(Apologies to readers that the first version of this post was badly edited… It’s hard to do all this on my modestly-sized laptop…. Now, it should be better. ~HC)
So the United Nations has its own university… Who knew? I gather from some comments made here on JWN earlier that some (or perhaps even many) among my readers did not…
Actually, that’s not totally surprising, since UNU actually does most of its work in very technical fields, as you can see if you scroll down on this web-page to the list of UNU’s research and training centers and programs. These centers and programs do some much-needed work in helping to build the capacity of (especially) low-income and medium-income nations in the various technical fields covered. But if you’re interest is a more general one in global issues and global relations, you may well not have noticed their work.
So the symposium I was at yesterday was held to celebrate the opening of a new building for UNU’s International Leadership Institute here in Amman, Jordan. It’s a little hard to explain what the ILI does, especially since their website appears to be down right now… But I’m reading from a brochure here, that says, “Over the last five years, the Institute has hosted over 300 mid-career professionals from 93 different countries in local, reginal, and global leadership education and practical leadership programs… ”
I should also confess I find the concept of “leadership”, simpliciter, to be either fairly mystifying or fairly scary. (Fuehrerheit, anyone?) It is also, quite frequently, defined in a strongly male-gendered or otherwise elitist and exclusionary way. The best form of leadership, surely, should be leadership to do something— that is, to reach a goal that is mutually agreed by all participants in the venture, that is clearly defined, and (obviously) constructive. It should also be a form of leadership that has transparency and accountability mechanisms built in… Anyway, there’s my two cents’ worth on the topic. (For now.)
So, the symposium yesterday was interesting. Hamid Zakri, the head of the Yokohama-based UNU Institute for Advanced Studies (in eco-restructuring, as it turns out) gave a talk on biodiplomacy. I learned more about the topic than I had ever known before, or indeed, than I had ever known existed… The Rector of the UNU, Hans van Ginkel, gave a talk about its history. The former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel-Salam al-Majali– who’d been a big force behind the establishment of the institute in Jordan– gave a talk about his vision of leadership education. The UN “chief of Mission” in Amman, Christine McNab, gave a helpful talk about her view of leadership, likening it to being the conductor of an orchestra who encourages the individual players to do their own best interpretations of a symphonic piece while creating something even larger out of the sum of the parts of their efforts…
But the two presentatins I found most interesting were those by UNU Vice-Rector Ramesh Thakur, someone whose work I’ve long admired, and by Amin Seikal, of the Australian National University.
Amin, who grew up in Afghanistan, talked about democratization in Muslim Middle Eastern countries. His lecture came immediately before mine, so I didn’t ake notes. But basically, he was pessimistic about seeing any rapid leaps toward democracy in the region; he noted the anomaly of the US pushing for democratic elections and then rejecting the results; and he concluded by saying that most Muslim ME countries still needed a lot of work in the development of civil society before we could expect much pgoress in democratization.
Ramesh’s talk was about UN reform and its role in boosting peace and development. He said he would send me a written version of it sometime (which I’ll post here). In the meantime, here are some of the main points from the notes I took:
- — He referred to the Human Security Report 2005, that was recently published by the Liu Institute for Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, and its conclusions that fewer people were nowadays being killed directly through warfare than in 1950– but more than then, from from war-related disease, etc; and that deaths from war had “moved”, geographically, from E. Asia to Africa, in the same period.
— He talked about the central role the UN plays in preventing war through nonviolent means… and also its role in developing the whole idea of the “Human Development Reports” that UNDP publishes annually, and that chart the progress (or regress) that nations make toward the optimization of human flourishing: “It was the UN that developed the idea of what to count, when you want to measure ‘development’ and also that stressed the need for the political independence and integrity of the statistics-gathering process.
— He talked about a recent RAND organization study that compared US-led military operations and UN peacekeeping operations in various post-conflict episodes since the Congo crisis of 1961. The study showed showed that the UN operations had been far less costly and more successful than the US-led operations– and this, despite the retrenchment of many western nationsfrom participating in UN forces. (Partly, because they were busy participating in the less effective US-led forces.)
— He noted that the RAND study showed that whereas the US spending $4-5 billion per month in Iraq, the UN is meanwhile sustaining 17 different peacekeeping operations around the world at a total cost level of $4 billion per year. (He also noted that the RAND study said, “This is not to suggest that the United Nations could perform the U.S. mission in Iraq more cheaply, or perform it at all. It is to underline that there are 17 other places where the United States will probably not have to intervene because UN troops are doing so at a tiny fraction of the cost of U.S.-led operations.”)
— In this context, he differentiated between the concepts of power and authority, saying the US has the former but not the latter, while the UN has the latter but not the former. He added, “The US frequently acts likea world governor, but it pays little heed to outcomes at many levels.” He also noted that while US officials speak about the “balance of power”, their UN counterparts speak about the “community of power.”
— Regarding UN reform, he noted that he had helped develop the concept a “responsibility to protect”, which was embedded in the December 2004 report of the UN UN Secretary-General’s “High Level-Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.. The report had identified the three main threats to security being internal conflict, terrorism, and nuclear weapons…
— He spoke a little about the NPT, and said the collapse oif last September’s NPT conference on non-proliferation and disarmament had been described by the Secretary General as a “real disgrace”.
— Regarding internal (civil) wars, he noted that more than 50% of countries that conclude peace agreements in civil wars relapse into renewed conflict within 5 yrs, citing the examples of Angola, Rwanda, Haiti, etc. And he talked about the importance of the UN’s new Peacbuilding Commission, being established (or already established?) in line with a recommendation in the High-level Panel’s report…
So then at the end, I gave my lecture. I talked about various themse that regular JWN readers are most likely familiar with… Using the framework of the looming, tripartite, “perfect storm” of conflicts hanging over the Middle East. (One feels that with particular intensity here in Jordan, I must say.) Anyway, of course I was able to update what I said about these three conflicts, and about their interaction. I also wanted to make the point that there are still mechanisms for resolving them peaceably and without further use or threat of violence, and that the UN Security Council should surely be applying itself to finding and implementing those ways, rather than becomning used (again?) as an engine for threat-delivery and the escalation of violence…
I had time to produce three quick Power Point slides… On one I put the first words of the Preamble of the UN Charter: “We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…” On another, I managed to put my favorite excerpt from the NPT: “Each of the Parties… undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to… nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament.”
Anyway, I thought it went pretty well. I was a bit tired afterwards, what with jet-lag and everything…
Oh, look what I found here. I’d copied a whole longer chunk from the RAND study over from the online PDF version. The PDF version has some interesting graphics and some other text that’s worth reading. But in case you don’t want to bother with downloading it, I’ll leave this text portion– which is from pp. xxv-xxvi of the “Executive Summary”– right here for you:
- IS NATION-BUILDING COST-EFFECTIVE?
In addition to the horrendous human costs, war inflicts extraordinary economic costs on societies. On average, one study suggests, civil wars reduce prospective economic output by 2.2 percent per year for the duration of the conflict. However, once peace is restored, economic activity resumes and, in a number of cases, the economy grows. A study by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler looked at the cost and effectiveness of various policy options to reduce the incidence and duration of civil wars. It found that post-conflict military intervention is highly costeffective— in fact, the most cost-effective policy examined. Our study supports that conclusion. The UN success rate among missions studied—seven out of eight societies left peaceful, six out of eight left democratic—substantiates the view that nation-building can be an effective means of terminating conflicts, insuring against their reoccurrence, and promoting democracy. The sharp overall decline in deaths from armed conflict around the world over the past decade also points to the efficacy of nation-building. During the 1990s, deaths from armed conflict were averaging over 200,000 per year. Most were in Africa. In 2003, the last year for which figures exist, that number had come down to 27,000, a fivefold decrease in deaths from civil and international conflict. In fact, despite the daily dosage of horrific violence displayed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world has not become a more violent place within the past decade. Rather, the reverse is true. International peacekeeping and nation-building have contributed to this reduced death rate.
The cost of UN nation-building tends to look quite modest compared to the cost of larger and more demanding U.S.-led operations. At present the United States is spending some $4.5 billion per month to support its military operations in Iraq. This is more than the United Nations spends to run all 17 of its current peacekeeping missions for a year. This is not to suggest that the United Nations could perform the U.S. mission in Iraq more cheaply, or perform it at all. It is to underline that there are 17 other places where the United States will probably not have to intervene because UN troops are doing so at a tiny fraction of the cost of U.S.-led operations.