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The Five Principles

2004/06/14

On 29 April 1954, the People's Republic of China and India signed an Agreement on Trade and Communications between the Tibet region of China and India. It was based on five principles:

1) Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty;

2) Mutual non­-aggression;

3) Mutual non­-interference in each other's internal affairs;

4) Equality and mutual benefit;

5) Peaceful co­­-existence.

During Zhou En­-lai's visit to India on 28 June 1954, the five principles were confirmed in a joint communiqué of Jawaharial Nehru and Zhou En-­lai.

In this document it is started:

"If these principles were applied not only between various countries but also in international relations generally, they would form a solid foundation for peace and security, and the fears and apprehensions that exist today would give place to a feeling of confidence..."

The five principles, with the exception of the last one, are not new. They are already included in the UN Charter. Their confirmation and revival in1954 expresses China and India's trust in the United Nations, in spite of the cold war crisis and their will to reconfirm the role assigned to the UN, which was paralyzed by the cold war.

The first principle,"Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty", is already mentioned in Article 10 of the League of Nation Covenant and in article 2 paragraph 1 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The second principle, "Mutual non­-aggression", was mentioned for the first time in the Briand­-Kellogg Treaty of August 27, 1928 and in Article 2 paragraph 4, of the UN Charter.

The third principle, "non­-interference in each other's internal affairs", is included in Article 15,paragraph 8of the League of Nations Covenant ,and in article 2 paragraph 7 of the Charter.

The fourth principle, "Equally," is mentioned in the preamble of the Charter. But the fact that the concept of mutual benefit was added to the concept of equally implies a new dimension: economic equally. That means equal benefits for both parties to an agreement .Indira Ghandi said, during a meeting of the Non­­-Aligned movement in Algiers in1976.

In spite of political sovereignty, most of us who have emerged form a colonial or semi­-colonial past continue to have a rather unequal cultural and economic relationship with our respective overlords".

These remarks by Indira Ghandi may help us to understand the concept of economic equality which, unfortunately, does not easily become reality.

The fifth principle, "Peaceful co­-existence", is not new although the term itself, peaceful "co­-existence," is new. The fact that 50 counties with different political regimes and traditions were cooperating within the United Nations proves that peaceful co­-existence has existed de facto within the UN system. The term "peaceful co­existence" has been adopted with enthusiasm by the international community. It now appears in many international treaties. How can we explain the worldwide success of the five principles and in particular of the concept of peaceful co­-existence?

1) The Bandung Conference in April 1955 accepted the five principles even though they were not mentioned in the final communiqué. They were replaced by the "Ten principles" which Zhou En­-lai considered as merely "an extension and development of the five principles of peaceful co­-existence.

2) The Afro­-Asian states considered the five principles both as a protection against the hegemonic intervention of the two super powers and as a standard for good international conduct between all states.

3) Peaceful co­-existence became the main objective of the policy of non­-alignment, replacing the cold war by a policy of peaceful co­-existence and helping non­-aligned counties to avoid involvement in cold war.

The advocates of non­-alignment as a principle of foreign policy have distinguished clearly "neutrality" from "non­-alignment". They consider it as an active creed whose purpose is to promote a world in which weaker nations can live unmolested by powerful nations, can choose their own ideologies and develop their own political and economic system, In accordance with their traditions, needs and potentialities.

In brief, it is a system which can co­-exist with the two super powers and, at the same time contribute to the rapprochement between the two super powers.

4. In 1956, the twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union adopted peaceful co­-existence as the general principle of the international Communist movement. In November1956, the Chinese government declared that the five principles should become the uniform norms (chu tse) for the development of mutual relations between all nations… and that relations between socialist nations should all the more be structured on the basis of the five principles:" only in this way can socialist nations brings about brotherly friendship and unity…"

The reminder of this rich past brings us to the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the five principles of peaceful co­-existence. One can distinguish two groups of scholars: the pessimists and the optimists.

1) The pessimists consider that the five principles have lost their momentum because they are linked with the United Nations, marginalized since the end of the cold war and the emergence of one super power.

2) Since the end of the cold war, non­-alignment has lost its importance and its dynamism, Colonialism, racism and apartheid have been practically eradicated, the need for a mediator between the two super powers has become obsolete and the non­-alignment movement has lost cohesiveness in terms of ideology as well as in terms of institutional structure. Thus, peaceful co­-existence has lost the infrastructure which had sustained the concept for half a century.

3) The principle of territorial integrity has suffered several violations, the last example of which is the UN protectorate in Kosovo.

4) The principle of non­-interference has been severely weakened by humanitarian intervention, by the appearance of failed states with of nation states, marginal defence capabilities. Furthermore, the concept of preventive military action advocated recently by the United States has undermined the whole United Nations system, the main pillar of which was non-intervention. Another blow to the principle has been unilateral sanctions applied by member states without approval by the UN.

