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United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521515436)

United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security
Cambridge University Press
9780521515436 - United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security - By Peter G. Danchin and Horst Fischer
Excerpt

Introduction: the new collective security

Peter G. Danchin and Horst Fischer

Whether viewed as a socio-legal project gently civilizing states away from an older politics of diplomacy, deterrence, self-help and legitimate warfare,1 or as an institutional project establishing a collective security system premised on the rule of law,2 the primary purpose of the United Nations today remains the maintenance of international peace and security and the abolition of the “scourge of war.” During the four long decades of the Cold War, the practice of the Security Council was shaped, and often thwarted, by superpower deadlock and the paralysis of veto. In nine major interstate uses of force between 1956 and 1982, the Council played only a marginal role.3 But with the ebbing of the Cold War in the late 1980s, and with a revitalized Council unanimously condemning


Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the possibility of collective security arose anew.

The 1990s thus witnessed major shifts in multilateral efforts to maintain peace and security. Seemingly unnoticed, the permanent five began working together on major issues. The Security Council approved enforcement actions on a non-originalist interpretation of “threats to peace,” now read to include humanitarian considerations in principally internal conflicts. Following a modest record of authorizing force and employing sanctions, the Council greatly expanded its use of Chapter VII enforcement measures.4 And over the grave of the moribund Trusteeship Council, the UN resurrected a series of modern trusteeships in the form of transitional administrations.5 Bolstered by announcements of the End of History, confidence in the emergence of a “new world order” reached euphoric levels.6

Even during this period, however, there were warnings about the dark side of the end of Cold War “stability” and the volatile effects of economic and technological globalization. While security analysts warned of a chaotic world of rogue states and terrorists intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, political economists warned of a central paradox: economic globalization does not strengthen the current regime of global laissez-faire, but may in fact work to undermine it.7 These warnings coalesced with a shattering reality when in September 2001 a non-state


group operating from within a failed state appeared to turn the economic and military power of globalization against itself. In an instant, the world’s single remaining superpower and the UN collective security regime alike were presented with a moment of simultaneous opportunity and peril.

Perhaps as never before in history, a worldwide consensus emerged following the September 11 attacks for collective action against a perceived global threat. Within a day, the Security Council had adopted a resolution unequivocally condemning the attacks, declaring them a “threat to international peace and security” and recognizing the “inherent right of individual or collective self defense in accordance with the Charter.”8 By the end of the month, the Security Council had unanimously adopted a Chapter VII resolution directed towards combating terrorists and any states which “support, harbor, provide safe haven to, finance, supply weapons to, help recruit, or aid terrorists,” and requiring all member states to cooperate in a wide range of areas – from suppressing and financing of terrorism to providing early warning, cooperating in criminal investigations, and exchanging information on possible terrorist acts.9 Resolution 1373 quickly established a comprehensive legal framework, backed by Chapter VII enforcement power, for states to address the threat of international terrorism through mutual cooperation and coordination of their criminal justice systems.

At the same time, by October the United States had initiated actions against Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan asserting its “inherent right of individual and collective self-defense.” Thus was born the “Bush doctrine” – the


asserted right of a state to use military force in “self defense” against any state which aids, harbors, or supports international terrorists or terrorist organizations.10 Such an assertion of vigorous unilateralism posed two dangers, however, to the Charter-based collective security system. First, it suggested that when a state was the victim of a terrorist attack it was entitled to use military force in response (whether in the territory of other states or on its own territory) thus encouraging resort to violence rather than legal or other diplomatic measures short of the use of force. Second, it posited responses to international terrorism in an undefined new category beyond the traditional laws of war and peace paradigms thereby shifting the normative legal framework governing the conduct of states’ anti-terrorist activities, a matter with potentially far-reaching consequences for international law.11

It is now a matter of history that in March 2003 the US and its allies invaded Iraq, a member state of the United Nations, in order to disarm it and change the regime of Saddam Hussein. In the months leading up to the invasion, a bitter struggle ensued in the Security Council as a “coalition of the willing” sought to justify the use of force on the basis of preexisting resolutions,12 and a majority of member states – including a clear majority in the Council itself – insisted that, in the absence of express Security Council authorization,13 the case for war had not been established. As reflected in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States,14 the terrain of struggle was seen to have intensified and


shifted from the question of “preemptive” war in Afghanistan to the question of “preventive” war in Iraq. In this respect, the war was a challenge not merely to multilateral institutions, but to the very idea of international order and collective security: “The war split the Security Council, divided the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and prompted the creation of a high-level panel to rethink the very idea of collective security in a world dominated by US military power.”15

