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International Organizations

Instruments: The United Nations
The U.N. Specialized Agencies
Regional Organizations
Private Voluntary Organizations


At the conclusion of World War II, and in the years immediately following, the United States played a key role in creating, financially supporting, and otherwise enhancing the capabilities of the United Nations, specialized U.N. agencies, and regional organizations concerned with security matters. While the Cold War prevented these organizations from functioning as originally envisaged, they did at times serve U.S. interests by providing vehicles to ameliorate the plight of refugees, dismantle colonial empires, improve prospects for economic development among emerging nation-states, and manage some international conflicts that were not caught up in the U.S.-Soviet competition.

At the end of the Cold War, there was a burst of enthusiasm about the potential for international organizations. The major powers seemed to share a common vision about world problems, and it seemed that international organizations could provide the institutional framework for arriving at a consensus on what to do about each problem. The U.N. seemed to provide the best venue for addressing the principal post-Cold War security problem, that is, internal ethnic and religious conflicts, separatist movements, and the so-called "failed state" syndrome. And it seemed that no one state could, on its own, resolve the many post-Cold War security issues that are transnational in nature--for example, narcoterrorism, refugees and mass immigration, and the criminal diversion of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or WMD material.

But these hopes were soon tempered by the realization that international organizations, especially the United Nations, was unable to carry out fully the new responsibilities with their old structures and approaches. Furthermore, the United States, as well as some other major powers, were reluctant to provide international institutions with the resources and the clout needed to implement the mandates being assigned them. And differences among the major powers widened, making consensus more difficult. In the United States, the U.N. began to appear less attractive as a vehicle for addressing security concerns, while alliances, coalitions, and unilateral measures appeared more attractive.

U.N. System Staffed Headquarters, Early 1990s

Source: Erskine, Childers and Brian Urquhart, Reviewing the United Nations System, and INSS estimate.

In the wake of these developments, international organizations and agencies find themselves overburdened and in need of revitalization. Many of these institutions overlap in terms of their field operations, since they cover similar problem areas. At present, Washington concentrates much of its efforts on the following:

* U.N. organs charged with conflict management (particularly the Office of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, and the Security Council).

* U.N. specialized agencies that address transnational policy questions of direct concern to the United States.

* Regional groupings that have the capacity to support the United Nations in its conflict-resolution role.

* Private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that provide effective emergency assistance to populations facing humanitarian crises, such as natural disasters, civil conflicts, and other forms of upheaval.

* International financial institutions that have the potential to ameliorate the economic-development problems of less-developed countries. (These are discussed in the chapter on economics.)


The United Nations

During the Cold War, the United Nations had only a limited capacity to contain or manage conflicts. Between 1945 and 1988, only two out of every five U.N. attempts to mediate disputes could be deemed successful. Of the international disputes during 1945-1988 in which there was some military engagement, the United Nations helped resolve only 25 percent of those referred to it for intervention. Nevertheless, the U.N. was an important forum in which to resolve Third World disputes not directly involving the U.S. and USSR, as well as to prepare the way for arms-control treaties, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With the end of the Cold War, the United Nations became the principal international institution through which a series of international problems were addressed. The result was several less than successful operations that have earned the U.N. much criticism in the United States. Unsatisfactory performances in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda have called into question the organization's ability to serve as an effective vehicle for conflict-resolution and multilateral burden-sharing. (U.N. military deficiencies are discussed in the chapter on humanitarian and peace operations; questions dealing with organization and management are addressed in this chapter.) There are three problems. First, the anticipated unity of view among the Security Council's five permanent members (the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom) was not sustained. Secondly, the U.N. leadership, specialized U.N. agencies, and major regional organizations have not proven adept in adjusting to the transnational challenges confronting the international community. Thirdly, several major members have not been willing to provide the requisite resources.

Among the reasons for the shortcomings in U.N. operations has been the United States's own uncertainty about its role in the post-Cold War world and its unwillingness to pay the unexpectedly high costs associated with U.N. operations. Congressional members expressed these feelings in mid-1995, with various bills reflecting a desire to shed many international burdens and to define U.S. concerns abroad in terms of narrow--predominantly economic--self-interest. For example, H.R. 2126 would require the president to consult with appropriate congressional authorities at least fifteen days before committing U.S. forces to any new peacekeeping, peace enforcement, humanitarian, or international disaster-relief mission. This requirement could be waived in emergency situations, in which case the President would be required to consult Congress within forty-eight hours after deployment began.

Another factor weakening the U.N. is a fear that it may grow too strong and could tread on the national sovereignty of its members. Within the United Nations, the majority of members--including the United States--are ambivalent about the U.N.'s post-Cold War interventions in civil conflicts. Not only are such interventions in apparent violation of the principle of national sovereignty, but the U.N.'s accomplishments have not always merited the resources committed. Worries exist in some quarters that enhancing U.N. capabilities in peacekeeping, human rights, and humanitarian assistance would create a slippery slope that could lead to an erosion of national sovereignty and the passing of decision-making authority to the Secretary-General and the secretariat.

