§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Croy rose to call attention to the case for reviewing the ways in which armed forces are employed in the service of the United Nations and for allocating the costs equitably among the member states; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord: My Lords, the past three years have seen the United Nations employing armed forces in several roles, not all foreseen in the charter. This year, more troops are being requested for Bosnia and the questions arise whether they can be found and from which countries. Britain has been supplying a large proportion of troops for the United Nations and has a particular interest in promoting an efficient system for the mobilisation, employment and control of forces serving the United Nations.
§ When the United Nations was established, it was intended that armed forces be available in strength to deal with serious dangers to world peace. Chapter VII of the charter, applying to threats to, and breaches of, the peace and acts of aggression, gave the Security Council supreme powers of decision to use armed force against aggressors. Article 47 provided for a Military Staff Committee to assist the council and be responsible for strategic direction. That part of the Charter never became effective because it was frustrated by the Soviet Union, although the Soviet Government had agreed to it at the San Francisco conference. They had a change of mind.
§ I have been personally interested in the subject since my first visit as a Foreign Office official to the United Nations in New York in 1948, when the organisation was only two years old. I remember, then, the MSC holding its statutory meetings and not being allowed by the Soviet delegation to do anything other than decide on the date of the next meeting. As a result, the special agreements, prescribed in Article 43 of the charter, between the United Nations and its members on stand-by armed forces, never came into existence.
In the two major acts of aggression in the life of the United Nations—Korea in 1950 and Kuwait in 1990 674 —the United Nations delegated command to the United States, the member best placed in each episode to exercise it. At the time of North Korea's aggression the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council in a demonstration against Chinese representation of the day and was not present to exercise the veto. Again, I have since had a personal interest because I was a member of the small UK delegation (there were four of us) who attended the emergency meeting on a Sunday morning on 25th June 1950 and the subsequent meetings where decisions were taken without the Soviet Union's presence or opposition.
§ Much later, in August 1990 when Saddam committed his folly against Kuwait, the Soviet Union was undergoing massive internal changes and did not oppose action by the Security Council. Because of Russia's new attitude, it has been suggested that an attempt might now be made to establish the MSC (under Article 47 of the charter) or something like it. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, who I am glad to see is present today in the Chamber, has raised the matter in your Lordships' House and I have also enquired about it. The Government have indicated that they are not in favour. They are not alone in that; there are others who hold the same view. Their argument is that it is now too late; that too much has happened since 1946 and that it would be best to build upon the systems which have been constructed in the meantime. Whatever way forward is taken, I submit that it should be remembered that the charter did envisage a high-powered military staff with earmarked forces to be at the disposal of the Security Council; and that those proposals never came to anything.
§ Since 1950 there have been other calls upon the United Nations for military help in various situations. The concept of peace-keeping forces was adopted to meet them. United Nations contingents were made available to form neutral buffers between contending nations or factions and to monitor truce arrangements. That was compatible with the charter, though not specifically included in it. A separate budget was also set up for peace-keeping operations.
§ For many years military elements have carried out several roles on behalf of the United Nations. First, there are the UN observers. Here I remind noble Lords that the observers who were stationed on the border between North and South Korea were able to report immediately when North Korea attacked the South. As they consisted of officers from recognised neutral countries, their verdict was never doubted. There have also been peace-keeping forces, of which about 15 have been created.
§ Another role has been protecting humanitarian aid sent to places where it is needed. In these roles the requirements have mainly been for infantry, not for a balanced force with air, artillery and armour on the scale suited to a modern operation of war. The ability of the United Nations to act in such ways is widely supported. Lives have been saved and conflict reduced. But who pays and who will be expected to pay in the future? The willingness of member countries to contribute forces, 675 and their state of readiness, will be influenced by their understanding of whether they are to be reimbursed, and reasonably soon.
§ As your Lordships know, member states subscribe to the cost of the United Nations organisation as a whole in accordance with individual assessments. The separate peace-keeping budget is based on a curious formula. The five permanent members of the Security Council are assessed at percentages higher than for the main budget, while the developing countries are assessed at a great deal less—one group at one-fifth and the other at one-tenth of their main budget percentages. Until recently there have been massive arrears on both budgets—the main budget and the peace-keeping budget—and this has created financial problems for the United Nations' head office.
§ Some countries, including the United Kingdom, have willingly contributed forces to particular operations without payment. The operation in Cyprus has been long and costly but it has not been paid for out of the peace-keeping budget. However, it is now to be financed partly by voluntary contributions and partly in the form of expenses in the United Nations' main budget.
§ I would be grateful if my noble friend Lady Chalker who is to reply to the debate could summarise the latest position on financing military operations, especially as it affects the United Kingdom. For example, are British troops in Bosnia to be paid for by reimbursement from the United Nations, or is the United Kingdom taxpayer footing this bill besides paying for the humanitarian aid donated by Britain? I look forward to hearing her reply to the debate. I am sure I speak for most noble Lords in saying that we have greatly appreciated the information on former Yugoslavia which my noble friend has supplied at Question Time over recent months and have admired her determination and efforts to get aid through to the besieged areas.
§ There are other factors affecting the finances. One is uncertainty over numbers of troops that may be required, sometimes at short notice. At the beginning of 1992 there were about 12,000 troops serving the United Nations in different parts of the world. In less than two years that figure grew to 76,000. Anomalies arise from different systems of payment. In some cases governments are reimbursed while in others troops are paid direct. Where direct payments are made a soldier may receive several times his normal daily pay. This seems unfair to other soldiers and is divisive when troops of different nationalities are serving side by side. I urge our Government to press for rationalisation of the financing system. If reimbursement were assured and rapid, finance ministries, even perhaps our own Treasury, might raise fewer objections to makin troops available for the United Nations.
§ United Nations troops have sometime been deployed in one role and then had to assume another. This was illustrated starkly in Somalia where television played a significant part. Civil war was creating chaos and starvation and also preventing food supplies being landed. Television showed horrifying pictures of starving, dying children. The American public in particular reached a conclusion that "something must be done". The Bush administration accepted a UN mandate 676 and 20,000 American and other troops went into the Mogadishu area. The famine was relieved and that task was accomplished. However, it then became clear that if the troops departed chaos and famine would return. The UN force moved then into another role, trying to establish order and a form of local administration. That proved to be against the interests of the feuding warlords. Suddenly the United Nations troops were attacked and more than 20 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
§ The United Nations then slid into a third role fighting the factions suspected of attacking the United Nations. American gunship helicopters patrolled and opened fire. At least one was shot down. American prisoners were taken and television again played a prominent part. The mistreatment of American prisoners was shown on world-wide television. The American public then wanted no more. The Clinton Administration, now in office, announced withdrawal by a date this month. Television has an instant impact on public opinion and so can greatly influence events. However, the cameras cannot be everywhere. Even more horrifying or dramatic events are probably happening elsewhere unnoticed.
§ This brings me to the role of the United Nations in former Yugoslavia which is of current concern. The first task was to protect the delivery of supplies of food and medicine. Now an additional task has been taken on of monitoring cease-fires. This further role was immediately recognised as worthwhile because glimpses are now apparent of a prospect of peaceful settlements. Here also television has influenced public opinion. Pictures of horror in certain places have been seen. Recently, however, the world has seen the most reassuring sight; namely, the band of the Cold stream Guards at a football match in Sarajevo arranged by the United Nations. What a boost that has been, locally and also throughout the western world where the pictures have been seen on television or in the press.
§ Great credit for the improving situation there is due to the United Nations commanders on the ground, particularly to two British officers, General Sir Michael Rose and Brigadier John Reith. The United Nations is fortunate that their skills are available for dealing with the situations that they face. Another British officer who has been making a special contribution of a different kind is General Sir David Ramsbotham. Since he retired as Adjutant-General, about a year ago, he has been on a mission to the United Nations in New York to advise on the handling of military matters. I had the good fortune to see him last week and to hear his views, which confirm most of my own impressions.
§ It seems that a review is being carried out, or has at least been started. The British Government sent their views to the Secretary-General last July on where they thought strengthening was needed and with suggestions for positive steps to be taken. I have seen a copy of those suggestions. This was one result of the special summit meeting of the Security Council held early in 1992, which was attended by heads of government, at which the Secretary-General submitted a document entitled Agenda for Peace. A meeting in New York was 677 arranged last autumn of commanders of United Nations forces, and former commanders, to give advice on improving the system.
§ Those developments are to be applauded, but progress is slow. It seems clear that the military staff at United Nations headquarters should be strengthened with more expertise and experience. I do not suggest that the numbers should be greatly increased, that there should be empire building, but in future that body should be capable of providing strategic direction. The functions of command and control in the troubled areas should remain with force commanders.
§ The departments in New York now dealing with peace-keeping and other military operations should be combined. They should be working side by side with, or combined with, the department dealing with humanitarian aid. There has been a lamentable lack of co-ordination hitherto. The strengthened military staff should then be fully capable of mounting and sustaining operations when required. It will have undertaken contingency planning and so have collected information on what member states could provide—that does not mean "will provide" but "could provide".
§ Some member states are opposed to the equivalent of a United Nations standing army, and that is understandable. In contrast, the concept of stand-by forces is generally accepted where every case is considered separately as it arises. Much useful work can be done in preparations, especially where specialised units are concerned—I refer, for example, to communications (signals) units, medical units and field hospitals. The latter were being called for at a very early stage in Operation Desert Storm although, mercifully, casualties were fewer than expected.
§ After the mortar bomb killed nearly 70 people in Sarajevo last month, I twice raised in this House the neutral service which the United Nations could supply with modern equipment for locating guns and mortars when fired. No one had been able to determine definitely which faction had fired that offending mortar. The Times published a letter from me at the time on the same subject. That is the kind of specialised unit which should be at the call of the United Nations at short notice. I am glad to acknowledge straight away that the British Government took action. There was some disappointment when it was announced that only 60 more men from Britain were being sent to Bosnia. However, I felt no disappointment because I learned that the group included a mortar-locating unit, which was badly needed.
§ The large majority of troops needed for peace keeping are not specialist but infantry, disciplined and with basic training. British soldiers have met that requirement admirably. They have earned high praise and are sought after to hold the ring in delicate situations. Their availability, of course, cannot be counted on. They are already in danger of being seriously overstretched as noble Lords have pointed out on other occasions in this House.
§ Events in Bosnia have been testing the United Nations' organisation and methods for using armed 678 forces. I hope that those events will also have the effect of accelerating action on the reforms and improvements which are needed. I beg to move for papers.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, the Conservative Peers have chosen an excellent subject for debate. Admittedly, their range of choice was rather limited. At present, they would not wish to start a debate on Europe, back to basics, taxation or a number of other subjects on which they are either divided, embarrassed or both. However, as a result we have a Motion on a subject which is topical and important—and likely to become much more important in the future.
For 40 years after its foundation, the main achievements of the United Nations related to social and economic welfare. For the main purpose the body was created—for keeping the peace—it was unfortunately marginalised. But now everything is changing and the hopes that we had after the war for the United Nations as a great force for peace are reviving. There is now an urgent need to give that role priority and to improve its peace-keeping capability.
From an enormous number of sources, ideas have come in for achieving that improvement and the increase in priorities. From this country alone, the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place have issued full and excellent reports. A range of different organisations and individuals have made their ideas known, including, I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, the former Adjutant General Sir David Ramsbotham. He might almost be said to have made the subject his own. We have the thoughtful suggestions made by the Government in July last year in reply to the document Agenda for Peace issued by the Secretary-General. There is much common ground in all those submissions. As the noble Lord concluded by saying, the question is: with all the good ideas for improvements, with the increasing urgency of the problem, why is so little being done on the ground to implement them?
There is one point on which everyone seems agreed. It is that more unity of command is needed at the top. All aspects of peace-keeping must be drawn together in a single United Nations agency. Simple common sense suggests that, and experience has amply shown it. The noble Lord suggested the revival of the military staffs committee. Other well-informed people have made the same suggestion. I confess that I had considered it. However, I now have considerable doubts although not for the reasons apparently given by the Government—that the military staffs committee is out of date—but for other reasons.
First, experience shows that peace-keeping can take most varied forms. It does not relate only to military operations. One has to think of sanctions, diplomacy and humanitarian welfare. Thus I do not believe that the military staffs committee would be appropriate for that role. In addition, I do not believe that the 180 members of the United Nations would welcome so much influence being placed in the hands of the five great powers. Moreover, one would have to increase the membership of the military staffs committee of five. But 679 even if one expanded it and made all members of the Security Council members of the military staffs committee, the basic problem remains. One needs a body at the top which has authority not only on military matters but on humanitarian and political matters, and diplomacy.
I believe it would be wiser, as I believe the noble Lord suggested towards the end of his speech, to build the existing embryonic peace-keeping organisation of the United Nations into a new planning and operations agency. The core membership might be the special representative of the Secretary-General, the three assistant secretaries-general for peace-keeping, politics and humanitarian aid, plus the military representatives of the five permanent powers and a top level administrative chief to find the money and to make sure that it is not wasted. On that body would rest responsibility for the strategic direction of all United Nations peace-keeping operations present and future.
It would have—I believe that I am not out of touch with the views of Her Majesty's Government—other duties such as advising the Secretary-General, liaising with member states and regional organisations, ensuring that proper provision is made for training and for harmonising operational procedures, and upkeeping the register of stand-by troops. It would not of course exercise military command, at least not until a force commander had been appointed by the Secretary-General.
Next, we have the problem of ensuring a wide range of forces and materiel being made available to the United Nations. The Secretary-General, in his document Agenda for Peace, favoured standing forces. On these Benches, I think we would doubt the wisdom of that. If the standing force were of modest size, there would be a risk that one could not muster the size and structure of force that was needed for the task. If it were large, it would be prohibitively expensive and wasteful. Then, surely, there would be general agreement that every nation has to have the right to decline the participation of its nationals in a peace-keeping operation. There may be good arguments for that, arguments of history, politics, religion, arid so on. The withdrawal by a member state of its nationals from a standing force would be disruptive.
The obvious alternative is earmarking, but not the nomination by a member government of a particular part of its forces. If that is what was meant by "earmarking", it would be very difficult for the United Nations to assemble force with the particular balance and capability that it needed.
Fortunately, good progress has been made there with the establishment of the stand-by forces study in which the United Nations considers, with member states, the range of its armed forces and the time needed to make certain units available. I understand that Her Majesty's Government have made their contribution already to the stand-by forces study. I have not seen it. Has it been published? Perhaps the noble Baroness will tell us when she replies. It would be interesting and I think that it should be published.
Obviously, the wider the spread of contributions among the different member nations, the better. Some 680 contributions will have more capability than others, but much is gained when there is a wide spread of contributions so that the United Nations is seen not as a particular grouping of nations but as the world community.
I believe that the establishment of the central planning agency, which is also in the mind of the Government, and the completion of the stand-by forces study would be an enormous step forward in the efficiency of United Nations peace-keeping. However, there is an unlimited number of possible other improvements. In training, basic military skills are roughly the same all over the world, but peace-keeping requires a special skill. There should be working teams of United Nations people carrying out the training in member countries. There should also be more teams of military and civilian observers.
Attention needs to be given to the qualifications of the United Nations staff in the new world in which peace-keeping will be a greater part of United Nations work. Some observers have commented on the contrast between the performance of United Nations staff in Somalia and Bosnia and the performance of the staff of NGOs and charities in those countries. The list of possible reforms is virtually endless; not least, nations which do not pay their financial debts to the United Nations must be mercilessly harried by every diplomatic means.
Finally, what changes are required in our own contribution to the United Nations peace-keeping? The Government have much to their credit here, but they have also made mistakes. I hear much about the lack of co-ordination between ODA and the Ministry of Defence in Bosnia. The financial relationships in peace-keeping between the ODA, the Ministry and the Foreign Office are totally incomprehensible—at least to me.
More important, when we look back to Options for Change, we see that serious mistakes were made. Compared with the RAF and the Navy, Army manpower was cut disproportionately. Within the Army, tank regiments should have borne heavier cuts than the infantry. Since then, the Ministry has made some limited redress; but it is still true that despite our Northern Ireland commitment, we should be in a position to make more infantry battalions available to the United Nations if we wished.
However, in the forces we have sent to Bosnia, we have set an example to the rest of the world. The forces arrived more promptly than those of other countries; they are the best forces with the best general and the best military band. I agree with the noble Lord. In addition, the Government's proposals to the Secretary-General are well considered and reflect our experience of successful peace-keeping.
However, what action has been taken on them? I hope that the Minister will reassure us when she replies. The proposals were submitted in July last year. What has happened since? What action have the Government taken to obtain the necessary decisions from the Secretary-General? I believe that those are questions to which the whole House would be glad to have answers.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, I know that the debate is chiefly concerned with the more general use of United Nations troops—and what more brilliant example could we have had than Bosnia in recent weeks under a British general? It is also concerned with the important issue of how those forces should be paid for. But I should like to concentrate more on Great Britain's rather unique position in all this, following what the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has just said.
As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, I do not think anything has impressed or caught our imagination more in the past few days than the stirring spectacle of thousands of Sarajevo citizens filling, in a joyous mood, the Olympic stadium in that war-torn city; and, while British light tanks and aptly named Warriors kept a watchful eye, being entertained by skydivers of the British Army landing dead on target in the middle of the pitch with the band of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards, in full home service order, playing at half time.
So much of this—not all, of course—came about not because of negotiations by politicians or delegates, but as a direct result of positive action by the United Nations, led by the British Army; often, I have to say, half dragging Ministers with their cautious and carefully worded ambivalence along with them. However, I must, of course, exclude the noble Baroness from that remark because I know that she always tries to be as positive with your Lordships' House as she possibly can. In that one event, our forces were able to display to the world their courage, their humanity, their professionalism, their sense of occasion and their immaculate and innate flair for ceremonial and pageantry. How proud we all ought to be and how conscious of the value of that priceless national asset which so many in the political world do their best to tamper with, to "cadre-ise", to rationalise and, if they possibly can, to privatise.
Should we not say to ourselves in connection with the United Nations forces: "We are uncommonly good at this sort of thing. Nobody can do it better"? We should take a lead in offering troops of quality for a range of situations with which the United Nations should properly concern itself, under the authority of the Security Council and where our forces will be particularly welcome.
Of course we should be reimbursed for what we provide. We cannot possibly carry the world on our shoulders. But it is the effectiveness of a United Nations intervention which should be uppermost in our minds. We should not become too obsessed about the numerical sharing out of the burden among some others who (as the Army would say, "No names, no pack drill") are often totally out of place or manifestly ineffective, and sometimes even downright dangerous.
As I have said many times before; what about the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas? I can think of no force which would give greater confidence to the peoples of former Yugoslavia—who still face each other suspiciously across the agreed demarcation line even under a full political settlement—than Gurkhas deployed between the various factions to see that no infringement took place, as they did so effectively in 682 Cyprus. I am quite certain that with the Gurkhas there, no infringement would take place. It is no good arguing, as some may, that we could not use the Gurkhas under such circumstances. I know that one noble Lord here present will recall a particular context in this respect, but I shall not go into it. It is no good arguing the matter on the grounds that they have not had experience of Warriors, or that they are Hindus, or whatever. They have already been deployed most successfully in Cyprus. They can be trained quickly to turn their hand to anything. The Royal Nepalese Army (their kinsmen) is already there. There is no one better than a Gurkha at taking up a neutral, well-ordered and disciplined stance in any conflict, whether it be motivated on ethnic, political or religious grounds. They would make an ideal British commitment to United Nations peace-keeping.
If, as I certainly hope, and as I am sure the noble Lord will hope, the world is to refer more and more problems to the United Nations, and if under the general heading of Agenda for Peace, United Nations operations to keep and perhaps even secure peace, as the UN has begun to do in Bosnia, are to be increasingly effective, then there is an urgent need, as both previous speakers said, to augment the Peace-keeping Operations Office in New York with military and civilian staff and to make it more immediately capable of planning, mounting and sustaining such operations. I am sure that the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence is well aware of that.
The United Nations would also need, if not a permanent standing force—I know that there is a certain amount of sensible opposition to that, although I think we could with advantage come to it as a result of the Standby Forces Review—at least short-notice forces which countries could make available to the Secretary-General, just as at the moment in this country we keep a spearhead battalion and an in-role parachute battalion, and an AMF(L) battalion group for national and NATO emergencies. They should be capable of peace enforcement operations—which does not apply to all the armies of the world.
Such forces could not conceivably cover all the situations that the peoples of the world may at one time or another wish to put on the plate of the United Nations. There would be a need for reinforcements and larger contingents from a wide range of nations to carry out tasks in disparate areas of the world, as in the Gulf War where they acted under the auspices of the United Nations, and the more direct United Nations operation in Somalia. Those short-notice forces would help the United Nations to react quickly, put forces on the ground early for reconnaissance, deterrence and protection of negotiators. They would also provide a chance to nip in the bud problems which may become all the more difficult the longer that they are allowed to fester. They would provide a firm base from which negotiations could be undertaken from a position of strength and not weakness.
The Front Line First Review, in trying to "civilianise" certain military elements that are vital to post-conflict resolution—such as engineers, engineering specialists, transport, medical units—is a threat to our ability to react effectively to that kind of situation. If we 683 have not tampered too much with the effectiveness of our military forces, and assuming that too much damage has not been done, we should approach the whole business of United Nations military forces in a truly positive manner. We should be fully aware that we have something special to offer. We should not the whole time be looking nervously over our shoulders.
How the costs are to be picked up will no doubt occupy the Treasury and the officials of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office for years to come. The point is that we have magnificent, instant-readiness forces—not forgetting the Brigade of Gurkhas—who could arrive quick ay, act professionally and humanely and make a real impact in enhancing United Nations control, if that has been properly authorised. Moreover, by doing so, we should be making a contribution that is not only appropriate to our status as a member of the Security Council, but which will also produce a feather in the cap of our foreign policy. As has been shown by General Rose, it is our command and control which may be needed and sought after as much as anything else.
Also we must not forget the air. There is no doubt that on the road to peace in Yugoslavia the mere threat of air attack—though I would have been the first person to be against using it unnecessarily—did a tremendous amount to get the peace process going.
The challenges and opportunities are immense. We must not be petty about this matter. It may be that this is in some ways our destiny, in the same way as it was with the Swiss and the Hanoverians in the 18th century. I believe that if we do this properly it will end up very much in our national interest.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, from this side of the House I should like to say how much I agree with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, just said. In particular, I join with him in sharing the pride, which I believe was shared throughout the nation, of seeing on television our own troops in the arena in Sarajevo. For the first time, I enjoyed seeing an item about Bosnia on television. It was of great benefit that we were able to see such a magnificent display. I also agree with the noble and gallant Lord about the use of the Gurkhas, who form such a magnificent regiment. They could do an enormous amount to contribute to achieving peace in Bosnia.
The House is also very much indebted to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for raising this important subject for debate. It is only when a closer look is given to the current role of the UN in its attempt to carry out its purposes under the charter,to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of agression",that it is possible to recognise the burdens that fall on that institution.
The problems that are faced today are very different from those faced when the charter was adopted in 1945 —and, indeed, when my noble friend served with distinction at the UN in 1948. At that time considerations were based on averting wars between 684 sovereign states and territorial invasions, such as occurred before the war in Albania and Ethiopia, arid in the case of the Second World War itself. The membership was 51, but I understand that it has now risen to 184 as a result of decolonisation and, more recently, fragmentation of the former USSR and the Balkans. No doubt it will he further increased.
