Current Ethically Globalized Institutions

Current Ethically Globalized Institutions

Robert A. Schultz (Woodbury University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-922-9.ch002
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As I noted in the previous chapter, the world is currently not organized into a single economy sharing benefits and burdens. But at the same time, institutions have developed which transcend national boundaries. We are looking for ethically globalized institutions, those which raise ethical problems which cannot be divided into pieces belonging to different nations. I will begin with a list of international organizations. International organizations are those which have an official presence in more than one nation. Among these, we will separate out those which are ethically globalized institutions and therefore the concern of this book.
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The United Nations (Un)

Is the United Nations an ethically globalized institution, or is it only an international organization? Recall that an ethically globalized institution is defined as one whose ethical problems cannot be solved by dividing them up between different nations or societies. Transnational ethical problems for ethically globalized institutions tend to arise in connection with issues of sovereignty or ultimate control. Indeed, discussions of reform of the UN revolve around precisely these issues, as we will see.

The stated aims of the UN are to facilitate cooperation in international law and security, and promote economic development, social progress and human rights. Founded in 1945 just after World War II, it was hoped that the UN would settle conflicts between states and thereby avoid war. Its main branches with transnational responsibility are the Security Council, which passes resolutions for peace and security; and the International Court of Justice, which adjudicates disputes between states; the separate International Criminal Court tries individuals for crimes against humanity and the like.2

The ethical status of the UN is determined by the nature of its powers with respect to the sovereignty of its member nations, now virtually all independent states on the planet. The UN, primarily through the Security Council, has in many cases asserted its power over sovereign nations, but in a number of cases (often involving the so-called ‘superpowers’) it has been unable to prevent wars. The typical UN force authorized by the Security Council is a peacekeeping force, either unarmed or armed only for self-defense. The force is present only at the request of both warring parties and is usually authorized by the Security Council. Such forces have been used numerous times in conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors, in the former Belgian Congo, between Greece and Turkey on Cyprus, and between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. These UN operations have succeeded in reducing the level of violence, though the underlying conflicts tend to remain. (Frängsmyr 1989)

This peacekeeping use of transnational force clearly threatens no nation’s sovereignty--the nations impacted have to agree to have the force present. Also, the peacekeeping force itself is not designed for aggressive use. However, in the 1950s the UN actually approved the use of military force in the Korean War. Korea had been partitioned into North Korea under Russian influence and South Korea under American influence. The North invaded the South, and the UN Security Council approved the use of force to meet the challenge. The military that was fielded was called a UN force, even though about 90% of the personnel and expenditure was American. Russia did not veto the authorizing Security Council resolution because it was at that time boycotting the UN for seating Nationalist China rather than Communist China. (Wikipedia 2009)

Using aggressive military force to deal with transgressions against peace and national sovereignty has not been, except in the case of Korea, UN policy. American use of military force in Vietnam and Iraq did not have UN approval, and indeed was contrary to the very purposes of the UN. The more limited military incursion in Kosovo/Serbia was done under the auspices of NATO, an American-led military alliance with mainly European members. Other uses of military force in Somalia, Panama, and Grenada were unilaterally American, and transnational only because superpowers are transnational. Russia, the other superpower during this same period, was putting down uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and waging aggressive war in Afghanistan.

We can see that the UN has very limited powers in dealing with aggression by superpowers and thus there are no ethically globalized issues involving the UN having to do with the security of nations. Those ethical issues remain lodged in the nation states which continue to wage war. In fact, whether the UN has any real transnational powers has been questioned in proposals for reform. Some proposals are for the UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs; others are to reduce its role to humanitarian work only. The nations that have veto power in the Security Council were fixed at its founding in 1945 and there are proposals to alter its membership. This has not happened. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called for making UN governance more democratic and imposing an international tariff on arms manufacturers worldwide. These proposals were not adopted. (Wikipedia 2008b)

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