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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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The United Nations has been the platform to address issues that goes beyond national boundaries and cannot be settled by any one of the countries acting alone as the world’s only truly universal global organization. The UN has played an important role in mediating peace agreements and assisting in their implementation, helping to reduce the level of conflict in several regions especially in Africa. To its initial goals of safeguarding peace, protecting human rights, establishing the framework for international justice and promoting economic and social progress, in the six and a half decades since its creation the United Nations (UN) has added on new challenges, such as climate change, AIDS and international terrorism. While conflict resolution and peacekeeping continue to be among its most visible efforts, the UN along with its specialized agencies, it is also engaged in a wide array of activities to improve people’s lives around the world. Thus, the UN Secretary-General as a top international public servant plays an important role on facing these kind of challenges. Equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the Secretary-General is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesperson for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them. The current Secretary-General, and the eighth occupant of the post, is Mr. Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea, who took office on 1 January 2007.

1.0 The Multiple and Pressing Challenges the United Nations Faces Today

1.1 Complex Political Processes and Civilians in High-Risk Environments

On 19th Jun in 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted three major challenges facing UN peacekeeping. The Secretary-General said that the first challenge we face is to support complex political processes and protect civilians in high-risk environments characterized by asymmetric threats while these asymmetric threats are not new to the UN but they are stronger. He explained that our UN mission does not have a counter-terrorism demand, improvised explosive devices, other tactics of irregular warfare threaten the security and the use of suicide bombs.

1.2 Peacekeepers are Trained  

The second major challenge, the Secretary-General highlighted, concerns ensuring that peacekeepers are trained and equipped to be flexible to this dynamic environment. Some of the skills have to be specialized such as engineering units and field hospitals. He is deeply grateful for China's support in these important areas particularly China's most recent promise to our operation in Mali. The accurate information should be analysed and gathered by them. For the first time, he said, "we are deploying an unarmed, unmanned aerial system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so peacekeepers will have real-time, first-hand information on conditions in remote areas where combatants may threaten civilians.”

1.3 Maintain the Commitment and Unity of Its Constituencies

Besides that, the third challenge to peacekeeping is to maintain the commitment and unity of its constituencies. He said "Successful peacekeeping demands sustained political and material support from the Security Council which are came from countries that contribute troops and police personnel and from those who contribute funds to our operations."

China provides more peacekeepers to the United Nations than all of the four other permanent members combined. The Secretary-General said he was deeply grateful for China's support in these important areas, particularly Beijing's most recent pledge to our operation in Mali.

1.4 Aged structure

The same five countries in the victors of World War II have been the power players since 1945 was the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. They are the only permanent members of the powerful, 15-seat Security Council. Each has veto power, which has led to near-paralysis at the council on some major crises like Syria and Ukraine.

Critics say the council simply doesn’t represent the world today. At its inception, the U.N. had 51 member states. It now has 193, many of them quarrelling for more clout. All countries are represented in the General Assembly, but that body can only pass nonbinding resolutions. Often mentioned as countries deserving of permanent Security Council seats are Germany, Japan, India, South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil. But there are no signs the big five intend to give up any power or share it with more countries.

1.5 Bulky organization

The U.N. has become a sprawling system with 15 autonomous agencies, 11 semi-autonomous funds and programs, and numerous other bodies. There is no central entity to oversee them all. The secretary-general, currently Ban Ki-moon, try to assort their actions but he does not have any authority to many of them. The bulky structure was recently blamed for the World Health Organization’s delay in recognizing the Ebola epidemic.

1.6 Increasing demands

The U.N. is almost constantly asking its member states to contribute troops for its far-flung peacekeeping missions, currently numbering 16. The number of peacekeepers has risen to a record 130,000 if compared to 11,000 at the end of the Cold War but the system is under severe strain. The fact shows that there are more than 100 peacekeepers have died this year and dozens have been taken captive.

The world’s refugee population has soared amid a growing list of humanitarian crises. The U.N. refugee agency is trying to help over 51 million people forced from their homes and displaced inside or outside their country. The highest figure since the U.N. began collecting those data in the early 1950s. The U.N. humanitarian office is tackling a record of four top-level emergencies in Africa and the Mideast as well as Ebola.

1.7 Insecure Funding

Raising money is a serious problem with many scrambling crisis which catch the attention from the world. Many U.N. agencies and humanitarian operations are funded through contributing voluntary by the public and appeals but still cannot get enough donation. One day, the World Food Program stopped a food voucher program serving more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees after many donors failed to meet their commitments.

1.8 Political bargaining

There i behind-the-curtain fight for top jobs in the U.N. Secretariat and U.N. agencies, not to mention seats on key bodies like the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. Every country belongs to a regional group that lobbies to ensure it is well represented. There is often criticism that those who get the seats are not the best qualified, such as dictatorships elected to the rights council.

2.0 The Proper Role of the Secretary-General

2.1 Administrative

The secretary-general coordinates the UN Secretariat, which handles UN operations, including translation, media relations and research. The Secretariat--the UN's executive office has a staff of close to nine thousand people from about 170 different countries. Each secretary-general has took care of his administrative responsibilities differently and established a system of offices in charge of budgetary aspects of the secretariat, legal, political, and personnel. Boutros Boutros-Ghali simplified the system by adding under-secretaries-general to oversee operations and report back. During Annan's administration, the deputy secretary-general position was created to handle day-to-day operations. This book, published by the International Peace Institute, chronicles the evolution of the secretariat.

2.2 Human Resources

The hiring of under-secretaries for approximately fifty UN posts, including the heads of fund which is under the scope of the secretary-general. An important aspect of the hiring process involves lobbying from members to fill posts with their nationals, General Assembly to ensure broad regional representation and highlighting the secretary-general's role of negotiating with the Security Council.

2.3 Peacekeeping

The secretary-general's office shoulders responsibility for overseeing peacekeeping missions and appoints the under-secretary in charge of that department, involving some sixteen operations worldwide as of September 2008. Although the General Assembly or Security Council may initiate a peacekeeping mission, operational control rests with the Secretariat.

2.4 Mediation

 One of the most vital roles played by the Secretary-General is the use of his "good offices" and the steps were taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. This function involves the secretary-general's role as a mediator between parties in conflict. As part of his "good offices" role the secretary-general makes use of his independence and impartiality as the head of a global organization to prevent and stop the spread of conflict.

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