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Beyond the UN stalemate

Prof. Metta Spencer — June 1983

The World Federalists of Canada and the United Nations Association, with the support of Toronto 2000, presented a symposium at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on May 14. The topic was “Institutions for Peace vs. Instruments of War.” Panelists for the event were Hon. Walter McLean, MP for Waterloo; Chancellor George Ignatieff of the University of Toronto, former Ambassador to the United Nations; William Epstein, Chairman of the Canadian Pugwash Group and Special Fellow at the United Nations Institute; and peace researchers and writers Arnold Simoni and Norman Alcock.

The organising committee anticipated that the symposium would function as a “think-tank” Situation where the shared experiences of the participants would contribute to a specific set of proposals for improved peacekeeping institutions. As would have been expected from the participants’ affiliation with the World Federalists and the U.N.A., the need for some form of world government and the role of the U.N. as a peacekeeping institution figured prominently in the discussion.

Norman Alcock began the discussion by -suggesting to the audience that warfare Originated in basically altruistic and protective motives. The man who stood guard at the entrance to the cave to protect the earliest human communities from predators, says Alcock, was carrying Out a vita) function providing genuine security to his loved Ones. Today’s nuclear warriors cannot be said to do anything so positive for their own groups, of course. Thus, as human groupings have enlarged in Size, the scale of warfare has also increased to the point that it is now obsolete as a defensive activity.

Walter McLean, standing in for his colleague, Douglas Roche, told the gathering about the work of Parliamentarians for World Order, in which Roche serves as Chairman and McLean as Canadian Chairman.

This group comprises more than 600 legislators in 25 countries, and strongly supports the goal of world government, with enforceable world law, guaranteeing disarmament and redistribution of the world’s resources to abolish hunger.

Ignatieff and Epstein chronicled a deterioration in the effectiveness of the U.N., an organisation they have both served.

The trouble, Epstein said, is not any deficiency in the structure of the United Nations as an organisation. The trouble is that people -and their elected representatives -simply do not give that body the kind of backing that it must have. No structural changes will do any good without such support, and with support, structural changes will be unnecessary.

Epstein noted that agreements have been created in the past that were commendable in every respect; yet they were abandoned because the political support waned. As the most remarkable example of this he cited the McLoy — Zorin agreement, which spelled out the terms for complete disarmament and was almost ready to be enacted by treaty in 1961, when relations between the USSR and the US deteriorated and the moment was lost.

Notwithstanding Epstein’s emphasis on the need for political will as Opposed to structural change, the final speaker, Arnold Simoni, proposed an approach to world federalism that rested on structural innovations. The Peacemakers Association of Nations it a proposal that he has developed, along with Norman Alcock.

This proposal could he effected gradually and voluntarily, Simoni said, an bilateral treaties among nations build up an international community of nations committed to disarmament and economic justice. This community of nations would create a permanent peacekeeping force while disarming national defense forces and sharing some of the resultant savings with the needy members of that growing federation. Simoni suggested that neither superpower be admitted to such an organisation at first, lest the whole arrangement be brought to a stalemate because of their rivalry, as the U.N. is now stalemated.

By the end of the symposium the goal of formulating specific guidelines for institutional reform had been only partially realised, primarily because the two speakers most experienced in international negotiations had only guarded expectations for the immediate future.

However, a positive note for international cooperation was struck ~ two members of the Soviet Peace Committee and their interpreter unexpectedly arrived at the symposium. Dr. Andrei Romodanov and Mme. Ailita Khodareva were warmly received by the audience and spoke briefly and with feeling about their intention to create between the two blocs, a climate of friendship so vivid that it can transcend the disagreements that seem, unfortunately, to persist.