Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
von Sponeck, Annabel
Falk, Vicky Rossi,
Christian Hårleman, Annette
Mr. Ban Ki-moon,
The United Nations
S-3800, United Nations,
New York, N.Y. 10017, USA
The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research would like
to offer you our sincere best wishes for your tenure of office. We
eagerly look forward to your leadership in the UN during this time
of great challenges for humanity. We also would like to assure you
that all our work over the past 20 years has been in strict adherence
to the UN Charter, and we are proud to have co-operated in various
ways with UN missions in various conflict zones.
TFF is just one of thousands of civil society organizations and we
feel it is a duty to make a constructive contribution.
In this Open Letter we deal with a few selected themes and apply them
to the conflicts in the Middle East.
Hans von Sponeck, Annabel McGoldrick, Richard Falk, Vicky Rossi, Christian
Hårleman, Annette Schiffmann, Jan Oberg, Christina Spännar
the UN Charter’s norms and ethics
Post-Cold War warfare, interventionism and the war
on terror have caused an unprecedented erosion of the norms and values
of the Charter and thus
weakened the UN. The first sentence of the Charter Preamble – “to
save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” – can
be interpreted as an argument for the abolition of war. Article 1.1 states
that peace shall be brought about by peaceful means; military means can
be used only when everything else has been tried in vain. Further, Article
99 and 100 provide your office with special powers and the right of neutrality.
It is of great importance, we believe, that the world be reminded once
again of the independence of your office and that policy decisions can
continuously benefit from this reality.
Until a revised UN Charter has been accepted by all, the current version
must be propagated as fundamental, as indivisible and as applicable to
every member. Indeed, the constructive, hope-inducing stories about the
UN and its missions around the world must become visible and be told throughout
the world media. As such, it is in the UN’s best interest to promote
peace journalism in a media world, which at present is filled with violence.
The United Nations has the potential to become the united "conscience"
of the global citizenry working on behalf of future generations. We express
the hope that you will continue the work started by Kofi Annan to promote
ethics within the UN system, including the Security Council and the General
Assembly. Indeed, moral concerns must be given a voice in world politics.
Historically, the UN has always been an expression of the will of “we,
the peoples”. Unfortunately, a large majority of humanity is only
vaguely aware of the Charter’s words or the importance of its normativity.
We urge you to take a global public relations initiative that propagates
the above-mentioned and other UN norms.
and world order
One of the urgent present day challenges is to return the
UN to multilateralism, to enable the UN to act for the benefit of the
community of nations, rather than in the interest of individual member
states. The UN remains the foundation stone, indeed the custodian, of
multilateralism. It is the organization best suited to devise global policies
that take both citizens and global governance beyond the nation-state
into fundamental account.
It is reasonable to assume that significant de facto reforms of the UN
and, thus, world politics would come about if two changes take place:
- if more member states, the most powerful in particular, finally decided
to conduct their policies in accordance with the Charter;
- if the United Nations could be liberated from the constraints of the
paradigm of geopolitics and outdated military security thinking.
The reform discussion conducted to date has focused on the UN itself but
has not applied the same pressure to member states to duly reform their
behaviour. However, in the words of the first Secretary-General, Trygve
Lie, the UN will never be stronger or better than its members decide to
make it. This statement remains profoundly true today and should be promoted
in the reform discussion.
What do we mean by liberating the UN from geopolitics? From our perspective,
there is a destructive tension between the Charter as norm and law, on
the one hand, and member state geopolitics as practiced on the other.
If decision-makers adhere to what could be called the horizon of feasibility,
there will only be marginal reforms, and these reforms are likely to make
the organization more effective and legitimate only in Real- and geo-political
terms. Thus, the normative incoherence and tensions will remain and the
UN will remain more “we, the governments” than “we,
Instead, it is the horizons of aspirations – such as people’s
hopes and the ideals of the UN – that should be promoted systematically.
