DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Salma Yehia

War, Peace, Diplomacy

Due: December 9 2013

The Parliament of Man


           The United Nations: Quantifying Its Efficiency and Potential Paradigms


            In the summer of 1945, a revolutionary document was signed in San Francisco that offered a new global structure for the following decades.  The United Nations Charter was drafted at a conference where the newly developed Security Council—comprised of the United States, Soviet Union, China, United Kingdom, and France—was ratified. Several international treaty organizations had been formed to regulate conflict between nations, yet none have came close in neither prominence nor complexity as the current world organization of the United Nations.

             In The Parliament of Man, author Paul Kennedy constructs a pedestal on which he places the United Nations at the center to historically highlight its structure and explain the functionality of its parts objectively, while subjectively inserting commentary on its productivity. In order to aid the readers in understanding the intricacy of the United Nations, he uses exaggerated hyperbole to get a point across—is the United Nations a potential threat as a world power or can it adhere to the role of peacemaker and advancer of progressive goals. Kennedy takes on a great feat of producing a factual encounter of the UN while implementing ideas of potential reforms. Yet, it seems that he struggles to find a fresh, conclusive answer to the current corruption and ineptitude the United Nations faces. Rather than a broad focus, Kennedy’s agenda for reform is strongest on improving the Security Council and peacekeeping operations. There is a conflict between the soft and hard faces of the UN system. There needs to be a shift towards improving the less controversial parts of the United Nations—which could improve the effectiveness of at least one side which in return would once again raise the legitimacy of the organization therefore potentially aiding in more agreement and urgency to fix the “hard” face of the United Nations.

              War is traditionally defined as an armed conflict between two nations. However, in this modern age, with the increase of innovation and technology this simple definition should be broadened to include less obvious “warlike” conditions that occur on a daily basis around the world. War can have a softer less noticeable side from which men, women, and children are dying of everyday. War is not just territorial. War is struggle for cultural diversity/freedom. War is the struggle of a more transcendental freedom—one from which international citizens are discriminated and battle for an equal say. The United Nations has a job of promoting social progress and bettering the standards of life in larger freedom[i] This should not be a simply more “feminine agenda” but one that if not solved can cause more traditional wars—wars that the harder side of the UN now bears responsibility for. Kennedy would agree, “In no way are those matters of secondary import to the future of humankind”[ii] and that the instability and aggressions are affected by “massive cultural, religious, and ethnic prejudices”. He rightfully recognizes that the effectiveness of the softer face—comprised of the UNs social, environmental, and cultural policies— is deterred by a long list of entities that distracts from looking at the phenomenon as a whole as well was wasteful overlaps between the smaller organizations[iii]. However, the softer side of the UN needs to be recognized as dealing with issues that are proportionately as urgent and crucial as those that the Security Council deals with. These long-term issues still constitute war against humanity. Therefore, reforms need to be made not mostly with relation to the powerful five –as Paul Kennedy suggests—but these long term social and cultural issues need to be taken just as much as a threat as any another sort of war. This is the first step to solving deep-rooted issues that keep the UN working vigorously.

             Kennedy’s concern is that the women’s agenda within the softer face of the UN is visible in places that don’t need the UNs aid. He emphasizes the gap between proclamation and achievement. His example is of CEDAW (the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Woman) that produces factual evidence of the abuse and war against woman that occurs on a daily basis. What he is oblivious to is the fact that treaties like CEDAW are effective within their specific cause. It is unjust to view each advocate of social change—such as that of women rights—as a lost cause or completely ineffective.  The author may claim that the ideas are lofty and vague, and perhaps attempting to work in too many fields, and are not attracting the powerful member states.[iv] He challenges those that believe that progress has been made (in the social and cultural field) to explain why or how such progress has been made.  He lacks to comprehend that progress has been made due to the many factions that comprise the softer face of the United Nations that each dedicate work to certain causes such as human trafficking, women rights, and refugees.  

