Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NIC Report, US Decline And Role of UN

On 25th September 2008, the German Finance Minister, Steinbrück, predicted that the US will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. He was not way off. On 20th November, America's National Intelligence Council (NIC) in its annual report indicates a decline in US supremacy. The prediction is that US will be one among the many; not the only one. The report also goes on to indicate that China and India will become more powerful. This, of course, doesn't mean that US will become a non-entity. It is just that US will not be the single point contact of all world decisions.

This news made headlines all over the world so there is no much value in repeating the points. Instead I would concentrate on why I see the United Nations taking on a bigger role from here on.

The NIC report paints a dismal scenario indicating a "19th century-like scenario, territorial expansion and military rivalries." Though NIC report indicates that this is likely by the year 2025, the present economic crisis, if prolonged, would only hasten the trends.

With all governments focused on solving their economic crisis, there is bound to be diversion of resources and this would result in less monitoring, resulting in warfare by smaller states and "non-state actors" . The biggest fear will always remain nuclear weapons falling in wrong hands. Imagine if a terrorist organisation gets its hands on a nuclear device. This is where we need a strong world body.

United Nations?
The United Nations is largely seen as an ineffective body. At least that is the public perception. There is no doubt about its contributions but the impression is that it has not reached the potential it could have. The Iraq war and the crisis in Yogoslavia where UN was entirely bypassed by US only added to this image. UN also got some bad press in its dealing in DR Congo.

The perception is that because of the Veto power vested in the 5 countries - US, Russia, China, UK and France - the UN will never go against the wishes of these countries. This perception needs to change if there is any hope of containing a "19th century-like scenario." This is highlighted in the press conference on 3rd April 2000 which was called on the Role of UN in the Millennium. Although the Millennium Discussions was comprehensive and covers wide topics like "Globalisation And Governance", "Freedom From Want", "Sustaining Our Future", the questions in the press conference were largely focused on ":Freedom From Fear", meaning security concerns, and reforms in the Security Council.

Things have changed since. The period of 2000-2008 has seen rapid growth in the BRIC countries. To be able to really build a Security Council whose resolutions are acceptable, Brazil and India needs to find a place in there. There should be a provision for a review to see who can be taken in (or off) the security council after, say, every 15 years. Besides, there is a need for a solemn commitment by the permanent members of the Security Council not to take any military action, except through the Security Council.

Unless the UN takes decisive actions and unless the permanent members of the Security Council stop taking independent actions, the UN will only play a very small role in "Freedom From Fear". Which, of course, will be a tragedy.

Also see here for a good analysis of the NIC report

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