GPA members debate the fate of the United Nations in the Trump Era (28/01/2017)

 At its first meeting in 2017, the Global Peacebuilding Association members presented their views on the existential threat posed by the Trump Presidency to the United Nations and the UN peace operation in South Sudan.

(Source: Truth Feed)

 The members of the Global Peacebuilding Association held its first meeting on January 28, 2017, and exchanged their views on the existential threat posed by the Trump Presidency to the United Nations and discussed any useful role Japan could play in UN peace operation in South Sudan.

 The following are moderators of the meeting and contributors to the discussion.

   Moderators: Mr. Ken Inoue (1st session) and Professor Takaaki Mizuno (2nd session)
   Speakers: Professors Takaaki Mizuno and Yoshitaka Hanada (1st session) and Professor Disaku Higashi and Katsumi Ishizuka, and Mr. Ippeita Nishida (2nd session)



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Session 1:
Crumbling international political structure and the role of the United Nations

 As a moderator of the session, Mr. Inoue stated that we could review the current international political structure from the following 3 aspects. First, the UN headed by the new SG Guterres should continue promoting development of global governance through the UN system, but this initiative would be challenged by protectionism and unilateralism represented by Brexit and President Trump. Second, international security especially in Asia is challenged by hegemony of China. The current international order based on liberal democracy was first challenged by communism of Soviet Union and now by Communist Party Dynasty of China. Third, most of the on-going PKOs are deployed in Africa and the Middle East. As a member of the UN Security Council, Japan should play a significant role in tackling conflicts, which are closely linked with global sustainable development issues.

 Prof. Mizuno made his presentation, titled “From the post-cold war utopia to the post-truth Trump world”. First, he explained his views on the euphoric period of the post-cold war era in the US, Europe and Asia. As seen in the Bill Clinton campaign slogan, “It’s economy, stupid” and Thomas Friedman’s Golden Arches theory, the US believed that its promotion of global market economy would inevitably bring a global wave of democracy and peace based on inter-dependence. Thus, the US and other Western countries strongly supported economic development and democratization of Russia and China in order to change the nature of the international system to more cooperative one. However, the realities in 2017 show that Putin’s Russia is resemble to Weimar Republic and Xi Jinping’s China behaves like a militaristic superpower. These backslides can be explained by the deep sense of resentment for their deprivations, popular disillusion and disappointment with a hollow promise of “a democratic peace and interdependent prosperity”. Oxfam reported that a total asset of the riches 8 persons in the world is equal to 3,675 million people on the bottom. Present sovereign states cannot control this widening global inequalities. The Trump phenomenon in the US is also a reflection of resentment of the “forgotten people”. Therefore, the UN must play the indispensable role in sharing “the global common sense” in this post-truth world.

 Prof. Hanada stated that the current world is facing 3 major challenges. The first is challenge to liberalism due to the following 7 factors – (1) low growth rate, (2) globalism, (3) inequality, (4) decay of middle income class, (5) elite dominance, (6) nationalism, and (7) IT (political mobilization of ordinary people) and AI (loss of employment). The second is challenge to the Westphalian system. Refugee problem, terrorism, anti-globalism movement and anti-Brussel bureaucracy (e.g. Brexit) are phenomena of this challenge, and the world may consequently be back to nation-state system. The third is overall challenge to the post World War II order.

 Regarding the 1st & 2nd challenge, he further stated, despite the penetration of globalization, the current world order has no mechanism to handle “transnational issues” under “transnational system”. Transformation of Westphalian sovereign system is therefore needed. A new concept of sovereign obligation should be discussed in the UN for possible correction to the system. Regarding the 3rd challenge, the issue belonging to the original sphere of the UN, the UN is expected to play a major role for the formation of international public opinion. Discussion, however, should go with military might led by US. Thereby, further involvement of US is the utmost important.

 After the two presentations, the floor was open to free discussion, and the following views were expressed by participants:

  ・Relationship between globalization and economic gap may not be so simple. We may not be able to conclude that globalization necessarily caused the huge gap between the rich and the poor.

  ・Trump administration does not feel benefit of the UN for the US, therefore, it may cut up to 40% of its voluntary contribution to the UN. If this happens, the UN PKO will be seriously affected and China may increase the influence to the UN.

  ・Trump administration’s UN policy is still not very clear and he may feel that the UN system is useful for the US economy.

  ・Pro-Israel policy of Trump administration is very risky. If the US embassy is moved to Jerusalem, this will cause serious problem in the Middle East.

  ・“Commenting on the presentation on “From the ‘post-Cold War’ utopia to the ‘post-Truth” Trump world, Prof. Hasegawa pointed out the inequality emerged as a result of not so much of “market economy” but “global financial capitalism.” The wealth of profit has now been monopolized and accumulated by a few super-capitalist billionaires of mostly in the United States and corporations in the case of Japan where enormous amount of profits are kept.

