Strengthening the UN Charter’s norms and ethics - The conflicts in the Middle East / Die Prinzipien der UN-Charta stärken - Den Nahostkonflikt lösen
Offener Brief an UN-Generalsekretär Ban Ki Moon (englisch) / Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
By Hans von Sponeck, Annabel McGoldrick, Richard Falk, Vicky Rossi, Christian Hårleman, Annette Schiffmann, Jan Oberg, Christina Spännar
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
The United Nations
S-3800, United Nations,
New York, N.Y. 10017, USA
February 1, 2007
Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research would like to offer you our sincere best wishes for your tenure of office. We eagerly look forward to your leadership in the UN during this time of great challenges for humanity. We also would like to assure you that all our work over the past 20 years has been in strict adherence to the UN Charter, and we are proud to have co-operated in various ways with UN missions in various conflict zones.
TFF is just one of thousands of civil society organizations and we feel it is a duty to make a constructive contribution.
In this Open Letter we deal with a few selected themes and apply them to the conflicts in the Middle East.
Hans von Sponeck, Annabel McGoldrick, Richard Falk, Vicky Rossi, Christian Hårleman, Annette Schiffmann, Jan Oberg, Christina Spännar
Strengthening the UN Charter’s norms and ethics
Post-Cold War warfare, interventionism and the war on terror have caused an unprecedented erosion of the norms and values of the Charter and thus weakened the UN. The first sentence of the Charter Preamble – “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” – can be interpreted as an argument for the abolition of war. Article 1.1 states that peace shall be brought about by peaceful means; military means can be used only when everything else has been tried in vain. Further, Article 99 and 100 provide your office with special powers and the right of neutrality. It is of great importance, we believe, that the world be reminded once again of the independence of your office and that policy decisions can continuously benefit from this reality.
Until a revised UN Charter has been accepted by all, the current version must be propagated as fundamental, as indivisible and as applicable to every member. Indeed, the constructive, hope-inducing stories about the UN and its missions around the world must become visible and be told throughout the world media. As such, it is in the UN’s best interest to promote peace journalism in a media world, which at present is filled with violence.
The United Nations has the potential to become the united "conscience" of the global citizenry working on behalf of future generations. We express the hope that you will continue the work started by Kofi Annan to promote ethics within the UN system, including the Security Council and the General Assembly. Indeed, moral concerns must be given a voice in world politics.
Historically, the UN has always been an expression of the will of “we, the peoples”. Unfortunately, a large majority of humanity is only vaguely aware of the Charter’s words or the importance of its normativity. We urge you to take a global public relations initiative that propagates the above-mentioned and other UN norms.
Multilateralism and world order
One of the urgent present day challenges is to return the UN to multilateralism, to enable the UN to act for the benefit of the community of nations, rather than in the interest of individual member states. The UN remains the foundation stone, indeed the custodian, of multilateralism. It is the organization best suited to devise global policies that take both citizens and global governance beyond the nation-state into fundamental account.
It is reasonable to assume that significant de facto reforms of the UN and, thus, world politics would come about if two changes take place:
if more member states, the most powerful in particular, finally decided to conduct their policies in accordance with the Charter;
- if the United Nations could be liberated from the constraints of the paradigm of geopolitics and outdated military security thinking.
The reform discussion conducted to date has focused on the UN itself but has not applied the same pressure to member states to duly reform their behaviour. However, in the words of the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, the UN will never be stronger or better than its members decide to make it. This statement remains profoundly true today and should be promoted in the reform discussion.
What do we mean by liberating the UN from geopolitics? From our perspective, there is a destructive tension between the Charter as norm and law, on the one hand, and member state geopolitics as practiced on the other. If decision-makers adhere to what could be called the horizon of feasibility, there will only be marginal reforms, and these reforms are likely to make the organization more effective and legitimate only in Real- and geo-political terms. Thus, the normative incoherence and tensions will remain and the UN will remain more “we, the governments” than “we, the peoples”.
Instead, it is the horizons of aspirations – such as people’s hopes and the ideals of the UN – that should be promoted systematically. This incoherence and tension can be overcome by minimizing the impact of geopolitics. We believe that the United Nations should be reformed in a manner that achieves primacy for the Charter’s goals and principles as well as begins to meet citizens’ aspirations for a peaceful, just world order.
A stronger UN through intensified partnership with world civil society
Kofi Annan encouraged the UN to work more closely and effectively with the growing NGO sector and spoke about the “glue of common interests”. Undoubtedly, the capacity of the UN to promote peace on our planet depends crucially on its ability to strengthen its partnerships and cooperative initiatives with civil society organisations dedicated to the same aims. Thus, we encourage you to integrate into the UN system the findings of such groups as the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations (2004).
One way to promote the ethos and norms of the world organisation would be to establish UN offices in all member states and to promote dialogues with governments and citizens. In order to bring the UN closer to people and people closer to the UN, it is of paramount importance that the UN re-vitalizes its Department of Public Information (DPI). Civil society has a right to be taken into account and to be considered a partner for peace. The DPI must not remain a mere printing facility for documentation; it needs to become people-sensitive so that people worldwide can understand and become involved because they see the UN as theirs.
The UN global summits of the 1990s should be revived. They created worldwide public awareness and were seeds of a globalizing democracy which is dearly needed in an age of exclusively economic and military globalization.
Human and global security
Peace is securing development and developing security. It stretches from the individual to the global community. We are convinced that global human security, understood as conflict-analysis and conflict-resolution through peacekeeping, peace-building, dialogue and reconciliation, must replace military-based national security – in short, peace by peaceful means.
