The founding fathers of the United Nations were not naïve idealists but wide-eyed realists and war-hardened superpowers. They drafted a UN Charter which balances the principles of power with the power of principles. They created a UN of six principal organs, each with distinct but complementary roles and responsibilities to, first and foremost, save us from the scourge of war and the mass slaughter of innocent civilians. They designed an international legal and political order whose success depends on each principal organ assuming its intended role and fulfilling its assigned responsibilities.
A true celebration of the 100th anniversary of the international civil service, since the establishment of the first such service by the League of Nations, starts with the realisation that the power of principles is ultimately a greater guide of UN action than the principles of power. A return to principled action is necessary not only for the sake of the UN’s political relevance and moral authority but more urgently for the sake of the peoples of the world the UN is meant to protect from the vagaries of unprincipled power. Restoring the relevance and credibility of the UN Secretariat therefore requires that UN leaders and staff have conviction in the efficacy of adhering to UN principles and values, as well as the courage to act on that conviction.
Mona Ali Khalil is the Founder and Director of MAKLAW, an international legal advisory and consulting service, assisting governments and intergovernmental organisations to secure their legal rights and fulfill their legal obligations. She is a respected public international lawyer with 25 years of UN and other international experience.