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The Dangerous Double Standard

by Hans-C. von Sponeck Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006 at 7:56 AM

In the early nineties, people hoped for the irrevocable ending of fear and the great peace dividend.. The governing limit themselves to fighting symptoms. The causes of terror are not a theme for them.


By Hans-C. Von Sponeck

[This article published in: Ossietzky, 12/11/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Hans-Christof Graf Sponeck was active at the UN for 32 years, most recently in Baghdad as a delegate of the UN General Secretary.]

Freedom from fear and freedom from distress are the fundamentals of human security. The United Nations emphasized this when the Cold War allegedly ended.

In the early nineties, people hoped for the irrevocable ending of fear and the great peace dividend. Freedom from distress should be gained with freedom from fear. The goal was overcoming malnutrition, sicknesses, poor education and inequality.

Since then, globalization has advanced rapidly. However only a minority of the world’s population has benefited. The far greater part of humanity must struggle at the lower end of the quadrant for sheer physical survival, often without success, with less than one Euro per day per person.

The reality of life chances distributed crassly differently cannot be hidden any longer. The rice farmers in Bangladesh, the shepherds in the mo9untain valleys of the Andes, the Bedouins on the Saudi Arabian peninsula and the industrial workers in Central America or Southeast Europe have not read the UN Charter in which a better life was promised since 1945. But all of them feel the unequal distribution of freedom and equality daily. They do not know the promises of the rich industrial countries not kept for decades to make the small contribution of 0.7 percent of their national revenue for reducing inequality. However they see that goods from the industrial countries are available while few people have the funds to buy them. On the other hand, their politicians know why. Many are unwilling to let their exports continue suffering discrimination. That is a main reason why the Doha trade round of the World Trade organization broke down in 2006.

The struggle for freedom from distress and against this double standard will always be hard fought. There are partial successes. In 2000, the United Nations announced eight millennium goals to improve human security by 2015. The number of starving persons should be cut in half. All children in the world, boys and girls, should have access to elementary schools. Child mortality should be lowered two-thirds and maternal mortality three-fourths. The frequency of new HIV/AIDS sicknesses and malaria should be considerably diminished and so on.

Still the progress is too slow. The goals are not reached. There is still over nourishment and riches on one side and malnutrition and poverty in the other. The state indebtedness and the political dependence of the developing world remain high. At the same time, the budget deficits in the industrial countries are also growing. 500 billionaires have more capital than 460 million of their fellow-citizens in the world.

Politics in the West does not understand or take seriously the close connection between freedom from fear and freedom from distress. It also lacks understanding that inequality, poverty and humiliation have something to do with what is generally described as terrorism. The governing limit themselves to fighting symptoms and hoping to control terrorism with violence and military provocation. The causes of terror are not a theme for them. They do not even try to understand and tackle these causes. As a result, the bondage of distress becomes an increasingly serious danger for freedom from fear. Fear grows and becomes fear of an imminent global catastrophe.

The West intent on its privileges and consciously measuring with two kinds of standards provokes all sorts of reactions: from anti-western, especially anti-American, criticism to criminal terrorist acts. New alliances arise in the midfield of this spectrum with the goal of ending this western double standard in the most different areas. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Russia, Central Asian countries in association with India, Pakistan and Iran), the China-Africa partnership and the trio of trading countries Brazil, India and South Africa (Doha trio) are three of these alliances.

In this context, six Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Emirate, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia) not surprisingly want to cooperate in questions of nuclear energy. In this area, there may be no double standard for existential reasons. However the meeting of the signers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty accepted on March 5, 1970 in May 2005 at the UN headquarters in New York has shown that the double standard continues and hardens. At this meeting, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan spoke of a “crisis of trust” in the areas of non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear technology. The differences among member states were great. Some spoke of the “danger of the proliferation of nuclear technology” and others of the “danger of the present arsenal” of nuclear weapons.

The double standard in the question of the development of nuclear energy has increased in political significance on account of international political events, particularly in the Middle East and the ever-stronger mistrust among UN member states. The “Project for a New American Century” and the American security strategy of 2002 based on this project have become symbols of the double standard. The world, especially the developing world, will not accept that the power of decision lies only with the US superpower on political, economic and cultural areas, not only in the military realm.

One acute example of this conflict is the confrontation between Iran and the US on the backdrop of the disastrous Iraq war against international law and the occupation of the land that has come to nothing. The United States was one of the initiators of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but has not ratified it and turns more and more against the obligations of this treaty. The US pursues nuclear research, develops new generations of nuclear weapons and designs a nuclear offensive strategy contained in the “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations” from March 2005. As a result, it will be hard to convince countries like China, India and Egypt to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Many other countries that pursue active nuclear research, for example Iran, think they can only protect themselves against such a hegemonial policy by increasing their nuclear capacities. The genuine danger exists that human security degenerates to inhuman destruction.

The great responsible task expected of the new UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon reminds member states of the community of nations of what Kofi Annan emphasized again and again in his term in office. “The glue of common interests” must be created to overcome the double standard in international relations so that uniform standards for everyone in the sense of the UN Charter can finally prevail for everyone and the same obligation to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and disarmament. With that, a great step would be taken to freeing the world from fear. The prerequisites for reaching the millennium development goals and freedom from distress would be improved. It will be a long and arduous way if we take it. “Neither learning nor survival is obligatory,” the Austrian mathematician and thinker W. Edwards Deming once said.

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