Some noble Lords referred to the first 40 years of the UN's existence when there were 13 peace-keeping operations undertaken; now the number is 15. Soldiers were employed to maintain neutrality, for instance, on interstate borders, and were armed only for the purposes of self-defence, which limits the action. The first 40 years were also marked by the effects of the Cold War, which influenced the decision-making process, especially in the Security Council. There was decolonisation in many parts of the world, particularly Africa, and wars broke out in Korea (ending in 1953) and Vietnam.
Now, as has been said, we have moved from what was called the threat of war to what is recognised as a threat of turbulence. A larger number of conflict areas is the result of civil wars, destabilising minorities or internal political strife among leaderships. The provisions of the charter, specifically Chapters 6 and 7, have already been addressed by other noble Lords, as well as what was termed Chapter 61/2, so named by the late UN Secretary-General, Dag Harnmarskjbld, covering peace-keeping, which as such is not included in the charter.
The change from the 1960s and 1970s to the present day has been marked by a series of internecine conflicts which have combined to put heavy strains on the UN. The monitoring of border disputes, the presence of military observers to monitor and verify observance of cease-fire agreements and the presence of peace-keeping forces to protect the provision of humanitarian aid are among the many tasks now being undertaken.
The UN annual report for 1993 makes interesting reading. It contains information which reveals only the bare bones of the numerous and manifold tasks reflected in the statistics. With about 75,000 military personnel scattered throughout the globe, the figures are impressive. One can glean a measure of the enormity of the task facing the UN. At the time of publication of the report there were 16,000 military personnel in Cambodia from 26 countries, 350 (recently reduced) in Angola, about 250 in the Iraq Kuwait Observation Mission, and over 6,000 in Mozambique. There are troops in many other parts of the world, including about 25,000 in UNPROFOR from 33 countries. France and the UK have made a major contribution to UNPROFOR under Resolutions 743 and 758,to create conditions for peace and security required for the negotiation of a peaceful settlement for the former Republic of Yugoslavia".In all those cases very different demands are made on the armed forces with regard to their tasks: verification of cease-fire agreements; long-term stationing in a neutral buffer zone, as in Cyprus; dealing with aggressive border disputes, and assisting in peace-building measures as in Cambodia. All require different training and the ability to adapt to different climates and conditions. Many of those tasks would not be suitable 685 for conscripts, for instance, as opposed to volunteers. As we saw recently, it is not always possible immediately to raise the military personnel required to meet urgent demands, such as those of Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, which were made in order to hold and consolidate the positions achieved by his troops. They were essential to maintain the present improvements in services so ably restored in many instances by units of the Royal Engineers.
A further consideration is that it is no longer viable for any intervention on humanitarian grounds by armed forces other than on a multinational basis. In the Nicaragua case, which concerned the intervention of the USA in Nicaragua, the International Court of Justice confirmed that unilateral armed humanitarian intervention was not justifiable. On the other hand, there is evidence of the need for multinational intervention on the grounds of protection of civilian populations against gross violations of human rights, as in Bosnia. Justification for an intervention by armed forces into the territory of another member state without a request from the host state, on grounds of gross violation of human rights, is an issue which needs addressing.
At a recent conference on human rights and external intervention held at Ditchley Park, a conference which I had the honour to chair, it was generally recognised that the UN lacked the capacity for responding with sufficient speed and strength to the demands made on it. Every new situation made demands on the UN to create a new force, whether for peace-keeping or for enforcement. Clearly, speed was not easy. Various possibilities have been discussed: for example, to have a UN standing force or that some part of the armies in member states should be lined up ready at the disposal of the UN. That is unlikely in the present climate, in view of the cuts in defence expenditure under the so-called peace dividend.
The proposal, which is not unlike the proposal of the Secretary-General in his Agenda for Peace, would also mean contracting out operations, particularly using regional organisations such as NATO or WEU. There are political implications—for instance, arousing suspicion as to the reason for intervention—but they possibly could be overcome. There is also always the question of the interpretation of Article 2(7) of the charter with regard to interference in the internal affairs of a state.
What of the future? The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in his report of June 1992 set out some interesting ideas about how the task of the UN could be achieved. He proposed to earmark forces to be made available to the Security Council under Article 43. But that would seem very unlikely, considering that most member states are unwilling to face that kind of expenditure. It could possibly only be considered in relation to the USA, though there is now a tendency even there to be more concerned with domestic affairs rather than the international scene. The only country which could probably provide the right number of troops is Russia, as my noble friend Lady Park of 686 Monmouth chillingly reminded us recently in the debate on defence, where there are about 2 million troops in a standing army.
When peaceful measures fail, as identified in Chapter 6, the Security Council has to revert to Article 42 to take military action. Forces to implement the task of peace enforcement and to carry out peace-building measures will clearly be needed now as well as in the future, whether in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Somalia or Cambodia, to say nothing of prospects in other parts of the world's trouble spots. As the world changes, so must the means of the UN to contribute to maintaining and securing peace. The measures available to the UN must remain flexible.
It has been questioned whether the military staff committee can contribute to the organisation, co-ordination and planning needed to fulfil such needs. So far it has been quite clearly totally inadequate. It is an inadequate mechanism, inappropriate to the demands being made on our armed forces under the command of the United Nations. This is an area for professionals and I hesitate to comment at all. But I should like to support very much the Secretary-General's proposal for a pool of trained specialists to be available outside the strictly military area. That could be of great assistance. It could be readily available to meet some of the more urgent needs in conflict situations. That proposal was very strongly supported by Sir Anthony Parsons in a recent article on the UN which he wrote in relation to peace-keeping.
I should like to say a few words on the second part of my noble friend's Motion relating to the finance of the armed forces. He explained to the House how this bizarre method of financing peace-keeping is arranged at the year end, with the five permanent members of the Security Council contributing more than other member states. But we are seeing a closer concentration on domestic issues in member states and an unwillingness to bear burdens of expenditure outside internal financing. I need only mention the high cost of welfare in this country and other countries in Europe to deplore the amount that we are spending on our own Armed Forces, which are our strength.
The contributions which should go to the UN, some of which remain unpaid, are modest if the UN succeeds, as it is now attempting to succeed, in its major objective of maintaining peace and security. It is perhaps not always recognised that the cost of peace-keeping falls not only on the permanent members of the Security Council, but also on those who are contributing troops. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy rightly questioned how much is now being paid for British troops serving under UN auspices which is not being refunded to the United Kingdom; not only for accounting reasons but also because of a failure by other member states to pay their contribution to the UN and therefore for repayment to be made to member states. I would consider it appropriate if certain countries with a high GDP, such as Japan and Germany whose constitutions prevent them from contributing to the armed forces, also undertook additional burdens for peace-keeping initiatives in their national budgets, 687 especially considering that they benefit as much as any other nation from the maintenance of peace and security throughout the world.
In conclusion, I thank my noble friend again for this opportunity to look at what is clearly an important issue for the United Kingdom and the world as a whole. It gives us all an opportunity to pay our respects and express our great gratitude and admiration to our forces, who serve us so well wherever they may be throughout the world.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is certainly timely. He is particularly well qualified to speak on these subjects and, personally, I find myself in agreement with a lot of what he said and with what was said by previous speakers, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Elles.
But I wish the Motion had been set more widely and in a different way. l am very uneasy about the future of the United Nations Organisation. I am sure that others feel the same. I believe that the time has come when this I-louse should debate the whole UN structure and its necessary adaptation to likely political and military developments in the world.
In many quarters the prestige of the United Nations has fallen—the TV necessarily contributed to that. The Secretary General tries to satisfy too many conflicting constituents, and it is all too easy to criticise the organisation, the quality of the staff and its administration. The present charter was put together almost 50 years ago and the greatest credit must be given to those British negotiators like the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who contributed so much to it. In the Chamber we suffer today from the absence of Lord Caradon, who was a worthy champion of the United Nations. I am sure he would have had a great deal to say today, though I think he was going too far when he once said, "There is nothing wrong with the charter, only with its members".
That may have been correct in the days when he led the British delegation in New York. But I think it is no longer true today. The world has changed and is now changing so fundamentally that consideration must be given urgently to thoughts of revision—and perhaps substantial revision—of the charter. Many will say that sensible revisions can only be achieved by degrees. It is right to say that in recent years the United Kingdom has successfully taken useful initiatives, and previous speakers spoke of those. There can be no doubt that the Foreign Office department dealing with those problems is both enterprising and efficient. Those of us who watched on television Sir David Hannay, our representative in New York, will have seen that he is a man to be applauded.
When one looks ahead to the near and more distant future, one must ask whether tinkering with the charter and the way we do business will be enough. Years ago I heard the late Lord Stewart of Fulham suggest to Mr. Gromyko that some modifications were desirable. The Soviet minister replied rather wearily that if Lord Stewart had known personally how difficult it had been 688 in 1944 to reach agreement, he would not be making such suggestions. I wonder whether Mr. Gromyko's views are still right.
Looking ahead we must anticipate, inter alia, unwelcome calls for frontier adjustments between countries in the world—not just small countries but countries which are rapidly growing more popular, stronger economically and militarily with deadly weapons which they will not find it necessary to buy abroad. Those countries will be in Africa. the Middle East, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. In recent times, we have seen the United Nations defied successfully by comparatively small countries. Methods used by the UN over the past 50 years are likely to be totally inadequate in the future.
I am proposing a new look at how discipline in the world can best be asserted. It may be that the only way is by short steps, but a new generation may be able to think their way round the problem as their fathers did in 1944. It is time to try. Maybe the Government are applying their mind to the matter. I hope that the Minister will tell us if that is so.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Vivian
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for bringing this debate to the attention of your Lordships today. I must also apologise because I feel that I shall not contribute as fully as I would have liked as I only recently returned from abroad and had little time to research the subject. However, I should like to talk today about the ways of improving the military aspect of United Nations peace-keeping. My credentials for that stem from a period of service from 1975 to 1976 when I wore the light blue beret and served in the United Nations force in Cyprus, and from the very significant direct logistical support that Headquarters Land Forces Cyprus provided —and still provide—to United Nations forces in Cyprus when I was Chief of Staff there from 1984 to 1987.
In this debate, I only intend to cover some aspects of how employment of the armed forces in the service of United Nations peace-keeping can be improved. I have left the problems of allocating costs equitably to other speakers as that is a long and complex subject of which I have little knowledge. However, I should like to take this opportunity to draw to your Lordships' attention the fact that the financial system within the United Nations requires urgent attention, otherwise the United Nations may cease to exist.
In the 40 years to 1988 the UN authorised 13 peace-keeping operations; in the five years since then a further 15 have been authorised. During 1992 alone the number of total troops engaged in UN operations rose from 12,000 to 50,000, and even that figure by now must have increased by our own recent contributions. Those forces are employed as instruments of conflict control, and each specific operation requires a separate mandate.
I wish to refer to several main principles which are essential reforms to make if improvements are to be achieved in the employment of peace-keeping forces. To illustrate why those improvements are so necessary, I should like to draw to your Lordships' attention the 689 fact that at the time of the UN Gulf operation no state had concluded agreements with the Security Council to earmark forces for UN peace keeping; the insignificant military staff committee of the United Nations had held nothing but token meetings for decades; and the council's ability to conduct the simplest operation was untested and indeed in severe doubt. This state of affairs clearly encourages a lack of credibility in the UN, and to remedy this situation it is essential that a military planning secretariat be established so that improvements and reforms can be made.
