Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Effective intervention requires a reformed UN Security Council

By Kemal Dervis

Human progress can be measured by the fact that we are living in a century in which unilateral military operations based on power alone are intolerable. But the spread of the ideology of peace does not mean that threats to security have disappeared. At times, preventive action may be necessary. Many lives would have been saved in Africa, for example, if the international community could have acted decisively and quickly. The events in Iraq also have demonstrated that the key issue for world security is really the relationship of the big powers to the UN Security Council.

The need for an effective UN Security Council reflects the central strategic certainty of the post-Cold War period: Security threats are no longer likely to take the form of war between states, but will instead consist of acts of terror, civil wars and massacres of civilian populations. These threats are often related to economic chaos and basic failures in national governance, and international military action will often be needed to meet them head on. But the legitimacy of any international military action that goes beyond immediate self-defense requires broad international approval -- and action without legitimacy is bound to fail.

The international community must therefore accept the need for a fundamental link between such military action and the UN. Peacekeeping and crisis prevention are accepted functions of the UN. But broad international support will not be forthcoming if military operations are perceived as some form of Western neo-imperialism. This last point has been at the heart of the problems in Iraq. Augmenting US and British troops with other "Western" forces would not, particularly at this late stage, change the fundamental perception of that intervention, both in the Arab world and beyond it.

Only the explicit, up-front approval of a reformed UN Security Council can provide the legitimacy and international support that military action -- with the exception of clear self-defense -- requires. This is true for actions contemplated by individual nations, temporary alliances or more permanent alliances such as NATO.

For the Security Council to be effective in providing global governance in the domain of security, it must be reformed to reflect the realities of the 21st century. A system of weighted voting with global representation should replace the current system, according to which veto authority based on the post-World War II balance of power determines what is feasible, regardless of world opinion.

The new system must, of course, reflect not only the size of populations but also the differing economic and military capabilities of nations. The degree of "internal legitimacy" of governments in terms of human rights and democracy could become another factor determining voting weights or voting rights.

Countries such as India and Japan must gain a strong voice. Latin America, Africa and the Arab world also must see an increase in their influence. There should be permanent global participation in the Security Council through regional constituencies, although the number of seats at any one time should remain in the neighborhood of 15 in order to permit constructive debate and a degree of cohesion.

It is only within this kind of renewed UN that NATO or other military alliances can obtain legitimized effectiveness. Ideally, NATO should provide troops to UN-sponsored operations together with forces from other regional security organizations that could be established in Latin America, Asia or Africa. These organizations would cooperate with explicit UN guidance and endorsement.

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