A Security Regime for Our Global Village

UNITED NATIONS, 26 Feb 2024

Klaus Schlichtmann – TRANSCEND Media Service

Peace Constitutions, the Abolition of War and the “P5” 

The UN Charter provides for Members to “confer primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” on the Security Council (Art. 24). The Council acts on the assumption that it has the authority to take “prompt and effective action” on behalf of its Members, if and when the necessity arises, provided that nine of the 15 Members of the Council and the “P5” are in agreement. However, there is some controversy as to whether Article 24 has actually been implemented. In fact, Article 106 suggests that the UNSC’s powers are arbitrary, and the institution has strictly speaking not been empowered “by law”[i] to exercise its responsibilities. John Foster Dulles stated: “The Security Council is not a body that merely enforces agreed law. It is a law unto itself.” Dulles further: “No principles of law are laid down to guide it; it can decide in accordance with what it thinks is expedient.”

In fact, Member States should have from the beginning taken legislative action to define and lay down the laws and principles that should guide the Council by specifying its competencies in a Transfer Bill. However, nations have failed to give up any part of their national sovereignty that would reduce their war-making powers and their right to maintain powerful and costly military institutions which train to defend against and kill presumed enemies. This is a far cry from what the drafters of the Charter had originally intended. If Article 24 had been implemented, nations would have been mostly disarmed by now, and the UN System of Collective Security would be in operation.

The narrative presented here suggests that provisions in national constitutions, notably the war-renouncing Japanese Article 9 (A9), and the UN Charter must interact. Research conducted over the years has led to the realisation that there is a vital connection between the legal status of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council (“P5”), and constitutional provisions like A9, which form what I have called “the normative current,” i.e. some 20 European Nations whose constitutions provide for the delegation of sovereign powers to international organisations such as the UN.

For example, Article 24 of the German Constitution provides for legislation to start the process of empowering the United Nations; Article 11 of the 1948 Italian Constitution has Italy agreeing to the “limitations of her sovereignty necessary to an organization which will ensure peace and justice among nations;” Denmark’s 1953 Article 20 enables the legislator to transfer powers to international authorities “through a bill, to promote international legal order and cooperation;” the 1965 Norwegian Constitution’s Article 93 (today’s Article 115), permitting limitations of national sovereignty with the aim “to secure international peace and security” and “promote international law and order and cooperation between nations;” the 1946 French Constitution was exemplary, accepting “the limitations of sovereignty necessary for the organization and defense of peace” (albeit “under condition of reciprocity”). Similarly, Japan’s Constitution aims for “an international peace based on justice and order.” Also worth mentioning is India’s Article 51 which wants, among other things, to “promote international peace and security,” settle “international disputes by arbitration,” and “foster respect for international law.”

Historians have found that important discussions and planning for the Post-WW2 International organisation took place in the League of Nations’ Committee for Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC, the predecessor of UNESCO). Documents of the ICIC are available in the Archive of the United Nations University (UNU, the academic and research arm of the United Nations), headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo. Besides prominent members like Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Henri Bergson and Inazo Nitobe, the chief Indian representative in the ICIC was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Oxford University professor, philosopher, and post-war President of India. Historian Donald Mackenzie Brown points out that Radhakrishnan, having been nominated a member of the ICIC for the first time in 1931,  subsequently became, especially in the eyes of Western political thinkers and intellectuals, “the recognized Hindu authority on Indian ideas and a persuasive interpreter of the role of Eastern institutions in contemporary society.”[ii]

Among the institutions of traditional Indian political culture Mackenzie Brown must have been thinking of is the Panchayati Raj, the system of self-government practised in villages throughout India. Professor Radhakrishnan’s mandate was renewed for a period of three years in 1936, beginning July 1, 1936 and terminating on December 31, 1938. From June 28 to July 3, 1937, at the Permanent International Studies Conference convened at the Sorbonne in Paris, some of the most relevant subjects discussed were “the possibility and conditions of an organization of collective security, and peaceful methods of change as applied to particular problems.”

A coincidence? What is the Panchayati Raj? Professor Radhakrishnan, familiar with the concept of the village Panchayat,[iii] wanted to apply the idea to the future Security Council. The Panchayat system is arguably the most basic democratic political concept India has ever produced. Mahatma Gandhi advocated the system as the “foundation of India’s political system.”[iv] The five (panch) members of the assembly (ayat) consist of the “wise and respected elders,” chosen and endowed with “large powers, both executive and judicial.” Decisions of the village Panchayat are based on the principle of unanimity, just as happens to be the case with the “P5.” The principle makes sense: If the “P5” had to decide by a majority vote, the result would be war amongst them.

But are the actual “P5” sufficiently experienced and qualified to be recognised as “wise and respected?” Importantly, they are the same world powers that at the Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907 already were in favour of disarmament and an international court with binding powers. They are also the major nations that created the League of Nations after WWI. In order to judge if this system can work, two questions have to be answered: (1) Why “FIVE”, and (2) Will the USA, Russia and China cooperate?

  1. Of course, group size has to be taken into account, in order to ensure optimal performance. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that small groups not bigger than five are optimal.[v] The Panchayati Raj is empirical proof that such a system works. It is effective because a) Any number higher than “5” would make it more difficult to achieve consensus, and b) a smaller number would make it more difficult to accord with the principle of equitable geographical representation.
  2. Progressive forces in the USA have always favoured a federal world order. The same can be said of France and Great Britain. But what about Russia and China? Can they be trusted when it comes to questions of world peace and the role the UN should play? Before answering that question the following UN Charter concept has to be understood first.

An indispensable Charter principle commentators have neglected and even misrepresented is Article 106, which stipulates a transition from the present state of armed peace to one of complete disarmament, where the UN’s System of Collective Security guarantees peace among nations by policing the planet.[vi] During the transition the “P5” have to decide unanimously on the measures to be taken — as already explained above.

International peace and security cannot be preserved, and the Security Council cannot function effectively, if its authority and standing is based on power-politics and arbitrary decision-making alone, as is the case today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, two days before Britain exited the EU (Brexit), in a speech on the occasion of the anniversary of the “great patriotic war” 75 years ago, had called for a “modern, block-free system of collective security equal for all states,” and expressed his willingness to discuss this with his European partners. However, as to the outcome of his efforts, he was pessimistic. Historically Russia has always been in favour of collective security; as a member of the League of Nations from 1934 to December 1939, it called for collective action to fight aggressor states: e.g. when Italian troops attacked Ethiopia, or when Spain was attacked and when Hitler annexed Austria. Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, the Russian representative in the League of Nations, predicted in 1938 that if the League did not act, a “great war” would come “for sure.”  Unfortunately, at the time both the British and French governments rejected an intervention…

As for China, in spite of its military buildup, it has never fought a major war, and it is highly unlikely that it is planning one. In January 2017, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in his address, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially called for a world without nuclear weapons. He also spoke out in favour of a multilateral world based on equality among big and small countries. In a book by Liu Mingfu, The China Dream, the Communist author writes: “China does not want to build a separate world hostile to America; it wants to blend with the existing world and international order … the 21st century’s competition between China and America is not a competition between two societies and two worlds, it is working together creating a peaceful, developed, open, and harmonious world.” We cannot accept aggressive policies, be it of the USA or China.

The process of the transition toward genuine peace and security can be initiated if Article 9 and the European constitutions that provide for conferring “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” on the UN are followed up and implemented.

It was Professor Radhakrishnan who wrote:

“We must surrender a part of our sovereignty, work together for the elimination of every kind of injustice… The United Nations is the first step towards the creation of an authoritative world order. It has not got the power to enforce the rule of law… Military solutions to political problems are good for nothing. Ultimately they will leave bitterness behind… The challenge that is open to us is survival or annihilation… but what are we doing to bring about that survival? Are we prepared to surrender a fraction of our national sovereignty for the sake of a world order? Are we prepared to submit our disputes and quarrels to arbitration, to negotiation and settlement by peaceful methods? Have we set up a machinery by which peaceful changes could be easily brought about in this world? So long as we do not have it, it is no use merely talking.”[vii]

For all intents and purposes, it should be seriously taken into consideration that following up on Article 9 may be the key to achieving the purposes of the UN Charter. This is probably the reason why the Japanese have upheld the article for so long, and have preserved their Constitution unchanged since its original inception in 1946.[viii]

NOTES:

i] The German Constitution’s Article 24 provides for delegating sovereign powers “by law” to international organisations like the UN.

[ii] Donald Mackenzie Brown, The Nationalist Movement: Indian Political Thought from Ranade to Bhave, University of California Press 1970, p. 153.

[iii] Young Radhakrishnan studied for seven years in the Tiruttani Panchayat Union School in the Tamil Nadu State, South India; the school was recently renovated and inaugurated in 2010, on September 5, his birth anniversary, which is observed as Teachers’ Day in India. The school was renamed “Dr. Radhakrishnan Panchayat Union Middle School.” It is also worth noting that Radhakrishnan was nominated 11 times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

[iv] Mamta Chandrashekhar, Political and Social Change and Women in India, Anchor Academic Publishing, 2016, p. 118.

[v] Patrick Laughlin, Erin Hatch, Jonathan Silver, and Lee Boh, Groups Perform Better Than the Best Individuals on Letters-to-Numbers Problems: Effects of Group Size, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 90, No. 4.

[vi] See Quincy Wright, Political Conditions of the Period of Transition: Commission to Study the Organization of Peace. International Conciliation, no. 379, pp. 264-279. See Q. Wright’s text at http://www.unfor.info/transition_text.pdf.

[vii] Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Towards a New World, New Delhi and Bombay, Orient Paperbacks 1980, pp. 14, 45, 52, 135.

[viii] For a most recent publication on Article 9, providing final proof of it s Japanese authorship, see Klaus Schlichtmann, Shidehara Kijuro and the Japanese Constitution’s war-abolishing Article 9, Japan Forum, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2023), pp. 127-151.

__________________________________________

Dr. Klaus Schlichtmann is author of numerous scholarly articles and several books, including Japan in the World. Shidehara Kijuro, Pacifism and the Abolition of War (Lexington 2009), and A Peace History of India. From Ashoka Maurya to Mahatma Gandhi (Vij Books 2016). Born in Hamburg, in the 1960s he traveled overland to India, and returning to Germany he became a peace activist and environmentalist. As a world federalist and a member of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) he participated in many international conferences. Having received a scholarship to do research in Japan, his Ph.D. dissertation on Shidehara and Article 9 was published in German in 1997.  He can be reached at kschlichtmann@law.email.ne.jp  Contact: klaus.san@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Feb 2024.

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