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Special Section: Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats,

Challenges and Change

The High-Level Panel and the Security


Department of Foreign Affairs, Canada

controversial notion of the responsibil-

of the UN High-Level Panel on ity to protect.1
Threats, Challenges and Change in Recognition that the UN, in particular
December 2004 (United Nations, 2004) the Security Council, has failed again
represented a major accomplishment, and again to follow up on its post-
unfortunately overshadowed by the mul- conflict peacebuilding commitments
tiple inquiries pertaining to the Oil for (and on its responsibilities for conflict
Food programme and related relentless prevention). This idea, an institutional
attacks on both the UN and Kofi Annan fix for a much larger substantive
personally. problem, appears likely to accepted by
The report largely shaped by panel member-states.2
members Gareth Evans and David Recommendation that a Peacebuilding
Hannay, and ably drafted by an accom- Commission be created in recognition
plished staff featured a number of of the poor job the Security Council has
important contributions: done to date in following up effectively
on the peacebuilding mandates it has
A sophisticated discussion of weapons authorized, and of the need for the UN
of mass destruction, distinguishing be-
tween nuclear, chemical and biological The HLPs call for guidelines governing the use of
weapons threats, and rightly focusing force in support of the responsibility to protect
will doubtless be resisted by the permanent
on the urgent dangers represented by
members of the Security Council, reluctant to
nuclear proliferation, with the risk of see their own room for manoeuvre qualified by
leakage to non-state actors. criteria or principles for action that could force
A politically sensitive discussion of their hands in the many situations where they
terrorism and the political and social would prefer not to act, or constrain their
actions in those rare cases where they are
factors that contribute to it, advancing
inclined to intervene forcibly.
elements for a definition of terrorism 2
At the time of writing, in May 2005, the intergov-
(the challenge of defining terrorism ernmental process in New York had made virtu-
having long defeated member-states) ally no progress in grappling with the HLPs
carrying the imprimatur of the Secre- forward-looking ideas. Agreement on a Peace-
building Commission may be possible, as this
tary-General of the Arab League, panel
does not require the type of major trade-off
member Amr Moussa. across the anachronistic NorthSouth divide
A compelling argument in favour of that characterizes many interactions of member-
sovereignty as responsibility and the states at the UN.

2005 PRIO, www.prio.no

SAGE Publications, http://sdi.sagepub.com
Vol. 36(3):370372, DOI: 10.1177/0967010605057907
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David M. Malone The High-Level Panel and the Security Council 371

to do much better in countries such as parties (including the increasingly stupe-

Haiti. fied media).
The second factor undermining pros-
In a longer article, many other issues
pects for substantive success at this
would be flagged, such as the illuminating
summit was created unnecessarily by
focus of the High-Level Panel (HLP) on
Annan himself. Midway through the
the connections between international
HLPs debates, and possibly yielding to
crime and conflict, championed by French
backroom pressures from certain member-
ber-jurist and Panel member Robert
states, Annan insisted that the HLP
Badinter. But space allows for only two
address the highly contentious issue of
remaining phenomena to be addressed
Security Council reform. Several HLP
members and, reportedly, its staff thought
First, following the launch of the HLP
this a mistake. But his directive was
process, UN Secretary-General Kofi
heeded, with predictable results: delegates
Annan found himself buried under an
in New York have been able to think of
avalanche of criticism for not sufficiently
little else of late.
highlighting the development challenge
The HLP suggested two models for re-
(in fact already dealt with to a large extent
form of Council composition: one involv-
at the Millennium Summit in 2000,
ing the creation of new permanent seats
through the universally-accepted Millen-
(without the veto), the other premised
nium Development Goals and at the
on the creation of a new category of non-
Monterrey Summit of 2002). Annan
permanent seats to be held for four years
responded by highlighting the relevance
and to be allocated to a new configuration
of the so-called Sachs Report (after its
of four regional groupings (rather than the
ubiquitous lead author, Jeffrey Sachs,
current five).
commissioned in 2001), focusing on the
In no particular order, this has led to: an
financing of development, and arranging
increasingly divisive debate among the
for the reports publication at roughly the
membership; jockeying for new perma-
same time as that of the HLP.3 Annans
nent seats, notably in Africa (where the
(2005) effort, In Larger Freedom, to syn-
African Union has not yet agreed on
thesize the recommendations of both the
which two countries it would back); wide-
HLP and the Sachs team, offered some
spread refusal to contemplate new region-
new suggestions of its own. Discarding
al groups, in spite of the fact that much of
the HLPs weak suggestion that the mem-
the East European Group either has
bership of the wretched UN Commission
already joined the European Union or
on Human Rights be universalized in an
aspires to do so; confusion over whether
effort to correct the bias of its membership
any or all aspirants insisted on veto rights
towards human rights oppressors, Annan
now or in the future; and serious tensions
recommended a Human Rights Council
between China and Japan over the latters
(on a par with the Security Council and
aspirations for a permanent seat, con-
ECOSOC) with more restricted member-
tributing to demonstrations in China
ship and tough standards for election.
against Japan in April 2005.
However, all of these reports and recom-
That Europe is already over-represented
mendations created a systems overload
in the permanent member category; that
among delegates. Further, Annans report
several aspirants have highlighted mainly
appeared so late in an already compressed
their financial contributions (no greater
schedule of intergovernmental talks aimed
than those, in relative terms, of many
at achieving results by the September 2005
others); that those claiming they will
summit that it challenged the absorptive
represent their regions do so in the face of
capacity and attention span of interested
the stark reality that none of the existing
See Millennium Project (2005). P-5 have bothered to do so convincingly;

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372 Security Dialogue vol. 36, no. 3, September 2005

that none of the existing P-5 have proved ally) of rapid and meaningful action. It
accountable to the rest of the membership is this effectiveness on the part of the
for their positions or the results of those Council that needs to be preserved and
positions all this has been largely enhanced if the UN is to continue to
obscured in an orgy of influence-peddling matter in a world where conceptions of
and self-serving posturing dressed up in legitimacy are splintering and in which
claims of moral rectitude and the common the UNs central role is increasingly in
good of the membership. doubt. In attempting to address the very
The debate has focused on legitimacy real democratic deficit in the Council, the
in terms of the representativity of the Pavlovian UN response of enlarging deci-
Councils composition, completely ignor- sionmaking bodies in fact runs the risk of
ing what Ramesh Thakur has described as neutering them (as we have seen with
the (increasingly tattered) performance ECOSOC, for example).
legitimacy of the body, unlikely to be Thus, not only is the UN at risk of a train
addressed positively by the dynamics of wreck in terms of the diplomatic con-
committee decisionmaking by a larger frontation between the champions of
number.4 proliferating models of Council reform,
Why does this matter, beyond the fact but it also runs the much greater risk of
that the HLPs important substantive rec- debasing the Councils key currency: its
ommendations are being largely ignored? capacity for decisiveness.5
Amid the welter of dysfunctional UN
decisional bodies, only the Security Coun- 5
The aspirations of key emerging powers to partic-
cil has shown itself as capable (occasion- ipate in the discussions that matter might better
be partially met in a larger body modelled on
the Group of Eight. Canada has made just such a
For an in-depth discussion of this concept, see proposal for a Leaders Twenty; see Martin
Thakur (forthcoming). (2005).

* David M. Malone is Assistant Deputy Minister (Global Issues) in the Canadian Foreign
Ministry where he oversees multilateral and economic diplomacy, and he earlier served
as a Canadian ambassador at the UN. The views expressed here are the authors alone.


Annan, Kofi A., 2005. In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights
for All, A/59/2005. New York: United Nations.
Martin, Paul, 2005. A Global Answer to Global Problems, Foreign Affairs 84(3): 26.
Millennium Project, 2005. Investing in Development: A Practical Plan To Achieve the
Millennium Development Goals. New York: United Nations Development Programme.
Thakur, Ramesh, forthcoming. From Collective Security to the Responsibility To Protect: The
UNs Changing Peace and Security Agenda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
United Nations, 2004. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the
Secretary-Generals High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A/59/565.
New York: United Nations.

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