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The Artemis Accords: Repeating the Mistakes of the Age of Exploration

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“Space is a warfighting domain. . . . It is not enough to have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space.”- U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, 20181

In the spring of 1493, the King and Queen of Spain sent an envoy to the Pope in Rome. Along with Portugal, Spain had just used its advanced sailing and navigation technology to reach “new worlds”, areas of the Earth that had not been previously discovered by Europeans. But they had a problem: they wanted to establish sovereign property rights in the lands they had discovered, but they weren’t sure they could do so under their own authority. So they turned to the only international authority in Europe at that time, the Catholic Church, which held sway over governments from Portugal to Poland, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. If the Church would establish a legal framework that granted them sovereignty, then those nations would be bound to recognize it.2

This is the first lesson that the current governments of the world can learn from the Age of Exploration & Empire that began five centuries ago. Even then, the most powerful nation in Europe, with the largest army and most advanced technology, realized that it could not unilaterally establish property rights or any other kind of sovereignty without the approval of an international authority. After the Church granted that authority, Spain was able to create one of the greatest empires in history. Spain and Portugal formalized the arrangement with a binding international agreement, the Treaty of Tordesillas, whose purpose was to ensure peaceful cooperation between their nations, primarily by establishing a line of demarcation that separated their areas of activity.3

Unfortunately, the legal framework so established was based on national dominance, not multilateral international cooperation. The grant of sovereignty was exclusive, made only to Spain and Portugal, and it required them to subjugate the “savages” in the lands they discovered by taking along Church missionaries.This exclusivity did not sit well with other nations as they also developed the technologies of exploration; it was one of the reasons many northern European nations joined the Protestant Reformation and rejected the authority of the Pope in Rome. Without a fair and equitable international agreement that honored the interests of emerging states, the Church lost its ability to act as an arbiter between nations.

Even worse, the dominance model set up centuries of conflict among the major powers in Europe. Militant nationalism and economic colonialism became the principles guiding national policy. The result was centuries of war, suffering, and neglect among the major powers and the nations they subjugated. This pattern did not end until the 20th century, when the major powers fought two world wars and finally dismantled their colonial empires, sometimes peacefully, sometimes by force.

By the mid-1960’s, most countries on Earth were independent or on their way to becoming so. But a new conflict had started, one that threatened to repeat the mistakes of five centuries earlier. The great powers were once again using their advanced technology to explore new worlds, and the race was on to plant their flag on the Moon first. Under the ancient traditions, the country that did so would have a claim against all others for possession and use of the territory. The Cold War was about to expand into outer space.

But then something wonderful happened. In 1967, the United Nations proposed, and the world’s space powers accepted, an international agreement known as the Outer Space Treaty.4The Treaty was an intentional effort to avoid the mistakes of the Age of Exploration & Empire. Article I states that “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.” Article II is even more specific: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Because of this Treaty, the United States carried a plaque to the Moon that said, “We came in peace for all mankind”.5 When the Apollo 11 astronauts planted the U.S. flag, they did so out of pride, but did not establish any claim or national priority.

This legal framework worked well initially, but people soon started wondering about what to do when countries and/or private entities wanted to start commercial activity on the Moon, or build settlements. The solution was the Moon Treaty, proposed by the United Nations and adopted by enough nations to come into force in 1984.6 But it has not yet been adopted by any space-faring nation. The United States, by a recent executive order, has specifically renounced the Treaty and stated its intentions to extract materials from the Moon without any international agreement.7

The newly announced Artemis Accords go even further. Although the actual Accords have not been released pending consultation with possible partners, the summary provided by NASA8indicates that the United States will unilaterally interpret the Outer Space Treaty to allow “space resource extraction”, despite the prohibition against appropriation in Article II of the Treaty. There will also be “safety zones” to avoid “harmful interference” with such operations. The effect is to establish exclusive economic zones, especially if “harmful interference” is defined to include economic harm, not just safety. Will the new Space Force be used to protect such economic interests? Will other nations be excluded if they support the Moon Treaty?9Will private actors be required to follow the same rules as states, as recommended in the recently-drafted Moon Village Principles?10This is the slippery slope of using unilateral action to establish economic rights rather than an international agreement.

The Artemis Accords acknowledge many beneficial agreements and policies: The Outer Space Treaty, Rescue Agreement, and Registration Convention (though not the Liability Convention); peace, transparency, interoperability, protecting heritage sites and sharing scientific information. But its unilateral authorization of space mining is a continuation of the Trump Administration’s underlying foreign policy strategy: unilateral dominance over international cooperation. The United States has withdrawn from the Paris Accords, the Iranian nuclear deal, and, in the middle of a pandemic, the World Health Organization. Dominance has even become the theme of the Administration’s domestic policy, with President Trump recently telling governors, “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. . . . You have to dominate.”11That core philosophy is now being applied to outer space, as Vice-President Mike Pence proudly announced (above). Despite the lessons of history, the United States is going full speed ahead with the “dominance” model of space development rather than working with the nations of the world to develop a “cooperation” model. Outer space, which so far has been preserved for peace and cooperation, is about to be spoiled, perhaps forever.

But if the Moon Treaty is the key to peaceful cooperation in outer space, why haven’t more nations adopted it? The reason appears to be that the Treaty is incomplete, and thus flawed. Article 11 requires an implementation agreement to create the legal framework for private activity. Without that agreement in place, some states fear the worst, that they will lose their sovereignty if they adopt the Treaty, especially since it refers to outer space as the “common heritage of mankind”. Private mining interests are afraid that their profits will be taxed for redistribution to less-developed countries. As one space law scholar put it:

“Some would say the biggest challenge for the implementation of the Moon Agreement are four little words found in Article 11 . . . the “common heritage of [hu]mankind”. . . . At first glance, it appears that to implement the concept of common heritage of humankind, an international body must be created to redistribute wealth and technology among nations.”12

Some even wonder if they will be able to market the materials they extract. As recently explained by an attorney for the mining industry:

Here’s the issue on the security of tenure [the right to extract materials] and the fiscal regime: there’s an Outer Space Treaty that was signed by a lot of countries when the moon exploration was going on, and the treaty includes a provision that says you can’t appropriate celestial bodies, that would include the moon.

The question is — what happens if I go to the moon? I set up shop, and I extract ice and rocks and start making things, do I own the rocks that I’ve extracted? I’m not saying that I own the moon, but if I put in the effort, do I own the resources? Same thing with asteroids,if I send a robot to the asteroid, it sets up shop and starts extracting things and using them, do you own the extracted mineral? And that’s the legal issue, that’s the unsettled question.13

Until the rule of law is extended to the Moon by such an international agreement, there will be great uncertainty as to the viability of commercial activities. It is an axiom of economics that businesses and investors hate uncertainty, as it makes it impossible to analyze risk and estimate the return on investment.

The solution is to create an implementation agreement that addresses these concerns and can be adopted along with the Moon Treaty. To that end, a Model Implementation Agreement has been drafted by The Space Treaty Project. It was first distributed for comment in 2018 and made its public debut at the 2019 Shanghai Advanced Space Technology conference. It has recently undergone peer review and was published in the Journal of Advances in Astronautics Science and Technology.14

The Model Implementation Agreement has only 10 paragraphs and is based on four organizational principles:

1) The Agreement must be comprehensive and support all private activity;

2) The Grand Bargain: Trade private property rights for public policy obligations;

3) Defer issues currently at impasse (e.g., monetary sharing of benefits) by creating a governance process for making future decisions;

4) Integrate and build upon current institutions and processes.

The Model Agreement supports all private activity by defining the “use of resources” to include the use of any location on the Moon for any purpose, much the same way that real estate and property rights are considered resources on Earth. Any use would be supported if the private activity is authorized/supervised by a country that has adopted the Moon Treaty and the implementation agreement, because any country that has done so has agreed to the public policy obligations therein and to require that their nationals abide by them.

What are the obligations of the Moon Treaty that the countries and their nationals must accept? They are summarized in paragraph 4 of the Model Agreement:

4. Public Policy Obligations

The States Parties agree that the public policy obligations of the Treaty and this Agreement include the following:

1. Use outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes (Article 3.1);

2. Provide co-operation and mutual assistance (4.2); 

3. Honor the Registration Convention and inform the public of:

– Activities (5.1)

– Scientific discoveries (5.1)

– Any phenomena which could endanger human life or health (5.3)

– Any indication of organic life (5.3)

– The discovery of resources (11.6)

– Any change of status, harmful impacts of activities, use of nuclear power, and links to websites for specific objects/activities [COPUOS recommendations]

4. Protect the environment and preserve areas of “special scientific interest” such as historic landing sites (7.1-7.3);

5. Allow free access to all areas by other parties (9.2);

6. Honor the Rescue Treaty (10.1)

7. Share technology as part of sharing the benefits of outer space with less technologically advanced countries (4.1-4.2)

The full Agreement [follows this article] or [is available at http://spacetreaty.org/modelimplementationagreement.pdf]:

Most of these obligations are already established in other widely adopted treaties, i.e., the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, the Registration Convention, and the Liability Convention. Even the Artemis Accords acknowledge many of them (see above).But there are some that are not acknowledged, such as sharing the discovery of resources, protecting the natural environment, and sharing technology. The Accords are also silent as to whether its obligations will apply to private parties.

Sharing technology is not specified in the Moon Treaty, but some view it as included in Article 4:“The exploration and use of the moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.”The “Building Blocks” of The Hague Spaces Resources International Working Group call for sharing technology on a “mutually-accepted basis”.15The Working Group members were “stakeholders of space resource activities and represent consortium partners, industry, States, international organizations, academia and NGOs.”16It is significant that stakeholders from the private sector are willing to consider the sharing of technology. If a “mutually-accepted basis” for sharing cannot be found, the Model Agreement would require the licensing of technology at fair market value.

Accepting the obligations of the Moon Treaty is the trade-off for private property rights, the “Grand Bargain” in the organizational principles. They are no more onerous or burdensome than the obligations that property owners must accept on Earth. Here, property owners must always consider what effect activity on their own property will have on others. Property on Earth is subject to regulation (e.g., zoning, permits, safety) and can be taken (with compensation) for public policy reasons. It is unreasonable to expect that the use of property on the Moon will not be subject to similar regulation.

The Model Agreement contains other provisions, such as controlling law, dispute resolution, and future governance for substantive decisions. It also protects the rights of individuals and those wanting to establish private settlements: “Nothing in this Agreement or in the Treaty shall be interpreted as denying or limiting the rights guaranteed to individuals by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the right of settlements to seek autonomy and/or recognition as sovereign nations.” (Paragraph 10). By providing legal support for all private activity, protecting individual rights, and maintaining essential public policies, the Model Implementation Agreement satisfies all concerns about the Moon Treaty and creates a practical, cooperative alternative to the unilateral and exclusive dominance model being proposed by the United States.

The current Model Agreement is the product of consultation with many individuals and organizations over the past three years. It now being presented for consideration as a reasonable alternative to the Artemis Accords. If adopted, the Agreement will have a significant advantage over the Accords in that, like all treaties, it will be an enforceable international agreement that is binding on the States Parties, not just a unilateral action by one country with a few activity partners. It will also be comprehensive, supporting all private activity, not just materials extraction like the Accords. And it will include an overall framework for international cooperation, including controlling law and dispute resolution, none of which are included in the Accords.

We have become familiar with the Overview Effect, that fundamental change in attitude that comes from viewing the Earth from space, as with the picture of Earthrise taken from the Moon in 1968. We must now take an overview through time. Humanity is on the verge of leaving the home planet. It is the greatest adventure and opportunity in our history, but it will be an opportunity lost if we repeat the mistakes of the last Age of Exploration. We can continue to preserve outer space for peaceful cooperation, or we can extend the pattern of domination and conflict that for too long has controlled our destiny on Earth.

At this most pivotal moment in history, the choice is ours.

Many thanks to Vidvuds Beldavs and the International Lunar Decade (https://ildwg.wordpress.com/) for assistance in researching this article.

References

1. Washington Post, videos of U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence: “Space is a warfighting domain”, October 23, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LtLNp4nde0“We must have American dominance in space”, August 9, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xEkyT7XrxQ

2. Bulls of Donation (1493), Wikipedia (Three papal “Bulls of Donation”- Inter Caetera,Eximiae Devotionis,and Inter Caetera (2)- were issued May 3-4, 1493, and a fourth – Dudum Siquidem– on September 26, defining the terms of the “donation” of lands to each country). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulls_of_Donation#cite_note-verzijl-1

3. The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), Wikipedia.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tordesillas

4. Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (The Outer Space Treaty, 1967), United Nations Office of Outer Space Activities (UNOOSA).http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

5. Lunar Plaque, Wikipedia.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_plaque#cite_note-Moon_Flag-1

6. Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (The Moon Treaty, 1984), UNOOSA.http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/intromoon-agreement.html

7. Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, The White House, April 6, 2020.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-encouraging-international-support-recovery-use-space-resources/

8.NASA, The Artemis Accords (2020).https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis-accords/index.html

9. “Australia would be obliged to withdraw from the Moon Treaty if it accepts an offer to join the Accords.” Mark Whittington, How the United States plans to make space exploration pay, The Hill, April 26, 2020.https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/494730-how-the-united-states-plans-to-make-space-exploration-pay?fbclid=IwAR3lwrIV43fPX6T7lMDFC9tilnzZiBdidgUEAVLzNsTl6FLBnGtInT1xWMI

10. “States shall authorize and continually supervise all lunar activities of their nationals in order to ensure compliance with international law.” Moon Village Association,Moon Village Principles Issue 2 (draft), March 5, 2020. https://moonvillageassociation.org/moon-village-principles-mvp-issue-2-draft-public-consultation-opens/

11. David Choi, ‘Exactly what President Trump wants’: Democratic governors are shunning Trump’s calls to ‘dominate’ protests using military forces, Business Insider, June 1, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/state-leaders-shun-trumps-calls-to-dominate-protests-using-military-2020-6

12. Michelle Hanlon, What is the Moon Treaty and is it still useful?,Filling Space, May 14, 2020.https://filling-space.com/2020/01/17/what-is-the-moon-treaty-and-is-it-still-useful/?fbclid=IwAR2HHd5x6hPQQf7AsuLuVoy5JpY98LxsWEbYofRCjiRwTIqKn8gkMP5tDGc

13. Stutt, Amanda, How Earth-bound Mining Lawyers Think About Space Mining (interview with Scot Anderson, attorney and Global Head of Energy & Natural Resources with the law firm Hogan Lovells in Denver, Colorado),Mining.Com, Jan. 3, 2020.https://www.mining.com/how-earth-bound-mining-lawyers-think-about-space-mining/?fbclid=IwAR0pbCwO20c9W_uEd1Rve0ME_6Aw5Z4XMcqr_MdTSrYr-L-VkB_TkKD5JrI

14. O’Brien, D. Legal Support for the Private Sector: An Implementation Agreement for the Moon Treaty. Adv. Astronaut. Sci. Technol. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42423-020-00059-w

15. The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group, Building Blocks For The Development Of An International Framework On Space Resource Activities (13. Sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of space resources),November 2019.https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/assets/rechtsgeleerdheid/instituut-voor-publiekrecht/lucht–en-ruimterecht/space-resources/bb-thissrwg–cover.pdf

16.The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group, International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University (2019)https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/law/institute-of-public-law/institute-of-air-space-law/the-hague-space-resources-governance-working-group

Model Implementation Agreementfor the Moon Treaty (May 2020)

Preface

The provisions of this Agreement and the underlying Treaty shall be interpreted and applied together as a single instrument. In the event of any inconsistency between the Agreement and the Treaty, the provisions of the Agreement shall prevail. After the adoption of the Agreement, any instrument of ratification or formal confirmation of or accession to the Treaty shall also represent consent to be bound by theAgreement. No State or entity may establish its consent to be bound by the Agreement unless it has previously established or establishes at the same time its consent to be bound by the Treaty.

1. Administration; Creation of Agency

The States Parties agree to create as soon as is practicable an agency (“Agency”) to administer the provisions of the Agreement Governing The Activities Of States On The Moon And Other Celestial Bodies (“Treaty”) and this Implementation Agreement (“Agreement”).

2. Licenses for Private Activity; Exploitation of Resources

The States Parties agree to authorize the Agency to issue licenses to non-governmental entities (“NGE”) for the priority exploitation of resources. Exploitation of resources shall include but is not limited to: (a) the extraction of materials, (b) the use of a location for any other commercial activity [e.g., tourism], and (c) the use of a location for non commercial private activity [e.g., science, settlements]. Licenses shall describe the extent, duration, and nature of the activity and shall maximize free access for all in accordance with Article I of the Treaty On Principles Governing The Activities Of States In The Exploration And Use Of Outer Space, Including The Moon And Other Celestial Bodies [the Outer Space Treaty]. Activity by governments is authorized under Treaty Articles 8 and 9.

3. Requirements for License; Adoption of Obligations

The States Parties agree that the Agency shall issue a license for any NGE activity that is authorized and supervised by a State Party to this agreement. The States Parties further agree to require that their nationals (a) accept the public policy obligations of the Treaty as mandated by Treaty Article 14, and (b) share technology as described in Paragraph 5 of this Agreement. The license shall be revoked if, at any time, a licensed NGE fails to comply with its obligations.

4. Public Policy Obligations

The States Parties agree that the public policy obligations of the Treaty and this Agreement include the following:

1. Use outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes (Treaty Article 3.1);

2. Provide co-operation and mutual assistance (4.2); 

3. Honor the Convention On Registration Of Objects Launched Into Outer Space (“Registration Convention”) and inform the public of:

– Activities (5.1)

– Scientific discoveries (5.1)

– Any phenomena which could endanger human life or health (5.3)

– Any indication of organic life (5.3)

– The discovery of resources (11.6)

– Any change of status, harmful impacts of activities, use of nuclear power, and links to websites for specific objects/activities [COPUOS recommendations]

4. Protect the environment and preserve areas of “special scientific interest” such as historic landing sites (7.1-7.3);

5. Allow free access to all areas by other parties (9.2);

6. Honor the Agreement On The Rescue Of Astronauts, The Return Of Astronauts And The Return Of Objects Launched Into Outer Space(“Rescue Treaty”) (10.1)

7. Share technology as part of sharing the benefits of outer space with less technologically advanced countries (4.1-4.2)

5. Sharing Technology; Exclusions

In accordance with Treaty Article 4, the States Parties agree to develop a process for sharing technology on a mutually acceptable basis. Until or in the absence of such a process, the States Parties agree to require their nationals to license technology at no more than fair market value. Technology that is subject to export controls shall be excluded from these requirements.

6. Standards and Recommended Practices; Registry

The States Parties, in consultation with non-governmental entities, agree to develop technology standards and recommended practices for the safe use and development of space resources. Such standards or practices shall not require technology that is subject to export controls. The Agency and/or other designated entities shall maintain the registry of such information and any information relevant to activities on the Moon that is not included in the registry for the Registration Convention that is maintained by the United Nations.

7. Protected Sites; Designation

The States Parties agree to prohibit the use or disturbance of any location on the Moon or other celestial body that is the site of a historical mission that occurred more than 20 years prior to the authorization of new activity pending a final determination of the site’s status as a Cultural Heritage Site. This prohibition applies to the location of any equipment and any evidence of presence (e.g., footprints, tracks). The States Parties agree to develop standards and recommended practices for determining what historical, cultural, or scientific sites should be protected or to designate another entity/process for making such determinations that will be binding on the States Parties.

8. Governance; Fees

The States Parties agree to create a process of governance for making substantive decisions as authorized under Articles 11 and 18 of the Treaty. The States Parties are financially responsible for the Agency, which shall be operated in a cost-effective manner. The collection and use of fees for administration or any other purpose is a substantive decision to be made by the governance process.

9. Dispute Resolution

The States Parties agree that any dispute concerning this Agreement or the Treaty shall be addressed using the consultation process detailed in Treaty Article 15. As an alternative, the States Parties hereby authorize the voluntary use of binding arbitration in accordance with the 2011 Permanent Court of Arbitration Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities. The results of such arbitration shall be enforceable underThe Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards(“New York Convention”).  The Agency shall facilitate and inform the arbitration.

10. Controlling Law; Rights of Individuals, Settlements

In accordance with Treaty Article 12, the States Parties agree that the controlling law at any location shall be the law of the country that authorized/supervises the activity at that location, subject to this Agreement and Treaty. Relations between locations of different nationalities will be governed by current international law, including theConvention On International Liability For Damage Caused By Space Objects(“Liability Convention”), until such time as new substantive rules are created under the governance process in Agreement Paragraph 8, as authorized by Treaty Article 18. Nothing in this Agreement or in the Treaty shall be interpreted as denying or limiting the rights guaranteed to individuals by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the right of settlements to seek autonomy and/or recognition as sovereign nations.

Dennis O’Brien is a member of the International Institute of Space Law and founder of The Space Treaty Project (www.spacetreaty.org). The Project is a member of the Moon Village Association; Mr. O’Brien sits on their Coordination & Cooperation workgroup

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International Law

UN at 75: The Necessity of Having a Stronger & More Effective United Nations

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October 24, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. In this context, this article investigates the necessity of having a stronger UN for the benefits of the world’s people. In fact, if one looks at the past, the UN came up in 1945 in response to the Second World War for a more stable, secured, and peaceful world. And the UN has been successful to a larger extent to that goals and objectives, many argue. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General for instance, wrote that ‘The United Nations, with their rules and institutions, are at the heart of the international system. They encourage States to prevent or settle disputes peacefully. The United Nations speaks for the voiceless, feeds the hungry, protects the displaced, combats organized crime and terrorism, and fights disease across the globe’ (Annan 2015).

If one looks at the history, after the Second World War, there are not so many wars on a large scale or conflicts except some bilateral Wars like Vietnam War or Iraq invasion in Kuwait or US invasion in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syrian crisis or Rohingya crisis. One can claim that the present world is more stable and peaceful than the world before the Second World War. Against this backdrop, Ramesh Thakur rightly observes, ‘On balance, the world has been a better and safer place with the UN than would have been the case without it (Thakur 2009:2). And it will not be wrong to claim that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is playing a crucial role in this regard, focusing both on ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security issues. Hard security issues ranges from nuclear threat to international terrorism and soft security issues include human security issues to human rights to international criminal justice and international sanctions (For details see, Thakur, 2009).

The UN is not only concerned about international peace and security but also concerned about economic and social issues. There are several UN organizations e.g. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP) or the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which is involved in socio-economic issues that impact millions of people globally.

First, one can look at the role of the UN General Assembly to understand the necessity of having a more robust UN. It is the core organ of the UN. It is the only organ in which all the member countries are represented all of the time. The role of the UN includes to pass resolutions and to create subsidiary agencies to deal with particular issues (Barkin 2006: 58). UN General Assembly works as a forum where the world’s states meet and discuss the pressing global problems. In this context, Eleanor Albert, Leo Schwartz, and Alexandra Abell write that ‘Since its inception seventy-one years ago, the United Nations General Assembly has been a forum for lofty declarations, sometimes audacious rhetoric, and rigorous debate over the world’s most vexing issues, from poverty and development to peace and security’ (Albert et al. 2016). However, in September 2015, the Assembly agreed on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, contained in the outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda (resolution 70/1). Notably, the implementation of SDG goals will have broader implications for the world’s people.

In addition, the Assembly may also take action in cases of a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, when the Security Council has failed to act owing to the negative vote of a permanent member. In such instances, according to its “Uniting for Peace” resolution of 3 November 1950, the Assembly may consider the matter immediately and recommend to its Members collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Second, one should also look at the role of the Security Council to make the case of having a stronger United Nations. The UN Security Council is the most powerful security-related organization in contemporary world politics. As the Charter of the United Nations says: ‘the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security (Article 24). The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of the settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security’

In contemporary world politics, the UN Security Council is the most potent security-related organization because it is the only recognized and legitimate international organ which deals with international peace and security. In this regard, Justin Morris and Nicholas J. Wheeler claim that ‘The United Nations Security Council is at the heart of the world’s collective security system’ (Morris and Wheeler 2007: 214). The UNSC play role by passing Resolutions regarding maintaining international peace and security, determining threats to peace and security and finally undertaking peacekeeping operations.

Decisions made by the Security Council are known as the Security Council resolutions. Examples of Security Council resolutions include Resolution 794 (1992), which authorized military intervention in Somalia on humanitarian ground, or the resolution 1325 (2000), which called on states to recognize the role of women in peace, and security and post-conflict situations. In the UN Security Council Working method Handbook, it is noted that the UNSC has adopted over 2,000 resolutions relating to conflict and post-conflict situations around the globe. Another report, titled Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council noted that between 2008 and 2009, the Security Council adopted  35 out of 65 resolutions in 2008 (53.8 %), and 22 out of 47 resolutions in 2009 under Chapter VII (46. 8 %) concerning threats to the peace, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. The report also notes about several UN resolutions authorizing United Nations peacekeeping missions. In connection with the mission deployed in the Central African Republic and Chad, the Council approved the deployment of a United Nations military component for the first time in 2009 to follow up operations by the European Union in Chad and Central African Republic (EUFORChad/CAR). The Council continued to authorize enforcement action for United Nations peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Darfur/Sudan (UNAMID), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Sudan (UNMIS). This increased number of UNSC Resolutions dealing with international peace and security reinforces its legitimacy and power as a security organization.

The critical question that comes into the forefront is how much UNSC can implement its mandates neutrally or independently in terms of maintaining world peace and security. The critiques bring the example of Iraq war (2003) where UNSC ‘faces a crisis of legitimacy because of its inability to constrain the unilaterally inclined hegemonic United States.’ (Morris and Wheeler 2007:214). Another critical question is the role of UNSC in resolving the long-standing Syrian crisis or the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It is undeniable the fact that UNSC cannot function with its full potentialities due to the challenges and limitations it faces because ‘in their pursuit of raisons d’état, states use whatever institutions are available to serve their interests’ (Weiss 2003: 151). And here comes the politics in the Security Council which is highly manifested in the past. Against this backdrop, Weiss correctly observes, ‘the politics of the UN system- not only the principal organs of UN like Security Council or General Assembly is highly politicized but even ‘technical’ organizations, for instance, World Health Organization or the Universal Postal Union continue to reflect the global division between the so-called wealthy, industrialized North and the less advantaged, developing South’ (Weiss 2009: 271).

It is, therefore, states and particularly the P5 want to use the Security Council as a means to uphold its interest. Gareth Evans rightly points out ‘for most of its history the Security Council has been a prisoner of great power manoeuvring…’ (Evans 2009:Xi).  Hence, using veto by the P5 remains a significant challenge for the UNSC to work in its fullest potentials. In the recent case of the Rohingya refugee crisis, the UNSC is unable to take adequate measures due to veto power used by China and Russia. However, the UNSC is responsible for maintaining world peace and security.

The bottomline is that there is no alternative to having a stronger and more effective UN because it is the only hope for millions of people around the world. The UN is an inevitable international organization in this turbulent world despite its criticism or limitations.Thus, it becomes essential for the P5 nations to think about the broader benefits of the world’s people instead of their narrowly defined interest in the case of using veto power. And the world also needs to acknowledge that the UN reform has been a reality to ensure the neutrality and objectivity of the United Nations for a more peaceful, stable, secured world.

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International Law

The United Nations and the Neglected Conflict of Kashmir

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The principle of ‘right of self-determination’ and its applicability to the 72-year-old Kashmir conflict needs to be considered during the 75th session of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly that is taking place between October 8 to November 10, 2020 at its headquarters in New York. The Committee will discuss and deliberate the issues related to international conflicts and decolonization. What I do hope to offer is an unstarry-eyed view of the fate of self-determination in Kashmir; and, the indispensability of convincing the United Nations that international peace and security would be strengthened, not weakened, by resolving the Kashmir conflict to the satisfaction of all parties concerned..

The self-determination of peoples is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter, which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes.

The concept seems to be as old as Government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle. Self-determination as conceived by Wilson was an imprecise amalgamation of several strands of thought, some long associated in his mind with the notion of “self-determination,” others hatched as a result or wartime developments, but all imbued with a general spirit of democracy.

Self- determination is a principle that has been developed in philosophic thought and practice for the last several hundred years. It is an idea that has caused people throughout the world to rise up and shed the chains of oppressive governments at great risk.

Finally, in 1945 the establishment of the UN gave a new dimension to the principle of self-determination.  It was made one of the objectives, which the UN would seek to achieve, along with equal rights of all nations. Article 1.2 of the Charter of the Untied Nations reads: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

From 1952 onwards, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a series of resolutions proclaiming the right to self-determination. The two most important of these are resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970. Resolution 1514 was seen almost exclusively as part of process of decolonization. 1514 is entitled: Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.”

International Court of Justice considered the several resolutions on decolonization process and noted:  “The subsequent development of International Law in regard to non-self governing territories as enshrined in the Charter of the UN made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them.”  This opinion establishes the self-determination as the basic principle for the process of de-colonization.

The principle of self-determination in modern times can be defined as the right of peoples to determine their own political status and pursue their own economic, social and cultural policies.  Self-determination in its literal meaning or at a terminological level also implies the right [of a people] to express itself to organize in whatever way it wants. A people must be free to express their will without interference or threat of interference from a controlling authority. This includes alien domination, foreign occupation and colonial rule.

Although, the applicability of the principle of the self-determination to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. It was upheld equally by India and Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute was brought before the Security Council. Since, on the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign states, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the territory of either, the two countries entered into an agreement to allow its people to exercise their right of self-determination under impartial auspices and in conditions free from coercion from either side. The agreement is embodied in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, explicitly accepted by both Governments. It is binding on both Governments and no allegation of non-performance of any of its provisions by either side can render it inoperative.

It is apparent from the record of the Security Council that India articulated the principle, accepted the practical shape the Security Council gave to it and freely participated in negotiations regarding the modalities involved. However, when developments inside Jammu & Kashmir made her doubt her chances of winning the plebiscite, she changed her stand and pleaded that she was no longer bound by the agreement. Of course, she deployed ample arguments to justify the somersault. But even though the arguments were of a legal or quasi-legal nature, she rejected a reference to the World Court to pronounce on their merits. This is how the dispute became frozen with calamitous consequences for Kashmir most of all, with heavy cost for Pakistan and with none too happy results for India itself.

By all customary moral and legal yardsticks, 23 million Kashmiris from both sides of the Ceasefire Line (CFL) enjoy a right to self-determination. Kashmir’s legal history entitles it to self-determination from Indian domination every bit as much as Eritrea’s historical independence entitled it to self-determination from Ethiopian domination.

India’s gruesome human rights violations in Kashmir also militate in favor of self-determination every bit as much as Yugoslavia’s human rights violations and ethnic cleansing created a right to self-determination in Bosnia and Kosovo. Kashmir’s history of social and religious tranquility further bolsters its claim to self-determination every bit as much as East Timor’s history of domestic peace before Indonesia’s annexation in 1975 entitled it to self-determination in 1999.                                   

If law and morality are overwhelmingly on the side of Kashmiri self-determination, then why has that quest been thwarted for 72 years? The answer is self-evident: the military might of India. India is too militarily powerful, including a nuclear arsenal, and too economically mesmerizing to expect the United States, the United Nations, NATO, or the European Union to intervene. The United States is reluctant to exert moral suasion or pressure to prod India because it covets more India’s alluring economic markets and collaboration in fighting global terrorism.  Further, the size and wealth of the Indian lobby in the United States dwarfs the corresponding lobbies supporting Kashmir.  

The world powers need to understand that there is no way the dispute can be settled once and for all except in harmony with the people’s will, and there is no way the people’s will can be ascertained except through an impartial vote. Secondly, there are no insuperable obstacles to the setting up of a plebiscite administration in Kashmir under the aegis of the United Nations. The world organization has proved its ability, even in the most forbidding circumstances, to institute an electoral process under its supervision and control and with the help of a neutral peace‑keeping force. The striking example of this is Namibia, which was peacefully brought to independence after seven decades of occupation and control by South Africa; East Timor and Southern Sudan, which got independence only through the intervention of the United Nations. Thirdly, as Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations Representative, envisaged seven decades ago, the plebiscite can be so regionalized that none of the different zones of the state will be forced to accept an outcome contrary to its wishes.

In conclusion, a sincere and serious effort towards a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute must squarely deal with the realities of the situation and fully respond to the people’s rights involved in it. Indeed, any process that ignores the wishes of the people of Kashmir and is designed to sidetrack the United Nations will not only prove to be an exercise in futility but can also cause incalculable human and political damage.

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International Law

UN anniversary’s gloomy takeaways

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On its 75th anniversary and amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations has for the first time convened world leaders mainly in an online format to seek action and solutions for a world in crisis.

The UNO’s predecessor, the League of Nations, wrapped up its work with the outbreak of World War 2, but the further the start of the present United Nations slides back in history, the more skeptical assessments of its performance are being heard today. How come?

The United Nations Organization was created by the victorious nations shortly after the end of the Second World War, but the idea of ​​creating a new international organization tasked with maintaining global peace and security was actually floated by members of the anti-Hitler coalition even before the war was over. During their August 14, 1941 meeting at the British naval station Argentia (Newfoundland), US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inked the Atlantic Charter, which defined the two countries’ goals in the war against Nazi Germany, and outlined the first sketches of the post-war world order. The Soviet Union joined the declaration on September 24 of that same year. On January 1, 1942, representatives of 26 Allied countries endorsed the Atlantic Charter and signed the United Nations Declaration. Welcomed as the idea of creating a new organization was by everyone, however, there still were numerous disagreements regarding its tasks, goals and powers.

At a conference held in Moscow on October 19-30, 1943, the foreign ministers of the USSR, the US and Great Britain (Vyacheslav Molotov, Cordell Hull and Anthony Eden), signed the Declaration of Four Nations on General Security (it was also signed by China’s ambassador to the USSR Fu Bingchang), where the parties pledged to fast-track the creation of an international organization to maintain peace and security. The final agreement on the creation of the United Nations Organization was reached in March 1945 during the Yalta Conference by the leaders of the three Allied Powers – Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

It was established that the UN would be based on the principle of unanimity of the great powers – permanent members of the Security Council with a veto right. Harry Truman, who succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, who died in April 1945, was openly critical of the agreement, but during a conference in San Francisco, where Soviet and US representatives locked horns over a number of issues pertaining to the UN Charter, the Soviet position prevailed.  The sides eventually reached a compromise whereby the UN General Assembly could discuss any issues, but did not have the right to take decisions binding on the UN member states.

On June 26, 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco to sign the UN Charter. On October 24, 1945, the Soviet Union became the 29th state to have submitted the instrument of ratification, thus securing the necessary number of votes for the Charter’s entry into force. Since 1948, October 24 has been marked as United Nations Day.

The status of the United Nations Organization, paid for by tens of millions of lives perished in World War II, went unquestioned for quite some time, ensuring for more than half a century peace in Europe and a relatively predictable situation globally. Over time, however, even the most durable world order is bound to be put to a test.

At the turn of the 1990s, the bipolar system of international relations and the Cold War were replaced by a new world order based on the political and economic predominance of the United States and its closest allies. By historical standards, however, this period proved pretty short-lived since the world is too complicated to unconditionally kowtow to the principles of the Washington Consensus. By the close of the 20th century and the start of the 21st, new centers of power and integration projects began to emerge, initiated by countries in Eurasia and Latin America.

Serious doubts about the reliability of the existing system of international security appeared already in 1999 with NATO’s enlargement to the east to incorporate Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic – the first such process since the end of WW2. In that very same year, the forces of the North Atlantic Alliance, sidestepping the UN Security Council, launched bombing raids against Yugoslavia, thus throwing in question the entire system of post-war treaties. Since then, almost every US-initiated military operation in the world has been conducted illegitimately and classified by the UN Security Council as an act of aggression and condemned by both Russia and China, which insist that any use of force in international relations, be it political, economic or military, should come exclusively as a result of consensus of all members of the Security Council.

The veto right by a permanent member of the Security Council to block any decision, even if it is approved by all other members, remains the backbone of the entire system of international security. Everyone understands this, but not everyone is ready to come to terms with it.

The UN’s presence in the world after the end of the inter-bloc confrontation has significantly increased with its mandate transcending military aspects and now including humanitarian and social issues.

However, the world is facing the growing threat of numerous conflicts flaring up that can’t be resolved without a consensual decision by the key UN member states which, in turn, has proved to be extremely hard to achieve. It’s not just about the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as even the content of international documents is being disputed now. Who would possibly object to the need to combat the activities of terrorist and extremist organizations? And still, practice shows that the term “terrorism” carries a different meaning for European countries and, for example, those in the Middle East. As a result, UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of contemporary conflicts in this region are actually ignored. Civil wars in Libya and Syria, as well as the extremely difficult situation in Iraq, caused to a large extent by the interference of the United States and its allies, as well as by the activities of network extremists, have added to the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Adding to this is the rising threat posed by drug and cyber terrorism.

With the situation being as it is, the United Nations is facing a growing wave of criticism. The organization has been criticized before – in 1993 the UN mission in Somalia fell though, and in 1994, the UN failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda, stop hostilities in Congo and the civil war in the Balkans, which led to an armed intervention by NATO. The actions by representatives of the UN and organizations it helped create in the Middle East often lack their declared impartiality.

While during the Cold War era decision-making mechanisms in the international arena were based on the decisions by the Yalta and Potsdam conferences of 1945, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and a raft of arms control treaties, after the period of confrontation ended, so did the period of transparent “rules of the game” in world politics. Moreover, many non-state actors have emerged and now wield serious financial and political influence. Nevertheless, the UN remains the only organization that prevents the existing structure of global security from falling apart in the extremely difficult circumstances of this day and age.

There have been growing demands to bring the UN and its Security Council in line with modern-day realities. During the 75 years of the organization’s existence, the number of its member states has increased from 50 to 193, as have the shortcomings of many of its agencies. Many criticize the UN’s peacekeeping operations as haphazard, extremely selective and prone to double standards. The organization has been repeatedly called out for being in a financial crisis. Many developing countries (states of the “global South”) are trying to limit the veto power enjoyed by the permanent members of the Security Council and are demanding more equitable geographical representation in the Council. Developed countries such as Germany, Japan, Brazil and India also seek the status of permanent members of the UN Security Council. They propose to expand the Council to 25 members, with two permanent seats reserved for Asia and Africa and one each for Latin America and Western Europe.

In 2017, US President Donald Trump came up with a plan to reform the UN, proposing, among other things, to optimize the organization’s expenses and get more return for every dollar invested in it. Well, by the efficiency of the UN’s work Trump apparently means decisions that would serve America’s best interests.

Washington’s tactic regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program is very indicative here. In 2015, Iran and the 5 + 1 group of states (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as Germany) signed the so-called Iran nuclear deal, according to which Tehran refused to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for a gradual lifting of international sanctions. However, in 2018, Washington pulled out of the accord and announced new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. On August 20, 2020, the United States sent a letter to the UN Security Council announcing the launch of the so-called sanctions snapback process whereby any signatory to the 2015 deal could re-impose sanctions against Iran if it found that Tehran was not fulfilling its obligations under the agreement. The idea was simple: it was enough to submit a request to the UN Security Council to launch the snapback mechanism to force the Security Council to raise the issue of continued implementation of the entire Iranian nuclear deal. The Americans would then use their veto power and the document would simply cease to exist. This didn’t happen though as all other permanent members of the Security Council ignored the US request. Therefore, following the necessary 30-day pause, on September 21, the US imposed unilateral sanctions against Tehran. A paradoxical situation ensued: de jure, no sanctions exist for most countries, but de facto, Washington feels free to punish anyone who dares to violate these “nonexistent” restrictions and continues to cooperate with Tehran pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2231.

The majority of the permanent members of the Security Council want to more or less keep in place the UN’s current decision-making mechanisms, which give them obvious privileges while simultaneously allowing them to solve the main task the UN was originally created for, i.e. the prevention of major wars between great powers. Besides, no comprehensive reform of the organization appears likely since there are no criteria all member countries would agree with. Therefore, despite all the critical barbs, the organization will continue in its classical form, at least for now. Meanwhile, the world finds itself in a state of complete uncertainty caught between the remaining fragments of a failed attempt to build a unipolar system and institutions inherited from the second half of the 20th century.

Russia’s position on the UN reform remains fairly balanced. Moscow believes that changes should not affect two key provisions – the approval of the proposed plan by the overwhelming majority of the participating countries, and the preservation of the Security Council’s prerogatives, including the right of veto.

Russia stands for the development of the UN’s peacekeeping potential, which it believes is not fully in line with the tasks currently facing the organization, and for wider cross-border social and humanitarian cooperation necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The way out of the socio-economic crisis caused by this epidemic will be long and extremely difficult, therefore it is imperative to stop dividing countries into “us” and “them,” and start developing all the necessary mechanisms of cooperation. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov outlined these priorities in his speech at the 75th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly on behalf of the CSTO member states.

“The fate of the United Nations is in the hands of its member states. Just like in 1945, we need to cast aside our differences and come together for the sake of delivering on common objectives, based on equitable dialogue and mutual respect for one another’s interests. The UN offers all the necessary conditions to this effect,” Lavrov emphasized.

From our partner International Affairs

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