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UN's role irreplaceable as a global authority
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By Qian Wenrong


The United Nations has a unique and irreplaceable role to play in addressing and resolving non-traditional security issues. Since its birth, it has shouldered the tasks of addressing both traditional security issues and a large number of non-traditional security problems.


For example, the first task facing it after its establishment was to resolve problems like the mass of refugees of World War II as well as hunger and poverty in most of the developing countries, especially those colonized countries that had not won independence.


To this end, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Relief and Works Agency, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees were promptly set up. Up to now, more than 70 organizations and special agencies under the UN are largely responsible for issues concerning non-traditional security.


Of the 50 agenda items designated by the UN as global issues, 42 belong to the area of non-traditional security.


Last April, the UN Security Council incorporated climate change into its agenda, the first time in its 60-year history. This shows the importance the UN has attached to non-traditional security.


The UN role in non-traditional security is mainly reflected in the following three aspects:


First, it plays a warning and mobilizing role. The UN is not the first organization to come up with the non-traditional security concept, but it has put forward a series of new concepts closely linked to non-traditional security including human security, sustainable development and interaction between development and security.


The Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Agenda 21 were adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development or Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992.


Over the past 60 years, the UN has submitted a great many study reports on traditional and non-traditional security.


Since the 1990s, the UN has held a series of international conferences on global issues, for instance. All these conferences have exerted a far-reaching and important impact on the international community's endeavor to address non-traditional security threats in the 21st century.


Second, it formulates guidelines and regulations.


The international conferences on global issues also adopted a series of declarations, conventions and action plans, which served as guidelines and regulations for governments to set a universally recognized standard.


For example, the Agenda 21 formulated at the Earth Summit laid out a blueprint for the sustainable development of humans, which has become the foundation of social and development programs for many countries.


The UN role in counter-terrorism is familiar to everyone. It has adopted 13 international conventions on counter-terrorism like the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.


At present, the UN member states are negotiating the 14th international anti-terrorism convention, the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.


Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the UN has released four anti-terrorism declarations like the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism.


The UN General Assembly in 2006 adopted the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which laid out concrete action plans and set a standard for the obligations and responsibilities to be observed by member states.


The eight Millennium Development Goals adopted at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit include halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, ensuring environmental sustainability and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.


Third, it helps to organize and promote the implementation of its goals. The UN has special agencies to promote and implement its announced resolutions, decisions, conventions, declarations and action plans.


For example, to promote environmental protection, the UN established the UN Environment Program in 1973. It set up a secretariat and implementation agencies to help signatories effectively carry out conference assessments and convention revisions.


Another example is the establishment of a monitoring center to ensure the effective implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development.


The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate was established to monitor the implementation of counter-terrorism resolutions and facilitate the provision of technical assistance to member states and enhance their capacity to combat terrorism. Up to now, UN counter-terrorism agencies have provided assistance to 126 countries.


In implementing these goals and tasks, the UN has come across many difficulties, mainly in the following three aspects:


First, conflicts between national interests and common interests of the international community.


Some developed countries, the United States in particular, put their own national interests above the common interests of the international community and mankind.


For instance, the US is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and its emission alone accounts for 25 percent of the world's total. Logically, it should shoulder the biggest responsibility in reducing emissions, but the Bush administration has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or fulfill its task of emission reduction as set forth in the protocol in order to protect the interests of US oil and mining companies.


Second, double standards. Some countries apply double standards in addressing non-traditional security issues, making problems more complex and hard to resolve. Here, we cannot but point out the double standards the US has applied with regard to counter-terrorism and non-proliferation. In combating terrorism, the US only asks other countries to support and cooperate with it in its war on terror.


But when it comes to anti-terrorist wars by other countries, the US either fails to provide support or criticizes relevant countries for resorting to excessive use of force and violating human rights. It even provides a haven to terrorists, meets with terrorist leaders, and supplies them with financial assistance and weapons to overthrow governments it does not like. This has become a widely known reality in the international community.


Third, fund shortage and technology transfer.


Severe shortage of funds is one of the main factors that affect the capacity of countries, mainly developing countries, to respond to non-traditional security threats. This problem is more pronounced in reducing poverty and hunger, prevention of infectious diseases, environmental protection and the fight against terrorism. In recent years, developed countries have always fallen short of their pledges. Their official assistance keeps decreasing rather than gradually increasing.


In addition, another important constraint is that developed countries are unwilling to transfer technology to developing countries. They take intellectual property rights protection as an excuse or apply rigid conditions on technology transfers. They also set an unacceptable price for transferring technology and monopolize markets.


These problems and difficulties hinder the UN's role. However, since its global authority and universality are incomparable, it cannot be replaced by any other international organization.


The author is a researcher with World Research Center of Xinhua News Agency The article previously appeared in the Chinese Foreign Affairs Journal, which is sponsored by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs


(China Daily January 8, 2008)

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