The UN Posts

I’ve decided I’m going to go for an appointment through the UN’s Young Professional’s Program.  You apply to take a test in July to September.  Then if you’re accepted you go to DC to take an exam to get either a P1 or P2 position, they’re lowest professional grades.  This year I’m going to try to apply for Political Affairs and Social Affairs.  The test is basically exam style.  Nothing I haven’t seen before in the style of questions but when my memory shot it should be challenging.  The test is on December 5th though so I have time.  Hopefully I get accepted to take it.

As a result I’ll be posting a lot about the UN on here.  I’ll be reading reports, resolutions, and a book or two and reiterating and analyzing what I’ve learned.  Hopefully this will help me remember.

The first thing I’ve started studying is the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  That seems to be a major theme on the sample exams.  I’ve gone over the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur, and the UN Security Force in Abyei.  Each is fairly similar to the other though there are some striking differences.

The Mission in South Sudan, firstly, is located in the new country of South Sudan.  The mission there strongly differs from the other two in that it is tasked with defending a national border and beginning the process of nation building.  These are guaranteed to be challenging tasks in the war-torn area of Sudan.  Civilian deaths have been a problem throughout the entire Sudan region, as have child soldiers.  As a result the forces dealing in all these areas are tasked with using all necessary force to protect civilians, particularly women who are so often brutalized in conflict, and other humanitarian and UN workers.  This seems to take less precedence in Abyei, where Ethiopia seems to be taking the lead with regards to security.

Ethiopia seems to have a strong hand in the dealings of the entire Horn of Africa region.  Despite its being landlocked it exercises an influence in Somalia through its occasional military incursions and also Sudan by holding negotiations in Addis Ababa and sending peacekeeping troops into Sudan proper.  Ethiopia has a heavy hand in the region.  Thinking about it, I believe Ethiopia was the only African nation not colonized by Europeans.  It would make sense then that Ethiopia would have a greater sense of self and sovereignty/stability to perform such incursions than many other African nations.  When scholars speak of hegemons or power player in Africa they typically refer to Nigeria or, more often, South Africa.  I’ll have to keep Ethiopia in mind.

The Missions in South Sudan has the additional task of post conflict peacebuilding.  This is a topic on the sample exams I need to stress.  Post conflict peacebuilding includes reintegration of the military into civilian life, the maintenance of the rule of law, the protection of civilians, development in lines with the needs of the society in question, greater integration of women into the workings of South Sudan’s society, the maintenance of South Sudan’s border, the establishment and training of a police force, and the protection of civilians from reprisal or just attack by militias or the government.

Darfur has the unique position of air power being factored into the peacekeeping operations.  One of the primary issues with the attacks of the Janjaweed was that the Sudanese government would bomb black villages before the raiders would come in to kill the inhabitants.  The resolution creating the mission in Darfur strictly mentions the prohibiting of the use of airpower against civilians, though I’m not sure how the UN has enforced that.

I’ve also started reading the Oxford Handbook to the United Nations.  The intro goes into how the United Nations has changed since its inception.  It has five main themes it touches on, new threats; sovereignty; global governance; the expansion of members; and the US as a hegemon.  It states that new problems such as the role of women in the world, development, environmental problems, and terrorism have added new and growing roles for the United Nations. Real politik does not necessarily play into the consideration of these issues as issues making them much more humanitarian and universal in scope.  This is something government has neglected for a while in the sense of adding egalitarianism to society.  The sovereignty of states has been expanded while at the same time decreased.  States have other countries forming laws to which they are willingly or unwillingly a party to.  There is also no way to leave the UN once you are a member.  Therefore sovereignty has effectively been curtailed from that perspective, especially for non-veto members.Small states now have a greater voice in the working of the world through the General Assembly however.  Something that would not have happened without the United Nations or some similar structure.Which brings us to membership expansion.  Since its inception the membership of the United Nations has expanded to include nearly every country in the world.  This is an enormous increase from when the, at the end of WW2, it was primarily a European organization.  NGOs also have a voice in the UN to a much greater degree.  This has brought issues of equity and those of unrepresented people to the world forum to a much greater extent than would have otherwise been the case.  Global governance encompasses the fact the entire workings of the governing and governing structure of the various parties within the international scene.  Regional organizations, IGOs, NGOs, INGOs, nations, countries and business all play a role in global governance encompassing every aspect and interaction of thought.  International relations has grown by leaps beyond the state to state discourse, peace treaties, and alliances of the past.  All encompassing organizations like the WTO and conventions like the UNFCCC make changes that affect every individual at levels that are given public airing too infrequently.  The complex nature of global governance goes beyond global government into a role of representation having a force of law without election.  This problem is even manifest in all smaller area like the EU where regular travel is unhindered between states.  US hegemony is something I don’t necessarily agree with.  While the US has a stronger military and economy than any or at least most other states I would not consider it to be a hegemon.  We could not go into Iraq and claim it.  We could go into Afghanistan and claim it.  Our economy is inextricably tied to the fate of the EU and China.  We are not a behemoth ready to destroy the world.  We are overconfident and everyone else is beginning to see that.  To not recognize that would be folly tantamount to letting one’s derivative sector run free or immersing your self in wars you can not win.