Connect with us

International Law

UN Security Council reform high on the agenda

Published

on

Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear once again recently that it is high time the United Nations Security Council had among permanent members representatives of India, Brazil and the African continent. Speaking at the “Raisina Dialogue” International Conference in New Delhi, Mr.Lavrov reminded the participants in the event about Moscow’s consistent appeals for the UN Security Council to clear the current uncertainty and invite representatives  from developing countries as permanent members.

The UN Security Council plays a crucial role in the United Nations Organization – the world’s most authoritative forum for countries to coordinate their positions and secure their interests in nearly all spheres of human activity. Under the UN Charter, the Security Council answers for «maintaining peace and global security». Thus, revamping the United Nations and modernizing the entire architecture of global governance are hardly possible without an overhaul of this highly important international institution. One of the major issues to be addressed in the course of the UN reform «is to search for ways to ensure the interests of all regions and guarantee the appropriate representation of all countries»[i]. Given the situation, many UN member countries call for the enlargement of the UN Security Council.

At present, the UN Security Council consists of 15 member countries, five of which are permanent members – Britain, China, Russia, the United States and France. Each of the five permanent members enjoys the right of veto which blocks the adoption of a resolution if necessary. The other ten non-permanent members are elected for 2 years, so half of non-permanent members are replaced every year. The year 1992 marked the beginning of talks on the reform of the UN Security Council at the government level. The issue of Security Council enlargement has been under discussion since 1994. In the spring of 2005 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested increasing the composition of the Security Council to 24 members, including by extending the number of permanent members to embrace India, Brazil, Germany and Japan. Intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the UN Security Council have been on since 2009,  «in the format of an unofficial plenary session of the UN General Assembly». According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the parties involved still demonstrate «substantial differences ….on all key issues».

The only time the number of  UN Security Council members changed was in 1963, when the number of non-permanent members rose from six to ten, while the total number of member countries increased from 11 to 15. The law makes it possible to «radically reconsider» the UN Charter and revise the powers of the Security Council. Article 109 of the UN Charter allows for introducingchanges to the UN Charter through convening  «a general conference of UN members with the support of two thirds of members of the General Assembly and nine members of the Security Council». In this case none of the permanent members of the Security Council has the right of veto.. However, no precedents of this have been reported in UN history so far. Sceptics fear that the attempt to change the Charter in such a manner may result in the elimination of the United Nations.

Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly dwelled in detail on Russia’s position on the issue of expanding the make-up of the UN Security Council. Russia is in favor of  increasing the number of members of the Security Council. Meanwhile, the reform should not have a negative impact on the governance and effectiveness of the Security Council. “Efficiency in operation” is one of the key principles. Another principle is that all regions, all centers of world development should be represented. The most reasonable number of members is “a bit over 20” [ii]. In January this year, Sergei Lavrov emphasized yet again Moscow’s commitment to the principle of fair representation of all the leading regions of the world, with the mandatory participation of developing countries. In this context, the head of Russian diplomacy said, “we maintain that India and Brazil fully deserve a seat on the UN Security Council, along with a representative of Africa. We believe that the goal of the UN Security Council reform should be to ensure a better attitude to developing countries from the main body of the Organization ”[iii].

The absence of India among permanent members of the Security Council seems particularly illogical in the past few years, if not decades. At present, India is the world’s second in the number of people residing there. And by 2025, according to UN experts, it will become the most densely populated country in the world [iv]. India has nuclear weapons. Since coming to power in May 2014, India’s incumbent leadership has been pursuing a course to strengthen the country’s international standing and its status as a regional leader and “a global player to be reckoned with”. The economy of India by nominal GDP, according to the IMF, is the world’s 5th.

All major states of Greater Asia, which is steadily turning into a global political and economic hub, as well as all external powers, signal interest in close cooperation with New Delhi while pursuing both tactical and strategic, long-term agendas. However, there are grounds to believe that in the foreseeable future, India will try to maintain its commitment to yet more pragmatic than before strategy of “non-alignment”. This would mean that New Delhi will be able to play not only an increasingly prominent role in Asia, but will also become one of the main candidates to speak for a considerable number of developing countries. India will thus be among those who seek to avoid being squeezed into the rigid quasi-block structures of the new configuration of international system.

Unlike Asia, Latin America and Africa are “nowhere” among permanent members. However, the two regions cannot come to consensus on nominating a single candidate. Among the most promising candidates from Latin America experts name Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Brazil, according to the IMF, is currently the number one economy in Latin America, the second in the Western Hemisphere and 8th in the world. Its economic and industrial sectors, unlike most of its neighbors’, are well diversified. The country has succeeded in avoiding the “resource trap”. In terms of population, Brazil is sixth in the world. The potential of the Brazilian army among the states of the Western hemisphere is considered to be the second after America

[v]

. However, a number of Russian experts say that some of the current leadership of Brazil came to power under the slogan of criticizing “Brazil’s participation in multilateral international forums.” [vi]

In the past ten to fifteen years, Africa has been attracting ever more attention of international community. The rapid growth of the continent’s population along with an increase in the share of the working population can, under certain conditions, contribute to economic growth, Republic.ru says. A number of experts believe that the African economy is capable of as impressive an economic breakthrough as Southeast Asia made in the second half of the 20th century. This is a fact acknowledged by all the leading powers. According to the Economist, between 2010 and 2016, more than three hundred new foreign diplomatic missions opened in African countries.

At present, Africa unofficially has three seats of non-permanent members ofthe Security Councils. South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria are competing for the right to represent Africa in the Security Council on a permanent basis. In the context of the transformation of the system of international relations, the development of ties between 54 African countries promises a lot in terms of boosting geopolitical influence. The opinions of African countries will play an increasingly prominent role in many international forums and in international institutions. However, given the current situation, Africans no longer need to “take   sides.” They can work effectively with different competing powers at a time. Pragmatists in the African leadership know only too well how important it is to maintain a constructive balance of interests amid competition between global powers.

Overall, it appears that a possible strengthening of the positions of India and Brazil in the UN would give a new impetus to their potential in terms of their ability to offset the influence of other powers, both regionally and globally. India and Brazil, together with Russia, China, and Africa’s second economy, South Africa, are already successfully promoting the principles of a multipolar and fair world order within BRICS. They are also developing cooperation with other leading powers in the G20. In the economic sphere, Brasilia and New Delhi are expanding cooperation with other developing countries, providing them with significant assistance in developing modern sectors of the economy, increasing their competitiveness and developing their entrepreneurship. As for Africa, as Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Hommes d’Afrique in 2018, the appearance of an African representative in the UN Security Council alone can add “more value” to its work [vii].

Skeptics fear that any enlargement of the Security Council, quantitative or geographical, “with the preservation of the right of veto and the apparent differences among permanent members on fundamental international issues … will make the process of reaching agreements more complicated” [viii]. Indeed, as  new centers of international influence become stronger, the risks of collisions and clashes of interests between parties involved are bound to increase. Under these conditions, all proposals coming from Moscow are aimed at adjusting the work of the UN Security Council so as this key United Nations body will be able to not only preserve, but also to cement its role as a top platform for resolving the inevitable world controversies.

In particular, it is necessary to overcome the dangerous trend that has emerged in recent decades. We mean that a number of states tend to bypass the Security Council, at times even trying to circumvent the entire system of international law. Sergei Lavrov pointed this out in the course of discussions under the auspices of the “Raisina Dialogue”. “If you have noticed, our Western partners are making less and less use of the language of international law. Instead, they have coined a new term, which they refer to as the “rule-based order.” “One-sided methods and the attempts to impose one’s selfish ideas on others are  moving us more and more away from solving global challenges of transnational nature.” In this regard, a number of Russian observers make it clear that Brazil and India  “call for a comprehensive strengthening of the system of international law” [ix].

