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E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
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Friday, April 01, 2005
Robin Cook, writing in the Guardian, reminds me why I must oppose the UN even if it is reformed.
No one is asking for Kofi Annan to be given a veto over whether Wolfowitz gets the job, but it does not seem unreasonable to demand stronger coordination at the centre to stop the World Bank pursuing neo-liberal policies that are in flat conflict with the development agendas of other UN agencies.You heard the man. He wants the UN to be one centre of power, following a unified development agenda that is not neo-liberal. His vision is entirely realistic and achievable. When and if it is achieved the great gains of the past three decades in average wealth, life expectancy, access to water, access to education, and freedom will slowly, slowly, slowly stop being so spectacular ... then stop altogether ... then imperceptibly slip into reverse ... and no one will be able to see it because there will nowhere left in the world outside the Unified Development Agenda. As I said here (one of the most deeply felt posts I have ever written) we might see "not the end of history, but its asymptote." And as I also said there, that scenario, a sort of permanent Imperial China sleeping safe from all outside influence (because there is no outside) under a fairly benevolent civil service, is the optimistic one. A pessimistic scenario might also hark back to Chinese history. The death toll in the Taiping "Great Peace" rebellion against the Manchus was second only to that of World War II. Under a unified government all wars are civil wars and civil wars are ugly.
Later on in the article Cook says that:
The suspicion must be that they would rather have a creaking, ineffective UN to treat as a coconut shy than a modern, representative forum that would oblige them to respect collective decisions.
Since I fear very much being obliged to respect the collective decisions of the world's various regimes, I have considered, very seriously, taking up exactly that opinion, rather in the way that revolutionary socialists sometimes hope that capitalism will be as cruel as possible, the better to speed the revolution against it. ("Let it bleed", as Tariq Ali used to say.) But in the end I cannot go that far. It may well be better for the long term happiness of the world that the UN should cease to exist, or, my preferred option, should be a co-ordinating body and forum for negotiation with no power of its own, but I see scarce prospect of that happening. What we have in the real world, a powerful but badly dysfunctional UN, will exacerbate famines and wars, particularly in Africa. So I hope it is reformed. Then let us fight it.