Magazine article UN Chronicle

A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility; High-Level Panel Presents New Vision of Collective Security

Magazine article UN Chronicle

A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility; High-Level Panel Presents New Vision of Collective Security

Article excerpt

The High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change on 2 December 2004 released its report, A more secure world: Our shared responsibility, which presents a comprehensive vision of collective security for this century. It states that "the central challenge of the twenty-first century is to fashion a new and broader understanding of what collective security means"--the indivisibility of security, economic development and human freedom--"and of all the responsibilities, commitments, strategies and institutions that come with it if a collective security system is to be effective, efficient and equitable". What is needed, the Panel argues, is "nothing less than a new consensus between alliances that are frayed, between wealthy nations and poor, and among peoples mired in mistrust across an apparently widening abyss". It concludes that "the essence of that consensus is simple: we all share responsibility for each other's security. And the test of that consensus will be action."


Secretary-General Kofi Annan "wholly endorsed its core arguments" and welcomed the 101 recommendations made by the Panel. Briefing the General Assembly on 8 December, he said he would "move quickly ahead" to implement those recommendations that were within his purview, but Member States also needed to act on the Panel's recommendations, and "make 2005 the year of change for the United Nations". He had created the independent Panel following his address to the Assembly in September 2003, in which he warned the international community that the United Nations had reached a fork in the road, saying it risked steady erosion of its role as the sole universal instrument for tackling global challenges unless Member States agreed on a renewal of the multilateral system of collective security. Mr. Annan appointed 16 eminent men and women from all parts of the world and from different fields of expertise--political, military, diplomatic, economic and social--to the Panel, chaired by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun of Thailand, to propose the kinds of policies and institutions required for the United Nations to be effective in the new century.

Prevention, the Panel argues, is at the core of collective security, and it stresses the urgency for developing policies for prevention, warning that the consequences of letting latent threats become manifest or allowing existing threats to spread are "simply too severe". Biological security must be at the "forefront of prevention" in order to halt and roll back pandemics such as HIV/AIDS. Finally, the Panel underscores the crucial role of development as the indispensable foundation of any collective security framework that takes prevention seriously. "Development makes everyone more secure", it concludes.

The Panel offers a vision of a United Nations for the twenty-first century and makes recommendations for reforming its principal organs, including the Security Council. It identifies a number of new threats that "could not have been anticipated when the UN was founded in 1945": war between and violence within States, including civil wars, large-scale human rights abuses and genocide; poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation; nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons; terrorism; and transnational organized crime. Threats are both from States and non-State actors, and to human as well as State security.

The globalization process, the Panel says, has led to a world of "interconnected threats and mutual vulnerability", and because today's threats are linked and recognize no national boundaries, no threat can be dealt with effectively unless the others are addressed at the same time. International cooperation is crucial--no State, no matter how powerful, is able to protect itself alone; global policies and institutions are therefore necessary. The UN system and existing collective security arrangements, it notes, "have shown that they can work": more civil wars ended through negotiation in the past 15 years than in the previous 200; the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has helped limit the number of States with nuclear arms; the World Health Organization helped to quickly contain the spread of SARS before it killed tens of thousands. …

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