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A make or break year for the UN: Reforming the 60 year old

Second Sean Lester Lecture by Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group, former Australian Foreign Minister and Member of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Dublin City University, 24 June 2005

The task ahead of anyone who would seek to transform the United Nations into a fully effective, efficient and equitable institution is formidable indeed. Sixty year olds – as I can personally testify, and my wife can confirm, since I am precisely that disconcerting age myself – are notoriously unreformable. But this year – 2005 – is as good a chance as we will probably ever have to wrench the UN system into the shape it needs to be to confront the challenges of development, security and ensuring respect for human rights that the world and its peoples will face for decades ahead.

We know very well where the weak points and stresses are in the international system, most alarmingly revealed in the handling of the Iraq crisis two years ago: there is no shortage of analysis as to what is going wrong. We know what we need to do get things right: there is no shortage of major reports laying out prescriptions and agendas for the necessary change. We know we have, as a global community if not always individually, the available resources and capacity to do what we need to do, if those resources are properly directed. And we have the occasion this year for a major change effort, with the 60th Anniversary of the UN and all the high-level meetings and summits associated with it: as of this week 175 Heads of State and Government have indicated that they will be coming to the Millennium Plus Five Summit in New York in September, making it the largest gathering of world leaders in history.

This will be our third big chance to get the international system right, and all our experience suggests that these chances come along only once in a generation, perhaps in a lifetime.

The first try came in the aftermath of the First World War, with the formation of the League of Nations, that ultimately ill-fated but wonderfully exciting and grand attempt, the first in world history, to prevent war and promote human cooperation on a global scale. There were few more important and distinguished figures associated with that dream than the man we honour tonight in this lecture, Sean Lester. Irish nationalist, journalist, diplomat, and above all internationalist, he recognised earlier than most the threat to civilisation posed by the rise of fascism, lived as unhappily as anyone could have through the nightmare of the impotence of the League to counter it – condemned as it was by the weakness of its institutional design and the non-participation of the United States – and fought harder than anyone to keep alight the flame of the League ideal so that the post-War world might be a better one.

I first became aware of Sean Lester’s existence, incongruously enough, in the pages of a novel: Frank Moorhouse’s Dark Palace (Picador, 2002)¸ which is an extraordinary account – and a very well-written one, winning Australia’s biggest literary prize a few years ago – of the last years of the League of Nations, peopled with a large and tumultuous cast of characters both wholly real, like Lester, and wholly fictional, like the Australian heroine of the novel who worked for and with him. I have read few more moving passages anywhere of the account of the arrival of the tiny League delegation, led by Lester as Acting Secretary-General, in San Francisco in 1945, for the conference to inaugurate the United Nations. Expecting to play at least a symbolic role in passing over the flame, and a substantive one in describing to the delegates what had gone both right and wrong in the work of the League, Lester was met by no-one, found his own way by taxi to a third-class hotel, and waited for a seating ticket which, when it finally arrived after the opening ceremony had begun, turned out to be in the furthest reaches of the public observers’ gallery.

Neither honoured nor consulted, Lester and his colleagues were treated in 1945 as just part of the debris of history. But while the League of Nations unquestionably failed as an institution, it did not fail as an ideal. It was people like Sean Lester who lived that ideal for most of their working lives, and did keep it alive in the dark years when it was under heavy international assault, and it is wholly appropriate that this lecture which Dublin City University has so gracefully inaugurated in his name – which I am very honoured to deliver tonight - should live on to honour a man who was very honourable indeed.

The second big try to build an effective and durable international system to maintain peace and security, to promote development and ensure respect for human rights came of course in the aftermath of the Second World War with the establishment of the United Nations.

The 1945 Charter did bring huge innovations. It spelt out three great and indivisible objectives – to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’, to ‘reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person’ and to ‘promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’. It formally outlawed the use of force, with two exceptions only: immediate self-defence, and when authorised by the Security Council, in response to some ‘threat to international peace and security’; it created the Security Council, with formal powers unparalleled in history; and it put peace and security in the larger context of development and human rights.

But the hope and excitement generated by the founding of the UN ran almost immediately into the reality of the Cold War: a world where alliances – NATO and the Warsaw Pact – were far more important than the Security Council; where cross-border military aggression occurred with impunity within those alliance structures (with the UN only once playing an effective role, in the Korean War, after the Soviet Union had boycotted the Security Council for another reason, a mistake it never repeated); where the biggest arms race in the history of the world took place between Security Council members; and where genocide occurred with impunity, as in Cambodia in the mid-1970s.

The Cold War years were not wholly without achievement for the UN system. They saw the invention of peacekeeping, which helped stabilise many situations like the Congo and Cyprus. They saw the UN presiding over decolonisation, a massive strike for human dignity; leading the charge against the institutionalised racism of apartheid; and being at the centre of humanitarian and development strategies which fed, sheltered and immunised countless millions. But all that said, the UN was a pale, limping marginalised shadow of what its founders, and forebears like Sean Lester, hoped it would be.

With the end of the Cold War, there came the chance to make a third try at getting the international system right, to create a United Nations system that worked as its founders intended to. For a time that looked like happening. The first Iraq War of 1991, with the Security Council leading the global response to a case of naked cross-border aggression, saw the UN Charter working exactly as it was supposed to. The Cambodian peace settlement – with the crafting of which I was much involved – showed what the UN could do in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding with real cooperation among the Security Council’s Permanent Five. And peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding worked in many other places as well: more civil conflicts have been resolved by negotiation in the last fifteen years than in the last 200 (as the High Level Panel, of which more below, has documented), and the number of violent deaths occurring in the course of conflict has, after averaging well over 200,000 a year through most of the 1990s, now dropped to something closer to 20,000-30,000 a year (as will be documented in detail in the forthcoming University of British Columbia’s Human Security Report). These are extraordinary achievements, and ones with which the UN system had everything to do.

But just as not everything went wrong for the UN during the Cold War years, certainly by no means has everything gone right in the years since. Above all, the UN system failed utterly to deal effectively with a number of catastrophic internal situations involving massive human rights violations: the debacle of Somalia in 1993, the indefensible betrayal of Rwanda in 1994 in the face of the genocidal killing of some 800,000 people; the pathetic inadequacy of the response in Bosnia – worst of all with the Srebrenica massacre of 1995; and even in the case of Kosovo in 1999, when key countries were willing to act as morality demanded, but had to do so without the legal authority of the Security Council because of the threatened Russian veto, marginalising the UN yet again.

Above all there was the debacle of the second Iraq War in 2003. The UN Security Council was bypassed again, this time without any general consensus at all that war was justified. Worse, it occurred in the context of the US apparently challenging the fundamentals of the international system: asserting the right to take unilateral, preventive action against a threat not claimed to be imminent, and suggesting in effect that as the world’s greatest power, but an inherently virtuous power, it could not and would not be bound by the same rules as everyone else.

So we came to what Kofi Annan famously described in 2003 as ‘a fork in the road, a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself’: either the international community could reaffirm the international rule of law and abide by the principles of cooperative internationalism, or descend into anarchy, finding ourselves utterly unable to cope with the security problems of the 21st century - terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, continuing wars within and between states, organised crime, and the great pure human security issues of poverty, disease and environmental catastrophe.

The legendary New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra once famously said “When you see a fork in the road, take it”! But we don’t have that luxury. We do have to make a choice, this post Cold War period is our third big chance to get the basics of the international order right, and 2005 has come to be the make or break year for this third try. As Kofi Annan put it in a speech this week ‘I think we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the Organization, and if we miss it this time, I don’t know when [world leaders] are going to get the opportunity again’.

If we fail in 2005 then, to put the issue at its most stark, 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. If we fail this year to make major progress, it will only be because of a failure again of political will and political leadership from the countries and leaders that matter most.

For all the other elements are in place for taking a giant step forward, as I said at the outset: the need, the agenda and the opportunity. As to need, the necessity for a new international policy consensus and better institutional delivery right across the whole range of security, development and human rights concerns is almost universally acknowledged, in light of the failures of policy, and delivery and accountability that have become so obvious in the last few years.

As to the agenda for change, this has been mapped in detail in the two big reports commissioned by Kofi Annan at around the time of his fork-in-the-road speech – the Sachs Report on the Millennium Development Goals, the Report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change on 21st century security threats (with which I was associated as a member of the Panel) - and then by the Secretary-General’s own report, In Larger Freedom, superbly distilling the essence of those two earlier reports in a blueprint for change ranging over development issues, security issues, human rights issues, and the basic architecture of the international system.

The most interesting and important thing about the agenda which has now been articulated is not just its unprecedented comprehensiveness, but the emphasis on the interconnectedness of all its elements. The core notion is that the threats to state and human security of the 21st century are interconnected; that there are inextricable links between development, security and human rights; and that collective security in the 21st century means above all else that all members of the global community have a shared responsibility for each other’s security. It is not a matter of a North agenda being weighed and traded against a South agenda: in the interdependent, globalised world in which we now live, threats to one are a threat to all, and we must act together to meet them all.

As to opportunity, the occasion for bringing everything together and making the necessary decisions is with us with the 60th Anniversary year of the UN, and the Millennium Review Summit and all the other meetings and celebrations that will accompany it: all that’s missing is a U2 concert! Meetings and anniversaries may not by themselves produce results, but they certainly focus everyone’s attention.

What then are the critical issues on this year’s reform agenda, crystallised as they now have been by the preparatory process, and being fiercely negotiated as they now are being ( in a process in which Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, for one, is playing a key part as one of the international envoys appointed by the Secretary General)? They may be grouped in four clusters, of which the first is development.

Development: Freedom from Want

The development issues on this year’s agenda focus overwhelmingly on the action needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals, to tackle much more head-on the unacceptable reality that not only are diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis still rampantly destructive, but there are still over a billion people living in extreme poverty, with life expectancy closer to 40 than the rich world’s 80, and with 100 of every 1000 children dying before their fifth birthday, compared with less than 10 in high-income countries.

For the rich countries it means increasing overall development aid – in particular through not only paying lip service to the target of 0.7% of GDP, but committing to a timetable for getting there (something which the US, and my own country among some others, regrettably remain utterly unwilling to do); it means supporting a series of ‘quick-win’ expenditure initiatives like malaria bed-nets, school meals programs and the elimination of user fees for health and education services; it means wider and deeper debt relief; and it means a serious commitment to a decent outcome for the Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks, critically important if the least developed countries are to break out of the poverty cycle in which so many of them are trapped.

Achieving the Millennium Development Goals also means responsibilities for the developing countries themselves: each producing a national strategy involving stronger governance, unrelenting war against corruption, and the adoption of the kind of policies which will stimulate the private sector, generate employment and maximise the utilisation of domestic resources.

On all of this a broad consensus has in fact already emerged – and has indeed been- largely in place since the International Conference on Financing and Development in Monterrey in 2002 – on what is required both from developed and developing countries. What this year’s summitry is primarily about, as a result, is not so much about new ideas, new directions and new or dramatically changed institutions, but translating familiar rhetoric into operational reality.

Peace and Security: Freedom from Fear

Across the spectrum of peace and security issues, sensitivities are high, there is much less general consensus evident, and the jury is still out on just how much that is new and significant will be agreed in September. There are four main areas of focus.

The first, on which the news is best, is further improving conflict prevention and resolution capability. This means better peacemaking capacity (though better prepared and supported mediators and negotiators); far more readily available reserves, both military and civilian, for peacekeeping and other peace operation; and a far more systematic and coherent approach to post-conflict peacebuilding – the failure to follow through on which is the most depressingly familiar reason for the recurrence of avoidable conflict.

On this set of issues there is widespread agreement, though much remains to be done to translate general principles into operational specifics. The most important single innovation proposed is the establishment of a new Peacebuilding Commission. The High Level Panel argued that creation of a new institutional structure to deal effectively with the endemic problem of failed, failing and fragile states, particularly in the context of post-conflict reconstruction, but more generally as well, is the most immediate need in the international system at the moment, and one that is widely recognised. As the concept has evolved, the focus is now entirely on monitoring and addressing the needs of post-conflict societies, but this is where the need is most acute – as we know all too well from recurring experience in Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other countries.

