and potential German seats will be merged into a powerful European Union seat, which might begin to exert as much influence as the United States currently does. New permanent seats could be given to Far East nations or groupings (for example, ASEAN), since this area of the world will become more powerful economically and politically.
The veto is an inherently undemocratic instrument. It absolutely prevents [forceful UN] action from being taken against the most powerful states or their allies. While it is unlikely that even in a quarter century it could be abolished, one could hope that its use will be constitutionally restricted. For instance, on the question of electing a Secretary-General, one could fairly ask that the veto be prohibited. If veto rights are not constitutionally curbed, one could hope that the Security Council itself would give itself guidelines for the use of the veto. The abuse of the veto was painfully apparent during the Cold War: over a hundred Soviet vetoes were cast before the first American one. It is in peaceful times such as these that we must prepare for difficult times and take measures to prevent future abuses of this power.
At present the Security Council is a law unto itself. It can interpret the UN Charter in its own way, even if its interpretation is at odds with other organs of the UN, the majority of member states and a reasonable interpretation of the Charter. There should be a means for judicial review of its decisions. If the Council acts in a clearly unconstitutional manner, one or more nations should be able to bring the issue before the International Court of Justice. The executive branches of most democratic nations permit judicial review of their actions and there is no reason why this should not be the same for international bodies (such as the Security Council), which draw their moral authority from the rule of law.
THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE (ICJ) AND LEGAL ISSUES
At present only states can bring cases before the Court. It is envisioned that sometime in the next 10 years, this provision will be loosened to allow international bodies to do so. Within 25 years, the ICJ (or a new court) should be able to take cases concerning the interpretation of international law upon request from commercial and non-governmental bodies. Since most armed conflicts are now of an internal character, there is a need for an internationally authoritative judicial body to which parties to a conflict could turn for a legal settlement. There may be many instances in which such a court would not find itself with jurisdiction, but there could be important instances where it could pass judgement.
The ICJ Statute (Article 36) provides that nations may obligate themselves to present themselves before the Court whenever they are so requested by one or more nations who have made a similar declaration. Such "compulsory jurisdiction" is currently accepted by some 59 states. It can be hoped that this number will increase as a means to elevate and expand the standards of international law and accountability. Perhaps we can aim for 100 countries by 2010.
A smaller step, to be taken over the next five years, would be to give the UN Secretary-General the ability to ask for "advisory opinions" from the Court. A previous Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, saw this as a means to mildly "threaten" nations that were unwilling to negotiate a dispute. Even the most powerful nations do not wish to be seen as acting contrary to international law and would be wary that they might lose in a court of law. Thus, they would be more receptive to reach agreement.
The Security Council has established two International Criminal Tribunals, for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. These are important because they are the first to be created since the Nuremberg trials in which individuals are subject to arrest and prosecution. In a sense they are even more fair than the World War II trials, since individuals on both sides of the conflicts are subject to arrest and prosecution. In addition, monitoring of atrocities was being conducted in the former Yugoslavia even as the tribunal was in session. The next step is the creation of an International Criminal Court, upon entry into force of the 1998 Rome Statute, that would activate when there are substantive allegations of crimes against humanity.
Several important principles and practices are also beginning to emerge. There must be more accountability of national leaders as individuals. Instead of punishing a nation for violations of international law, we must as far as possible identify and punish those in power who made the decisions to violate those laws. In addition, international law should increasingly be supported and enforced by national law enforcement agencies. National parliaments could make selected international treaties part of national law with specific penalties for their violation (as was required, for example, by the Chemical Weapons Convention). Also treaties must contain provisions for international verification and binding mechanisms for dispute settlement to confirm compliance objectively and to make their implementation more fair. This may make the texts of treaties longer and more complicated, but also will make them harder to violate.
One important provision of the UN Charter that is constantly being violated is Article 102, which states that all international agreements should be registered with the UN and published by it. This provision dates back to the first of Wilson's Fourteen Points ("open covenants of peace openly arrived at") and the similar provision in the League Covenant. Many nations maintain "secret" treaties that they do not reveal even to their own publics. There is at present no body that monitors which treaties are not being registered with the UN. The existence of many secret agreements is acknowledged by governments and their titles are often known (for example, many defense treaties), but their contents have never been published. The UN should have a "watchdog" function to make sure that nations are not circumventing this important Charter provision and that transparency in international relations is maintained.
The verification of multilateral arms control and disarmament treaties is a function now routinely given to international organizations. For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies non-diversion of nuclear materials under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The newly created Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) monitors compliance with the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is to monitor compliance with the  comprehensive ban on nuclear explosions. What does not now exist is an international organization that can carry out ad hoc verification of unilateral disarmament measures (such as those carried out by Gorbachev in the late 1980s, for example) and bilateral measures upon the request of the involved states. It is desirable to create a disarmament verification organization or unit under the UN to carry out these functions. This has the potential to do for disarmament what peacekeeping has done for conflict resolution: introduce a stabilizing new international actor as a monitor or even supervisor of agreements and measures.
Similarly, the current approach to sanctions monitoring is very ad hoc and generally ineffective. The UN has imposed mandatory and recommendatory sanctions in about a dozen cases, but all of them were violated to some extent. The UN has no system or resident expertise to keep track of prohibited arms flows; it depends on reports from nation states and ad hoc and usually ineffective monitoring arrangements. For instance, large convoys bringing goods, including weapons, into Serbia at the Macedonia border went unreported. The United States decided unilaterally to stop reporting on naval shipments of armaments to Bosnians. It is time that the UN Secretariat develop at least rudimentary forms of sanctions-monitoring expertise. This might possibly be done in conjunction with an arms monitoring and verification unit.
Of the six principal organs of the UN, the one that has grown the most in power and prestige since the creation of the organization in 1945 is the office of the Secretary-General at the head of the UN Secretariat. Through the creative leadership of the Secretaries-General, particularly Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant, new roles were given to that office, including peacekeeping and good-offices functions. The Charter did not provide for such roles, but the Secretary-General proved to be an indispensable actor and, as the most senior "international civil servant," these roles came naturally.
Of all the organs and actors, the Secretary-General most clearly speaks for the global interest, beyond the narrow national interest. The General Assembly mainly represents the developing world, which holds the large majority of its seats. The Security Council is dominated by the most powerful nations, which have permanent seats. The Court is limited to the issues on which it can speak: only those relating to international law. The Secretary-General has become the closest thing we have to the "voice" of the world's conscience on the wide range of political, economic and humanitarian issues.
The Charter states that the Secretary-General is the "chief administrative officer," and that he or she is to perform the functions entrusted to him or her by the other organs. The one area where the Charter explicitly gives the Secretary-General a significant independent role is for warning. Article 99 states that "the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security." But, ironically, because of a lack of means and political boldness, such warning has rarely been done by the Secretary-General. Article 99 has been invoked explicitly only three times. Usually the Secretary-General has become involved only after conflicts have escalated into armed clashes and are well known to the world.
A major thrust should now be made in conflict prevention, which means strengthening the capacity for early warning and rapid reaction. There has been recent progress in both areas, with the creation of a Humanitarian Early Warning System (HEWS) and a Rapidly Deployable Military Headquarters (RDMHQ), but much more attention and resources should be given to these efforts.
For effective early warning, the UN needs to improve two things: access to information and the capacity to analyze it. Access involves, first of all, the ability to observe and inspect areas where there is a potential for conflict and to talk with the parties. Currently, national sovereignty dictates that UN fact-finding missions require the consent of the host state, something that is often not forthcoming. While the major powers have reconnaissance satellites, which operate above the boundaries of national sovereignty and which can observe all countries of the world, the UN has no such system. A major priority should be to obtain regular access to useful information possessed by member states, such as satellite imagery. There are not, at present, any agreements for the automatic transfer of information to the UN and only vague responsibilities are recognized by member states. These responsibilities should be formalized in one or more information-sharing agreements to help the UN better anticipate conflicts.
An even greater step forward would be for member states to develop a treaty that permitted the UN to conduct inspections on an "any time, any where" basis. Creating more openness is the key to early warning. One component could be to establish a "global open skies" system, which would allow the UN to overfly any desired sites on short (perhaps 12 hour) notice. This would, for instance, allow the UN to spot preparations for surprise attacks. While this is not a guarantee of conflict prevention, it makes the risk of exposure of preparations for attack much greater and hence it is a deterrent to armed conflict.
A greater capacity for analysis is necessary within the Secretariat, including the capacity for scenario-building of conflict escalation and prospective responses. It is therefore proposed that the UN develop an Information, Analysis and Research branch under the Secretary-General to carry out in-depth work, that is beyond the capacity of the current departments and could be of use to them also.
The UN Secretariat is currently understaffed and under-resourced. Subject to U.S. pressure, the number of staff (currently about 10,000 under the Secretary-General) will be cut further. The UN's regular budget, being held at zero growth, is a small fraction (less than 0.5 percent) of the world's military expenditure. The world needs to shift its priorities. An increase in UN staff and resources is needed. After the Cold War, the workload of the UN Secretariat jumped significantly but more staff and resources were denied, leading to a decline in morale. If the UN is to meet the major global challenges of peace and security, environment and development, it will be necessary to at least double the staff and resources at the UN and its agencies over the next 25 years.
