Beyond security of sovereign nations


By Rajesh Ghosh

Article 2(4) of the UN charter is a seemingly robust bulwark that was erected to prevent another deluge of destruction and mayhem that mid 20th century weaponry had become capable of. This accompanied with the institutionalised ‘collective security’ provisions was prophesied to engender and maintain international peace. In the security was the hitherto elusive peace.

These high ideals, however, were benumbed by politics, mutual distrust and suspicion among the great powers during the Cold War. As a result, the Cold War in Europe spilled over as a seething cauldron of violence in other distant parts of the world like Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan et al.

Fast forward 70 years and the failures of the UN to ensure peace in various volatile regions – most notably West Asia, where sovereigns (government) have been significantly debilitated by a continuous struggle for power by various warring factions – is conspicuous.

One such case in point is Syria.

A four-year-old civil war has materially and psychologically left an indelible mark on the Syrian people. The unending war has claimed the lives of over 200,000 and has rendered millions homeless, compelling them to live borrowed lives in neighbouring countries under utter destitution. Today, they make dangerous voyages on rickety, infirm and squalid wooden boats across the choppy Mediterranean to reach safer zones of Europe.

As this wave of humanity seeks refuge in Europe from constant persecution in their homelands, their desperation is popularly labelled as a ‘European crises’, conveniently overlooking the intended and unforeseen security crisis of the non-Kalashnikov wielding masses engendered, partly, by the collective effort of the US and its European allies.

The UN continues to be guided by the Cold War era definition of security, where the security of countries’ territorial boundaries from foreign aggression attains pre-eminence. The UN ought to significantly alter its definition of security and provide eminence to human security over that of state security as conventional wars to expand territorial boundaries has significantly receded.

Today, the world is accosted by an ideological battle one that has culminated into severe civil wars in many pockets around the world. The UN’s foundational doctrine of bringing about ‘by peaceful means’ a settlement of international conflicts has been severely dented as a result of continuous failure to inhibit violence.

Security in its true essence can only be attained if the international community starts to recognise the primacy of smaller units like individuals, minorities within states (religious and gendered), national markets and others. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm originating as a result of the 1990’s Rwandan genocide crisis is a welcome step but for the existent mechanisms to be applied fairly, without the brazen and undue invocation of the norm for military action, a stringent system of verification and protocol ought to be established.

International Security can only be measured with the barometer of individual safety without which the post-war objective of avoiding mass murders will continue to remain beyond the grasp of the international community and its representative body – the United Nations.