1. UN SECURITY COUNCIL -THE FUTURE OF UN PEACE OPERATIONS
Peace operations are not just an activity of the UN, but are the activity that perhaps defines the organisation the most. In many states that were, or still are, engulfed in conflicts the UN is often used as a synonym for peace operations. This is especially true for peacekeeping operations.
Terms ‘peace operations’ and ‘peacekeeping operations’ are frequently used interchangeably, which might not be surprising taking into account the extent and numbers of those involved in peacekeeping. However, the term ‘peace operations’ is much broader than ‘peacekeeping operations’, since in practice it often also encompasses peacemaking operations, peacebuilding operations, preventive diplomacy, peace enforcement operations, as well as peace support operations, and military operations other than war.
Since their uncertain beginnings after the end of the World War II, peace operations have evolved in accordance with the constellation of power that defined the international environment. Today this environment is once again undergoing substantial change to the point where it would be a misnomer to even call it strictly ‘international’.
To succeed, any attempt at reforming UN peace operations so that they would best correspond to the contemporary nature of world politics needs to be undertaken with the UN Security Council on board. As long as its (permanent) members do not agree on a clear vision for the long-term role of peace operations, they will continue to be used (and abused) as a makeshift solution for complex conflicts.
2. COUNCIL OF THE EU - NEGOTIATING THE EU DEFENCE FUND
The political landscape of international relations has changed substantially in the last few years. Old alliances being put to the test, new powers rising to the world stage of politics and new conflicts probing capacities of great powers, such is the world in the early 21st century. The European Union, a project undertaken 70 years ago, stands on a crossroad with a pressing issue on its hand: ‘Where to now?’
The EU has come under considerable pressure since 2015, creating uncertainty between Member States and thus putting the fundamentals of European integration under question. How far should the EU go in integrating its defence policies? Do we want EU as a hard power? To what extent and how should the EU be tied into NATO? The questions in European politics generally always have the same crux, trying to balance the community approach with intergovernmental approach, or simpler, balancing of EU interest with that of Member State interests.
Delegates will have the task of negotiating the European Defence Fund with which the EU seeks to establish its own strategic autonomy of defence industry, coordinate and facilitate collaboration in the fields of defence industry research and development, and to establish a framework for advanced European defence integration. In general, the EDF is but only a step within a wider initiative undertaken by the Juncker commission which had already formulated its political outlook on defence in its political guidelines (July 2014) and later elaborated upon in its European Defence Action Plan (November 2016).
The setting is ready, and it will be up to the Delegates to decide the fate of this seminal regulation. Should the regulation fail, this could well mean a major setback in creating a possible community-based defence policy. However, how much of state sovereignty are you ready to give up for the European cause?
3. UNGA ECOFIN - RE-THINKING THE GLOBAL WAR ON DRUGS
In early 1970s, a ‘war on drugs’ was declared, rendering production and distribution of drugs illegal. A decade earlier the UN firmly established that “addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind.” Yet the demand was so great and business so lucrative that within a decade crime syndicates came to constitute an overt threat to the power and stability of state institutions. States decided to double down on their efforts by bringing the issue of organised crime and the question of drug policy under a single, one-dimensional narrative of international peace and security.
Thirty years later, the war on drugs rages on with no end in sight. Illegal drug trade is widely considered to be larger in scope than any other illicit activity. Some states held their ground, others have capitulated. Either way it was the ordinary people who were forced to bear the brunt of the burden. The war on drugs, initially portrayed as an attempt to make societies safer, has in in the end eaten away some of the very foundations that underpin the security of our communities, be it at the local or global level.
However, when in 2016 the UN General Assembly finally took up the issue, it became clear that there still exists a sizeable rift between countries favouring a more lenient approach and those who remain committed to strictly and often violently enforced prohibition. With countries having encountered an apparent stalemate, it will be up to the Delegates in the UNGA Economic and Financial Committee to reassess the failures of past and contemporary drug policies and in a more incremental way devise an approach that will take recognise the inseparable intertwinement of economic and security complexities that constitute the global drug problem.