U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs Budget

($ millions)

A third factor is the fear that a strong U.N. would demand of its members greatly increased contributions of money and manpower, resources that are notoriously difficult for the U.N. to secure. Indeed, in August 1995, the Secretary-General announced that the organization was "bankrupt." Cash resources could not meet either current operating needs or existing obligations. As of the end of September 1995, member states owed two billion dollars in assessments not paid. The U.S.--the largest debtor--owed the U.N. $400 million under the regular operating budget, and $800 million under the peacekeeping budget. While acknowledging that the U.S. share of the annual operating budget and special assessments for unanticipated contingencies represents an excessive burden, President Bill Clinton has been unable to secure agreement for a reduction downward with offsetting increases by other member states. Excluding contributions in kind (such as the costs of U.S. forces borne by the U.S.), annual costs for U.N. peace operations were approximately $3.5 billion in the mid-1990s, an order of magnitude larger than the early 1980s. U.S. costs, including contributions to the U.N. and supplemental costs for U.S. forces working with these operations (but not costs the U.S. forces would incur anyway, such as salaries), averaged $3.5 billion during 1993-1995.

In short, there is a lack of consensus within the U.S. government--and elsewhere--about the U.N.'s future roles and responsibilities. Some suggest the U.N. should be equipped to undertake an effective and intrusive role. This would include creating a standing force of brigade size for rapid intervention in crisis situations, prestocking military equipment in various geographic areas, developing common peace operations training programs, and altering traditional peacekeeping rules of engagement to permit forceful interventions in conflict situations.

Contributing to the external forces weakening the United Nations has been serious internal management problems. In 1992, despite stubborn resistance to reform in some U.N. circles, the Secretary-General, supported by the General Assembly, reorganized the U.N. political and emergency management apparatus into three new departments. The Department of Political Affairs was formed to lend some coherence to a wide variety of long-standing small political units. The Department of Humanitarian Affairs was created, partly with staff from a dissolved badly run agency, to coordinate the functions of the U.N.'s large and largely independent humanitarian agencies. It did not perform well in 1993-94. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) came from greatly expanding what had been a small office in the Secretary-General's staff. As of mid-1995, DPKO's 420 staff members (including 118 military personnel), headed by an under secretary-general, included the military advisor (a major general), the 27-person situation center (which includes the 24-hour Duty Room and the U.N.'s only intelligence unit), the operations office, and the planning and support office. Under the DPKO, communications with forces in the field and crisis C3, which were almost non-existent in 1990, have been dramatically improved.

U.N. Assessments, 1995

($ millions)

Source: U.N.

Arrears to the UN, June 1995

($ millions)

Source: U.N.

A significant reform issue yet to be fully addressed is the role of the Secretary-General, who has gone from chief administrative officer to being also chief peacekeeping officer, international mediator, adviser to the Security Council, chief fundraiser and public-relations officer. These added duties have raised concern in some quarters about vesting too much authority in the Secretary-General. Furthermore, some in the United States are concerned that the Secretary-General at times takes action at variance with U.S. interests. For example, in 1993, the Secretary-General wished to have all Somali factions fully disarmed prior to the handoff of field operations in Somalia to the United Nations. Washington refused. On the other hand, the phased U.S.-U.N. intervention in Haiti in 1994-95 was a model of mutual accommodation.

Lastly, the United States is seeking to end excessive financial dependence on a single member state, to wit, the U.S. An equitable distribution of the burden among members in a position to pay would enhance the organization's capacity to meet crises. However, the organization's deteriorating financial position is in part a reflection of the low priority that member states accord the organization, and not just a dispute about burden-sharing. In 1995, the U.S. Congress mandated that the United States limit its payments for peacekeeping to 25 percent of the total cost, compared to the 31.7 percent required by the U.N. formula.

The U.N. Specialized Agencies

During the Cold War, the specialized agencies performed the useful role of codifying U.S. policy initiatives in several areas, notably arms control, respect for human rights, and the handling of refugee issues. Important agencies--such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)--were established, and guidelines mandated by the General Assembly governing war crimes, genocide, and the rights of the individual became accepted standards. The role of the International Court of Justice was enhanced. During this period, the U.N. also became an effective forum in which to discuss and evaluate plans to end European colonial dominion in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

However, some of the agencies, such as the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, suffered from incompetent leadership, bloated budgets, and recourse to anti-Western propaganda and publications. The U.S. has had limited success in encouraging reorganization and structural reform, including consolidation of specialized agency operations, that is, elimination of some agencies and relocation of others.

