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Multilateralism?

Muammar Al-Qadhafi tours the Security Council Chamber, courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In a recent article on Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Herbst pointed out that the United Nations is not living up to its basic values: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. He also criticized the lack of democracy in the organization and particularly among its member states. He also mentioned that the UN provides international legitimacy to dictators that have no legitimacy at home.

But Jeffrey Herbst also forgets to point out the following: The UN cannot function on its own. It needs its member states to act. Even though the UN publicized and tried to address the atrocities in Darfur, its member states failed to act.

The real question is: Why do member states not act? And the answer is simple: Democracy.

Democracy does not only mean having a democratic political system, it also means accepting that the international system is democratic, for better or worse, following the “one country one vote” principle.

Some western countries wish they still had the same power as they had when the UN was created after of the Second World War, at a time when their former colonies followed their lead on almost every issue. Now this time is over and the ‘neo-colonialist’ approach no longer works.

As an example of democracy in action at the international level, African countries are now able to elect a country like Libya to the Human Rights Council, because the continent has a comfortable amount of votes in almost every body of the UN.

Now that the organization applies the “democratic” rules so praised by the founders of the United Nations, it is normal that every member state gets the same power and can have more or less the same impact on the UN, regardless of whether it is governed by a dictator like Mugabe or by a social democrat like Tarja Halonen.

Indeed the presence of Libya in the Human Rights Council is representative of the willingness of a part of the world to have its word on Human Rights and some western leaders need to accept that not everyone is pursuing the same objectives or the same values as Europe and North America. They will certainly not simply acquiesce to those values or related demands without a fight.

The time when the UN was a mere tool of US foreign policy, as its former UN Ambassador John Bolton saw it, is now well and truly over.

Welcome to the new era of multilateralism.

ISN Weekly Theme: Analyzing Libya

The Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution / Photo: US Navy, Wikipedia

The Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution / Photo: US Navy/Wikipedia

Maybe it’s that Beoduin-style tent he likes to pitch in the most interesting places, or maybe his fashion sense, but Colonel Muammar Gaddhafi has made it his task to keep himself and his country in the international spotlight. But what may not be apparent is Libya’s importance in the geopolitical sphere – our theme for this week.

Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation gives his views on Libya’s position on the regional and global scale in the latest edition of ISN Podcasts.

And don’t forget that you can follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook fan page.

At 40, Gaddafi’s Libya Has Much to Celebrate

He has called himself ‘an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims.’ And today, the self-proclaimed ‘king of kings of Africa‘ has a lot to celebrate.

I am talking of course of Muammar Al-Gaddafi, the ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution,’ who today celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, which brought him to power.

Photo: antheap, flickr

Photo: antheap, flickr

‘Celebrate Libya’, as today’s event is called, will be one of the biggest events the African continent has seen in modern times. Tonight’s ceremony is said to be comparable in magnitude to an Olympic opening ceremony. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, 800 performers, sound and light shows, 1000 camels, military bands, acrobatic planes, flame ballet and spectacular fireworks will mark the occasion.

The celebrations can be monitored on the official Celebrate Libya website.   » More

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