As reported in the Washington Post today, the U.N. General Assembly has suspended voting for a week as it tries to find a solution to the deadlock caused by competing bids for membership on the Security Council from Venezuela and Guatemala. Guatemala, backed by the United States, has led over 35 rounds of voting, but has yet to secure the necessary two-thirds majority. Some have predictably and irrationally labeled this as an example of UN inaction. This claim not only betrays a basic misunderstanding of the workings of international politics but of the overwhelming benefit of multilateral versus unilateral outcomes both for the United States and the rest of the world.In fact, the General Assembly is sending a very strong message – to extremists on both ends of the spectrum. It is clearly stating to the world that it will neither reward virulent anti-Americanism nor become too closely aligned with one superpower’s desires, as some in the G-77 have claimed. This is happening despite Venezuela’s two-year campaign for the seat, which included, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor, the signing of many bilateral trade pacts. According to the same article, the consensus in the General Assembly is that Hugo Chavez’s rant at the World Summit has cost him significant support.
If we are truly interested in making the UN as effective as it can be, it’s time that we understand what the United Nations is and what it is not. It is not a megaphone for any one nation. It is a platform for dialogue, diplomacy, and multilateralism. And the UN’s carefully negotiated decisions, while not as black-and-white as those of any one nation or group, are all the more powerful for it. They carry the weight of the whole world along with it.
Next week, when the General Assembly returns to this issue, a consensus candidate will likely emerge. The process will have worked.