Printer Friendly

Setting a new agenda for the United Nations: Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Since taking office in January 1992, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has attempted to redifine the role of the United Nations in peacekeeping, peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. An Agenda for Peace outlines his plan for expanding U.N. capability and includes recommendations for increased funding, a standby U.N. army and greater autonomy for his position. The Secretary-general has expressed his desire to see all of these areas effectively addressed by the end of his tenure, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1995.

On 11 February 1993, members of the Journal editorial board interviewed the Secretary-general at U.N. headquarters in New York. It was the second in a two-part series of interviews that attempted to clarify his new vision for the United Nations and the challenges he faces in this mission. His responses are reprinted here.

Journal: Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended and some authoritarian regimes have collapsed, this by no means implies achievement of an ideological consensus among the member-states of the United Nations. How significant a barrier do you perceive these differences to be in identifying and achieving the global goals you outline in An Agenda for Peace?

Boutros-Ghali: There are obviously a number of differences of opinion among the 181 member-states of the United Nations. After all, these states represent peoples from diverse cultures with different values, and not surprisingly, they do not always share the same priorities or possess identical views on international issues. No one would claim that the international community has reached some kind of ideological consensus. It would certainly be wishful thinking to claim that the international community had reached a fundamental agreement on each and every issue on its agenda. But it would be a mistake to overlook the significance of the new spirit of cooperation that now prevails at the United Nations. With the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has overcome the barriers that were imposed by the ideological struggle between East and West, and this context offers the possibility of a new beginning for the United Nations.

Journal: YOU have outlined a bold plan in An Agenda for Peace that enables the United Nations to play a greater role in international security. To guarantee the feasibility of this plan, states must be willing partially to abdicate their sovereignty or, as you phrased it, acknowledge that the theory of absolute and exclusive sovereignty" was never matched by reality. How and why do you believe it is realistic for U.N. member-states willingly to relinquish their autonomy?

Boutros-Ghali: I do not agree with your assessment that member-states would have to relinquish their autonomy, or their sovereignty, in order to enable the United Nations to assume a greater role in interntional security. I believe that member-states realize that it is in their own best interest to work with other states to find solutions to the mutual threats and nagging problems that confront the entire international community. I believe that states have accepted the view that many of today's pressing international problems are transnational and interrelated in nature, and cannot be solved by any one country acting alone.

Journal: How have member-states' definitions of security changed in the post-cold War world? How do you propose the Limited Nations motivate states to act on matters outside their generally and historically defined national security interests? How realistic is the possibility of a collective definition of security, considering issues of state sovereignty and differing member-state security interests?

Boutros-Ghali: The concept of security, which has traditionally been defined in strictly military terms, has evolved to encompass the economic, social and environmental problems that threaten national and international security. We have seen how problems emanating from poverty, social unrest and humanitarian tragedies in just one state can - if left unchecked - reach a magnitude that disrupts the stability of an entire region. That is why I believe that there can not really be peace without development. It is therefore essential that efforts toward peace be pursued along with efforts toward economic and social development in an integrated and mutually supporting way.

Journal: At what threshold does a member-state's human rights violations cease to be an internal issue and become a matter for the United Nations? How does the current U.N. effort in Somalia support your reasoning?

Boutros-Ghali: In the tragic case of Somalia, a consensus developed among the international community that the level of human suffering had become intolerable. At the same time, it became apparent to everyone that Somalia had become a country without any central authority; it ceased to function as a state. It was in this context that the Security Council took the unprecedented decision to intervene militarily in a country for strictly humanitarian reasons.

Journal: How will the United Nations differentiate among the types of violations that require humanitarian intervention? With many of the member-states of the United Nations still committing human rights violations, how do you propose the organization develop a standard policy on how to address these cases?

Boutros-Ghali: It is possible that other cases of humanitarian tragedy might arise in the coming years that will pose difficult questions for the internional community. The United Nations will have to find the right balance between its responsibility to alleviate human suffering and its respect for the sovereignty of states. The United Nations will need to develop clear and agreed upon principles on which to base future decions. In this connection, I am hopeful that the International Conference on Human Rights, to be held later this year, will prove to be a useful opportunity for states to strengthen the principles of universal human rights and to clarify the international criteria for humanitarian intervention in a new era.

Journal: Does the United Nations need to go beyond mere humanitarian intervention in countries like Somalia, Afghanistan and Cambodia, where state institutions and/or domestic political communities have collapsed? If so, how can the United Nations go about reconstructing such fundamental institutions of state and society?

Boutros-Ghali: The problem is that it would be difficult for the United Nations to intervene through a peace-enforcement process in the case of [state] violations of human rights, because the Security Council has the right to intervene only in the case of a threat to peace. The case of Somalia was something completely new: There was no government at all. So our intervention was based on humanitarian reasons, but the legal basis of this intervention was the absence of a government. But supposing that you have an existing government, and there is violation of human rights, it would be quite difficult for us to intervene without the agreement of the government - because the government exists.