The need for restructuring the UN Security Council, despite certain difficulties, is beyond doubt. What is also clear is the fact that there are new candidate countries worthy of taking the place of permanent members of the key United Nations body. However, an occasional feeling that the UN Security Council has chosen to “retreat” or that it has been “paralyzed”, without any doubt, does nothing to improve the reputation of either the Security Council or the United Nations as a whole. In these conditions, the international community needs to find solutions that will make the UN mechanisms better and more efficient without jeopardizing all the positive experience gained over the past decades. It is necessary to walk along the fine line that separates the continuation of constructive work in the absence of unanimity and the attempts to reach agreement at any cost.

From our partner International Affairs

Continue Reading
Comments

International Law

Russia-Ukraine War, China and World Peace

Published

on

image source: war.ukraine.ua photo: Vadim Ghirda

On May 3, when asked about the possible causes of the Ukrainian tragedy, His Holiness Pope Francis speculated about an “anger” probably “facilitated initially by NATO’s barking at Russia’s door. I cannot say whether this anger was provoked, but it was probably facilitated”.

What do the Pope’s words mean? In short, they mean that in international relations – of which the Holy See is Master of the Art – two things count: respect for the other and ignorance. The former is to be always placed as a founding element of peace, the latter is to be eradicated, especially in countries like Italy and in many others, as a factor of war.

Why was the Soviet Union respected and why the same respect and consideration is not owed to Russia? Why with the Soviet Union, after the normalisation of the Prague Spring, did a still divided but wise Europe (today, instead, united only by the banks’ and bankers’ money) and a sharp-witted West, with Russia’s agreement, launch the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe? Why instead did a powerless Europe, a semi-colony of the United States of America – with the UK as the 51st star on its flag – together with the White House, pretend not to see what was happening in Ukraine? Why did they turn a blind eye to this conflict, which has been going on since 2014, and fomented the rise to power of people who, by inciting hatred against Russia, were under the illusion that NATO would come to their aid, turning Europe into a pool of blood for their purposes?

Do some people probably believe that Russia is still that of Yeltsin, ready to open up – in every sense – to the first master coming along? These are the cases in which respect is lacking and ignorance triumphs.

As to an example of ongoing and consistent respect in foreign affairs, it is useful to comment on a recent speech delivered on April 21 by China’s President Xi Jinping, which developed several points.

He pointed out that, for over two years, the international community has made strenuous efforts to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and promote economic recovery and development in the world. He added that the difficulties and challenges show that the international community has a shared future for better or for worse, and that the various countries must strive for peace, development, and win-win cooperation so as to work together and tackle the different problems that gradually emerge on the scene.

With a view to facing the health emergency, China has provided over 2.1 billion vaccine doses to over 120 countries and international organisations and it will continue to make the pledged donations of 600 million doses to African countries and 150 million doses to the countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to proactively help bridge the vaccine gap.

With specific reference to the economic recovery, President Xi Jinping pledged to keep on building an economy open to the world, strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination and preserving the stability of industrial and supply chains, as well as promoting balanced, coordinated and inclusive development globally. He said: “People need to be put first and development and social welfare must be prioritised. It is important to promote pragmatic studies in priority areas such as poverty reduction, security, food, development finance and industrialisation, as well as work on solving the issue of unbalanced and insufficient development, and move forward by establishing job creation initiatives.”

With regard to the recent war clashes, President Xi Jinping deems necessary to jointly safeguard world peace and security. I wish to add that the Cold War-style mentality – what is happening in Ukraine, i.e. the West disrespecting Russia, considering it an enemy as in the past, but not as strong as in the days of the CPSU – can only undermine world peace. Hegemonism aimed at conquering Eurasia – as the land that holds the remaining raw materials on the planet – and the policy of the strongest country can only undermine world peace. The clash of blocs can only worsen the security challenges of the 21st century.

Why, while the Warsaw Pact (of which the People’s Republic of China was never a member and never wanted to be a member) was dissolved, did the same not happen with NATO? China has always wanted to promote world peace, never wanting to be part of aggressive and barking alliances.