This incoherence and tension can be overcome by minimizing the impact
of geopolitics. We believe that the United Nations should be reformed
in a manner that achieves primacy for the Charter’s goals and principles
as well as begins to meet citizens’ aspirations for a peaceful,
just world order.
UN through intensified partnership with world civil society
Kofi Annan encouraged the UN to work more closely and effectively with
the growing NGO sector and spoke about the “glue of common interests”.
Undoubtedly, the capacity of the UN to promote peace on our planet depends
crucially on its ability to strengthen its partnerships and cooperative
initiatives with civil society organisations dedicated to the same aims.
Thus, we encourage you to integrate into the UN system the findings of
such groups as the Panel
of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations (2004).
One way to promote the ethos and norms of the world
organisation would be to establish UN offices in all member states and
to promote dialogues with governments and citizens. In order to bring
the UN closer to people and people closer to the UN, it is of paramount
importance that the UN re-vitalizes its Department
of Public Information (DPI). Civil society has a right to be taken
into account and to be considered a partner for peace. The DPI must not
remain a mere printing facility for documentation; it needs to become
people-sensitive so that people worldwide can understand and become involved
because they see the UN as theirs.
The UN global summits of the 1990s should be revived. They created worldwide
public awareness and were seeds of a globalizing democracy which is dearly
needed in an age of exclusively economic and military globalization.
Peace is securing development and developing security. It stretches from
the individual to the global community. We are convinced that global human
security, understood as conflict-analysis and conflict-resolution through
peacekeeping, peace-building, dialogue and reconciliation, must replace
military-based national security – in short, peace by peaceful means.
While many UN missions have produced successes under difficult circumstances,
member states’ conflict-management in, say, the former Yugoslavia
(Kosovo and Bosnia-Hercegovina in particular), Somalia, Afghanistan and
Iraq have shown us the limitations of the predominantly military handling
of conflicts. If human security in these places had been the primary goal,
there would be more peace there than we find today. One lesson is that
the arms trade prolongs conflicts and strengthens authoritarian leaders.
Another is that economic sanctions invariably hit the innocent civilians
rather than the leadership.
Security in today’s world means combating injustices and economic
disparities. It means integrating diverse communities and appreciating
cultural differences. It means providing health and education. It is transnational;
it goes “below” the nation-states and it goes “above”
them to the common global society.
Nuclear weapons are incompatible with security and peace. Nuclearism is
based on terrorist thinking; developing nuclear weapons and integrating
them into war-fighting doctrines holds the potential of deliberately bringing
death and destruction to millions of innocent people. The
Non-Proliferation Treaty is clear, but the very existence of nuclear
and other weapons of mass destruction is bound to further their proliferation.
The rather new idea of pre-emptive wars is extremely
dangerous. This idea serves only the nuclear-haves and militates against
the words and the spirit of the Charter. Article 51 of the UN Charter
contains sufficient guidelines on how to appropriately handle issues of
Promoting a keen awareness for these issues when policies
are decided worldwide and holding governments accountable for pursuing
human security will be a major challenge that we hope the UN together
with regional bodies and NGOs will rise to. In particular, we encourage
you to work for violence prevention rather than violent cures; one of
the most important reforms would consist in establishing the proposed
UN Emergency Peace
Human security and UN reform will not come about free
of charge, but they will cost only a fraction of the world’s military
expenditures. What is lacking is political will and vision, not money.
Consequently, the balance of civil and military investments in world affairs
must be changed. The UN needs – and deserves – much larger
resources. Members must step in, pay up and increase its small budget.
Various other types of fund-raising must be tried, such as Tobin Tax-like
mechanisms. We believe that citizens would be much happier to co-finance
the UN than their government’s next war.
The geopolitical paradigm has brought the world the “war on terrorism”.
While the number of deaths from terrorism worldwide is extremely low in
comparison with poverty, hunger, AIDS, etc., this war diverts tremendous
resources that are needed to solve much more urgent and “killing”
Security is not only freedom from fear, it is also freedom from want;
priority must be given to caring for the basic material and spiritual
needs of those people most in need. If the 2015 Millennium Development
Goals were to be realized, we would achieve a more just and stable world.
This would undoubtedly undermine some of the grievances that seem to underpin
the majority of terrorism. In the long run, hunting alleged terrorists
and ignoring domestic laws, human rights and international law in the
process will only aggravate the problem. The challenge is to tackle the
deeper causes of global dissent.
Many of the above issues come together in the Middle
Eastern cluster of conflicts. While this conflict formation as a whole
is extremely complex and has hardened because of its long history, it
is not impossible to imagine a Middle East in peace, democracy and prosperity
within, say, a decade or two.
Addressing the various interlocking strands of conflict
in the Middle East is undoubtedly the most urgent peace, security and
development priority at the present time. The role and capacity of the
United Nations is being severely challenged as warfare persists and menacingly
threatens to spread further.
We wonder whether the UN can discover the means to
act constructively and creatively within such a setting? The organization
must do all that it can, but it must not pretend to do more than it can
reasonably expect to do. A frustrated mission will foster an impression
of futility that will only please the enemies of the UN, and make other
facets of its work more difficult. This was allowed to happen in the Balkans
during the 1990s and must not now be repeated in the Middle East.
We acknowledge the strong temptation to avoid any
UN initiatives in the Middle East, given these considerations, but we
would instead urge a modest and exploratory approach that does not promise
a great deal at first, but would be ready to seize any opportunity that
arose for the UN to be of help, including through the diplomacy of its
In this regard, it likely will not be possible for
you as Secretary-General to do more in the immediate future than offer
your good offices with respect to either the Israel-Palestine conflict
or the Iraq War. The UN is a member of “the Quartet” and in
that role should support only a balanced peace process by taking into
account Palestinian rights under international law, something not done
during the seven years of the Oslo peace process.
As for Iraq, the UN must not be drawn into the conflict
until there is a clear end to foreign occupation, including a commitment
to remove foreign military bases. Once withdrawal is firmly underway,
to the extent that the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people
seek a UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding presence, such a possibility
should be entertained. A prerequisite would be realism and a clear mandate,
as well as conditions which are likely to contribute to peace and fairness
for all segments of Iraqi society, including assurances from member states
of adequate funding and respect for the independence of the mission.
The biggest initiative that could be taken under UN
auspices in this period would be to convene a regional conference –
governments, regional organizations and NGOs together – on peace,
security, and development in the Middle East. The goals of such a conference
- adopting a mutual non-aggression declaration together with all participating
governments and an agreement to establish a zone free of weapons of
mass destruction in the region in adherence to UN
Security Council resolution 687/1991,Art 14;
- agreeing that all nuclear energy programs should be internationally
- agreeing to destroy the existing stockpiles of WMD under international
- arranging for the elimination of any foreign military presence in
Participating governments would, in turn, commit to maintain a stable
oil policy with respect to supply and prices.
Such a conference would not be meaningful or feasible unless Israel, Iran,
and Turkey were invited and agreed to participate. Non-regional actors
such as the EU, China, India, and the United States should serve only
as co-convenors and take part only as observers and endorsers, and if
asked, as guarantors.
We know that these ideas and proposals are neither completely
new nor modest. We know there are many other items on your agenda
as new Secretary-General. We know that you will meet resistance from
various governments and powerful groups when trying to realize the
goals of the United Nations and promote the Charter’s fundamental
values. But rest assured that, to the extent that you build on partnerships
with civil societies around the world, your task may be a bit less
difficult and a bit more possible.
our fullest support to you and your colleagues as you carry out your
and with best wishes,
Hans von Sponeck,
© TFF & the authors 1997 till today.
All rights reserved.
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