The idea is to bring together – in a new institution, linked to both the Security Council and ECOSOC, and properly serviced by a highly professional secretariat, with decent funding support - all the key stakeholders for each particular situation, including not only the UN’s own programs and agencies, but the international financial institutions, the donor community, the relevant regional organisations and of course representatives of the countries in distress, in order to work out coherent recovery and reconstruction plans and systematically, and with sustained rather than ad hoc attention, ensure their implementation. If the new body works as intended, it will fill a major gap in the international institutional system, and be progress indeed.

The second set of issues on the peace agenda is disarmament and non-proliferation: this means, in relation to the world’s most dangerous weapons – nuclear, chemical and biological - action on the supply side, in particular to constrain the availability of fissile material; action on the demand side to reduce the motivations for acquiring weapons of mass destruction (by addressing everything from real security threats to perceived double standards in arms control regimes); improved international verification machinery; and more effective public health defences, in particular to cope with the ravages of biological weapons, the hardest of all to prevent being used.

The news here is much more gloomy. The long-feared nuclear weapons breakout seems closer now than it has been for decades, with Iran and North Korea showing the hollowness of existing constraints and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference collapsing a few weeks ago. At that conference there was no sign whatever of agreement on any of the four big activities crying out for shutdown by mutual consent - nuclear testing, new and continuing weapons programs, reprocessing or uranium enrichment – if a new cascade of proliferation is to be avoided. Kofi Annan made his own concerns about this in a speech this week, in which he said ‘I am deeply troubled by the failure of the Review Conference of the NPT to face up to the challenges before us. I am especially concerned that confidence in that nuclear non-proliferation regime could begin to erode, and if Heads of State and Government do not act boldly to amend it in September, we may not be able to control the situation.’

The third issue is confronting terrorism: the need here is to embrace a broad based policy response going beyond intelligence, policing and military cooperation to addressing root causes, including political grievances; and to find common cause at last on an international definition of terrorism making attacks against civilians and non-combatants as indefensible as piracy and slavery.

Here the news is much better. The Secretary-General has already begun to articulate the multiple elements that need to come together for an effective cooperative international response to the problem which as been at the heart of policymakers’ concerns, not just in the US, ever since 9/11 made it clear that the scale of the threat by non-state actors to human and state security was as great, if not greater, than the threats capable of being mounted by states themselves, and hopefully the UN will continue to provide policy leadership.

The question of an agreed international definition of terrorism has eluded the international community so far – with decades of diversionary argument about ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘state terrorism’ standing in the way of acceptance of the basic proposition that violence and civilians and non-combatants is and must be always wrong, whatever the context. But such agreement is critical to achieve if the UN is to play its critical role as a normative leader, stating the core values that must lie at the heart of the response to security threats, and there are strong signs that it can now be achieved – provided some acknowledgement is made of the legitimacy of resistance to occupation by other means.

The fourth big issue in the security basket, and one that I personally regard as centrally important, although I am now pessimistic about any significant movement being achieved this year, is redefining the rules governing the use of force. As the High Level Panel argued, and Kofi Annan accepted in his In Larger Freedom blueprint, it is critical for the credibility and effectiveness of the Security Council that that the huge divisions of recent years be somehow healed.

Those divisions go to both when force is legal and when it is legitimate. On the question of legality, the most inflammatory issues are whether any state has the right, in the exercise of self-defence under Art 51 of the UN Charter, to use military force pre-emptively in relation to imminent threats as distinct from actually occurring attacks; and (of rather greater concern to most states) whether they have the right to use force preventively to defend themselves against non-imminent, or merely latent, threats.

The view taken by the Secretary-General, and the High Level Panel, is that on these questions there should be agreement that the Charter (read in conjunction with customary international law) does allow pre-emptive self defence against imminent as well as actual attacks. But it does not allow – without Security Council endorsement – preventive self defence, against non-imminent threats (e.g. a preventive strike against a nuclear power plant under construction which it is feared will fuel nuclear weapons). (On a further question of the legality of armed intervention when the only threat is to a state’s own people – part of the ‘responsibility to protect’ issue discussed later – the view taken is that such force is legal as a last resort, but only with Security Council endorsement: the Security Council is at liberty to identify these situations as ‘threats to international peace and security’ within the meaning of Chapter VII of the Charter.)

