International Affairs, Peace & Human Security
"Beyond 11 September: Assessing Global Implications"
28 November - 1 December 2001
Annex V

Global Governance

The attack on World Trade Centre and Pentagon is a major challenge to global governance and international law. The attack is itself a confirmation of a new conflict pattern - a focus on the security of people rather than security of states - with strong cultural and religious implications. The way the US, the West and the UN will respond to this challenge, will form the new world order of global governance.

Three approaches of international response can be identified:

  1. The need to meet the immediate threat - destroy the al-Qaida network, stop further activities. This has basically been a military response, with the legal framework relating to UN Security Council Resolution 1368 of September 12.

  2. The need to deal with the threat of terrorism - coordinate efforts to stop terrorist activities - money, space support, information sharing etc. This has been with a criminal law perspective and the legal framework relates primarily to UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

  3. The need to address the root causes and breeding grounds of international terrorism - social injustice, cultural arrogance, lack of coherence and illegitimacy in global governance. This needs to be with a perspective of conflict prevention and demands a comprehensive approach, including UN reforms.

The task of the Ecumenical movement and the WCC, facing the post-September 11 agenda, is to contribute to moving the political focus from the narrow to the broader perspective - from approach 1 to 2 and from 2 to 3.

The first approach is the most difficult from a perspective of the ecumenical movement. By making the response to the terrorist attack military, the perpetrators of the attack are confirmed as soldiers and not as criminals and so is their motive to cause tension between Christendom (West) and Islam (East).

The primitive political language from the US officials in forming the first approach - including words like revenge, crusades, dead or alive - is of course devastating and limits the possibilities for a common international response. Simultanesly however, some of the actions taken by the US during the first phase are the most constructive foreign policy efforts in years. Not to respond military immediately, but seeking a broad alliance. Going to the UN Security Council, before acting. Paying the debts to the UN. Recognizing the right for the Palestinians to a state.

By the Security Council Resolution 1368 from September 12 the interpretation of the right to self-defence, according to article 51 in the UN Charter, has been extended. However, how far this interpretation leads - and if it actually involves the right of the bombing in Afghanistan - is not absolutely clear and for the future and to avoid a situation were states use declared terror attacks as an excuse to start war, it is necessary to make a careful and restrictive interpretation.

In its resolution the UN Security Council "expresses its readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001". The US chose to act together with the UK according to article 51. When reporting back on October 8 about the initiated bombing, they chose not to return the responsibility to the Security Council and seek a mandate for their action, but continue on their own, referring to the right to self-defence. In receiving the report, the standing members of the Security Council recognize the military activities in Afghanistan to be in accordance with the principle of self-defence. The non-permanent members did not express any opinion about the legality of the bombing. The Secretary General, in his statement the same day, did not recognize the bombing as an expression of self-defence either, but placed them "in the context of" the Security Council's "readiness to take all necessary steps to respond".

Furthermore, the principle of self-defence is under no circumstances legitimate for using military means to influence the political development and change of government in Afghanistan. Although the political acceptance for replacing the Taliban regime is great, the legality is not clear.

History will tell whether the US military action was done as punishment and revenge or as prevention against further attacks. Some questions remain. Although Osama bin Laden probably is responsible, the evidence presented before the action was thin. More political efforts could have been tried, for example with help of the Organisation of Islamic States, to have the Taliban regime to give up Osama bin Laden. Cultural ignorance, inexperience or insensitivity could have been involved when the message "he is no longer with us", was interpreted as a Taliban lie, rather than a willingness to negotiate extradition.

One immediate demand at this stage could be to bring back the responsibility for the use of force in Afghanistan to the Security Council.

In the more long or medium term perspective it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of the Security Council in the context of international law. The ideas of appointing a distinguished legal person by the Security Council to provide independent advice or finding a mechanism for the Security Council to make greater use of the International Court of Justice and, wherever possible, avoid being the judge of what international law may be in particular cases, is worth looking closer to.

The second international approach is lined out in the Security Council resolution 1373 of the 28 September. By applying a criminal law perspective rather than as a military law perspective, the responsibility of the individual is highlighted and the risk of demonising cultures, peoples or religions is played down.

The focus is twofold; one focus is on a limitation of freedom to use economic resources for individuals. Another focus is more linked to criminal investigations and proceedings within each State, of acts related to terrorism, for example how the territories of States are used and border control issues.

These kinds of measures do have implications on Human Rights. There can be a conflict between the collective interest of the society to prevent terrorist attacks and the right of a person not to be treated as a criminal when she/he is not. Human Rights. It is essential that states strictly adhere to their international obligations and commitments to uphold Human Rights and fundamental freedoms. The purpose of anti-terrorism measures must be to protect Human Rights and democracy, not to undermine fundamental values of our societies.

In 1373 there is a decision to establish a Committee of the Security Council, to monitor implementation of the resolution. Security Council calls upon States to report to the Committee. This Committee has presented its mandate and outlined questions for the States to respond to in their reports on implementation of the resolution.

One question, which needs to be answered, is where to take legal action - by a US court, by a military tribunal like in Nürnberg, by a special tribunal like for Rwanda and Yugoslavia or by the International Criminal Court, ICC. Although the ICC still lacks enough ratification to be able to work, it is the best solution in a long-term perspective.

What is lacking in resolution 1373 is the perspective and role of the UN Secretary General and by that the link to the third approach.

The need to address the root causes of terrorism has been the main focus in public reactions by churches and the ecumenical movement. This is extremely important, as there has been a tendency to look upon terrorism as pure evil in a political vacuum.

Change of policy and general political behaviour from the West when it comes to social gaps, cultural arrogance, political exclusion and economic dominance will of course not limit the hatred expressed by Osama bin Laden. However, it would limit the attraction of that hatred.

Addressing the root causes means coordinated efforts world wide, a global governance involving the entire UN system, the Bretton Woods institution, the WTO, regional organisations and individual states.

So far, we have seen very little from the UN Security Council and the dominating states to take on a broader responsibility for a more comprehensive approach. The statement from the finance minister of the UK, Mr Gordon Brown, regarding the need for all developed countries to meet the UN aid target of 0,7 per cent is a promising but lonely sign.

The Security Council is suffering greatly from being formed in the context of the end of the World War II. In a post-Cold War era it is getting more and more obsolete and after September 11 it is obvious that the Council needs one country with a Muslim majority culture among the standing members.

With a "Muslim" permanent member the Resolutions 1368 and 1373 might have been more reflective of some of the root causes and the UN decision would have greater public legitimacy in the Muslim world.

World politics and global governance are at a cross roads after September 11. There is a risk of a too narrow focus on security, increased tension between civilisations and less focus on human rights.

But there are also opportunities. The statement by Gordon Brown could be followed by willingness from Tony Blair to stop money laundering on the Channel Islands. The US decision their dues to the UN could be followed by a new political road away from isolation and self-centred political behaviour in support for multilateralism and where UN is given the main responsibility to fight terrorism. Israel might be convinced that it is in its self-interest to follow international law and UN resolutions, and withdraw from the occupied territories. Development assistance could grow dramatically and be given a clearer focus on poverty eradication. The wealthy countries might be able to interpret their interests in a global and more enlightened context, which give new opportunities to trade agreements, cancellation of debts etc.

Global governance in a globalised world is about realizing that "there is no alternative to working together and using collective power to create a better world".

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© copyright 2000 World Council of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor