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Council Must Focus on Iraq Post-Saddam

Author: David L. Phillips, Executive Director, The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
March 13, 2003
Financial Times


Sir, The United Nations Charter describes three core functions for the world body: peace, security and development. Even if the UN Security Council is at an impasse over how to disarm Iraq, member states can still co-operate on defining a post-conflict role for the UN.

The UN has never excelled at collective security, despite its lofty intention to save "generations from the scourge of war". Though "peace" and "security" are usually uttered in the same breath, the recent schism at the UN is rooted in different approaches to these goals. On one side are countries who forswear military action as a tool for preserving and promoting peace. On the other are those who believe that peace cannot be attained unless security is the basis of world order.

This difference is essentially tactical. It is sharpened when a rogue regime, such as Iraq's, disregards its international obligations and, seeking to divide the international community, scorns the Council's collective will.

When it comes to preventive diplomacy, chapter VII of the UN charter describes a step-by-step approach starting with negotiation and mediation and emphasising a role for regional organisations. Article 41 enumerates additional pressures, such as sanctions, embargoes and the severing of diplomatic relations. In addition, the charter provides a legal basis for humanitarian action. Chapter IX highlights the UN's responsibility "to advance conditions of economic and social progress". General Assembly resolution 46/182 (12/91) reaffirms its commitment "to strengthening the UN response providing humanitarian assistance and protection".

At this juncture, it is prudent for the Security Council to focus on its responsibilities after Saddam Hussein. Funds will be needed for food, shelter and healthcare, as well as quick-impact projects enabling the transition from relief to development. The Security Council should upgrade the UN-supervised oil for food programme through which Iraqi oil is sold to pay for the humanitarian needs of Iraqis. In addition, the Council should authorise a US-led security and interim administration in post-conflict Iraq. Meaningful international co-operation could assist the development of an Iraqi constitution and management of Iraq's oil sector.

By helping to prevent the recurrence of deadly conflict, the UN's involvement in Iraq's post-conflict relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation is intrinsically useful. It would also help redeem the world body.

David L. Phillips, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Centre for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations.

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