Echoing a similar view, former Soviet - President Mikhail Gorbachov called the KOSOVO war "a disgrace to all of us who tried to build a New World Order based on political methods and a strong role for the United Nations Security CouncilInstead, we see Nato itself as supreme arbiter, using military power alone it is pure lawlessness and I strongly condemn It." K Subrahmanyam has written: "The UN has been rendered redundant since there is no balance of power left in the world and the entire industrial world, barring a ramshackle Russia, is under US overlordship. If this is not a dangerous international security environment, what is?". Regional solutions to problems of peace and security are bound to be more easily acceptable to the warring parties than solutions imposed by a distant world body.
In a number of recent conflicts, most of them in Africa, individual states or regional groups restored to the use of force without specific Security Council authorisation. In 1998, the US attacked Afghanistan and Sudan with cruise missiles (some of which even fell on Pakistan: territory) in retaliation for terrorist attacks on US embassies, allegedly by Osama bin Laden’s Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Expressing his concern, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “The scourge of terrorism cannot be eliminated by unilateral action. I was, therefore, concerned by these actions. Terrorism can only be combated by joint international strategies and action. The UN should take a leading role in such efforts.”
However, nothing has undermined the credibility and the future effectiveness of the UN as much as the bypassing of the Security Council before the commencement of the US-led NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. Once again, Kofi Annan expressed his displeasure at “the emergence of the single super power and new regional powers” and “the preference of the willing” to resort to unauthorised force. He said, “Unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy… Unless the Security Council can unite around the aim of confronting massive human rights violations and crimes against humanity on the scale of Kosovo, we will betray the very ideals that inspired the founding of the Union Nations.”
Echoing a similar view, former Soviet – President Mikhail Gorbachov called the KOSOVO war “a disgrace to all of us who tried to build a New World Order based on political methods and a strong role for the United Nations Security Council…Instead, we see Nato itself as supreme arbiter, using military power alone… it is pure lawlessness and I strongly condemn It.” K Subrahmanyam has written: “The UN has been rendered redundant since there is no balance of power left in the world and the entire industrial world, barring a ramshackle Russia, is under US overlordship. If this is not a dangerous international security environment, what is?”
According to Muchkund Dubey, “Nato is hardly the regional arrangement which can qualify… for the maintenance of international peace and security… It is not recognised as such by all the countries of the region; a major power like Russia is outside and strongly Opposed to it. It is a relic of the Cold War and still seeks to perpetuate the Cold War divisions of Europe. Its basic military character and coercive approach to dealing with security situations, militates against the essentially comprehensive and co-operative approach to security practised by the United Nations. It frequently tends to act outside the United Nations and at cross purposes with it. In fact, it has been the principal instrument used by Western powers to marginalise the United Nations and reduce it to a residual peacekeeping force.”
It is not without significance that several former US secretaries of state wrote to Congressional leaders that as former secretaries they knew at “first hand the importance of the United Nations and its agencies in securing global peace, stability and prosperity.” It emerges quite clearly that in the New World Order, despite its present shaky State, the UN will remain indispensable. As has been often said, if it did not exist, there would be a need to invent it. However, it is a human institution, managed and manipulated by human beings and cannot, therefore, ever be perfect. Shashi Tharoor, executive assistant to the UN secretary general, sees an emerging role for the UN in providing a forum to move the world along towards universal human rights, managing trans-national terrorism, drugs trafficking, money laundering and international crime. Concerted effort, tolerance and respect for human dignity can decisively overcome the systemic shortcoming to ensure the peaceful coexistence of all the people of the world. The foremost requirement is for the “strong to respect the rights of the weak,” as envisioned by President George Bush in 1990.
Might is right
In 1981, in his last annual reports the UN secretary general, Kurt Waldheim had remarked out of experience and observation: “For all our efforts and undoubted sincerity, the Organisation has not yet managed to cut through old political habits and attitudes to come to grips decisively with the new factors of our existence.” Not much has changed since he made this perceptive observation. The invincible forces of “might is right” thinking are apparently still at play in international relations. As President Woodrow Wilson has so passionately advocated early in this century, the world needs organised peace rather than organised rivalries and a community of power instead of a balance of power. The lack of a community of power broke the League of Nations. The same lack of community of power will inevitably also break its successor, the United Nations, if some of the most powerful nations continue to practise their might is right politics, completely disregarding national sovereignties and the spirit of international consensus, as was witnessed in Nato’s air strikes: over Yugoslavia in 1999.
Soon after the Kosovo conflict, the chaos in East Timor presented yet another challenge to the international community. Once again the troubling question of whether armed intervention is a valid response to the violation of human rights had to be addressed. After Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, “Indonesia is the seventh sovereign country in recent years to be told to allow foreign peace enforcement troops onto its soil.” However, since the East Timor case was not entirely that of intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign country (the UN-has never accepted East Timor as an integral part of Indonesia), consensus in the UN Secretary Council was much easier to achieve and an Australian-led peacekeeping force could be despatched very rapidly to bring the problem under control.
The present conflicts afflicting the developing countries will continue to defy resolution unless these countries decide to help themselves. Trends toward the emergence of regional security arrangements for the maintenance of peace are to be welcomed and should be encouraged. Regional solutions to problems of peace and security are bound to be more easily acceptable to the warring parties than solutions imposed by a distant world body. The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) is a good example of a regional security framework. In recent years it has gradually proceeded forward from limiting its activities to confidence building to becoming indirectly involved in conflict resolution. Though Asian security will inevitably remain linked with and will continue to be looked at in terms of the UN framework, this would be more plausible after the UN system goes through a process of reform and is sufficiently empowered to act as a viable and independent global security framework.
Reforms to follow
Some commentators are of the view that it will not be possible to reform the UN system in an optimal manner in the near future because of certain deeply ingrained prejudices. This view appears to be overly pessimistic as it is premised on the assumption that the Western powers, and China, will never give up the balance of power approach. It is now becoming clear that realisation is gradually dawning on the P-5 that the balance of power approach is no longer suitable for ensuring a secure and stable world order. Cold War mindsets will eventually fade away and UN reform will automatically follow.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the foremost challenge before the world is that of ensuring lasting international peace so that unfettered development can lead to the alleviation of poverty and all round prosperity in a framework of pluralistic democracy. “Expect nothing from the 21st century,” wrote Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “It 1s the 21st century which expects everything from you.” Will the world rise to the challenge? Or, will it succumb to Mathew Arnold’s famous cry of hopelessness: “We. are wandering between two worlds/One dead, the other unable to be born.”
Clearly, mankind’s instinct for survival will ensure that Armageddon remains a distant nightmare. The prognosis for the future is hope, rather than despair, and the triumph of mankind, rather than holocaust or disaster. As a world-wide rethinking of social, political, educational and economic orders takes place, the obsolete thinking of the nuclear age will gradually but inexorably give way to a new Non-violent World Order. It is to be hoped that a strong and undisputed UN will be at the centre of it, backed by the collective will of countries of the Third World.