MUNPlanet: The World Federalist Movement and its Institute for Global Policy have been working for many years on promoting the idea of transnational cooperation with a goal of responding to various global challenges. UN reform is probably one of the ways to answer those challenges. How do you assess the current status of the UN reform, and can we expect the UN at 70 to bring about any serious change in the dynamics and the quality of the reform?
WILLIAM PACE: First, as a New York Times correspondent once said to me, it is probably very unfortunate that the entire UN system can be identified by the same two letters, U and N, when one recognizes the enormous diversity of the UN system – the so-called ‘principal organs’ (the General Assembly, Security Council, ECOSOC, Secretariat), the ‘subsidiary bodies’, the ‘funds and programmes’, ‘specialized agencies’, ‘World Bank Group’, ‘functional commissions’, ‘regional commissions’, ‘advisory bodies’, ‘research and training institutes’, and 20 departments and offices of the Secretariat— it is a universe that should not be condensed to U and N.
Second, yes, I believe the negotiations and reviews in the framework of the 70th anniversary – on climate change, on peace operations, on Security Council reforms (including Women, Peace and Security!), on disarmament, to mention a few – represents a continuing dynamic collective security system.
When I view the ‘universe’ of the UN, I am astounded at its importance versus what the international community invests. Some figures out of my head: The UN Headquarters budget is about US$3 billion per year – less than the budget of the Governor of the US State of Wyoming. The budget of the entire UN system described above is about US$45 billion – or about the budget of a large US state government. Or the UN system budget is US$ 7.00 per human per year. UN Peacekeeping is about $10 billion a year or $1.30 per human. I estimate the cost of local, state and national governments for a US citizen is about $25,000 per person. The US pays more in UN dues than other governments, so a US citizen pays about $2.50 for UN headquarters costs and $8.50 for peacekeeping, $33 per year per capita for the entire UN system. Citizens from the US to Zimbabwe are paying very, very little for global governance compared to the costs of almost all other levels of governance. The difference is exponentially greater in the developed nations.
So for “UN Reform”, including proposed reforms of the UN Security Council—which is granted the greatest amount of power and is directly and indirectly controlling the largest of the UN system budgets – the reforms of the Security Council in the last 15 years have been important, especially in regards to improving peace operations, sanctions, peacebuilding, cooperation with regional international organizations, and advancement of ‘thematic’ commitments on protection of civilians, women and children and peace, and human rights. Also, major advances have been made in advancing international justice in the last 18 years. Some would argue there have been advances in combating terrorism, some would disagree. The positive reforms emerge, I believe, more from the pressure of elected members, democracies, and NGOs and some media – and the greatest resistance has been from the P-5, especially Russia, China, and the US.
The politics on the expansion of the membership of the UN Security Council have been excruciating and regressive. The number of NGOs properly following this can probably be listed on one hand – WFM and the Center for UN Reform Education (CURE) being two of them.
General Assembly reform has been weak, but the GA needs improved political leadership even more than structural reform. Overall, the GA is the most criticized organ but I believe it has been the most productive. In fact,many if not most of the best results in multilateralism in the last 20 years have been from the GA – the ICC, other treaties, the Human Rights Council, RtoP, and the PBC all come to mind. The GA established and funds most of these processes, as well as peacekeeping. Most of the special representatives’positions on political affairs, women, child soldiers, and scores of other issues emerge and are approved via the GA. That the GA continues to be the most criticized principal organ is very telling and disturbing – and it is planned, intentional mischaracterization.
Secretariat reform has also been piece by piece and mixed.
But, overall, the world community gets more cost-benefit out of the UN system than any other level of governance. Should there be major beneficial reforms still - absolutely. For the 70th, hopefully a good SDG summit will occur with a successful meeting on climate change in Paris afterwards.
"When I view the ‘universe’ of the UN, I am astounded at its importance versus what the international community invests. Some figures out of my head: The UN Headquarters budget is about US$3 billion per year – less than the budget of the Governor of the US State of Wyoming."
"After watching for some five decades, I can express the following strong views: the existence of the UN has been indispensable and may very well be responsible for preventing World War III; that without the permanent membership and veto the UN would have collapsed like the League of Nations, probably in the 1950s, certainly by the 1970s (I can think of several times the US Senate would have pulled the US government out of the UN if the veto and permanent membership power did not stop them); and that if the UN were abandoned or dismantled, it is extremely unlikely governments in today’s world would be able to agree to a replacement Charter anywhere near as good as the 1945 Charter – thus without the UN and the Charter we would likely be in the disastrously unstable and fragile ‘balance of power’ messes which prevailed over the last 600 years..."
