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NO.449 12.03.2018

What Is the United Nations Headed?

US President Donald Trump claims that the UN is useless. Many other leaders around the world are placing their national sovereignty over the role of multilateral international organizations such as the UN


On Thursday, September 20th, at the 2018 Peace BAR Festival (PBF), organized to commemorate the International Day of Peace, in the University Administration Building of the Seoul campus, Professor Emeritus Thomas Weiss of the City University of New York offered his critique of how the UN is being perceived by the international society.

Under the title, ‘A World Without the UN?,’ an international panel was organized including Irina Bokova (former UNESCO Secretary General and Kyung Hee Miwon Chair Professor and Honorary Rector of Humanitas College), Kim Won-soo (former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs), Liberto Bautista (Chair of CoNGO), Garry Jacobs (Chair of World Academy of Arts and Sciences [WAAS]), Oh Joon (former Ambassador to the UN and professor at Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, Kyung Hee University), and Don Moon (Rector of the College of International Studies, Kyung Hee University). They discussed the role of the UN and whether it was at all needed in the world.


“If the UN does not evolve, it will disappear as a relic of old age”
Professor Weiss began his lecture by posing a question: “Would the world be better off without the UN? Or would the world be a better place without these world leaders?” The main body of the lecture was his answers to these questions.

To answer the first question, Professor Weiss discussed whether ‘the world would improve if the UN is run more systematically and efficiently.’ He was optimistic but did issue a warning. He argued, “Unless the UN evolves into a more transparent and responsible organization, it is likely to become extinct as a relic of old ages like the dinosaurs. However, if it is capable of improving its efficiency and legitimacy, the world will definitely be a better place with the UN.”


“What the world needs is a ‘multilateral international organization’”
To address his second question, Professor Weiss delivered a sharp criticism. He said, “The world would be better without these world leaders who put their nationalistic interests above all others. Because of these leaders, the world order based on multilateral international organizations, such as the UN and WTO, is being severely damaged.”

He expressed that extreme nationalistic attitudes not only compromises the role of international organizations, but also stokes crimes against humanity by neglecting the basic human rights in the name of national sovereignty. He said, “What the world needs right now is the rebirth of multilateral international organizations. Leaders that represent their respective countries must have a clear understanding about the relationship between international organizations and national sovereignty, and seek advancement for all humanity.”



Global citizens must take action to make their voices heard
The lecture was followed by a panel discussion. First, Professor Irina Bokova stressed the need to revamp and redefine the UN. She urged, “As evidenced in the Paris Agreement, we must not underestimate the role of the UN. At the same time, the UN must overcome its division and redefine itself as a coherent body. It must also do more to promote the global public good by making efforts to cooperate with diverse stakeholders.”

Chair Garry Jacobs of WAAS offered his view of how the UN should evolve. He said, “If the UN wishes to take a step forward, sovereignty must be given to the people.” He then offered four discreet versions of the UN: UN No.1 should be made up of UN member countries, while UN No.2 should be composed of the Secretariat staff. UN No. 3 should be defined by its relationships with NGOs, while UN No. 4 should be formulated based on the people’s sovereignty being placed front and center. By redefining the UN, he stressed the need for “the UN to develop into an organization that reflects the opinion of the global citizens.”



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