Determined to Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War
Security Council must work more transparently and more actively
United Nations Department of Public Information Non-Governmental Organizations in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations presented a discussion on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at ECOSOC Chamber, Conference Building, 3rd Floor, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
BACKGROUND: The Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations begins with the words: “We the people of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” These opening words continue to serve as a reminder that the UN itself was created to help prevent war and of the ruin that war can bring upon the world.
Since the UN’s creation, the international community has not seen a conflict with the same level of global catastrophe as the WWII, which motivated governments toward its creation. Unfortunately, the “scourge of war” has not disappeared. Now, nearly 70 years after the Charter’s signing, ongoing violent conflicts continue to inflict unimaginable suffering around the world.
Although not every part of the world directly experiences widespread violent conflict, the implications of militarization touch every corner of the global village. Over $1.7 trillion is spent globally on armaments, making up about 2.5 percent of the world’s GDP. Figures like these have prompted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stress that “the world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.”
With this briefing, DPI/NGO has brought together a panel to discuss the role of war in recent human history, and how far humanity has advanced in limiting the scourge of war, since the signing of the UN Charter.
The discussion started at 10:00 AM and was moderated by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal.
The moderator welcomed and introduced panelists. Afterwards, a screening of an untitled short documentary film with New York Downtown Community Television was held. This documentary film consisted of disturbing images of war scenes and suffering of its victims.
by Hande SUBASILAR, Alternate Representative of
The Light Millennium to the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.
Is it only dreamers who want the world in peace?
After the screening, the first panelist, H.E. Mr. Paul Seger, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, began his speech with reading lyrics of the song Imagine by John Lennon: “Imagine there's no countries; It isn't hard to do; Nothing to kill or die for; And no religion too; Imagine all the people living life in peace; You, you may say; I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one; I hope someday you'll join us; And the world will be as one.”
Did it end wars?
H.E. Mr. Seger stated that it is almost impossible to draw a line between combatants and civilians. Weapons of mass destruction even in the hands of small groups can threaten a country. Is it only dreamers who want the world in peace? Just dreaming about it does not help. This year, the 85tth anniversary of the Briand- Kellogg Pact (international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve "disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them”) will be commemorated. Did it end wars? No, but it laid a foundation for making aggression a crime. The “Crime of Aggression” is a crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
This would stand a strong signal to leaders. He also pointed out that if we control illegal weapon traffic, which causes thousands of deaths in a day, we will be one step closer to end wars as well. The Security Council must remember that preventing war before it happens is its prime responsibility, and in order to do so the Security Council must work more transparently and proactively.
The next panelist was Mr. Ralph Zacklin, who served as Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs at the UN from 1998 to 2005. In recent years, he has been a member or chairperson of a number of Commissions of Inquiry on human rights and accountability. He is also the author of the publication of “The United Nations Secretariat and Use of Force: Power vs. Principle.”
There is no magic solution to prevent war, but we need civil society organizations to work actively against war.
Mr. Zacklin began his remarks with an anecdote: “In 2007 I was invited to Hague Academy of International Law to present a paper at a workshop to commemorate the 1907 Hague Conference, the second peace conference. As participants, our task was to address the topicality of the 1907 Peace Conference. After the conference, three of us shared a taxi to go back to our hotel. The taxi driver asked what brought us to Hague. One of my colleagues could not resist an opportunity to give a lecture. He did so by saying that the 1907 Hague Peace Conference seeks to lessen the frequency of war and to moderate its effects, if not to abolish or prohibit war. When we arrived at the hotel, the driver turned around and said, ‘and then came WWI’.
This anecdote illustrates the difficulty of prohibiting war through international legislation as in the case of the Charter of the UN. In the Charter, the word “war” does not actually appear. What we have instead is a prohibition on the threat or use of force (article 2 paragraph 4), inherent right of individual collective right of self defense (article 51), and the empowerment of the Security Council as a kind of executive organ to take collective action with respect to threats to peace (chapter 7). Mr. Zacklin stated that there is not a magic solution to prevent war, but we need civil society organizations to work actively against war.
Next, Program Manager at the Centre for Peace, Security, and Armed Violence Prevention (CPS-A VIP) and Congolese journalist Ms. Nounou Booto Meeti began her speech. She has also held the position of Permanent Secretary for Women Partners for Peace Africa, which has helped women to participate in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Meeti focused on the effect of war on women and rape and suggested that the perpetrators should be punished instead of the women, because often the victims get blamed for such acts. She also addressed how costs of war and its aftermath affect the economy. It also causes society to lose its social rights. She expressed that instead of investing and spending resources on war, this pattern should shift into investing in human development such as health and education which could prevent people from engaging in warfare.
There is nothing heroic about war
“Killer Robot” is my biggest fear…
Global Campaign to Ban Killer Robots
If we the people really want to stop war we need to stop investing on war.
The last speaker of the discussion was Jody Williams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work as founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Since 2006, Ms. Williams has worked for peace through the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which she is founder and chair. She has recently launched the Global Campaign to Ban Killer Robots with Human Rights Watch. Her new memoir titled, “My Name is Jody Williams: a Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize,” was released by University of California Press in 2013.
Ms. Williams stated that there is nothing heroic about war and it is just wasting the lives of children and lives of others’ husbands, sons, and children. She emphasized that if citizens really want to stop war, they need to stop investing on war. After all, the largest arms manufacturers continue high budget research projects to produce killer robots, which can target and destroy without human control. She also mentioned the campaign against killer robots and asked NGO’s to act on this issue by asking them to make a written statement against killer robots to their government.
Then, the moderator of the panel, Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, thanked the panelist members and opened the floor for questions. Some questions and answers are as follows:
The first question came from CCCUN/NGO representative and Mr. Zacklin answered it.
A: Mr. Zacklin: We need to work in reducing conflicts. Your proposal is a fantastic one, but it cannot happen. Many of those whom you mentioned are permanent members of the Security Council.
A: Ms. Williams: People think not doing anything can save them from conflicts. But by not doing anything, people help others to do whatever they want.
Q: The Light Millennium, Bircan Ünver: How can trillions of military and war budget shift on national and global levels into human development? And what will take the UN to start an initiative to campaign for it?
A: Ms. Booto Meeti: Governments can shift their budget. We had experienced it!
The discussion eventually concluded with more questions about sexual violence in wars and wars of the future. As the session concluded, the moderator thanked the panelists and audience.
Proofread by: Alana Bache
Posted on July 1, 2013