Geneva, 8 July 1999
A MORE PEOPLE-CENTERED UNITED NATIONS
FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
The European Regional Hearing for the Millennium Assembly Tackles
the Issue of Strengthening the United Nations
In its concluding session, the regional hearing organized by the Economic Commission for Europe in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations focused exclusively on the challenging issue of how to strengthen the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
The debates were chaired by His Excellency Mr. Guido de Marco, President of Malta, stirred by two moderators, Mr. Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary of the ECE, and Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Secretary General of the Conference on Disarmament, and initiated by two panellists, Mrs. Brigitta Dahl, Speaker of the Parliament, Stockholm, Sweden, and Mr. Theo Van Boven, Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht, Netherlands.
The high stakes involved in the issue of strengthening the United Nations were reflected throughout the afternoon in the high level of emotional involvement which could be detected in many of the statements and proposals. Overall, what prevailed was a pervasive sense of commitment to the United Nations as an institution and a genuine desire to contribute to its enhanced effectiveness. Concrete proposals to that end were put forward.
Perhaps one of the strongest and most recurrent messages put forward by the participants was the need for the United Nations to put the human dimension at the centre of all of its activities. While this might be implicit in the field of Human Rights, it is less obvious in matters of security where the broad concept of "human security" is emerging, and in the economic sphere which cannot be dissociated from its social implications.
Considering the growing complexity and interdependency of problems in the new millennium, a number of participants urged the United Nations to adopt systematically a more integrated approach to its various activities and to prioritize these activities.
While it was widely acknowledged that during its first fifty-three years of existence, the United Nations had been successful in adopting a whole range of extremely valuable norms, standards and conventions, there was a genuine concern that these were perhaps not publicized enough and certainly not sufficiently implemented. To be effective in the next millennium, the United Nations needs to make implementation and compliance its top priorities.
To continue to be relevant and effective in the new millennium, participants also believed that the United Nations needs to adapt to evolving concepts and practices. One such example is the concept of sovereignty. New actors are appearing on the international stage that must be contended with: parliamentarians, local authorities, business and civil society. The United Nations needs to define new partnerships accordingly. Particular attention was given to the issue of cooperation with regional organizations including NATO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. These relationships must be further developed within the parameters of the Charter.
A number of NGOs expressed a strong desire to see their partnership with the United Nations evolve on a more equal footing. To that effect, they aspire to the establishment of a Civil Society Forum and to the creation of mechanisms giving them better access to the various United Nations bodies.
From an institutional point of view, participants stressed the evident need for the United Nations to enjoy adequate resources. They pointed out the huge gap between the actual level of financial endowment of the United Nations and the amount which would realistically be required for it to carry out its multi-faceted mandate. Some specifically referred to the Aridiculous@ allocations granted to the human rights budget.
Still on the institutional front, participants concurred in believing that the United Nations should address the problem of its democratic deficit. Reform of the Security Council was topping the agenda in this respect. While enlargement of membership or elimination of the veto system were popular issues, concerns for the incidence of these proposals on the effectiveness of the Security Council were also heard. The Chairman of the Hearing suggested alternatives such as having a minimum of two blocking vetoes instead of one, or considering introducing weighing votes such as is the practice in the European Union. The role of the General Assembly was also alluded to and it was suggested that it meet in various sessions year round.
The hearings were concluded on remarks of President de Marco referring to the United Nations recent experiences in the Balkans which raise major issues of principles for the future. How should the United Nations deal with massive violations of Human Rights? The United Nations had observers in Srebrenica yet could not prevent the massacres that occurred. How should the United Nations handle the precedent of Kosovo where Member States intervened outside of the framework of the Charter? These are the type of problems that must be resolved for the United Nations to perform to its full potential in the twenty-first century.
But at the end of the day, it was recognized that Member States bare the main burden of what the United Nations will be in the twenty-first century.
For further information, please contact:
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE)
Palais des Nations, Room 356
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 917 44 44
Fax: +41 22 917 05 05