United Nations

A Call to Reconsider the New World Order

On the 50th anniversary of the UN, the Bahá'í International Community urges world leaders to hold summit on global governance

NEW YORK -- Declaring that the United Nations needs to be redefined and restructured to better meet the challenges facing the post-Cold War world, the Bahá'í International Community has issued a major statement calling on world leaders to take bold new steps to strengthen the UN's capacity for global coordination.

Issued for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the statement urges leaders to convene a world summit on global governance before the end of the century. Such a summit, the statement says, should have as its goal a broad-based examination of how international political order can be restructured to meet the needs of an increasingly interdependent and integrated global society.

"The tasks entailed in the development of a global society call for levels of capacity far beyond anything the human race has so far been able to muster. Reaching these levels will require an enormous expansion in access to knowledge on the part of every individual."

-- Turning Point for All Nations

"The Bahá'í International Community regards the current world confusion and the calamitous condition of human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet," says the 22-page statement, titled "Turning Point for All Nations," issued in September in advance of UN 50th anniversary celebrations planned here for October.

"Historically, this process has been accelerated by sudden and catastrophic events," the statement continues. "It was the devastation of World Wars I and II that gave birth to the League of Nations and the United Nations, respectively. Whether future accomplishments are also to be reached after similarly unimaginable horrors or embraced through an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth. Failure to take decisive action would be unconscionably irresponsible."

The statement suggests a number of immediate steps which world leaders could take to reinvigorate the United Nations -- such as limiting the "veto power" in the Security Council and giving the "force of law" to some resolutions of the General Assembly -- while at the same time urging an "evolutionary" approach in considering how the international order might be revamped in the long run.

The statement also asks leaders to make special efforts to involve average women and men everywhere in this process. "...[D]iscussions about the future of the international order must involve and excite the generality of humankind," says the statement. "...it cannot be confined to leaders -- be they in government, business, the academic community, religion, or organizations of civil society.

"On the contrary, this conversation must engage women and men at the grassroots level. Broad participation will make the process self-reinforcing by raising awareness of world citizenship and increasing support for an expanded international order," the statement says.

In the coming months, the statement will be distributed to government officials, organizations of civil society, educational institutions and other prominent people by the worldwide network of some 172 national-level Bahá'í communities, said Techeste Ahderom, the main representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations.

"Our goal in seeking to make a widespread distribution of this document is to encourage a broad-based discussion of not only the need for changes in the international order, and the structures by which such changes might be effected, but also about the values which a new world order and especially its leaders must necessarily embrace," said Mr. Ahderom.

"While there are many contemporary calls and proposals for the reform and restructuring of the United Nations in this 50th year of its existence, you cannot really consider the means and structures for global governance unless you have set in motion the processes that will truly bring the generality of humankind into the discussion."

-- Techeste Ahderom, Bahái International Community, United Nations Office

"While there are many contemporary calls and proposals for the reform and restructuring of the United Nations in this 50th year of its existence, you cannot really consider the means and structures for global governance unless you have set in motion the processes that will truly bring the generality of humankind into the discussion," Mr. Ahderom said. "Without broad and enlightened participation, you risk replicating on the international level the hollow and too-often-corrupt structures found presently at the national and regional levels."

As initial steps in strengthening the capacity of the United Nations, the Community suggests that world leaders might quickly adopt the following measures:

Quick Steps for Action

  • Change the voting structure of the General Assembly so that it more accurately represents the people of the world and give its resolutions the "force of law," with provisions for both enforcement and sanctions, within a "limited domain" of issues.
  • Establish limitations on the exercise of the veto power among the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council such that it can be used only for its original purposes: to prevent the Council from authorizing military actions against a Permanent Member or requiring the use of its forces against its will.
  • Create an independent but "fully armed" international force, responsible to the Security Council, but under the command and control of the UN Secretary General, to give support to peacekeeping operations.
  • Extend the jurisdiction of the World Court, looking toward a time when Court rulings will be binding and enforceable on states. A first step would be to allow other organs of the UN, and not merely member states, to bring cases before the Court.
  • Establish a Commission to study borders and frontiers, so that national boundaries can be firmly fixed and outstanding irredentist claims cease to be a source of war and conflict.
  • Commit to the acceptance of a universal auxiliary language, both as a means of improving communication and saving money as the process of global coordination moves forward.
  • Launch a determined campaign to implement Agenda 21 (the global environmental pact forged at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio) and the resolutions of the Social Summit, held earlier this year in Copenhagen. In part, this campaign should be given strength through a "wholesale reexamination" of the Bretton Woods financial institutions, as a means to begin to address deep issues of global economic security.

Such changes are necessary, the statement says, because "twin processes of collapse and renewal" -- processes which can be seen in the spread of social disorder on the one hand and the rising hope for universal peace on the other -- have lent a "new urgency to the need for global coordination."

"Although the United Nations has surely played a role in preventing a third world war, the last half decade has nevertheless been marked by numerous local, national and regional conflicts costing millions of lives," says the statement. "No sooner had improved relations between the superpowers removed the ideological motivation for such conflicts, than long-smoldering ethnic and sectarian passions surfaced as a new source of conflagration..."