10 July 2006


Ever since I first participated in Model United Nations (MUN) in 9th grade, I've casually followed the decisions of this body. So, here's today's bit of UN news: the United Nations Security Council is hung up on the North Korea issue.

North Korea raised tensions last week when it test-fired seven missiles - including a long-range Taepodong-2, a weapon which is believed to be capable of reaching Alaska.

The much tougher draft resolution proposed by Japan brands North Korea a "threat to international peace and security" and invokes Chapter Seven of the UN charter.

Resolutions made under Chapter Seven are legally binding and can authorise sanctions or even military action.

According to our correspondent at the UN in New York, China and Russia, which both have the power of veto in the Security Council, believe that using a UN resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea at this stage would be irresponsible and unconstructive.

Mr Wang said such action "could make the situation even worse" and that China was worried it could ultimately pave the way for military action against North Korea.

Instead he believes that the best initial response is a statement by the Security Council calling on Pyongyang to stop the development of ballistic missiles and halt any testing.
My summary for the layman: China and Russia have proposed a draft resolution which condemns the missile tests. But delegates from the US, UK, and France believe this is not enough, instead choosing to back Japan's resolution which proposes sanctions and possible military action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Russia and China, of course, want to give North Korea some time and space, to see if things might work themselves out and to avoid possibly provoking North Korea to further action.

It's a classic senario I've seen play out in too many UN and MUN sessions: a dead-lock in the Security Council, with the sovereignty-loving China/Russia versus the more action-oriented US/UK/France. The Security Council is an interesting body. The ironic thing about it is that this deadlock was built into the framework of the UN on purpose. Things like this make some people question the usefulness of the UN as a peacekeeping body, and clearly there are good and bad aspects to the Security Council.

On the one hand, the veto power given to these members with very different world views ensures that action can only be taken when it is fairly universally agreed upon, preventing the UN from falling into the hands of one radical power or another, much like the US's check-and-balance system. On the other hand, this sort of deadlock means UN actions are few and far between. It does not do for the UN to become a body used solely for debate and humanitarian purposes, for, lacking any authority, it has the potential to die out like its weaker brother, the League of Nations.

I'm not sure whether it can be improved upon or not, though I've discussed the issue thoroughly in MUN debates. Adding veto members or doing away with the power all together could upset the delicate balance that keeps the UN neutral. Though it is full of bureaucracy and redundant committees, it does get the world talking, and sometimes even bands together to accomplish things. I personally am not sure that the founders of the UN movement were not inspired by God. As I see it, the only way to make the UN better than it is would be by improving the nature of the people in it, in the governments that comprise it, and in the world in general. So, until that day, I say of the UN as Ben Franklin once said of the US Constitution:
I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not approve, but I doubt whether any other convention may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect product be expected? I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better and because I am not sure it is not the best.

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