Events

Live Webcast: The Dangerous Connection - Failed and Failing States, WMD, and Terrorism: Initiatives Proposed by the United Nations Secretary General and the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change

April 25, 2005 // 10:00am11:30am

Speakers: Lee Hamilton, President and Director, Woodrow Wilson Center; former Vice Chairman of the 9-11 Commission. Lord David Hannay, Member of the HLP; former Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN; former United Kingdom Special Envoy to Cyprus. David Kay, former IAEA/UNSCOM Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector; Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. John Sewell, Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center; former President of the Overseas Development Council (ODC). Moderated by David Birenbaum, Senior Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center; former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for UN Management and Reform.


On April 25, 2005, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held its third of four meetings on the United Nations High-level Panel (HLP) on Threats, Challenges and Change. This meeting, co-sponsored by the United Nations Association (UNA-USA), addressed the link between failed and failing states and terrorism, as well as policies proposed by the HLP and the Secretary-General for improving the UN's performance in preventing states from failing, in controlling access to WMD, and in preventing terrorism.

When Kofi Annan announced the creation of a High-level Panel in 2003, there was near universal agreement over the necessity of UN reform. In the aftermath of the deadlock in the Security Council over Iraq and the oil-for-food scandal, a consensus had emerged that large-scale changes at the UN were required. It was with this knowledge that the HLP deliberated the links between threats and failing states.

As Lord David Hannay emphasized in his comments, the thrust of the Report deals with how the international community can prevent recourse to rather than implementation of the use of force. In addressing this challenge, the HLP focused on preventing state failure and defined the links between failed states, WMD, and terrorism. Indeed, as Hannay noted, the failure of a state cannot be contained within the borders of that state. The threats that weak states harbor can permeate easily through the borders of other states with nuclear capabilities.

To decrease the occurrences of state failure, the HLP offered two key recommendations. First, Hannay said, the Report advocated the responsibility to protect, essentially allowing the international community to intervene when a state fails to protect its own people. Second, the HLP suggested that the UN should rely increasingly on early warning signs to apply pressure on failing states through non-military means.

Unfortunately, the resources and the will of the international community to deal with failed states are limited. The HLP perceives regional organizations as effective links between the UN and its member states, and it recommended increased financial backing and a ten-year capacity building program for regional organizations, which would encourage the creation of a framework for greater cooperation with the UN.

Commenting on the Report's efforts to address threats associated with state failure, namely terrorism and WMD, Hannay noted that the most innovative recommendation of the Report is its new stance on terrorism. The Report defines terrorism as the targeting and killing of innocent civilians and non-combatants, with the purpose of intimidating populations or governments to act or abstain from acting in a certain manner. Such a definition rules out defenses or excuses made by non-state actors or combatants operating in an occupied state.

Hannay described WMD as a "real threat" that comprised several layers and therefore required a multi-layered approach. The most perplexing layer is the nuclear issue, since it is difficult to convince states not to pursue capacities to produce nuclear weapons when five states already possess them. Hannay emphasized the need for a stronger, universalized policy toward WMD that does not discriminate among states. To ease the burden of the nuclear issue, Hannay believes that additional protocol should become the "golden norm" of the proliferation regime. For instance, the international community should adopt the HLP's recommendation of having the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provide nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, and the UN should establish a cut-off treaty for fissile material.

While David Kay agreed that the Report analyzed failing states appropriately, he expressed a negative view of the Report's treatment of the WMD issue. Arguing that the Report indicates a fundamental lack of understanding as to why states pursue the possession of nuclear weapons, Kay noted that at its very foundation, the Report miscomprehends the past and present nuclear proliferation regime. During the Cold War, the bi-polar world generated a security system that slowed the rate of nuclear proliferation. With security guarantees from either the United States or the Soviet Union, few states had a strong incentive to pursue WMD. In today's world, which is no longer bi-polar, states operate without security guarantees and tend to pursue nuclear weapons primarily for their own self-interests.

Although Kay believes that the HLP misconstrues the source of the nuclear problem, he did credit the Report with proposing worthy solutions for reducing the demand for nuclear material. For example, the Report's support for the Proliferation Security Initiative and the HLP's recommendation for a fuel-cycle moratorium are two feasible and productive solutions. Finally, Kay also lauded the Report's recognition that, in order to deal with the nuclear issue, there must be an open discussion about the issue of extracting uranium and enriching plutonium.

John Sewell offered his insight and praise for the Report's linkage of security and development. The Report, according to Sewell, has freed the international community from the mindset that state-building is "out of fashion." In fact, measures such as increasing healthcare capacities and refining early warning systems for disease are critical to reducing the threats posed by failing states. By embracing the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the HLP has laid forth a bold agenda for the UN. Yet, Sewell warned that, unfortunately, the agenda might be a bit too bold.

Although the MDGs coincide with one of the three pillars of Bush's National Security Strategy, they also pose a precarious political dilemma for the UN. Sewell observed that the ten-year time frame that the MDGs provide is too limited; successful development can take several decades, if not longer. India and China, which contain half of the world's poverty, are well on their way, but Sewell projected that Africa will not likely achieve the MDGs in the given time frame. Furthermore, the MDGs give the impression that an abundant amount of international aid will end poverty. Sewell noted that much more than aid is needed to counter poverty, including a commitment to end government corruption and efforts from wealthier states to open their markets to developing economies.

Finally, Sewell argued that the Report "stopped halfway" in discussing institutional innovations for international aid. He described the current aid system as a "scandal," observing that too many donors are competing with each other to make progress in too many different arenas. Sewell commended the HLP for recognizing that the existing global economic aid structure is woefully inadequate for the challenges ahead. However, he argued that the HLP Report lacked the analytical capacity to identify the real problems in international aid.

Lee Hamilton traced the connection between transnational threats and failed states. He argued that transnational threats have three major consequences: 1) they are interconnected and therefore feed off each other; 2) they cannot be contained within the borders of any one state and, in some cases, necessitate interaction between democratic and non-democratic states; and 3) their character is such that some states are incapable or unwilling to address them, thus calling for intervention by the international community.

Hamilton argued that the emergence of transnational threats from failed states facilitates a mutual vulnerability between states that are both strong and weak, rich and poor. In this era of transnational threats, the actions and conditions of the most lawless states will ultimately affect those of the least lawless states. Therefore, Hamilton concluded, collective security on a global level depends on the security of the world's most vulnerable states.

The 9-11 Commission Report and the HLP Report both acknowledge this universal vulnerability and the need for strategic and institutional reform—the former on a national level and the latter on an international level. Whether at the national or international level, however, Hamilton argued that there is a range of available responses for dealing with threats to collective security. Among the tools at the disposal of states and international organizations such as the UN are: sanctions, military force, mediation, intelligence information sharing, educational exchange, and public health—all of which serve to build a sense of justice within communities.

Drafted by Anton Ghosh and Julia Bennett

 

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