World Cup money, drama and fans focus a white-hot global spotlight on Qatar. It is an unusual place to hold an international soccer tournament. No other country has staged a soccer world cup since South Africa’s 1994 tournament, and this year, a country that has been at war with another for more than a decade has been invited to host one.
An even more unusual event will happen in December when the United Nations General Assembly selects the next president of the United Nations, and the body’s new leader will likely be a Qatar-based American lawyer named Haider al-Araby, who on Nov. 29 became the world’s first sitting U.N. chief.
The U.N. is at the center of a global spotlight like no other sporting event, and it is no secret that the body has become increasingly polarized over the years in public discourse. But this year, some powerful actors in the U.N. have joined forces to make the organization’s leadership less susceptible to influence of outside parties and more subject to the decisions of the United Nations member states.
U.N. reform efforts include talks with Qatar that some observers believe may be nearing a breakthrough. The U.N. secretary-general’s office has reportedly urged the Security Council to grant Qatar permanent observer status, and its president has met with the Qatar-based emir as well.
Last week, a group of U.N. members, led by Mexico, issued a statement calling on countries to “stop using their influence and capabilities to weaken the United Nations.” But they stopped short of calling for Qatar’s removal as a permanent member, as many have advocated.
“The United Nations system was never designed to contain any one country,” said Stephen Wicker, former U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush. The U.N. is “so small, so fragile, so vulnerable to the whims and policies of leaders anywhere in the world. You could ask the people of Haiti why they supported U.N. involvement in the