A Universal Right of Address at the UN

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

An interesting proposal arrives for a reform of the UN Security Council, not in terms of who is a member but in terms of who may speak. The “Universal Right of Address” would, according to Independent Diplomat, promoters of the scheme, allow all interested parties to address the Security Council directly: at present, this right is confined to member states of the United Nations. In his book, “Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite”, Carne Ross, founder of Independent Diplomat, describes the treatment of the government of Kosovo, denied access to the discussions at the UN in which the future of Kosovo will be settled. He argues that decisions of the Security Council will be better informed if they hear directly from the people involved, and the people involved ought to have the right to a say on their own futures. The idea of a universal right of address is interesting to federalists as it would amount to a step towards federalism within the United Nations. A characteristic of federalism is that, within a multi-level system of governance, each level has a direct relationship with the citizen. In a confederal system, by contrast, each level relates only to the level below. Federalism is the form of multi-level governance in which citizens have a direct stake. In that context, recognising that there are entities other than member states within the UN system is a definite step forward. It is an out-of-date and undemocratic fiction that the member state is the last word in world politics. The United Nations Charter of 1945 opens with the words “We the peoples of the United Nations” but actually means “We the states”. Extending the right of address within the Security Council would be a step towards realising the original terms of that Charter. As Independent Diplomat puts it: “When most of the conflict in the twenty-first century is inside rather than between states, it’s time for the Security Council to deal with this reality.”

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Read more about Carne Ross here.

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