While many UN missions have produced successes under difficult circumstances, member states’ conflict-management in, say, the former Yugoslavia (Kosovo and Bosnia-Hercegovina in particular), Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq have shown us the limitations of the predominantly military handling of conflicts. If human security in these places had been the primary goal, there would be more peace there than we find today. One lesson is that the arms trade prolongs conflicts and strengthens authoritarian leaders. Another is that economic sanctions invariably hit the innocent civilians rather than the leadership.
Security in today’s world means combating injustices and economic disparities. It means integrating diverse communities and appreciating cultural differences. It means providing health and education. It is transnational; it goes “below” the nation-states and it goes “above” them to the common global society.
Nuclear weapons are incompatible with security and peace. Nuclearism is based on terrorist thinking; developing nuclear weapons and integrating them into war-fighting doctrines holds the potential of deliberately bringing death and destruction to millions of innocent people. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is clear, but the very existence of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is bound to further their proliferation.
The rather new idea of pre-emptive wars is extremely dangerous. This idea serves only the nuclear-haves and militates against the words and the spirit of the Charter. Article 51 of the UN Charter contains sufficient guidelines on how to appropriately handle issues of self-defence.
Promoting a keen awareness for these issues when policies are decided worldwide and holding governments accountable for pursuing human security will be a major challenge that we hope the UN together with regional bodies and NGOs will rise to. In particular, we encourage you to work for violence prevention rather than violent cures; one of the most important reforms would consist in establishing the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service, UNEPS.
Human security and UN reform will not come about free of charge, but they will cost only a fraction of the world’s military expenditures. What is lacking is political will and vision, not money. Consequently, the balance of civil and military investments in world affairs must be changed. The UN needs – and deserves – much larger resources. Members must step in, pay up and increase its small budget. Various other types of fund-raising must be tried, such as Tobin Tax-like mechanisms. We believe that citizens would be much happier to co-finance the UN than their government’s next war.
Human and global development
The geopolitical paradigm has brought the world the “war on terrorism”. While the number of deaths from terrorism worldwide is extremely low in comparison with poverty, hunger, AIDS, etc., this war diverts tremendous resources that are needed to solve much more urgent and “killing” problems.
Security is not only freedom from fear, it is also freedom from want; priority must be given to caring for the basic material and spiritual needs of those people most in need. If the 2015 Millennium Development Goals were to be realized, we would achieve a more just and stable world. This would undoubtedly undermine some of the grievances that seem to underpin the majority of terrorism. In the long run, hunting alleged terrorists and ignoring domestic laws, human rights and international law in the process will only aggravate the problem. The challenge is to tackle the deeper causes of global dissent.
The Middle East
Many of the above issues come together in the Middle Eastern cluster of conflicts. While this conflict formation as a whole is extremely complex and has hardened because of its long history, it is not impossible to imagine a Middle East in peace, democracy and prosperity within, say, a decade or two.
Addressing the various interlocking strands of conflict in the Middle East is undoubtedly the most urgent peace, security and development priority at the present time. The role and capacity of the United Nations is being severely challenged as warfare persists and menacingly threatens to spread further.
We wonder whether the UN can discover the means to act constructively and creatively within such a setting? The organization must do all that it can, but it must not pretend to do more than it can reasonably expect to do. A frustrated mission will foster an impression of futility that will only please the enemies of the UN, and make other facets of its work more difficult. This was allowed to happen in the Balkans during the 1990s and must not now be repeated in the Middle East.
We acknowledge the strong temptation to avoid any UN initiatives in the Middle East, given these considerations, but we would instead urge a modest and exploratory approach that does not promise a great deal at first, but would be ready to seize any opportunity that arose for the UN to be of help, including through the diplomacy of its leading official.
In this regard, it likely will not be possible for you as Secretary-General to do more in the immediate future than offer your good offices with respect to either the Israel-Palestine conflict or the Iraq War. The UN is a member of “the Quartet” and in that role should support only a balanced peace process by taking into account Palestinian rights under international law, something not done during the seven years of the Oslo peace process.
As for Iraq, the UN must not be drawn into the conflict until there is a clear end to foreign occupation, including a commitment to remove foreign military bases. Once withdrawal is firmly underway, to the extent that the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people seek a UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding presence, such a possibility should be entertained. A prerequisite would be realism and a clear mandate, as well as conditions which are likely to contribute to peace and fairness for all segments of Iraqi society, including assurances from member states of adequate funding and respect for the independence of the mission.
The biggest initiative that could be taken under UN auspices in this period would be to convene a regional conference – governments, regional organizations and NGOs together – on peace, security, and development in the Middle East. The goals of such a conference should include:
adopting a mutual non-aggression declaration together with all participating governments and an agreement to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the region in adherence to UN Security Council resolution 687/1991,Art 14;
- agreeing that all nuclear energy programs should be internationally monitored;
- agreeing to destroy the existing stockpiles of WMD under international supervision;
- arranging for the elimination of any foreign military presence in the region.
Participating governments would, in turn, commit to maintain a stable oil policy with respect to supply and prices.
Such a conference would not be meaningful or feasible unless Israel, Iran, and Turkey were invited and agreed to participate. Non-regional actors such as the EU, China, India, and the United States should serve only as co-convenors and take part only as observers and endorsers, and if asked, as guarantors.
We know that these ideas and proposals are neither completely new nor modest. We know there are many other items on your agenda as new Secretary-General. We know that you will meet resistance from various governments and powerful groups when trying to realize the goals of the United Nations and promote the Charter’s fundamental values. But rest assured that, to the extent that you build on partnerships with civil societies around the world, your task may be a bit less difficult and a bit more possible.
We pledge our fullest support to you and your colleagues as you carry out your considerable responsibilities.
Sincerely and with best wishes,
Hans von Sponeck,
Source: TFF The Transnational Foundation for Peace an Future Research; www.transnational.org
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