I now come to some of the principles concerning the necessary improvements for peace-keeping forces. They are not new and I believe that Her Majesty's Government and the United Nations have discussed them in general terms. The Minister for the Armed Forces in another place replied to a question on 14th January that the Secretary-General identified the need to strengthen the United Nations capacity to conduct peace-keeping support operations, and invited member states to make proposals in that regard. The United Kingdom's reply included suggestions for reinforcing the UN planning mechanisms. The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to be actively involved in discussions aimed at taking these suggestions forward. In addition, the United Kingdom is co-operating fully with the United Nations stand-by forces planning team. But I ask: what has happened to the agreed proposals that emanated from the chief United Nations peace-keeper's conference last November?
I should like to discuss the proposals for improvement under three distinct headings: the creation of a military planning secretariat; the establishment of United Nations peace-keeping colleges; and the conduct and requirements for a United Nations peace-keeping force. First, the military planning secretariat. In this connection, I should also like to pay tribute, as my noble friend Lord Campbell has already done, to the dedicated work carried out by General Sir David Ramsbotham, who has been at the forefront of discussions with UN military organisations. He has a wealth of knowledge on UN military operations even though he was not a previously appointed UN force commander. However, he attended the UN meeting of force commanders and former force commanders chaired by the chief UN peace-keeper, Mr. Kofi Annan, which I mentioned earlier and from which stemmed many excellent proposals. With his current knowledge he might be an ideal person to second to the United Nations to form a military planning secretariat.
It is clear that the present military staff committee holds little clout, if any, and does little more than monitor current operations. Without a strong military planning secretariat and a robust director-general, proposals made at the New York meeting of force commanders are liable to fall prey to UN bureaucracy. In my view, the first step to be taken is to do away with the military staff committee and create a strong military planning secretariat which would be responsible for contingency planning, humanitarian aid, mounting and 690 sustaining operations, intelligence, training and logistics. However, there is little point in setting up such an organisation unless the charter is considered to be paramount, universally accepted and equivalent to acting within the law.
Political will must also always exist to provide the money, men and machinery. Assurances should be given that politicians will make sure that the military can provide the necessary resources of properly trained men from within national defence assets and that the military will ensure that there are earmarked forces available in sufficient strength and properly trained. This political will which is so essential will require co-ordination of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Overseas Development Administration with overall ministerial direction. Mandates in the future need to be better, practical and achievable. Earmarked stand-by forces should be capable of rapid deployment on similar alert notices to our current spearhead battalion and the AMF. The UK Inspector General for Doctrine and Training should co-ordinate and inspect all aspects of rostering and training of UK forces for UN operations. UN doctrine should be briefly incorporated into the junior and standard staff college syllabuses, and there must be inter-operability of command, control and communication procedures.
Within the British Army 90 per cent. of all UN specific requirements are already inherent within normal regimental training, and our existing experience from UN peace-keeping operations and Northern Ireland tours of duty help us in this respect. Only a few weeks' special training has to be delegated to the subject of UN peace-keeping operations prior to deployment, and this is sustainable within our existing structure and organisations. Within post-conflict reconstruction, disaster relief, securing safe havens and patrolling no-man's land areas, there may well be a role for the Territorial Army and reserve forces. In any future United Nations operations, there will be a requirement for a closer interface between the United Nations special representative, the force commander and the humanitarian aid representative.
I should now like to turn briefly to United Nations peace-keeping colleges of which I believe there should be two: a senior officers UN peace-keeping college based in New York as part of headquarters UN to inform senior officers of the workings of the UN and the systems and functions of peace-keeping; and a second peace-keeping college to be established in the UK on a non-public cost and privatised basis, which would be self-sustaining with the exception of its requirement for accommodation. Students of the rank of lieutenant-colonel and below would be drawn from all UN countries and would be involve in general information about the UN but would concentrate on the military aspects of peace-keeping duties and responsibilities at battalion and company level. Staff to run these two colleges could be found from the many recently retired officers with perhaps a retired British Army general running the New York college and a retired brigadier running the UK college. This would avoid depleting the remaining small number of serving officers. Surely in 691 this instance the United Kingdom would once again be seen to be taking the initiative and a lead on UN peace-keeping operations which should enhance our reputation and reinforce our strength as a member of the Security Council.
I come now to some of the improvements that should be made to the conduct of peace-keeping forces when employed. I do not have time to cover all the 20 points that were recommended at the UN meeting of force commanders in November last year, but I will touch on a few of the most important proposals agreed between the chief UN peacekeeper, Mr. Annan, and the force commanders.
There should be a clear and uninterrupted chain of command between the United Nations headquarters and the force commander, who must be given full operational command. A military council should be formed which would be responsible for the overall strategy and any change in its direction. The mandate from the Security Council must be clear and as practicable as possible with the political and military objectives clearly defined. National governments must not intervene in the agreed and established chain of command. Intelligence capability is indispensable and the force commander should determine his intelligence requirements when advised of his mission. In this connection, it is essential that the force commander participates in the formation of his multinational headquarters from the very start. A United Nations standing force is not feasible and is intensely wasteful in manpower. A UN roster for participation in peace-keeping, perhaps devised on a regional basis, should be agreed by nations with a limit that no country undertakes more than three years' peace-keeping at a time before relief by another member state.
In conclusion, I believe that a strong military planning secretariat should be created; senior and junior United Nations peace-keeping colleges should be established; and that the recommendations stemming from the force commanders' meeting in New York should become doctrine for the conduct of future peace-keeping operations, thus improving the ways in which armed service. are employed in the service of the United Nations.
Finally, I would stress that there is little risk that the United Kingdom could become involved in a conflict which is not in the interests of the country because of our tight of veto in the Security Council. I should also remind your Lordships that the deployment of UN troops is not always the cure for problems, and that there will be very few British troops available for peace-keeping duties in the future unless the Government cease the rundown of the British Army and agree to an established figure of around 135,000 troops in the future.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Craig of Rainey
My Lords, I too welcome this opportunity to consider ways in which we can best contribute to an ever-increasing operational and quasi-military role for the United Nations. The noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Vivian, have both dramatically illustrated this growth. But I am 692 leaving it to others to debate the political importance; the value to world security of United Nations efforts and the variety of ways in which that body should act and be structured.
But when it comes to the military contribution and the roles of armed forces in support of the United Nations, there are a number of pluses and minuses to consider. For the British armed forces, our professional career servicemen and our long experience in peace-keeping and active operations at long distance from our permanent bases can only be matched, if at all, by two or three other nations in the world.
As a permanent member of the Security Council we have thus a unique experience and responsibility which over the years we have sought most successfully to fulfil. Whether as a very long-standing contributor to UNFICYP or as a major player in the Gulf War (in support of United Nations resolutions) we have carried a considerable burden over many years. But that burden was found from much larger forces than we field today or can expect to field in the years ahead.
It is therefore becoming more difficult to contribute and sustain additional commitments. Understandably, with well over £20 billion committed annually to defence, there is an expectation that the forces will and can respond to every pressing operational commitment. But to sustain that we must also retain a capability at home to train and bring on the next intake, and so on, year after recruiting year.
We cannot indefinitely rely on today's front line personnel who will pass on to civilian life or higher appointments. So in reviewing our involvement, we must also make allowance for training and developing the replacements for our current front line. Widely now, we see and hear of the excellent contribution and the high morale of those on active operations in Bosnia which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Braman, and others have most eloquently spelt out this afternoon. But there is still an enormous challenge and novelty too in that tragic environment.
But good as we are at getting things moving and setting a hopeful pattern for the future, we must also be wary of becoming locked into more and more commitments. Our professional experience and the lessons of past operations should encourage us to continue to take a part of the initial burden, but then to seek to reduce our active in-theatre involvement as the situation stabilises. I hope that we remember this in Bosnia.
It is for others then to shoulder a share of a continuing commitment. But if they are to do so in more than a most superficial way, many countries which possess the numbers of men must adjust their defence forces to allow them to support their own contingents away from home without having to rely on others for airlift, logistic support and for repairs in the field. Such changes and adjustments are becoming more pressing against the background of our own reducing force levels and the growth of UN-sponsored operations.
Even during the Gulf War there were a number of key capabilities which we had fielded in-theatre which could not be supported by the training of replacements. The war was short; our casualties and loss of equipment 693 were mercifully low. But faced with high attrition rates and casualties, we could have found ourselves in great difficulty. That operation and the Falklands conflict a decade before, clearly demonstrated that there is now a very thin line dividing success from tragedy. We must not sail into a future tragedy by spreading our limited resources too thinly or by neglecting the need to train and sustain our active forces for the future.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lord Geddes
My Lords, after such a galaxy of military and diplomatic talent, I feel both simultaneously out of my league and out of my depth. But that does not prevent me thanking my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for introducing a very important and —as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, described it—very topical and well-timed debate.
The political peace-keeping role of the United Nations has been overtaken by events. Increasingly the United Nations is asked to make and enforce peace—not just to keep it. It is like the National Health Service: it has become a victim of its own success. The more it does, the greater the demand, which appears to be limitless. There are now no fewer than 26 areas of the world where there are reportedly conflicts requiring a United Nations presence. Jane's Defence Weekly has identified a total of 73 potential flash-points around the world which may explode at any time. Half of those 26 peace-keeping operations have started in the past five years. As many noble Lords have said already this evening, as presently constituted, the UN peace-keeping structure is simply unable to respond adequately to the demands made on it.
The problems are serious and manifold. A military operation which permits 5,000 Pakistani troops to land in Mogadishu without telephones, walkie-talkies, flak-jackets, tear gas or even batons; which takes months to give permission to write off one badly damaged Land Rover in Croatia; where top-level decisions can only be taken Monday to Friday during office hours, is clearly ready for administrative reform. An organisation whose costs have shot up from 400 million US dollars to well over 3 billion US dollars needs rationalised financial control. An association in which fewer than 10 out of about 175 members pay their full remittance must examine its future very carefully. It appears to lack coherence and strategy, as the Commons' Defence Committee found in its report of June 1993.
Although possibly somewhat extreme in what is a very balanced and thorough report, nevertheless one comment in that report is worth quoting:It sometimes seems as if the only unifying factor in UN peace-keeping forces is the colour of the headgear worn".I make no apologies for having sounded more than somewhat negative to date. I have tried to set the scene as to what I believe can be done with the UN without great difficulty and what is very important if the UN is to achieve and to continue to achieve, a role within the world. There are solutions but they must be found urgently. Britain, as one of the fully paid-up nations, should be at the forefront of a movement for reforming 694 the ways in which armed forces are employed in the UN service. As we have already heard from those who are much better qualified than I, Britain's forces are professional, flexible and better equipped than most. They are thoroughly experienced in NATO and UN operations and capable of adapting and reacting quickly as events demand.
By contrast, it must be said that too many UN operations are now attempted by troops who are ill-prepared for the task that they are deployed to undertake. Doctrinally disparate, inappropriately trained, inadequately equipped and suffering from confused command and control relationships, they need perhaps as much effort to be integrated into a cohesive force as they do to tackle the UN task itself.
Communications can break down for reasons as obvious as language. Two fundamentals need to be treated as priorities. It is vital that, once the political decision has been taken, the execution of that decision is delegated to the military by way of clear and unambiguous instructions. The UN Secretary-General, however brilliant he or she may be, cannot and must not also be the military commander. As crises occur, neither the UN nor the military can adapt easily to a developing situation. Someone must be available at the UN at all times of the day and night to take decisions so that forces' commanders can be given the necessary political authority to enable them to carry out their military objectives. Inevitably, this may mean that there should be provision for the Secretary-General, when absent, to be able to delegate the required power. Rapid reaction can quite literally be vital.
A constructive and imaginative approach is needed particularly in the area of cost sharing where, as other noble Lords have said, the cracks have become gaping holes that can bring down the whole edifice. As I believe my noble friend Lord Vivian said, sending troops is not always the only or best contribution that a member state can make. It would in my view be infinitely more satisfactory to assess contributions according to each country's capabilities, thus making the prospects of recovering the deficit and running an efficient organisation more realistic. Some countries are able to provide specialist equipment, as was the case with Japan's contribution of landcruisers and domestic vehicles during the Gulf War. Others have representative terrain, such as jungle, mountains or desert, where it will be particularly beneficial for troops to prepare and train for operations at no cost or risk. Strategically placed countries can provide basing rights for aircraft, hospitals or refugees; yet others can offer civilian-based logistic support, such as the allocation of merchant shipping or airlift.
The possibilities for a more equitable and efficient structure are many if not endless, but vision is required to initiate them. However, all of this must be underpinned by a restructured UN secretariat, with specialists capable of providing informed and responsive direction, co-ordinated with nations and other UN agencies. With a fully co-ordinated military structure, commanders would be free to conduct operations without constant national or international consultation.
695 In 1962 Dean Acheson made the famous comment that Britain had lost an empire and not yet found a role. Some 30 years later perhaps she has now found a role within the UN. I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that it is precisely because Britain had an empire and because of her wide experience on the world stage and the prominent role that she has played in so many of the globe's greatest theatres that she is uniquely qualified to seize the initiative and press other UN members to redefine the peace-keeping strategy and use effective tactics to ensure its continued existence and success.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy decided to raise this issue. I feel it has up to now been rather neglected. Indeed, I believe that the Minister will agree that it transpired from a series of Questions for Written Answer that I put to the Government last year on the linkage between military endeavours by the United Nations and the costs thereof, that there was little information available, let alone a realisation of the lacunae in the organisation of these matters.
During most of my youth the United Nations had a pretty had press. It was not very long after its foundation that the focus of attention switched from a deadlocked UN Security Council to NATO and the Warsaw Pact. That was where everything seemed to be happening, with one or two exceptions. It was with the fall of the Berlin Wall which signified the end of the Cold War that many of us began to hope that the United Nations would be able to fulfil the role intended by its founding fathers.
I was particularly interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said about the need perhaps to rethink the role, functions and organisation of the United Nations. I believe that has much relevance to this Motion.
The Early success of the Gulf War gave good publicity to the United Nations and the kind of thing that it ought to be doing. But equally a failure of military intervention damages the credibility of the UN. Even more damage is done by the threat of intervention which turns out to be bluff. Bluff is really milk which nourishes dictators. I believe that we need to give a great deal more thought to the choice of where and when to intervene.
I think that there are perhaps six criteria to be considered. First, the need for a cause that can be widely accepted as just. An easy example is the invasion of one member of the United Nations by another. Secondly, the need for an identifiable enemy—an enemy that the television viewing public around the world can identify as someone who is evil and should be dealt with. Thirdly, the need for a general agreement within the United Nations and Security Council cover. The Security Council and indeed the UN in general is perhaps the one remaining area where the traditional art of diplomacy can still be practised. I believe that Britain has been extremely lucky in the calibre of its representatives at the United Nations at crucial times. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I would also refer to Sir Anthony 696 Parsons, Sir Crispin Tickell, and also Sir David Hannay who is there today. We have always ensured that we have the finest of our diplomats in what is a crucial diplomatic role. Fourthly, in deciding whether or not to intervene the right physical terrain is crucial. If we engage in the wrong terrain it is likely that there will be a military failure, however good the planning. Fifthly, we must have the resources available. Sixthly, there must be a clear objective which, when achieved, enables the military operation to be discontinued.
The Gulf was ideal for all of this. There was an invasion by Saddam, who was a very easy enemy. We had good diplomacy. We also had the desert which was good for hi-tech warfare of the sort that the United Nations could use. I was in the United States in December 1990 when the question arose whether or not there would be a war. I remember that in particular the financial people to whom I spoke were terribly worried at the prospect of another Vietnam. I was able to reassure them that the crucial difference between Vietnam and Arabia was the terrain. Finally, of course, we were able to disengage at the right time.
I believe that we have to look beyond those rather obvious criteria to the kinds of things where perhaps United Nations military intervention is not appropriate. Though I know that this is very controversial, I am doubtful whether the United Nations should intervene in civil wars. It is exceedingly difficult to know which side one should be on. I am afraid that Yugoslavia has demonstrated that. Although we may now be able to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, it has been a very risky performance so far. Equally, I do not believe that United Nations troops should be used in what in my National Service days was called "aid to the civil power". I do not believe that that is a role for United Nations forces. Nor do I believe that the UN's military role is an appropriate means of enabling humanitarian aid to reach those for whom it is intended. There is every likelihood that that will cause as many problems as it solves. That is the strong lesson that comes through from interviews with aid workers in the Yugoslav theatre.
To say that politicians should ignore television when deciding when and where to intervene is hard. But there is no doubt that it is seductive for politicians to seek to meet public demand, outrage and anxiety as portrayed through the media. I obviously do not blame the media, but we should remember the fiasco of Somalia, which has cost the US £1.3 billion. There the Americans were lured in by television and made to leave as a result of television showing the consequences.
Clearly we must separate the provision of and payment for military forces. There are probably half a dozen criteria for deciding who is best suited to act as a military force in a UN role. Obviously experience is tremendously valuable. Troops who have never done such a thing before are likely to make mistakes which may be tragic and fatal to the success of the operation. Coupled with that is the professional skill of troops fulfilling such a role. Courage goes without saying. Discipline is also very important. I am afraid that not all UN military forces from around the world have equal discipline. Of course, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Vivian and others, good, efficient staff work is 697 crucial. Finally—this is an aspect of discipline, but it goes beyond it—real integrity must be shown by the armed forces which intervene.
I of course believe—the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, made this clear—that British troops are outstanding in meeting all those criteria and in the contribution that they can make. I hope that we can expand our forces considerably. The UK forces are now only some 275,000 strong as against France's 412,000, the United States' 1.7 million and the some 2 million strong Russian forces. In each case we are talking about members of the Security Council. Our seat as a veto member of the Security Council gives us a crucial role because it means that if we were to provide forces in a big way for such operations we would not, almost by definition, be put in the position of intervening in a cause of which we did not approve, because, of course, intervention has to have the sanction of the Security Council.
The cost of the UN's military operations is surprisingly low. The current 14 assignments, occupying some 80,000 troops, cost about 5.3 billion dollars a year. I say that it is low in relation to national defence budgets, even in relation to our own defence budget, but especially in relation to the American defence budget. It is sad therefore that the Americans have decided to use the withholding of payment to the UN's peace-keeping budget as a means of expressing their displeasure. I can sympathise with them. We have heard from many speakers of the shambles that exists at certain levels of the UN. That must be frustrating if one is, as the Americans are, one of the main paymasters. But it is not justified and sensible for the Americans to withhold about 1 billion dollars when their own military expenditure is some 250 billion dollars.
The cost of interventions is often not high. I believe that it is surprisingly low. The additional cost of the Falklands war was £1.8 billion. That is only about 7.5 per cent. of our annual defence budget. By today's standards that was a major war. It was certainly a major success. I would argue that it did a great deal for British prestige. It also did a great deal for world peace in that it fulfilled the criterion of not allowing illegal international action. Our expenditure on the Gulf War was £2.4 billion, of which we were repaid some 87 per cent., mainly from those countries whose interests benefited from the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. I believe that at the moment we are not receiving back our just share of expenditure.
We must rethink and give a much higher profile to the peace-keeping budget. With that must go, as other noble Lords have suggested, a rethinking of the organisation of peace-keeping. I do not know whether we necessarily want a standing force, but some form of rolling five-year contract for certain countries to provide forces—I hope that Britain will play a leading part—would make a very real contribution.
This afternoon's debate is in no sense the end of the discussion. I hope that the debate which my noble friend initiated will be followed by a great deal of discussion in academic, military and international circles. We must 698 get this thing right if we are not to lose the opportunity of keeping the UN at the centre of the world peace process.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for not putting my name down, and for speaking in the gap in the list of speakers; but I returned from Buffalo only on Monday, and yesterday was the AGM of the War Widows Association of Great Britain, and I did not think that there would be time to write a proper speech, and there was not. Noble Lords have often told me never to open my mouth unless I felt I would burst if I kept it shut. I would not wish to inconvenience your Lordships with any untoward incident, so I shall only stand up, try to speak up, and shut up.
I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for introducing this subject at a most telling moment, and we have had some very powerful and thought-provoking speeches. All of us who heard the late Lord Cheshire in his prophetic and evocative maiden speech must realise that our splendid record with the United Nations, and particularly recently in Bosnia, has shown the world the magnificent calibre of our troops, and possibly the way ahead for our Army, without diminishing it altogether.
Particularly I should like to speak of the colour and splendour of our military bands. Last Saturday when I returned the Fort Niagara flag to its original home at the fort, we had a very moving service. The fort was captured by British forces in 1813, and as soon as they had captured the fort, they climbed on the roof, and played the march of the British Grenadiers. This was heard across the Niagara River, and was the signal for the rest of the Army to cross. They played this music again on Saturday with fifes and drums. In Sarajevo we have had the amazing spectacle of the Coldstream Guards band, and we have all been moved by it.
Our forces are the jewel in our crown—it is possible that by sharing the costs with the United Nations this may be our contribution to the future peace of the world.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I too apologise to your Lordships for rising now without putting down my name. To be frank, I thought that the debate would last longer, and I did not put my name down because I did not think that I would be here at the end. As the debate has apparently proceeded rather more quickly than the powers that be anticipated, I have not been discouraged from adding just a sentence or two.
I should like to make three points. First, there is the question of the future of the UN which was raised, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. I agree entirely that we should not be reluctant to discuss and to raise this matter. Indeed, we should be positive. There are many mutterings about our place on the UN Security Council. Some come from Europe, perhaps because it is thought that in the new European Union it would be more proper for Europe as a whole to be represented on the Security Council. That is an arguable case. Other mutterings come from countries such as Japan—I have 699 heard them at international gatherings—which believes that there should be a revision of the Security Council because the old system of five permanent members is long outdated and should be replaced.
If we are not careful we shall be put on the defensive in respect of these issues. We shall look as though we are merely trying to defend a seat that we acquired as a result of our efforts during the war and which is outdated. If we wish to preserve the influence, which is so just and so welcome in the rest of the world, it is for us to take an initiative on a matter that is of supreme importance to the United Nations.
I have been most heartened by today's debate. It is necessary for this country and this House to consider what should be the general approach and then to take a political initiative. We in this House should seek to raise these questions and argue them clearly and openly. What better hook could we hang them on than the kind of debate that we have had today? It would mean a permanent member of the Security Council opening up a most important debate on the future of the United Nations and the role that it can expect to play in the world' s future.
The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to the United States. I am glad that he did so because it has been a missing piece in today's debate. We all understand that it is difficult, if not impossible, for the United Nations to act in a peace-keeping role—I do not speak of a political role—unless the logistics, communications and other services of the United States are placed at its disposal.
When after the Kuwaiti war President Bush spoke of the new world order I hoped that he meant that the United States would change the attitude that it has held for many years towards the United Nations. We all know that in many ways the United States has disregarded the United Nations as an ineffective instrument. In many instances, the United States has been right. However, when President Bush uttered those words I hoped that we should see something new.
President Clinton was then elected on a domestic platform and the eyes of America were turned to important domestic problems which have yet to be solved. I see in President Clinton's latest approaches that he is beginning to realise that he cannot separate the United States from what is happening on the world's international scene. With the increasing experience that comes to an Administration after exposure to such issues, it is possible that the Administration will look at them through new eyes.
My second point is that when the Government have thought what is to be the approach—my third point is that they should think it out—we should embark on a political move in conjunction with the United States. I see no difficulty in achieving a consensus. Through international discussions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred, we should put the utmost pressure on the United States to achieve a common approach on this matter.
In saying that, I do not neglect the important problems that we shall have with China and Russia; for example, in respect of civil rights and the circumstances in which we can intervene when a civil war is taking 700 place or when civil rights are in danger. We shall have great difficulty with China and other countries. Russia will have her own problems. However, the five permanent members of the Security Council are sufficiently related to the rest of the world to recognise that the present system of the United Nations is not as effective as it could be. I do not intend to rehearse all the problems that have been enumerated today. We all know them.
As a result of a heartening debate such as this, the British Government could take the initiative to try to set the world on course for that new world order; the new course which President Bush referred to immediately at the end of the Kuwaiti war. We have a role to play. As a result of our history, the tendency of British governments and the British people is to look outwards and to try to solve problems that have arisen as a result of our worldwide connections. We are capable of trying to settle these particular issues.
As regards the form in which changes in the United Nations should take place, that is a matter for discussion. I was impressed with what the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, had to say. If I had to make my contribution in one sentence, having thought about the matter for some time, I should strongly support his idea of a military planning committee. I should also like to see a skeleton United Nations force which could hold everything together in terms of planning. It should be backed by earmarked forces from the member states, which are of a balanced composition, in order to make up a force that could be assembled. That at least is my amateurish approach to the matter.
Finally, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. He and I have pursued the subject for a long time and I am grateful to him for raising it today. He must be most encouraged by its reception. I apologise to your Lordships for intervening.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Holme of Cheltenham
My Lords, this has been an outstanding debate. We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for leading us down this path today. The debate has been outstanding not least because of the wisdom and experience of noble Lords who have spoken. Although it is invidious to distinguish any particular speech, I too refer to the notably stirring speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. He reflected the pride that we all feel in the role of our troops in Bosnia.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, was right to remind us that there is a wider context which is to some extent American bound. It is a short time since the heady days of the new world order and the pax Americana, since the end of the Cold War and the success of the operation in the Gulf. We have been forced to realise that the world is more dangerous, diverse and difficult than we then thought. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, did well to remind us of that.
We must look to the United Nations as the principal agent, however imperfect, for supranational concerted action. There has been one recurring theme in the debate; that whether it is for peace-making or 701 peace-keeping purposes, the prowess and professionalism of the British Armed Forces can make a contribution to those efforts. Furthermore, it is right that there should be a reasonable attribution and recovery of costs. For instance, your Lordships will know that, although it is European and not United Nations, Britain already contributes more than 50 per cent. of the cost of the Rapid Reaction Force and, if anything, that percentage is rising. Therefore, we are right to consider the issue of cost recovery. If there is to be reimbursement, on what basis should it be made? I hope that it will not be made on the basis of performance related pay.
Perhaps I may digress from the main thrust of the debate to refer to the statement made yesterday by Mr. Jeremy Hanley that the Government are considering introducing performance related pay for the armed services. Many of your Lordships were concerned, as we were on these Benches, about that idea for the police force. To put it mildly, it seemed foolish. If it is foolish to introduce performance related pay for the police force, how much more ludicrous would it be to introduce it for the armed forces?
How would performance be measured? Would a warrant officer's pay depend upon how many privates he placed on a charge? Would productivity be measured by how many rounds had been fired in one minute or possibly, after the defence cut backs, will it be measured by how few rounds had been fired in one minute? Would marching faster than the rest of the platoon or flying faster than the rest of the squadron command a bonus?
The armed services have had a way of rewarding achievement which has worked very well for us over the centuries. If people are able, they are promoted more quickly. If they are outstandingly brave and gallant, they receive a medal. Why should we try to impose the ethos of the market and competition in a situation where it does not obtain? Internal competition does not fit well with an ethos of shared risk and common purpose. The mood and ethos of our armed forces should remain one for all and all for one, rather than the devil take the hindmost.
I do not expect the Minister to be able to respond to that matter, especially since it arose only yesterday. However, I have always greatly admired the noble Baroness's common sense and I ask her to relay the fact that I—and I suspect other noble Lords—have misgivings about that line of thinking.
I revert now to the main thrust of the debate. My noble friend Lord Mayhew and the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, in an outstandingly thoughtful speech, both had in common the idea of forming some kind of standing strategy and planning group at the United Nations so that we can be prepared, and so that as well as politicians speaking under politicians, generals can speak under generals. We need such a focus if we are not always to be caught on the back foot by the range of instances which the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, described.
702 It may be premature to think about a standing United Nations force although I hope that we shall eventually reach that point. However, the first step must be to be prepared and to be able to plan properly.
Reference to the standing force leads me to the mention made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, of the Brigade of Gurkhas. I must declare an interest because nearly 40 years ago I served with the Brigade of Gurkhas in Malaya during the emergency. I make one compelling argument for their deployment in the manner suggested by the noble and gallant Lord. In my opinion, Gurkhas would make extremely good peace-keepers as well as peace-makers because, rather like the old-fashioned Bobby, I found that their mere presence had a wonderfully sobering effect on people contemplating misdeeds of any description. Instead of subjecting the Brigade of Gurkhas to death by a thousand cuts over decades, I urge the Government to lead from strength and use the Gurkhas to help to keep the international peace. Perhaps the Minister will say whether the Government have thought about the proposal made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall.
I believe that the request that we have made consistently from these Benches for a full defence review becomes more and more timely. Sadly, we have seen in Northern Ireland in recent months that there will be no reduction in the demands on our armed services, as many of us might have hoped, either in the short term or, I suspect, in the mid-term. We shall continue to require substantial support to aid the police in Northern Ireland. There will be further demands made on us in other places similar to those made on us in Bosnia. As the thin red line stretches into the thin blue line, the Ministry of Defence must be extremely careful not to make demands on our commanders which they are not able to fulfil. I urge the Government to take a comprehensive look at the likely pattern of our future obligations, including those crucial United Nations obligations of which noble Lords have spoken this afternoon. The Government should do their sums again.
I believe that it is not a time for defence cuts and, as my noble friend Lord Mayhew said, in particular it is not a time for cuts in the infantry.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, with whom I agreed, talked about us being the Swiss or Hanoverians of the twentieth century. In that respect, I should put it slightly differently. We are not talking about the British becoming mercenaries. I believe that it is far more as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and others described it; namely, that by our history and skills, we are fitted to make a notable contribution to the future peace and progress of the world. We should think of our role in that way, and we are well equipped to play such a role.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for initiating this debate. It has been a remarkable debate, even for your Lordships' House. Its quality has been outstanding. I have listened to almost all of it, except for one speech which was reported fully to me.
703 It has been interesting that in the debate there has been an extraordinary degree of unanimity about three points first, the necessity for the United Nations; secondly, that we think it should work rather better than it does; and, thirdly, almost all noble Lords who have spoken believe that Britain could make an increased contribution to the work of the United Nations.
In the debate there was a breath of soldierly fresh air from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and I agreed with a great deal of what he said. The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, made a thoughtful and analytical speech; and, again, I agreed with a great deal of that. As one would expect from a former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, took a cold, hard look at the matter. He warned about future possibilities unless certain difficult decisions are taken, and unless proper debate is initiated.
The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, made an interesting and analytical speech. Although he did not name me, perhaps T. may say how much I agreed with him as to the quality of the permanent representation in New York.
My noble friend Lord Callaghan made three points, all of which are of extreme significance. In particular, I agreed with what he said about the United States. It is impossible to expect the United Nations to work properly unless and until the United States is fully involved in the way in which the organisation works and in the decisions that are taken. Therefore, for all those reasons, this has been a useful and timely debate for which we should be grateful.
It is extremely appropriate that the House should consider the UN's peace-keeping role today because the subject is becoming of increasing rather than diminishing importance as UN troops are involved in more and more areas of the world in more and more difficult political situations. Perhaps I may do what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, did at the start of his speech; namely, to look at the existing charter to see what it says about the Military Staff Committee and to analyse what it says in relation to the present situation.
The charter is very clear. Article 47 states:There shall be established a Military Staff Committee to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council's military requirements".Paragraph 3 of that article goes on to say:The Military Staff Committee shall be responsible under the Security Council for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council".Then, somewhat optimistically, perhaps a little naively, but fondly, it says:Questions relating ro the command of such forces shall be worked out subsequently".The words to note in those paragraphs are that the Military Staff Committee should be responsible for strategic direction.
Looking at the provisions in the charter, three things strike me. One is that they are set purely and simply within the context of enforcement action under Chapter VII; secondly, they imply a commitment of armed forces by the member states; and, thirdly, the strategic direction is, by definition, reserved to the five permanent members all of whorl have to agree. Indeed, it has been 704 argued for some time by many countries that there is a degree of exclusivity in that proposal which makes it vulnerable, and perhaps unworkable, as it is confined to the five permanent members being in agreement. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, pointed out, it is that provision which proved impossible to achieve, especially in the early years of the existence of the United Nations. He is quite right to say that representatives on the Military Staff Committee met regularly once a month, read the minutes of the last meeting, agreed the date of the next meeting and then adjourned. That went on—indeed, I suppose that it still goes on—for about 48 or 49 years and nothing seems to have happened thereafter.
However, things have moved on especially as regards the nature and scope of UN activity, much of which is moving outside the strict interpretation of Chapter VII. I shall say a few words about that in a moment. Not only have they moved on because of that, but they have also done so because of the extraordinary developments in military technology. The sheer pace of modern warfare is now such that it is impossible—indeed, if it ever was possible—to run a war from New York. I believe that response times are now so fast that that just cannot be done. It follows therefore that the form and the nature of the Military Staff Committee needs to be looked at afresh. I believe that the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, were especially useful in that respect.
If the mechanism is now anachronistic, one should for a moment look at the nature and scale of what the UN is now being asked to undertake. Peace-keeping is now one of its most important activities. However, as has been pointed out, nowhere is it mentioned in the charter. It is an ad hoc development which is widely perceived as useful and now generally accepted. Moreover, UN intervention is increasingly blurring the distinction between peace-keeping and peace-making. In Bosnia, the use of military force to aid humanitarian operations is becomingly increasingly merged into a peace-making role.
In other areas of the world, UN intervention was unashamedly political. For example, in Namibia the United Nations helped to supervise free elections and, indeed, ran the country in the run-up to democracy. In Cambodia, 21,000 UN troops supervised the return of the refugees and kept the peace during an electoral process. In El Salvador, the UN intervention mediated a peace after 10 years of civil war. I believe that the first half of the elections took place last Sunday and the second half is due to take place this coining Sunday.
It is very difficult to see how any of those interventions can be described as enforcement actions within the terms of Chapter VII. I am not saying that I disagree with any of them, because I do not. However, I do not share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that one should perhaps be more restrictive in the way in which United Nations intervention is used.
Moreover, UN activities now, if not diluting, are at least changing the principle of national sovereignty set out in Article 2(7) which was in some ways the very basis upon which the United Nations was founded. The concept of non-intervention in domestic affairs is no longer as firm as it used to be. Certainly, that was true
705 of Somalia and possibly of Mozambique. It is probably also true of the former Yugoslavia. There will undoubtedly be other instances, some similar and some new and as yet unforeseen, in which there will be demands that the United Nations should intervene in the interests of humanity or the greater good of a sensible world order.
The demands are greater, more diverse and infinitely more demanding than the charter originally envisaged. The question now—and it was raised by several speakers during the debate, including my noble friend Lord Callaghan—is whether the UN machinery is frankly up to it. In other words, whether it is capable of being adapted to meet the new challenges. After all, the original concept was very clear and in a sense—at least, conceptually—simple. It was to prevent aggression between states and, if necessary, to use force to repel the aggressor. Hence the provisions of Article 47, the Military Staff Committee and the whole apparatus of enforcement action under Chapter VII. I do not think that that is sufficient now.