Of all the UN reform issues, the question of creating UN armed forces is probably the most controversial. It also is the cardinal question of the twenty-first century: whether (and how) to place military force under international authority. In 1945, if you had asked San Francisco delegates to identify the primary difference between the new UN and the old League, the most frequent response would undoubtedly have been that the UN will have its own fighting forces. Under Article 43 of the Charter, nations are supposed to make such forces available to the Council and to sign agreements with the UN on the nature of these forces. However, as the Cold War quickly paralyzed the Council, no such agreements were ever developed. Even now, after the Cold War, the necessary unity of will and vision is not present. The UN is not yet ready to collectively organize and control military forces that might be engaged in war fighting. Military enforcement will have to remain in the hands of members states for at least a few decades, though the Security Council must remain the sole forum to authorize military enforcement actions. At present we will have to continue to rely on existing military organizations (such as NATO in the former Yugoslavia) and ad hoc coalitions (such as the U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War) for military enforcement. In the long run (over 50 years), it will become possible to create an international force to operate under strict guidelines and rules of engagement, but the international maturity and will is not now present.
Peacekeeping tasks are a different matter altogether. The UN should now boost its current arrangements for standby peacekeeping forces. Some nations (such as Scandinavian countries) have units ready to assume peacekeeping duties on short notice on request of the UN Secretary-General-but still subject to final national consent. More nations should make such commitments with the fewest possible conditions, in order to strengthen the capacity of the Secretary-General for rapid reaction. Even more desirable would be the establishment of a standing peacekeeping force recruited on an individual basis. The use of national military contingents has many drawbacks: units rarely train together before they reach the field, the standards between contingents are wide ranging, as are their capabilities, equipment and attitudes. Most importantly, peacekeepers in the field feel a dual allegiance: to their own countries and to the UN. At times, this leads to problems, such as a lack of discipline and unwillingness to follow orders from the Secretary-General. An individually recruited force, even if it is only a vanguard force, would overcome many of these problems. The soon-to-be-established Rapidly Deployable Military Headquarters is an important initiative in this direction. It will need an information/intelligence unit for its many tasks, including early warning. If funding can be obtained, the UN could, within the next ten years, start to build its own peacekeeping units of civilians as well as military personnel to be ready on short notice for deployment to the field.
All actions of the UN should be guided by the following principles:
impartiality, proportionality, automaticity, legitimacy and accountability. These principles are the same ones that we have come to demand (though not always obtain) of our national civil services and our domestic law enforcement agencies. Favoritism should be discouraged and an evenhanded approach taken (impartiality). The punishment of a crime should be proportional to the severity of the crime (proportionality). Responses should come with minimum delay (automaticity) and the bodies dealing with these matters should have the proper legislative mandate (legitimacy), and be held responsible to a higher body or the larger international community (accountability). It is especially important to hold the Security Council, the UN's most powerful body, to these principles. One often has the feeling that its responses are driven by favoritism (or national interests) of the major powers rather than impartiality. The application of mandatory sanctions on Libya for its refusal to hand over alleged terrorists (in the Lockerbie bombing) is a case in point. It can be questioned whether the application of sanctions was impartial and proportionate, since many nations have refused to yield suspected criminals to accusing nations (Canada, for instance, has often refused to deport such persons to the United States) and no such sanctions regime was applied. Its legitimacy might have been tested before the ICJ, but the Court found that Libya could not bring Great Britain and the United States, which were unwilling, to judgement, under the compulsory jurisdiction clause. And finally, although the Security Council reports once a year to the General Assembly and is mandated to act on behalf of all member states, its reports are not substantive and do not provide justifications of its actions. The body must be reminded of its accountability to the international community. In the future, it would be wise to codify these basic principles in a major document.
TOWARD A GREATER VISION
For this exercise, we have to look far into the future, to the second half of the twenty-first century. Thinking beyond 2050 involves a great stretch of the imagination but, for that reason, it's also the most interesting (and controversial!). I envision that the structure of international organization will increasingly resemble that of national organization. I believe this trend is desirable and will help secure peace and good governance. It must happen in an evolutionary fashion over a period of decades and apply only to clearly delineated areas of international responsibility, which will grow over time.
Modern governments have three universally accepted branches: the executive (which includes the foreign affairs department and the military), the legislative (parliamentary bodies such as the U.S. Congress, the Japanese Diet or the Canadian House of Commons), and the judiciary (the courts, usually headed by a Supreme Court). See figure 1A (top part).
