Author(s): Archer P
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Abstract The institution envisaged in the Moscow Declaration, refined in the Atlantic Charter, and elaborated at Dunbarton Oaks, was called 'the United Nations'. The Preamble to its Charter began with the words 'We the peoples', and Articles 3 and 4 provided that its members should be states. The underlying assumption appeared to be that the words 'nation', 'people' and 'state' were interchangeable. To challenge that assumption may appear to be playing at word games, equivalent to doing the Times crossword. But since language is the vehicle by which we formulate and communicate our thinking, words have always been invested with a power, and certainly a life, of their own. Words have legal consequences. If the word 'A' is synonymous with 'B', then all the rights and obligations pertaining to an 'A' attach to a 'B', although that may not have occurred to us when we cheerfully used that label. Perhaps even more importantly, they have psychological consequences. If we can secure acceptance that 'B' means 'A', then all the legitimacy invoked by an 'A', is assumed by a 'B'. The argument that I want to advance is that those who drafted the Charter did so on the assumption that the wellbeing and the integrity of a people, or of a nation, are equivalent to the integrity and wellbeing of the specific state to which they are attached on a one-to-one basis. I want to go on to argue that that proposition was never wholly true, and that it is becoming increasingly remote from the real world. I decided to begin by attempting definitions of the three words, but I quickly discovered that the task, if achievable, would require greater leisure, not to mention a wiser head, than is available to me. The first conclusion I reached is that all three words have eel-like qualities. When you think that you have grasped a meaning, it slips through your fingers. Not only do meanings change from generation to generation but they change contemporaneously according to the purpose of those who use them.
This article was published in Med Confl Surviv
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals