The United Nations According to New York Time

Officially, the 58th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly closed its doors and put away its gavel in New York City on Monday, the 13th. The 59th edition of the same opened its on Tuesday, the 14th—“at 3:00 P.M. (New York Time),” as the silly rolling message on the Welcome to the United Nations homepage keeps reminding us this morning. (Though it’ll be gone in a flash.)

Just four years ago, the so-called Millennium Assembly of the United Nations convened. Ringing the Peace Bell outside the General-Secretariat Building in New York on the “first International Peace Day of the new millennium,” the Secretary-General observed, “we look to the world’s leaders to seize the opportunity of the Summit to build peace, and make it the truly historic occasion it should be. Today, let us hear the bell ring loud, clear and true in our conscience. Let it ring out a century of cruelty and destruction, and ring in a millennium of hope and peace.” (SG/SM/7528, Sept. 5, 2000.)

Three days later, he spoke of the “remarkable convergence of views on the challenge that faces us” (SG/SM/7540/Rev.1*, Sept. 8), including his Millennium Report‘s “moral recommitment” to the Charter of the United Nations above all.

(Quick aside. These days, the UN Charter is often alleged to be ambivalent—or ambiguous, take your pick. Try comparing the Preamble, Chapter I (“Purposes and Principles”), and Chapter VI (“Pacific Settlement of Disputes”) sometime against Chapter VII (“Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”). But this did not always seem to be the case. Indeed. Arguments for the UN Charter’s ambiguity—an alleged clash between its affirmations of sovereign and equal states and the peaceful settlement of disputes among states, on the one side, and internal armed conflicts (“civil wars”) or, in other cases, humanitarian crises triggering a Chapter VII “threat to the peace,” on the other—are more artifacts of the past 15 years or so, reflecting the ascendancy of American Power in the contemporary world, and the major triumph it enjoyed within the ideological realm during the 1990s while driving the stake of “humanitarian” intervention through the heart of the Balkan wars.)

Anyway. In terms of the always timely question of international peace and security, the Millennium Report stated that this recommitment to the UN Charter was to have included strengthening respect for international law, adopting the mechanisms required to prevent armed conflicts before they occur, protecting the vulnerable the world over, addressing the “dilemma of intervention” (though if you read the Report, you’ll see that its author came down firmly behind the notion of “humanitarian” intervention), strengthening peace operations, better-targeted sanctions, pursuing arms reductions (were this commitment honest, it would have reduced the crisis in Darfur immeasurably), and nuclear weapons—though “non-proliferation” only, not their elimination from the face of the earth. (Nor surely hiding them in outer space, either. As the Americans want to do.) (See Ch. IV, “Freedom from Fear“)

(Another quick aside. Of course a lot more deserves to be said about all of this. But my basic impression has always been that the Secretary-General’s Millennium Report is glossy, superficial, oriented largely towards good public relations and not offending the worldly powers that he dare not offend—and that addressing any of the really important threats and challenges the world faces in the broad field of peace and security was held under the strictest of anathemas. By design.)

Now it’s four years later. Four very long and very tumultuous years later. With the start of the UN’s new year upon us, and with the report by the Secretary-General’s so-called Eminent Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change due shortly (Right?), a body specifically mandated to “recommend clear and practical measures for ensuring effective collective action, based upon a rigorous analysis of future threats to peace and security, an appraisal of the contribution collective action can make, and a thorough assessment of existing approaches, instruments and mechanisms, including the principal organs of the United Nations” (SG/A/857, Nov. 4, 2003), I can’t help but wonder whether a colossal act of capitulation on the part of the Secretary-General lies before us.

Question: What are the major threats to international peace and security in the world today? Bracketing nuclear weapons (which are in a class by themselves), and bracketing some truly ominous threats over the long term (such as global warming, monkeying with the process of natural selection, and the next large mass of cosmic debris headed this way), what real threats come to mind?

Is it someone or something based in Khartoum? Based in Pyongyang? Tehran? Damascus? Havana? Caracas? Belgrade? The mountainous border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan? The Caucasus? So-called “failed states” such as Haiti and Afghanistan? The Gaza Strip and West Bank? The streets of Sadr City, Fallujah, Tal Afar, Basra, and literally dozens of others? The so-called Al-Qaeda/Taliban and Associated Individuals and Entities network?

Or something based closer to home and less exotic sounding, less distant and different from us—less other? Something with which we awaken every morning, and go to sleep with every night? Breathe it. Eat it. Drink it. And by which we are consumed, in turn, daily? The world’s sole power that is powerful enough for all of the aforementioned smaller problems to be connected with each other in a meaningful pattern because, after all, they have all been given supporting roles to play within its larger, truly epic, undeniably global drama?

To repeat myself: I can’t help but wonder whether the forthcoming report by the Secretary-General’s Panel will take its cues from the example of the collective responses over the past 10 to 12 months to the various crises in the Sudan, or from the collective incapacity of everybody to do a damn thing about the various crises that have been caused by the American state, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but to the international order over which the United Nations still tries to maintain a bit of a finger hold. However tenuous.

So here is the real acid test, it seems to me: Will this Panel of Eminent Persons hold up the example of this past year’s responses to the Sudan as a testimony to effective collective action and the benchmark going forward? Or will it hold up the example of the American invasions and occupations of two sovereign states since the Millennium Report was released four years ago as a testimony to the impotence from which the rest of the world suffers, confronted by a Super Predator State shoving any hope of containing it right down their collective throat?

These questions call to mind the UN General Assembly’s August 5 vote on a resolution “Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international cooperation” (A/RES/58/317).

The vote that day: 93 states in favor; 2 against; 47 abstentions; 35 absents.

Those two lone states voting against? The United States and Israel.

Anyone care to place a wager?

Charter of the United Nations, 1945

‘We the Peoples’: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, Kofi A. Annan et al., United Nations, 2000 (a.k.a., Millennium Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations)

Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, Lakhdar Brahimi et al., United Nations, 2000 (a.k.a., Brahimi Report)

The Responsibility to Protect, Gareth Evans, Mohamed Sahnoun, et al., International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Government of Canada, 2001 (For a PDF version of the same, see The Responsibility to Protect)

Eminent Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, United Nations, 2003-2004 (forthcoming)

UN General Assembly Resolution “Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international cooperation” (A/Res/58/317), August 5, 2004

FYA (“For your archives”): Friends, opening these UN documents often is problematic. So I’m depositing here both a copy of the 58th General Assembly Resolution “Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international cooperation,” and a copy of the final tally from the August 5 vote.—As best I can tell, the adoption of this not-insignificant resolution went unreported in the major news media of the state which, in my opinion, ought to be made Priority No. One by any honest accounting of the threats to international peace and security the world faces today.

United Nations A/RES/58/317

Fifty-eighth session
Agenda item 59
03 51488

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly
[without reference to a Main Committee (A/58/L.67/Rev.1)]

Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international cooperation

The General Assembly,

Bearing in mind the Charter of the United Nations, including the purposes and principles contained therein, and especially the determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and emphasizing its paramount importance for the maintenance of international peace and security and the development of friendly relations and cooperation among States,

Considering that the promotion of respect for the obligations arising from the Charter and other instruments and rules of international law is among the basic purposes and principles of the United Nations, and in this context recalling the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, annexed to its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970,

Recalling the United Nations Millennium Declaration, adopted by heads of State and Government at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations on 8 September 2000,1

Reaffirming its determination to establish and maintain a just and lastinginternational peace and security in accordance with the Charter and relevant resolutions of the United Nations, upholding the need to abide strictly by the relevant provisions of the Charter on the sovereign equality of all Member States, respect for their territorial integrity and political independence and non-interference in their internal affairs, the non-use of force or threat of force, resolution of disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, the right to self-determination of peoples remaining under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the equal rights of all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, and international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and convinced that development can be achieved only in a climate of peace, security and mutual confidence both within and among Member States,

Reiterating that the responsibility for managing and achieving worldwide economic and social development, as well as responding to threats to international peace and security, must be shared among all nations of the world and exercised multilaterally and that, in this context, as the most universal and most representative intergovernmental organization, the United Nations must play the central role,

1. Reiterates the need for full observance of the Charter of the United Nations and the unrestricted application of all the principles and the achievement of the purposes that it enshrines, including, inter alia, the principles regarding the sovereign equality of Member States and the necessity of respecting the political independence of nations, and reaffirms the central role of the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security and the strengthening of international cooperation in conformity with the Charter;

2. Reaffirms the irreplaceable role of the United Nations and the necessity of ensuring the equal participation of all Member States, in a transparent manner, in a multilateral system, guided by the Charter and founded on universally recognized values and norms;

3. Also reaffirms its commitment to multilateralism, which entails, inter alia, respect for the Charter and the principles and norms of international law and the adoption of measures to prevent the use or the threat of use of force and the exercise of pressure and coercion as a means for obtaining certain political objectives, and in this context underlines the fact that Member States have committed themselves to refraining in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and to upholding the principle of settlement of international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner as not to endanger international peace and security and justice, bearing in mind the need to allay the legitimate concern of Member States with regard to ensuring lasting safety and security for their peoples;

4. Re-emphasizes the respective prerogatives and functions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council as defined in the Charter, and the need to enhance the coordination among these organs, which constitute the framework for the achievement of the purposes of the United Nations, and underlines its conviction regarding the need to sustain as a priority in the process of reform of the United Nations, the revitalization and strengthening of the Assembly and the reforms of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, with a view to strengthening further the capacity of the United Nations so as to enable it to improve its performance in undertaking its functions and responsibilities, mindful, in this context, of the need to involve all Member States in these processes in order to ensure that their perspectives, concerns and interests will be taken fully into account;

5. Welcomes the establishment by the Secretary-General of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and takes note of its terms of reference;2

6. Calls upon all States to cooperate fully through constructive dialogue in order to ensure the full enjoyment, promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, as well as in the promotion of the peaceful resolution of international problems, including those of a humanitarian character, the prevention and end of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and the prosecution of those responsible for such crimes, and, in their actions towards that purpose, calls upon them to comply strictly with the principles and norms of international law, inter alia, by fully respecting their obligations under international human rights instruments and humanitarian law;

7. Reaffirms the right to self-determination of peoples that remain under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, in conformity with the Charter and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations;

8. Expresses its deep concern over any act or threat of foreign intervention or occupation of any State or territory in contravention of the Charter;

9. Underlines the need to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations in the areas of prevention and resolution of armed conflict, including relevant peacebuilding and development activities, as well as in the areas of peacemaking and peacekeeping, in accordance with the Charter, and calls for the building up of consensus among Member States in defining the scope, orientation and needs of such capacity in the light of current and evolving challenges and threats to international peace and security, taking into consideration, in this context, the need for partnership between the United Nations and relevant regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations in accordance with Chapter VIII of the Charter;

10. Reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and stresses the importance of their full and equal participation in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution and the rebuilding of post-conflict societies;

11. Condemns acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomsoever committed, reiterates its call upon all States to adopt and implement further measures to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in combating terrorism, and reaffirms that measures taken by States must be in accordance with the Charter and must comply with their obligations under international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations;

12. Reaffirms the importance of achieving the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction globally, in particular nuclear weapons, which pose the greatest danger to mankind and the survival of civilization, reiterates in this context its deep concern over the slow pace of progress towards nuclear disarmament, emphasizes that the achievement of genuine peace and security demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, in particular nuclear war, bearing also in mind all the resulting predictable consequences of the resurgence of a new arms race among States, also reaffirms the need for all Member States to fulfil their obligations in relation to arms control and disarmament and to prevent the proliferation in all its aspects of weapons of mass destruction, and further reaffirms that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament;

13. Reiterates its call upon all States urging them, as well as the relevant United Nations bodies, to take appropriate measures to fully implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects;3

14. Emphasizes that the United Nations has a central role in promoting and coordinating international cooperation for development, as well as in the follow-up to international economic affairs and the outcome of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields and in promoting policy coherence on global economic, social and development issues, in consonance with the relevant provisions of the Charter, and expresses its commitment to work for the strengthening of its role as coordinator of the efforts carried out by the international community in this regard, with a view to ensuring the achievement of a fair, democratic, transparent and equitable international economic environment, in which the opportunities offered by globalization are to the advantage of all countries, in particular the developing countries.

93rd plenary meeting
5 August 2004

In favor: Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, C’te d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Israel, United States.

Abstaining: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Absent: Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Guinea, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Libya, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

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