MUNPlanet: In your view, is there a grand strategy for the UN in the 21st century, or is it just tactics that are applied to its medium-term activities? What should happen before the UN changes and becomes effective and efficient – should the international community aim for a big overhaul after 2015, or some evolutionary changes can be expected?
WILLIAM PACE: WFM will campaign for the 75th anniversary to be a major summit of the UN to achieve the Charter’s first preambular goal – saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. For most of the last 69 years, most governments’ priorities were ending colonialism and non-interference in their domestic affairs – and definitely not human rights, democracy, peace and the rule of law. But now in 2015, more than ½ of the UN Member States are human rights-based democracies – much more willing to consider proper international conflict prevention and peace enforcement. These 110 democracies and especially the small and island states need to pressure the P-5 and the two-four other so-called ‘major powers’ to deliver on their agreement in the Charter— to let the major victors of World War II have unprecedented international law powers, and in exchange they would prevent World War III and assume primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. No one should minimize the prevention of World War III so far – but the P-5 may have caused and supported 40 wars for every one they have genuinely or properly tried to prevent or stop.
After watching for some five decades, I can express the following strong views: the existence of the UN has been indispensable and may very well be responsible for preventing World War III; that without the permanent membership and veto the UN would have collapsed like the League of Nations, probably in the 1950s, certainly by the 1970s (I can think of several times the US Senate would have pulled the US government out of the UN if the veto and permanent membership power did not stop them); and that if the UN were abandoned or dismantled, it is extremely unlikely governments in today’s world would be able to agree to a replacement Charter anywhere near as good as the 1945 Charter – thus without the UN and the Charter we would likely be in the disastrously unstable and fragile ‘balance of power’ messes which prevailed over the last 600 years, and fascism and dictatorship and imperialism would be much greater and more dangerous than under present conditions.
So, if one believes that a World War III with nuclear and chemical and biological weapons would threaten almost the entire earth, humanity, and civilization, and that the UN Charter is indispensably responsible for preventing World War III, then working to make the UN and its Charter succeed is an existential conclusion. This includes making the P-5 deliver – that is, enforcing the veto/permanent membership/major power promise of the Charter. Remember, although many governments complain about the P-5 arrangements, most governments for the last 69 years have wanted the protection of one of the P-5 – and while many still do, the rise of democratic stable governments in South America, Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe has reached levels now where ‘democracy forums and groupings’ have the ability to stand down the P-5 powers.
"So, if one believes that a World War III with nuclear and chemical and biological weapons would threaten almost the entire earth, humanity, and civilization, and that the UN Charter is indispensably responsible for preventing World War III, then working to make the UN and its Charter succeed is an existential conclusion."
"It is true that the Charter has bestowed by Chapter VII powers literally the capacity to impose a kind of world law by the permanent members in the Council. But I would not agree with those who say that the Security Council is the most powerful. I think that the General Assembly has equal power to the Security Council, but it does not use it as obviously as the Council...The last thing that major powers want is for people to think that the General Assembly is achieving something. They hate the one nation, one vote status of states in the General Assembly."
MUNPlanet: Recently, WFM and several other international NGOs launched a campaign called “1 for 7 Billion” for the reform of the process of the selection of the UN Secretary-General. Why is that important for the UN and what it means for world politics?
WILLIAM PACE: The Secretary-General is one of the most important leaders in the international community, one of the most important leaders and managers in the international legal order. The selection procedures from 1946 are completely unacceptable and inadequate for moving forward. We need transparent, accountable, democratic global governance for this century and yet the procedure from 1946 really boils down to letting permanent members of the Security Council with the veto secretly select who they want as SG—and usually this means who is the least unacceptable to the United States, Russia, and China. That is a terrible criterion for selecting a Secretary-General.
We are proposing a transparent, merit-based nomination process, and want the General Assembly to hold hearings with candidates, which would include not only their resumes and qualifications but also their vision for the future of the UN or during their mandate. We are also proposing that the five year renewable term be changed to one term of seven years so that the Secretary-General does not have to start campaigning for re-election after two years, and this would make the Secretary-General able to focus on an independent legacy serving all 193 Member States, not just primarily the permanent five members of the Security Council.
We are also proposing that the practice of allowing the P-5 to have entitlement Under-Secretary-General (USG) positions come to an end. The time that the P-5 are allowed to condition their support of a SG candidate on allowing the P-5 to appoint their nationals to the main USG position must end. The P-5 countries all have highly qualified nationals, but they should have to apply for USG positions just like the other 188 Member States.
