Certainly we have strayed far from the U.N. Charter in recent years. Governments that believe they can win an international objective by force are often quite ready to do so, and domestic opinion not infrequently applauds such a course. The Security Council all too often finds itself unable to take decisive action to resolve international conflicts, and its resolutions are increasingly defied or ignored by those that feel themselves strong enough to do so. Too frequently the council seems powerless to generate the support and influence to ensure that its decisions are respected, even when these are taken unanimously.
Thus the process of peaceful settlement of disputes prescribed in the Charter is often brushed aside. Sterner measures for world peace were envisaged in Chapter VII of the Charter, which was conceived as a key element of the United Nations system of collective security, but the prospect of realizing such measures is now deemed almost impossible in our divided international community. We are perilously near to a new international anarchy.
There are many ways in which governments could actively assist in strengthening the system prescribed in the Charter. More systematic, less last-minute use of the Security Council would be one means. If the council were to keep an active watch on dangerous situations and, if necessary, initiate discussions with the parties before they reach the point of crisis, it might often be possible to defuse them at an early stage before they degenerate into violence.
Unfortunately there has been a tendency on the part of member states to avoid bringing critical problems to the Security Council, or to do so too late for the council to have any serious influence on their development. It is essential to reverse this trend if the council is to play its role as the primary authority for international peace and security. I do not believe that it is necessarily wise or responsible of the council to leave such matters to the judgment of the conflicting parties to the point where the council's irrelevance to some ongoing wars becomes a matter of comment by world public opinion.
In recent years the Security Council has resorted increasingly to the valuable process of informal consultations. However there is sometimes a risk that this process may become a substitute for action by the Security Council or even an excuse for inaction. Along the same line of thought, it may be useful for the council to give renewed consideration to reviewing and streamlining its practices and procedures with a view to acting swiftly and decisively in crises.
Adequate working relations between the permanent members of the Security Council are a sine qua non of the council's effectiveness. Whatever their relations may be outside the United Nations, within the council the permanent members, which have special rights and special responsibilities under the Charter, share a sacred trust that should not go by default owing to their bilateral difficulties.
There is a tendency in the United Nations for governments to act as though the passage of a resolution absolved them from further responsibility for the subject in question. Nothing could be further from the intention of the Charter. In fact, resolutions, particularly those unanimously adopted by the Security Council, should serve as a springboard for governmental support and determination and should motivate their policies outside the United Nations. In other words, the best resolution in the world will have little practical effect unless governments of member states follow it up with the appropriate support and action.
Very often the secretary general is allotted the function of following up on the implementation of a resolution. Without the continuing diplomatic and other support of member states, the secretary general's efforts often have less chance of bearing fruit. Concerted diplomatic action is an essential complement to the implementation of resolutions. I believe that in reviewing one of the greatest problems of the United Nations -- lack of respect for its decisions by those to whom they are addressed -- new ways should be considered of bringing to bear the collective influence of the membership.
In order to avoid the tendency of the Security Council to become involved too late in critical situations, it may well be that the secretary general should play a more forthright role in bringing potentially dangerous situations to the attention of the council within the general framework of Article 99 of the Charter. My predecessors have done this on a number of occasions, but I wonder if the time has not come for a more systematic approach. Most potential conflict areas are well known. The secretary general has traditionally, if informally, tried to keep watch for problems likely to result in conflict and to do what he can to preempt them by quiet diplomacy. The secretary general's diplomatic means are, however, in themselves quite limited.
In order to carry out effectively the preventive role foreseen for the secretary general under Article 99, I intend to develop a wider and more systematic capacity for fact-finding in potential conflict areas. Such efforts would naturally be undertaken in close coordination with the Council. Moreover, the Council itself could devise more swift and responsive procedures for sending good offices missions, military or civilian observers or a United Nations presence to areas of potential conflict. Such measures could inhibit the deterioration of conflict situations and might also be of real assistance to the parties in resolving incipient disputes by peaceful means.
Peacekeeping operations can function properly only with the cooperation of the parties and on a clearly defined mandate from the Security Council. They are based on the assumption that the parties, in accepting a United Nations peacekeeping operation, commit themselves to cooperating with it. This commitment is also required by the Charter, under which all concerned have a clear obligation to abide by the decisions of the council. United Nations peacekeeping operations are not equipped, authorized, or indeed made available, to take part in military activities other than peacekeeping. Their main strength is the will of the international community which they symbolize. Their weakness comes to light when the political assumptions on which they are based are ignored or overridden.
I recommend that member states, especially the members of the Security Council, should again study urgently the means by which our peacekeeping operations could be strengthened. An increase in their military capacity or authority is only one possibility--a possibility which may well give rise in some circumstances to serious political and other objections. Another possibility is to underpin the authority of peacekeeping operations by guarantees, including explicit guarantees for collective or individual supportive action.
We should examine with utmost frankness the reasons for the reluctance of parties to some conflicts to resort to the Security Council or to use the machinery of the United Nations. Allegations of partisanship, indecisiveness or incapacity arising from divisions among member states are sometimes invoked to justify this sidetracking of the council. We should take such matters with the utmost seriousness and ask ourselves what justifications, if any, there are for them and what can be done to restore the council to the position of influence it was given in the Charter.
Let us consider what is perhaps our most formidable international problem--the Middle East. I feel that the Security Council, the only place in the world where all of the parties concerned can sit at the same table, could become a most useful forum for this absolutely essential effort. But if this is to be done, careful consideration will have to be given to what procedures, new if necessary, should be used and what rules should govern the negotiations. I do not believe that a public debate, which could well become rhetorical and confrontational, will be enough.
A related question concerns what are productive and what are counterproductive approaches to the different aspects of our work. Obviously, a parliamentary debate may generate rhetoric, and sometimes even a touch of acrimony. But negotiations and the resolution of urgent problems require a different approach. Debate without effective action erodes the credibility of the organization. I feel that in the United Nations, if we wish to achieve results, we must make a more careful study of the psychological and political aspects of problems and address ourselves to our work accordingly. It is insufficient to indulge in a course of action that merely tends to strengthen extreme positions.
Finally, let me appeal to all governments to make a serious effort to reinforce the protective and preemptive ring of collective security, which should be our common shelter and the most important task of the United Nations. The will to use the machinery of the Charter needs to be consciously strengthened, and all governments must try to look beyond short-term national interests to the great possibilities of a more stable system of collective international security, as well as to the very great perils of failing to develop such a system. For these reasons I would suggest that consideration be given to the usefulness of holding a meeting of the Security Council at the highest possible level, one object of which might be to discuss in depth some of the problems I have questioned.