China pledges to advance the vision of common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security and to jointly preserve world peace and security. It pledges to respect all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity; to pursue non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and to respect the development path and social system chosen by peoples. It pledges to abide by the aims and principles of the UN Charter; to reject the warmongering mentality (opposing the good countries by default vs. the bad ones conventionally); to oppose unilateralism and to reject the policy of bloc confrontation. China takes all countries’ security concerns and legitimate interests into account. It pursues the principle of indivisible responsibilities and builds a balanced and effective security architecture. It opposes one country seeking its own security by fomenting insecurities in the others. China seeks dialogue and consultation, as well as peaceful solutions to inter-State differences and disputes. It supports all efforts for the peaceful settlement of crises. It refrains from double standards and rejects the arbitrary use of unilateral extraterritorial sanctions and jurisdictions.

It is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach to maintain security and respond together to regional disputes and planetary challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

Global governance challenges must be addressed together. The world countries are on an equal footing when it comes to sharing fortunes and misfortunes. It is unacceptable to try to throw anyone overboard. The international community is currently a sophisticated and integrated device. Removing one of its components makes it very difficult for it to function, to the detriment of the party that is deprived by others of its own guarantees that call into question the very existence of a State – such as trying to deploy nuclear warheads a few kilometres from a capital city.

Only the principles of broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits can promote the common values of humanity, foster exchanges and inspire reciprocity between different civilisations. No one should believe to be better than another by divine grace or manifest destiny.

True and genuine multilateralism must be pursued and the international system centred on the United Nations and the world order based on international law must firmly be preserved. Great countries, in particular, must set an example in terms of respect for equality, cooperation, credibility and the rule of law to be worthy of their greatness.

In ten years of President Xi Jinping’s leadership, Asia has maintained overall stability and achieved fast and sustained growth, thus creating the “Asian miracle”. If Asia does well, the whole world will benefit. Asia has continued to strive to develop, build and maintain its strength, i.e. the basic wisdom that makes the continent a stabilising anchor of peace, an engine of growth and a pioneer of international cooperation.

These achievements come from as far back as the aforementioned Chinese refusal to join aggressive military blocs. They are based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence drafted by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai on December 31, 1953, published on April 29, 1954, and reaffirmed at the Bandung Conference on April 18-24, 1955: (i) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; (ii) mutual non-aggression; (iii) mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; (iv) equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; (v) peaceful coexistence.  

They are based on the Eight Principles for Foreign Aid and Economic and Technical Assistance proposed by the aforementioned Zhou Enlai before the Somali Parliament on February 3, 1964, which became the emblem of China’s presence in Africa: (i) China always bases itself on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in providing aid to other nations; (ii) China never attaches any conditions or asks for any privileges; (iii) China helps lighten the burden of recipient countries as much as possible; (iv) China aims at helping recipient countries to gradually achieve self-reliance and independent development; (v) China strives to develop aid projects that require less investment but yield quicker results; (vi) China provides the best-quality equipment and materials of its own manufacture; (vii) in providing technical assistance, China shall ensure that the personnel of the recipient country fully master such techniques; (viii) Chinese experts are not allowed to make any special demands or enjoy any special amenities.

Over the last ten years President Xi Jinping has successfully applied the Chinese doctrine in international relations, following and implementing his country’s multi-millennial traditions of diplomacy. ASEAN’s central place and role in the regional architecture has been strengthened in Asia, preserving the order that takes all parties’ aspirations and interests into account. Each country, whether large or small, powerful or weak, inside or outside the region, contributes to the success of Asia’s development, without creating war frictions. Each country follows the path of peace and development, promotes win-win cooperation and builds a large family of Asian progress.

The ASEAN countries are the following: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam (Papua New Guinea and East Timor as observers).

Furthermore, the fundamentals of China’s economy – its strong resilience, huge potential, ample room for manoeuvre and long-term sustainability – remain unchanged. They will provide great dynamism for the stability and recovery of the world economy and wider market opportunities for all countries.

