21st Annual Plenary Session
21-23 June 2003
For many, the world today is a less safe and less tolerant place than it was only one year ago. Politically, militarily, economically, socially, and culturally, the world has drifted into discord, and missed opportunities for cooperation. Viewed in a longer perspective, however, there are reasons for optimism.
1. Collective action is essential for world safety and security. The crises of the last two years - continuing violence between Israel and Palestinians, war in Iraq, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the threat of nuclear proliferation in North Korea - concern the entire world and require urgent cooperative action.
2. The development of the European Union, though still incomplete, has been a world historical example of the reconciliation of former enemies. No European state, acting alone, could have achieved these results. Any one state which believes it can determine history without the cooperation of its neighbors is doomed to disappointment. After its disastrous history and with encouragement from the Marshall Plan, this is the lesson that Europe has learned and one which the world is still learning.
3. Similarly, the substantial development of international law over the last fifty years has demonstrated that cooperation can be both robust and flexible. Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter has been interpreted to authorize intervention not only in cases of armed conflict, but on widely divergent humanitarian grounds. The recent inauguration of the International Criminal Court is an extremely significant development, and reflects the world community's desire that international institutions provide justice as well as security.
4. Under the Charter of the United Nations, war is illegal unless in cases of legitimate self defense or unless authorized by the Security Council of the United Nations under Chapter 7. It is undeniable that the Iraq war created a crisis of confidence in the world. Unilateral decisions are unacceptable and have negative repercussions. Power needs to obey law in order to be legitimate.
5. When considering reform of the United Nations, to encompass military security, human rights, human security and justice, the agenda must be realistic. For example, procedures for selection of members of the Human Rights Commission should be improved, as the legitimacy of the Commission is violated by allowing the membership of states which have failed to respond to human rights indictments. More importantly, the creation of a rapid reaction military force, be it by permanent allocation of specialized national forces to be put at the direct disposal of the Security Council, would make military action outside the framework of the United Nations less likely.
6. Escalating violence and terrorism between Israelis and Palestinians inflict appalling pain and are a serious threat to international peace. The warring parties must be brought to the negotiating table, and the Roadmap should therefore be implemented. Its implementation, however, will require the cooperation of both sides in the conflict, as well as the intensive engagement of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and other major countries within the region. Any resolution of the dispute must involve security guarantees for Israel and Palestine.
7. International terrorism is an extreme danger that concerns all nations. Terrorism exists in diverse contexts around the world and is motivated by diverse objectives, which must be understood separately. The InterAction Council supports urgent collective action, especially as regards police cooperation, intelligence sharing, and harmonization of anti-terrorism laws. Coordination of police and security action is essential. It is fundamental to the anti-terror struggle that a universally applicable definition of terrorism be established, and that an international and universal approach be taken to the war on terror. Signatories to the International Criminal Court's Charter should consider adding terrorism to the crimes falling within the Court's jurisdiction. Struggle against terrorism must not entail the erosion of hard won domestic civil liberties.
Collective Action to Prevent Proliferation
8. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and particularly nuclear weapons, is currently the most critical threat to global security. This threat is increased by the possibility of the use of such weapons in a terrorist attack. Non-proliferation goals cannot be achieved by any state acting alone, and it is urgent that the international community redouble its cooperation to limit the dissemination of such disastrous weapons.
9. All nuclear powers - declared and undeclared - should recognize that the success of non-proliferation efforts depends on their own compliance with the spirit of Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, requiring that they move toward complete nuclear disarmament. Failure in this regard has already led to proliferation in India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel also must be brought within the non-proliferation regime. Policies which seem to ignore this necessity - such as the development or testing of new forms of nuclear weapons - will only lead to greater proliferation and should be condemned. No state should be made to feel that possessing nuclear weapons is vital to the protection of its own safety; on this issue, the nuclear powers have failed disastrously.
10. North Korea is the test case for urgent international cooperation. It has alarmed the world with its admission of nuclear ambitions, demonstrated links to weapons proliferation, and repeated abductions of foreign citizens. These issues must be resolved through intensive, peaceful engagement by the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.
Collective Action for Sustainable Development
11. Just as collective action is essential for security, international cooperation is necessary to narrow the divide between the world's richest and poorest economies. The last 50 years have witnessed a tremendous degree of integration between the world's economies; many countries have benefited, but many have been left behind. The most urgent need is for the opening of industrialized countries' markets to exports from the developing world, particularly agriculture. In developing countries, liberalization should be conditioned on protection of living agriculture and the security of the food supply. The InterAction Council calls on world leaders to show the determination necessary to complete the Doha Round of trade liberalization.
12. Rapid growth of population in some regions exacerbates the disparities between rich and poor nations. A world in which some states are rich and growing in affluence, and others are marginalized, is unsustainable. The lure of wealthy countries to people of poor countries is irresistible and will continue unless the causes of poverty are addressed by richer nations. International economic refugee movements lead to tensions among states and races. Global environmental degradation adds to the stress created by population pressure. Given the relationship in some developing countries between environmental insecurity and political instability, leaders of industrialized states should regard global environmental protection as essential on both moral and pragmatic grounds, and many environmental problems are insoluble without collective action.
13. The international community has demonstrated a willingness to work multilaterally on many development issues, including efforts of genuine partnership with African governments to create economic opportunities and combat HIV/AIDS. The InterAction Council welcomes the recent statements at the Evian Summit promising increased funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
14. It is intolerable that in the 21st century women do not enjoy social equality with men. Moreover, a substantial portion of women, particularly in the developing world, do not even enjoy legal equality in their access to health care and education, which are the primary factors in the effective control of the population explosion. In this context, improving the opportunities available to female children is of paramount importance.
Tolerance and Collective Responsibility
15. All of us have a collective responsibility to show respect to others in all our dealings. Extremism, whether religious or ideological, represents an assault on the principles of tolerance and decency. Political leaders must refrain from inflammatory emotional rhetoric. Religious leaders, too, have a particular responsibility to abjure bellicose fanaticism, and prevent their faiths from being manipulated by politicians for violent, essentially secular purposes.
16. The InterAction Council strongly believes that the acceptance of the draft Declaration on Human Responsibilities will contribute greatly to better relationships among people and states. As indicated in the draft Declaration, not only leaders, but all citizens, have an obligation to promote the pursuit of liberty, freedom of expression, and respect for the innate value of the individual.
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