Global Commission Urges Reform of United Nations
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — THERE is more than one route to a new world order. An independent group of senior world statesmen, led by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, wants to make sure that the new post-cold-war power structure is shaped by a sense of "global morality" rather than by military might. At the heart of their plea, known as the Stockholm Initiative on Global Governance and Security, is a call for a stronger United Nations. The group urges that the UN secretary-general be given more authority to coordinate work of UN agencies and initiate action in times of crisis; that the concept of veto power in the Security Council be reviewed and Council membership expanded; and that a wider definition of security, including development and environmental issues, be accepted and taken up at the Counc i
The initiative got its start 15 months ago at a 10th anniversary meeting of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (the so-called North-South Commission), also headed by Mr. Brandt. The new proposal urges that yet another independent commission be set up to examine and flesh out the Stockholm proposals and that a global summit be held by 1995, the 50th anniversary of the UN.
"There's no magic in 50, but there is symbolism in it as a time to review and improve on what we've done," says Sir Shridath Ramphal, former secretary-general of the Commonwealth and the man who, with Brandt, presented the report to UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar here on May 11.
Though it has received little publicity, the initiative has been widely circulated to governments by Swedish embassies around the world since it was first signed April 22. The original signatories, from more than 28 industrial and developing countries, include the current prime ministers of Sweden and Norway, a top development official from the Netherlands, and former prime mini- sters of Pakistan, Tanzania, and Britain. In recent weeks former United States President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet Foreign M
inister Eduard Shevardnadze, and Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel have also signed.
Most UN experts agree that the world has changed radically since 1945 and that some review of UN structure and process is in order. Some nations are concerned that the US may now dominate the organization. Many wonder what impact a breakup of the Soviet Union or a new generation of Chinese leaders might have on the world organization. Yet there is little discernable enthusiasm for any broad UN Charter reexamination.
"We've opposed any reopening of the Charter, and the Soviets see eye to eye with us," says a US State Department official. "Our feeling is that it opens a whole can of worms."
"To try to open up the whole Charter would be a disaster - we wouldn't get as a good a one as we have now," says Richard Gardner, a professor of law at Colombia University.
The general goals of the Stockholm Initiative enjoy broad support. Yet skepticism is widespread that any proposals - particularly those dealing with the UN Security Council - will actually be carried out. Brandt himself admits that starting with the controversial veto issue could easily block the whole reform effort. Any change in veto use or Council membership requires the nod of the permanent five members: China, France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the US.
"The Security Council in a sense has to reform itself," concedes Sir Shridath.
"I don't think any permanent member will be inclined to go with any kind of reform that would restrict its power to use the veto or expand that power ... [to include others]," says Robert George, a Princeton University political scientist. "The political realities make major reform unlikely."
Some UN experts say that an eventual broadening of Council membership may come. Yet they warn that adding new members and issues to the Council's agenda poses new problems.
Council's size defended
"There ought to be a European Community seat or two - and Japan deserves to be there," comments Richard Gardner, who was in charge of UN affairs at the State Department under former Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. "The danger is that you've then got the whole question of 'Who else?' And if the Council [which now has 15 members] expands to 30 countries, it's not going to be very effective."
"One of the reasons the Council is working so well is because it's rather small and exclusive - [the members] have finally developed a chemistry," adds Edward Luck, president of the United Nations Association of the USA. He argues the veto has been useful in forcing nations to arrive at a working consensus on issues.
A piecemeal approach to UN reform as the world becomes receptive to such issues as collective security and humanitarian relief is the only practical answer, says Sir Brian Urquhart, a Ford Foundation scholar and a former UN under-secretary-general for special political affairs, who recently signed the Stockholm Initiative. "It's unlikely you can get the whole package accepted at one swoop, but I think it's possible to get some action."
Promoters of the Stockholm Initiative know they face an uphill fight. They stress that it represents initial thinking, an "offering." Their hope is that world public opinion will get behind their proposals and force change.
"We are convinced that this memorandum reflects the ferment in the world for change," says Sir Shridath, "and that those in the system, including the permanent members, cannot be immunized from it.... We must not miss this moment."