International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East and the Balkans. Ambassador Tan Sri Hasmy Agam,former Malaysia’s Ambassador to UN NY and Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies prepared comprehensive analysis entitled “World on Autopilot: The UN Security Council should urgently address Covid-19”. They are analysing the role of UN Security Council in the Covid-19 situation and how multilateralism – as the most effective planetary tool at our disposal –is the only way for human race to (socio-economically and politically) survive.
● Ambassador (ret.) Tan Sri Hasmy Agam
● Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic
The Covid-19 situation is very worrying, indeed, alarming matter, not just as a global health and biosafety issue, but potentially as a global security challenge, too.
While the pandemic is being dealt with by the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with other relevant United Nation Specialised Agencies (UN SA), the situation is deteriorating rapidly and could easily get out of control. This of course, if it is not effectively contained. In such a (more and more likely) scenario, it would be engulfing the entire world, virtually akin to as the Third world war, though initially of a different kind.
Having served twice on the Council (referencing one of the co-authors, Ambassador Agam), we are amazed as to why the Security Council has not stepped in. It should have done so as to address the matter in the way it clearly deserves to be dealt with, given its devastating impact on the entire international community on almost every dimension, including international peace and security, which indisputably falls under its mandate under the UN Charter.
As the Council has often dealt with issues which are sometimes not ostensibly related to international or regional security, we are puzzled, indeed alarmed, as to why it has chosen not to come to grips with the pandemic as a matter of the utmost urgency.
If the members of the Council, for their own internal reasons, have not felt compelled to do so, shouldn’t the other members of the world body, individually or collectively as international or regional groupings, such as the European Union (EU), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G-77, African Union (AU), or ASEAN, take the much-desired initiative to call on the Security Council to imperatively address this global pandemic, even as the WHO and other concerned UN agencies, much to their credit, are dealing with the issue from their own (narrow) perspectives – and yet rather limited mandate and resources.
In this regard, especially the EU would be well-positioned to exert the much-need pressure on the UNSC, given the devastation that the Virus has wreaked on a number of its members, notably Italy and Spain, among others.
Such an urgent Meeting of the UN Security Council at this point in time would be greatly applauded by the entire international community as it would accord the world body the leadership role that its members expect it to play.
In this dire situation, the big powers should put aside their ideological and policy differences, or power play, and focus instead on galvanizing concerted international actions of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the entire human race.
By decisively and urgently acting, the UN Secretary-General and the UN SC would be sending a bold and clear yet tranquilising signal to the entire humanity. More importantly, such a unison voice would be also welcomed and well understood as a referencing (not to say a norm setting) note by other crucial agencies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), World Trade Organisation (WTO), as well as by the Red Cross (IFRC), Bretton Worlds institutions, Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Federation of Trade Unions, including other specialised or non-UN FORAs, most notably developmental entities such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Asia Development Bank (ADB), Africa Development Bank (AfDB), etc.
In the following period – witnessing indeed a true historical conjuncture, we need a global observance and protection of human rights, of jobs, for the benefit of economy and overall security. Recovery – which now presupposes formidable biosafety – will be impossible without social consensus. Clearly, it will be unsustainable if on expenses of labour or done through erosion of basic human rights – embedded in the UN Charter and accepted as essential to the very success of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
Indeed, countries are not just economies, but most of all societies. (The truth is plain to see: Planet has stopped, although the capital remains intact. We came to a global halt because the labour has been sent home. Hence, the recovery comes with labour. Historically, labour has never betrayed, while capital has failed us many times. By the same token, human rights never betrayed the state and its social cohesion, but the states – and much glorified markets – far too many times in history have failed humans. Therefore, there is no true exit from the crisis without boldening the labour and human rights.)
For a grave planetary problem, our rapidly articulated global accord is badly needed. Therefore, multilateralism – as the most effective planetary tool at our disposal – is not our policy choice. It is the only way for human race to (socio-economically and politically) survive.
Covid-19 is a challenge that comes from the world of biology. Yet, biology and international relations share one basic rule: Comply or die. To remind us: it is not the big that eat the small, rather it is a fast which eats the slow.
Leadership and vision now!
About the authors:
Ambassador (ret.) Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, former Malaysia’s Ambassador to UN NY (incl. term in UN SC), Head of the Diplomatic Academy, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) – retired.
Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Austria; author of 7 books and numerous articles on, mainly, geopolitics energy and technology.
Ljubljana/Vienna/Kuala Lumpur, 5 April 2020