This is an open appeal to the UN General Assembly from a senior world citizen in the largest democracy.
“I want to live in a world where people become famous because of their work for peace and justice and care. I want the famous to be inspiring; their lives an example of what every human being has it in them to do — act from love!” Dr. Patch Adams (born 28 May 1945).
First of all, it is not my cup of tea to advise or admonish the UN General Assembly (UN GA) for all things they have accomplished/done or not achieved over 60+ years of UN’s existence. We all know well that both the achievements and non-achievements are not just the GA but due to the collective psyche of all the member states working on a situation in a point of time. We also know and have accepted that this “collective psyche” and its workings are something no rational social scientist and research scholar could fathom. Therefore, we, as world citizens, have to bear the responsibility equally both for its achievements as well as its failures, including continuing festering problem issues, regional conflicts, terrorism and abuse of the environment.
Many can make a valid claim that because of the UN the world has saved itself from high-tech World War III with massive MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Never mind about the usual death and destruction that have been going on in many global locations, and also inflicted in country specific situations in the name of religion, social inequities and disparities, regional and tribal conflicts, ideological disputes, etc.
All said and done, there is no denial of the fact that the continuing existence of the UN, despite all its internal and external distortions, short-comings and handicaps on the one hand and the incredible advancement of information and communication technology on the other, is indeed a tangible sign of our hope and helpless aspiration for a kind of new world order. This may be a natural order in a way beyond our immediate grasp that probably helps all the good, bad and ugly somehow co-exist and thrive. In such an atmosphere, the mere survival itself becomes the key for any possible human development, provided we human beings can learn the lessons of nature and its orderly conduct.
Notwithstanding all these, the two broad key objectives of the United Nations will always remain as before:
- Help prevent external conflicts of all kinds, between nations and between peoples; and ensure availability of such mechanisms, knowledge and experience to tackle difficulties promptly as they may occur; and
- Ensure that there are no in-house internal conflicts within its portals and the whole organization is manned and managed by such staff who are totally committed to the standard of conduct and behaviors of international civil service; and maintain a fully independent and professionally competent internal justice system, totally free from clutches of the UN behemoth bureaucracy, rendering world class justice on time in case of problems.
In the case of objective (1) above, I wish to recall with grateful appreciation of the initiative taken by the former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, who really wanted a heart-to-heart inter-faith dialogue among all religious and ideological groups. So, the UN’s adoption of Resolution A/RES/54/113 in February 2000 for the “Dialogue among Civilizations” can be seen as a landmark action insofar accepting the fact and worldly wisdom that civilizational peace is not going to be a reality unless there exist “an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind”.
What has been done thus far to promote the growth of the widespread awareness of shared values and common goals of all human kind is not easy knowledge even to those who follow the UN activities very closely. To what extent the required follow up actions, delegated amongst innocuous agencies, individual governments and other supportive groups, have been operationalized and resulted in any tangible achievements is again not easy to tabulate.
Finally, it just remains now another wonderful essay document to read the UN Resolution 54/113; read and enjoy for its beautiful words!
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 53/22 of 4 November 1998 entitled “United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations”,
Reaffirming the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, which, interalia, call for collective effort to strengthen friendly relations among nations, remove threats to peace and foster international cooperation in resolving international issues of economic, social, cultural and humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,
Bearing in mind the valuable contribution that dialogue among civilizations can make to an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind,
Recognizing the diverse civilizational achievements of mankind, crystallizing cultural pluralism and creative human diversity,
Aware that positive and mutually beneficial interaction among civilizations has continued throughout human history despite impediments arising from disputes and wars,
Underlining the fact that tolerance and respect for diversity facilitate universal promotion and protection of human rights and constitute sound foundations for civil society, social harmony and peace,
Emphasizing the indispensable role of dialogue as a means to reach understanding, promote a culture of peace, remove threats to peace and strengthen interaction and exchange among and within civilizations,
Reaffirming that civilizational achievements constitute the collective heritage of mankind, providing a source of inspiration and progress for humanity at large,
Welcoming the collective endeavour of the international community to enhance understanding through constructive dialogue among civilizations on the threshold of the third millennium,
Encouraged by the positive reception of Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations and international public opinion to the proclamation of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, and welcoming the initiatives undertaken by governmental and non-governmental actors to promote dialogue..
No one expects that the dialogue among civilizations will result in a utopian environment to make every citizen in the world enjoying human rights and becoming happy. But actions towards improving the human situation should continually be addressed in two broad areas:
- Those areas under the control of “nature” and the environment;
- Those areas within the human intelligent management and expertise; and human capability.
