22nd Plenary Session
21-23 July 2004
The InterAction Council returned in 2004 to Austria, its birth place, for its 22nd Annual Plenary Meeting to help restore moral centrality to world affairs. In this context, the Council considered the state of the world and examined two critical issues: the plight of the world's children and the justifications for military intervention.
Present State of the World
1. A depressing return of destructive phantoms from the 20th century characterises today's world. Aggressive nationalism, religious fanaticism, xenophobia and racism, the glorification of war, and militarism are now all sweeping across the globe. These phantoms have been re-ignited and exploited by both populist politicians and deadly terrorists while being nourished by national humiliation and economic desperation.
2. At the same time, there have been signs of hope. The European Union made great progress this year when 25 states joined together in a peaceful union for the first time in their long history. In Latin America, although democracy and human rights remain under pressure in some countries, democracy flourishes, and there is not a single remaining military dictatorship in South America. In Asia, the remarkable speed of economic growth in China and India raises hopes for the future. The recent elections in India also testify to the strength and stability of the largest democracy in South Asia. In China, there are signs of a more open public dialogue.
3. Despite these positive developments, the world remains divided into the very few rich and the very many poor. The awful effects are most obvious in African countries. The widening economic gap afflicts rich countries as well. The Council once again calls on major states to open their markets to the agricultural products of the developing world. The WTO's Doha Round of negotiations is of critical importance and should be concluded urgently.
4. Unfortunately, trade and poverty alleviation are currently not the most pressing global concerns. The American-led war on terrorism has spread worldwide and has caused many of our leaders to forget that the use of military force must be exercised in proportion to the threat. The likely consequences of using excessive force must always be considered with the utmost care. In the case of Iraq, the manner in which the world was led to war, the disproportionate use of force, the legality of the action, and episodic human rights violations may result in unintended consequence that are contrary to the stated aims of the war on terror.
5. In the effort to isolate the terrorists and to promote peace and progress in the Arab world, it is essential to introduce economic, social and political reform. Progress is hampered by both structural and cultural problems. The oppression of women in these countries results in an enormous squandering of human resources. The American Greater Middle East Initiative is interesting, but under present circumstance, the United States and its allies in Europe currently lack the necessary credibility in the region to champion successfully the cause of reform.
6. The Iraq War has given terrorists the opportunity to attract new supporters. Guantanamo Bay and other documented cases of power improperly used have compromised the solidarity and compassion bestowed on the United States following the attacks of 11 September. Particularly in the Arab world, and in other Islamic countries, the war on terrorism is perceived by many as an attack upon Islam; terrorists consistently have taken advantage of this misperception. This misperception adversely affects not only the United States but also the values that the US and many other countries seek to communicate: democracy, freedom and respect for human rights. The Iraq war was a disaster as it not only violated international law but was also a very unwise political move.
7. Democracy, freedom and respect for human rights are values at the core of the American democratic system. The strength of the American system was demonstrated when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay had the right to challenge their detention in a court of law. Traditionally, the United States has not been afraid to acknowledge its mistakes and it has also demonstrated a willingness to correct its errors.
8. Rule of law is essential to the successful combat of international terrorism. Terrorism must be opposed first through judicial means and, if necessary, through military means. It should be the principal aim of governments and of international institutions to isolate and to marginalise terrorist groups through any means possible. The terrorists themselves are probably beyond the reach of dialogue or even deterrence, but it is extremely important that the countries who respect the rule of law and human rights do not enhance nor encourage terrorists through their own conduct. Whatever can be done must be done to bring an end to the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan and moves towards peace must be encouraged. International terrorists otherwise will continue to exploit the conditions in these countries in order to recruit new members, to enhance their own reputations, and to justify their own violence.
9. Supporting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is a very important first step for nations seeking to ensure a rules-based world. In early July, at the request of the UN General Assembly, the Court offered an Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory (West Bank). The Court concluded that the construction of this wall is contrary to international law and that Israel is under an obligation to cease construction and to dismantle the constructed works. The Council believes that the UN and the International Court of Justice should be strengthened. The Council urges all states, and notably the state of Israel, to abide by the judgment rendered by the ICJ and the General Assembly. We call on the United States, working through the quartet, to use its unquestionable influence among Israelis and Palestinians to bring a just and lasting peace to the region.
10. In addition to creating a rules-based world, the United Nations plays a central role preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Next year, the UN will host a conference on nuclear non-proliferation in New York. Active nuclear weapons have been reduced from over 50,000 warheads during the Cold War to around 20,000 today, but the five countries that previously made up a one-time exclusive nuclear circle have now been joined by Israel, India, Pakistan and possibly North Korea, and others that are developing nuclear weapons. From the very beginning, Article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) committed the original states to move toward total nuclear disarmament. It is imperative that the major powers accept that nuclear weapons are a major danger to the security of the world. Non-proliferation will not be achieved unless nuclear states fulfil their obligation under the NPT and unless all non-nuclear states abandon any programs to acquire them.
11. The North Korea nuclear issue is not only a serious global security problem but a cause for gravest concern within the region. This issue should be resolved through a peaceful process of talks involving the United States, China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and North Korea.
12 Although nuclear weapons threaten all of mankind, it must be remembered that many millions more have been killed by small arms. Recently, the UN Secretary General has worked with states to create a treaty to limit and to regulate the export of small arms and lethal weapons. The Council, endorsing the UN effort, calls on states to renew cooperation with the Secretary General on this pressing matter.
13. Frequently, it is the citizens of the developing world who suffer most as a consequence of small arms. At present, there is no better example of this than the exploding humanitarian crisis in Darfur in the Sudan. We recognize that significant powers and resources are currently committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and that this creates a serious impediment to any new intervention. In the strongest possible terms, the Council urges the UN Secretary General to explore with member states the possibility of raising an intervention force to save the people of Darfur from massive abuse and uncontrolled violence.
14. But, at the same time, a story of a failing intervention is unfolding. Intervention in Afghanistan was originally a testament to the strength of the international system. A UN Security Council resolution authorized the intervention, it was coordinated multilaterally by NATO, and several member states and large NGOs all chose to place personnel on the ground in their effort to put an end to one of the world's most brutal regimes. However, only 8,000 troops remain to enforce the peace (when 80,000 are required), leaving security in Afghanistan available only to the fortunate few who live in the immediate environs of Kabul. In addition, the return of the Taliban is a real possibility. This demonstrates that when nations intervene, they have the obligation to carry through and rebuild both the civil and political infrastructure. This commitment should be a significant test to prove whether or not an intervention was just and should guide the Security Council when it is considering authorising the use of force.
15. Recognition of the centrality and authority of the Security Council by member states is essential to its continued success. The United Nations would be further strengthened if both the Security Council and the Charter reflected the reality of the 21st Century. It surely ought to be possible, especially after fifty-nine years since the end of World War II and with the total agreement of the UN, to remove the enemy clauses, Article 53(2) and Article 107, from the UN Charter.
16. As we consider global issues such as trade, poverty, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and rule of law, it is important that we do not forget that we are all responsible for our environment. Carbon dioxide emissions, the greenhouse effect, climate change and other warning signals justify drastic action to protect future life. If the developing countries begin to pollute per capita at rich country levels, mankind would face a global catastrophe. The rich countries must play their part and reduce their emissions. It is essential to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. As a first step, the Kyoto Protocol must be signed and observed by all countries.
17. The Council fully endorses the seven-point policy recommendations proposed by the Rt. Hon Ingvar Carlsson in his keynote speech, 'A Global Tour d'Horizon,' analysing recent international developments during the Opening Session on 21 July 2004.
Are We Meeting Our Responsibility to Children?
18. The Council strongly endorses the eight recommendations made in the Report of Chairman, The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser, during the High-Level Expert Group Meeting 'Are We Meeting Our Responsibility to Our Children?' held in Tokyo, March 19 -20, 2004. The Council further recommends the following:
19. The Council noted with considerable interest the British proposal for developing an International Finance Facility (IFF) and its possibilities should be explored as a matter of urgency. The IFF is intended to avoid the immediate constraints many governments face when trying to increase aid expenditures. The IFF should be supported in its effort to put into effect the immunization plan developed jointly by UNICEF, WHO and The Vaccine Fund. The development of this facility does not absolve states of their responsibility to reverse the disturbing downward trend in aid levels. The United Nations should continue to enjoy financial and other forms of support from its members.
20. Debt burden is one of the largest single inhibitors for countries trying to make a fresh start. The Council proposes a move towards a system that replaces development loans with development grants. Tying development monies to a reduction in arms and military capabilities and good governance should strengthen the development process. Wealthy nations providing development aid and the international financial institutions should analyse and take account of the level of military expenditures of the recipient countries. Financial assistance should be reduced if (as is true in many developing countries) the military expenditures are excessive in relation to defence requirements.
21. We should remember that children are under threat in the developed world as well as the developing world, and in this regard, the Council takes particular note of indigenous children. It is imperative that a commitment to children become a key part of the personal ethics of the world's leaders.
22. A commitment to ensuring that every child has adequate primary and secondary education is among the most important priorities for the world's children. Teaching our children global values and tolerance would also make a major contribution to their development.
23. To acknowledge an ethical responsibility to children is about being committed to more than one's own or one's nation's interest. It is a commitment to the most vulnerable human beings. It is the essence of the global ethics that has motivated the InterAction Council and its founder Takeo Fukuda.
Justifiable Cases of Military Intervention
24. The Council strongly endorses the recommendations made, except item 5, in the Report of Chairman, The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser, on the High-Level Expert Group Meeting 'Justifiable Cases of Military Intervention', held at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna, July 17-19, 2004. The Council further recommends the following:
25. We reaffirm the centrality of the UN Security Council and the importance of all states working with and through the Council in matters of international peace and security.
26. The principles of the Just War Tradition should guide the Security Council as it considers military intervention. Those principles are: the justness of the cause, the presence of honest intentions, just authority, the proportionality of the response, the necessity of the intervention and compliance with international humanitarian law.
27. The intense debate over the Iraq war demonstrates again the need for high moral standards in the conduct of international relations. The Council, therefore, once more calls for the leaders of the world to promote the highest standards of global ethics and to bring forward to the United Nations the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities.
At present, the world community faces its most critical period since the end of Cold War. Recent policies and events have pushed the world closer to a clash of civilizations. But we remain confident that these dangers can be met provided that states work together and support the United Nations. What must guide all of us at this time is a truly global ethical standard.