How Palestine is making its diplomatic moves using the most powerful UN body:
The flurry of Council diplomacy is part of a broader push by Palestinian diplomats and their supporters to capitalize on international frustration with Israel and to use multilateral institutions as means of pressuring Israel into a policy shift. In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has moved to join a clutch of international organizations and treaties, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Those moves are starting to pay diplomatic dividends: A meeting of the states that belong to the Geneva Conventions, another treaty Palestine has joined, rebuked Israel’s settlement policies this week. Palestinian officials have also dangled the prospect of joining the International Criminal Court, a step that Israel fears and that Washington has warned against.
This week’s Security Council move is one piece of this broader strategy, but it also marks a new chapter in the Council’s long and tortured relationship with the Middle East.This week’s Security Council move is one piece of this broader strategy, but it also marks a new chapter in the Council’s long and tortured relationship with the Middle East. For almost 70 years, the body charged with maintaining international peace and security has failed utterly to resolve the longstanding conflict. For all the hubbub in New York, there’s little reason to believe this encounter will be any more fruitful.
via The Security Council Intifada | Foreign Policy.
An update on the open Security Council seat where Saudi Arabia took a pass:
It was the first time that any country had rejected one of the 10 nonpermanent Council seats. The five permanent seats are held by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The Saudi decision, which could only have been ordered by King Abdullah, reflected his unhappiness over American policy in the Middle East, most notably the embrace of diplomacy in the Syrian conflict and the move toward rapprochement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s rival.
King Abdullah also was said to be upset over American criticism of the Egyptian military takeover in July that toppled Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist who was that country’s first freely elected president; and with faltering American efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
via Rejected Seat on U.N. Panel Is Considered by Jordan – NYTimes.com.
An argument for the rule of law, UN reform, and the benefits and limits of collective security–the dominant theory behind the United Nations Security Council:
In the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and in the United Nations Charter of 1945, the world rejected this system. States were forbidden to enforce the law on their own and had to work through a system of collective security.
For all its obvious failings, the United Nations system has made for a more peaceful world than the one that preceded it. No leader may claim the right to collect debts or gain thrones by going to war. States may fracture into smaller pieces, but they don’t get conquered. Gunboat diplomacy is also out of the question.
The desire to respond to the atrocities in Syria with force is natural. The slaughter of civilians is impossible to watch without feeling morally impelled to act. The dysfunctional Security Council’s refusal to act leaves us feeling helpless in the face of evil.
But the choice between military force or nothing is a false one. Most of international law relies not on force for its enforcement, but on the collective power of nations to deprive states of the benefits of membership in a system of states. Mr. Obama can cut off any remaining government contracts with foreign companies that do business with Mr. Assad’s regime. He can work with Congress to do much more for Syrian rebels and refugees — including providing antidotes to nerve agents, which are in short supply. He can use his rhetorical power to shame and pressure Russia and China.
via On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t Optional – NYTimes.com.
The UN needs updating as much as reform. An outstanding short blog, Power Games, offers this useful précis:
Much has been made of the UN being obsolete and increasingly irrelevant. Is this an assessment that you would agree with, or is it too simplistic and harsh?
There are many reasons why the UN’s credibility suffers: the corruption of high-profile efforts such as the Oil-for-Food Program, the dubious membership of the Human Rights Council, and the failure to do more to stop humanitarian crimes, for example. Given the sheer number of agencies and initiatives that fall under the UN’s auspices, however, it would be misguided to declare the entire organization obsolete. Consider the work of its peacekeeping forces, which, according to Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations, “are deployed in roughly fifteen conflicts around the world to preserve regional security”; or that of the UN Children’s Fund, the UN Development Program, the World Health Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The UN plays other important roles: the Millennium Development Goals that it articulated in 2000, for example, are widely embraced benchmarks for gauging the modernization of developing countries; documents such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea provide a basis for adjudicating disputes; and UN data and reports shape our understanding of numerous issues, ranging from refugee flows to nuclear safety to climate change. It is also revealing that while countries that seek to use force to achieve their objectives are unlikely to be dissuaded if the UN denies them “permission,” they nonetheless try to secure its imprimatur.
via Some Thoughts on the United Nations | Power Games | Big Think.
On the constant din and hum of reform–and how the UN fits in a US policymakers tool belt from the former U.S. Sec State and Ambassador to the UN:
Americans tend to dislike the word “multilateralism” — it has too many syllables and ends in an “ism.” The reality, however, is that the U.N. is the worlds most visible multilateral organization and has the most members. No one country, even the United States, can tackle the bundle of issues the world faces — from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, economic inequality to environmental degradation.
I often tell my students that American decision-makers only have a handful of tools in the toolbox to achieve the kind of foreign policy they want: bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy; economic tools; threat of the use of force and use of force; law enforcement; and intelligence. Thats it. I dont believe in multilateralism as an end in itself. But I believe in it as an important instrument of policy. If we start thinking that the United Nations doesnt work, that we dont have to pay our bills, or that everything in diplomacy will turn out exactly the way we want it, we are leaving out an indispensable tool.
via Who Broke the U.N.? – By Madeleine K. Albright | Foreign Policy.
What just happened at the SC?
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to condemn Yemen’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters, and endorsed a regional political initiative aimed at securing President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s commitment to leave office.
The passage of the resolution marks the first time the 15-nation council has weighed in on the political crisis, which has played out over more than 9 bloody months.
It placed the U.N. squarely behind a 6 and a half month-old proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that would grant immunity to Saleh and his inner circle if they agree to step aside
via Did the U.N. Security Council just grant amnesty to Yemen’s Saleh? – By Colum Lynch | Turtle Bay.
A window into China’s voting behavior, courtesy of David Bosco:
Wuthnow: I don’t think China’s veto says much about the importance of sovereignty in Beijing’s decision-making at the UN. I also doubt that China’s approval of sanctions against Libya — and its acquiescence to the use of force — earlier this year is evidence of a shift in favor of interventionism. Both cases follow a similar logic, which is political, not normative. On Libya, China followed broad regional opinion in favor of coercion. On Syria, it followed the backlash against intense intervention in the Middle East that occurred after the NATO campaign against Qaddafi. In neither case did it take the lead. Rather, it gauged the political winds and acted accordingly.
Bosco: You’ve identified what seems to be a key factor in China’s UN diplomacy–a deep reluctance to appear isolated. China has, for example, abstained quite frequently on Council resolutions. Do you believe that this reticence is beginning to yield to a more assertive stance? And should we expect China to begin using the Security Council affirmatively at any point?
Wuthnow: China is much more engaged today than it used to be. For instance, back in the 1970s, Beijing abstained on votes on peacekeeping, which it regarded as a tool of U.S. imperialism. Now China contributes nearly 2000 troops to peacekeeping operations around the world, and has rightly taken credit for doing so.
via Interview: China’s Security Council diplomacy | The Multilateralist.