• Thursday, Oct 01, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:30 pm

The UN has lost its sting

  • Published at 11:29 pm October 2nd, 2019
General Assembly

The organization has lost its relevance in the era of ever-changing diplomacy

Donald Trump has changed forever one of the essential elements of diplomacy by using social media instead of the more fashionable formal forms of diplomatic communication. 

He extended that by bearing down on a not-too-disagreeable reform of the United Nations as one of the largest contributors in finance to the world body. That, and pulling out of some of the UN-negotiated world agreements and others that weren’t, has succeeded in changing the face of diplomacy.

For quite a few years, the UN General Assembly has passed resolutions that at best reflected world opinion but had no binding compulsions. 11 Security Council resolutions on Kashmir have been ignored without compunction by India. Then again resolutions such as the one on the Saddam Hussein regime resulted in action that was swift, brutal, and resulted in the beginning of reducing to ruins countries that were thriving at the time. 

The latest example of the inefficacy of the UN came when countries, with which Bangladesh is supposed to have excellent relations, either voted against or abstained from a condemnatory yet non-binding resolution that sought to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan hit the nail on its head in pleading for world action on Kashmir. He highlighted the precedence that world trade is having on humanitarian crises. 

In a way, the Kashmir and Rohingya issues are not really dissimilar. Trump is fighting impeachment over a telephone call with the Ukrainian president in which he merely hinted at withholding military aid over an investigation of Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s son, and Boris Johnson has been left with egg on his face for trying to prorogue the House of Commons, in the process being accused of misleading Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. 

Both men will have to now follow process in extricating themselves from messes of their own making. Johnson is now caught between a rock and a hard place in sticking to his avowed position of a Brexit by October 31 come what may. In this process, he is looking at ways of even bypassing the EU even as his bureaucrats hold two weekly meetings to unravel the Theresa May-negotiated settlement.

There are also moves between the EU and Japan to neutralize China’s ambitious Silk Road initiative.

Countries like France are being challenged with their tax regime. Even as they seek to tax the tech giants for much-needed taxes on product sales, they face the threat of tariffs from no less a power than the US. In turn, the US has India on the run, on the threat of tariff, by getting the country to agree to import US oil and liquefied natural gas in order to remove punitive tariffs on India’s exports to the US. 

Initially, India put on a brave face, saying the impact of such tariffs would not be as crushing. That that tune has changed, is a reflection of how, the slightest chink in an economy facing the worst situation in five years, can bite hard. 

Diplomacy has changed in the wake of a growth in nationalistic aspirations, and the concept of a global village is shrinking, as economic woes result in belt-tightening across the world. 

No wonder that the UN has lost its sting. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist

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