20th Annual Plenary Session
7-10 June 2002
The InterAction Council held its 20th Plenary Session in Berlin, Germany. It is an appropriate location, given the significance of Berlin to the history of Europe in the previous century, and now the site of such impressive rejuvenation. This reflects the Council's discussion over the past three days on the Future Evolution of the European Union and International Humanitarian Law.
Current World Situation
1. The common cliché is that September 11th changed the world. Although this may be a simplification, there is little doubt that the terrorist attack has deeply changed the perspectives of Americans about the world and the world about Americans. Terror has existed for centuries but September 11th demonstrated to all its potential magnitude and its reach. The fact that a network of terrorists could be born in the Middle East, educated in Europe and trained in the United States, shows that increased interdependence demonstrates a growing potential for conflict. But the terrorist attack and its aftermath also require an increasing need for cooperative international action. A conscious will for tolerance will also become much more decisive in our future. This means that no leadership is legitimate without accountability and that no one is entitled to pursue exclusively his or her rights, claims and interests. The InterAction Council asks citizens and governments of the world to demonstrate understanding towards the United States as it reacts to the attacks. At the same time, the Council underscores the dangers of an exclusively unilateral approach in countering terrorism and emphasizes the importance of the United Nations in preserving the international rule of law. The InterAction Council recommends that cooperative action be taken among states in response to international crises.
2. While the world has concentrated on the Al Qaeda network, terrorists have exacerbated another threat to world peace in Kashmir. The Council is gravely concerned about the present tension between India and Pakistan that may lead to the use of nuclear weapons. We call on Pakistan, in accordance with its commitments, to take concrete actions to stop and prevent infiltrations of terrorists across the Line of Control and the activities of terrorists groups in territory under its control. We call on India and Pakistan to resume sincere dialogue and to work with the international community to reach a lasting settlement of the dispute. We recommend that India and Pakistan accept international monitoring at the Line of Control and that they cooperate with such monitoring once it is realized.
3. Aside from Kashmir, the greatest threat to world peace is in the Middle East, specifically with respect to conflicts among Israel and her neighbors. The InterAction Council calls on all parties to abide by UN Resolutions, including withdrawal from the occupied territories and the creation of a Palestinian State but with Israel's security guaranteed. The Peace Plan proposed by Saudi Arabia, and endorsed by the Arab League, provides the best prospect for a final arrangement and a lasting peace. The InterAction Council urges the parties to reopen dialogue for the purpose of achieving a negotiated settlement and lasting peace in the region.
4. Both the Kashmir dispute and the Middle East conflict are in part fueled by misuse of religion for political gains. In 1987, Takeo Fukuda, the founder of the InterAction Council, convened the leaders of five major religions in Rome to promote understanding among the world's major religions. The Council further promoted this initiative by convening a group, which produced "A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" in 1997. Recently, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has brought about a Dialogue on Civilizations and the World Bank has created a World Faith Dialogue on Development. The InterAction Council applauds these initiatives and calls on world leaders, especially the Group of 8, to meet with leaders of the world's great religions, to promote tolerance and respect for all. This is all the more important since September 11th when extremists on all sides have attempted to incite religious tensions for political gains. The InterAction Council will continue to make religious tolerance and diversity a priority and will work with all organizations with similar aims.
5. The InterAction Council believes that intolerance and terrorism can grow out of injustice, poverty and social deprivation. The Council recognizes that there are no quick development solutions or miracles. Nevertheless there are certain actions that are absolutely essential for the world to obtain a measure of economic justice. Foremost among these is a fairer system of world trade. The hypocrisy of the United States and the European Union calling for free trade while promoting the highest agricultural subsidies in the world must end. Today, rich countries spend $350 billion per year on agricultural subsidies, seven times what they spend on foreign aid, and roughly equivalent to the entire GDP of sub-Saharan Africa. The InterAction Council recommends that the United States, the European Union and Japan work effectively to reduce agricultural subsidies and open markets as it is one of the necessary ways to alleviate poverty in the developing world.
