Sunday, 27 February 2011


I'm actually rather proud of the United Nations this morning.

Amidst the carnage and mayhem unfolding in Lybia at this moment, the United Nations voted in the early hours of this morning GMT to impose sanctions on Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

Not only did it do so, but it actually did so unanimously.

As an internationalist, I'm a big fan of the concept of the United Nations. Indeed, one of the greatest thrills of my life (it's sad I know) was when I visited the UN HQ in New York City back in 2005. Actually seeing for myself the Security Council and General Assembly chambers was awe-inspiring. For it is in these rooms that decisions by the international community should be made for the well-being of the common good of humanity.

Idealism Vs Real-Politik
The problem of course is that in the real world, 'Real-politik' gets in the way of what sometimes may be perceived as getting the right and just decisions to be made. National interests take precedence as votes are often weighed up on the practical and pragmatic grounds affecting each member state.

The permanent veto of the 'Big 5' (China, France, Russia, UK and USA) members on the security council most aptly demonstrates this diplomatic conundrum.

Political impasse and a perceived inability to agree a firm resolution to a global concern has dogged the UN throughout its existence. The need for broad agreement amongst partisan member states has often led to diplomatic deadlock and the sense that for all its worth, the UN is nothing more than a talking shop.

Resolution 1970
Well, I was myself non-too happy when I heard the UN Security Council's toughly worded response to the Lybian situation at the start of this week. Yes it was a strongly worded response to the atrocities, but when the Libyan deputy ambassador to the UN talks of 'genocide' in his country, what use is strong words on a piece of paper for the people of the streets of Tripoli?

So it was with a real sense of pride in the UN that I heard it's unanimous decision overnight to...
  • Impose a complete arms imbargo on Libya
  • Impose travel bans and an asset freeze on Libyan leaders
  • Immediately refer the deadly crackdown on protestors to the International Criminal Court in the Hague
  • Introduce new steps against the use of mercanaries by the Libyan government against its own people
Does this go far enough? In my opinion, no. At the very least, there should be a no-fly zone imposed above the country to protect the citizens on the ground from being attacked by its own government from the air.

But as UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon stated, even bolder actions may be needed in the days ahead.

But whilst that bolder action may well be required and in my opinion this is already the case, let's not underestimate what the UN did today.

Not only has it unanimously agreed tough sanctions against the Libyan leadership, but it has also, for the first time in its 65 year history, voted unaninously as a collective of 15 sovereign states, to make a referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

I had heard as I went to sleep last night that 14 of the 15 states had agreed to the draft resolution - namely the USA, UK, France, Russia and the 10 non-permanent members (currently serving on a 2 year rota until the end of this year) Bosnia and HerzegovinaBrazil, GabonLebanon, NigeriaColombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa. The 15th country to not have agreed the draft I gathered was permanant member and veto wielding China whose diplomats were communicating with Beijing to seek approval to support the agreement. My concern on going to bed was that I would wake up and find that China as has happened in the past, would de-rail the resolution by opposing it or make it less powerful by abstaining in the ballot.

But it is to China's credit and the credit of the 14 other member states of the Security Council that  they have shown themselves and the apparatus of the UN as the beacon of internationalism, to be united against the Libyan atrocities.

This was a good day for the UN, for inernational diplomacy and for the concept of the preservation of world peace.

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