Examine the effectiveness of world order in relation to military conflict
To answer this question requires an examination of whether “World Order” is a means to an end, or a end itself. Thus, does “World Order” refer to the end result to be achieved as a consequence of our actions or is “World Order” the institutional/legal/political framework in which we achieve our aims. For the purpose of this essay, “world order” shall be defined as the institutional, legal and political framework in which global initiatives operate in an attempt to achieve fairer national and international solutions to world problems. In relation to the specific topic of military conflict, this order recognises the inherent weaknesses in human nature and power politics and concerns it self with trying to minimise the occurrences and detrimental effects of conflict, and with regulating conflict when it does occur, for the benefit of all concerned.
In order to determine the effectiveness of world order in dealing with these conflicts, one must first examine the different initiatives that have been established with this purpose and the role of international law. The players in international law are the states, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), regional and Inter-Governmental Organisations such as the EC and ASEAN, and the United Nations. Individuals have virtually no rights and duties at international law, however, they also have limited scope for complaints/petitions to agencies of the UN.
There have been many initiatives towards achieving global stability, beginning as early as last century. The first International Peace Conference was convened in The Hague on 18 May 1899 at the invitation of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to consider, in the words of the then Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Mouravieff, ” a possible reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh upon all nations” and to revise existing principles on naval and land warfare. The representations of 25 governments took part in the conference, held in the Huis ten Bosch and negotiations lasted for 10 weeks. On the 29 July 1899 the conference adopted, among others, the Convention for the Peaceful Adjustment of International Differences; the Convention Regarding Laws and Customs of War on Land, and several other declarations. These instruments provided broad principles that were refined and promoted in the Twentieth Century by the United Nations, the Committee on Disarmament and the International Committee of the Red Cross to improve the mechanisms for the settlement of disputes, create new rules on arms control and disarmament, and strengthen and update international humanitarian law following the adoption of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and subsequent instruments.
The formation of the ill-fated League of Nations in 1919 was yet another step towards a global solution to the world’s problems. Formed in the aftermath of what was, at the time, believed to be “the war to end all wars”, World War One, the League of Nations was established with the aim of preventing another such war taking place and maintaining a global peace. Unfortunately this organisation failed dismally and it has often been blamed for igniting Hitler’s determination to make Germany a world power and revenging the humiliation Germany suffered after the war at the hand s of the elite few members of the League of Nations. The ,main reason for the failure of the League of Nations, which lead to world war two and later on, the forming of the United nations, was that it lacked the membership that the UN enjoys today. The world leaders of the time did not recognise the importance of “global” agreements to decision and conventions.
The lessons learnt from the failure of the League of Nations and the horror and shock at the Jewish Holocaust prompted the establishment of the United Nations in 1948. The UN was established with its primary purpose as an international organisation to ensure peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and to promote human rights and better standards of living. The United Nations is not a world government, nor is it an independent entity. It is a means for countries to co-operate, when and if they choose to do so. The rule book is the UN Charter, and decisions about how it is interpreted are taken by the member states.
Despite the best intentions of the founders of the United Nations, there is currently a strong belief amongst some people that the UN is not effective in achieving its objectives. This lack of confidence in the ability and effectiveness of the UN has raised the debate over the need for an international solution to the world’s problems in contrast to individual, sovereign initiatives. An accurate determination of the effectiveness of world order depends mainly on the effectiveness of UN operations. This is reliant on the fact that many people view the UN as the only international body able to deal with world problems.
The UN operates as the leading organisation in dealing with resolutions to international problems, however, it must be recognised that other organisations of people play a key role in society and should have the ability to be heard. Under its charter the UN brings together “peoples” of all nations. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International, the Red Cross and Rotary are among such groups. As partners of the UN these NGOs are playing an increasing role in key areas of international concern such as the promotion of Human Rights, protection of the Environment and the delivery of aid to people in crisis.
The UN operates on the concept of international law. International law (otherwise known as public international law or law of nations) is the system of law which governs relations between states. International law, although primarily concerned with states, also relates to certain international organisations, companies and individuals. The main instruments of international law are treaties, sanctions and political and diplomatic pressure. It is only when these avenues have been exhausted that direct intervention, usually in the form of military force, is resorted to.