Therefore, one ought to ask oneself the question: if that is not sufficient, what do we now need? First, we need better preventive machinery. I was rather surprised that, in the whole debate, that is the one subject which has not been mentioned. I see the Minister nodding her head in agreement. A system for pre-emptive diplomacy through the United Nations hardly exists. There is no early warning system built into Security Council activities, and there is no intelligence information immediately available to the United Nations. In that regard, I should like to quote from an article recently written by Brian Urquhart in which he pointed out:The various parts of the existing process need to be connected up and made into a system. The first of these is vigilance—watch for situations which are likely to blow up. For example, let us think of a country of 17 million people which has the fourth or fifth largest army in the world, and some extremely sinister, highly sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. This country is ruled by a notoriously ruthless dictator who has invaded one of his neighbours within the last ten years and is in desperate need of money. This country has a small, totally defenceless, enormously rich neighbour, with which it has a series of public disputes. It also has a historic claim on that small country. You might think—says Brian Urquhartthat something was likely to happen in such a situation. And yet, on 2nd August 1990, the Security Council was dumbfounded to be recalled from the summer holiday to deal with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait".He concludes:We obviously need to have a more effective system of vigilance and evaluation of world security".I could not agree more with those sentiments and with that last sentence. In my view, the Security Council should be under an automatic obligation to consider what to do when the international temperature rises, not merely when it has boiled over. There should be a positive obligation to try to promote a peaceful solution. International mediation, the use of the Secretary-General's good offices, the speedy despatch of a peace-keeping force interposing itself between potential combatants and insistence by the Security Council that a mediating process should be gone through, are all possibilities and should be built in either to a revised charter or the rules of the game.
706 All those possibilities need to be refined. I merely pose the following question, but do not answer it. What would have happened in the Gulf if the United Nations had intervened prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait? No one can possibly tell; of course, they cannot do so. However, the presence of UN forces along a disputed border would at least have given some cause for hesitation and consideration before a decision was taken actually to invade.
Preventive diplomacy implies greater initiating powers by the United Nations, especially by the Secretary-General and the Security Council. I do not believe that we can live much longer with a system whereby the Security Council has to wait for a reference to it by one of the parties to a dispute before it feels that it can act.
Moreover, as has already been said in the debate, the UN needs more immediately available troops. The sight of the Secretary-General scratching around in the international community trying to find troop contributors is hardly dignified or, indeed, effective. As he pointed out in the Agenda for Peace, what he needs is the undertaking of member states to make armed forces assistance and facilities available to the Security Council, not only on an ad hoc basis but also on a permanent one. I am not suggesting for a moment that there should be a permanent UN army but I am suggesting that there should be a greater degree of specific earmarking, particularly by the larger members of the United Nations, of forces which would he at the disposal of the Security Council in the event that it should need them.
Finally, I wish to say a few words about the cost of peace-keeping. Here I am happy to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. In the period from 1945 to 1987 there were 13 peace-keeping operations undertaken by the UN. From 1987 to 1992 there were another 13; and now I believe there are up to 15. Up to January 1992, 528,000 personnel have at one time or another been used as UN peace-keepers. That is really an enormous figure. The cost has been 8.3 billion dollars. That is a large sum; but put against a global defence expenditure of 1 trillion dollars a year-2 million dollars per minute —one can put the sum into perspective and it hardly seems to be over generous. Indeed, one and a half days of the Gulf War expenditure would have paid for all United Nations operations for more than a year. I do not believe there has been any great public complaint about the cost of Desert Storm.
To achieve the kind of things that have been referred to in this debate, and particularly what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, mentioned, needs some vision, particularly by the permanent members of the Security Council. It needs, too, a high degree of activity and effort by the Secretary General, and finally it needs a far greater determination and commitment by the member states themselves. But, yes, it can be done; and, in my view, it has to be done.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble 707 friend Lord Campbell of Croy and all noble and gallant Lords who have spoken in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, was absolutely right to say this has been a remarkable debate, even in the context of debates in your Lordships' House. I have never been so privileged to hear as many outstanding contributions from all who have spoken.
We have just heard some wise words from the noble Lord, Lord Richard. He, of course, has first-hand experience of how difficult it can be to make things happen as even the permanent members of the Security Council wish them to happen. It is rather nice that in two out of the five years that the noble Lord served in the United Nations, he was said to be the best permanent representative there could be. Therefore we should take careful note of what he has said. The noble Lord's summary was correct. No one is in any doubt that the United Nations is necessary, but it needs modernisation. It needs to be made to work better and the United Kingdom is already seeking to help that to happen. We are therefore making an increasing contribution to United Nations' work.
This debate has heartened me because I believe it is both timely and significant. The noble Lords, Lord Greenhill of Harrow and Lord Callaghan, were absolutely right to say that we should be ready to discuss these issues openly. We have made an excellent start today. There is indeed no need to be defensive. As your Lordships know, I have just returned from perhaps the most complex and politically charged of all the UN operations that we have ever been involved in. My most recent experiences in Bosnia have brought home most vividly some of the matters which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Braman, enunciated in his outstanding contribution to our debate today.
The changes since the end of the Cold War, in which disorder, not new world order, have been predominant, have generated an unprecedented demand for international activity to help resolve and prevent conflicts. In the face of chaos arid collapse, it is understandable that the world turns more and more often to the one body with the legitimacy and authority to tackle the horrors as they have unfolded even though we may say that the United Nations Charter does not now fully encompass all the work we do, particularly in the field of peace-keeping and peace-making. There has been an incredible clamour for United Nations involvement which has met with quite a vigorous and effective response. We tend to remember the failures of Somalia and forget that from Rwanda to Haiti and from Bosnia to El Salvador the UN is on the ground, alleviating suffering and trying to keep the peace. In many of those places it does so most successfully. It is the very expansion of UN activity that is bound to cause problems. The role of the armed forces in UN operations is one of the many issues that has been brought into sharper focus by the massive growth in UN operations.
In the first 43: years of its existence the United Nations established 15 operations. In the past six years it has set up 17 more. At the beginning of 1992 there were 12,000 troops serving on UN peace-keeping operations worldwide. Today there are over 70,000. Because the nature of the crises has changed in that they 708 are more complex and more ethno-centric, and some are rooted in pre-Cold War history, the operations have become larger in scope and are certainly broader in character than ever before. United Nations' operations go far beyond the policing of ceasefires. I shall say a little about that and try to answer some of your Lordships' questions.
Today's UN peace-keepers escorting humanitarian convoys in Bosnia are not just doing that. They are also doing a great deal to further the peace. Those peace-keepers demobilising combatants in Mozambique are also doing a great deal to encourage understanding between the two sides. Those monitoring national borders in Rwanda are certainly giving help to many people who have had to flee their homes. The peace-keepers in Kuwait, who still have a most difficult task, are seeking to explain why there has to he a peace. Other peace-keepers are registering voters in Western Sahara about whom we hear little. But they, too, are seeking to keep the lid on a situation and act in the preventive role that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, indicated. The spectrum of activities of the United Nations is much wider than ever before and that demands a fresh approach to the problem from all of us. Perhaps in that fresh approach there is a new recipe for success.
What, then, are the ingredients for the new mix? Top of the list come resources—we have referred to those many times in this debate. The exponential growth in UN operations has brought home to us just how finite the reserves of both men and money are. Like every government and every international organisation, the UN is required to focus the resources at its disposal where they can have the most effect. This entails a clear vision of what the UN wants to achieve and what is possible. Last year my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the General Assembly saying,Any operation must have clear and achievable objectives linked to a political process which offers reasonable hope of a solution and to which all parties should be committed. The mandate should be precise and finite".Every speaker in this debate has agreed with that, but the lesson we have also learnt, even since that speech was made, is that the criteria can never be absolute. However, such an approach will help to improve efficiency and it will certainly motivate former combatants and lead to greater confidence among troop contributors. That is why that speech should form our broad guideline.
In order to make the best use of resources., the UN has to have confidence that the pool from contributors is not drying up. The UK is certainly pulling its weight with over 3,700 troops serving in peace-keeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus and Kuwait. That makes us the fifth largest troop contributor to UN operations. We also pay our assessed contributions promptly and in full. In 1993, our 6.373 per cent. contribution amounted to over 3 billion dollars. I cannot overestimate the importance of this contribution. Unfortunately the UK, as many of your Lordships have said, is among only a handful of countries which pay their dues on time. The whole UN peace-keeping effort depends upon UN member states paying their assessed 709 shares of the cost in full and on time. Otherwise cash flow problems exacerbate other problems of overstretch. In turn it leads to a vicious circle in which troop contributors are dissuaded from contributing troops for fear of lengthy delays in reimbursement for their costs. Such reluctance often leads to delays in troop deployments which in turn put fragile peace agreements at risk, as we have seen in Liberia, Rwanda and, earlier, in Mozambique.
We therefore need to encourage others to pay their dues in full and on time wherever possible. We take every opportunity to harry debtors in bilateral contacts. But we have to recognise that there are some countries with genuine difficulties. The rate of change in our world in recent years, and the balance of global wealth, have shifted. The UN scales of assessment, calculated as they are over a three year period, often lag behind economic reality. We are concerned over current anomalies and are determined to pursue reform of that matter.
While we recognise the need for adequate financing, we are also aware of the need for sound financial control. Peace-keeping budgets are only approved after scrutiny by the Fifth Committee. That is the committee which deals with finance and administration. But more needs to be done. We favour more financial delegation to field level coupled with better auditing and we believe that that can bring about an improvement in spending.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy asked about the payment of assessments. They should be paid within 30 days of receiving the request. There is an almost perennial cash flow crisis because so many countries do not. My noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Marlesford talked about the question of apportioning the costs of the UN's activity. The system is indeed obsolete. It needs reform, as I have mentioned. But we need a system that bears a much closer relationship to the fundamental principle of capacity to pay. That is particularly true for peace-keeping. I hope that we shall achieve a more equitable distribution of the burden because there is no doubt that a system for peace-keeping, through which the Ukraine pays several times more than countries much richer than itself, needs reform.
My noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Marlesford also asked about our approach. I believe that I have dealt with that. However, I can assure them that we are active in all the groups which seek to resolve those UN financial problems, including non-payment and scales of assessment.
My noble friend Lady Elles also asked about methods of payment. Our share is paid from FCO Votes. We make every effort to pay very promptly. I believe that we have set a good example. I liked the idea that my noble friend advanced that if countries cannot contribute troops, perhaps they should contribute more in cash. I believe that that matter should be investigated.
My noble friends Lord Campbell of Croy and Lady Elles also asked about UN reimbursement. Obviously all troop-contributing countries can claim back costs for which there is provision in the UN budget. There has recently been a revised procedure for claiming UN 710 reimbursement. Indeed, we are seeking a faster rate of reimbursement. So far as concerns the United Kingdom, there are only two current operations for which Britain is entitled to claim reimbursement: one is in Cyprus; the other is in former Yugoslavia. I believe that it is true to say that the UN finds it very difficult to reimburse promptly. I was asked the question by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy. Certainly the cash crisis has meant that the reimbursements are not forthcoming as quickly as possible. However, recent payment of arrears by both Japan and the United States means that we have received some substantial reimbursements for our contributions for UNPROFOR of standard rates for troops and for rations. I believe that the claims for equipment which are outstanding to us are unlikely to be processed this financial year, but we shall keep working for them.
I hope that I have said sufficient on the question of financing, with this exception. We believe that the UN should be involved from the outset in drafting those peace agreements which it is expecting to help implement and finance. There is no question of other countries getting together and then putting the burden upon the UN. The UN must be involved from the beginning. I believe that when we are discussing funding and targeting expenditure, it must stand a better chance of success if future UN commanders and their UN agency counterparts are involved. It is not simply the peace-keeping that causes the costs; it is obviously all the agency work which has to be done alongside it.
