Letter: Sovereignty is not absolute

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Percival (Letters, 20 July) rightly points to a profound difficulty at the heart of the United Nations structure: the assumed absolute sovereignty of member states.

Article 2.7 of the charter indeed says that nothing in it authorises the United Nations to intervene 'in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state'. But what is domestic jurisdiction? The adoption by the General Assembly in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the outset implied that some matters were not as domestic as others.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in his An Agenda for Peace of 1992, strongly suggests that old rigidities have to give way to new circumstances. It is the task of leaders of states, he says, to find a balance 'between the needs of good internal governance and the requirements of an ever-more-interdependent world'.

The urgent need today is to build a properly funded and reformed United Nations and thus the global structures of law, justice and security now evidently lacking.

Yours faithfully,


Vice President

International Catholic Movement for Peace

London, N4

21 July