As we are looking at the challenges of peace and security, providing humanitarian assistance, the climate change challenges, etc., it is vital that in 2016 the Member States of the General Assembly appoint a very highly qualified and independent new Secretary-General. Also, for the first time women have to be taken seriously among these highly qualified candidates. We have never had a woman seriously considered for a Secretary-General, so in 2016 that also has to be high on the agenda of Member States.
If the General Assembly and elected members of the Security Council will stand up to the P-5 on this reform issue, it could be an important step in the GA helping to reform many deficient practices and procedures in the Security Council, in the maintenance of international peace and security.
MUNPlanet: The role of the UN Secretary-General is very important, but it seems under-utilized within the UN system and its normative framework. If the best candidate out there was chosen, could he or she really lead by example and make the UN a more powerful and more effective an organization than it is now?
WILLIAM PACE: I am not sure about the notion of “underutilized”. Dag Hammarskjold very much utilized the position. Kofi Annan utilized the system. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was vetoed by the United States for a second term, but he utilized the system fairly well.
I think that if the Member States see that they have had more of a role in appointing the Secretary-General, then that Secretary-General would have the broader political support required to be able to implement a strong agenda. If we change the procedures so we can make sure that the most highly qualified candidates are able to be on the list for the appointment, then I think that would be good for the UN. Even if there is an election between more than one or two candidates I think that is not bad – that is how most democracies operate and I do not see that moving away from the Security Council recommending only one name would undermine the ability of the Secretary-General to have support from the Member States, as some have suggested.
MUNPlanet: How do you see the role of the next Secretary-General, and what characteristics a good candidate for the position should have to be able to confront the great challenges in the world? Is it time for a woman to lead the world organization?
WILLIAM PACE: As I have said, it is high time that qualified women candidates are treated just as seriously as male candidates. I think there is an overwhelming acceptance of this. At the same time I think that the best candidate should be chosen or appointed, but at this point the process is that some of the least objectionable candidates are the ones that advance because of the control of the veto-carrying members. I do think that it is time that women get a full chance and that candidates from all regions are considered over a period of time. It is important there is a rotation of candidates from all regions but I do not think it should be a fixed rotation—it should be more merit-based. Serious consideration for regional representation should be respected in the process as well as gender equality.
"The Secretary-General is one of the most important leaders in the international community, one of the most important leaders and managers in the international legal order. The selection procedures from 1946 are completely unacceptable and inadequate for moving forward. We need transparent, accountable, democratic global governance for this century and yet the procedure from 1946 really boils down to letting permanent members of the Security Council with the veto secretly select who they want as SG... That is a terrible criterion for selecting a Secretary-General."
MUNPlanet: Security Council reform is probably the single most important test of the UN's capacity to transform in the 21st century. What does your experience in building the context for a more meaningful global governance tell us about the possibility of any viable and “serious” reform of the SC?
WILLIAM PACE: Well, I am not certain that the Council’s reform is the single most important test of the UN’s capacity to transform. There are still huge challenges on human rights issues, environmental governance, sustainable development, development itself. Even if the Council continues to be blocked by political differences between the permanent members and others, I think very significant progress could be made on conflict prevention, on peaceful settlement of conflicts, on integrating women into the peace resolution processes, on peacebuilding, etc. The question would be tremendously important if you could have that kind of progress on the reform of the Security Council, but I think everyone should wait around for the Council to either expand and be more representative or to add more permanent members or not, or add more vetoes, or take away the vetoes, etc. Those are stuck in a political process that could take further decades to resolve.
Now, in terms of my experience in building the context for more meaningful global governance, I think that Member States, especially the 120 democracies or emerging democracies, are much more principled about the enforcement of the UN Charter and the implementation of the Charter as it is written—not as it has been misused and misinterpreted in the last 69 years, but as it was intended to operate. To me, it is, again, the elected members and the General Assembly standing up and saying, Ok, here is the way we need to move forward on non-proliferation, on peacebuilding, on peace enforcement, on peacekeeping, and how we are going to work more constructively with Member States and regional organizations in achieving these goals.
MUNPlanet: And what about the role and authority of the General Assembly in a reformed UN?
WILLIAM PACE: It is true that the Charter has bestowed by Chapter VII powers literally the capacity to impose a kind of world law by the permanent members in the Council. But I would not agree with those who say that the Security Council is the most powerful. I think that the General Assembly has equal power to the Security Council, but it does not use it as obviously as the Council. It is not as easy, because the media does not focus on the General Assembly appropriately. If you look at who has been more successful over the last 10 or 20 years, the General Assembly produces much more concrete progress and results. Just look, for example, at the Peacebuilding Commission and the Responsibility to Protect, and it created the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court.
