Friday, March 30, 2007

The Growth of UN Decision Making on Conflict

Event Title: The Growth of UN Decision Making on Conflict
U.S. Institute of Peace
Location: The World Bank
Date: March 27th, 2007
Time 9:30 am- 11:00 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 35

Intern Attending: Evan Davies

Featured Speakers: Michael Matheson, Ruth Wedgwood, Lynn Tesser

The UN has expanded the UN Security Council’s power since the Cold War and is responsible for stopping current conflicts and preventing new conflicts from erupting. The Council has had trouble stopping conflicts and much of the international community is losing trust in the UN’s capability to act. The audience raised many questions about the powers the UN has in enforcing peace.

Michael Matheson, author of the book that titled the conference, led the dicussion and started with the importance of the UN Security Council’s actions being decisive and effective. The Council is given very few resources and expected to accomplish huge goals. The actions of the Security Council really haven’t changed in the last several years. The Council has used sanctions as a major tool and a first step to promoting peace. With better records of business transactions due, the UN can impose smarter sanctions that restrict a specific leader while in some cases help the citizens. Broad sanctions are not currently necessary; they are a waste of time and money for the Council to implement and tend to hurt the citizens more. This is one action the Council can take immediately to improve efficacy.

The next critique of the Security Council was how much power they actually have and whether they should hold more or less. A major issue the Council is struggling with is the question of whether human suffering can be enough to disrupt “peace” in a given country. This debate continues everyday, especially with the current situation in Darfur. Each day hundreds of people die, but yet the Council wonders whether it is worth taking the sovereignty of a country to stop the mass human rights violations. Where is the line drawn to disrupt a country to help its people?

The last point of discussion was the International Court of Justice and the newly formed International Criminal Court. These international courts have influence in foreign countries but are in dire need of backing from key countries like the US and China. The courts have no power to seize criminals so they end up only suggesting justice until one group acts and brings the perpetrator to the court to be tried. The US has begun to need international jurisdiction and the UN will be their first source. The UN needs to take advantage of the offers that will come through to strengthen their support. The ending statements brought to light that the UN Security Council has great potential to be a driving force, but needs to implement ground-up reforms as well as gain much stronger support from larger countries to take advantage of its capacity.

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