Global and Regional Security: Our Shared Responsibility
Annual Day Lecture, by Hon Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, 15 December 2004.
I have to say that I approach this evening with a slight mixture of emotions. It’s always a huge pleasure to be back in India and to be talking to members of the Delhi policy community, but on the other hand, this is one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable policy communities anywhere in the world and I know that I’m going to be kept on my toes with no allowances being made whatsoever for my totally jetlagged and zapped out condition. The other pleasure of the evening is of course being invited to give this lecture by Dipankar Banerjee, for whom and whose organisation I have the utmost respect. But it did put me under a little pressure to have me give this talk under the watchful gaze of Satish Nambiar, sitting there in the front row, who of course is a great friend and has been a wonderful colleague for the last twelve months on the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, but whose territory of course I’m invading by talking here in Delhi about this report and its recommendations, and under whose beady eye I’m going to be watched very closely indeed through the course of the evening.
Ambassador Gonsalves mentioned Australians: I’m actually a kind of Australian in exile these days, and suspect I will remain so, in Europe, until such time as life gets a little bit more attractive back down south. But one Australian who doesn’t have my capacity to evade things is our new High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy, who has just arrived ten days ago from a very senior posting in Japan. May I assure you, from my very long personal and professional association with John, that he’s a wonderful advocate for Australia and a first class diplomat.
Well, all of us in this international relations business, whether we come at it as diplomats or as think tank members or as conflict prevention NGOs like my own International Crisis Group, or as political policy makers, inevitably spend nearly all our time focusing on particular situations, particular countries, particular regions, particular conflicts or problems. It’s in the nature of things that most of the time, as someone once said about the common law, we are dealing with a wilderness of single instances.
But every now and then the opportunity arises, or the need arises, to think rather more broadly about the patterns and shapes of international relations and the way in which we deal with the problems of the world around us. This has happened now, with both an opportunity and a need created.
The opportunity is of course next year’s sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations, with all the summit meetings and focus on how far we’ve come and how far we need to go to have an effective global institutional security system.
The need arises as a result of the events of the last few years with which we’re all deeply familiar: the resurgence of unilateralism in the world, the increasing willingness to bypass the Security Council, associated also with a willingness to assert a right to much more wide-ranging preventive use of self-defence power than has previously been acknowledged. All of this has put the United Nations, and indeed the whole multilateral system, under a lot of strain. As Kofi Annan said in that very well-known speech to the General Assembly last year, we really are facing a “fork in the road”, in terms of the future of the collective response to security problems.
It was essentially to make the case for taking one particular route - to recover credibility for collective security, to recover traction for cooperative internationalism, rather than unilateralism and all the dangers that that implies - that the High-Level Panel was formed, and Satish and I found ourselves confronting this enormous task of trying to weld consensus out of a very very disparate group of by-and-large very senior and experienced people.
Well, how well did we succeed? What did we come up with? The first thing to say about our report is that it is not Winston Churchill’s pudding. Churchill once famously remarked of a dessert put in front of him, “This pudding has no theme.” Well, unlike that pudding, there was a theme running through our report, one with a number of inter-related dimensions.
First, the security threats faced in the world of 2005 are very different from those of 1945, reaching far beyond the pre-occupation then with one class of threat, states waging aggressive war.
Secondly, the threats of the twenty-first century are large, real, and inter-connected. They affect all of us around the world to at least some extent, even if their resonance, or impact, does vary with power, wealth and geography.
Thirdly, although sovereign states do and must remain the primary actors with the front-line responsibility to deal with twenty-first century security threats, those threats by their very nature are beyond the capacity and sometimes the will of any one state acting alone to deal with – they are our shared responsibility.
Fourthly, to exercise that shared responsibility requires a new consensus about the scope and the meaning of collective security.
Finally, an effective, efficient, and equitable collective security system for the twenty-first century requires both a number of changes of policy approach and a number of institutional changes.
In pursuing that theme the Panel identifies the threats in question; identifies those of them where collective action is particularly needed and when; identifies and analyses the effectiveness of that collective action, such as it’s been, in past years; and it identifies necessary policy changes and institutional changes. The Report comes up with a total of 101 recommendations. Some people think that’s rather too many, but that sounds to me a little like Emperor Joseph’s response to Mozart’s first opera in Vienna : “No doubt a very fine piece of music, Mr Mozart, but too many notes.”
