Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Peace and Security: The Challenge and the Promise[dagger]

Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Peace and Security: The Challenge and the Promise[dagger]

Article excerpt


Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here in Austin at the University of Texas-one of the world's leading institutions for research and teaching. Being here brings me back to my own time as an academic-as a doctoral student here in the United States, and then as a law professor and law school dean at Chulalongkorn University back home in Thailand.

I am grateful to Provost Ekland-Olson for his warm introduction and welcome, to the School of Law and the LBJ Library for making fora available for me to speak and interact with Texans on this trip, to the many institutes and centers on campus who sponsored this conference and address, and to the Texas International Law Journal for agreeing to publish this talk. I am particularly grateful to Professor Karen Engle, here at the law school, and to the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, whose mission of fostering critical discussion and policy analysis of human rights law could hardly be more timely.

It is in that spirit of critical inquiry that I would like to reflect on the challenges facing our multilateral regime in the field of peace and security. It is altogether reasonable to ask, as many have in recent years, whether our multilateral legal and institutional framework, assembled in the years after the second World War, is up to the security challenges now facing our increasingly globalized world.

The United Nations' many contributions in other fields are easy to affirm. We rely on the United Nations to coordinate the work of hundreds of independent national public and private agencies responding to humanitarian emergencies-I saw this first hand as my own country responded to the tsunami disaster last Christmas. We rely on the United Nations to arrange and monitor elections-and sometimes-as in East Timor-for nation building. Every day we rely on the steady background work of the many U.N. specialized agencies and programs in the spheres of human rights protection, health, education, transportation, humanitarian relief, and much more.

But should we rely on the United Nations for peace and security? States have not found it possible to avoid what the U.N. Charter so rightly terms "the scourge of war."1 There remains deep disagreement-between states, and within states-about what it means to ensure, as the Charter put it, that "armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest."2 Just when does the "common interest" require resort to force? This is not a legal question-it is a political judgment. Can we rely on the legal and institutional machinery of the United Nations to ensure that it is made wisely? The Charter promised a security Council able to decide this question-yet repeatedly over the history of the United Nations, the security Council has not acted, even in the face of grave threats to the peace, acts of aggression, and violations of human rights. To what extent may, should, must-individual nations, regional alliances or ad hoc coalitions determine for themselves that the "common interest" demands their resort to military action? In short, can the Charter's promise of "collective security" still be redeemed?

At the same time, having served as finance minister, I am well aware that economic vulnerability can be as profound a threat to security as the use of force. As the United Nations was founded sixty years ago, the global economy was shattered. The Bretton Woods arrangements were only just being established. Almost every nation maintained extensive controls over their economy-tariff walls, exchange controls, national macroeconomic planning and management. With greater economic openness has come great prosperity-and new threats to our common security. Threats from transnational crime, from globalized epidemics, and, perhaps most disturbingly, from the growing economic and social dualism that has come with globalization. Poverty alleviation, along with social and economic inclusion, must now be part of any global security strategy. …

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