UNITED NATIONS, NY
A MORE muscular United Nations with "armed forces on call." A world body that works harder - through fact-finding, better intelligence, and diplomacy - to stop conflict before it erupts. A UN keenly aware that its efforts to build peace and security must reach beyond military threats to embrace economic and human rights concerns.
That kind of UN, says Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in a report released today, would be far more effective in preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, and peacekeeping. World leaders at the Security Council summit last January asked him to report by July on ways to strengthen the UN in those three areas.
One of his most controversial suggestions, but one clearly envisioned by drafters of the UN Charter, is the negotiation of agreements by members with the Council under Article 43 to make troops available on a permanent and ad hoc basis to help the UN respond to aggression. Mr. Boutros-Ghali argues that such a force is needed for UN credibility and could deter crises.
Russia and France are on record as favoring a rapid deployment force. France suggested at the summit that it could easily make 1,000 troops available on short notice. The United States and Britain are less eager, concerned that they might lose control of their own forces through a joint command structure.
"The command issue is a canard - the fear has been exaggerated," insists David Scheffer, an international lawyer with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He says the UN Charter is flexible enough to accommodate such concern and that the desired command structure can be negotiated along with the agreements to provide forces.
"We've got to recognize the utility of joint command structures and joint armed forces," he says. "The US is simply not going to do this [use its military power] unilaterally anymore, and you can't have your cake and eat it too."
Another hurdle for members is acceptance of a potential combat role for the UN. Scheffer says the July summit in Munich of the G-7 nations, though China would not be present, would be an ideal forum for early talks on a rapid deployment force.
In addition to Article 43 agreements, the secretary-general proposes on-call "peace enforcement units" to serve where demands exceed the capacity of traditional peacekeepers. The new units would be trained in their own nation's forces and more heavily armed than peacekeeping troops.
In preventive diplomacy, Boutros-Ghali says the UN should be flexible enough to place observers or troops quickly in situations where both sides agree a UN presence could discourage hostilities. Forces could also be posted inside the border of any nation that feels threatened. He also urges use of demilitarized zones to discourage attacks or separate belligerents.
"If you get in quickly at the lowest rung of violence, it's less likely to escalate up the ladder," says Edward Luck, president of the UN Association of the USA. Mr. Luck says he thinks the report shows both leadership and vision. "I don't think the secretary-general is asking for anything that wasn't visualized back in 1945, but he's put some real markers out there for the international community to aim for."
UN financial problems remain serious. Pointing to some $800 million owed in peacekeeping bills, Boutros-Ghali says a "chasm" exists between tasks and available resources. He has asked a group of experts to report back to him on long-term UN financial security. He agrees with recommendations made last year by his predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar, including charging nations interest on unpaid assessments and launching a $50 million revolving reserve fund for peacekeeping operations. He also mentions a possible tax on arms sales and air travel, and tax exemption for individuals, businesses, and foundations that want to give to the UN.
Boutros-Ghali says the "new spirit of commonality" among UN members provides a rare opportunity to make the "hard decisions" needed to increase UN effectiveness.