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Экология A new United Nations
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However, in the new security environment in which we live, states may also fear threats that are neither imminent not proximate, but which could culminate in horrific violence if left to fester. The Security Council is already fully empowered by the Charter to deal with these threats. It must be prepared to do so, taking decisive action earlier than in the past, when asked to act by states that have based their claims on reliable evidence.

The report sees no need to amend Article 51 of the UN Charter, which preserves the right of all states to act in self-defence against armed attack, including the right to take pre-emptive action against an imminent threat.

The use of force

Since the end of the cold war, the UN has become far more engaged in preventing and ending civil wars, and it has continued its long-standing role of working to stop wars between states. As the panel points out, more civil wars have been brought to an end through negotiation since 1990 than in the 200 years before that. Through successes and failures, we have developed expertise and learned hard lessons.

As the demand for UN blue helmets continues to grow, we need to boost the supply of peacekeepers to avoid repeating some of the worst failures of the 1990s. Wealthy states should hasten their efforts to transform existing forces into contingents suitable for peace operations, and put them at the disposal of the UN. We must also invest in mediation and support the implementation of peace agreements. The report stresses the importance of demobilizing combatants and reintegrating them into civil life. If this is not done, civil wars cannot be successfully brought to an end, and other critical goals – democracy, justice and development – will remain unmet.

Time and again, the international community has lost focus once the high point of a crisis has passes or peacekeepers have left a country. I welcome the panel's proposal to help deal with this problem: the creation by the Security Council of a Peacekeeping Commission, which would give the organization a strategic focus for its work in countries under stress or emerging from conflict.

Prevention or peaceful dispute-resolution will sometimes fail. When it does, we must be able to rely on the use of force. No matter what the cause, the report proposes five basic guidelines that all states and the Security Council should bear in mind in deciding whether to do so:

Seriousness of threat: Is the threat serious enough to justify prima facie the use of force?

Proper purpose: is the primary purpose of the proposed use of force to halt or avert the threat in question?

Last resort: Has every non-military option been explored and exhausted?

Proportional means: Is the force proposed the minimum necessary to meet the threat?

Balance of consequences: Is it clear that the consequences of action will not be worse than the consequences of inaction?

The question of action to protect civilians inside states has long been fraught with controversy. Yet it is being recognized more and more widely that the question is better framed not as one of a right to intervene, but of our responsibility to protect – a responsibility borne, first and foremost, by states. The panel members, whose background and experience vary widely, have agreed that the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs cannot be used to protect those who commit genocide, large-scale ethnic cleansing, or other comparable atrocities. I hope UN members will share that view – and that the Security Council will act on it.

What does the panel's report mean for the UN? The organization is now nearly 60 years old. It was born in a very different time and designed for a very different world. It has an under-appreciated record of adapting to new dangers – take, for instance, its peacekeeping efforts in civil wars around the world, and its response to the attacks of September 2001. But it clearly needs far-reaching reform if it is to prevent and respond to all the threats that we face today.

Some propose that a collective response through the UN is too difficult or not necessary. But action taken to meet threats always has an impact beyond the immediate context, and all states benefit from a shared global framework. That does not mean that the UN needs to do everything. Indeed, as a matter of good policy and sheer practicality, the UN must learn to share burdens, welcoming help form others and working hand in hand with them. I am pleased that it is already doing so – and that the panel's report makes sensible recommendations to strengthen the UN's partnership with regional organizations and individual member-states.

Inevitably, great attention will fall on the question of Security Council reform. What are the objectives of such reform? They surely must be to make the council more effective and authoritative. The idea of permanent membership was devised to ensure the active engagement of the big powers of 60 years ago in the maintenance of international peace and security. Whether we need new permanent members is a matter of controversy and debate.

The report offers two formulae for consideration by member states, both of which would expand membership to 24, and would have the same goals: to bring into the council's deliberations those who contribute most to the organizations financially, military and diplomatically; to ensure that the council broadly represents the membership of the UN as a whole; and not to expand the veto, which would render decision-making more difficult. The panel's proposals offer a chance for a breakthrough on this vital issue in the year ahead. If these recommendations are acted upon, the Security Council would be more representative of our world, and better equipped to take decisive action.


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