  ・A series of irrational steps President Donald Trump has started to take will have major unintended consequences in the international political structure that engages multilateral approaches to resolving international conflicts and securing sustainable peace.

  ・As Immanuel Kant envisaged two centuries ago, rule of law and fairness among nation-states constituted the principles based on which the League of Nations and the United Nations had been created to help nation states to govern their conducts and relationships. What President Trump is now doing is to undermine the United Nations and international organizations will no doubt result in unintended consequences of competitions and conflicts among nation states as the history witnessed before and during the First and Second World Wars.

  ・The seriousness of new developments rests with the exploitation of religious differences. As Kissinger noted in his latest book, World Order, history has shown religious confrontations can result in catastrophic conflicts and consequences.

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Session 2:
South Sudan: The Role of Japan in the UN Peace Operation in South Sudan

 This session was the follow-up of the previous seminar on the Peace Keeping activities in South Sudan. The moderator, Professor Mizuno pointed out the three focal points on this hot topic, first, the latest deteriorated situation on the ground: second, how the international community, especially the U.N. along with the regional organization like the A.U., should properly respond to such a dire situation: the third, what Japan can do with its SDF’s new mission for PKO activities both as a peace-loving country with the article 9 and as a responsible member of the U.N.

 Professor Higashi made a presentation about how Japan should engage in peace- building in South Sudan, peace-keeping operations in Africa, and UN peace operations in general. He insisted that establishing sustainable peace in South Sudan may require a very long time commitment and support by both the International Community and Japan. Thus, it is important to start considering the long-term strategy on South Sudan and on supporting African peace-keeping operations. He proposed three recommendations. First, it would be desirable for Japan to start massive training programs in the neighboring countries such as Kenia or Ethiopia for the future technocrats of the Government of South Sudan; Japan can support the Government of South Sudan to run the country very effectively by organizing the training programs for bureaucrats of South Sudan. Second, it would be great for Japan to expand its support for PKO center (International Peace Support Training Center) in Nairobi to share high level technologies of the engineering units of Japan Self Defense Forces to the African peacekeeping forces. Third, it would be important for Japan to dispatch Self Defense Force to other peace-keeping operations.

 Professor Ishizuka put UNMISS in the historical perspective of the UN Peacekeeping Operations. He reviewed the mandates and implementation of UNMISS, namely SC Resolution 1996 (2011): to support the Government in peace consolidation and SC Resolution 2155 (2014): authorizing UNMISS “to use all necessary means”. He also raised the issue of “Protection of civilians” in the context of the riots in Juba, July 2016 in which UN peacekeepers could not protect civilians properly. He said that history had been repeated like other cases of the failures in South Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo and the DRC and reiterated the necessity of the intervention of great powers.

 Mr. Nishida, a long-time observer of South Sudan, gave his realistic assessment on the expanded mandate of the Japanese SDF there. He pointed out that what was thought to be one of the safe “peace-building” missions at the time of initial deployment in 2012 has turned to be the only UNPKO mission that SDF participates today. At the same time, the mission environment has become more volatile and there seems no easy way-out. The new mandate that has enabled the SDF contingent to secure the safety of aid workers and to jointly protect the UN compounds, by lifting the self-imposed restriction on the use of weapons, is a welcome step. Yet, given domestic concern over the use of weapons, there would be only a limited role that SDF can carry out. What should be concerned is possible expectation gap by the UN, partner forces and the local population to avoid any misunderstanding at the time of next turmoil.

 Commenting on the expectation gap mentioned by Mr. Nishida, Professor Hasegawa found it difficult for Japan to sustain the high expectation held by the international community if Japan withdrew its troops in haste only to respond to domestic concern about the safety of its personnel. He said that Japan could do more what it can do well to enhance the effectiveness of UNMISS, while minimizing the risk to the safety of Japanese personnel. These included preparation of a security contingency plan for any emergence of crisis situation, upgrading of medical facilities, and enhanced coordination between the security and civilian components of UNMISS. To pursue the primacy of politics in UN peace operation in South Sudan, UNMISS requires mission leadership that understands this requirement for enhanced coordination between civilian and security sectors. For this purpose, Japan should send a senior UNMISS staff who will contribute to the enhanced coordination between the civilian and security components. Furthermore, Japan should assist the coordination between UNMISS and regional organizations such as AU and IGAD. He also suggested that Japan consider hosting a donor`s conference on the peacebuilding of South Sudan in 2019 to encourage the leaders of South Sudan to change their mindset and to achieve a successful transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding phase.