As of the mid-1990s, several specialized agencies within the U.N. system have become important vehicles for advancing U.S. interests. Three stand out: the IAEA, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

U.N. Peacekeeping Operations and Good Office Missions, 1974-1994

International Atomic Energy Agency. Washington views the IAEA, established in 1957, as one of the most important international organizations. Nonproliferation is a high priority of the U.S. national security agenda, and Washington is dedicated to enhancing IAEA capabilities to monitor and, when necessary, confront problem states, such as Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

Within the terms of its mandate, IAEA has two basic responsibilities. First, in the words of its statute, is to ensure "so far as it is able" that nuclear programs under its' purview are not used to further any military purpose. Under the terms of the 1970 NPT, all member states not possessing nuclear weapons are required to conclude a comprehensive safeguard agreement with the IAEA. Secondly, Article II of the IAEA's statues states that "the Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world." In an effort to extend the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology, the IAEA maintains substantial technical cooperation programs in such areas as nuclear power, nuclear medicine, and nuclear safety. This role of the IAEA
at times appears to be in conflict with its NPT responsibilities.

After the 1991 Gulf war, the IAEA discovered for the first time a violation of a safeguard agreement. As a result of knowledge gained from its long-term monitoring activities in Iraq, the agency has significantly bolstered its safeguards system. This new approach also played a major role in detecting violations of the NPT safeguards agreement by North Korea in 1994-95. With the support of the U.S. and a few other key members, the IAEA was able to identify the nature of North Korean violations and to report them to the U.N. Security Council, validating the existence of significant undeclared nuclear activities in the country. Through continued persistence, the IAEA successfully negotiated access to key facilities and began to implement effective control and accounting of the irradiated nuclear fuel. The U.S. was thereby afforded an opportunity to launch bilateral diplomatic efforts with North Korea to defuse the looming crisis.

The U.S. has promoted efforts to strengthen IAEA safeguards and monitoring capabilities, particularly in safeguards inspections and materials control and accounting. As a result, in March 1995, the IAEA's Board of Governors adopted Program 9312 which provides for, among other things, more intrusive inspections by the IAEA. As a result of the indefinite extension of the NPT in April 1995, reliance upon the the IAEA and its safeguards program as a deterrent to nuclear proliferation will increase.

A limitation on the use of the IAEA as a instrument of U.S. power is that, as an international organization, the IAEA represents the interests of all its member states, while meeting its obligation to implement international safeguards. Anytime the U.S. turns to the IAEA for help on an issue, it runs the risk of finding itself with an IAEA decision which it did not anticipate and may be contrary to its policy goals. For example, in 1995, Iraqi leaders lobbied the U.N. heavily for the lifting of sanctions against them, claiming they had met all the conditions placed upon them. The U.S. believed strongly that Iraq was still withholding information regarding its weapons programs and has been adamantly opposed to lifting the sanctions. The outcome depended in part on the continued vigilance of the IAEA inspectors of the Iraqi facilities. Had the Agency prematurely given Iraq a "no discrepancies noted" report, it could have put its finding at odds with the stated U.S. policy of preserving the sanctions. The possibility of just such a dilemma has prompted the U.S. government to cooperate very closely with the IAEA and to share information and expertise as appropriate.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Prior to 1989, the U.S. government strongly supported UNHCR efforts to ameliorate the plight of refugees, for example, those who fled conflicts in Sudan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Angola. With the passage of time, however, the U.S. became concerned about inadequacies of UNHCR rapid-response capabilities, the capabilities of its field-operations personnel, and the high administrative costs of its operations. In addition, disputes arose over the legal status of refugees versus displaced persons; the U.S. has taken the position that the UNHCR definition of what constitutes "refugee" status has been unduly restrictive.

Despite these concerns, the role of UNHCR has grown in the post-Cold War world. A spate of intrastate conflicts has resulted in massive numbers of displaced peoples and threats to the stability in neighboring countries. In Bosnia, Rwanda, and northern Iraq, the UNHCR has played a major role in helping the victims of internal conflict. The issues surrounding massive flows of immigrants, refugees, and displaced person are of mounting concern within the United States and other Western states.

7th U.N. Inspection team in Iraq, October 1991: destruction of dies for missile components by electric torch.

UNHCR data suggest an increasing demand for assistance to refugees and displaced populations. In the early 1970s, applicants for asylum in West European countries numbered about 1,000 per year; in 1991, there were 545,000 asylum seekers. By 1993, European governments, overwhelmed by the rising tide of applicants for asylum, began to introduce restrictive legislation. With respect to worldwide refugee populations, the trend is even more disturbing. In 1951, when UNHCR was founded, there were 1.5 million legally classified refugees worldwide; in 1995, there are some 20 million. In addition, an estimated 24 million people are displaced within their own countries, victims of civil wars, failed governments, and natural disasters. One in approximately 125 humans is uprooted as of the mid-1990s, with fresh waves of refugees and displaced persons expected during the remainder of this decade.

