This article is a report which was made by a High level Panel on the threats, challenges and change that the world is faced with. The High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change is a group of experts from different countries across the world established by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Koffi Annan, with the purpose of using the conclusions derived from the article to reshape the United Nations to meet the challenges of the present world so that it may be more effective.
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This report, among other things, identifies six threats which the world should be watchful of and therefore concerned with in its journey to the future. These include interstates and intrastate conflict (including conflicts resulting into civil wars and massive human rights abuse); the problem of poverty, infectious dangerous diseases and environmental degradation; production of weapons which can render life as we understand it obsolete as it further progresses to a state of desolation; terrorism; and transnational organized crime. It also encompasses policies to prevent such occurrences which are immaculately outlined, and adequate response in case of failure. Beyond this, this article provides some guidelines for the employment of force in such cases where it is inevitable, as well as reflections concerning peace enforcement, peacekeeping capability, and peace building at the end of conflict. Finally, ways of strengthening existing institutions are looked at, along with the possibility of creating and developing new institutions to meet emerging challenges.
Koffi Annan sees the report of the panel which he himself established as “of great range and depth, which marks out a broad framework for collective security, and indeed offers a wider meaning to that concept, which is necessary for the new millennium. It suggests not only ways to handle particular threats, but also new methods of comprehending their integration, and explains what this implies in terms of shared policies and institutions”. Furthermore, the Secretary-General concurs with the report’s main argument that an exhaustive system of collective security that handles the old and emerging new threats, taking into account that all are integrated, is necessary. As a result, all strategies must be exhaustive if at all they are to be successful.
The article clearly and rightly recognizes that it is our shared responsibility to bring about a secure world. International cooperation, international law and collective security are major concepts which the world must seek in order to meet the challenges that the world is faced with. The article captures the observable global situation and the challenge that the United Nation is faced with, with regard to meeting these challenges. It is true that should the United Nations fail to rise up to these challenges, its erosion will be inevitable since it will cease to be relevant to the social, political, economical and environmental dynamisms of the present time. In order for the United Nations to be relevant in the twenty first century, its institutions must be restructured and its mandate rethought. In view of this, the recommendations of the article are in order.
The United Nations of today is different from what was established by the world leaders in 1945. There are threats which were not anticipated when the United Nations was instituted which includes nuclear terrorism and the collapse of states due to internal conflicts, poverty and disease. These are some of the problems that the author of the article has correctly identified as posing major challenges to the world. Considering the level of integration that the world has achieved within the past fifty years, the article rightly points out that a threat in one sector poses a threat to all other sectors. In order for the world to be secure, all states need international cooperation. The six clusters of threats mentioned in the article are the core of the global community’s problem.
It is true that the United Nations has risen up to some of these challenges as stated by the author. This is evidenced by a decrease in the outbreak of civil wars except for places like Congo where the United Nations is actively involved in mediating peace, reduction in the production of weapons of mass destruction through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, countering the spread of dangerous diseases such as SARS through the world Health Organization among other achievements. However, these achievements can be reversed unless the organization is strengthened.
The article indicates that the panel recognizes that the global public health system is not well equipped to combat both the existing and emerging dangerous infectious diseases. However, it does not point out any new mechanism which has been put in place to counter this discrepancy.
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The capacity of the organization for mediation and preventive diplomacy has to be strengthened if wars are to be prevented. The report recognizes that the major source of conflict is competition for natural resources. This competition for resources has often been accompanied with the quest for domination especially for the developed countries. A new way of natural resource management and regulation has to be sought by the United Nations for wars to be minimized. Security of the world can only be guaranteed if the spread and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is prevented. Limiting the supply and demand for weapon materials is necessary.
With an increase in conflicts over the past few years, the report outlines the necessity of military intervention. Prevention strategies fail in some occasions and hence it sometimes becomes necessary to counter threats with military force. A clear framework for the employment of force is laid by the United Nations Charter. However, the right of every nation to defend itself is enshrined in Article 59. A customary international law which was long established is clear on the fact that a nation can resort to military action when a threatened attack is apparent. This introduced a sensitive element with regard to dealing with interstate conflict as mush as it appears simple. Even though the Security Council has the authority to prevent war, it has seldom done that. According to the article, the report recommends that the Security Council be set so as to be more proactive in the future. Any nation which senses an imminent danger has the obligation to forward their concern to the Security Council before engaging in any form of military confrontation.
According to the article, the panel recommends the strengthening of the critical role of Secretary General with regard to peace and security. Should this be done, the conception that the United Nations is a toothless bulldog may just be altered. It also recommends a creation of a Commission of Peace building to work closely with international financial institutions and regional organizations to help those countries which have emerged from conflict. A secure world cannot thus be created by summits but rather in practical actions which are bound to register remarkable change.
The article assumes that the proponents of the United Nations did grasp the complexity of the character of international political system. There is a wide correlation between problems than imagined by the authors of the article. There are still wars and rumors of wars. In the full view of the United Nations, countries are arming themselves for war and there is a threat to world economy. As such, the article seem to give too much credence and weight to the United Nations as an answer to humanities problem without looking at diversity in thoughts and inevitability of conflict and hunger. Food prices have gone up and poverty is escalating in the full glare of the United Nations even as a few individuals ride in extreme wealth. However, the United Nations cannot feed the world. As much as the organization has a noble cause, its response to emerging challenges has been far from effective. The article however sees many success stories and only points toward failures which it looks at as inevitable. For instance, it can be claimed that the United Nation has failed in the provision of peace in many areas, the latest being the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. Its mediation efforts are only seen after the onset of war. The article fails to address this phenomenon.
Collective responses to the global problems can only be resolved through the mechanism of international institutionalization in the absence of a shared strong universal vision or a world government. An effective response to problems facing the world requires flexible institutions with expanding organizational vision. It is often likely, as the article has stated, that a disjointed response to the global challenges may occur through the process of international relations. However, organizational learning may ensure that an accurate perception of the exact nature of the current intertwined problems is obtained thereby guaranteeing a resilient and robust response. Many of the problems are solvable without the creation of other new super organizations as the Secretary General has suggested.
It is assumed that the collective power of people to determine future course is greater now than before as evidenced by the title of the article. Many people are also seeing the need to exercise it. The main challenge of this generation is to mobilize this collective power so as to make the twenty first century secure, democratic and sustainable. However, the article only sees the United Nations as the only organization that has the mandate to mobilize this collective power. A new vision which can integrate people everywhere so as to achieve greater levels of cooperation is needed in the world and this can come from a well coordinated and institutionalized sector.
If we fail to discern clearly the future trends then our survival as human race may not be guaranteed even with the United Nations in place. Men need to tread carefully with caution, balance and vision. The common future for men lies on the degree to which every individual alive today envisions the ideal world and invests his or her energy towards achieving it. The role of the United Nation is to widen the scope of human ability by coming up with approaches to global governance within diverse societies that share a common destiny. All leaders around the world should also work towards national goals which recognize and acknowledges greater human integration.
The struggle for military and political dominance should not be the center of national policies and the author should have outlined ways through which the United Nations aim to curb this. Instead, much effort should be directed towards ensuring healthy and secure world where every human being can once again repossess the wonderful planet called earth without interspecies threat. We need to build a world where men are no longer afraid of men, a world where justice and righteousness is written in the heart of every individual. Whether this can be achieved institutionally or individually is the question which humanity has been grappling with and seems to be on the right but fragile course. As the author of the article has rightly observed, the report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change is only the beginning of a long process.
Our Global Neighborhood. Report of the Commission on Global Governance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995
Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change- Executive Summary -United Nations, 120204.