I don’t think there are too many notes when you look at the way our report is constructed. Certainly I think it’s fair to say that the general response around the world has been very positive – one recurring theme being that it has exceeded expectations, most unusual for a commission report, which usually fails to satisfy them.
So what do we say about the nature of the threats that are involved? We suggest that there are six main baskets of threats the world has to deal with.
First there is the continuing problem of war between states, albeit a diminished one, mercifully, by comparison with decades gone by. Secondly, there is the problem of wars and violent conflict within states. Next, there is the question of proliferation and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons: nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological. Then there are the problems of terrorism, and organised international crime. And not least there are the Millennium Development Goal problems, if you like – the big ones of poverty, disease and environmental degradation; the pure human security problems.
A recurring theme running through our analysis of those problems, explaining the particular resonance and reality of many of them, is the issue of states under stress - failed, failing, fragile states – an issue that we’re really only recognising now as a generic problem that needs some generic solution, rather than just particular policy solutions in particular subject areas. In that context the report does place a lot of attention on the necessity for effective development policy and effective development commitment as the first line of response for a collective security system that takes prevention seriously. Kofi Annan, in his introduction to our report, I think expresses the substance of what we’re saying throughout the report in this respect very nicely when he says that:
Development and security are inextricably linked. A more secure world is only possible if poor countries are given a real chance to develop. Extreme poverty and infectious diseases threaten many people directly, but they also provide a fertile breeding ground for other threats, including civil conflict. Even people in rich countries will be more secure if their governments help poor countries to defeat poverty and disease by meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
For each one of the threats in question, what we do, after describing them, is essentially recommend a continuum of solutions, with a strong emphasis throughout on prevention: from more effective early warning, through proactive, preventive non-military action, to the use of force, albeit as a last resort and subject to multiple other constraints, to a more sustained and durable system of post-conflict peace-building. Of course the nature of those recommendations varies with the nature of the threat, but that’s the general approach – with a very strong emphasis, as you would hope and expect, on prevention.
What do we say about meeting the challenge of prevention? Let me deal with just three classes of threats: war within and between states; the weapons issue; and the terrorism issue.
As to war within and between states, there is a necessity, for a start, to have better and more effective regulatory frameworks and legal regimes, whether we’re talking about disarmament or resources regimes, regional security organisations, international legal regimes generally, or judicial regimes like the International Criminal Court (our song here is not likely to be music to Washington’s ears: we say very clearly that the creation of the Court is a good thing, and the Security Council should actually stand ready to use the authority it has under the Rome Statute to refer cases to it).
We also talk in this preventive context about better information and analysis, recognising that much of the burden of providing that has been borne in recent years by organisations like my own International Crisis Group rather than by the international institutions themselves: that must change – there can’t just be a reliance on fringe dwellers! Preventive diplomacy, mediation, more effective professional mediation through better-trained and generally better-chosen special representatives and envoys – are all parts of the proposals that we spell out here. We also talk here about the virtues of preventive deployment: the utilisation of military resources for purely preventive purposes has really only happened once – in Macedonia – in the last decade, but it was very successful and gives us some ideas about the future.
In the context of the proliferation and use of the most dangerous weapons, what we’re talking about here is essentially a four-layered approach demanding attention not only to the supply-side issues – curbing the availability of fissile material and technology and so on – but also the demand-side; with better strategies to enforce verification and the necessity to back up other measures with properly-working international regimes of this kind and resources deployed in support of them; and finally, as a fourth layer, better public health defences, which are critical in particular for biological warfare, given the almost-certain incapacity we have to effectively deal preventively with that phenomenon on any significant scale. Public health defences of course link in to what we’re saying elsewhere about disease prevention and eradication: one of the many examples of the inter-connectedness of global security threats.
On the nuclear issue, we do express our anxiety in this report about a possible cascade of proliferation facing the world in the years ahead, notwithstanding the reasonable success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (for all its well-known limitations), to curb things for the last few decades. As I have already indicatedl, our report does not just focus, as you might expect, on the supply-side constraints: filling the hole, so-called, in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, expressing support for the Proliferation Security Initiative, and various other containment operations that are being mounted around the world at the moment. We have a lot to say also about the need to address seriously the demand-side of the problem. That means recognising the reality that a number of states around the world that are minded to go down the nuclear route do so for reasons that have to do with quite genuine fears about their own security situation which need to be sensibly and intelligently addressed by everyone else. But we also talk, in this context, about the way in which the double standards that so far have been inherent in the nuclear regime themselves constitute an incentive for demand, something you know all about on the subcontinent here. There is impatience and dissatisfaction around the world with a permanent two-tier system of haves and have-nots: those who are allowed to do almost anything, it seems, and those that are not allowed to do anything. And that’s not a very satisfactory situation for curbing a problem that we all know is a reality. The language about all of this is quite clear in the report, one which here had the unanimous consensus of all its members, including a very senior United States representative, Brent Scowcroft. It is very important that we’ve been able to say these things and say them clearly, and hopefully it will have an impact.
