In the News: Hasegawa Says UN Reform a Must


We need to reform the Security Council of the United Nations to reflect the reality of the world today," said Dr. Sukehiro Hasegawa, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Timor-Leste at a November 2007 forum for diplomats, politicians, and peace activists in Tokyo.

The forum was organized by the Japanese chapter of the Universal Peace Federation, a New York-based non-governmental organization that encourages dialogue and reconciliation among conflicting parties in various parts of the world. One item on the group's agenda is UN reform, particularly in rallying support for more active involvement of religious or moral leadership in solving international disputes, including the Middle East crisis.

Hasegawa served in the UN system for 37 years, including engagements in the violent and confusing fields of Somalia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste. Thus, he is one of few Japanese well qualified to talk about the merits and weaknesses of the international body from his own personal experience.

On a number of occasions he found himself in the middle of a conflict, with tragedy unfolding in front of his own eyes. Among the events that still torment him were the killings in Rwanda in 1994, in which the United Nations estimates hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives, including many women and children. A Rwandan diplomat at the forum called it "a complete failure of the UN operation."

Hasegawa recalled the reality in the field, explaining that the Security Council is very much in charge of field operations in times of crisis. "You just cannot get necessary authorization from the Security Council in a timely manner" to deal with changing situations, he said.

This is because, as he put it, "The Security Council reflects the views of very divergent groups of this planet." Thus, in order to make UN peace operations more effective, he urged the dozens of diplomats present at the forum, including several ambassadors to Japan, to press ahead with reform of the United Nations in general and the Security Council in particular.

The United Nations is now engaged in 17 peacekeeping operations around the world, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, including the recently sanctioned mission in Darful, Sudan. Some 67,000 personnel from 103 countries are mobilized under the UN mandate.

According to Hasegawa, who now teaches at a couple of colleges including the UN University based in Tokyo, the United Nations' role in the peacemaking process has evolved significantly, especially since the end of the Cold War.

From a mere disengagement force as in the Korean peninsula, UN peacekeepers are now called upon to perform military, humanitarian, emergency and nation-building activities, sometimes virtually taking over the sovereign rights of the countries in which they operate.

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