The last thing that major powers want is for people to think that the General Assembly is achieving something. They hate the one nation, one vote status of states in the General Assembly. Like in national politics, if something goes well the governments want to take credit for it, if something fails they blame it on the UN or the General Assembly. So, if anyone can give an objective view of which principal organ of the UN, the General Assembly or the Security Council, has been more successful I think they will find that the General Assembly has been more successful than the Security Council in terms of creating the new treaty parties. ECOSOC has also been more successful for the human rights work that is done, etc., but even when those treaties go forward, I think they go forward through the General Assembly.
If the Charter’s promises of ending aggression, of the world community insisting on the peaceful settlement of disputes, of advancing the rule of law and justice over military power and war are to be achieved, then the General Assembly has a more than equal role to the Security Council.
So to me, one of the priorities in reforming the General Assembly is in reforming how the governments select the presidents of the General Assembly -- we really need to take a look at a process which leads to one or two good presidents of the General Assembly out of 10. It is a one-year position where one can really exercise the kind of leadership that we need in the UN’s governance. I would also like to see a much stronger parliamentary dimension in the General Assembly, something like the parliamentary assembly that was developed in the European Union. And again, the European Parliament is much criticized but it has been one of the most progressive parliaments in the international legal order in all of history. Over time, the General Assembly may benefit from a parliamentary assembly inside the General Assembly.
And again, the General Assembly should be much more progressive about how it is funding multilateralism. There is this myth that the international legal order is way overfunded, way bureaucratic, and this is completely false. There is a significant amount of money, but the $3 billion US Dollars that Ban Ki-moon controls as SG every year is less than the governor of Wyoming, which is one of the smallest states money-wise in the United States. So, we are not really spending money on multilateralism that really compares to what we are spending at the national levels. Over time, the General Assembly will address more independent funding for multilateralism and fairer funds.
MUNPlanet: Alexander Wendt famously wrote that the world state is inevitable. How do you see the state of global governance today, and how there fits the idea of a world state?
WILLIAM PACE: My own view is that you do have elements of global governance and global government today, as you mentioned. The Security Council has this enormous power of mandating collective security and enforcing its decisions under Chapter VII, whether it is sanctions or the so called “war on terrorism” after 9/11. Global financial regulations were imposed by the Security Council to combat terrorism.
I honestly believe that if the P-5 had not had this power of veto and the power of Chapter VII the UN would have been abandoned like the League of Nations several times by the United States. You would have an international organization where Russia, China, the United States would be observers, trying to manipulate it from the outside, but not from the inside, because they would not want to participate in an organization where they are not treated as exceptional powers. And I think this is a real lesson for those who think that if you kill the UN now its replacement would be better. Because it is not at all clear that would happen.
"When people are using ‘the role of civil society’ in this framework you are talking about ‘We the people’. So I think it was not an accident that the Charter begins with “We the peoples of the United Nations,”and I think the role of the world citizen, if you wish, and the national citizen, and the regional citizen, is fundamental to acceptable governance at every level."
"I honestly believe that if the P-5 had not had this power of veto and the power of Chapter VII the UN would have been abandoned like the League of Nations several times by the United States. You would have an international organization where Russia, China, the United States would be observers, trying to manipulate it from the outside, but not from the inside, because they would not want to participate in an organization where they are not treated as exceptional powers. And I think this is a real lesson for those who think that if you kill the UN now its replacement would be better. Because it is not at all clear that would happen."
So, in terms of the idea of a world state, I do not think you would have a unitary world state unless you have a World War III with weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, chemical), and then you might have a world state emerge, which I think would be an extremely oppressive regime. What I think you are going to have is democratic global governance with finite powers and guaranteed individual rights and human rights, rights of Member States, etc.
We will, I think, continue working on environmental governance. We have to strengthen the capacity for global governance on environmental issues like climate change, protection of the oceans, of air, of water, of fisheries, etc. I think we are going to see stronger financial governance. So you can try something like an International Securities and Exchange Commission development where this thread of periodic financial catastrophes, like what happened in 2007-2009, can be mitigated through the global financial and banking regulations.
I think human rights protections are moving more towards global governance guarantees. International justice is moving towards being strengthened. The international rule of law historically is something governments obeyed when it was in their interests and ignored when it was not. But, this anarchy has greatly changed. The interdependence of governments and economies, and the fact they are already massively regulating standards for health, prevention of disease, air travel, all sorts of shipping, telecommunications, thousands of issues… You see 90 or 98 percent of international law is not controversial at all. So, we are moving to a world state in the sense of democratic global governance that is handled by nation-states and “we the people” differently for different issues – whether it is environment or finance, development, human rights, or peace and security. Also, the question of whether it will be regional global governance was a real question, whether international organizations were really just going to be clubs for heads of state to protect each other from interference with their domestic affairs. The European Union has shown that you can have regional international governance. It has prevented war amongst the 28 EU Member States. When it comes to comparing the African Union with the European Union, I think it is moving in that direction, and I think you will see South America moving in that direction. So the world state will also have to deal with the issue of regional governance.