On the subject of terrorism, the international media has focused on our proposed new definition – a very important issue if the UN system and the treaty system associated with it is to carry the normative clout that it must, in building a worldwide response to this problem. We were able to agree, with all our different backgrounds, on a definition of terrorism the bottom line of which is that it is constituted by violent action against civilians or other non-combatants for essentially political motives. The definition is contextualised by referring to the Geneva Conventions and other constraints that exist on state misuse of power and so on: the fact that we were able, while to touching these bases, to come up with that bottom line is, I think, a major contribution, given the years of stalemated argument that have prevailed in the UN to date.
Perhaps an even more important part of our report dealing with terrorism was to say that there must be a comprehensive policy approach. It’s not just a matter of policing, its not just a matter of intelligence, its not just a matter in extremis of military action: it is a matter of addressing underlying root causes, and in particular of addressing some of the political grievances that are so clearly at the heart of much of this contemporary phenomenon that is troubling us all so much.
Moving on from the various preventive policy responses that we suggest, we come to the section of the report that deals with the use of force : one of the motivating issues for Kofi Annan putting this Panel together in the first place, because of the global anxiety about the phenomenon of unilateralism, and the risks that seems to be posing for maintaining a credible and coherent international system of collective security.
In addressing this complex issue we distinguished, very carefully, arguments about legality from arguments about legitimacy. It’s one thing to say you have the authority to use force, but it’s quite another thing to say that even with that formal legal authority you should use force, as a matter of common sense and as a matter of morality. They’re separate issues, and they need to be kept conceptually separate.
What we say about the legal issues, very importantly, is that the scope of self-defence is actually limited. It’s no greater than it has traditionally been acknowledged to be. Article 51 of the UN Charter says you can act in self-defence without going to the Security Council in the case of actual armed attack, and that has always, for all practical purposes, been construed (as it has been in customary international law for 200 years) as extending not only to actual attack, but imminently apprehended attack. When you’ve got armed forces massed on the other side of the canal and about to fire the first shot, you don’t have to wait to be blitzed before you can respond: that has traditionally been understood to be the case, and we certainly say that should be part of an accepted understanding of Article 51 self-defence. To that extent – that limited extent – pre-emptive self-defence is legitimate.
But the legitimacy runs out if you choose to rely on self-defence to respond militarily to something which is not an imminent threat, but a distant threat. It might be real, but if its distant, you lose the authority to rely, unilaterally, on Article 51 self-defence. If someone is building a nuclear reactor which you think is going to make bombs directed at you, there might be scope, there might be necessity, there might be the desirability, for someone, somewhere, to take military action against that. But you cannot go down the path of saying that’s a legitimate matter of self-defence. For any one country to be able to interpret the right of self-defence so broadly is to open the gates for everyone to do the same, and that way lies anarchy. And the language of our report is really very clear and very stark on that particular issue.
The other side of the coin is to say that for any other use of force whatsoever - whether it’s in the context of so-called preventive self-defence; or whether in the more usual and familiar context of action to deal with external threats generally; or whether it’s in the context that became so familiar to us, particularly in the ‘90s and beyond, of internal human rights catastrophes, raising the case for humanitarian intervention – what we say in all of these cases is that Chapter VII of the UN Charter fully empowers the Security Council, and nobody else but the Security Council, to authorise the use of force: to authorise it preventively, reactively, in relation to external threats, or in relation to internal threats in the exercise of the concept of the responsibility to protect. We say very clearly that the power is there, the legal authority is there, for the Security Council to so act. It is not there for anyone else. By extension, there’s a small role for regional organisations under Chapter VIII, but even there, they have to come back to the Security Council and receive authorisation for any military action that might be taken in a regional context in the exercise of that role. So the Security Council remains centre-front.
