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Security Threats, Challenges and Change: The UN Secretary General's High Level Panel

Notes for Introductory Presentation by Gareth Evans, UN Association of NZ/MFA Forum on UN and Global Security, Wellington, 1 September 2004

I. Genesis and Objectives of Panel

The appointment of the Panel last November was significantly influenced by three sets of considerations:

Fallout from Iraq war: as made clear by SG in his address to General Assembly in September 2003, a central reason for HLP appointment was concern that UN, and whole multilateral security system, was at crossroads, with resurgence of unilateralism and increasing willingness to bypass Security Council – how can we recover traction for cooperative internationalism.

Concern very strongly personally felt by SG that 'security' for most people in developing world is more about threats from poverty, disease and environmental breakdown than physical violence, that international system - despite the UN's charter focusing on development as much as peace - is not giving sufficient weight to these concerns or dealing effectively with them.

Need to have viable reform agenda for UN 60th anniversary summits in 2005, where focus of attention will be not just on immediate issues, but how the post-WWII international system, after six decades, should be reconfigured or redirected to deal with the challenges of the next 50 years or more.

In discussions with Panel, SG has made it very clear that he wants from the Panel not just generalised ideas and discussion but a succinct, sharply focused set of high-priority recommendations which, if he chooses to pursue them, are readily implementable and – if depending on the support of the Security Council and/or General Assembly - can be voted up or down.

The Panel sees its mandate, framed against this background, as being to:

analyse the major threats to security (human security as well as state security) the world faces in the 21st century, both new and old - the interconnections between them, and the extent to which they are common and require a common response;

evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of the collective action taken so far to prevent and respond to such threats; and

identify the key changes - policy and institutional - necessary for a more effective collective response to these major threats.

II. Membership and Methodology

International expectations of Panel’s report are high, and will be hard to meet. Hopefully its membership, very experienced and broad-based geographically, will be up to the task.

The Panel’s composition, announced by the Secretary-General on 4 November, is Anand Panyarachun (Chair)(Thailand), Robert Badinter (France), Joao Clemente Baena Soares (Brazil), Gro Harlem Bruntdland (Norway), Gareth Evans (Australia), Mary Chinery-Hesse (Ghana), David Hannay (UK), Enrique Iglesias (Uruguay), Amre Moussa (Egypt), Sadako Ogata (Japan), Satish Nambiar (India), Yevgeny Primakov (Russia), Qian Qichen (China), Nafis Sadiq (Pakistan), Salim Salim (Africa) and Brent Scowcroft (U.S.).

The Panel is due to report to the SG by 1 December 2004, and present indications are that we will make that deadline: but the group has only just begun to wrestle with detailed drafting language. It has met as a group on four occasions so far to work through the issues, for two or three days at a time (in New York in November 2003, in Geneva in February, in Addis Ababa in May, Vienna in July 2004) and is scheduled to meet at least twice more, in New York, before December. In addition sub-groups of the Panel have attended, or are in the process of attending, consultative seminars in most regions of the world.

Written submissions have been invited from governments and major intergovernmental organisations, and a number of research papers have been commissioned by the Panel’s research team, a well-qualified group led by Professor Stephen Stedman of Stanford. Papers on different topic have also been volunteered by many NGOs, academics and others. But on the whole the Panel has tended to rely not so much on a blizzard of documentation but its own collective knowledge of the issues, with its conclusions and recommendations being developed from very detailed working papers prepared – after initial general discussion – by the Panel’s staff.

A key issue for the Panel will be whether its recommendations should be confined to those which are realistically implementable within a short to medium term framework - or whether proposals should be advanced, knowing they are likely politically unachievable within that timeframe, for the purpose of longer term agenda setting. Probably some combination of the two will emerge, but the SG has made clear he wants the emphasis to be on the operationally deliverable rather than the intellectually or emotionally attractive (though he may not have put it in quite these terms).

Another key issue is whether the report will be a consensus one, or allow the possibility of minority dissents. At this stage, all one can say is that every possible effort will be made to reach consensus, to maximize the report's impact and likely acceptance, but the Panel is also conscious that the report will have little impact or utility if its recommendations are excessively diluted. Lowest common denominator blandness would in some areas certainly be the path of least resistance, but this would be a disappointing outcome and certainly not meet the SG’s expectations, or those of most others.