Restricting Iraqi Weaponry

At the end of the Gulf War, the United States, in conjunction with its coalition allies and members of the U.N. Security Council, passed several resolutions giving international organizations--the U.N. and the IAEA--responsibility for dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and monitoring compliance with U.N. resolutions. U.N. Resolution 687, passed in April 1991, authorized the Secretary-General to establish a special commission to supervise the inspection and destruction of Iraq's facilities for WMD, including chemical, biological, missile, and nuclear capabilities, in cooperation with the IAEA. Resolution 715, passed six months later, reaffirmed and extended those powers. Terms of the resolutions included:

* Iraq's "unconditional acceptance of the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision" of all chemical and biological weapons, all stocks of agents, related subsystems, and components, and all research, development, support, and manufacturing facilities; and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, with related major parts and repair and production facilities.

* The commission's conduct of immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's WMD facilities based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the commission itself. The Special Commission was also to supervise Iraq's "destruction, removal or rendering harmless" of all items the commission specified.

* Prohibiting Iraq from using, developing, constructing, or acquiring any of the above items and calling on the Secretary-General and the Special Commission to develop a plan for the future monitoring and verification of Iraq's compliance.

* Baghdad's unconditional agreement not to acquire, research, or develop nuclear weapons, subsystems, or components; declaration of all locations, amounts, and types of materials; and placement of all materials under the exclusive control of the IAEA for custody and destruction. Baghdad also had to agree to on-site inspection and monitoring of its future compliance with the resolution.

Other resolutions called for U.N. monitoring of Iraq's oil sales if Baghdad accepted an oil-for-humanitarian-aid offer outlined in subsequent U.N. resolutions. These examples mark one of the few occasions the United States turned to an international organization to implement a major arms-reduction program. Despite the continuing Iraqi foot-dragging, evasion, and occasional open defiance, remarkable progress was made during 1991-95 in detecting and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with this task, led by Rolf Ekeus of Sweden, found numerous installations and weapons systems that had not been known to the West or had not been damaged during the war. For instance, UNSCOM destroyed 36 Iraqi mobile SCUD missile launchers, while U.S. air strikes during Desert Storm destroyed no such launchers despite 2,000 sorties (and despite intelligence assessments during the war that indicated that many launchers had been put out of commission).

Still, much remained to be done in late 1995 to establish with confidence that Iraq was in full compliance with Resolutions 687 and 715, much less the other U.N. Security Council resolutions. The U.S. has been careful to offer evidence and orchestrate opposition when other Security Council members have tried to ease sanctions on Iraq by suggesting, contrary to fact, that Baghdad was in compliance.

The International Court of Justice. While the ICJ was created by the U.N. Charter in 1945 as the principal judicial organ of the U.N., it is essentially a continuation of the Permanent Court of International Justice established after World War I. It is composed of fifteen judges, elected every nine years, with one-third of the judges coming up for re-election every three years.

Both during the Cold War and afterwards, the ICJ has been fairly effective in resolving maritime problems but not other issues. At the core of the debate over the effectiveness of the ICJ as a useful instrument lie two issues: jurisdiction and enforceability of judgments.

Jurisdiction is the authority by which the ICJ can hear cases, and it consists of two types: advisory jurisdiction and contentious jurisdiction. Only U.N. organs and specialized agencies may invoke the advisory jurisdiction, and advisory opinions are nonbinding. Of more interest is contentious jurisdiction. As its name implies, contentious jurisdiction is used to settle disputes, but only between those states that have accepted the ICJ's jurisdiction. Of the approximately 160 states eligible to accept the ICJ's contentious jurisdiction, fewer than one-third have done so.

When the ICJ agreed to exercise jurisdiction in a case filed by Nicaragua against the United States in 1984 in response to U.S. support of the Contras, the U.S. withdrew from jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1986. Withdrawal of the United States from the ICJ jurisdiction places the latter largely outside of the sphere of instruments available to the U.S.

Even in situations where a judgment is obtained from the ICJ, enforceability of those judgments remains problematic. Although the U.N. Charter requires any state that is a party to a case before the ICJ to comply with the court's judgment, no action has ever been taken by the Security Council to enforce compliance. Indeed, the veto power of the permanent Security Council members virtually eliminates any possibility of enforcing a judgment against their core interests.

The future utility of the ICJ as an instrument of national power is uncertain. States are still unwilling to accept binding third-party dispute resolution, particularly where their national security interests are at state. However, in an era of increasing economic competition, the ICJ can still be useful in resolving the inevitable disputes that arise, but only when the parties themselves desire such third-party resolution.