6. Because of the disparities within the world economy, 80 percent of the world lives on 16 percent of the global income. This exacerbates tragedies such as the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty-five million people live with AIDS and 17 million have died. The InterAction Council commends the Group of 8 for putting Africa at the center of its agenda at the meeting later this month and urges ministers to make concrete commitments to fighting AIDS through contributions to the AIDS Global Trust Fund which is currently under-funded.
7. Although globalization has brought important benefits, too many people are being left behind. Education remains a crucial problem and is often not prioritized in developing nations. The InterAction Council calls on the international community to support UNESCO's "Education for All Initiative" and draws specific attention to the "digital divide" between developed countries and the developing world, which will only increase the disparity. It is absolutely necessary that poorer countries receive benefits from globalization. If this is to happen, we need to rethink some important aspects of globalization and its effects. The InterAction Council supports the Poverty Reduction Strategy process, introduced by the World Bank and the IMF, as an important move towards country ownership of development and move away from a one size fits all approach. Council members support efforts to use the process to create a dialogue among governments, civil society, and donors on development strategy. The InterAction Council calls on the two institutions to continue to relax their conditionalities especially those that may result in reduced social expenditures. Health, education, and basic infrastructure remain at the heart of development.
8. The problems in the world's development and economic stability are particularly evident in Latin America where falling commodity prices and the subsequent devaluation of currencies have led to low rates of growth and high rates of unemployment. Furthermore, there has not been improvement in governance. Macroeconomic solutions on their own are not enough. Development needs a balance between a market economy for growth and state intervention for equity.
9. Pressures from the environment also present new challenges. Although the effects of global warming have not been quantified, our continued reliance upon fossil fuels will eventually force millions of people to move to avoid rising sea levels. As rising sea levels reduce available living space and as population density increases, the likelihood of conflict will increase. The InterAction Council calls on all countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without delay.
10. Policy-makers should be aware that mass movements of people would continue in part because of the great disparity in wealth between developed and developing nations. Furthermore, the wealth in the West, combined with an aging population, increases demand for labor, much of which will come from poorer countries. If policy-makers welcome immigrants, they have a responsibility to educate their citizens about the benefits that immigration provides. The rise of far right parties demonstrates how volatile an issue of immigration can be.
11. Increasing disparity of wealth will continue to lure those in desperate economic circumstance to seek a better life for themselves in the developed world. As developed countries respond to increasing numbers of asylum seekers, the InterAction Council urges humane treatment and expeditious processing of claims to refugee status. Some countries have violated the Refugee Convention of 1951 through discriminatory acts against such people. We call on developed countries to deal with asylum seekers with a sense of compassion and humanity. In some years the EU has been able to accommodate successfully over 400,000 new arrivals with humanity and compassion. The problems that create refugees are likely to increase unless a vigorous attack is made on poverty in the Third World and problems in the Middle East and South Asia. Wealthy countries will continue to be a magnet to those people who live in extreme poverty and without effective action on the part of the developed world, a lasting resolution will not be achieved.
Therefore the InterAction Council recommends:
- Caution against the dangers of an exclusively unilateral approach in countering terrorism and emphasis on the importance of the UN in upholding and strengthening the international rule of law;
- That India and Pakistan accept and cooperate with international monitoring along the Line of Control in Kashmir;
- That all parties to the Arab/Israeli conflict abide by UN Resolutions, including withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the creation of a Palestinian State with Israel's security guaranteed. The Council urges the parties to reopen dialogue for the purpose of achieving a negotiated settlement and lasting peace in the region;
- That the US, the EU and Japan effectively reduce agricultural subsidies as one of the necessary ways of helping developing countries;
- That G8 ministers make concrete commitments to fighting AIDS through increased contributions to the AIDS Global Trust Fund which is currently under-funded;
- That the international community support UNESCO's "Education for All Initiative" and acknowledge the "digital divide" between developed countries and the developing world which, if unchecked, will only increase disparity of wealth;
- That all countries ratify the Kyoto Protocol without delay;
- That developed countries deal with asylum seekers without discrimination, with a sense of compassion and as expeditiously as possible;
- That the leaders of the G8 meet with leaders of the world's great religions to advance understanding, tolerance and respect for all;
- The continued promotion of understanding among the world's great religions.
