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April 5: Reforming the UN to Produce a Safer World

A Public Conversation featuring Bruce Rashkow (director of legal affairs for the UN); Phebe Marr (US Institute for Peace); and local experts on the UN and international law

When: Tuesday April 5, 7:00-9:00 PM

Where: Civic Theatre at Marian College, 3200 Cold Spring Road Indianapolis

Sponsored by the Stanley Foundation, Americans for Informed Democracy, the Franciscan Center for Global Studies, and the Sagamore Institute

Check out the Indianapolis Star article by Pierre Atlas!

This event could hardly come at a better time. UN Secretary Kofi Annan has released a very ambitious blueprint for reform at the same time the UN's harshest critic, John Bolton, has been named US ambassador to the UN. Even if it did its job -- maintaining the sanctions that prevented Saddam from reconstituting his nuclear and biological weapons programs -- the "oil for food" program was badly misused and does indicate fundamental flaws in the way the UN operates. (Don't even get me started on what the UN sex farms in Congo reveal.) Add to this the fact that a sizable slice of the US political class detests the UN to the point of denying it any legitimacy whatsoever, and you have a recipe for crisis.

This event is intended to make a small contribution to resolving this crisis. In 2004, after Kofi Annan commissioned a high-level panel of international experts to draft a strategy for reform, the Stanley Foundation organized a series of public discussions around the US to better understand what Americans feel about the UN. This event is the next stage ... and I think will be better than any of their others because of the intellectual and moral resources we have in Central Indiana.

We'll have two out-of town experts on the UN and how it affects countries and people, and two local experts on international law. And a crowd of widely differing perspectives and viewpoints. It should make for a lively exchange, and by the end perhaps we will have moved closer to ideas about how to proceed.

Here's who's coming:

Phebe Marr is America's foremost historian of modern Iraq. A retired professor, she was research professor at the National Defense University, and a professor of history at the University of Tennessee and at Stanislaus State University in California. In 1999–2000, Marr was a senior scholar at the Wilson Center. She frequently contributes to media discussions about Iraq, has written numerous articles on Iraq, and has testified before many congressional committees in recent years.

Bruce Rashkow is the UN's top lawyer, serving as Director of the United Nations' Office of Legal Affairs since 1995. Among the duties of this office are providing a unified central legal service for the Secretariat and the principal and other organs of the United Nation and contributing to the progressive development and codification of international public and trade law. Prior to holding this position he was an Assistant Legal Adviser for United Nations Affairs at the US Department of State. Rashkow was Legal Adviser for Diplomatic Law and Practice at the State Department from 1984 to 1987.

William Bradford, professor of law at Indiana University-Indianapolis, is one of the country’s leading experts on national security and foreign relations law and the law governing war and international conflicts. Bradford served in the US Army from 1990 to 2001, and was legal advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General John Shalikashvili. He is the author of The Laws of Armed Conflict and Transnational Security in the Age of Terror, the first casebook of military law. Bradford has written on the legal justification for the Bush Administration’s doctrine of preemptive war, on American Indians’ claims for reparations, and on the proposal of a new post-9/11 framework for the law governing war. One of fewer than fifteen Native Americans who are tenured law professors in the US, he was recently appointed United Nations Ambassador from the Miami tribe of Indiana.

Ed DeLaney is a trial lawyer and currently a partner at DeLaney & DeLaney in Indianapolis. DeLaney has been active in international trade work throughout his career, especially as relates to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He represented the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in an arbitration hearing under the Dayton Peace Accords. He is an adjunct fellow with the Hudson Institute and an adjunct professor of law at Indiana University–Bloomington. DeLaney has written, in collaboration with John Clark, on the United Nations and how it can be used most effectively to rebuild Iraq. (When my articles migrated from Hudson to Sagamore, Ed's name fell off that article, it's being restored.)

I'll be moderating the evening and wil try to keep my noisy views in check. So for what it's worth here is the condensed version of what I think about this. On 9/11 a fact that had been growing increasingly clear through the 1990s became unavoidable: the existing body of international laws, organizations and institutions, even informal norms and understandings are inadequate for the world of the 21st century. You see it not just with the UN, it's evident with the Geneva convention, laws on nonproliferation and child soldiers, and so on. These are rules dratfed by states, signed by states, enforced by bodies whose force ultimately comes from states. The reality of the 21st century is that states are much less relevant than they have been for the past 350 years because of

  1. the nature of problems we face (global+local ... think of drugs, Islamic extremism, international trafficking in humans, illegal arms sloshing around the globe ... and on on on), and
  2. the rise of a global hegemon/empire in the US.

Given these inadequate international institutions, laws, norms, the Administration could have gone in one of two possible directions after 9/11. It could have treated these inadequate laws, institutions, etc as encumbrances and obstacles that can only get our way as we deal with mass terrorism and Islamic extremism (two very different but sometimes related problems). Or it could have commited itself to bringing together XXX to design and adopt a more adequate set of international laws, organizations, etc. Its a sign of how hard that would have been that I don't know what "XXX" would be -- all countries? all powerful countries? all democracies [my preferred choice]? "international players" including nonstates? The second would have been tough, but is eventually where we will need to go. The Administration took the first way, with the result that we are even further today from the international structures we will need. Not only because the US has kicked on them, other countries recognize the limitations. Somehow we have to deal with that fact, figure out where we have to go, and not just Bush-bash for taking a wrong turn.

Personally, I think that Bush could play an effective role in the hard work of constructing international global+local structures that will get us through the current century. Nixon, after all, went to China, and Bush and Bolton could convince conservative UN-enemies that a course of reform is best for the US and for the world. It's possible, and perhaps this event will help.

This will be an informal discussion, not like a standard academic talk-fest. Here's a rough schedule for the evening.

7:00-705 Pierre Atlas (Marian College): Welcome

7:05-7:15 Clark: Overview of what’s at stake for UN, global security, Indiana; overview of the evening’s format

7:15-7:30 Marr: UN problems from the perspective of Iraq. Rather than have panel members give a formal presentation, I’ll ask her a couple of questions about specific issues connected to Iraq: the effects of the sanctions in the 1990s and what was necessary to keep them in place, what is it about the oil-for-food program, given this Administration what reforms of the UN would have led to a different outcome before/during/after the invasion of Iraq.

I may take a few seconds to put her comments in a broader context to connect it to Rashkow, one of the main players in drafting the UN's reform proposal.

7:30-7:45 Rashkow: over of the reforms proposed by Annan, what are they, what are they supposed to do, are they enough?

7:45-8:00 DeLaney and Bradford discussion: Rather than have them formally rebut Marr and Rashkow point-by-point (they are lawyers, after all), I would like to hear Ed and Bill discuss their views of how th eUN should change. Ed will probably discuss his experiences in Kosovo (no accountability, Kosovars’ sense of being occupied by 191 countries, etc.) Bradford’s skepticism of the UN is an articulate version of what most Republican national politicians and a significant (vocal) minority of Americans think about the UN and international law. Ed’s views are by contrast more like most national Democrat politicians: the UN is important and necessary but also limited and flawed, it should be a good exchange with Bill. Think of it as a particularly smart and civil red-state/blue-state dialogue.

8:00-8:30ish Q&A from the audience. Rather than having each of the four panel members answer each question, I’ll try to play the role of traffic cop or switchboard operator, directing questions to the one or two that have the best answer and might contrast with each other.

8:30ish- Reception and a chance to continue the discussion.

The event is free and open to all, and everyone should come.

If you have any questions, e-mail me at john@sipr.org.

If you like this event, you should check out ...

  • April 6: The next day, hear more from Phebe Marr on Iraq
  • I hope to organize several follow-ups to the UN discussion ... so keep an eye on IndyBuzz.

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