United Nations Part II

May 12, 2009

Since the first post a significant step has been taken by the US administration today may 12 :

Susan Rice : “We ran for the Human Rights Council because this administration and, indeed, the American people are deeply committed to upholding and respecting the human rights of every individual,” Rice said after a secret ballot by the U.N. General Assembly which cleared the way for U.S. membership to the council.

“While we recognize that the Human Rights Council has been a flawed body that has not lived up to its potential, we are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross-section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council and enable it to live up to the vision that was crafted when it was created.”

It marks a change in U.S. policy by the Obama administration to join the panel, which includes China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia as member states.  Twenty-six out of the council’s 32 resolutions have condemned Israel, a key U.S. ally.

President George W. Bush had previously rejected a seat on the council because of the questionable human rights records of the council members, which have included Sudan and Zimbabwe in the past. (from cnnwire.blogs.cnn.com).

This is a remarkable step to overcome the traumatic Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib episodes.

Returning to the basic debate, the UN were created to mediate between all nations, for law-and-order and for development causes.

The underlying interstate conflicts, the world-wide powerstruggle form the common ground. creating the need for such organisations. They are part of a strategy and a cultural process of conflict resolution.

First, the arms industries and defense budgets have to be taken into account.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (www.sipri.org/) offers reliable  data.

[edit] World’s largest defence budgets

This is a list of the fifteen countries with the highest defence budgets for the year 2006. The information is from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [11]. Total world spending amounted to $1.158 trillion USD in 2006, with nearly half of the total amount spent by the United States. The actual budget for the PRC’s armed forces is unknown, the figure given is an official estimate of government fund allocation, with much of the net budget funds coming from extra-budgetary sources.[12]

Military expenditure in market exchange rate dollar terms, 2006
Rank Country Spending ($b.) %GDP[3]
World Total 1,158[4] 2.41
1 Flag of the United States United States 985.7 12.99
2 Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom 59.2 2.49
3 Flag of France France 53.1 2.38
4 Flag of the People's Republic of China People’s Republic of China 49.5[1] 1.88
5 Flag of Japan Japan 43.7 1.00
6 Flag of Germany Germany 37.0 1.28
7 Flag of Russia Russia 34.7[1] 3.54
8 Flag of Italy Italy 33.9 1.61
9 Flag of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 29.0[2] 8.32
10 Flag of India India 24.2 2
11 Flag of South Korea South Korea 21.9 2.47
12 Flag of Canada Canada 14.6 1.10
13 Flag of Australia Australia 13.8 1.83
14 Flag of Brazil Brazil 13.4 1.26
15 Flag of Spain Spain 12.3 1.00

[edit] World’s largest arms exporters

The unit in this table are so-called trend indicater values expressed in millions of US dollars. These values do not represent real financial flows but are a crude instrument to estimate volumes of arms transfers, regardless of the contracted prices, which can be as low as zero in the case of military aid.

Supplier 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Flag of the United States USA 7505 5801 4984 5581 6616 7026 7821 7454
Flag of Russia Russia 4190 5631 5458 5355 6400 5576 6463 4588
Flag of Germany Germany 1622 825 910 1707 1017 1879 2891 3395
Flag of France France 1033 1235 1342 1313 2267 1688 1586 2690
Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands 259 192 243 342 218 611 1575 1355
Flag of the United Kingdom UK 1356 1116 772 624 1143 871 978 1151
Flag of Ukraine Ukraine 280 649 440[13] 530[13] 600[14] 700 1000[15] 1200[15]
Flag of South Korea South Korea 100 240 140 140 410 260 260 844
Flag of Italy Italy 192 224 407 321 216 787 860 562
Flag of Sweden Sweden 46 7 120 158 73 116 803 529
Flag of Israel Israel 308 850 125 468 287 536 472 414
Flag of the People's Republic of China China 228 498 544 553 271 223 564 355
Flag of Canada Canada 83 129 182 279 305 193 227 343
Flag of Spain Spain 321 298 365 309 533 244 258 238
Flag of Switzerland Switzerland 104 120 109 139 201 166 144 211
Flag of Bulgaria Bulgaria N/A N/A N/A 250[16] N/A 190[17] 149[18] 192[19]

When looking at these figures, the economic dimension is immediately evident. Military budgets, arms exports and armed conflicts form a functional context. Particularly the USA defense budget is the fivefold of the average percentage of GNP, with all other major powers included. The same holds true for arms exports. Under this aspect, the wars waged by the USA since WW2 have not only an ideological and strategic, but also an eminently financial background. This degree of hypertrophy is unique and cannot be justified with a legitimate need of self-protection, strategic goals or other military arguments.

The antagonism is between the military-industrial complex with it’s economic-political lobbying on one side and forces representing common social interests.

In this field of force, the UN are perceived by a powerful part of the US business as running against vital financial interests of the former complex.

Hopefully today’s return to the HRC signals a change in paradigm that will be followed by a worldwide commitment to increasingly ethical and solidary strategies. The war efforts we have witnessed since WW2 are not only a major cause for UN interventions, they provoke humanitarian calamity and immense cost – the world-community suffers these damages while the US industry is profiting from armament sales. And many conflicts are being fought with US arms.

The contribution of the US towards the UN of 840 millions a year seems almost insulting if we look at their preeminent role in the major armed conflicts and their profits from massive arms exports. The UN receives one thousandth of the US defense budget to intervene in all conflicts worldwide (correct me if figure is wrong, thanks).

As I concluded in the first part, the UN should calculate the contribution of it’s members not based on the GNP, but based on the arms sales, the defense budget and most importantly, on the damage caused on civil populations, economies and ecosystems destroyed. Victims like Irak or the Palestinian Territories should receive active reparations and it’s UN member fee should be waved.

I plead for a consequent bookkeeping for all nations under these aspects. Damages have to be repaired by those responsible.

But there is another point. National economies have limited resources. What could the US finance with the amount spent into their colossal defense budget ? How can 46 million US citizen remain without basic health insurance ? How can a welfare case live with 190 $ a month, as I read 2 years ago ? The taxpayer and the voter has a legitimate right to determine where the budget of his government is being spent. In our communication age it is inconceivable that the most advanced nation of the world cannot give it’s people the opportunity to vote on such essential matters determining the wellbeing of every single citizen on a more regular basis, be it through the internet or other means. The US population has a right to benefit from a welfare state and a fully functioning infrastructure at home. To dislodge presumed terrorists on unsound grounds is not a primary necessity for them.

If the US wishes to act as the leader of the democratic world, then all their international interventions should be coordinated and agreed upon with it’s partners.

This is what the United Nations were created for.

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