Treaties are supported by the underlying principle of customary law that agreements should be honoured. A nation is not bound by a treaty until it ratifies it, thus incorporating either some parts of it, or concepts of it, into its own legislation. An example of such is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the UN in 1989. However, despite Australia’s agreement with its concepts, it did not become law in Australia until it was ratified in 1990, with the Family Law Reform Act. If a nation refuses to agree to a convention, or ratify a treaty that has become binding (ie a certain specified number of nations have ratified it) then sanctions are usually sought by one or more nations to force another to comply with a regulation, agreement or obligation. Sanctions can come in the form of economic and trade, such as the one placed by the USA on Libya over the allegations of harbouring terrorists, and sporting boycotts, such as the one placed on South Africa during the Apartheid era. The third avenue available is the use of political pressure and diplomacy to make a nation reluctant to “lose face” in the global community and hence force compliance with agreements. Unfortunately, there are many limitations on the effectiveness of these avenues. Perhaps the greatest impediment to that effective operation of international law is that which is also seen as its most fundamental concept- sovereignty.
Sovereignty refers to the absolute or independent power by which a nation is governed, an authority which regulates all internal affairs autonomously, without foreign dictation. When a nation agrees to be bound by an international instrument it is in effect giving up some of its sovereignty. However, the very fact that it has sovereignty means that the nation can just as easily withdraw from or breach the agreement without impunity. As Watt (1994:47) states “Sovereign states will obey international law because it is in their best interests to do so, and where their interests are not served they will ignore it”. We have seen in the instance of the Jewish expansions into East Jerusalem, that the numerous UN resolutions condemning Israel for its actions, and calls for the cessation of expansion, as well as lobbying by numerous countries, failed to have any effect on the Israeli government. Instead the Israeli government believes itself to be justified in its actions and has continued with its expansions, directly ignoring the UN general assembly’s resolutions. The Sanctions that have been placed on Cuba for over 30 years have also failed to weaken the resolve of the Cuban government. However, not all sanctions can be classified as failures, as the recent extradition of the suspects involved with the Lockerby bombings have signalled the end of Libya’s defiance and have indicated that sanctions, whilst not always effective, do have some impact.
One of the major criticisms of the use of sanctions, along with the argument that they are ineffective and only harm the civilians, not the government, is that sanctions are a tool by which the world powers “bully” other nations into complying with their wishes. Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein refuses to buckle under the pressure of economic and trade sanctions, claiming that the sanctions are an blatant example of the United States persecuting a “small defenceless country”. Whilst these arguments are certainly not completely accurate, the use of sanctions can never be regarded as completely effective so long as: there continues to be ways which countries placed under those sanctions are able to manoeuvre around them; the use of sanctions is viewed by countries as merely a means by which the world powers can increase their domination and thus blatantly disregarded; and, the sanctions have more devastating effects on the civilian population rather than the government.
One of the major areas of weakness within the UN is the fact that it is not a government and thus has no executive authority. It can only do what it member-governments want it to do. It is in these situations that the UN often endorses Regional and Inter-Governmental Organisations to intervene in a conflict. Only two parts of the UN system have the authority to make decisions that are binding upon governments: the Security Council and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ is hampered because many countries refuse to accept its jurisdiction . The Security Council, whilst suffering from the reputation as an “American Tool”, has managed to maintain some level of respect amongst the global community, however recent events, such as the Iraqi crisis have seriously threatened its standing.
The basic concepts on which the UN was established have also recently come under criticism from different nations. Many nations believe that the United Nations is too “western orientated” and claim that it pressures other nations to conform to the western ideals of right and wrong. Different cultures see differently on different issues and their is an underlying feeling amongst some nations that the UN does not cater to all cultures and nations alike. This belief has led to the UN’s decrease in support and the blatant disregard for its jurisdiction shown my many countries of late.
We live in an era of realignment. At the international and national levels alike, fundamental forces are at work reshaping patterns of social organisation, structures of opportunities and constraints, the objects of aspiration and the sources of fear. As us true of all transitional periods, very different expressions of the human predicament coexist in uneasy tension today: globalisation envelops the world even as fragmentation and the assertion of differences are on the rise; zones of peace expand while outbursts of horrific violence intensify; unprecedented wealth is being created but large pockets of poverty remains endemic; the will of the people and their integral rights are both celebrated and violated; science and technology enhance human life at the same time as their by-products threaten planetary life-support systems.
This constant contradictions in situations world wide and the different perspective on the “fairness” of international solutions to world problems make it very difficult to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of world order. If the current global situation was examined by for example an person following “western” concepts, one might come to the conclusion that whilst the world is far from perfect, the initiatives in place have seen the vast improvement in achieving fair solutions. However, if one were to approach the question form the angle of a person of differing perspective, one would come to the conclusion that the initiatives in place, and thus world order are not only ineffective in achieving fair national and international solutions to world problems, but are in fact creating an environment in which the major powers are attempting to violate the sovereignty of other nations and enforce their own concepts and beliefs. In conclusion, whilst it can certainly be said that world order has seen the initiation of efforts to solve world problems, it is at too early and complicating a stage yet to determine its true effectiveness in achieving fairer national and international solutions to world problems.