Another important presentational issue will be the length of the report. Everyone wants it to be succinct and highly readable - albeit not so abbreviated that arguments, conclusions and recommendations are inadequately persuasive. It is unlikely at this stage that bulky supporting material will be incorporated in appendices, or a supplementary volume: the Panel’s product will be the report itself.

At this stage not possible, or appropriate, to do more than hint at some of the approaches the Panel will be taking. But I will endeavour to give some of flavour as it has emerged so far, and some of the approaches likely to be taken by the Panel, at least as I read them, as we identify the security threats and challenges likely to be faced by the world over the next few decades, and the policy and institutional changes we believe are necessary to address them.

III. Identification of Threats and Challenges

The range of potential threats to peace and security addressed by the Panel will be broad, and (given the different resonance of different threats in different parts of the world, and the need for each country or region to recognize the extent to which threats resonate differently for others) no attempt will be made to rank them in some hierarchy of importance, or to place too much emphasis on the difference between so called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ threats. They are likely to be grouped under six broad headings:

threats from poverty, disease, environmental breakdown (the threats to human security identified in the Milennium Development Goals)

threats from conflict between states

threats from violence and massive human rights violations within states

threats from terrorism

threats from organized crime

threats from the proliferation of weapons - particularly WMD but also conventional

In addressing how these various threats are to be met, I expect the starting point will be that individual states are the primary, frontline actors - with responsibilities to their own people and each other, with the position being taken that the question arises of collective or cooperative international responsibility and action only

when problems are of such a nature that they cannot be effectively addressed by states acting alone

or states are unable or unwilling to meet their frontline responsibilities.

IV. Policy Change: Likely Panel Approach

The Panel will be trying to come up with strong – if not very numerous or detailed- policy recommendations for needed change in most of the areas we identify as threats. For areas where there is already a large body of developed policy thinking - eg the Millennium Development Goals relating to poverty and disease - the Panel will recognize that its value-added is likely to be limited and not attempt to reinvent the policy wheel: the emphasis here will be more on necessary institutional changes.

One important policy focus for the Panel will be the international rules, such as they now are, governing the use of military force, in the context both of interstate and intrastate conflict. There has been much recent international controversy about the rights and wrongs of using force – not just reactively, but pre-emptively or preventively - in situations of self-defence; action against states posing threats to others outside their borders; and action against states posing threats to their own people. I expect the Panel to be giving close consideration, among other things, to what those rules are, how they are and should be applied, and whether an effort should be made to identify agreed generally-criteria for the legitimate use of force, whatever the context.

The other major areas in which I would expect the Panel to be making sharply focused recommendations are:

WMD proliferation (focusing on both supply and demand side); and

terrorism (focusing on need for not just military/policing response but political/economic one: a key issue is state capacity and will).

V. Institutional Change: Likely Panel Approach

Panel exercise not about 'UN reform' in the narrow institutional sense: the canvas is broader, addressing the whole range of players (including the international financial institutions and regional organisations) that have key roles in the international system. That said, the report will undoubtedly have to address a number of institutional problems evident in the UN system, including the perceived unrepresentative structure of the Security Council, the cumbrous and dysfunctional character of much of the economic and social machinery, and the limited role and impact of the General Assembly: the focus throughout will not be on institutional change as such, but to the extent to which it is necessary for the international community to more effectively meet the threats we identify.

The major (but not only) areas in which I would expect the Panel to make explicit recommendations are:

the structure and operation of the UN Security Council (acknowledging the serious and growing legitimacy problem associated with its present membership);

institutional machinery for dealing with failed/failing/fragile states, both before and after conflict

institutional machinery for dealing with economic and social threats (acknowledging the dysfunctionality of present ECOSOC arrangements)

the role of regional organisations (acknowledging that most are not remotely well-enough resourced now to meet the increasing burden of expectations upon them.

Ultimately the Panel's report is for the Secretary General. It will not be published unless and until he authorises that, and it will be very much up to him as to what, if anything, he chooses to take forward into next year's many discussion arenas. But he, and increasingly the Panel members themselves, are conscious that this is an opportunity not to be missed for a fundamental and far-reaching re-evaluation of how far the international system has come, and where it now needs to go. I hope we don’t blow it.