United Nations

High Level Panel calls for a new vision of collective security at the UN

UNITED NATIONS — Saying threats to global security have evolved far beyond traditional war, a panel of high-level experts has called on the United Nations to embrace a new and more encompassing definition of collective security, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of all peoples and nations.

“The biggest security threats we face now, and in the decades ahead, go far beyond States waging aggressive war,” said the 16-member group, in a report released 2 December 2004. “They extend to poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation; war and violence within States; the spread and possible use of nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons; terrorism; and transnational organized crime.”

This new reality, the Panel concluded, requires a “new and broader understanding” on collective security between the nations and peoples of the world.

“Today's threats recognize no national boundaries, are connected, and must be addressed at the global and regional as well as the national levels,” said the Panel. “No State, no matter how powerful, can by its own efforts alone make itself invulnerable to today's threats. Every State requires the cooperation of other States to make itself secure.”

The Panel, which included former heads of state, foreign ministers, security, military, diplomatic and development officials, called for greater cooperation among states to achieve this sense of collective security. It also proposed a number of reforms at the United Nations itself, including:

• Strengthening the General Assembly's role in forging global consensus on important policy issues by, among other things, including greater participation by civil society.

• Broadening, in some way, the membership of the Security Council, so as to bring more countries, especially from the developing world, into its decision-making process.

• Creating a “peacebuilding commission” to better assist countries with the transition from war to peace.

• Expanding the membership of the Commission on Human Rights so that it encompasses all member states, with the aim of eliminating political “tensions” over membership and underscoring the commitment of all nations to human rights.

The Panel also called for a strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and a major push to rebuild public health at all levels, from the global to the local, not only to help to stem disease and epidemics, but also to form a bulwark against bio-terrorism.

“The central challenge for the twenty-first century is to fashion a new and broader understanding… of what collective security means,” said the Panel.

“The attacks of 11 September 2001 revealed that States, as well as collective security institutions, have failed to keep pace with changes in the nature of threats,” the Panel said.

“The technological revolution that has radically changed the worlds of communication, information-processing, health and transportation has eroded borders, altered migration and allowed individuals the world over to share information at a speed inconceivable two decades ago. Such changes have brought many benefits but also great potential for harm. Smaller and smaller numbers of people are able to inflict greater and greater amounts of damage, without the support of any State,” the Panel said.

Beyond reforms to strengthen collective security, the Panel stressed the importance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to end poverty and promote sustainable development as part of a long-term strategy to address terrorism and civil conflict.

Development, the Panel said, is “the indispensable foundation for a collective security system that takes prevention seriously. “It helps combat the poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation that kill millions and threaten human security. It is vital in helping States prevent or reverse the erosion of state capacity, which is crucial for meeting almost every class of threat.”

More information about the Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change can be found at http://www.un-globalsecurity.org/

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