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Peace In A New Era Of Global Politics: Op-Ed

The Chance For Peace And Development In A New Era Of World Politics

Op-Ed By Benita Ferrero-Waldner – European Union Commissioner for External Relations

What, in this day and age, is the United Nations for? That is the question that has teased governments and students of international politics alike since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Next week 175 Heads of State and Government will gather at the UN’s headquarters in New York to put the finishing touches on a document that will seek to provide the answer. This first attempt at serious reform in the UN’s 60-year history will, we hope, usher in a new era of world politics.

The fundamental principles are unchanged – the need for a system of international rules and cooperation to limit man’s propensity to armed conflict and give us a forum where states can work together for the common good.

But the world is radically different to the one the UN was born into, and the nature of conflict and threat has changed enormously. The UN needs an organisational re-fit and a mandate for fresh action to equip it for the task of meeting its challenges for another 60 years.

That is what is at stake in New York - and it is not an easy task. The number of UN member countries has multiplied almost fourfold since 1945, making negotiations far more complicated. Yet the nature of today’s threats – the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, ‘failed states’, persistent poverty, climate change, and HIV/AIDS - make the need to act all the more urgent.

In the run-up to the Summit some have focused more on the Security Council’s composition, others on management issues. While both are undoubtedly necessary, they should not distract us from the fundamentals of the debate: security, human rights, and development.

These are inextricably linked – without peace there is no development, without development no peace, and without human rights, neither.

This is certainly Europe’s view of the world, and why we have played a leading role in the search for consensus in the UN’s corridors and beyond over the last few months. Our support for the UN should come as no surprise. Both the UN and the European Union grew out of the same traumatic experience of war that served to convince the world’s powers that a new international system was necessary. And the two organisations are based on the same principle, that states can better address the challenges before them by acting together than apart.

This is why the EU accounts for about 50 percent of all contributions to the UN’s funds and programmes. And why we are determined that the UN Summit should give us an organisation which is sufficiently reformed to fulfil its original promise: anchoring international peace and security, promoting sustainable development and defending human rights and human security.

Key to this will be the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission. This will plug the gap in our international architecture between post-conflict assistance and longer-term stabilisation and development. Getting post-conflict states up and running is a complicated matter. Too often there is not enough continuity between the different post-conflict activities and international aid: peacekeepers funded by one party, demobilisation by another, reconstruction and institution-building by yet another. But given that the strongest indicator of potential future conflict is the evidence of past conflict, this is a vital area to be tackled at the Summit.

In the Balkans and in Afghanistan, the EU already seeks to put this kind of coherent approach into action. Pooling expertise and making it available to others through the Peacebuilding Commission would boost the success of post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

To prevent conflict and the recurrence of conflict we have to do more to protect human rights. Abuse of fundamental rights is one of the clear indicators for future conflict – so improving our ability to act in this field is not only a moral obligation. The present Human Rights Commission is no longer fully up to the job, and reforming the UN’s human rights architecture is crucial.

We need a mechanism which takes rights seriously, because this is about people – the prisoner at risk of torture, the child forced into armed combat, the woman threatened by cruelty and abuse. We must also put human security to the fore – adopting a modern concept of sovereignty where states are responsible for protecting their people, not just their borders. With the approval of a new Human Rights Council, the Summit must make clear the UN’s undivided commitment to human rights and human security – empowering women; helping states meet their international obligations; assisting human rights defenders and children in armed conflict; and sounding the alarm when violations occur.

How will 2005 be remembered? I hope not only for the continuous violence in Iraq, the cowardly acts of terrorism in London and elsewhere, the dreadful scenes of desperation in Niger, or the tragic aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. But for a new era in world politics, unleashed by the UN Summit, where the UN is empowered to play its vital role.

In the words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General killed while on a peace mission to the Congo: “Everything will be all right - you know when? When people stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

On 14 September 2005 world leaders must rise to the challenge - pick up the brush, and paint.

ENDS


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