These developments shook the United Nations and leading capitals around the world. Now visible to all was the tension between two competing visions of world order. On the one hand stood the old ideal of multilateral cooperation and collective security – a form of international politics defined by legal liberalism and premised on the Grundnorm of sovereign equality. On the other hand stood the world’s undisputed military and economic superpower projecting an imperial political morality based on a good/evil dichotomy which divided the world into a Great Power patrolling a civilized core of democratic nations against a periphery of rogue states and non-state outlaws.16

Unsurprisingly, the stark incompatibility between these two visions prompted calls for reform within the United Nations. These calls encompassed two dimensions of the problem: one normative, the other institutional. First, was the structure of the Charter itself, and the body of international law on which it depends, still the correct framework by which to view and assess new and emerging threats in a post-September 11 world? Second, how could the 1945 UN peace and security architecture be made to work more effectively to respond to new threats and lessen the impetus for powerful states to “go it alone”?

As the post-invasion chaos of the Iraq War unfolded, these questions prompted Kofi Annan to convene in late 2003 a “high-level panel of eminent persons” charged with assessing current threats to peace and security, evaluating existing policies and institutions, and making recommendations for strengthening the UN “so it can provide collective security for all in the twenty-first century.”17 Having already set in


motion an ambitious development agenda,18 this would be followed in March 2005 with the Secretary-General’s own In Larger Freedom report which joined human rights to the preexisting security and development agendas and, in sweeping and ambitious terms, attempted to establish the agenda for the upcoming sixtieth General Assembly and planned Summit of Heads of State in September 2005.19 The Summit, in turn, would generate a report which selectively adopted certain proposals of the High-Level Panel and Secretary-General.20

This most recent of efforts to vanquish war and power politics through international law and organization is the subject of the chapters of this volume. The overarching questions the authors address are whether there is a compelling argument for a new collective security agenda, whether the eminent ones dreamed the right dreams and saw the right nightmares, and whether normatively and institutionally we are in fact moving towards a new collective security paradigm.

Structure of the volume

The book is organized in four parts, each part considering a contested element in the UN reform process. Part I addresses the impetus for and likely future success of institutional reform efforts and considers the place of international law in competing conceptions of collective security. Part II interrogates the concept of a “threat” to collective security and asks how such threats are to be addressed (and who decides). This analysis includes the questions of massive and systematic violations of human rights and so-called “nonmilitary” threats in areas such as the environment, disease, and technology. Part III analyzes the collective security innovations and potential limitations of the newly created Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council, and asks how inclusive participation is in these new international institutions. Given


current and proposed conceptions of collective security, each chapter in this part then addresses the likely responses to urgent issues such as state failure, massive human rights violations, the activities of rogue states and non-state actors as regards terrorism and weapons proliferation, and attempts to hold perpetrators to account for violations of international law. Finally, Part IV concludes by asking how any new collective security regime will relate to and influence developments on the ground as viewed from the perspectives of humanitarian practitioners and actors.

Law and politics in United Nations reform

In September 2003, following the United States’ invasion of Iraq earlier that year, Kofi Annan forcefully addressed the UN General Assembly and argued that the international community had come to a “fork in the road”:

This may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded. At that time, a group of far-sighted leaders, led and inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were determined to make the second half of the twentieth century different from the first half. They saw that the human race had only one world to live in, and that unless it managed its affairs prudently, all human beings may perish. So they drew up rules to govern international behavior, and founded a network of institutions, with the United Nations at its centre, in which the peoples of the world could work together for the common good.

Annan thus suggested that we “face a decisive moment, in particular for the aspiration set out in the Charter to provide collective security for all.” While pointing to deep divisions among states on the nature of threats to peace and security and the appropriateness of the use of force, he challenged member states to make the UN more effective.21

This is perhaps unsurprising. Major reforms in the international system have been driven historically by crisis, whether the creation of a League of Nations after the First World War or the founding of a United Nations after the Second World War.22 But what kind of moment was


this exactly? What kind of political space, consensus, and will was there among states for major changes to the international security architecture? What is now evident is that, rather than being the kind of moment following a catastrophe of sufficient gravity as to open political space for normative and institutional reformation, this reform cycle has been driven primarily by concerns about the role of the world’s single superpower in the organization and, conversely, by US concerns regarding how best to protect and project its strategic and political interests.

