The UN and the Radical Reform of the International System

Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung

Gustave Massiah, novembre 2023

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En d’autres langues : français

Résumé :

A brand new study by Gustave Massiah, with 22 proposals to reform the United Nations

The United Nations (UN) was created at a unique moment, following the end of the Second World War. Inspired by the experience of the League of Nations (LON), it was built upon that institution’s limitations and failures. The League of Nations, founded by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and dissolved in 1946, was indeed amongst the very first intergovernmental organisations created, aiming to “develop cooperation among nations and guarantee them peace and security”. And so, in 1945, the UN was created, with the aims of promoting friendly relations between States, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and the self-determination of peoples and, by extension, of defending human rights. Defining the circumstances that must be met for the creation of a new international organisation, a new body of international law, is not an easy task. It depends, in part, on the circumstances at the time of its creation. As well as on the lessons learned from the history of the United Nations. Based on the progress and limitations of the United Nations, our aim is to recall some lessons and formulate some proposals for a new advance in international law.

We must take into account the characteristics of the current structural crisis, even if we are not yet able to determine its outcomes. Social, ecological, political and ideological contradictions remain ever-present, in each individual country as well as on a global scale. The crisis, in some ways, is evocative of that of the 1930s. Even if situations never recur in the same way, this reference allows us to reflect on the conjunction of an economic and social crisis, on wars, on alliances between the right and the extreme right and on geopolitical change. The first phase of decolonisation, that of the independence of States, is almost complete, with some significant exceptions such as that of Palestine. The liberation of nations and peoples, however, has barely begun. The international political situation is marked by a powerful contradiction: at the political level, a trend towards the rise of alliances between the right and the extreme right, combined with the increased radicalism of social movements, including feminist, ecological, anti-racist, migration, anti-racism, and indigenous peoples’ movements.

In the current situation, three types of contradictions are particularly important. The first relates to social issues, the relations between social classes, with inequalities and discrimination of considerable significance. The second concerns a new and decisive element, that of ecological disruption, our approach towards nature, climate and biodiversity. The third is connected with war and democracy, both at the national and international level. Democracy brings into focus the relationship between politics and ideology. Local democracy integrates territories and different forms of municipalism. National democracy questions the relationships between peoples, nations and states. Global democracy is based on inter-national democracy which, in its existing form, refers to the United Nations system, itself in need of radical reform and reinvention.

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