While the International Court of Justice does not have any criminal jurisdiction, the U.N. Security Council, acting under its emergency powers to resolve conflicts, recently established two special War Tribunals to punish individual perpetrators of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. These tribunals do not abolish the jurisdiction of the local courts to punish such crimes under their national laws, but they are given primary jurisdiction over the offenses listed as international crimes by the Security Council. With respect to Rwanda, the Security Council establishes the precedent that certain offenses, previously only recognized as international crimes when committed during an international conflict, may also be treated as such when committed during a purely internal conflict. These recent atrocities also provided renewed impetus for completion by the International Law Commission of a draft treaty for a permanent international criminal court. Many international jurists believe that such a court would be preferable to a succession of ad hoc tribunals, because it would be applying uniformly laws which were well defined in advance of the trials.

General Shalikashvilli with representatives o the 1995 Inter-American Defense College Summit.

Regional Organizations

A whole array of multilateral organizations include members of one region or type. Some of these define an area of interest that excludes the U.S., such as the Arab League or the Organization of African Unity. Some are concerned with a specific set of issues, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the organization of twenty-five industrial democracies, including the United States, Japan, and Western Europe. From a security perspective, the three principal regional organizations to which the U.S. belongs are those that group the states of the North Atlantic, Asia Pacific, and the Western Hemisphere.

North Atlantic. During the Cold War, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was part of the efforts to achieve political détente that evolved from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Its membership included the U.S. and Canada, as well as essentially all European states (some smaller states joined only in the 1990s). Some hoped the CSCE would produce a European peace treaty; others saw it as a means to promote Western values and engage in a substantive dialogue on security and human rights. Indeed, the leaders of the Soviet Union had committed themselves to the democratic ideals expressed in the Helsinki Final Act, which proved important to the development of the dissident movement in the USSR and Eastern Europe. CSCE provided the framework for the negotiation and implementation of arms-control agreements, such as the Stockholm Document of 1986, the two Vienna documents on confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs), and the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. At the same time, the CSCE was only a process; it had no organizational structure, no institutions, and no permanent base of operations. Instead, the CSCE functioned on the basis of periodic follow-up meetings--which were designed to take place every three to four years to review adherence to the obligations included in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act--and, when appropriate, to reach new agreements.

The CSCE process played an important role in the fall of communism in Europe in 1989-1991 by providing a standard by which to judge governmental performance in the human-rights and political areas. With this revolution came the evolution of the CSCE. The watershed event in this evolution was the November 1990 summit meeting, at which the thirty-six CSCE states signed the "Charter of Paris for a New
Europe." The CSCE was seen as a unique body, which could build a sense of community and cooperation based on democratic principles among all the states of Europe while preserving ties with the U.S. and Canada. Three new institutions were created: the Prague-based Secretariat; the Warsaw-based Office for Free Elections (subsequently expanded and renamed the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights [ODIHR]); and the Vienna-based Conflict Prevention Center (CPC). The CSCE also established a system of accelerated political consultation, including biannual meetings of government heads and annual ministerial meetings.

In 1993, realizing that Europe faced potential instability in several locations, the CSCE attempted to move into the field of operations for early warning, conflict prevention, and crisis management (including fact-finding and rapporteur missions and CSCE peacekeeping), for conflict within participating states as well as between states. Reports submitted include ones on the Kosovo region and Tadjikistan. An outgrowth of the fact-finding mission to Kosovo was the establishment of what is known as a mission of long duration. This small group of CSCE diplomats is engaged in an unusual exercise of what could be called emergency preventive diplomacy. A large portion of its efforts is to convince minorities that they have certain legal rights that can be exercised even in the face of what they perceive to be outright discrimination.

Reflecting the growth of a permanent staff, the CSCE was redesignated in 1994 the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Though limited in power, the OSCE remains important as the only pan-European body. U.S. membership in OSCE is a concrete expression of European acceptance of the U.S. security role in that continent. The size and cumbersome nature of its decision-making process probably ensure that OSCE will remain only a framework for political consultation and consensus-building. However, in 1995, the OSCE sponsored a high-level planning group to begin a peacekeeping mission to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan; it also tried to mediate in the Chechnya conflict and established a monitoring presence in Bosnia. Efforts to go much beyond fact-finding and monitoring missions into large-scale peacekeeping operations would be risky; a major failure in this field might, unfortunately, hurt the OSCE's potential for fulfilling its vital political role.

Asia Pacific. Prior to 1990-91, the nature of the regional-security environment in the Asia Pacific region was such that it favored neither the birth nor the growth of international organizations. For the preceding decade, the nations of Southeast Asia had been focused primarily on the internal, domestic aspects of national security. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was the major international organization in the Asia Pacific region, reflected this. The regional military presence of the United States, mandated by its rivalry with the former Soviet Union, provided guarantees of external security. The U.S. military presence remained a major factor in maintaining regional stability.

