Choosing the Next UN Leader Should Not Be Left to Three People

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Image: Minister-president Rutte/Flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 11 November, 2014.

Climate change, Ebola, IS, Ukraine … The world is not short of crises which cry out for a collective response. That is why, for 69 years, we have had the United Nations. People still expect it to provide that response, yet they are often disappointed.

Blame falls on the secretary-general (SG)—often unfairly, since he is really only the top civil servant. Political decisions are taken by the member states, in the General Assembly or the Security Council.

Still, among those decisions, choosing the right SG is one of the most important. He leads more than 40,000 staff, and oversees the work of 30 UN funds, programmes and agencies, dealing with a wide range of global issues.

The UN Charter allows him to alert the Security Council to “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. Behind the scenes, his “good offices” can be crucial in preventing or resolving conflict.

In recent decades he has played an important public role, reminding the world of the UN’s basic principles, suggesting ways to apply them to new problems and mobilising world public opinion to confront major challenges. He’s the nearest thing we have to a world leader. » More

Five Minutes with Robert O. Keohane

Image: Michael Doherty/Flickr

This interview was originally published on 8 November 2014, by EUROPP, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

You’ve written on the problems associated with implementing democratic principles in global governance. What specifically prevents us from creating proper democratic structures at the global level?

It’s important to distinguish between liberal constitutionalism and democracy. There has in fact been a lot of progress made in global governance on the legal side. There are more regular adjudication arrangements – most notably in the World Trade Organization, but also in a number of other areas such as human rights – than there were 30 or 40 years ago, providing better ways to settle disputes. Strengthening the rule of law in this way is the liberal side of global governance and there has been remarkable progress in this respect over recent decades. » More

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Why Russia’s ‘Strong State’ Political System Still Remains a Better Option for the Country than Western-Style Democracy

Vladimir Putin on a warship. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published on 21 October 2014 by EUROPP, a blog run by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Many western scholars commonly present Russia’s ‘strong state’ system as something dysfunctional that must be replaced by a western-style competitive system to be effective. They argue that such a system has a built-in tendency to become a form of personal rule, which silences the voices of important population segments, and deepens divisions within the ruling circles. As a result, the system is prone to being internally unstable and breeding future political crises. » More

Can Afghanistan’s Unity Government Be Built to Govern?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with John Kerry. Image: US Dept. of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 October, 2014.

The transfer of power on September 29 from President Hamid Karzai to his successor Ashraf Ghani was momentous but oddly anticlimactic. It was only possible after a highly controversial presidential election between Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, which brought the country to the brink of chaos. Abdullah refused to recognize the results, which gave Ghani an overwhelming second-round victory. The United States negotiated a power-sharing deal where Ghani would become president, but a “chief executive officer” position would be created for Abdullah. The deal also prescribed an audit of the election supervised by the United Nations to identify and remove fraudulent votes. » More

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The Ongoing Campaign to Restrict Egypt’s Public Space

Image: TTC Press Images/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Atlantic Council on 11 September 2014.

Today, all TV journalists working in Egypt know that tasreeh—a monthly-renewable permit issued by the interior ministry for accredited journalists to film on the streets—is back. In the wake of the January 25 Revolution, it had disappeared from the bureaucracy, but now police are once again preventing journalists from filming without permission. While some, myself included, have managed to talk their way out of the resulting problems as we discovered the reintroduced regulation this summer, others haven’t been so lucky. Footage filmed by a France24 team was erased by police while working on a story on subsidies in July.

The three-year moratorium on the permit, and other restrictions, allowed independent journalism to flourish. Young freelance reporters driven by a revolutionary spirit were able to work and establish themselves on the scene, away from the structure of bureaucratic requirements. Independent initiatives in the field stand as a testament to the positive transformation. » More

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