To some at least, the post-Iraq invasion period presented the third great opportunity after the creation of the League and UN itself to get the “international order right.” Gareth Evans, for example, the former Australian Foreign Minister and himself an eminent one, suggested that if the reform attempts failed this time “we might just be putting the same death sentence on the United Nations as was put upon the League of Nations by the utter failure of political statesmanship in the 1930s.”23 But to others, calls for radical changes were simply unrealistic in the wake of six decades of largely frustrated reform efforts. Professor Edward Luck, for example, has suggested that the organization has survived because of its capacity to make corrections and take on new agendas as the needs and values of its member states shift. It has adopted formal reforms, however, with great reluctance.24 Furthermore, the Secretary-General’s call for reform represented a serious misdiagnosis of the problems facing the UN.25

Still for others, especially those in the American foreign policy establishment, the solution was to be found elsewhere in new forms of “competitive multilateralism.” Ruth Wedgwood thus argued that if the UN cannot reform, the US should rely more on regional organizations


that can deliver where the UN cannot or will not. As one example she advocated abandoning the search for consensus with “political thugs” at the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the provision of more US support to regional human rights organizations and groups. In this way, the stark choice between “going it alone or going to the United Nations” could be avoided.26

What is clear, however, is that anxiety resulting from US ambivalence over, and indeed outright hostility toward, the UN undergirded many of the calls for change.27 This is visible in the Secretary-General’s In Larger Freedom report which targets Washington overtly by invoking Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” and echoing FDR’s call for leaders to have “the courage to fulfill [their] responsibilities in an admittedly imperfect world.”28 The same sentiment literally bursts out of a controversial speech delivered in mid-2006 by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, warning that without US leadership the UN’s ability to respond to the increasing challenges the world is facing was weakened, and vice versa.29


What is perhaps more curious, however, is that while the Panel’s imagined collective security consensus is justified by the emergence of new threats, its report strongly reaffirms the preexisting multilateral framework and normative structure. It is also important to note that most of the recommendations the Panel did make were either substantially watered down through the intergovernmental process, or did not make it at all into the 2005 World Summit Outcome document. This tripartite sequence of idealistic Panel recommendations, policy endorsement or repackaging by the Secretary-General, and political rejection at the World Summit, can be traced in a number of areas.

Both the Panel Report and In Larger Freedom discuss in some detail the connections between economic and social issues on the one hand, and security on the other. Under the rubric of “freedom from want,” for example, the Secretary-General discusses expansively the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income for developed states in official development assistance by 2015, and the need for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. This builds on the Panel’s endorsement of the MDGs and its call (at least indirectly) for a reduction in agricultural subsidies by the developed countries.30 After fierce resistance by the US, the 2005 World Summit Outcome document finally did endorse the MDG goals but set no new commitments toward reaching the 0.7 percent target.

The Panel also looked critically at the role of the UN in ending civil conflicts, and in particular its failure to halt ethnic cleansing and genocide. In order to prevent and minimize future conflicts, the Panel broadly endorsed the use of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the Security Council, suggested mechanisms to better govern the management of natural resources for countries emerging from or at risk of conflict, and called for better controls on small arms. The Summit Outcome document, however, makes no reference to the ICC, makes no connection between natural resource extraction and conflict, and fails to endorse the arms control recommendations of the Panel.

But perhaps the greatest disappointment of the Summit was its failure to reach agreement on disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), despite the unambiguous call from both the Panel and Secretary-General for nuclear-weapons states to honor their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to move towards disarmament.31 This omission was due mainly to US opposition to the linking of non-proliferation to disarmament. The Summit also failed to establish a definition of terrorism while calling plaintively for a comprehensive terrorism convention.32 On the nexus between WMD and terrorism then, the Summit Outcome document – influenced by the politics surrounding the “global war on terrorism” – focused almost entirely on the question of weapons falling into the wrong hands rather than their continued presence in and threatened use by those with the right hands.33




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