Picture: The Writer | Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Photo: 2015

The Current World Disorder

By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) – Dr. Henry Kissinger – veteran Harvard academic in political science, author, diplomatic practitioner and respected commentator on international affairs despite a chequered career in the U.S. Government – published his latest book “World Order” at the end of 2014 providing us with a historical analysis of a quest for a rule based global order.

That quest has to be undertaken in a world where in Kissinger’s words, “Chaos threatens side by side with unprecedented interdependence; in the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the disintegration of states, the impact of environmental depredations, the persistence of genocidal practices and the spread of new technologies threatening to drive conflict beyond human control or comprehension.”

Thus in today’s world a rule based world order seems even more remote considering the diversity of emerging players and problems with no apparent centre of gravity.

Let us consider some of the key global threats facing us today – 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell symbolizing the end of the Cold War and in the 70th anniversary year of the United Nations – the epicentre for harmonizing the actions of 193 nations mandated by the Charter to maintain international peace and security.

  • There is the Fifth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) which conveys the unambiguous message that climate change is caused by human action and that unchecked it will lead to catastrophe;
  • As the global economic recession continues, there is inequality of income as a feature throughout the world, where the poorest 1.2 billion consume just 1% while the richest billion consume 72%, causing increasing frustration and social tension especially among the youth who are 26% of the global population;
  • There is religious extremism, racism and the bestial violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL- also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and by the Arabic acronym Daʿish or DAESH a Sunni Islamist rebel group based in Iraq and Syria), Boko Haram in  north-east Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other anarchic groups which challenge our shared values and civilized societal norms;
  • There is the state terrorism of Israel waging unequal war against the Palestinians while occupying their territory and depriving them of their statehood in violation of international law;
  • There are more than 50 million throughout the world who are currently displaced by war and violence – some 33.3. Million in their own country and approximately 16.7 million as refugees – the highest number since World War II; and
  • There are the problems of hunger, diseases like the Ebola pandemic in Western Africa, poverty and violations of human rights that continue to disfigure the human condition.

Multilateralism was the chosen tool post World War II for global problems with the United Nations vested with the task of maintaining international peace and security. The Cold War obstructed the full realization of that scenario. Despite the U.S. being the sole super-power since the end of the Cold War and making the biggest investment in its military security ($ 640 billion out of a total global military expenditure of $1747 billion in 2013) it is unable to enforce world order.

‘Fluidity’ in global governance’

The 2014 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Yearbook has noted that, “There is a certain fluidity in international governance. There are now more actors exerting influence around the world, and more centres of decision-making. These include countries from the South and the East. In addition, a heterogeneous set of non-state actors is now a permanent part of the international security landscape.”

The failure of the Security Council to act in conflict areas such as Syria illustrates the weakness of multilateral co-operation today. At the end of December 2014 a Security Council resolution calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine territories failed to muster more than eight affirmative votes with even Non-aligned countries abstaining.

Weapons of war including the threat of nuclear weapon are of no deterrent value to combat global problems. It is more likely that in a skewed world of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots” we are going to have increasing proliferation of weapons including nuclear weapons by terrorist non-state actors.

Scientific evidence is proof that even a limited nuclear war – if those confines are possible – will cause irreversible climate change and destruction of human life and its supporting ecology on an unprecedented scale. We the people have a “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) the world from nuclear weapons by outlawing them through a verifiable Nuclear Weapon Convention overriding all other self-proclaimed “R 2 P” applications.

Two NGOs -ICAN and PAX – have painstakingly researched the money behind nuclear weapons and have revealed in their “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report that since January 2011, 411 different banks, insurance companies and pension funds have invested US $402 billion in 28 companies in the nuclear weapon industry. The nuclear-armed nations spend a combined total of more than USD 100 billion on their nuclear forces every year.

Let me quote from the report – “The top 10 investors alone provided more than 175 billion US dollars to the 28 identified nuclear weapon producers. With the exception of French BNP Paribas, all financial institutions in the top 10 are based in the US. The top 3 – State Street, Capital Group and Blackrock – have a combined US$ 80 billion invested. In Europe, the most heavily invested are BNP Paribas (France), Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays (both United Kingdom). In Asia, the biggest investors are Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial (both Japan) and the Life Insurance Corporation of India.”

Inspirational achievements

Apart from the disarmament dividend, the achievement of a world order can also be accomplished by individual leaders who have helped the world to scale many heights in history.

  • Colonialism which enslaved many countries for centuries was dismantled under the aegis of the UN liberating numerous countries in Asia and Africa;
  • The civil rights movement in the USA ended segregation, racial discrimination and other indignities imposed on black Americans;
  • The odious apartheid regime and the peaceful transition to a non-racial democracy in South Africa was achieved;
  • And, finally, we have witnessed the end of the Cold War with its global tension and rivalry.

These are inspirational achievements of which humankind can be proud. Through all these achievements we remember gratefully the exemplary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. It was their unswerving dedication to non-violence that ensured victory over evil and injustice.

Last year we observed the centenary of the beginning of World War I and many commentators saw parallels between the global situation of 1914 and 2014. The deterioration of relations between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia with oil politics being deployed to weaken the Russian economy are alarming trends.

A chance for progress in nuclear disarmament remains the long-running negotiations between Iran and a group of world powers, informally led by the U.S. A deal to curtail the Iranian nuclear programme in return for a lifting of economic sanctions would be a significant foreign policy achievement for President Obama, allowing him to follow up the welcome rapprochement with Cuba with a reconciliation with Iran winning Iranian co-operation in the solution of much of the problems in the Middle East

Another opportunity lies with the Marshall Islands – one of the smallest members of the UN and a victim of nuclear weapon testing – who have courageously taken the nine nuclear weapon armed nations to the International Court of Justice. The cases will be heard in 2015.

For the NPT nuclear-weapon states, the U.S., UK, France, Russia, and China, the claims are made under both the NPT and customary international law. For the four states possessing nuclear arsenals outside the NPT, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, the claims are made under customary international law only.

The customary law obligations are based on widespread and representative participation of states in the NPT and the long history of United Nations resolutions on nuclear disarmament, and reflect as well the incompatibility of use of nuclear weapons with international law.

The relief requested is a declaratory judgment of breach of obligations relating to nuclear disarmament and an order to take, within one year of the judgment, all steps necessary to comply with those obligations, including the pursuit, by initiation if necessary, of negotiations in good faith aimed at the conclusion of a convention on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

This is a welcome first opportunity after the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion to confirm and clarify the status, under international law, of the legality of the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

Ultimately it is international law that will help to establish world order and not the force of arms.

*Jayantha Dhanapala is a retired UN Under-Secretary-General and a former Ambassador of Sri Lanka. [IDN-InDepthNews – January 8, 2015]

The writer’s previous articles on IDN:

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Photo: The Writer | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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