The People’s Republic of China will be fully committed to its new development rationale. It will step up the establishment of a new growth paradigm, and redouble its efforts for high-quality development. China will promote high standards; expand the catalogue for the creation of new computer software; improve investment promotion services and add more cities to the comprehensive pilot programme for opening up the service sector.

China will take concrete steps to develop its pilot free trade zones and the Hainan Free Trade Port will be in line with high-standard international economic and trade rules and will move forward with the institutional opening process.

China will seek to conclude high-level free trade agreements with more countries and regions and will proactively endeavour to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).

China is moving forward with the Silk Road (Belt and Road) cooperation to make it increasingly high-level, sustainable and people-centred. China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and will always be a builder of world peace, as well as a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order.

Over the last ten years, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, the People’s Republic of China has been following the old Chinese saying: “Keep walking and you will not be discouraged by a thousand miles; make steady efforts and you will not be intimidated by a thousand tasks”.

Continue Reading

International Law

The More Things Change…

Published

on

The brutality of ethnic cleansing is complete.  It does not distinguish between mother and son, young and old, child or adult.  It goes about its gruesome business without conscience or moral compensation.  It is the conversion of man into an unthinking beast.  It is Putin, Zelensky, Modi and Xi Jinping … all rolled into one.  It is us.  The seed is there, needing only fertile soil to germinate. 

The EU announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid; the US announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid.  The Ukrainians saying ‘we will never surrender’ continue to fight.  The Russians asking for talks are not backing down.  Ukraine’s real value to the world is as an exporter of grain which helps to stabilize grain prices.  Feeding a war therefore, runs counter to such stability.

On the heels of covid and its inflationary fallout, who wants a rise in food prices?  Not India, not Africa, not the EU and Russians are already feeling the pinch.  Perhaps grain exporters in North America could be an exception.  Yet at what cost?

According to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the Security Council failed to prevent the war or to end it.  How can it when the most influential member and its European allies are busy funding it?

Human strife is displayed on almost every continent.  Stone throwing at ultra-nationalists by Palestinians after Friday prayers is a routine accompanied sometimes by tragedy.  One side provokes, the other side retaliates.  Stones are thrown, fights  breakout.  The authorities respond and more Palestinians are killed — fifteen last Wednesday.  Is this the big story in Israel?  Of course not.

A TV report accused millionaire Naftali Bennet, the current prime minister, of extravagant expenditure from the public purse at his home, which currently serves as his official residence.

Mr. Bennett disclosed that $26,400 of taxpayer money was spent on his home each month including a $7,400 food bill.  His defense avers that his conduct is within the rules and that his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu spent, on average, $84,300 per month during his tenure.

Noting his efforts at parsimony, he pointed out he did not employ a cook as he is entitled to.  Instead, the family sent out to restaurants, presumably the best ones, to have food delivered.  Sensitive to the criticism, he states he will henceforth pay for all the food from his own picket.

Sara Netanyahu, his predecessor’s wife, had to admit misusing public funds during a similar scandal and was obliged to pay a $15,000 fine.  The prime minister is paid $16,500 per month — average monthly salary in Israel is $3,500.

Plus ça change …

Continue Reading

International Law

China, the Arctic, and International Law

Published

on

arctic silk road

The Arctic involves the interests of several major international actors, and climate change, which necessitates the search for more resources and increases the availability of resources in the region, makes the region more important than ever. In this regard, states are divided into “Arctic states” and “non-Arctic states,” with the former having territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction over the region and the latter not. Nonetheless, non-Arctic states have certain rights, such as freedom of navigation in the Arctic states’ EEZs, as granted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Xinmin, 2019). Parts of the region that are not under the sovereignty of any state are referred to as the “common heritage of mankind.” Because of its appeal, the region attracts states that are not in the Arctic Circle, with China being one of the most interested. China’s interest in the region can be explained by the country’s need for more resources. First, food security issues are likely to arise in China in the near future, and they must be addressed. Fish resources in the South China Sea have been steadily declining, and China must replace them. Second, China, which relies heavily on imported energy sources, is aware of the growing hostility toward itself and may face a blockage of vital energy resources if the situation worsens. Access to more Arctic sources may assist China in diversifying its risk (Francis, 2020).

