As debate continues on how to effectively confront and eradicate terrorism, many world leaders are demanding an active involvement of the UN. This, in fact, should be the case anyway. But, most unfortunately, the role of this world body, whose primary purpose, according to the charter, is “to maintain international peace and security… and to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and to bring about, by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of peace,” has been severely curtailed and harmfully marginalised.
Following the devastating terrorist attacks in the heart of Washington and New York, on Sept. 11, the entire world, overtaken by an arcane sense of shock and disbelief, found itself right in front of a new brand of a highly sophisticated, endlessly evil, extremely dangerous and life disrupting wave of terror. The heinous attacks that day did not only create widespread senseless, cold-blooded death and vast destruction, it also transmitted powerful waves of horror, outrage and, more significantly, a deep sense of vulnerability, insecurity and fear, a true penetrating fear of what might come next.
This fear, and the vast extent of the tragedy, quickly brought the world together, united and determined to pursue the ultimate goal of not only bringing the perpetrators to justice, but to track down and eliminate their bases, their support, their financing and to destroy their formations, cells and structures wherever on earth they may be traced and found. And that will not be all even when, and if, completely and perfectly accomplished.
The anti-terrorism campaign should equally and simultaneously address the causes and attack the roots of terror which have been, in the absence of any due attention, spreading wider and penetrating deeper underground.
It is evident that terror and violence can be, in most cases, the outcome of frustration, injustice and despair. While acknowledging such a dreadful fact now, sadly at a very high cost, should in no way make the terrorist actions less condemnable; it does, on the other hand, expose extensive areas in the world where unbearable hardship and unlawful conditions of injustice prevail, creating the most suitable environment for breeding evil, terror and violence. The tragedy of the Sept. 11 was not the first wake up call that ignoring world problems does not make them disappear, and that tolerating injustice when the victims are the others does not make our world safer. Perhaps it was this time the loudest call, too loud for anyone to turn a deaf ear to and ignore.
The second phase of the world campaign against terrorism should therefore address and seriously deal with the major political, humanitarian and territorial regional issues, with the clearest determination to reach fair and just settlements for each of them, in accordance with the provisions of international law. In our region alone we have two major problems, the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the Palestinian problem, and the problem of Iraq and the 11-year-long, ongoing, siege imposed on its people for no convincingly defined purpose.
The campaign against terror should indeed, as it does deserve, have the support of the entire world because no one can escape the danger of such an indiscriminate evil. Terrorism though should be objectively, uniformly, evenly and not selectively defined, and its root causes should be addressed and treated as well.
It is doubtful though that the UN, in its current lame state, can efficiently and correctly lead such a campaign, because the UN is actually part of the problem, and unless drastically reformed, it cannot be part of the solution.
The UN is directly and totally responsible for allowing conflicts such as the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict to drag on for decades without settlement.
Why does the UN make no attempt to enforce the implementation of some of its resolutions, such as Security Council Resolution 242, now 35 years old, leaving Syrian and Palestinian territory occupied for that long by Israel, while other resolutions are instantly applied by cruise missiles and gigantic military power, as was the case in Iraq and the Balkans? The answer is very simple. The UN applies double standards and therefore carries out its duties and responsibilities selectively and unjustly. How can a world organisation which acts unjustly address and remove any injustice from any part in our world?
There are many other, most depressing, examples. Why has the Security Council failed twice to stop the brutal Israeli onslaught on innocent Palestinians who have been enduring the harshest and longest occupation in history? Why hasn’t it ordered an end to occupation? Why hasn’t it punished Israel for its violation of international law and for ignoring UN resolutions? Why hasn’t it recognised the right of the Palestinians to freedom and statehood? Why has it simply failed to send observers to watch what is going on in the occupied Palestinian territories, just to observe and watch?
The major predicament of the UN is that after 55 years of its creation, its structure is outdated and all the attempts to reform it have been strongly obstructed by the privileged few, leaving it in a state of undemocratic limbo, compromising its integrity, authority and power to act in competent pursuit of its goals, principles and purposes.
While Article 2 (1) states that “The organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members,” the actual situation does not correspond to this principle. The truth is that most of the important decisions are taken in the Security Council where only 15 members out of almost 190 decide the fate of the world. Out of the 15 Security Council members, the permanent five who have the veto rights are the main source of power and authority. That makes a huge democratic imbalance of over 97 per cent.
The dangers which are increasingly threatening our life, our stability, our freedom and our prosperity require and urgently need the proper management of a reformed world organisation capable of facing complex and difficult tasks, an organisation where the majority should rule and where the principles of law and justice should indiscriminately apply to all peoples, nations and states of the world. A safer world, free from fear and insecurity, should entirely be freed from the prevailing inequality and misapplication of rules, standards and, most importantly, misapplication of justice.
The writer is former Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.