An international panel last week officially presented a blueprint to overhaul the UN as it reaches age 60 next year, proposing sweeping changes but also keeping core concepts, including the right to self-defence which could include pre-emptive acts.
Pre-emptive policies have become a controversial issue after US President George W. Bush launched the war against Iraq on allegations -- later proved untrue -- that former president Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and presented a threat to the world.
A deeply divided UN Security Council refused to back the invasion last year, but the new proposals from a 16-member blue ribbon panel appeared to offer a framework where such pre-emptive actions would be allowed as long as they are defensive acts and have the backing of the council.
The panel's blueprint for reform, commissioned by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was unveiled formally to the 191 members of the organization on Thursday, after parts of the report were released earlier last week.
Annan said rules governing use of force remain "at the heart of who we are as the UN and what we stand for. I cannot overemphasize how important a new consensus on this issue is for a renewed system of collective security."
The panel reaffirmed the right of governments to self-defence, including pre-emptive action when an attack is imminent and in cases combining terrorist and nuclear attacks, which it called "nightmare scenarios."
But it said the UN Security Council must act swiftly and more proactively than in the past.
The panel left unchanged Article 51 of the UN Charter, which essentially supports the inherent individual or collective rights of self-defense against an armed attack.
"The panel did not discuss the war in Iraq and made no characterization about its nature" when it drafted the blueprint, Sebastian Einsiedel told reporters. He is part of a team of researchers for the reform package.
"We do not pass judgement on legitimacy of war, we just urged the Security Council to be proactive," he said.
The blueprint will provide the basis for discussions over the coming year, and recognized the difficulty of changing such a large and complex organization by warning that not all the 101 recommendations for change would be accepted, including proposed new models for the 15-nation council.
The panel broadened the
scope of threats in today's world
to include infectious disease,
HIV/AIDS and poverty as well as weapons of mass destruction, and proposed a new collective security consensus that would put an expanded UN Security Council in charge of peace and security in the world.
"I wholly endorse its core arguments for a broader, more comprehensive system of collective security: one that tackles both new and old threats, and addresses the security concerns of all states -- rich and poor, weak and strong," Annan said upon receiving the blueprint.
The commission, named the High Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, was headed by former Thai prime minister Anand Panyarachun and spent more than a year to develop the 93-page blueprint, entitled A more secure world: Our shared responsibility.
Its members included former heads of government like Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, Gareth Evans of Australia and Yevgeny Primakov of Russia, security experts like Brent Scowcroft of the US and former Chinese foreign minister Qian Qichen (