It was sad that the COP15 of December 2009 proved a non-starter in tackling climate issues and bringing about an agreed level of emission control and related covenants based on equity, fairness and justice in the context of socio-economic situation and level of human development in different regions of the world. But as long as sincere and committed efforts continue, and there is a level playing field for all the stakeholders – be it USA or the cluster of tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Maldives – practical solutions are bound to appear to meet the climate challenges in good time. Sooner the people in the Amazon jungles and those in the NY Manhattan greedy financial-district or those in the Bali Island with life depending on tourism can feel proud of being equal in the enjoyment of a dignified life and nature’s resources, surer will a newer world order emerge.
Let me now turn our attention to that area of in-house management which is supposed to be within the normal competence of staff capability, so hopefully things should be managed without outside interference. That is the area of Human Assets Management (HAM) based on which everything else can work or break. With a great diversity of staff spread all over the world, the enormity of the job of HAM is not difficult to imagine. The great experiment of international staffing, comprising of many nationalities – men and women – with all types of faiths, languages, cultural variations, ethnicity, etc. – working in harmony must not fail if the UN has to make history of human development in this century.
Though UN staff have been enjoying best of the best pay packets and perks, comparable to any government or private sector players, why money was/is not the motive for commitment and dedication. The answer is simple: man does not live by bread alone!
The staff need and deserve respect, compassion and dignity in the work place and outside job related dealings. Why this is not available uniformly: because the internal justice system was dysfunctional for decades; with prosecutor, judge and jury are all rolled into those called super managers, justice was either already dead or was in prolonged coma state with no hope of revival.
The situation probably became so hopeless that the UN GA itself was emotionally moved to bring in 2006 what was called the Redesign Panel on the United Nations system of administration of justice with external independent experts to review and possibly redesign the system of administration of justice at the United Nations. The Redesign Panel found that the United Nations internal justice system was outmoded, dysfunctional and ineffective and that it lacks independence. The financial, reputational and other costs to the Organization of the then present system were enormous, and a new, redesigned system of internal justice would be far more effective than an attempt to improve the existing system.
Effective reform of the United Nations cannot happen without an efficient, independent and well-resourced internal justice system that will safeguard the rights of staff members and ensure the effective accountability of managers and staff members. The Redesign Panel finally recommended a decentralized, streamlined and ultimately cost-efficient system of internal justice for the United Nations.
This new system will be professional and independent and, if well-resourced, will both reduce conflicts within the Organization through more effective informal dispute resolution and ensure the expeditious disposal of cases in the formal justice system. The objective of decentralization is to ensure that staff members serving in field operations, who constitute the majority of staff, are effectively covered by the internal justice system.
As a part of the reformed internal justice edifice, the erstwhile Ombudsman, professional mediators, professional staff legal counsels, a separate supportive entity called Office of Administration of Justice etc. will be intended to strengthen the new system. The crown jewels are called UN Disputes Tribunal and UN Appeals Tribunal manned by reputable professional judges, with long judicial experience, from different parts of the world. See UN GA Resolution A/61/150 and other connected documents for more details.
Having done all these wonderful things, it is not clear why the UN GA did not spell out the budgetary allocation guidelines to run the reformed Internal Justice System that none of the bureaucracy should tamper with and can only to be reviewed/modified by the GA. It is most important that the Internal Justice’s true independence and accountability should be genuinely preserved and should remain outside of the influence of the same old bureaucracy and the coterie of so called super bosses.
On the corollary, clear-cut guidelines for monitoring and evaluation of the new Internal Justice System should be in place under the direct reporting relationship with UN GA, not routed through the corrupt and clogged channels of the UN Secretariat.
The UN GA should have elaborated how the orders, instructions and judgments (especially those required to be carried out by the bureaucracy) should be implemented, and what should be the enforcement mechanism. It should have spelled out clearly what will be the consequences or punishment if anyone in the bureaucracy is seen to be obstructing the passage of true justice.
Unless the UN GA puts its act together in the proper administrative management and the regular monitoring and evaluation of the reformed UN Internal Justice system, and make the system totally self-contained, sustainable, truly professional, transparent, accountable, and value human rights and the UN Charter, it can easily turn out to be a Robot Frankenstein in the old hands power players.
In the event of any short-circuiting the new system, we will unfortunately be resorting to the same kind of “reform exercise” without any hope, certainly at a much greater cost to the resources and human dignity.
Any one listening?
V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.
Joint Appellant of the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001 of August 2009. Still waiting to be reviewed!?
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