Wednesday 17 August 2011

London truth made simple (China Daily)

MD Nalapat

Since the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 exactly five months ago, NATO has conducted many sorties in Libya killing hundreds of civilians. As the resolution was passed specifically to prevent civilian casualties, the UN Security Council needs to convene a special session to discuss why NATO raids have killed so many civilians and stop allied forces from launching any more attacks.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) will be seen as failing to respond to the international community if it does not do so. Or, it would be seen as accepting the BBC-CNN definition of the "international community", which comprises only the US and the EU. To these two news channels, any geographic space outside these two zones - with the possible exceptions of Australia and Canada - fall outside the "international community".

But since the present UNSC has become more representative of the new international order than its predecessors, it should grant audience to the Libyan people, instead of lending its ears only to a handful of major powers hell-bent on changing the regime in Tripoli.

Another subject that the UNSC needs to discuss is the situation in the United Kingdom, specifically the riots that have rocked London, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. Civil unrest in selected corners of the globe get flagged for discussion by the United States, the UK, France, Germany and other NATO member states. This is unfair, and the UNSC should discuss the riots in the UK, especially in London.

One important reason to do so is that hundreds of billions of dollars of Asian investors' savings are vested in London. During the global financial crisis, which broke out in 2008, investors from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries alone lost $1.3 trillion, much of it because of mismanagement by institutions based in London.

Asian investors expect the international community to do more to protect their savings from a second meltdown, and that's why it is important for the UNSC to discuss the incidents in London.

Although police have controlled the riots for the time being, the authorities have not yet addressed the underlying factors of the unrest, one of which is the immense discontent among the underprivileged youth of the city. The UK is spending huge amounts of money on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, but refuses to make the (far more modest) outlay needed to ensure that underprivileged youths in its own country get access to the levels of education, training and opportunities that would help them get respectable jobs.

The other members of the UNSC need to prod the UK into making such an outlay, rather than reserving its taxpayer-funded surpluses for bailing out private financial institutions guilty of violating the canons of prudence and ethics and pouring them into wars.

People of every country have the right to go about their social transformation in their own way, provided they do so peacefully and without disturbing or harming other countries, the way Libya was before it was attacked by NATO forces nearly five months ago.

Colonial and powerful countries have always imposed (or tried to impose) their systems and rules on the colonized and weak ones on one pretext or the other, most of the time with fatal consequences. For example, in the 1800s, India had several hundred times more schools than Britain, but in less than a generation the colonial rulers destroyed the indigenous education system on the excuse of modernizing education. That forced more than 85 percent of Indians to become functionally illiterate by the time the Britons left in 1947.

While advice from anywhere is welcome, and may on occasion be useful, the reality is that local problems need local solutions. Only when a particular situation in one country could have a big impact on the interests of other countries that the international community should pay special attention to it. And because the UK, especially London, is the repository of a large part of the savings from across the world, there are compelling reasons why the riots and their causes and possible cures need to be debated exhaustively by the UNSC.

Besides, given the deep economic interdependence among countries today, it's surprising that the UNSC has not yet called a special session, for example, to discuss the eurozone debt crisis. Similarly, it has avoided any discussion on the global financial crisis, which was thousands of times more important and harmful to international interests than many matters discussed by the UNSC. Ironically, relatively trivial matters are brought before the UNSC by the countries responsible for the global financial meltdown and the eurozone debt crisis.

If the UNSC and the developed world can ask governments in other countries not to use force against protesters and rioters, how come UK Prime Minister David Cameron orders the use of police power to quell riots and disturbances? And why shouldn't the UK stop fighting wars and jumping into military action and instead use the money on social security, education and employment creation programs?

If the developed world wants its voice to be heard by those whose money it has been controlling for its own benefit, it has to call for discussions on the eurozone debt crisis and the London riots at the UNSC because the European Union and the UK are repositories of international savings and a wrong turn by any of them can have a debilitating effect on rest of the countries.

The author is vice-chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group, and UNESCO peace chair and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, India.

(China Daily 08/17/2011 page9)

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