Dr. Axel Wennmann is currently working in the Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations. He divided the speech into three parts: Firstly, he talked about the UN-Charter; second-ly, he analyzed the role of the Security Council (SC) and the Secretary-General (SG). Finally, he spent some time on possible developments in the future within the system of the UN.
In 1945, the UN Charter was considered revolutionary: It constituted a turning point from the deep-seated principle of threats of violence against other states to a general prohibition of the use of force. The intention was, and still is, to prevent unilateral actions. This is the basis of a system called “collective security”, which was implemented through the United Nations after experiences with the League of Nations.
Furthermore, the UN-Charter respects the sovereignty of all Member States. Beyond this concept lies the idea of non-interference of the UN into national issues: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter […]” (Art. 2 (7) UN-Charter).
Only the UN, Dr. Wennmann explained, is predestinated to solve conflicts, because only the UN has the whole “toolbox”: The Secretary-General has the political authority, the SC is the body that brings the most important states together; its resolutions are an important instrument to set the framework for concrete actions in specific conflicts. The World Food Programme (WFP) or UNICEF, for instance, are adequate bodies to help victims properly. Furthermore, only the UN is qualified to launch Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs). These PKOs exist in about 20 countries at the moment and are much more efficient than single-handed military actions by Member States, because very often the situation gets worse when countries act independently. Last but not least, development assistance is another important instrument: Through specific and selective encouragement of, e.g., a dialogue between rival groups, the UN can help to solve conflicts.
Dr. Wennmann believes that the UN is neutral. To guarantee this, and of course the independence of the personnel, the staff of the UN acts only under the mandate of the UN-Charter and not as citizens of their respective countries.
The Department of Political Affairs tries to prevent conflicts. Dr. Wennmann pointed out, that his department’s budget for two years is about 64 million US$. The cumulated costs of all PKOs are round about 7 billion US$ per year. He argues that it would be more efficient to extend the budgets of those bodies, which are working to prevent conflicts. This would lower the total cost of solving conflicts. E.g., Kofi Annan’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the turmoil after the elections in February 2008 cost in total 200.000 US$. The economic disprofits were added up to approximately 31 million US$. This shows the need for the UN in the world. In this framework, Dr. Wennmann underlined the SC’s importance and the five states holding the power of veto (so called P5) to block decisions of this body. Moreover, a general reform of the SC is necessary: the SC must reflect the changes of the political situation in the world, especially concerning its membership. This would give the Council’s decision more legiticmacy. On the other hand, the SC should not have too many Member States, because it needs to react fast and efficiently in some situations in order to preserve its credibility in the public. Dr. Wennmann emphasized the fact that only Member States are in charge of reforming the SC, and not the UN itself.
Finally, Dr. Wennmann spoke in favor of a general improvement and professionalization of the UN in fields like mediation, training of its staff for conflict prevention and the promotion of good governance worldwide. It has been proven empirically that this would cost less than to wait for a conflict to break out. In his opinion, PKOs are very efficient to solve problems. In his last remark, it was very important for Dr. Wennmann to stress that basic rules of the UN-System, such as respect for the sovereignty of each country, the prohibition of intervention in internal affairs and the maxim of “help for self-help”, should be upheld. With this statement he ended a very interesting presentation concerning the UN’s “Peace and Security”.