Journal: Let's consider further a situation where a government is new, or does not exist. You have been quoted as saying that you do not like the word "trusteeship." Yet given the escalation of ethnic fragmentation in many countries today, do you think that we will see trusteeships along the same lines as after the Second World War?

Boutros-Ghali: No, I still maintain my position. The concept of the trusteeship is finished: It dealt with certain member-states who were former colonies. Current international public opinion and the member-states will never accept this [arrangement]. What could be done is a cooperation with the government, like what we are doing now in Cambodia and in El Salvador: We are trying to help the government, to contribute to the reconstruction of the state, to participate in monitoring elections and to send experts to help them adopt new constitutions.

But certainly the decisions have to be taken by the local government and by the population. We cannot replace the will of the government or a population in a country; this is against the principle of the United Nations. We can assist and advise them, but finally the decisions have to be taken by the country.

Journal: There has been some talk about the United Nations having the use of an armed force, which would be made up of regiments donated by member-states and would be under the direct control of the United Nations. What kinds of institutional changes will be necessary for the United Nations to command these forces? How realistic is it to expect member-states, especially the major powers, to yield this control?

Boutros-Ghali: It is not a question of states being asked, or expected, to yield control over their own affairs. My proposals are aimed at enhancing the capacity of the United Nations to respond better to sudden threats to internional peace and security. I am simply suggesting steps that would enable the United Nations to deploy troops and specialists more quickly, and more effectively, once the Security Council has made a decision to do so. The troops would be under the operatonal command and control of the United Nations, as is the case in each of the 13 current U.N. peacekeeping operations. But the Security Council would, of course, retain sole authority to deploy forces and determine their mandate - whether they be in the form of a peacekeeping mission, a peace-building operation or a potential peace-enforcement action.

My proposals would certainly not diminish the control of any states - large or small - over their own armed forces or their influence over decisions to establish new U.N. operations. Indeed, several of today's major military powers have veto power over any decision to be taken by the Security Council. The proposals would put the United Nations in a position to deploy troops within days of a Security Council decision to do so, instead of the three to four months that it takes under current circumstances. It would only mean that the United Nations would be more effective in implementing the decisions of the international community, especially the decisions of the major powers.

Journal: History indicates, and you concur, that the United Nations can only be as effective and powerful a force in peacemaking as its member-states will allow it to be. Yet the decisions to intervene in the Persian Gulf and in Somalia required U.S. leadership. How important is U.S. support in achieving U.N. goals? Could the United States thwart the growing U.N. role in international security if it chose not to support intervention in certain crises?

Boutros-Ghali: Since the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco almost 50 years ago, the United States has been a strong and supportive member of the United Nations. It has consistently defended the principles and purposes of the Charter and it is today its largest financial contributor. I hope, and frankly expect, the United States to play a very constructive role in the years ahead.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, the United States is one of five states that has the authority to exercise a veto and effectively block the creation of any new operation. With the end of the Cold War, however, there has not been a veto exercised by any of the permanent members in over two years. In fact, the members of the Security Council - including the United States - have together demonstrated a new unity and resolve in taking on the problems of a new era. The Security Council's role in maintaining international peace and security has continued to grow along the lines that were originally envisaged by the Charter.

Journal: Support is now growing for real changes in the membership of the Security Council. What do you think are the likely repercussions of these changes in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of Security Council decision making?

Boutros-Ghali: I will not take a position on the proposed changes, because such changes must be decided by the member states. If changes were to happen, my advice would be that they must be limited. A Security Council with 17 or 18 members can work, but if it jumps like ECOSOC [the U.N. Economic and Social Council] from 15 to 30 members, it will not work.

I was a member of the Egyptian cabinet for 14 years. The cabinet numbered about 30, but the real work was done by an "inner cabinet," because the number is very important for efficient decision making. I would advise that whatever the changes, they must be very limited, because the Security Council will not be able to work unless it comprises a small number of nations.

Journal: Do you think the United Nations might have responded differently toward the crisis in the Balkans if there had been German participation on the Security Council? Or, looking back on the crisis, how would you have hoped the Security Council would have responded differently?

Boutros-Ghali: No, I don't believe [so]. The whole operation was begun by the European Community, which was tackling the problem. According to Article 52 of the U.N. Charter, regional disputes are supposed to be solved at the regional level, so we abstained from intervening because there already was a regional organization involved. We have had the same problem in Liberia, where a group of states [the Economic Community of West African States] has intervened, making it more difficult for us to intervene; in the event that the OAU [the Organization for African Unity] intervenes, the United Nations cannot. It would be like going directly to the Supreme Court instead of first going to the district court.

In fact, our position in Yugoslavia was that because the E.C. had established a framework and was doing something - it was doing real work, promoting a peace process - then we would not intervene. Later when we intervened, we decided to make a kind of clear division of labor: they [the E.C.] were dealing with the peace process; our role would be limited to maintaining a cease-fire between the Croats and the Serbs. When the United Nations became more and more involved, we convened the London Conference [the Intemational Conference on the Former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavial, where we decided to create a new framework to institutionalize the cooperation between the E.C. and the United Nations.

