Event Report by Adam Nester
United Nations, New York
October 11, 2006
United Nations, NY – On October 11, 2006 a panel convened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York entitled The United Nations and Security. The purpose of the panel was to bring experts and practitioners in the fields of development, human rights, gender equity, disarmament, and the rule of law together legislators and representatives from UN member countries to discuss the core agenda of the UN and advance conceptions of an integrated security agenda.
The hearing was held in Conference Room 8 of the United Nations, and was moderated by Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute.
Panelists included Paul Kennedy, Professor of History at Yale University and author of The Parliament of Man: The United Nations and the Quest for World Government, James Gustave Speth, Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and former Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, and Douglas Roche, O.C., Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative, former Canadian Senator, and Ambassador for Disarmament. Opening remarks were delivered by Hannelore Hoppe, Director of the UN department for Disarmament Affairs.
Paul Kennedy discussed the historical significance of the establishment of the United Nations in light of other efforts towards multilateral cooperation, citing the Yalta, Pottsdam and Bretton Woods Conferences as essential steps that led to the establishment of the UN.
He talked about the unique nature of the UN system as a forum for international cooperation and the vital ability of the UN to bring nations together.
Cora Weiss marked the 20th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit as a time of cooperation between the Soviet Union and United States, and contrasted that period of cooperation with the current environment at the UN today, stating: “the purpose of this irreplaceable institution can not be achieved as long as each division, each department, each agency is a separate turf, competing for funding, for media, for the [Secretary General’s] and member state’s attention.”
Dr. Weiss also talked about the need for greater female representation in the offices and bodies of the UN and said “It’s not just the peace process, my friends. Women don’t count unless you count the women. There are totally insufficient numbers of women who are environmentally sensitive, human rights sensitive, gender equality sensitive and peace sensitive in the entire UN system.” Dr. Weiss called for the new Secretary General to pursue the inclusion of women in all stages of peace-building more assertively.
James Gustave Speth discussed the centrality of the UN to development efforts and development to efforts by the UN to promote peace and security. He asserted that the resources of the UN are heavily skewed towards development, and that implied in that focus was recognition that the UN was not merely a forum for debate, but a body actively engaged around the world.
He called for a stronger, more capable UN to deal with the dual crises of degrading poverty and inequitable decline. He acknowledged the fact that the locus of violent conflicts has shifted from interstate to intrastate. He further called for a greater recognition that environmental degradation is beginning to severely negatively impact the developing world as it bears the brunt of observed warming trends. He said that the UN Environmental Program, while dedicated, was not equipped to deal with the enormity of environmental changes as they are occurring today.
Hon. Douglas Roche. O.C. talked about the lack of political will to address current proliferation challenges. He argued that the world is focused solely on Iran and North Korea, ignoring the fact that “.a nuclear two-class world in which a few powerful States aggrandize unto themselves the right to possess nuclear weapons while proscribing their acquisition by any other State is about to become permanent. This status quo is unsustainable.”
Sen. Roche went on to discuss the degree to which nuclear weapons have dulled the collective consciousness as to their danger and excessive cost amount to more than 1 billion dollars a year, saying “.continued high spending on nuclear weapons in the light of the magnitude of human needs in the world represents the single most significant perversion of fiscal priorities today.”
One question posed from the audience asked whether a fully integrated conception of human security was self-defeating because it incorporated too many variables to be addressed comprehensively by one UN agenda.
The answers given emphasized the need to achieve short-term goals while not losing sight of the long-term vision of human security, and that for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to survive, it must not be defeated in the next round of voting. Comprehensive Test Ban and Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaties were indicated as vital steps to ensuring the ability of the NPT to prevent future proliferation.
Other questions centered on the best methods for addressing the human security debate within nations now considering proliferation, particularly with support from weapons states such as the United States.
With particular reference to the US, Dr. Kennedy stated that the US was shortsightedly “cutting the branch out from under themselves” by moving forward with a deal with India that could free up nuclear stockpiles for further weapons development in India.
Mr. Granoff stated that Indians (and by extension, nationals of any nation whose government was looking to pursue proliferation) advocating nonproliferation needed to keep the debate centered on the moral points of nonproliferation in order to change public opinion regarding the acceptability of their procurement and use in favor of nonproliferation.