The international counterparts to these already exist in rudimentary form, as illustrated in the lower half of figure 1A. The UN Secretariat functions, to some extent, as an executive body with limited decision-making powers. The Security Council is partly an executive and partly a legislative body. The General Assembly is mostly a legislative body, through its resolutions are only recommendatory upon nations. The judiciary is, of course, represented by the International Court of Justice (located in The Hague) but at present the Court can only hear cases with the consent of the disputants, who must be states.
In the current system (figure 1A), it is the executive branches of the national governments that send representatives to the General Assembly and the Security Council and place their officials in the senior ranks of the Secretariat. Since it is the General Assembly that elects judges to the ICJ, one can also say that it is the executive branches that also control the composition of the ICJ.
In the distant future, I envision that there will be direct links between the main branches of national governments and their international counterparts. This will help to ensure checks and balances at the international level. This will reduce the power of the executive bodies of national governments and strengthen the legislative and judicial bodies, giving them more influence over international problems, which are the real challenges of the future.
Specifically, I envision, as shown in figure 1B, that the legislative branches of nations will elect representatives drawn from their own ranks directly to an international parliamentary assembly. National executive branches will send representatives to an executive council and the legal bodies in nation-states will be the source of judges to the international courts. A modified approach is to follow more closely the European Union model. There the European Parliament members are directly elected by constituents and the decisions of national courts can in certain areas be overturned in European courts. In the very long term this may be a desirable model, but it is hard to see how such a "global government" could be made to function fairly and effectively even in 50 years. As long as there are undemocratic national regimes it will be hard to envision free and fair votes for an international parliament.
National governments hold the predominance of economic, political and military power in the world today. This narrow concentration of power in nation states, as opposed to municipal and global organizations, is illustrated by the solid curve in Figure 2. I believe that a more even distribution of power would be better, with local and global organizations gaining power at the expense of the nation state. World peace and world order would increase as would the capacity of people to govern themselves locally. This way of thinking shows that globalization and localization [glocalization] can occur simultaneously and need not be competing factors. For instance, international laws can be developed to increase the power of local government and to protect local cultures.
Figure 2. The current (solid line) and desired (dotted line) distribution of power in the world among governmental institutions. What is deemed necessary is an increase in the power of both international and municipal governance at the expense of national governments (i.e., national sovereignty), as shown by the arrows. The diagram also illustrates how localization and regionalization can take place at the same time [glocalization].
The UN has been in existence for over 50 years. I have proposed a vision for its second half-century and beyond. Perhaps I am dreaming when I think that major changes can come about, but I do not think so. I have used the yardstick of the past to measure the future. If we make as much progress in the next hundred years as in the past hundred, I think my predictions will not have gone far enough.
Of course, progress is never linear. Things may have to get worse before they get better and for every two steps forward we may have to take one step backwards. But I believe that human beings have the resourcefulness, the strength and the capacity to strengthen the rules and the standards of international behavior, and to improve the institutions that govern them. We should aim to have the same strength of law and order on the international level that we have come to expect on the national level. To avoid the bloodshed that has been a characteristic of this [past] century, we have to expand international organizations to meet the greatest challenge of the next century: creating peace on Earth. At the same time, we have to create a greater awareness of the blessings of peace, on the individual, national and international levels.
For the first time in human history, at the dawn of the new millennium we can think seriously about and plan actively for world peace. Through the centuries, the European powers were so often at war; now they are developing a European Union that makes war between them impossible. For centuries the colonial and imperial powers (for example, France and Great Britain in Europe; others in Asia) fought "hot wars" with each other; in this century the capitalist and communist states fought a Cold War. With the end of the Cold War, we no longer have global power blocs menacing one another. There remain many threats to the peace, no doubt, but we now have, for the first time in a thousand years, the opportunity to create a peaceful world, to establish sufficient harmony so that wars between nations, and eventually within nations, become obsolete.
There will always be tensions and some conflicts among nations, as long as there is conflict among individuals and in our societies. But these conflicts need not become reasons to mobilize armies, fight wars and kill human beings. Instead we should mobilize the tools of peace, of united nations and of the United Nations.
We can now dream of a world so interdependent, so close and so respectful that major wars can become a things of the past. It may take more than one century. It may take two or even three. But I have the fundamental faith that the capacity for peace now exists in seed form. The institutions we have now can form a basis for a strong, harmonious, and peaceful world order.
1. In 1971 the Peoples Republic of China replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Chinese seat on the Security Council.