After 1991, however, conditions changed. Years of impressive economic growth in Southeast Asia helped to reduce destabilizing internal pressures. Prosperity also prompted the discovery of new interests and the means to pursue them more effectively. At the same time, there was also a growing suspicion that the end of the Cold War would mark the decline of the U.S. military presence. In the Northeast Asia subregion, domestic factors again had less force. But, because the powers of the subregion share concerns about the future military presence of the United States, they too are receptive to the idea of organizing to better achieve their economic and security interests. Since 1980, however, no less than eight new multilateral organizations or agreements have emerged. Of the eight, two--the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) accord and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)--qualify as international organizations in the true sense of the term.

The success of APEC shows that the region (with the possible exception of China) has embraced multilateralism as an effective means of managing issues related to economics and trade. Concerned as it is with security matters, the ARF is progressing more slowly. However, an extremely successful forum in August 1995 indicates that the concept of multilateralism is finding increasing favor as an approach to security issues as well. In the future, the force of economic and security imperatives will increase. As a result, it is likely that the scope and scale of international organizations within the region will also increase.

a U.S. M-113A2 on lease to the U.N. rolls out of a USAF C-141 at Entebbe Airport in 1994 for use in Rwanda.

If the impulse toward multilateralism results in a larger number of stronger international organizations, the regional-security environment would be transformed, thus raising two major considerations for Washington's position and leadership. Many economic and security decisions that have traditionally been made on a bilateral basis will have to be made in a far more complex, multilateral setting. Certainly the influence of the Asian pole of the trans-Pacific relationship will grow as the regional powers perfect the mechanisms of coordination and control. It is also important to remember that the starting point for any new emphasis on international organizations is, in part, a desire to hedge against a perceived decline in U.S. power and will. Whether this perception is encouraged or disarmed will depend upon the approach that is adopted during the initial stages.

Western Hemisphere. The principal U.S. objective in this hemisphere has been to have a peaceful southern flank, one in which political stability and economic growth could be managed on equitable terms. Historically, the notion of a U.S. special relationship with Latin America has been greeted with reserve by governments in the south. The record of U.S. interventions in local affairs, economic domination, and cultural arrogance is difficult to overcome. Influenced by close proximity to overwhelming U.S. power and Washington's Cold War propensity to use it in the hemisphere, the history and traditions of the inter-American system place emphasis on national sovereignty, self-determination and regional solutions to security problems instead of submitting to decisions of others, such as the great power veto system of the Security Council.

Defending Latin American security interests has given rise to several institutions and arrangements known as the Inter-American Defense System. The system's authority, the Inter-American Defense Board, has been headed by a U.S. general. The board has languished, but it remains a mechanism through which the Rio Pact members could cooperate militarily if they were so inclined.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the oldest regional security organization. Tension between the United States and the other members of the OAS has been a dominant theme of OAS politics, arising from a perception that the United States has attempted to use the organization as a Cold War instrument or a cover for unilateral action, for example, in the 1965 Dominican Republic intervention.

Regional solutions at the height of U.S. unilateralist foreign policy in the Americas during the 1980s tended to bypass the OAS as an ineffective political body. Latin American governments often coalesced into ad hoc focus groups, such as the Central American Esquipulas Group and the Rio Group, to resolve specific transnational problems. When states found it beneficial to introduce an "honest broker" to facilitate peace negotiations, as in the Salvadoran and Guatemalan civil wars, they turned to the United Nations.

Whether in reaction to a growing awareness of mutual and heavy economic interdependence, or to the growing consensus in the region on constitutional democracy as the desirable political model, or both, the Organization of American States has reemerged as a positive and increasingly proactive hemispheric player. In 1991, a key milestone was reached with the adoption by the 21st General Assembly of Resolution 1080, which created an automatic procedure for convening the region's foreign ministers in the event of an interruption of legitimately elected government "to look into events collectively and adopt any decisions deemed appropriate." For the first time in the organization's history, a domestic political event was declared to be grounds for collective action. The resolution provided the legal basis for OAS action in response to a military coup in Haiti less than four months later.

A larger role for the OAS in peace operations is dependent on mutual understanding between the United States and its hemispheric neighbors. The post-Cold War era offers an opportunity to reach such an understanding, especially in light of the spread of democratic government, regional economic integration, and strong OAS support for democracy. In the 1990s, there has been an increase in hemispheric interaction and cooperation in such diverse areas as control of population movements, counterinsurgency, narcoterrorism, disaster relief, extradition of criminals, and cooperation among military establishments.

OAS and U.N. Multilateralism in the Haitian Case

The OAS and U.N. cooperated imprecisely over Haiti, in a way that underscores the differences in their respective interests and competencies. Although the Security Council met on September 30, 1991, the day that President Jean-Bestrand Aristide was overthrown, it did not formally convene because a majority of the members felt the coup was entirely a domestic matter. The OAS Permanent Council, however, was obligated to meet by its recently adopted Resolution 1080, which called for automatically convening in the event of an interruption of legitimately elected government in any member state. The council met swiftly on September 30, condemned the coup, and convened an immediate Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers, which met twice in eight days and, in effect, shaped the international response to the crisis. A subsequent meeting of the U.N. Security Council followed the OAS lead in condemning the coup but adopted no formal resolution because China would not concur. In Washington, the OAS dispatched a special mission, led by the Secretary-General, with a mandate to press for restoration of the democratically elected government. When that mission failed, the foreign ministers reconvened, froze all assets of the Haitian state held in any OAS member country, and imposed a trade embargo, which it tightened in May 1992.

