INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
THE NEXT UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations today is in a situation similar to that of the League of Nations during its long slide from the Great Depression into World War II. As in the 1930s, imperial national elites engrossed in their narrow interests are ignoring vivid warning signs, including brutal conflicts, skyrocketing military expenditures and a burgeoning population of displaced people fleeing war or unbearable economic and environmental hardship.
Unlike the 1930s, we are in in a world armed with widely distributed nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons. If even a few of them are used, there is little chance that the rest of the world could carry on a normal existence or that it would be possible to replace the United Nations. Civilization as we know it will have ceased to exist. The time for putting in place a radically improved international system of cooperation is now, and the need for action is urgent. If we do not act before a cataclysmic crisis there will be no second chance.
To understand why the United Nations is increasingly dysfunctional we have to look to the origin and evolution of international organizations. The earliest of them were small specialized agencies that set transnational standards for new technologies or promoted international cooperation in using them. The second and third generations of international organizations—the League of Nations and the United Nations respectively—were created to cope with the terrifying advances in industrialized war and the ever more complex international systems created by the globalization of economic, social and cultural relations.
That quantum jump in the complexity of tasks facing international organizations was not reflected in the nature of their supportive bureaucracies. Much of the dysfunctionality of the United Nations can be traced back to that failure. A 19th Century bureaucracy meant to promote use of the telegraph and facilitate cooperation in sharing maritime weather forecasts continues to service the United Nations as it copes with the complexities of 21st Century money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism. For a fuller account of what happenedsee here and read about the megatrends of change the UN will have to cope with in the future.
The United Nations coped with complexity by creating silos of expertise within the Secretariat to deal with specific issues. But in doing so it lost coherence and effectiveness in dealing with problems that were closely interrelated and inseparable. No matter how UN structures were configured or what coordination mechanisms were put in place, their complex agendas remained compartmentalized and unmanageable.
The proposal below differs from all preceding reforms because it applies to the UN bureaucracy the basic structural innovation of the Information and Communications Revolutions, the fluid network. UN-GLOBENET not only escapes the rigid hierarchical organization of the 19th Century, it is enabled by the spread of global connectivity to unprecedented levels of engagement with external constituencies.
The United Nations System was given a decentralized structure because its founders saw how the specialized organs of the League of Nations continued to function even as its political center was disabled. That decentralization resulted in closely interrelated issues being treated in separate silos, defeating all efforts at coordination and integration. The basic structural proposal for UN/GLOBENET involves networking the intergovernmental agencies of the UN System in a way that will retain their substantive differentiation but allow their bureaucracies to interact with seamless fluidity, in effect becoming a single flat Secretariat. The UN System would preserve its thematic differentiation but meld areas of functional overlap, eliminate redundancies and flatten into an interactive network.
UN/GLOBENET will preserve the differentiated external constituencies of the UN System but do so within the frame of a single web interface. Designated external networks would integrate every existing constituency into the work of UN-GLOBENET. Governments would be invited to replicate the UN-GLOBENET web interface at the national level, extending the networks to subnational entities down to the level of villages and localities of small towns.
When fully developed, there would be a seamless structure for global cooperation based on the functional sovereignty of States Members, with administrative nodes at the national and regional levels, allowing coordinated action at all or some levels. With administrative nodes at the national and regional levels, UN-GLOBENET could consult with and coordinate action globally on any matter. The use of big data and the emerging framework for geospatially organized information would support that capacity.
The UN Globenet Charter would subsume those of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies and commit all signatories to a set of cardinal values: honesty, transparency, equality of all individuals, sovereign equality of States, non-discrimination, social inclusion, compassion for life, and respect for Nature.
The Charter would set three high priority goals:
Operationizing the Charter: Supporting the Charter would be an interactive database containing the repertory of practice of the UN's main organs and a body of operational rules distilled from the existing regulatory apparatus of the UN System.
Any official action by an intergovernmental or executive body would elicit from the managers of the database a selection of relevant precedents, regulatory information and analytical guidance on process and form. Available on-line to all stakeholders, that selection would replace, functionally, the preambular portions of UN resolutions, enriched with elements drawn from the repertory of practice of major UN organs, and in the case of the Seurity Council, from its Repertoire of Practice.
Discussions on resolutions would exist in a permanent searchable database with thematic tags to help researchers find and organize specialized perspectives when necessary. Overall, this continuing process would sustain the coherence and integrity of diverse policy processes.
Intergovernmental decision-making would continue as at present but with much superior support from a unified System-wide secretariat, from a global roster of networked independent experts, and from the databases noted above. Any part of UN/Globenet with a substantive interest would be able to participate in drafting reports; that would eliminate the silo effect and allow far more nuanced decisions on complex issues than is currently possible.
Action-oriented consultations would follow a well-defined and transparent path. At the expert level substantive issues would be clarified; at subsequent levels political and socio-economic interests would be taken into account. With all precedents and nuances noted separately on-line, draft decisions could be phrased in clear action-oriented language and shared with dedicated networks of practitioners for feedback before finalization.
The Secretariat, under instructions not to gloss over disagreements among Member States (as it does now), would seek instead to clarify them with a view to reconciliation. Published on the Web, reports would be updated regularly.
UN/Globenet would have the following oversight and control mechanisms:
Vacancies at the level of Executive heads of UN/GLOBENET entities would be advertised on a web page visible to all networks. Governments and designated expert networks would be able to nominate candidates. Relevant bodies at national and regional levels would interview and express opinions on candidates before final selection by the General Assembly acting by secret ballot or acclamation.
The deliberative, coordinating, thematic, operational and expert functions of existing UN bodies would remain largely unchanged except where overlap or duplication needed remedy. The main UN organs and Specialized Agencies would thus continue to function as now but would have a common secretariat, roster of experts and data-base. Each would continue to engage with relevant external networks. The following specific arrangements would be put in place:
When UN/GLOBENET networks are fully extended and integrated into a mature geospatial information framework the system will function as a planetary brain, registering all local developments and able to integrate widely sourced data and generate prompt strategic responses. Most network interactions would happen at sub-regional and regional levels; only inter-regional and global issues would rise to the attention of the central node; at every point decision-making would devolve to legitimately representative authorities. In effect, UN/GLOBENET will provide democratic, fully funded (see below), non-bureaucratic governance capable of meeting all security, economic, social and environmental challenges. It is necessary to keep in mind that the megatrends now coming into view will shape entirely new global realities in the 21st Century.
Lookhere for a brief outline of what is coming.
Lookherefor how we can finance a world without taxes
Since the adoption in 2015 of the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing it, expert discussions have made clear that traditional sources of capital cannot provide the trillions of dollars needed to achieve all 17 Goals of Agenda2030 in the given time period. However, the global spread of electronic connectivity has made possible an unprecedented capacity to raise capital through crowd-funding that can not only pay for Agenda 2030 but will also enable governments to forego all forms of taxation for revenue.
That new form of financing has become possible at a time when the financial system of joint stock corporations and stock markets that sustained the mercantile and industrial eras is nearing collapse because of titanic, unsustainable debt. When the collapse comes, efforts at recovery are likely to fail because mega-corporations themselves will be in an existential crisis as the mass markets they need to survive are progressively disaggregated by small and medium enterprises using the Internet and Worldwide Web to find and cater to niche markets. Other Megatrends
The only way to recover from the crisis will be to move towards the system of crowd-funding outlined here.
North Korea is not on the list but it claims to have nuclear weapons