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Tuesday, July 7, 2020
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 24 1999 (IPS) - The past year has been marked by large international interventions in Kosovo and East Timor and progress on creating an International Criminal Court.
Yet for many officials and analysts, governance of the global environment remains essentially in the hands of one nation. The United States has continued to be seen, in US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s phrase, as the “indispensable nation.”
Yet shifts in key areas, from the widespread support for the Kosovo and East Timor missions to the trial of the former Chilean dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, point to a world in which governance is multi-polar and less dependent on Washington, some experts argue.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan underscored that point at the opening of the recent session of the United Nations General Assembly, when he contrasted the international inaction during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with the use of force – without UN Security Council authorisation – this year in Yugoslavia.
Although Annan argued in favour of “humanitarian intervention” in times of major humanitarian crises, he also warned against setting “dangerous precedents” for future interventions.
“The core challenge to the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole in the next century (is) to forge unity behind the principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights – wherever they may take place – should not be allowed to stand,” he said.
He also points out that if nations use armed force “in the common interest,” as the UN Charter allows, they must address the questions: “What is the common interest? Who shall define it? Who shall defend it? Under whose authority? And with what means of intervention?”
Those are questions that have challenged world leaders, and even seemed to threaten some. Several governments – including Russia and China, both of which hold veto power in the Security Council – have already issued warnings against any concept of “humanitarian intervention” which could form the basis for one- sided action.
“We believe that the state has a role and a relevance,” Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said in response to Annan’s questions.
“The new postulates and theories about intervention need to be debated fully, and not selectively applied,” he said, noting the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombing of Yugoslavia this year.
“Intervention is going to be the flavour of the year, or next couple of years,” one senior UN official predicted. He contended that a debate on how much power the UN system or groups of concerned nations have to intervene in national crises will continue for at least the next two years.
In a significant way, even as that debate goes on, the dynamic of international governance is changing dramatically, as both supporters and critics of intervention contend.
NATO forces pounded Yugoslavia for 11 weeks this spring in the Kosovo conflict, despite the lack of UN Security Council authorisation.
In September, the Council quickly approved Australia’s bid to lead a force of more than 8,000 troops to respond to the burst of Indonesia-backed violence in East Timor.
Now, both Kosovo and East Timor are under temporary UN administration, with UN officials garnering sweeping powers to change laws, train civil servants and police, handle day-to-day administration – and, ultimately, prepare the way for self-rule.
In one particularly controversial step, the UN administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, effectively allowed Kosovars to use German Deutschmarks as their currency – even though UN resolutions still explicitly endorse Yugoslavia’s sovereignty.
In the past, the idea of sovereignty automatically meant such things as respect for national laws and national currencies. Yet with the Yugoslav dinar virtually defunct as legal tender in Kosovo, and Yugoslav laws rapidly falling out of favour, some previous notions of sovereignty and governance are crumbling.
That decay stems, at least in part, from globalisation. It has become difficult for nations to resist UN or regional interventions even as they enforce the recommendations of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or donor nations to lower tariffs, cut subsidies and enact other market-friendly measures.
Yet although governments have – often unwillingly – accepted such economic liberalisation, the effort to push more unified political and legal governance have been resisted.
Even a nation like the United States, which played a major role in the Kosovo intervention and has led other efforts to enforce international norms – notably the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent embargo against Iraq – has chafed at signs of the growing internationalisation of governance.
A recent eexample of retreat from internationalism was the U.S. Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The United States is also the one major nation resisting the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the court to try genocide and other crimes against humanity. US objections stemmed largely from worries that US military officials may eventually be prosecuted by such a body.
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