Soon, it became apparent that the year-long nonbinding OAS sanctions were being ignored by non-Western Hemisphere countries and even some Latin American countries. Increasingly concerned about the political consequences of a growing exodus of Haitian refugees, the U.S. government in November 1992 sought the involvement of the United Nations. The resultant joint OAS/U.N. mediation effort, led by a former Argentine foreign minister, introduced a large mission of civilian human-rights observers but failed to mediate a political agreement. In June 1993, Haiti was placed on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council by France and three OAS states--Venezuela, Canada, and the United States. The council, acting under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, imposed a worldwide mandatory oil and weapons embargo on Haiti, as well as a freeze on the state's assets abroad.

After another year with a failed agreement to lift the economic penalties and return President Aristide, followed by reimposed and intensified U.N. sanctions, including the deployment of American naval vessels to enforce the U.N. near-total trade embargo, the Security Council in July 1994 authorized states to form a multinational force and use all necessary means to facilitate the departure from Haiti of the military leadership. This step led, two months later, to the peaceful arrival of U.S. combat forces in Haiti and the subsequent presence of a U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNMIH--the U.N. Mission in Haiti.

Some observations can be drawn from the experience of the Haitian case. First, the basis for OAS and U.N. action is different but compatible. The OAS responded to Resolution 1080, which calls for member states to defend democracy. That was not grounds for U.N. action. The Security Council justified its decisions on the argument that the Haitian situation was a threat to international peace. However, that was the first time that an internal political crisis having to do with democratic governance provoked such drastic measures on the part of the U.N.

Secondly, there is no legal basis within the OAS to escalate from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military action in order to reverse a coup, nor for armed peacekeeping to assist in the restoration of democracy. Latin American officials are also reluctant on domestic political grounds, and have concerns about who would control the use of force in an asymmetrical hemispheric context. For the foreseeable future, the OAS needs to work closely with the United Nations, which has the mandate and the expertise to engage in peace operations.

Lastly, it is important to recognize that the OAS has been successful in the defense of democracy. Its prompt condemnation and the diplomatic (and possibly economic) isolation this portended worked effectively in more recent Peruvian and Guatemalan crises.

Private Voluntary Organizations

Humanitarian organizations doing work in the developing world are known as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or, especially in the United States, as private voluntary organizations (PVOs). Most major international and American PVOs came into being during the period around World War II: the International Rescue Committee (1933), the Catholic Relief Services (1942), Oxfam/UK (1942), World Relief (1950), Church World Service (1946), and World Vision (1950). However, recent years have seen considerable growth in the number of PVOs that respond in any given international crisis, e.g. 200 PVOs were active in Bosnia in late 1995.

In 1994, PVOs in the Western democracies spent nearly $9 billion on relief and sustainable development programs in the developing world, half of this being attributable to American PVOs alone. The profile of PVOs has grown as they have attempted to influence foreign policy decisions affecting complex emergencies. As the number and extent of complex emergencies have increased, so too have the PVO efforts. Through their advocacy efforts, the PVOs influence the decision makers who direct American foreign policy and by educating the public and engaging its active support through financial contributions to relief efforts. Further, the increasing activity of PVOs in international crises, combined with the greater role of the U.S. military in peace and humanitarian operations, means that PVO activities have become vital components of operations in which the U.S. military is involved. To understand the change in the interaction between PVOs and the U.S. military, a useful contrast is between the Vietnam war, where the interaction was small (and at times unfriendly), and the Bosnia operation unfolding in late 1995, where PVOs are central to the success of the mission.

PVOs' operational work in complex emergencies focuses on the five saving interventions that make up the relief discipline: food distribution, shelter, water, sanitation and medical care. To these disciplines may be added in-depth grassroots organizational skills at the community level, which PVO's use as much in relief efforts as in their longer-term sustainable development work. PVOs know the history, politics, and culture of the society, the religious beliefs, tribal or clan structure, and, most important, they deal on a daily basis with the local and national elites and authority structures that lead the social order.

USAID Development Assistance Funds Channeled Through PVOs

Source: Interaction

Because of their sense of geographic place in the villages and cities where they serve, PVO field staff frequently become advocates of the people with whom they work, to such a degree that they lose their objectivity or they see only very localized conditions, which may not be representative of more general societal trends. They sometimes fail to understand the larger political, social, or economic forces at work in the country. Sometimes, their ideological prejudices distort their understanding of what is really happening in a society.