Journal: You outline the basis and guidelines for preventive diplomacy in An Agenda for Peace. On what basis do you suppose member-states will allow U.N. intervention before conflicts have escalated, given concems about national sovereignty? How do you envision the realistic implementation of preventive deployment?

Boutros-Ghali: The United Nations has, in fact, already launched its first mission of preventive deployment in Macedonia. It is precisely out of that government's concem for sovereignty and territorial integrity that Macedonia is not only willing to accept such a mission, but it has actually requested this type of assistance from the United Nations in the first place. The presence of a joint Nordic battalion on the Macedonian border will contribute to the security of a volatile region by deteffing potential threats and, if necessary, sounding the alarm of an imminent attack.

Journal: In An Agenda for Peace, you state that regional organizations can alleviate the United Nations'assumed burden in preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, peacemaking and post-conflict peace-building. In many cases, however, regional organizations cannot or will not play this role. What can the United Nations do to better involve regional organizations in conflict resolution? To what extent will the United Nations go to create and/or strengthen a "regional arrangement" with a formal pattern of relationships and specific divisions of labor?

Boutros-Ghali: From the outset of my term, I have stressed that the United Nations alone cannot be expected to bring peace to each and every conflict around the world. It is simply not feasible nor realistic to expect the United Nations to take over responsibility for solving every international crisis. There must be an international division of labor between the United Nations and the various regional organizations. And the relationships need to be flexible so that they can adapt to the characteristics and demands of each situation.

The London Conference, established by the E.C. and the United Nations to handle the Balkans crisis, has co-chairs and provides equal responsibility for negotiating a just and long-term solution. While the E.C. and the United Nations continue with their diplomatic efforts, the United Nations has also worked closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy troops in Bosnia and Hercegovina for humanitarian purposes. With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, the United Nations has supported the diplomatic efforts of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in trying to find a solution, while standing ready to assist with the verification of a cease-fire.

Journal: An important issue to consider in post-conflict peace-building is the demobilization of troops of warring factions. In Angola, Mozambique and Somalia there exists the necessity to prevent indigenous troops from resurrecting the crisis. It may take years of support before any of these regions is stabilized and troops demobilized and rehabilitated. How can the United Nations resettle troops with greater assurancefor a lasting peace? How can the United Nations ensure that it does not leave a troubled area too soon?

Boutros-Ghali: The task of demobihzing armed forces, following the negotiated end to a conflict, has become a crucial component in several recent U.N. operations that are designed to implement post-conflict peace-building. In El Salvador, U.N. troops have successfully completed their demobilization of the armed opposition and placed Salvadoran society on a promising and peaceful road to normalization. In Cambodia, regrettably, the Khmer Rouge has refused to fully comply with their obligations under the Paris Peace Accords. In these cases, the United Nations depends on the cooperation of the parties to live up to their commitments; it does not have the authority to enforce compliance by the parties without a Security Council decision to do so. It is important to understand that these U.N. operations were not provided with the mandate, or the resources, to enforce compliance by the parties.

Journal: How do you see your role as Secretary-general changing during your tenure?

Boutros-Ghali: I do not see my role as changing, because I am limited by the U.N. Charter and various articles. Article 99 allows me only to discuss [concerns] with the Security Council. My role is limited by the Charter.

Journal: What kind of a position as Secretary-General would you like to hand over to your successor?

Boutros-Ghali: I hope to hand over a United Nations that will be able to cope with the problems of the next century.

Journal: Do you view achieving the goals of An Agenda for Peace to be a long-term process? Do you expect to achieve any of these goals by the twenty-first century? How will this process evolve?

Boutros-Ghali: Yes, An Agenda for Peace should be viewed as the beginning of an ongoing process aimed at the fundamental renewal and reform of the United Nations. The report has been, and continues to be, under discussion by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the entire international community. The Security Council has already expressed its support for some of the proposals, such as fact-finding missions and preventive diplomacy. I expect the Security Council to express interest in other elements of the report during the course of its deliberations. The General Assembly, for its part, has not only approved the idea of a special fund for the start-up costs of new peacekeeping operations, but also decided to establish it at an even higher level than my original proposal. Most importantly, I think that An Agenda for Peace has already served its most valuable contribution by prompting a serious discussion and stimulating a constructive debate on ways to strengthen the role of the United Nations. I hope that reform and improvement will be viewed by the member-states as a top priority, whose continuation is necessary if the United Nations is to meet the challenges of the era that lies ahead.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Columbia University School of International Public Affairs
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Keeping the Peace: Conflict Resolution in the Twenty-First Century
Author:Reynolds, Carolyn; Raghavan, Sudarsan V.; Dorman, W. Judson; Sawin, Melissa
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Next Article:Collective security in Europe after the Cold War.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters