02 December 2004

U.N. panel not for change in veto power

2 December 2004
The Hindu

U.N. panel not for change in veto power

By Siddharth Varadarajan

NEW DELHI, DEC. 1. The high-level panel tasked by the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to study global security threats and suggest institutional reforms has come up with a number of recommendations aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the world body. Among these are two proposals to expand the number of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, without diluting or expanding the veto power of the five existing permanent members.
The panel, whose report will be formally unveiled in New York on December 2, is expected eventually to form the basis for a reform of the U.N. system, though many of its proposals are likely to excite debate, disagreement and even consternation around the world.

Among these are its proposals on expansion of the UNSC without veto, its definition of terrorism (as any action which harms civilians or non-combatants regardless of whether the aim is to fight foreign occupation), its recommendations on countering proliferation, which borrow liberally from the agenda unveiled earlier this year by the U.S. President, George W. Bush, and its endorsement of the controversial doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

Six more members

Under the first model for the Security Council's expansion, the panel proposes six more permanent members with two each drawn from Asia and Africa and one each from Europe and the Americas. There would be, in addition, 11 non-permanent members as well, taking the size of the Council to 24. Under the second model, the number of permanent members would be kept at five but there would be a new category of eight semi-permanent members with renewable four-year terms, with 11 non-permanent members making up the balance. No candidates are named anywhere in the report.

"We recommend that under any reform proposal, there should be no expansion of the veto," the panel report says. Though it recognises the veto "has an anachronistic character that is unsuitable for the institution in an increasingly democratic age," the panel members noted they see "no practical way of changing the existing members' veto powers."

The 16-member panel was chaired by Anand Panyarachun of Thailand and had as its members, among others, Satish Nambiar (India), Qian Qichen (China), Yevgeny Primakov (Russia), Nafis Sadiq (Pakistan), Brent Scowcroft (U.S.), Amre Moussa (Egypt) and Robert Badinter (France).

NPT clause

To cope with the danger of increasing proliferation, the panel suggests that all countries sign the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) allowing intrusive full-scope inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It also suggests the "early conclusion on an arrangement ... which would enable the IAEA to act as a guarantor for the supply of fissile material to civilian nuclear users" and that countries in the interim stop building enrichment or reprocessing facilities. Finally, the panel's report says all states should be encouraged to join the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) for interdicting suspect shipping on the high seas.

On the use of force and the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, the panel tries to strike a middle path. It says Article 51 of the U.N. Charter (on self-defence) provides enough legal cover for one state to attack another in the face of an "imminent" threat. But if the threat posed is anything less than imminent, states have an obligation to secure the Security Council's authorisation before they can use force. Asked how the U.S. invasion of Iraq would measure up against this yardstick, a senior U.N. official who worked closely with the panel told The Hindu the mandate given by Mr. Annan was not to look at specific countries and cases, or indeed the past, but to the future.

The problem of inter-state war was one of six baskets of threats the panel studied, the other five being wars within states and the danger of genocide, the problem of infectious diseases, the dangers posed by the possession and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism and transnational organised crime. Before detailing its specific recommendations, the report notes that "development" is the first line of defence.

The details of the report, a copy of which was provided to The Hindu ahead of the official release on condition of non-publication, have leaked out so substantially that the U.N. on Wednesday decided to withdraw its embargo.

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