Another meeting goes by without the proposition of clearly defined measures for the Security Council. The delegations have thus far shied away from using the full power of the Council, resorting instead to endless arguments over the Chinese proposal for an Arctic Coast Guard. It is concerning that a deep chasm of mistrust seems to separate China from the rest on key discussion points. This effectively cripples efforts to find common ground on the most contested issues on regional and global security.
The latest draft of the upcoming Resolution, or Working Paper III (seen by the Tribune) does not propose concrete measures on any issues, most alarmingly concerning the most vulnerable categories: indigenous communities and the Arctic ecosystem, considering it’s most of what the discussion has been revolving around. In the way that it is worded at the time of writing this article, this document creates no new international legal norms for national legislations to comply with, effectively rendering it completely irrelevant.
Well, the delegates can at least say they tried. Or can they, really? Let’s take a step back and look at what has and has not been up on the discussion floor.
When the delegations finally manage to catch their breath from promoting scientific research efforts in the Arctic, they leave the main problems posed by the USS Jacksonville disaster on the back burner and, instead, tackle minor conflicts and agree with each other that the rights of indigenous people do, in fact, need protection. The contested use of nuclear-powered military sea and land vehicles, given the great risks it poses far beyond the military domain, has yet to receive significant attention on the discussion floor. This is a surprising oversight, given that most of the key nuclear states are represented, and not to mention space programs have already taken up a big chunk of the delegates’ precious time. We offer the delegations as food for thought the level of radiation damage to the Arctic’s human and animal inhabitants this incident could have caused, to ponder before they go into the next round of discussions.
The USS Jacksonville incident happened at a time when cybersecurity is taken more seriously than ever. The digitalization in the military, private security and energy sectors have opened them up to a whole new world of risk posed by cyber-attacks. The consequences which such attacks entail would spill over and beyond the digital and into the real world, the most poignant preview of which we were given with the Stuxnet virus cyber-attack in 2010 which effectively set back the Iranian nuclear program. In fact, most cyberattacks still go unpunished and often remain unresolved. Cybersecurity and defense are another point which has thus far gone unaddressed, and we eagerly await for the delegations to bring it up.
The UN is the largest global gathering of states, a platform for unprecedented levels of cooperation. It serves a noble cause: to alleviate suffering and safeguard human rights. The Security Council in its current state does not convince anyone of the power of the United Nations to resolve global conflicts and protect people from harm. The SC delegations clearly share the UN’s noble intentions, and they can certainly enact many of the positive changes for which they strive. We were promised a debate with world-altering results; our hope to see it is still alive, and we have faith that the Council will not let it die unsatisfied.