Concept Note

"There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by all nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager justice as the pity of the strong upon the weak."  – Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 21, 1957

A world governed by the rule of law, and the role of UN in this

The world’s mounting challenges need a collective response guided by international rule of law, for a just, peaceful, humanitarian and prosperous world. ‘Rule of law’ means that in any situation, states must adhere to the relevant international treaties, and include their provisions in national legislation.

The UN Charter as an international treaty is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. It codifies major principles such as sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.

The development of international law, and fostering respect for it, has been a key part of the work of the UN. This is carried out by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security, if deemed necessary...

Themes & Topics

Reform of the UN Charter

Since it was adopted 78 years ago, the United Nations Charter has not undergone significant change. To reflect the world of today and the one we want for the future, it must be modernized. Renewing and updating the Charter will be a critical step in achieving this. Article 109 of the Charter, which has provisions for changes and general review conferences, provides us the opportunity to adapt the Charter according to the evolving world in which the UN functions. A very significant development was the recommendation of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Board’s report of April 2023 that at the UN Summit of the Future, an announcement will be made to hold a UN Charter Review conference. This will be a historic opportunity, of existential importance, to reframe the UN Charter as a universal constitution for humanity. Topics for discussion:

  1. Refreshing the UN Charter to serve as a Global Constitution and Social Contract

  2. Replacing the "One State - One Vote" in UN General Assembly by a weighted voting system?

  3. Establishment of a World Parliamentary Assembly

  4. Bicameral Assembly – A 2nd UN Chamber of directly elected representatives, for legitimacy

  5. The case of An International Anti-Corruption Court

Enforceable World Law

World Law encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern, such as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality, access to resources, the use of force, and the conduct of war, etc. It is futile to expect genuine peace until there is an effective system of enforceable world law. International law also regulates the global commons, such as the environment and sustainable development, international waters, outer space, global communications and world trade. World law against international aggression needs to be explicitly stated in constitutional and statutory form. Resorting to violence and war should never be an option for settling disputes and claims. This abhorrence of violence needs to be included in all constitutions of nations, multilateral organizations, and statutes, unconditionally outlawing war and the threat of war, and the constitutional and statutory validity must be upheld and expressed through enforcement and redressal mechanisms. Topics of discussion:

  1. Conditions under which respect for treaty obligations and other international law can be maintained?

  2. Mechanisms of enforcing international laws in addition to traditional institutions of compliance?

  3. National acceptability of universal constitutional mandates against war and violence

  4. Prosecution of perpetrators of wars against nations or against humanity.

  5. Can the scope of crimes against humanity be increased to include acts of denial of rights?

Human Development : Education, Health, Employment, Inequality

Today we need a new definition of 'Security' – moving from military security to human security. This requires agreeing to build a new international order oriented toward individual well-being and values of ‘human security’, with a corollary international ‘right to peace’ that is secured – inter alia – through greatly strengthened UN Charter provisions for collective security and disarmament.

Economic inequality has been growing both within countries and internationally. Globalisation seems to have benefited corporations, and has favoured capital and technology over labour and the economic benefits of globalization have not ‘trickled-down’ to the unskilled, as had been expected. Other aspects of human development are continuing high unemployment, under-employment and low paid employment; lack of access to education and poor quality education in a vast number of countries; poor health care provisioning and appalling health outcomes in many poor countries. An effective world machinery is required to mitigate the vast disparities in the economic, educational and health conditions of various regions of the world, the continuance of which fuels instability and conflict. Topics for discussion:

  1. Human security is no longer military security only, it is also environmental, health & educational security

  2. Inseparability of human rights and human development, and the scope of economic justice

  3. Role of civil society in fostering education, health, employment and equality

  4. Incorporating an understanding of human well-being beyond its economic connotation

  5. Is aid-funding adequate, and are development agencies (World Bank, IMF) adequate to meet challenges?

Action for Climate Change

Climate change is an existential threat for humanity and it must be mitigated as well as adapted to. While various Conference of Parties (COP) events have brought together the nations to agree targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, success has been elusive. Strenuous efforts are under way in many countries but climate financing is an important hindering issue for developing countries that need compensation for the economic costs of curbing carbon-emitting industries. Wider issues concern the need for protecting the world’s rainforests as global commons, which requires compensating the countries where they are situated; greening via reducing, reusing and recycling; and the more ‘spiritual’ issue of reducing consumerism, with a particular role of religious teachings that prescribe detachment from material things for a more wholesome living. Some issues for discussion here are:

  1. Case for creating a UN Environmental Assembly to harmonize and reconcile over 500 environmental conventions to streamline compliance, monitoring and enforcement

  2. Need for firmer and binding laws regarding environment action

  3. Establishment of inviolable global commons that belong to humanity, and not any one country

  4. Giving 'nature' a legal personality in international law, by Inserting 'Environment' in the UN Charter

  5. The case for an International Environmental Court

Disarmament and a UN Peace Force

Our world is still bent on seeking military solutions to inter-national problems. As per the Institute for Economics and Peace, the total economic impact of violence to the world economy in 2019 was an estimated $14.4 trillion, equivalent to 10.5 per cent of world GDP or $1,895 per person per yearthe Global Governance Forum, year?). In a world under law, these substantial resources could be used to promote economic and social development and shared prosperity.

Complete disarmament of all the nations (rather than mere reduction or limitation of armaments) is essential since peace cannot be built in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and the threat of war. Should a permanent UN Peace Force be created and maintained while safeguarding with utmost care against its misuse? As well as giving up stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we also need dismantling of war-making complexes and machinery. Trust-building and assured protection of countries under threat is necessary in order to take that first step towards total disarmament. Discussion Topics:

  1. Case for creating a standing UN Peace Force; its rules of engagement.

  2. How can nations give up their weapons arsenals, shut down weapons factories and stop profiteering from fear-mongering, e.g. international isolation via economic sanctions, immigration denials ?

  3. How can enforceable international law prevent nations from acting in an aggressive manner?

  4. The protection of national sovereignty in the absence of national armies.

Role of NGOs, Civil Society, Smart Coalitions in Global Governance

In this era of globalism, traditional intergovernmental institutions have found it difficult to respond in a legitimate and effective manner to issues like refugees, intercultural violence, financial instability, climate change, wars, diseases, and epidemics. However, multi-level, stakeholder governance with a mix of public and private actors have contributed significantly towards resolving some of them. Despite the traditional state-centric foundation of international law, civil society can still play an important role in ensuring that international law serves the interests of a larger international community by holding governments accountable to uphold international legal standards. For instance, they have played a significant role in the promotion of democracy through the affirmation of human rights and environmental law. Topics of discussion:

  1. Inclusion of civil society in global governance.

  2. Role of informal forums in building momentum & strength for a global movement, e.g. Land Mines Treaty.

  3. Powerful role of Smart Coalitions – which underline that current political feasibility need not be a criterion for starting a movement, nor a fear of what may initially seem as overwhelming opposition.

  4. The role of schools and of Global Citizenship Education in social transformation

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