But, of course, that’s not the end of the argument. That’s only the legality side of the argument – and there’s always a question about legitimacy: the common sense and the morality of legal action. And here the contribution the group has made is, I think, a very important one, because what we’ve done is to identify five criteria of legitimacy for any authorisation by the Security Council, and by extension any individual country making a decision itself to go to war.
The first criterion is seriousness of the threat: is the threat of harm to state or human security of a kind sufficiently clear and serious to justify, prima facie, the use of military force? In the specific case of internal threats – the so-called humanitarian intervention situation – we raise the bar deliberately higher, and ask does the threat in question involve genocide or other large-scale killing, does it involve ethnic cleansing or serious violations of international humanitarian law, either actual or imminently apprehended? This threshold criterion of seriousness of course implies that evidence will be produced to justify the claim in question.
The second criterion is proper purpose: is it clear that the primary purpose of the proposed military action is actually to halt or avert the threat in question, whatever other purposes or motives might be involved? Often there are other purposes, other motives: often countries need those other motives in order to mobilise their populations in support of what might otherwise may be unpopular action. But the primary motive must, we say, be to actually halt or avert the threat in question. True it may well have been the case historically that if Kuwait had produced only bananas and not oil, it might have been much more difficult to mobilise an international constituency in 1991 to establish the principle of collective response to cross-border aggression. Nonetheless, the primary purpose of that response was manifestly to deal with the threat posed by Iraq’s aggression, and it would clearly satisfy that test.
The third criterion is last resort: has every non-military option for meeting the threat in question been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing that other measures won’t succeed? It is not a matter of saying that you actually have to work your way through, as a practical, physical matter, every other possible option; it’s a matter of asking have the options been explored and whether there are reasonable grounds for believing other measures simply wouldn’t succeed.
The fourth criterion is proportionality: is the scale, the duration, the intensity of the proposed military action the minimum necessary to meet the threat in question? Fairly self-evident, perhaps, but worth stating.
Finally, there is the very important criterion of balance of consequences: is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the threat in question, with the consequences of the action not being likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction? I don’t think you need me to take you through how that criterion might conceivably have been objectively applied, with what results, in some recent military adventures.
We say these criteria should be adopted as guidelines by the Security Council in a formal declaratory resolution, and adopted indeed by the General Assembly. The point about them, and we say this in so many words, is not that they will produce, with push-button inevitability, specific outcomes on every contested argument for military action that comes along. Of course there will be national interests in play and all sorts of reasons why states will come up with other arguments, with results that are not always very clear, not always agreed. The argument that we make is that the virtue of having criteria articulated of this kind, with states asking these questions of each other and not being able to hide and duck and weave and only argue one case and not address the other issues, is that over time it will create much more likelihood of consensus being achieved both as to what are the proper cases to go to war, and what are the proper cases not to go to war. And if that consensus is achievable, there’ll be much less likelihood that states will want to bypass the Security Council entirely and put at risk the whole collective security system.
Maybe it is wildly optimistic to think that any of this can happen, but an awful lot of things can happen over time if you change the norms, if you change the language, if you change the expectations of countries of each other. If you just get the press asking over and over again, the same questions, and the right questions for once, you might conceivably get better international behaviour.
We do go on, in the context of the discussion of the use of force to talk about resource issues, questions of capability, questions of mandate, questions of civilian protection, questions of regional cooperation and support, they’re all there in the report. And we have some rather tough things to say about those countries – we don’t mention them by name – who are quite willing to sign up in principle to a lot of these things, but are not very good at putting the physical resources there to back that. We address the issue, in this context, about reserve capability, stand-by capability – the whole question of whether or not it is possible, as desirable as it might be in principle, to have standing capability to deal with fire-brigade type responses that may become necessary.
I have left institutional reform to last. Of course, in the minds of many people reading the Indian press it would I think appear as if we had only one thing to say in the report – institutional reform of the Security Council. It is important, I think, to put this in context. They were an important set of recommendations, but by no means our only ones.
What we say about the Security Council, in a nutshell, is that you can’t go on having a situation where the Security Council of 2005 and beyond is that created on the basis of the world as it was in 1945. One commentator said that its really worse than just 1945, in that what you have among the permanent members at the moment are two nineteenth-century powers, Britain and France, two twentieth-century powers, the US and Russia, and only one twenty-first century power, China. That might be putting it a little bit harshly, but clearly not to have an India, a Brazil, any African country, a Japan, is to have a Security Council that is not remotely representative of the balances of credible power, authority, and contribution, in the world as it is today.
So we say there has to be structural reform to make the Security Council a credible, legitimate institution. We don’t say this in so many words in the report, but I’ve said it certainly to plenty of P5 members: you might enjoy very much all the power and authority you seem to have at the moment; but its going to be a diminishing asset, if the Security Council stays unreformed in terms of its composition, because you’re just not going to have the rest of the world prepared, decade after decade, to accede to the kind of authority that you are wielding.
So the question how do you broaden it out? We came up with two models, each involving an increase in total membership from fifteen to twenty-four, and did not seek to choose between them: we identify the general criteria that ought to be applicable to anyone who would wish to join the Security Council, in terms of either financial contribution or military contribution or diplomatic contribution, and say there are two models that would advance this. Each of them has different supporters, but from a purely objective view, each of them would do the job of significantly improving the present situation.
Model A is to create six new permanent seats, divided two for Asia and the Pacific, two for Africa, one for Europe, and one for the Americas. No veto power is associated with them – a matter that’s been of some controversy, I understand, here in India, but let me tell you in words of one syllable, that there is no market anywhere internationally, apart from the immediate aspirants for ascension to heaven, for extension of the veto beyond the present five. Lots of people would like to see the veto reduced from the existing five, but that’s where realpolitik, I’m afraid, runs the other way. To try to do that would be to run the whole exercise into the sand, for reasons with which I think we’re all familiar.
Model B, the other alternative, is not to have new permanent members but to have a new group of four-year renewable members – eight of them, in fact: two from each of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, who would notionally be the major players, but with some greater opportunity for negotiation, discussion, when the elections came round within the groups, to allow some of the second-tier countries also a place in the sun. This may prove have broader political credibility – that remains to be tested – given that a change in the Security Council composition will of course be a difficult challenge, requiring that not only all five existing powers not veto it, and do domestically make the necessary treaty changes to the Charter, but also that there is a two-thirds majority on the same basis in the General Assembly. And that’s a pretty tough hurdle to overcome, as you can imagine.
The basic thing is that, for the first time, a debate that has ground on for nearly twenty years in New York, utterly directionless in terms of the probability of bringing it to any kind of conclusion – now can focus around two clear, self-contained models. Everybody seems to be reasonably content to conduct the debate within the parameters of those two models, so I think there’s a very good chance of one or other of them succeeding in the next little while.
Other institutional changes that we recommend include the creation of one brand-new institution, a Peacebuilding Commission, the idea of this being to address very specifically the generic problem of failed, failing, and fragile states under stress that I referred to at the outset, particularly but not only in the context of post-conflict peace-building. The idea is to create a new structure as a subordinate authority of the Security Council – that doesn’t mean it has to have the same membership as the Security Council: it just means it has the authority, it’s created by the Council with its authority – which would in fact bring together the relevant UN organs and agencies, the relevant major donors, including the Bank, the Fund, relevant regional organisations, and relevant bilateral donors, to address in a systematic, coherent, focused, sustained way the full range of policy responses to state fragility and failure that we’re now so familiar with. It would be structured with a kind of variable geometry, meeting from time to time to discuss high policy issues, perhaps debt relief and things of this kind, with the Secretary-General himself, the President of the World Bank, for example, present at the meeting, but most of the time operating with a particular structure designed to be appropriate for the particular country or regional situation that the commission is dealing with.
We have quite a bit to say on other institutions within the international system. As to ECOSOC, I’m afraid we don’t meet the expectations and hopes of a lot of people that we would come up with support for an ‘economic security council’. We thought that was just a no-go in terms of winning support for a body with real executive authority, dealing with international economic policy on any kind of broad front: the truth of the matter is that that game has been lost over the years to bodies like the IMF, the WTO, and perhaps even the G20 as well when it comes to macro policy coordination. Perhaps the only thing that can be recaptured for ECOSOC, and we ought to try hard to do just this, is to make it the pre-eminent development cooperation forum, bringing together people at the highest level – including heads of state, which is something that hasn’t happened for years - to address these questions of development cooperation strategy overall, and the inter-linkages between trade and finance and environment and economic and social issues.
The Commission on Human Rights is another dysfunctional institution within the international family at the moment, with endless political squabble and not much product from it in terms of international pressure to improve human rights situations. We argue here not for the creation of stringent new criteria for country membership of the Commission, which we think would just generate a whole new class of political squabbling as to who would be enjoying these fruits, but universal membership, reflecting the reality that everybody comes along to the meetings anyway. We say that the focus should be on working hard to create new practices and procedures which will turn it into a genuinely professional, expert and respected body rather than the political chicken coop it is at the moment.
We say quite a lot about the Secretariat itself, and the need for support, right across the peace and security spectrum, for the Secretary-General. We argue for the creation of a new Deputy Secretary-General’s office. There is one such position already, pre-occupied very much with development and internal administration issues, and we say that the combination of peacekeeping, political affairs, peace operations, the operation of the Peacebuilding Commission, and all the things that we’re recommending about information and analysis capability within the Secretariat, with much better support across the spectrum of these issues, demands a recognition of the reality of the workload involved, and some re-organisation.
We argue for a competent and professional Secretariat. We argue for a one-off buy-out for people whose approaching retirement could perhaps be accelerated, enabling a much greater flexibility in the restaffing of the organisation. We argue for much greater management flexibility on the part of the Secretary-General, who must be the most micro-managed chief executive in any international or any commercial organisation anywhere in the world, in the sense that the board of directors – the General Assembly committee – determines just about the allocation of every item of expenditure and which body goes where. The chief executive of an organisation ought to have the capacity, we say, to put people where they’re needed – and then be fully accountable, fully transparent in those decisions, subject to a full auditing exercise thereafter.
Finally on institutions, the report makes a number of recommendations aimed at the better functioning of regional security organisations, like the African Union, in particular to ensure better support for them by countries in a position to offer it, and better coordination with other institutions in the collective security system. To some extent the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ runs through the report – the notion that more responsibility is going to have to be exercised both by individual states and regional bodies, though not as an excuse for any abdication of responsibility where necessary by global security institutions.
Nothing is directly said about South Asia in this context, but there are a number of issues in this region about the application of shared responsibility which are on all our minds, and certainly on mine as president of the International Crisis Group. Let me briefly open up for discussion three of them.
Afghanistan is a case where the international community has more or less fully accepted the responsibility for a collective security response to the problem of rescuing this failed state: establishing security, establishing the viability of the new system there. But one has to say, looking at it coldly and objectively, that the international community’s collective security response to Afghanistan has been so far something less than a triumphant success. Its fair to say the Presidential election went much better than many of us feared that it would, but its also fair to say that the parliamentary and district, provincial, local elections that are imminently due and already been long delayed, are going to be a rather different kettle of fish. And there’s certainly reason for anxiety about the role of the warlords, and the insufficient extent to which the internationals - through ISAF, through NATO - have in fact met expectations of providing the necessary transitional security presence.
There’s also a very real issue about the extent to which anything useful has been done to control the emergence of Afghanistan all over again as a narco-state. There is certainly an enormous necessity for a strategy for drug control: Crisis Group argues for one based on alternative livelihoods, law enforcement, interdiction and eradication, in that order. But that is a task that has barely been attempted by the international community. So here is one example, at least, of a full-fledged notional commitment by the international community for something to be done - for collective operations of one kind or another, by regional organisations of one kind or another - but it is not being done very well.
In the case of Kashmir, we have a situation where there has been a resolute refusal, certainly on the part of one major party, to embrace any role for the larger international community – the UN or anyone else – but where there may just, at last, be some limping but highly positive movement toward a lasting and sustainable resolution of a hitherto intractable problem. This is one area in which my own organisation, Crisis Group, has acted somewhat out of character – we often propose, e.g. in relation to Israel-Palestine, big-bang solutions and end-game first approaches, rejecting incrementalism and one-step-at-a-time solutions. But here, knowing as much as we think we do about the history of this particular dispute and conflict, and recognising the extent to which there has been, in the past, the successive collapse of more ambitious attempts at big-bang solutions, we actually think that the very cautious approach that has been adopted by the Indian Government, and more or less embraced by the Pakistanis – involving a step-by-step confidence building right across a spectrum of inter-related issues - is the appropriate way to go.
There are plenty of grounds for confidence that all this is moving in the right direction at the moment. Much more can be said about what more needs to be done on either side – in particular, dealing with the problems of the Kashmiris themselves, which tend to have been rather neglected in so much of the larger diplomacy and enterprise, but let me stop there, identifying Kashmir as an example of a problem that may, after years and years of being awfully dealt with, and creating all the wars that we can all so well remember, just be getting there - and without more formal collective security arrangements.
The third regional case worth opening up the discussion is Nepal, which I have just visited for three days . Here there has been real resistance to any kind of outside involvement, not only in full-fledged mediation, but even in subtler facilitation, and I would suggest there may be a case for rethinking about this. I have to say that, after meeting a wide cross section in Nepal, from the political leaderships, to people right across the community spectrum, to some of the participants in the fighting, we have a situation which is really very depressing. The continuation of war is increasingly ugly and creating increasingly unhappy flow-over consequences, certainly for this country, but it’s a war that is unwinnable by either side. You also have an intractably dysfunctional democracy there, where the parties have had enormous difficulty in presenting themselves as an effectively governing alternative. And you have the king, supported very much by the military in this context, who seems all too intent on exercising much more power in the exercise of his role than the great majority of his population are now or are ever likely to be comfortable with - perhaps by so doing helping to protract the military conflict and inhibiting the emergence of some effective and united parliamentary forces.
That’s a pretty bleak assessment of the situation, I know, and it’s one that demands some circuit-breaker somewhere. It may be that that circuit-breaker can come internally, by one or other of the constitutional strategies – new elections, reinstated parliament, and so on – that are being talked about, but maybe, just maybe, its going to need some international involvement as well. We know India has offered its services in this respect. There’s a certain reluctance to embrace that in Nepal, but equally, India’s reluctance to allow anyone else to play a role has perhaps been an unnecessarily inhibiting factor.
These particular conflict situations – the ones I’ve mentioned, and others as well – were not part of the brief of the High-Level Panel to resolve. But what we did say, in the covering letter that went with our report, was this:
No amount of systemic changes to the way the United Nations handles both new and old threats to peace and security will enable it to discharge effectively its role under the Charter if efforts are not redoubled to resolve a number of long-standing disputes which continue to fester and to feed the new threats that we now face. Foremost among these are the issues of Palestine, Kashmir, and the Korean Peninsula.
So that’s a very clear message that somehow these things have got to be addressed albeit not always able to be much advanced by the systemic changes that are otherwise, we think, so necessary.
What next? Just what is going to happen to this report, now that we’ve put it out there in the public domain? Our 101 recommendations divide themselves up logically into a number of different tranches, going off logically in quite a number of different directions. Some of them are addressed to specialised agencies, non-UN inter-governmental bodies, like the IAEA or the World Health Organisation, and they’ll go there. Some of them are very much within the Secretary-General’s purview without needing to go to international summits or heads-of-government level, e.g. – the terrorism strategy which we ask him to devise, or involve internal reforms within the administration : budgetary and staffing issues are subject to the constraints of the GA and the member states, but nonetheless ought to be able to be resolved internally, without summitry and all the rhetoric and delay that goes with that. Other recommendations will go directly to internal UN inter-governmental bodies like ECOSOC to consider.
But finally, there is a tranche of issues that can really only be resolved with real buy-in at the highest government level. Perhaps the rules and norms governing the use of force are among the recommendations in that category. What’s going to happen in this respect is that the Secretary-General will in March 2005 be putting together a report to the Millennium Review Summit - the heads-of-state meeting which is occurring at the beginning of the next General Assembly in September - in which he identifies a small but highly salient number of recommendations which need to be endorsed at that level to have the necessary policy momentum. And what he’s proposing to do is bring together in that report a small number of our recommendations, together with a number of recommendations on how to address the Millennium Development Goals implementation, which is the subject of a separate report from Jeffrey Sachs’s Harvard team, which is coming to him in January.
We hope that from these various different channels of action that will follow from this initiative, something will happen. The stakes are really very high. There are plenty who are sceptical that the multilateral system, the UN organisation itself, and the major states who actually of course determine so much of what happens would ever be capable, separately or together, of even beginning to respond to the challenges the High Level Panel identified.
But my very last word is this. We honestly have no choice. The truth of the matter is that we have run out choices. As the world learned, very much to its cost, when the League of Nations fell apart in the 1930s, if we didn’t have an effective global collective security institution, we would simply have to reinvent one all over again. So let’s start with what we’ve got, and let’s make it work. I think the High-Level Panel has shown the way forward: its now up to political leaders, and those who influence political leaders, to deliver.