Today's date:
  Summer 2003


UN Role Is Not Security, But Global Management

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, was also foreign minister of Egypt for 15 years. He spoke from Paris with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on March 26.

There are four problems of reconciliation now that the war with Iraq is over:

  1. Between the United Nations and public opinion in the United States;
  2. Between the Western world and the Arab world;
  3. Between Europe and the United States;
  4. Within the European Union, which is divided between those who favored and those who opposed the military intervention.

Some UN role in post-war reconstruction is important for two reasons. It will promote reconciliation between the UN and American public opinion. In American eyes, the UN has been discredited because the US was forced to go to Iraq without Security Council approval—even though, at the same time, they claimed Resolution 1441 as their mandate.

The other important dimension is that a major UN role will help reconciliation between the Arab world and the US because it will show the US does not intend to remain an occupying power in Iraq.

Remember, in both Haiti and Kosovo, the US dominated the armed intervention. But then Blue Helmets (international troops) took over later when security was established. In the case of Kosovo, a UN administrator took over. This should follow that pattern.

The UN, however, will not be the locus of post-war reconciliation because the UN itself is a protagonist in this upheaval that must be reconciled with the American public. Whether the damage can be repaired depends on whether there is the political will among the US and other major powers to give the UN a role.

Remember, many problems have been solved outside the UN—the end of the Vietnam War and the end of the Korean war before that. The treaty between Egypt and Israel was done without any participation by the UN. The UN has never pretended to have a monopoly on the peaceful resolution of disputes.

What then is the role of the UN? The UN will be compelled sooner or later to manage globalization since there is no other international organization. Financial flows, environmental degradation, new technology, disease—all these are global challenges looking for an institutional response. That is the main UN role in the future.