Initially, the United States, Canada, and Russia saw China’s interest in the region as a threat to their territorial sovereignty. China joined the Arctic Council as an observer after officially recognizing Arctic states’ territorial sovereignty over the region (Arctic Council, 2021). Observers have limited rights in comparison to member states, which are all littoral states. Observers, for example, do not have the right to vote, and their participation in projects is not always possible (Ghattas, 2013). Nonetheless, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows China to participate in fisheries decision-making processes, specifically the catch limit (Francis, 2020). In fact, China participated in the Agreement to Prevent High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean to ban commercial fishing for 16 years in 2018 (Francis, 2020). In addition to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, relevant treaties include the UN Charter, International Maritime Organization rules, environmental treaties, and domestic laws of Arctic States (Xinmin, 2019).

In 2018, China published a White Paper outlining its Arctic ambitions. According to the White Paper, China is an active participant in Arctic governance and will remain committed to all relevant treaties and agreements. China has stated unequivocally that it has no intention of challenging any Arctic state and intends to cooperate in the peaceful use of the region (Xinmin, 2019). The White Paper was most memorable for China’s self-description as a “near-Arctic” state, emphasizing China’s geographical proximity to the Arctic Circle. It may imply that China associates itself with a new category that could be used to legitimize its actions in the region. However, former US State Secretary Mike Pompeo criticized this statement, claiming that there were only Arctic and non-Arctic states, implying that the category of “near Arctic” did not exist and did not entitle China to any special rights. Although other Arctic states did not respond positively to the statement, several of them, including Canada and Russia, indicated a willingness to cooperate with China and eventually accept Chinese investments. China is eager to invest in natural resource extraction, scientific research, and infrastructure. China has already invested more than $90 billion, and one of its major projects is the “Polar Silk Road,” an extension of the BRI.

As of now, China has not committed any serious violations of the law in the Arctic. However, experts are divided on whether China will violate international law in the Arctic. One of the arguments is that China is likely to violate the law because it has already violated it in numerous cases, including the South China Sea dispute. Despite the fact that the United Nations has labeled China’s actions in the South China Sea as aggressive, China has largely ignored criticisms. (Francis, 2020). Therefore, supporters of the first argument believe that there will be nothing to stop a country from breaking the law if it prefers to ignore international institutions in some cases. Another argument is that the situation in the Arctic is vastly different from the situation in the South China Sea, and thus it is unreasonable to expect China to engage in similar activities (Buchanan & Strating, 2020). First, there are other great powers in the Arctic region, such as Russia and the United States, which creates a balance of power. Second, the Arctic is governed harmoniously by the Arctic Council through a series of agreements and treaties, whereas the South China Sea has long been a source of contention. Finally, while China is very close to the South China Sea and could potentially expand its territory there, it is not a littoral state in the Arctic and would not be interested in claiming territory in such a remote and logistically difficult region.

For the time being, the second argument appears more convincing because China has been following the law in the region. However, it is difficult to predict how it will act in the face of adversity. Climate change appears to be ongoing, and global warming is likely to allow access to even more resources in the Arctic. Furthermore, climate change is one of the factors that is expected to contribute to food insecurity (WEF, 2022). In that case, competition for the Arctic will inevitably intensify. China has already made investments in the region and declared itself a “near-Arctic state,” implying that it has long-term plans for the region. Therefore, China’s demands and actions need to be taken seriously. Although cooperation in the Arctic is encouraged, tolerance for violations of international law in the region by any state may weaken stability and increase the likelihood of conflict in the long run. To be able to rise smoothly in the Arctic, China must adopt an inclusive strategy and think beyond its own interests, as several major international actors have stakes in the matter (Liu, 2020).

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending