Challenges and Opportunities of Achieving Consensus on a UN Reform Proposal

Challenges and Opportunities of Achieving Consensus on a UN Reform Proposal

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Reforms and changes in the United Nations have always been fraught with obstacles that must be overcome amidst competing national interests of member states. There are challenges that must be addressed and opportunities that must be seized for member states to come into consensus on a proposal that would have repercussions and consequences to international and national policies and norms, which would affect domestic, regional and international relations. The UN Emergency Peace Service proposal, which aims to effectively and quickly respond to genocide and other humanitarian crimes, is no exception. Challenges abound, but not without opportunities to move forward. Challenges to bring about a UNEPS are generally hinged on the issues of sovereignty, the credibility and intention of states supporting the proposal, and perceptions as to the legality and legitimacy of purpose.
Issues related to state sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs have been the bone of contention of most member states in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) .Composed mostly of developing countries, except China, which had been colonised by the Western powers, their main concern is that UNEPS could be used as a tool for neo-colonialism. Already critical of West intervention, their suspicion could have been entrenched further when the United States, without authorisation from the Security Council, invaded Iraq using humanitarian intervention as a pretext. According to Bellamy, ‘critics argued that the US and the UK were abusing and selectively applying a partial account of human rights to justify armed intervention in weak and mainly postcolonial states’ .Bellamy also points out that advocates of traditional sovereignty are worried that advocating sovere...

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... support the proposal. Real opportunities to advance UN reform is not during the formal debates in the plenary but in informal and outside of the UN meetings and dialogues where diplomatic courtesies are less observed and detailed discussions can be done without inhibitions.


BBC News, ‘Profile: Non-Aligned Movement’, updated 7 August 2009, viewed 24 July 2010.

Bellamy, Alex, Responsibility to Protect: The Global Effort to End Mass Atrocities, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2009.

Davide, Hilario, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN, Thematic Debate on the Report of the Secretary-General on Implementing The Responsibility to Protect Speech transcript, UN General Assembly, 23 July 2009,, viewed 21 July 2010.

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