Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Let us Cooperate With a Life-Sized United Nations
AKASHI Yasushi / former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

December 9, 2003
Since America launched its war against Iraq without waiting for another resolution by the Security Council, the United Nations has been subjected to varying degrees of praise and criticism. While some advocate a course of cooperation with the United Nations, others claim it has become obsolete.

This brings back memories of autumn 1956, the year Japan joined the United Nations. That year, Emergency Special Sessions of the General Assembly were held one after another to discuss the Suez Crisis and the Soviet intervention in Hungary. When the first U.N. Emergency Force was organized, enabling the British and French forces to withdraw from the Suez, the United Nations stood tall and proud for having recovered peace in the Middle East. On the other hand, no nation had the stomach to challenge the Soviet Union in its military intervention in Hungary by force, leaving the United Nations with a bitter taste of defeat.

For the United Nations, which is neither a world government nor a world federation, its success or failure depends on whether major member countries are united in their support. The success of its PKO (Peace-Keeping Operation) in Cambodia and the disappointing outcome of its PKO in the former Yugoslavia depended on whether parties involved in the conflict shared a determination for peace and whether there was unity among major countries. If a deep rift exists among Permanent Members of the Security Council, it will lead either to no resolution at all, or an ambiguous resolution that fails to serve as a clear guideline for field operations, turning PKO activities into a scapegoat for the Security Council. The tragic mass genocide in Rwanda became unavoidable when America and the others opposed a further expansion of PKO activity.

As more problems become global issues that cannot be resolved by national governments alone, the United Nations is expanding its scope of action. However, it cannot ignore the sovereign right of each member country. Enormous as the powers entrusted to the Security Council may be, it cannot transcend the principle of great power unanimity among major nations. The desired course of action would be to adopt a long-term perspective on national interests and to make use of the United Nations in a dynamic manner based on a full understanding of the limitations and restrictions governing it.

Japan and America are similar in the sense that they experience violent swings in their policy towards the United Nations. In post-World War II Japan, miserable memories of the war gave rise to strong pacifist inclinations and high hopes for the United Nations. And when the United Nation fails to live up to its expected purpose, the disillusionment manifests itself at times as charges of obsolescence.

America has traditionally held deep "love and hate" sentiments towards the United Nations, swinging between exaggerated praise and excessively harsh criticism. The supremacist ideology of a nation borne on the new continent based on pure political principles and the unilateralism of a superpower combine to produce a tendency to see a United Nations endowed with excessive power as an extension of Washington with overbearing authority. American isolationists shiver at the thought of massive U.N. PKO forces arriving on their "black helicopters", while in reality United Nations problems are more due to the lack of its power.

Lately, Japan's own views towards the United Nations has increasingly taken on shades of resentment due to the difficulty of becoming a Permanent Member, the "former enemy clause" that remains in the U.N. Charter and the excessively heavy burden of its budgetary contribution. With regard to the budget allocation, while there may be some time lag the amount is approaching parity to Japan's global economic activity as measured by average GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in recent years, making any hasty response unwarranted. The "former enemy clause" has been described as "anachronistic" in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1995 and has effectively become a dead letter. Among countries involved such as Germany, none consider it an issue. Neither does it pose any impediment to Japan's activities within the United Nations. The size of budgetary contribution alone cannot promise a seat of a Permanent Member; extending Japan's role far and wide to various U.N. activities and winning respect and appreciation remains the only path to becoming a Permanent Member of the Security Council.

While recent criticism may be useful as an antidote against excessive glorification and deification of the United Nations, it would be extremely dangerous to be influenced by the opinions and one-sided evidence presented by ultra-rightist organizations in America. The desirable course would be to face up to the reality of the United Nations which, far from being perfect, has in fact many flaws, and to conduct honest discussions based on objective evidence and analysis. Despite the occasional distortions, the United Nations is still a mirror that reflects the international community. No adult would destroy a mirror because the reflection found in it was ugly. It is also wrong to take out pent-up frustration caused by a divided Security Council on the Secretary General or the Secretariat. While the inefficiencies and excesses of the international bureaucracy must be pointed out without reservations, no contradiction exists between a United Nations that strives to be the rule-setter for the international community and provides crisis management, and Japan's own endeavours for adjusting to globalization.

The writer is former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Vice Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan. He contributed this comment to the Sankei Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

明石 康  / 元国連事務次長

2003年 12月 9日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Let us Cooperate With a Life-Sized United Nations