KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — Earlier this week, the Taiwanese ambassador to Turkey, Cheng Tai-hsiang (鄭泰祥), made headlines when he backed calls from Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the reform of the United Nations Security Council.
Erdoğan’s statement, which was made to coincide with the 74th anniversary of the founding of the U.N., expressed that the idea that five countries were more important than the rest of the world was an outdated one and that the Security Council was long overdue for reform.
Erdoğan is essentially a dictator in the same vein as Vladimir Putin in Russia. He was elected as president but has since manipulated Turkey’s political institutions, law, and military to ensure he retains his grip on power.
The reason Erdoğan wants the U.N. Security Council reformed is to secure more power for himself by giving Turkey a greater influence over international affairs.
The notion of handing quasi-autocratic regimes like his more influence in global matters is obviously not a good one. But his criticisms of the U.N. Security Council and calls for reform are completely valid.
UN not fit for modern world
In its current form, the United Nations is no longer fit for purpose and no country knows that more than Taiwan.
The U.N. has changed very little in its 74 years. Taiwan's removal and replacement by Communist China in 1971 is perhaps the biggest single change it has seen in that time.
But the world has changed exponentially in that time. For much of the U.N.’s 74-year existence, it has been an effective forum for international political debate and diplomacy. This is no longer the case.
Its reputation has been badly tarnished by humanitarian and political catastrophes that it has been unable to address. The failure of U.N. forces to step in and prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the Bosnian genocide in 1995 marred its 50th anniversary and illustrated how little power to save people and take action the U.N. really had even then.
A full 25 years later, that remains the case. In the past few years, the U.N. has stood by while two members of its Security Council brazenly contravene international law.
Russia has annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine while the U.N. stood by and did nothing. Communist China is perpetrating a genocide of Uighur Muslims in East Turkestan/Xinjiang province, and the U.N. has not acted or even spoken out in criticism.
China and Russia’s malign influence
Why has the U.N. not acted? Because the make-up of the Security Council leaves it completely paralyzed. China and Russia continue to hold veto power over any Security Council action.
They will never permit action against themselves, even though combined they are the greatest single threat to global peace and security. They will also not allow any action which could set a precedent for future action against them.
As a result, the U.N. Security Council is completely toothless. Yet it is still the forum through which international intervention and much of the world’s foreign policy is filtered.
There was a time when being the target of a UN. resolution was something countries feared and strived to avoid, but now, such resolutions are openly mocked and derided because countries know that they will never pass. Even if they did, the chances of them leading to meaningful action are remote.
Of course, Taiwan sits on the sidelines of all this. Despite being a thriving democratic nation that plays a full part in global affairs (when permitted), it is ostracized by the U.N. because China’s communist regime insists upon it.
Why Taiwan should lobby for replacement
Taiwan now spends a large part of its diplomatic time and resources campaigning to be readmitted to the U.N., even as an observer, and to secure places at U.N.-led events and symposiums.
Why? The U.N. has shown no inclination to readmit Taiwan and no desire to reform and make itself more relevant to the modern world. It is increasingly evident that the U.N. is beyond reform and totally unfit for the new political reality in which we find ourselves.
There is growing evidence of the beginnings of a new cold war between democratic and authoritarian countries. This growing global split continues and the U.N. is doing nothing more than papering over the cracks.
Rather than battling so hard to be readmitted to the U.N., Taiwan should now be at the vanguard of efforts to replace it with a more effective international organization.
In the current political climate, what the world really needs is a new alliance of democratic countries that can advocate properly for the values and freedoms that every person on earth deserves to enjoy. This is an organization that, as one of Asia’s few truly democratic countries, Taiwan could and should play a full part in.
Beefing up NATO
There are a couple of options for how this new democratic alliance could be established. It could be a whole new organization funded by democratic nations and headquartered in the U.S. with revolving meetings in member states around the world.
Alternatively, it could be created by revitalizing NATO to admit more democratic members and expanding the organization’s remit to meet the foreign policy needs of the democratic world.
NATO was originally created as an alliance to fight against the threat of the Soviet Union. It therefore makes sense for it to be the basis of a platform for the new battle for freedoms and rights that we now face.
The U.N. still has a role to play as a forum for democracies and autocratic regimes to engage with each other and seek to avoid conflict. But it can longer be allowed to prevent democratic nations from upholding the rights and freedoms which are the bedrock of our societies.
There was a time when the U.N. kept the peace. Now it is a tool that authoritarian countries can use to stop western countries from intervening while they up their power and abuse their people.
Taiwan can establish its place in the world by either advocating an all-new pro-democracy organization or seeking membership in a beefed-up NATO.
Either option offers huge diplomatic advantages to Taiwan and gives the world a better chance of preventing the spread of authoritarianism by the likes of China and Russia.