Nikki Haley has just been appointed the new US Ambassador-Elect (??) to the UN. Another day, another dollar. Elections have consequences & etc. But she’s an impressive person.
So how come she is allowing herself to be appointed to be the US representative to a body which, by wide agreement just doesn’t work? One that just has not been capable of stopping or preventing wars, genocides, massive violations of human rights in numerous countries, preventing nuclear proliferation.
Worse, partially peopled by numerous venal, corrupt representatives of multiple countries, which are better left unnamed, for whom the position is at best a boondoggle? (Apologies to the good guys in the UN but this all needs saying).
A body that fields a UN Human Rights Commission, whose members are often and cynically, representatives of the worst violators of human rights. And who constantly feed us a diet of 1984-like new-speak about how they are doing good for their people?
It’s all an open secret (see e.g. “What’s wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It?”). And although people have talked about fixing it for years it’s clear that it’s unfixable. That’s because there are no mechanisms to reward good behavior and plenty that encourage the bad kind, starting with the veto power of the 5 permanent members.
It’s clearly impossible to reform the UN. Its structure, governance, rules and lack of incentives make that utterly impossible. So we need another new structure. It must start from scratch with the right incentives for the right behaviors. It must hand power back to the countries themselves rather than vesting it in unelected and often corrupt international bureaucrats. How do we build the right incentives in?
BTW I’m referring to the political functions of the UN. The economic and social functions are another story and there the UN really does have some achievements. So, as I set out below, we should keep the social and economic part of the UN (even though that’s where a lot of the corruption is concentrated) and abolish the political part.
Here’s how. For convenience I’m going to call this way a Reciprocal Electoral Agreement (REA). It’s an agreement between just two countries, but any country can have as many REAs as it wants, say with multiple countries and potentially all the currently existing UN members.
Essentially an REA allows a foreign country to have representatives elected into the other party’s legislature who will represent the foreign country. In return the other party has the same rights to have one of more of its own elected representatives in the other’s legislature.
The REA means that both countries are involved in the governance of the other. They have a stake in the success of the other. If there is a failure, both parties lose. So their interests are far more aligned than being in a multilateral body like the UN. If you like, the REA structure means that there’s a UN in every legislature that has one or more REAs.
Here are my ideas on how it works:
- Two countries grant to each other the right to elect representatives to the popular (usually the lower house) of the other country. Let’s call these Most Favored Nations – Political agreements, or MFNPs for short.
- Each country has the right to have a designated number of representatives in the other’s legislature (probably starting with one to give it a tryout).
- These representatives will be citizens of the other’s country. So from example, if the two countries were the US and Russia, the US would have the right to have at least one Russian citizen elected to the Russian Duma representing the US and Russia would have the right to have at least one US citizen elected to the US House of Representatives representing Russia.
- These representatives for each country would be paid for by the other country – that is, salary and expenses so in the case we just mentioned the US citizen representing Russia would be paid for by Russia and the Russian citizen representing the US would be paid for by the US..
- The representatives would be elected by the citizens of the country they are citizens of. There would be a number of other candidates who would also stand and compete for the position(s). They would be voted for using the normal electoral mechanism of the country for which they would stand for office. The candidates with the highest number of total votes would win i.e. the elected representative must have a majority of all votes cat, not a plurality.
- The winning candidate would sit in the lower house of the country for which they have been elected. They would have all the voting privileges of other representatives. In effect they would be like a representative of a US territory.
- The number of representatives would be set by bilateral agreement and could vary depending on the agreement of the two countries involved.
- Since the representatives of the foreign country are citizens of the host country, they are a known quantity and have to answer socially and political to the citizens of their own country so it’s unlikely they are going to misbehave. If they do, they are subject to all the criminal, civil and electoral laws of their host country so can be punished effectively and legally. That means they won’t want to participate in an activity such as perverting the course of elections in order to support any nefarious plans of the foreign country.
- Since these representatives are paid for by the country they are representing they still have a vital interest in representing the foreign country well which will increase the confidence by the foreign country that they will work for that country, even though they are a citizen of the host country.
- Since they vote in the lower house of the host country on the same basis as other elected representatives, the foreign country will feel that they have a genuine say in the governance of their reciprocal voting partner.
- You don’t have to start with many REAs. You can build up the REA structure and your own national UN a piece at a time.
- If you have too many REA representatives in a legislature they could overturn or misdirect the business of the legislature, especially if they are all allied on a particular issue. So there needs to be rules that prevent this.
- It might provide the representative too much privileged access to the secret information of the home country. Still that will happen on both sides. And if they are already allies they are probably already doing something like that. However now they have formal approval to do it.
- You could get a process of “regulatory capture” occurring whereby a representative “goes native” (e.g. the US citizen representing Russia in the House of Representatives becomes so Russianized that he loses credibility with US citizens. The answer – term limits, just like some believe we should have in the US.
OK I’m sure there’s some wrinkles (maybe fissures) that need to be worked out. In any case maybe there’s a better way. Whatever we dream up as an alternative is going to is difficult to implement since it confronts such deep political interests in so many countries. But it’s a start.
But we're talking about the future of mankind here. That Doomsday Clock is ticking away and The End is inevitably getting nearer if we don’t do something.
Time to think of a plan to get governments to cooperate that really works, instead of putting up with a tragic, ineffective and hopeless charade.