United Nations Term Paper

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Groups and Voting Blocs in the United Nations

The United Nations was formed after World War II as a replacement for the League of Nations. It was founded with 51 members and has grown to almost 200 active member states. It is one of the largest and most visible international organizations, with the aims of promoting law, security, development, progress, human rights, civil rights, freedom and world peace. As with any large bureaucracy, the U.N. is complex. It has six major organs: The General Assembly which is the major political and deliberative body, the Security Council that focuses on resolutions for peace and security, the Economic and Social Council that promotes international cooperation and development, the Secretariat that provides information and research, the International Court of Justice, and the United Nations Trusteeship Council (currently inactive). [1: Courtney B. Smith, Politics and Process at the United Nations: The Global Dance (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006), 1-11.]Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on United Nations Assignment

Over the last several decades, the U.N. has evolved as a social and political force that effectively uses groups and voting blocs in a variety of ways to engender state goals. This has become particularly evident in the post-Cold War globalizing world, a world in which international law is formulated through a political process that usually centers on the United Nations. If we analyze the U.N. Charter, we see that it is a multilateral treaty that binds nations together in a more cooperative, less confrontational, manner that is designed to embrace many of the principles of economic and cultural security. Gone are the days in which the U.N. was structured based on a Soviet vs. United States model that divided the world into political camps and allied nations. Instead, the U.N. Of today is dedicated to allow sovereign states to pursue their interests in a world without a single "central" authority and to form coalitions that are based on regional, social, political, cultural, or procedural agreement. Indeed, these voting cadres act in a number of ways, through the political sphere, common interest philosophy, or consensus building model, to allow a more streamlined and effective approach to international political and legal substance. [2: Thomas G. Weiss, et al., the United Nations and Changing World Politics, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2010), xvi.]

The Role of Groups in the United Nations

In any bureaucratic endeavor, particularly those that involve various factions, countries and/or agendas, groups are a central way that like-minded individuals come together to form a larger consensus. The larger the group, the more complex these interrelationships can be. and, to make it even more complex, when dealing with institutions like the United Nations, there are a number of countries with differing agendas, policies, and goals. At times, groups coalesce together to form voting blocs based on regional needs and commonalities -- Latin America, the old Soviet Bloc, etc. However, the founders of the United Nations realized that these groups would need to become critical components of the organization. [3: Smith, 55.]

Voting blocs may be likened to special interest groups. It would be natural that in an organization with so many members from so many disparate regions that there would often be conflicts of interest. At the inception of the United Nations, blocs usually voted based on regional interests and how they aligned with the Socialist vs. Capitalist models. That paradigm is no longer true, with groups tending to form alliances based on issues rather than dogma. In fact, leadership amongst the many groups is often shared, and lines of loyalty shift based on the issue at hand. Increasingly, the developed world will need to realize that the so-called Third World voting blocs have become increasingly vocal. [4: Weiss, xvii.]

There are both positives and negatives regarding group behavior within the United Nations. On the positive side, voting groups allow some states to have a more powerful voice in foreign affairs than they would standing alone. Groups also encourage members to cooperate with each other prior to debates to form a cohesive platform. Groups also tend to speed up many processes because they can act in an informal manner that can be flexible and time-sensitive. On the negative side, voting as a group means that individual states must limit their own policies in favor of a compromised position within the group. The positives about group coalitions may also turn negative when divergent groups fail to agree upon a course of action, thus slowing the process of decision making down considerably. [5: Smith, 56-8.]

Types of Groups and Voting Blocs in the United Nations

As in many complex organizations, there is a great deal of variation within the types of groups and voting blocs in the United Nations. Early in the UN's history, voting blocs were more stratified and easier to identify: East vs. West, Socialist vs. Capitalist. Into the 1980s, three divergent groups were identified that seemed to align themselves: 1) the former Warsaw Pact Members with Cuba, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Syria; 2) a group of non-aligned states (NAM) and the Group of 77, and; 3) a divided bloc that consisted primarily of Western nations and those who are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). [6: Ibid., 59.]

After 1990, though these three groups divided even more, first into four, then five, then more depending on the issue, with the overall number of actual resolutions coming to the floor diminishing from the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s, one could count on the former Soviet Bloc countries to align, but as Russia's interests diverged from the Eastern European Theater due to EU membership, this also diminished. Instead, what was once a series of general groups that were either aligned procedurally, geographically, or regionally became a more macro type of group based on electoral politics, common interest groups and negotiating groups. The interesting thing about this fictionalization is that individual states may change alliances based on issues -- common interests might be regional as well as economic; negotiating may have political or cultural overtones, and electoral politics may be statist or philosophically oriented. [7: Ibid., pp. 60-61.]

State Coalitions

According to Thomas Weiss, the characteristics of state sovereignty are territory, authority, population and independence. The end of the Cold War caused modifications in those definitions, though, which might be summed up with a statement from UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali: "The time for absolute and exclusive sovereignty, however, has passed; its theory was never matched by reality." [8: Weiss, 105, 233.]

Essentially, the end of the Cold War accelerated the process of globalization. Globalization decentralized and trans- nationalized finance, business, terrorism, culture, foreign policy and more. If we look at the basic ideas of globalism, we will see that instead of working a town, village, or even country, the world is not flatter and the prospects of reaching more people possible. Over the last three to four decades, the global landscape has changed to embrace a process called globalism. Globalism is a key change in that economic, political and cultural movements throughout the world move closer together as a result of economic cooperation and communication. Globalization has shrunk many aspects of the world that prevented social justice in the past, and changed the manner in which the U.N. approached the issues of human rights and humanitarian affairs. [9: Ibid., 233-4.]

In fact, the entire geopolitical nature of the U.N. changed after the end of the Cold War. Almost immediately and possibly based on technology helping to "flatten" the world, there was a strong upsurge in human rights rhetoric, using the model of a global "civil society" that would transform traditional views of the state. In many ways, this rhetoric partnered with a global economic system allows the U.N. To positively change the notion of sovereignty. In a globalized world, it is necessary to ensure that sovereign states are protecting their citizens and to intervene when atrocities or violations occur. Because of the interdependence of nations in so many forms, it is in the state's best interest to provide collective security for global citizens. As well, because of the changes in technology (e.g. Internet, SmartPhones, Media), human rights violations are much easier to confirm than ever before. Rather than suppositions, the U.N. can act more decisively. [10: Ibid, 233-5.]

Electoral Groups in the United Nations

Electrical voting blocs in the United Nation are typically characterized by the need for states to manage electrical (voting) contests within the General Assembly. Historically, these groups were unclear during the early history of the U.N., evolving in the 1960s-1970s into four distinct groups: Africa and Asia, Easter Europe, Latin America, and Western Europe with the United States, Canada and Australia. The rapid growth of the developing world, however, complicated this scenario by increasing the number of states and issues. [11: Smith, 63.]

Despite the growth of the U.N., decolonialization, and the surge for statism in the developing world, the five basic groups that evolved out of the 1970s continue to be used: Africa, Asia, Latin America/Caribbean,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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