It’s interesting to observe the international reaction to former prime minister Kevin Rudd in the wake of his aborted bid for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman spoke to Rudd about his UN report “UN 2030: Rebuilding World Order in a Fragmenting World”, written as chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism. In it, Rudd asks if the UN still matters and suggests how it could be more effective in the 21st century. It hasn’t made much of a splash at home, but it gives an idea of what might have been. Friedman spoke to Rudd and writes:

“There is ‘growing evidence of nation-states walking around the UN to solve major problems and then perhaps coming back to the UN when it’s all done as some sort of diplomatic afterthought,’ Rudd told me. The United Nations continues to establish rules for how people and states should conduct themselves in the world. ‘The problem is, if you simply set norms and don’t do anything about the execution of those norms, as the international agency given that function back under the charter of 1945, then you start to lose complete relevance over time.'”

Also in the story is Rudd’s less than glowing assessment of his successors:

“Most striking is Rudd’s assessment of the predicament national political leaders find themselves in, given that he was, not so long ago, one himself. These leaders, he writes, ‘are no longer, in substance, capable of delivering self-contained, national solutions to the problems faced by their people,’ which ‘contributes to a related crisis of legitimacy for the international institutions nation-states have constructed.'”

The report makes passing comment of Malcolm Turnbull’s refusal to back Rudd for the top UN job, and closes “Rudd’s report can ultimately be read as a plea for something pretty basic: to not take the United Nations for granted”. But will the new Secretary General take up Rudd’s opus and run with it?

Peter Fray

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