I wish to study in much greater detail the outstanding speech of my noble and gallant friend Lord Vivian when I have a little more time. He stated that the peace-keeping forces cannot be an automatic response to every conflict. He is 100 per cent. right. There are sometimes other more appropriate and more effective solutions. Regional organisations have an important role to play and we have encouraged them to do so. ECOMOG has done some good work in West Africa. The OAU, whose members have a long history of UN peace-keeping, has recently turned its attention to conflict resolution and we support it in its efforts.
But however important peace-keeping may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, successful preventive action is better. I shall not requote Sir Brian Urquhart. However, I remember reading what was said with a good deal of feeling. We have recently taken a new initiative in collaboration with the French to seek to strengthen the UN capacity to conduct preventive diplomacy. Since the Foreign Secretary and his French colleague launched their initiative last year at the General Assembly, we have had further discussions with the UN Secretariat on the way forward. With the French we have submitted a paper to the UN setting out the type of assistance we are ready to provide, and the range of military units available. We must now encourage other countries to follow that example. Certainly the United Nations preventive deployment in Macedonia is already proving its worth; and there will be other areas where similar preventive deployment can be extremely valuable.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, seemed to indicate that he did not believe that there was co-ordination of 711 the various groups at the top of the UN who should be talking, whether on peace-keeping or humanitarian affairs, or indeed on the political side. I can assure him that the regular meetings between the Secretary General and the Under-Secretaries General ate extremely informative. Their discussions are reported certainly to the permanent members of the Security Council by our permanent representatives. I believe that our consultation is working better than it was two years ago. But there is still much to be done so that the Security Council can indeed discuss a country's issues before a situation boils over, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said.
The UN is learning much from its recent experience of conflict resolution. Where we require deployment of peace-keepers, there is a growing awareness of the numerous factors which contribute to peace. It is not just a question of separating combatants, but of building confidence in the peace process. Ex-combatants have to be given opportunities to reintegrate into civilian life, as in Mozambique. The local population must have its basic needs met too. There needs to be good co-operation between our peace-keepers and the UN agencies. We put forward the suggestion which led to the setting up of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs for the very reason that we need to highlight the humanitarian issues and co-ordinate that with the response of the UN where it has to go in and peace-keep.
We have seen in Cambodia that where local populations demonstrate their will in sufficient strength, politicians and faction leaders have to take notice. The population in any country must be given a stake in the peace process if the peace-keepers are to work successfully on the ground. Nowhere is that more true than in Bosnia at the moment where General Sir Michael Rose is making real progress with his policy.
At the opposite end of the scale, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said, there are limits to what the UN can do. We have heard several times in the debate of the unpleasant reminder that Somalia gives us. I believe that Somalia was all the worse because the co-operation necessary from the parties was simply not there and there NA as no desire for peace among the combatants. As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said, we know that the United Nations cannot impose a peace. There has to be a willingness on the ground.
The UN's greatest asset is its impartiality and it is essential to maintain it. Other organisations are better placed to act if peace has to be enforced, but all the successful peace-keeping operations—whether it be in Namibia, Cambodia or El Salvador—have demonstrated the importance of local political will to create and maintain a peace.
When things go wrong we all focus on the shortcomings of the United Nations. There are enormous strains on it at present and the need for improvement is inescapable. One of the good moves in the past two years has been the restructuring of the Department for Peace-keeping Operations. The importance of information and communication has been recognised with the establishment of a 24-hour situation centre to monitor UN operations worldwide. I can assure my noble friend Lord Geddes that there is contact 712 with the leaders of the UN in New York seven days a week and sometimes almost 24 hours a day. A planning cell has been set up in New York and the technical missions, which now visit the host countries as a matter of practice to carry out contingency planning for new missions, are all part of the revision that is already going on in the United Nations. But much more needs to be done.
The UK supports such changes by seconding many of our able military officers to the Department for Peace-keeping Operations. Such officers add a high level of expertise and they make a significant contribution to the UN's effort. We also seek to -work with and support the UN across a broad front in helping them to develop their capabilities. Other countries are matching our efforts. Even before we receive the Secretary General's response to the suggestions that we have made to him, the United Kingdom is helping to develop the peace-keeping doctrine. The Canadians are working on the logistics manual and much other work continues.
We have made some concrete proposals, including a general staff for peace-keeping, in our 1993 national reply to the Secretary General. I believe that the report was published in New York late yesterday and I hope that it will show us the way ahead. It will certainly be an ongoing process of reform and I shall make sure that the views expressed by your Lordships in the debate tonight are considered alongside the returns we have from New York.
I have been asked a large number of questions about matters to do with the UN, but there are three to which I wish to refer now. Two were raised by my noble friend Lord Vivian who spoke of the need for far better command and control. We support the fact that the UN should always give clear and precise mandates and specific objectives and we are already working in the Security Council to secure those. We agree too that in intelligence terms neutrality as a UN force must be paramount. We need to be careful not to compromise that. A clear chain of command is essential and we are seeing that happening in Bosnia at this very time.
The other point that my noble friend Lord Vivian made was about UN training. We are achieving encouraging progress on that. I shall look at his suggestions. I believe that training is a national responsibility, although we are bound to need to help some of the peace-keeping troop contributors because they do not have the same ability to train that we are fortunate enough to have in this country.
As concerns stand-by forces, we have given details to the United Nations Secretary General of the available military units which the UK has at its disposal. However, quite naturally we have made it clear that we would need to consider each request on a case-by-case basis. Certainly, I believe that the stand-by forces initiative is worthy of support, even though it may need some adjustment in the way that it has so far been proposed.
My noble friend Lord Campbell, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, the noble Lord, Lord Richard and many others spoke of the need for earmarking. I think it is fair to say that formal 713 earmarking would not be appropriate for UK forces. But that is why we have supported the UN stand-by force planning team. Above all, we do not see a need to retain forces specifically for peace-keeping or other peacetime commitments, but we need to be ready to provide them whenever we can. I sincerely hope that we can make sensible decisions with other troop contributors to help in good time to prevent action in some cases.
My noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Marlesford said that there would be times when we should not intervene. I believe that that is an important consideration for the UN, which should be clear as to the limits of its capabilities. One cannot force combatants to stop fighting if they refuse to do so. When the UN enters a country, it must do so with impartiality. Peace enforcement, under any other circumstances, must be left to others more suitably equipped to undertake it.
When we look at the world disorder from the standpoint of our own national security many of the recent conflicts seem a long way away. Perhaps Bosnia, which is so close to home, is the one that has caught the imagination. I would hate to see us make our decisions on the basis of what came over on the television, and I believe that we never shall. But where we see conflicts building up which have a tendency to embroil neighbours and to spread instability, then we have to act because intra-state war can easily poison an entire region. The costs of inaction are great, whether it be in humanitarian terms, in lost trade opportunities or in just seeing hostility gathering momentum and eventually affecting our own region. The longer some of those problems are ignored, the bigger, the more expensive and the harder to solve they become.
Our activity must reflect our interests. We have armed forces with standards of professionalism and integrity that are better, in my view, than any in the world. I have just seen that in Bosnia in full order. The UN needs those kinds of qualities if it is to be successful in tackling the wide spectrum of peace-keeping tasks it is now asked to undertake. As a permanent member of the Security Council, we have a special contribution to make. Above all, we must remember that the UN peace-keeping effort is the sum of many member states' efforts. Certainly, we should not try to do it all; we are a major contributor, but we are not the largest. India and Pakistan have a long peace-keeping tradition and many thousands of troops in UN service.
We applaud all the efforts that are being made. But success in all those depends very heavily upon the Secretary General and the staff. At this time of exponential growth in demand we are fortunate to have a UN Secretary General with the vision and ability of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. My work around the world, especially my three visits to Bosnia, confirm what many have said. We are right to be deeply impressed with what we can do. But we are a contributor. We are not running the UN, and we should not be trying to do so. In our contribution we shall go a long way to find qualities as great as those of our own General Sir Michael Rose and Brigadier John Reith. In Yasushi Akashi in Bosnia, we are also extremely fortunate. We indeed should pay tribute to what they are doing.
714 We all need the UN more than ever before, and we need it to work effectively. But it cannot be done by a wholescale reorganisation of the UN. All the time we are trying to improve the UN. We are also trying to make peace, keep peace and help people. Therefore, the changes that need to come, many of which have been suggested by noble Lords tonight, need to be worked out in a pragmatic way. I assure the House that we are determined to be at the forefront in making our contribution. The contribution of your Lordships will be most helpful to us in the work ahead.
§ 5.51 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, it remains for me only to thank all noble Lords who spoke in the debate and gave thoughtful and most informative contributions. They filled gaps in my opening speech, which could only attempt to be a general survey of the subject. They also raised several points and made suggestions which I hope the Government will consider.
I shall refer briefly to two or three of those points. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, referred to the study of stand-by forces which is going on at present. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and others spoke of the major contribution which the British Army made and continues to make. He particularly raised the subject, as did another speaker, of the Gurkhas. While there was no mention of it in the reply today, I hope that the Government will consider very seriously what the noble and gallant Lord so clearly suggested.
The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, spoke of the wider consideration that ought to be given to the reorganisation of the United Nations beyond mere peace-keeping, and to revision of the charter. He also gave warnings of the future dangers of new nations feeling impelled to expand beyond their frontiers—countries that might well have arms that would make them very dangerous. I hope that that point will also be considered by the Government.
My noble friend Lord Vivian spoke from his experience in the peace-keeping force in Cyprus. He was able to put forward particular proposals which, I am glad to say, were taken up in the wind-up speeches. I ask the Government to look at my noble friend's proposals for reorganisation at United Nations headquarters.
My noble friend Lord Geddes reminded us of some of the inefficiencies which have occurred in United Nations arrangements hitherto. I was very glad that in the end the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, was able to make a valuable addition to our debate.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the Leader of the Opposition, for taking part in the debate and for winding up for the Opposition. He has been a very effective British ambassador, at the United Nations as Britain's permanent representative in New York. In his speech the noble Lord went back, as I did, to the charter. He drew attention to areas of the world where the United Nations has intervened with troops in a variety of circumstances that were not anticipated in the charter or regulated by the specific provisions in it. The noble Lord and I both worked for three years or so at different times in the British Mission at the United Nations. In the very early days I was there in a junior 715 capacity; the noble Lord was there much later on as the head of the mission. We both had to grapple with the wording of the charter. There was a time over 40 years ago when I could recite large sections of the charter from memory. It had become imprinted upon one's mind.
I am particularly grateful to my noble friend the Minister for having taken so much trouble in replying to the debate. She went into the finances of peace-keeping in some detail. I am sure that we are all grateful for that. It has become very complicated. It is important nonetheless for the continuation of such United Nations military operations. Unless I misunderstood my noble friend, the United Kingdom will be reimbursed for the use of British troops in former Yugoslavia, and in future will also receive some payments for the contribution in Cyprus. If I have that wrong, I hope that my noble friend will write to me. I thank her for bringing us up to date and commenting on current UN operations in different parts of the world. I should explain just one point, in response to her mention of "earmarking". That did not mean that forces would be committed to any operation. I was putting forward the case for stand-by forces which could be taken into account in contingency planning in New York but the need for their use would be put forward and considered case by case and they would not he automatically available for everything.
To sum up, I believe that there has been general agreement that United Nations peace-keeping and other military operations are needed and have produced results in restoring order, saving lives and preventing wider warfare. the organisation within the United Nations needs to be improved and strengthened. British pressure to carry out changes that are needed to make the United Nations more effective in these activities will be given strong support by Members of this House. I hope that that is the message that my noble friend will take to her colleagues in the Government. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.