Understanding International Organizations with David M. Malone

18 Mar, 2012

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David M. Malone discusses international organizations with McGill students

David M. Malone, current president of IDRC and former Ambassador to the UN, shared his diplomatic insights with McGill students gathered at the SSMU Club Lounge on March 5th.

Mr. Malone is an international relations expert whose diplomatic career sports positions at the UN, the International Peace Institute, and the International Development Research Center. He first represented Canada at the UN Economic and Social Council from 1990 to 1992, and then moved to serving as a Canadian Ambassador to the UN from 1992 to 1994. In 1998, he was appointed President of the International Peace Institute, a position he occupied until 2004. He has been working as President of International Development Research Center (IDRC) since July 2008.

Drawing on his thorough insight into the functioning of international organizations, Malone is also a reputable international relations scholar. In line with his involvement in NGOs and human rights groups, his work focuses on international development.

At the talk, Malone discussed his experiences in both the Security Council and the IDRC. He began by analyzing the UN, as it is the “center of attention nowadays,” he explained. In fact, quite recently, the Council was vehemently critiqued after it jointly implemented a no-fly zone over Libya with NATO in 2010, he reminded the audience.

In explaining why the Security Council draws so much attention, Malone referred to the organ’s unique powers; that is, its ability to use coercive measures transnationally, regardless of countries’ national sovereignty. Essentially, this power means that the UN has the ability to send its peacekeepers anywhere, regardless of whether its involvement is desired by the national government in the given country.

Malone also discussed changes that the Security Council has been subject to since its creation in January 1946. The Security Council of today is fundamentally different from that of the decolonization and Cold War periods. It has swiftly shifted away from the use of hard power towards a more humanitarian focus. Malone mentioned four factors he believes are driving action in the Council, namely: humanitarian intervention, human rights, terrorism and support for democratic elections.

What is most striking is that, with this shift in focus, the Council has become “Hyperactive,” according to Malone. This contrasts with what used to be a tool rarely used by United Nations because of the restrictive nature of its mission. Notably, the need for the Council’s intervention hails not only from the developing world, but also from the developed countries, as exemplified by the Council’s mobilization in the wake of 9/11 attacks.

Malone further discussed the partnership that is now taking place between the UN Security Council and NGOs. Many argue that the UN, because of its scope and size, is bureaucratic and cumbersome. Accordingly, the UN has begun partnering with lower-scale organizations at a regional level. It thus seems that both parties benefit from the partnership as they enter a “Two-way exchange,” says Malone.

In line with his analysis of the changes in the Security Council, Malone strongly stressed the importance of the creation of the International Court of Justice, as this organ considerably backs the Council in its actions. As he explained, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda opened “a Pandora box” by leading nations to creating an institution responsible for judging criminal leaders. According to Malone, the institution wields enough clout to limit atrocities executed by national leaders.

Malone ended the talk by discussing the Council’s future and reforms that will be needed for the five permanent members. As he reminded the audience, the Council has survived several radical changes in its members throughout history, as exemplified by the swap between China and Taiwan and the entrance of Russia after the fall of USSR. As the world is moving towards a new world economic order, growing nations are asking for proportional representation, while the five permanent members want to secure their influence in the Council. Malone believes that the Council is “bound to change.”

Mr. Malone ended the discussion by comparing the UN and other international institutions to “a Rubik’s Cube,” referring to a constant in diplomacy: “it is difficult to satisfy everybody,” he said.

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