It is more global governance than a world state. It is going to be mostly about democratic governance with guaranteed rights and weighed voting for the largest populations and with most powerful economic interests, but without the hegemonies sitting on the top of international order calling all the shots.
MUNPlanet: Being a convener of the Coalition for the ICC, are you optimistic regarding the role and participation of global civil society in various processes that should make states and their leaders more accountable in world politics?
WILLIAM PACE: The answer is yes, quite honestly. When people are using ‘the role of civil society’ in this framework you are talking about ‘We the people’. So I think it was not an accident that the Charter begins with “We the peoples of the United Nations,”and I think the role of the world citizen, if you wish, and the national citizen, and the regional citizen, is fundamental to acceptable governance at every level.
I think whether in the future, once the history is forgotten, anyone who has written properly about the history of the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court recognizes the indispensable role that civil society and nongovernmental organizations, and the Coalition for the ICC, played in the development of that treaty and its ratification, and the establishment of the Court, they are continuing to consult and assist with the Court in all sorts of ways. It is not any different in environmental protection, or human rights protection, advancement and defense; the role of NGOs and civil society is important.
You know, when the United States decided to secede from the British Empire and created a constitution, and then before many of the then colonies would ratify the new US constitution, the ‘people’ insisted on the Bill of Rights for the individual. And that is the role that civil society is playing in global governance, regional governance. Individual and minority rights must be protected if there is going to be any legitimacy and accountability. I am optimistic because I think in my lifetime I have seen tremendous progress. That does not mean that there is not a long way to go.
We are seeing the political space of civil society organizations being threatened throughout the world. The danger will never end, which is why we need laws and independent courts and treaties and institutions.
MUNPlanet: How do you see the world in 2034, to paraphrase a Lakhdar Brahimi 2006 article title?
WILLIAM PACE: I am going to make a prediction that you will 10 years from now maybe see the addition of 10 or 12 new states to the Security Council. I think probably about half of them will be two or three-year memberships, half of them (5 or 6) will have five to ten year memberships. And I think 5 or 10-year memberships will fundamentally change the way the P-5 are able to run the Security Council.
I also believe that by 2034 regional international organizations and Member States will have created a kind of rapid deployment international peacekeeping force. Regional peacekeeping forces and international peacekeeping forces will be able to respond quickly to both natural disasters and to violence, the mass human rights violations of regional wars, etc.
Then I think that as you move to where more and more countries are benefiting from global economic prosperity that the tolerance for ideological wars and repressive governments like North Korea is going to diminish. A lot of it is going to depend on how China is able to sustain its incredible economic development, and the relationship between the United States and China, and Japan. So I think the major powers will have a major power role and I hope that role will be much more about enforcing a rules-based global governance system.
In the end, I think the sooner the Member States – and civil society - pressure the permanent members of the Security Council to have a significant number, if not a majority, of the peacekeepers be from their own governments, then I think you will see peacekeeping and peace enforcement that is different than you see it today. It is now contracted out to many of the least developing countries while the developed countries pay for it. And I guess the last point on that is, it will make a difference if the Member States stand up and say ‘P-5, you got your permanent membership from the Charter, you got your right to veto from the Charter, you must use and exercise that permanent membership and veto according to the purposes and principles of the Charter, and the letter of the Charter’. And it should be at times judicially enforced through tribunals, including the International Court of Justice – World Court.
And whether that will happen by 2034, I do not know, but I think I am more optimistic that the global governance challenges are going to be addressed more successfully in the next 20 years than at any time in centuries, not only in the last 70 years.
MUNPlanet: What would be your message to aspiring diplomats and young civil society leaders from a global Model UN community?
WILLIAM PACE: We have to find these paths to achieve the first preambular goal of the United Nations -- to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war. We have to find ways to achieve disarmament and enforce it, which will allow national governments to remain secure. And I think small and middle-power democracies are the best hope for advancing global governance, advancing environmental protection and human rights, and the advancement of women and children. The hope of the future for all our nations and communities rests with the youth and with education.We need to be especially appreciative of those aspiring young diplomats and to Model UN organizations.
MUNPlanet: Mr. Pace, thank you for devoting your time to this interview with MUNPlanet.