               Kennedy must realize that because these issues happen on an exceptionally local scale in isolated areas, it is difficult to implement one uniform solution. Different groups must analyze the specific problem, collect data, and further comprehend the historical and cultural happenings of the area. This requires immense research and time. Nowadays, the hard face of the UN is deemed more effective because its action is more visible on a larger scale.  Moreover, it is easier to analyze issues concerning the Security Council and peacekeeping operations because its effects are more visible—on a macro scale. The micro scale, which is handled by the softer face of the UN, is conceivably less understood and implements  “backstage” aid. The issue is no one has the patience to see the change through until the end. Part of being “committed to ways of solving problems through peaceful means and thus avoiding recourse of war” is by having the patience to accept long-term change rather than act feverishly and noting short-term achievements and failures[v].

               The section of the book entitled “ The Present and the Future” is a place where Kennedy leaves his array of solutions to different ineffective parts of the United Nations. The bulk of his reforms focus on the P5 and his less stronger arguments are vaguely scattered throughout the section.  One of Kennedy’s very few solutions to the disorganization of information and overlapping organizations is that there needs to be something that resembles a UN Central intelligence Office. Although he accurately pronounces the need for a better system of gathering and dissecting data regarding unfolding disasters, he focuses on short-term impending threats rather than the use and collection of data to more efficiently analyze long term social issues that persist within the international system. It should be conceded that there is the question that arises of “which desk can all this information be assembled and analyzed” to brief the secretary general and the public[vi]. There needs to be one area in which all the information can easily be found. But, Kennedy’s short-term way of thinking paralyzes him from giving a more effective way of reforming the United Nations. That section would have been better organized if Kennedy were able to focus on fewer reforms but extensively explain practical innovative ways in which they could be enacted.

              What Kennedy fails to mention is a more integrated UN. Rather he offers solutions that separate the branches—this is perhaps a premature solution as it is obvious that the division and innumerable branches that exist aren’t working well together.   Rather, what needs to occur is unification between similar branches and increasingly substantial ways of delivering information between groups. In this new world order, technology has moved us forward, yet the UN hasn’t made use of this technology shift that is changing the world dynamic around it. The physical means and modes of communications within the UN need to be updated which could more easily aid the growing number of organizations that are branching off of the UN. Although Kennedy does mention unifying the Security Council and General Assembly –in order to not exclude the GA from matters in which many member states, “take the deepest interest[vii]—he would implement it through more working groups which logically would create increasing hierarchy that is certainly not needed at the UN. Kennedy has not mentioned the corruption, self-interest, and hypocrisy of some diplomats/officials within the organization although it plays a significant role on how the UN is respected, and how efficiently in can realistically run. Although the corruption is mentioned on a broader scale among the P5, it is less highlighted in the softer face of the UN. These long-term goals cannot successfully be seen through if those involved in aiding see themselves as an elite. Their needs to be a mentality change among officials who take expense trips to countries and analyze a countries situation from the comfort of luxury hotel rooms. NGOs can’t simply do the “dirty work” for the UN. Someone needs to step up to the plate. No fancy speeches. No more talking. Action must be taken. Let’s be proactive rather than proactive as global citizens.

               The UN charter was created as a three-legged balance between the major powers. While the United States advocated for the idea of culture and ideological community, the Soviets had the idea of security above all else, and the British desired the idea for a deal of both military and economic stability for the postwar order.[viii] As history has evolved and the international arena has seen drastic changes in its layout, this balance has been difficult to preserve. The visible failures and successes that can be easily analyzed are of the second two parts because of its more imminent nature. The idea of a culture and ideological community has been pushed to the background to make way for more short-term analysis. However, by doing so, we prevent ourselves from truly comprehending the grand nature of the UN and ignore another whole part of war that lurks long-term in the global lives of citizens. As Kennedy gracefully states, “it is difficult to imagine how much more riven and ruinous our world of six billion people would be if there had been no UN social, environmental, and cultural agendas–and no institutions to attempt to put them into practice on the ground.”[ix] Whether the UN may need reforms or not, the UN is the first step to solving grander rooted ideological and cultural issues that disrupt the creation of a harmonious international system. 





[i] Kennedy, Paul M. The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. New York: Random House, 2006. 113. Print.

[ii] Ibd. 143

[iii] Ibd.145

[iv] ibd. 173

[v] Ibd. 9

[vi] Ibd 254

[vii] Ibd 265

[viii] Ibd 32

[ix] Ibd 176

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.