15 March 2004

David Malone, Kishore Mahbubani and Ian Martin presented a book updating the role of the U.N. Security Council. During a lively debate at the Carnegie Council moderated by Joanne Myers, Professor Malone -- President of International Peace Academy -- gave a wide-ranging overview of the Council's changing approaches to conflicts and features affecting its deliberations. He mentioned, for example, that most aspects of modern conflict resolution were civil, not just military. New elements included the introduction of Humanitarian Assistance, human rights, and democratization to any consideration of arising conflict. Non-Governmental Organizations were more visibly involved than ever before. New approaches by the Council included field visits, rarely done earlier.

The Security Council was one of the most effective decision-making mechanism available. Its "reform" should aim at rendering it more effective. Otherwise, expedient changes to satisfy varied constituencies may risk rendering it ineffective.

Singapore Ambassador Mahbubani reflected on his experience as a former Council member. Serving for two years only, he felt like someone jumping on the rear car of a moving train, advancing gradually but having to leave by the time he reached the driving engine room. Another analogy related to sending firefighters if the fire was on Park Avenue, but taking time if it sprung in one of the far suburbs. Mahbubani, who pleasantly surprised those who generally thought of him as determinedly boring, even managed to flash a brief smile. Ian Martin, Vice President of the International Centre of Justice, reflected on his experience as head of the U.N. Mission in East Timor.

The debate amongst a packed audience was so interesting that it extended way beyond its designated time. It was a pity that an author of one of the interesting chapters, Ibrahima Gambari of Nigeria, was away on a mission to represent the Secretary-General in Africa.