Departure of Ambassador Haley and the Future of the United Nations

By Robert Okada

It is expected that President Trump will soon nominate a new United States ambassador to the United Nations following the departure of Nikki Haley. The legacy of Ambassador Haley seems divided. On the one hand, organizations like the Human Rights Watch argue that Ambassador Haley “will not be remembered as a staunch defender of human rights when she resigns at the end of the year”[1]. On the other hand, some experts note that her move to reform the U.N. “will be part of her legacy”[2]. Chapter I, Article I of the U.N. charter declares that the primary purposes of the United Nations include, “to maintain international peace and security”, “to develop friendly relations among nations” and “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems”[3], but the U.N. is not without its challenges and criticisms.

            While the organs and the autonomous agencies of the U.N. were created to address a variety of challenges facing the world today, there are several problems and criticisms that we must consider. One such problem may include that the U.N. is still an organization dominated by men. For example, when Article 97 of the U.N. charter lays out the role of the Secretary General, it uses the word “he”, and seems to leave out the possibility that a future Secretary General can be a woman[4]. Feminist scholars including Professors Bell and O’Rourke also point out that some scholars have been concerned about how UNSC resolutions have “advanced protective stereotypes that essentialize women in conflict situations as either victims of sexual violence, mothers, or as uncritical advocates for an end to conflict” and that “these stereotypes tend to marginalize women as political agents in conflict situations”[5]. While the Women, Peace and Security Agenda instituted with Resolution 1325 in 2000 was the first explicit consideration of women’s needs and roles, much needs to be done when considering how women can be actively involved in the decision-making process, rather than just being treated as victims of war.

            Furthermore, as critical scholars including Richard Ashley have argued that realists frame “the question of community in international politics…entirely by…the reigning understanding of community in Western rationalist discourse”[6], they may also problematize the U.N. being based on the Western rational understanding of communities and therefore fails to include the diverse notions of communities which is present in many indigenous and non-Western cultures. For example, one may argue that while the Sustainable Development Goals set by the U.N. is an attempt to become more inclusive, the concept of sustainable development is rooted in colonial ideals, power structure and the Western rational understanding of communities[7].

Another problem the U.N. faces is that the Security Council is not inclusive enough “at a time when rivalries are growing and many leading states are eager to have a larger voice in international institutions” as Michael Mazarr, a professor at Georgetown University has noted[8]. Thus, “a better way to coordinate interests among the system’s major powers – not just China and Russia but also Brazil, France, Germany, India, Indonesia and Japan, among others” is required[9].

            To address these problems, the U.N. should consider creating 3 research bodies focusing on 1) the inclusion of more women in the decision-making process within the U.N., 2) the inclusion of the indigenous knowledge and population outside of Western communities when crafting U.N. goals and 3) the inclusion of more countries to the Security Council. The first body focusing on the inclusion of women can start with the specific task of changing the wording of the U.N. charter so that it will also include feminine pronouns. The body can also focus on devising action plans to include more women in the organization as decision-makers, by proposing UNSC resolutions. As Professors Bell and O’Rourke has noted, Resolution 1325 was successful in that references to women in peace agreements have increased from 11% to 27%, but these references have primarily focused on the victimization of women[10]. As such, proposing another resolution laying out the roles women can take on as decision-makers may help rectify this situation. The second body can include people from indigenous and non-Western communities along with individuals from NGOs to collaborate their efforts and make a variety of proposals. As political scientist Joseph Nye argues, NGOs, social movements and informal networks are becoming empowered in today’s world[11] and it is important to include the diverse opinions of these people, not just the opinions of educated bureaucrats when crafting U.N. goals. Finally, the third body will directly address the problem Professor Mazarr has pointed out. Because we live in an increasingly competitive world, a more inclusive Security Council may help us identify the areas “where major powers can cooperate and smooth over their differences among them”[12]. As political scientist Ian Hurd at Northwestern University notes that “Libya since 1992 has pursued a determined strategy to delegitimize the UN sanctions against it by portraying the council as unrepresentative of the will of the wider international community”[13], doing so may also increase the legitimacy of the Security Council.

            Whoever is President Trump’s pick for the United States ambassador to the U.N., he or she will face numerous challenges to reform the organization in this increasingly globalized world. But just because the U.N. will need to address these challenges and criticisms, that should not be a reason to abandon our efforts all together. Through a thorough examination of these criticisms, we can identify how the U.N. and the Security Council can become more effective to tackle the most pressing issues we face today.

Robert Okada is a junior at Columbia University, where he studies Political Science.

[1] Charbonneau, Louis. “US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Disappointing UN Rights Legacy”. Human Rights Watch, 2018. Web.

[2] Manchester, Julia. “Haley's moves to reform UN will be part of her legacy, says expert”. The Hill, 2018. Web.

[3] United Nations. “Charter of the United Nations”. United Nations, n.d. Web.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bell, Christine and Catherine O’Rourke. “Peace agreements or pieces of paper? The impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on peace processes and their agreements”. International Comparative Law Quarterly 59.4, 2010. p. 945.

[6] Ashley, Richard. “The geopolitics of geopolitical space: toward a critical social theory of international politics”. Alternatives 12.4, 1987. p. 413.

[7] Banerjee, Subhabrata. “Who Sustains Whose Development? Sustainable Development and the Reinvention of Nature.” Organization Studies 24.1, 2003. p. 143.

[8] Mazarr, Michael. “The Once and Future Order: What Comes After Hegemony?” Foreign Affairs, January/February issue, 2017. p. 30.

[9] Ibid.

[10] See supra note 5. p. 954.

[11] Nye, Joseph. “Will the Liberal Order Survive? The History of an Idea”. Foreign Affairs, January/February issue, 2017. p. 13.

[12] See supra note 8.

[13] Hurd, Ian. “Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics”. International Organization 53.2, 1999. p. 402.