5) The principle of the equality has been replaced by the concept of hegemonic and hierarchical world order: the sole super power has the right to determine the destiny of the poor and the weak, by intervening in their internal affairs under the pretext of promoting democracy and the free market, for the sake of world peace. This concept of globalization and uniformization is bound to destroy the philosophical substance of the principle of peaceful co­-existence.

In conclusion, for the pessimists there is little evidence that the UN will accept any reform which might decrease its power within UN system. In consequence there is little evidence that five principles might go on playing the important role they should have played during the last fifty years.

The optimists can be divided into two categories: those who believe that change in favour of multilateralism, and the respect of the five principles will be promoted by the global and American civil society. They believe that American democracy, which gave birth to President Wilson, the farther of the League of Nations, to President Roosevelt, the farther of the United Nations, will be able to provide a leader with a transcending vision, with imagination and generosity in order to create a new UN able to respond to the needs of humanity. The optimists add that the super power has neither the capacity nor the political will be the policeman of the world. They add that the American public opinion does not approve the violation of the rule of law by their government and that, sooner or later, the pendulum will move from extreme unilateralism to unilateralism and due respect of international law.

The second category of optimists rejects this utopian approach. They believe that the super power, may adopt multilateralism "à la carte". But as long as there is no counter power, the UN will continue to be a mere extension of the foreign policy of the unique super power .Thus these optimists propose a coalition of developing countries together with the two great power of tomorrow, China and India . They believe that the five principles must be the new basis of drastic reform of the United Nations. The first two principles, "territorial integrity" and "non­ aggression", ought to be implemented through a strong UN military structure established in conformity with Chapter VII of the Chapter. The Military Staff Committee, which consists of the Chiefs of Staff of the permanent members of the Security Council must become an active reality. It should become responsible for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council. Member states must make available to the Security Council­-in accordance with special agreements-armed force, assistance and facilities.

Right now there are more than 50,000 blue helmets in 17 peace-keeping operations around the world. This effort must be institutionalized. An international policy should be developed to protect the territorial integrity of all states and to counter immediately any aggression .A recent estimate shows that since the end of the cold war, conflicts in developing countries have cost 5 million civilian lives and displaced 50 million people from their homes. This figure shows the importance of a rapid development of blue helmets to stop this constant disaster.

The third principle, "non-interference", will be more difficult to apply for three main reasons.

First reason: since the end of the cold war, internal conflicts flourish in weak and failed states. The origins and root causes of the recurrence of the conflicts are well known: ethic and tribal confrontation, lack of resources, bad governance, bad economic management and lack of adequate international assistance. When a poor African country is confronted with anarchy and chaos, how can we be sure that the international intervention is not related to political reasons without any links to the internal dispute?

Second reason: the new political conditionalities imposed by the international organizations and the donor counties, can often be considered as a new form of intervention in the internal affair of the recipient countries.

Third reason: the globalization is a continuous process of international intervention in the internal affairs of a majority of poor and small states.

This does not mean that we question the need for the UN's involvement in intra-state conflicts. What is at issue are the conditions under which the UN and other international organizations should get involved. What happens when the government concerned is inexistent because we are confronted by a "failed state"? How is a failed state or an ineffective and illegitimate government to be defined? And who should authorize an intervention which is not requested by the government concerned? Several of these questions are yet to be settled if the family of nations is to avoid being confronted by a new neo­-colonialism.

The fourth principle, "Equality and mutual benefit", requires to pay attention to sustained economic and social development. No regime can be stable without hope of a growing economy, rising employment and diminishing illiteracy. The principle organs of the UN have no specific competence in the promotion of development. But they should integrate the dispersed efforts of the financial organizations and of the regional and bilateral donors. Some of the reforms necessary to promote the principle of mutual benefit are the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, the transformation of UNCTAD which should put forward an arrangement where trade development and environment issue are formulated by a wider body of global organizations. The optimists say that we need a world parliament for globalization.

The fifth principle is the most important. There can be no coexistence without diversity. Thus the prerequisite to peaceful coexistence is cultural, economic and political diversity among nations.

The dynamic dimension of peaceful coexistence implies opposition to 'uniformisation' of the planet. Cultural and political diversity belongs to humanity's heritage. It must and it can be protected by implementing the principle of peaceful coexistence.

To conclude: to apply the five principles there is no need to wait for an overhaul of the UN system, since the basic concepts of the five principles are already in the Charter, they can be improves by taking into consideration the drastic, technical changes brought about during the post cold war, the globalization, the increasing fracture between rich and poor countries, the multiplicity of internal wars and the unilateralism of the lonely superpower's policy.

 

Boutros Boutros­-Ghali

May 2004

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