Empowering global institutions
The question of how to approach global institutions such as the UN, IMF and World Bank is one that has divided the world, whether it is because of ideology or perceived failures and successes of these institutions.
Supporters of these global institutions say the UN, for example, has helped lift billions out of poverty and is a good forum for international cooperation to avoid major crisis or to help refugees. Critics, on the other hand, claim these institutions lack the power to protect the vulnerable, such as the inaction during the Rwandan genocide, or that financial institutions like the World Bank only represent the powerful Western countries to the detriment of poor non-Western people who need help the most.
There is truth to both sides of the argument. It is true that global institutions have been instrumental in preventing a third world war because diplomats now have a forum to negotiate solutions. It is also true these institutions have failed throughout the decades to protect civilians from genocides committed by monstrous dictators.
But there is a solution that will empower these global institutions so they can govern in an impartial and productive manner. There are three things to do in order to improve them: an international educational tour that will include speeches and debates about the benefits of having global institutions such as the UN, lobbying private wealthy celebrities as well as ordinary individuals to contribute more in funding and, lastly, these institutions should hold forums so people from around the world can vote on elections or referendums.
An international educational tour will aim to persuade the people of the world that organizations such as the UN are very important in the 21st century and going forward. This means UN officials, for example, will have to visit college campuses, libraries and other places in order to reach out to people and speak as well as listen so as to give the UN more legitimacy.
It is also important for global officials to engage in a debate with those who are opposed to the existence of international organizations in order to locate any flaws within the international system so they can propose detailed reforms. The purpose of the debates is also to make people feel more comfortable about the globalized world and start viewing international organizations as a supportive and benevolent entity that understands the issues people are facing.
One of the reasons global institutions seem weak and ineffective is because they rely on funding from governments. This allows authoritarian countries to pressure international organizations into muting their criticism or investigation of their own national policies. The source of funding should come from wealthy celebrities or just individual donors so the international organizations can serve the interests of the people.
There are already a large number of famous individuals who are very supportive of global causes, such as George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, which makes it easy for institutions such as the UN to shift from government money to people money.
Critics of international organizations assert that they only serve the powerful countries such as Russia or China, which is in some part true because the leaders of these institutions are always selected by powerful nations.
The UN secretary general, for example, is secretly selected by the members of the Security Council with the P5 countries having the veto power over the nominees. Because of this, the people are not being represented on the world stage, which is why I propose that powerful countries, especially democratic ones, should contribute to democratizing these institutions.
The first step is to start organizing international forums hosted by any country where the people can come from all over the world to vote on candidates and referendums for these organizations, or if the people cannot attend, they can mail their ballot to the appropriate address.
The second step is to create regional offices that will count these ballots. There will be a large number of votes from around the world that must be counted, and dividing the counting task will make it easy to find the results.
The third step is to set up a voter registration system so the election commission can verify the identity of the voters and avoid irregularities.
The most important elements in any institution are transparency and accountability, and the elections of the leaders by global citizens will make it so these leaders are accountable to the people they are serving while also allowing voters to bring change in the system if they perceive corruption or negligence by any official.
Discussions about reforming global institutions are not new. In fact, it is what almost every UN ambassador from every country advocates for all the time. This is the reason why many politicians, academics and activists are skeptical about changes in the international system.
But I am optimistic these institutions will be reformed in the future because the main organizations such as the UN, World Bank and the IMF are headquartered in the United States, a country that declared in its independence “that all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This is in addition to the fact that America is a democratic superpower on the world stage that led the creation of these organizations after the defeat of fascism in WWII, which shaped and unified the international system we live in today. This should give skeptics hope that change can happen. This change can only happen, however, when the people participate in revitalizing these global institutions like they do in their own country’s domestic institutions.
Opinion guest writer Abdullah Dowaihy is a political science major and can be reached at [email protected].