The PVOs are both unlike and similar. Their organizational structures, their philosophical approaches to relief and development and public policy, their sectorial specialization, and their historical roots cover such a wide spectrum that they cannot be easily characterized. Those PVOs that work exclusively on public-policy issues but have no permanent operational presence in the field are known as advocacy groups. These tend to have modest budgets and staffs, and no programs or projects, focusing instead on researching such issues as human-rights abuses, refugee-protection issues, or hunger. Most of the larger PVOs do both relief and development work; a few, such as the International Rescue Committee and International Medical Corps, work only in relief efforts. Some specialize by sector (agriculture, health, or education), while others have regional specialization (such as Africare, which works only in Africa).

Many PVOs do not accept or have never applied for grant funding from U.S. foreign-assistance agencies. For some, that is a function of religious principles or their long-standing opposition to American foreign policy; for others, it is a wish simply to be unhindered by the rigorous public-sector procedural and program-design requirements of government grants. Still others, including many smaller PVOs, do not have the expertise to negotiate through the thicket of rules and regulations imposed by these grants. Federal law requires that in order to be eligible to receive grant funding, a PVO must raise at least 20 percent of its aggregate funding from private sources.

Despite the differences among them, PVOs in general have a style of work and an organizational ethos that is markedly different from that of the U.S. military, e.g., less hierarchy among staff, more emphasis on consensus than on command, and more concern about involving locals in decisions. The differences between PVOs and the U.S. military is a challenge to working together smoothly. Yet both parties increasingly need to cooperate to accomplish their separate missions--the PVOs need the military's infrastructure support and the protection from hostiles, and the military needs the PVOs ability to get local civilian institutions functioning again.

Most PVOs, both American and international, help in several ways to implement the foreign policy of the United States, sometimes unintentionally:

* By providing humanitarian assistance to people most vulnerable to starvation and disease in a country governed by a rogue regime in which economic sanctions have been imposed, PVOs avoid the adverse human consequences of sanctions, which might render them politically unacceptable to public and congressional opinion in the U.S.

* By improving basic human services in a country following a civil war through their rehabilitation and reconstruction programs, PVOs help to create public support for whatever regime is in power. If stability of the regime is a foreign policy interest of the U.S., then PVOs serve that interest. Likewise, PVO human-service programs ensure services are not interrupted in a nation with an authoritarian past while it is democratizing, a process that can at times be chaotic.

* By ensuring a safety net of human services, PVOs can mitigate the consequences of economic reform and structural adjustment in developing countries and thus increase their chance of success. Most economic reform involves the elimination of budget deficits through reduction of the public payroll, human-service programs, and subsidized food prices measures that can create political unrest and destabilize governments that impose the reforms.

* By acting as mediating institutions, faith-based PVOs working through the churches, and secular PVOs working through other grassroots organizations, can act in conflicts as neutral, intermediary institutions between opposing sides and promote pluralism in nondemocratic or newly democratic societies.


International organizations have the potential to serve as useful instruments in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives. They establish conduct to which all states can be held, thereby providing a framework for intrusive, coercive enforcement on rogues. They provide ready-made fora in which common purposes and goals can be hammered out. They are important fora for undertaking conflict-resolution initiatives, as well as for sanctioning multilateral U.S. military operations that might be contemplated, such as economic sanctions. When recourse to military instruments is needed, they provide a foundation for burden-sharing. Furthermore, they provide the venue for organizing international cooperation in response to growing transnational problems, such as terrorism, uncontrolled migrations of large populations, weapons proliferation, and narcotics. They serve as neutral or impartial bodies that reinforce U.S. efforts in such critical areas as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, there are practical matters on which cooperation is needed, such as air-traffic security, telecommunications, and postal standards.

On the other hand, international organizations have certain intrinsic drawbacks:

* They often have their own bureaucratic agendas which may or may not be consistent with U.S. interests.

* They have limited rapid-response capabilities as crises materialize.

* With some notable exceptions, their bureaucracies are encrusted with procedures that inhibit innovation or rapid adaptation to changing circumstances.

* Consensus-building on major policy initiatives contemplated by the United States is slow to evolve and decisions taken tend to represent ambiguity arising out of compromises.

The United States can play a major role in efforts to improve the performance of many of these international and regional organizations by establishing clear U.S. policy objectives and concentrating its effort on those agencies and institutions deemed essential to the attainment of those objectives. In particular, the United States will be more effective if it finds ways to accommodate itself to the eccentricities of regional organizations that are prepared to engage in sustained conflict-resolution initiatives.

Key elements within the U.S. government have yet to reach agreement on the relevance and importance of international organizations in the attainment of U.S. security-policy objectives. While there is agreement that priority should be accorded agencies that address issues such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian needs, and, to a lesser extent, peace operations, the U.S. government has not provided a broad perspective on the roles and relationship of international organizations to vital U.S. security interests.

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