Future Evolution of the European Union
12. The Council endorses the Report of the Chairman, H.E. Helmut Schmidt, on the High-Level Expert Group Meeting on the Future Evolution of the European Union held at the UNESCO in Paris, April 11-12, 2002.
13. Although Europe has made dramatic strides over the last 50 years to forge a new European identity and structure, no democratic polity can succeed without the support of its citizenry, and European enthusiasm for the institutions of the European Union has steadily waned. Discontent is demonstrated by low voter turn out in elections to the European Parliament, in the results of European referenda and in popular unrest with the accretion of power in non-transparent procedures. This feeling of disengagement must be addressed by the European leadership immediately.
14. Institutions in the EU were assembled in stages over 50 years and were originally designed to meet the needs of six states. As the Union prepares to expand to 25 members, reform of these institutions is essential, particularly extending their democratic legitimacy. This could include allowing majority voting among member states for all legislative issues except treaties and constitutional changes. Furthermore, the President of the Commission should be elected by the European Parliament. The political responsibility of the Commission should be strengthened. The European Parliament should work with national parliaments, maintain subsidiarity (i.e. the principle to decide issues at the local, regional or national levels wherever possible and not always to bring all decisions to the central European level), and concentrate upon maintaining democratic legitimacy and controlling excessive regulation.
15. Differentiating states with different goals - variable geometry - should be encouraged as a means of fostering flexibility within the European system. Long transition periods for new entrants and new initiatives, opt outs for particular states, and enhanced cooperation on certain issues should be viewed not as derogation from an European ideal but rather as a beneficial and practical means of furthering the goal of European integration.
16. Enlargement of Europe is a priority, a duty and an ideal. One of the European Union's major contributions is that it is expanding democracy, opportunity and prosperity.
17. The European Union is a work-in-process. The launch of the common currency and the agreed inclusion of the Charter on Fundamental Rights into the general Treaty both demonstrate considerable success. Building on this success, it is important for a strong Europe to play a balancing role in world affairs. There are many useful actions that the EU could take in relation to critical issues including the Middle East, the future course of the War on Terror and the urgency in South Asia. As an immediate step, the EU should consider combining European voting shares on the boards of both the World Bank and the IMF, which will result in greater influence for Europe.
18. The Council welcomes the new partnership between Russia and NATO and in a similar vein, hopes that relations between Russia and the EU can be further deepened.
Therefore the InterAction Council recommends:
- That the President of the Commission should be elected by the European Parliament. The political responsibility of the Commission should be strengthened. The European Parliament should work with national parliaments, maintain subsidiarity and concentrate upon maintaining democratic legitimacy and controlling excessive regulation;
- That the EU should consider combining its voting shares on the boards of both the World Bank and the IMF to create a greater weight for Europe;
- That the EU and major states of the EU play a more significant and effective role in the resolution of international disputes.
International Humanitarian Law, Humanitarian Crises and Military Intervention
19. The Council strongly endorses the Report of the Chairman, The Rt. Hon Malcolm Fraser, on the High-Level Expert Group Meeting on International Humanitarian Law, Humanitarian Crises and Military Intervention held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, April 22-23, 2002.
20. It is unacceptable for the international community to stand idly by in the face of widespread atrocity and gross violations of human rights. The UN Security Council has demonstrated an increased willingness to authorize military intervention to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter. On occasions, however, Council decision-making has been frustrated on purely political grounds by the exercise of the veto power by one of the permanent five members. It is entirely unsatisfactory for one permanent member of the Security Council to obstruct a collective decision to intervene militarily to stop massive human rights violations. A dogmatic commitment to Security Council authorization as the sole determinant of the legitimacy of intervention will be problematic in the face of political obstinacy expressed through the use of the veto power.
21. On the other hand, unilateralist claims of the right to intervene on humanitarian grounds also pose problems. The collective enforcement mechanisms of the UN Charter were designed to protect against the dangers of unbridled resort to military force. The most serious ramification arising from NATO's resort to force in Kosovo without Security Council authorization is the possibility that other groups of States may decide that they too have the right to use military force on humanitarian grounds and to determine for themselves the circumstances in which resort to such force is justified.
22. In circumstances where the Security Council is frustrated in its decision-making, the alternative exists for the UN General Assembly to be called into Emergency Special Session to recommend military intervention by two thirds majority of states present and voting. At present, the UN General Assembly lacks the resources to recommend military intervention. There are logistical and financial implications from implementing this process, a recommendation from the plenary body of the intergovernmental community would ensure greater legitimacy of a military intervention.
23. Humanitarian crises such as genocide or crimes against humanity rarely occur spontaneously. The international community must value initiatives to identify potential sources of conflict and strategies designed to redress them. There are significant advantages in pursuing measures to avert humanitarian crises and any effort to do so should be supported and encouraged. In particular, the Good Offices role of the UN Secretary General in Article 99 of the UN Charter, could be affirmed and enhanced - possibly through a consensus UN General Assembly Declaration. The InterAction Council believes that the Secretary General should have an agreed mandate to report on impending humanitarian tragedies to the UN Security Council and should receive the financial and political support necessary to establish the structures and processes to facilitate this increased capacity.
24. There are likely to be increasing calls for development of international law to permit military intervention on humanitarian grounds without UN Security Council authorization in situations where that authorization is prevented by the use of the veto. The InterAction Council considers it critical that the international community identifies and agrees upon clear criteria for the practice. In the absence of agreed criteria for humanitarian intervention there is a grave risk of spurious claims to justify aggression.
25. In the management of crises, a great loss of time and efficiency results from the lack of a permanent budget for the implementation of decisions by the Security Council, the General Assembly, and regional authorities, such as the African Union. Once a political decision is taken, it requires weeks to secure funding. Africa suffers particularly from this problem. Permanent financial reserves should be allocated to facilitate rapid implementation of decision-making. The InterAction Council recommends that all relevant governments and multilateral institutions dedicate 10 percent of their aid budgets towards the permanent funding of military intervention on humanitarian grounds.
26. Current efforts to strengthen accountability for atrocity must also be encouraged. The impending entry into force of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court on July 1, 2002 represents a historic development. The new Court has the potential to become the most significant new multilateral institution since the establishment of the UN itself in 1945. Unfortunately some States yet to ratify the Statute have expressed concerns about perceived threats to national sovereignty. The Statute is unambiguous that the Court will only act as a last resort as a complement to national criminal jurisdiction. Those states willing and able to exercise jurisdiction over their own nationals alleged to have committed violations of the Rome Statute are entitled to exercise national jurisdiction to the exclusion of the International Criminal Court. States yet to deposit their instruments of ratification are urged by the InterAction Council to do so as expeditiously as possible in order to strengthen the international credibility of the Court at this critical stage of its life.
Therefore the InterAction Council recommends:
- That in circumstance where the UN Security Council is unable or unwilling to authorize military intervention, consideration be given to the utilization of the UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session Procedure as an alternative multilateral endorsement for military intervention on humanitarian grounds;
- That the international community identifies and agrees on clear criteria for military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Without such criteria there is a grave risk of spurious claims to justify aggression;
- That the international community develops thinking and methods on the issue of preventing conflicts, including early warning, tension measurement and observations;
- That all relevant governments and multilateral institutions allocate 10 percent of their aid budgets to the permanent funding of military intervention on humanitarian grounds;
- That states yet to deposit their instruments of ratification to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court do so as expeditiously as possible in order to strengthen the international credibility of the Court.
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