On the associated, but very different question of legitimacy – when it is right to fight not as a matter of law but rather of morality and good sense – both the Panel and the Secretary-General embraced the idea that the Security Council (and General Assembly) should agree on a set of guidelines, which would provide a checklist not for when force could be used, but when it should be. Five such guidelines were spelt out: to summarise them very baldly - seriousness of threat, right intention, last resort, proportionality and balance of consequences. The point about these criteria is not that they will produce, with push-button inevitability, clear cut agreement in every case. The argument is simply that over time, and with the pressure that the criteria will create for states to publicly explain and defend their positions, there will be 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 less likelihood that states will want to bypass the Security Council entirely and put at risk the whole collective security system.

Although these issues have commanded quite a lot of attention in the debate since the reports were released, it has proved very difficult indeed to get consensus on anything approaching the kind of codification of principles that the Panel and the Secretary-General have argued for. The resistance has come both from countries like the US, who are not much enamoured with anything that might appear to limit their freedom to address each issue case by case and use force when they decide it is necessary, and those in the developing world who argue – with a straight face - with that the proposed criteria of legitimacy would operate in practice not so much to limit the use of force to exceptional, highly defensible cases, but would enable and indeed encourage it!

Human Rights: Freedom to Live in Dignity

The two biggest issues on the human rights agenda at the forthcoming September summit are first, how to respond effectively to genocide, ethnic cleansing and similar massive human rights violations within states – the issue of ‘the responsibility to protect’ - and secondly, how to restore credibility and effectiveness to the now highly politicised and almost totally dysfunctional Commission on Human Rights, whose problems, as the Secretary-General said this week, ‘have become so notorious that they call into question the credibility of the entire United Nations system’.

On the ‘responsibility to protect’, or ‘humanitarian intervention’ issue, major progress has been made in recent years in winning acceptance for the idea that gross human rights violations within a country – involving genocide, ethnic cleansing or other large-scale atrocity crimes – are not just the internal affair of the state in question. This is the issue that divided the world for much of the 1990s, lying behind the deep reluctance of the international community to become involved in so many of the internal conflicts in which just these crimes were involved, in some cases – like Rwanda – on a huge scale, and it is crucial that there be a new international consensus on how these issues are addressed.

The core idea which it is hoped – and I think now expected – will be endorsed at this year’s Millennium Plus Five Summit was first articulated in the 2001 report of the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which I co-chaired. It is this: state sovereignty carries with it responsibilities as well as rights, and that while the primary responsibility for protecting its own people from avoidable man-made catastrophe rests with the sovereign state itself, if that responsibility is abdicated, through incapacity or ill-will, it shifts to the wider international community; and that this international responsibility has three distinct dimensions, the responsibility to prevent such catastrophes by all available diplomatic, humanitarian and other means, the responsibility to react including as a last resort by military intervention authorised by the Security Council, and the responsibility to rebuild shattered societies.

On the question of new international machinery to protect human rights, consensus is gradually growing – or perhaps more accurately, opposition is gradually being ground down – for the idea of replacing the Commission on Human Rights, which has brought the UN commitment to human rights into so much question by its regular defence or neglect of the indefensible, with a new, standing Human Rights Council, with its members elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly, and its procedures made more professional. An important outstanding issue is whether the proposed two-thirds election majority requirement would in fact succeed in weeding out from membership of the Council the worst of the violators.

Institutional Architecture: Strengthening the UN

The proposal for a new Human Rights Council, perhaps ultimately with the stature of a stand-alone body under the Charter, and a new Peacebuilding Commission are just two of a number of institutional reforms on the table in 2005, up for endorsement by the Millennium Review Summit, and equally crucial if the multilateral system is not to lapse into irretrievable disrepair and irrelevance. Three institutional reform areas are particularly crucial, in addition to those I have already mentioned.

The first is reconstruction of the Security Council. If the Council does not come to better represent, in terms of its permanent or usual membership, the world of the 21st century rather than that of 1945, it will not fall apart immediately. But the powers of the present Permanent Five will be steadily diminishing assets. A Security Council without any guaranteed presence of the major African powers, or India, or Japan or Brazil simply cannot remain credible in perpetuity.

The High Level Panel report came up with two clear, self-contained alternative models for achieving that representativeness, and after twenty years of frustratingly inconclusive debate in New York, and with the Secretary-General urging that a choice between them be made, it initially seemed likely that there was a fair chance that one or other of them would be adopted in 2005. There are a number of points in common between the two models, including an increase in Security Council size from 15 to 24, and no extension of the veto power to any new member.

The difference between the models comes down to the way in which the major countries would be represented. Model A provides for six new permanent seats - with the new ascendants to heaven coming 2 from Asia (not identified, but presumably Japan and India), 2 from Africa (contested between Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt), 1 from the Americas (presumably Brazil) and 1 from Europe (presumably Germany). Model B, by contrast, provides for no new permanent seats, but creates a new category of renewable four-year terms, with two such seats for each of the four major geographical regions: thus allowing for some degree of negotiated rotation, with a possible place in the sun for next-tier countries like Mexico or Pakistan or Italy/Spain, and the chance for some accountability to be applied to the major occupants.

As the debate on all this has ground wearyingly on over the last six months, however, it seems increasingly likely that – while there is a reasonable body of support for doing something about Security Council membership – no single model is going to command the two-thirds support from the General Assembly necessary for Charter change, not to mention the necessary subsequent treaty ratifications from not only two-thirds of the Member states but all five Permanent members as well. The US, for one, has made very clear that it wants at best only minimal and incremental change. So the prospect is that the Security Council will go on being seen as lacking in representativeness and credibility, and that is very bad news – at least over the long term – for the UN system.

The second institutional issue is reforming the debating chambers: ECOSOC and the General Assembly. Both these crucial institutions, whose role should be norm-setting and direction-setting as well as providing debating chambers for the great global issues of the day, have become conspicuously dysfunctional, and must be restored to pre-eminence. Much of that is achievable simply through better agenda and process management, and a great deal of lip service is being currently paid again to just that.

The hope – and to some extent the current expectation - is that ECOSOC can be transformed into, if not a macro-economic decision making body, at least a real development cooperation forum for the world, regularly discussing, with a highly focused and prioritised agenda, such issues as the interlinkages between development, trade, finance, the environment and social issues; and what is necessary, year in and year out, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals – a forum whose debates would be attended on great occasions by not only ministers but heads of state: a far cry from the second and third secretaries who occupy its seats at the moment.

The final institutional issue is administrative reform, focusing on the Secretariat but also in the UN system generally. The central issues here are empowerment and accountability – the Secretary-General, presently probably the most impossibly micro-managed chief executive in the world, needs much more freedom of action to choose and deploy resources where and when they are needed, subject to full accountability. Those who are committed to an effective multilateral system do it no service by leaving it inefficient and ineffective - but change cannot happen without member states allowing and encouraging it. As Kofi Annan said rather ruefully this week (quoting former US Health Secretary John W. Gardner): institutions have a way of getting ‘caught in a savage cross-fire between uncritical lovers and unloving critics’.

The signs are reasonably good that the problems of UN system administration - everything from organisational structure, to personnel practices, to budgetary management, to priority setting, to operational delivery, and to effective accountability - are better understood than they have ever previously been, as a result of all the current scrutiny. Reasonably strong lip service looks like being paid in September to the need for change on all these fronts. But the issue, as always, is whether the rhetoric will be followed by action.

Sixty year olds are not always the first to appreciate signs of their own decay. Those presently enjoying all the power and authority that goes with the veto don’t relish being told that theirs is a diminishing asset – that it is only a matter of time before an unreformed Security Council enjoys so little credibility in most of the world that its dictates will no longer mean anything: that even if the moment of truth is ten, fifteen, twenty or more years away, it is inexorably coming.

There are plenty who are justifiably 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 reports have identified.

But my very last word is this. We have no alternative. The truth of the matter is that we have run out choices. As the world learned, very much to its cost, when Sean Lester’s League of Nations fell apart in the 1930s, if we did not 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 the system work.

The big reports published in the last few months, and the efforts of those like Dermot Ahern to promote them, have shown the way forward. It’s now up to political leaders, and those who influence them to deliver, and – having missed the party ten years ago - this 60th birthday year may be the last big anniversary occasion to do so before irretrievable senility sets in.