Tuesday, August 17, 2010

UN Reform That Will Never Happen, But Hey

The United Nations is one of the world's more confusing and needlessly vexing institutions, when you get a good look at it. Here is a gathering of all the nations in the world, carrying a mutual goal, ostensibly, of world peace. (A worthy goal even if you never actually get there. You might try and fail to, say, put a man on Mars, but you're sure to invent a whole lot of useful things in the attempt.)

But at the same time, the countries that comprise it have a habit of using that institution's stage as a platform for theater, using the attention of the entire world to simply embarrass another nation.

Here is an organization that seeks to use the force of the entire world to stand up to any nation that acts out in a belligerent manner.

But many other nations elect to either not contribute to the effort, or are utterly hamstrung by political expediency back home, causing many missions to look utterly aimless, and, depending on which countries are involved, can even be counterproductive.

Here, ideally, are representatives of everyone on earth, all the world's many peoples and cultures and ways of life, hammering out how to achieve a brighter future for everyone, rich and poor, moneyed and impoverished, well-fed and starving.

But at the same time, many topics covered of the UN are led by countries with little to no credibility to say anything on that topic, most famously the Human Rights Council, which currently seats countries such as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, the part of the organization with the most teeth, the Security Council, is hamstrung by the collective wills of five countries, all extremely powerful, who can each singlehandedly kill any proposal agreed upon by the entire rest of the world. Countries that were decided upon in 1945.

And yet... through all that, the dream somehow endures. As incompetent and selfish as the body is at times, somehow, someway, everybody keeps pressing gamely forward. The UN, the dream, still endures.

How to improve it, though.

The longstanding most hated part of the UN, the Security Council veto has been the source of no end of anguish among everybody that isn't busy vetoing something, mainly because the vetoes are routinely used for selfish interests, most notably any United States veto regarding longtime ally Israel.

Any change to this arrangement, including any proposal to remove those vetoes, requires approval by... guess who. That's almost certainly not going to happen. But why let that stop us? Worst-case scenario, this isn't the first international organization devoted to world peace. So, for our purposes, let's make a third one. Let's assume that a sufficient number of member nations decide they've had enough, withdraw from the UN en masse, and create a brand new organization, same basic format, that seeks to avoid the pitfalls of the UN, tweaking where needed. We can stick it somewhere in Switzerland or Canada or somewhere else extremely unlikely to act up. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China are left just bickering amongst themselves while the rest of the world tries to actually get something done, and if they want in this new organization, they'll have to join on the rest of the world's terms. The US wouldn't be able to act as Israel's diplomatic bodyguard, China wouldn't be able to fend Taiwan off with a stick, etc.

The proposed solution by many seems really, really stupid, though: add more vetoes. There's no end of countries angling for them. Name a country that thinks that they're a major player, or thinks they should be, or even thinks they're a regional power, and they're probably looking for a veto. The problem there is, you're just adding more gridlock to an already gridlocked system, and who says these new countries will still be behaving nicely 50 years down the road?

We'll keep the veto concept- the idea of five countries known to be responsible being able to step in is good- but I say we make the vetoes modular. We'll keep the 15-member, five-veto format. The ten non-veto seats are voted on annually, for two-year terms. The veto seats, however, we'll make annual. And they must be earned.

If one wants the vetoes in the hands of countries that are currently being responsible, make the selection process such that this is enforced through design.

What I would propose is a scoring system. List off as many of the characteristics as possible that a responsible nation would possess. Make it exhaustive, but not overly unfair (for example, biggest producer of various raw minerals wouldn't be usable- no country can control what's underneath them). Then score countries on each characteristic, using raw statistics, making categories competitive whenever possible (e.g. grading on a curve). Weight the categories according to importance (this would be something to hand off to an independent group). After adding up all the points, the five countries that score highest overall are awarded vetoes for the year.

And if you release no information for a statistic, or do not release enough to be independently scored, you are penalized by being automatically given the worst possible score in that category. Some will add points, some will subtract, but it doesn't really matter to the rankings which is which.

I've compiled this group of categories, mostly drawn from here, and no, I am not going to go figure out the scores for fear of accidentally fudging the results in favor of certain countries, though:

*10 points to the nation with the highest literacy rate. Everyone else is scored in relation to first place, for this and everything else unless otherwise noted.
*5 points to the country with the highest life expectancy for men.
*5 points for the highest life expectancy for women.
*5 points for highest combined life expectancy.
*Negative 6 points for the worst equilibrium between birth rate and death rate.
*Negative 10 points for highest infant mortality rate.
*7 points for highest GDP per capita.
*1 point for the largest producer of each of the 20 most widely-used food crops.
*Negative 1 point for the largest consumer of each of those same crops. (To promote sustainability.)
*Negative 1 point for the largest consumer of each of the 20 most widely-used raw minerals. (As stated earlier, the largest producers can't be controlled, but one can control usage.)
*3 points for the largest producer of each of a host of renewable energies- wind, solar, etc.
*Negative 3 points for the largest consumer of each of a host of nonrenewable energies- oil, coal, natural gas, etc.
*1 point for every World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO within your borders.
*Negative 8 points for the highest murder rate.
*Negative 4 points for the highest suicide rate.
*Negative 6 points for the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.
*10 points for the most equal income distribution, according to the Gini coefficient as the UN calculates internally.
*7 points for lowest poverty rate, with 0 points scored for a 100% rate.
*5 points for lowest unemployment rate, with 0 points scored for 100%.
*Negative 8 points for highest debt-to-GDP ratio.
*6 points for best raw account balance.
*6 more for the best account balance as percentage of GDP.
*6 points for highest student performance in each of science, reading and math.
*6 points for the best score in the Index of Economic Freedom.
*Negative 12 points for most carbon dioxide emissions per capita.
*8 points for highest environmental happiness.
*Negative 15 points for most nuclear weapons.
*Negative 15 points for most military spending, in dollars.
*Negative 10 points for most active troops.
*Negative 15 points for most reserve troops (e.g. troops that you currently do not even need).
*A 10-point bonus if no military is kept at all.
*12 points for most countries with which you have diplomatic relations, as shown by at least one open, functioning embassy. (Combining three or four countries in one regional embassy only counts as one.)
*6 points for highest level of property rights, according to the International Property Rights Index.
*8 points for best gender equality in positions of government leadership.
*10 points for most globalized country, according to the Globalization Index.
*Negative 12 points for the worst score on the Failed States Index.
*Negative 9 points for the worst rating on the Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
*10 points for highest Human Development Index score.
*7 points for highest Satisfaction With Life Index score.
*3 points for highest percentage of Internet users.
*5 points for the best score on the UN's Technology Achievement Index.
*A country's Global Innovation Index score, times 3. (Scores currently range from 2.26 to -1.63. Failure to be included here ties you for last place.)
*4 points for highest Digital Opportunity Index score.
*A country's E-Readiness score, out of 10 available.
*7 points for the most charitable country as a percentage of gross national income.
*9 points for the highest score on the Global Gender Gap Report.
*Negative 8 points for the country with the highest percentage of population suffering from undernourishment.
*10 points for the highest score in the Sustainable Society Index.
*A 5-point penalty if the death penalty is used in your country.
*A 5-point penalty if homosexual acts are illegal in your country.
*A 3-point bonus if gay marriage is legal anywhere in the country, and 2 more if it's nationwide.

The weightings are pretty rough, but I gave it my best shot. As stated... add up all those scores in all those categories, give the worst score in a category to any country missing in a category, and the top 5 scores are your Security Council vetoes. Whoever they happen to be.

Anyone want to add it all up?

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