World leaders must act now to build a new system for peace and security or the 1990s may become a decade of dangerous instability.

Whenever international law is broken, resolute action must be taken by the United Nations. Fears must be allayed that double standards played a role in making possible the international response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. And we must make sure that military culture is not given a new lease on life. A system of security must be built on principles of sovereignty and universality, not on the military might of individual powers.We do need a new world order, but one founded on the vision of belonging to one global neighborhood. It should be based on a sense of common responsibility, in which the notion of security is expanded to include economic and ecological, as well as military, dimensions. Such an order will be far better suited to the interdependent realities of the next century than the old system of competitive and confrontational power blocs.

The transformation of relations between East and West has ended the Cold War, freeing minds and resources that for so long were bound by sterile confrontation. Though the openings presented by this new situation are real, the process is fraught with danger, especially regarding the extreme difficulties facing the Soviet Union's transformation.

Additionally, the gulf crisis has revealed the weakness of the present international system of security. Freed from the constraints of the Cold War, the U.N. did respond with unprecedented speed to the Iraqi invasion. Yet the organization was not in a position to prevent the crisis by resolving it in a peaceful manner.

Whether coping with the economic reconstruction of Eastern Europe and the transformation of the Soviet Union, making peace in the Middle East or dealing with such other issues as recurrent famine and civil war in Africa, it is clear in these post-Cold War days that our international institutions must be strengthened to meet the new challenges.

The "Stockholm Initiative" outlines a program of action aimed at strengthening the international security system in a new spirit of cooperation and common responsibility.

In the Stockholm Initiative, we propose that the U.N. needs to be modernized, taking on a broadened mandate at the Security Council level. As a wider understanding of security is developed, economic and ecological issues also are seen to have clear security dimensions.

With today's changed power structure and the new global interdependencies, the composition of the Security Council and the use of the veto by permanent members need to be reviewed.

Similarly, the method of appointing a secretary general must be reviewed. The secretary general should be given a stronger position and the means to exercise authority. He or she should have the power to act swiftly when an international crisis calls for it - if need be without prior consent of the Security Council.

The United Nations also must have improved capabilities for anticipating and preventing conflicts. The secretary general already is authorized to bring to the attention of the Security Council "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security." But the system needs a better monitoring apparatus.

The secretary general should be the first to know when a conflict may develop and then be able to be the first to take preventive action. To this end, permanent political offices in key regions, military observer teams, fact-finding missions and military collective security forces could constitute a global emergency system. This system would constitute a "tripwire" for potential aggressors, hopefully leading them to reconsider hostile action.

The role of U.N. peacekeeping forces also should be expanded. They should not only deal with monitoring cease-fires and other means of ending or containing conflicts, but could be used to ensure that countries are not destabilized across frontiers. U.N. missions could be used to oversee elections, as was the case in Namibia and Nicaragua recently. Military units in the armed forces of all nations could be earmarked for these peacekeeping tasks.

Finally, the chronic financial crisis of the United Nations has debilitated the organization. Withholding contributions has become a destructive way for some to exercise influence. It must not pay not to pay. In strict accordance with the U.N. Charter, those who choose not to adhere to the financial rules should be deprived of the right to vote.

Besides reorganizing the structure of the United Nations, the international community should concentrate on limiting the arms trade, especially sales of arms in areas of potential conflict.

In the aftermath of the gulf war, there is a particular danger of a new spiral of arms transfers. Greater knowledge and open information would help limit arms trading that fuels conflict.

The cooperative world climate we enjoy at the moment not only offers political advantages, but also the opportunity to free up substantial resources - the material side of the "peace dividend."

We propose that governments in industrial countries pledge to allocate a specific part of that dividend for international cooperation. If, for instance, an ambitious target of one-third of the industrial nation's military savings was set, about $30 billion to $40 billion would be released annually for such cooperation.

One billion people - one in five living on this planet - exist in conditions of extreme poverty. We propose that the world community set as its goal the eradication of such poverty within the next 25 years. We also propose that all industrialized nations set public time frames for providing 1 percent of their GNP toward cooperative international development.

In addition to a strategy for radically cutting the debt that soaks up scarce capital needed for growth in the developing world, protectionism must be reduced on all fronts.

On global environmental issues, carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of oil, coal and other fossil fuels will have to be reduced drastically in the North, perhaps on the order of one-half over the coming decades. At the same time, the increasing population and accelerating development in the South will require a more even distribution of emissions than exists today.

We propose that fees be levied on the emission of pollutants, in particular on carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Finally, to place these initiatives seriously on the action agenda of governments, we propose the convening of a "Summit on Global Governance," with tasks similar to those tackled at the meetings in San Francisco and Bretton Woods in the 1940s. Such a summit would manifest political unity behind comprehensive efforts to strengthen international institutions. It could provide the necessary political weight to pursue the restructuring of the world order proposed by the Stockholm Initiative.

Our task can be no more noble: To live up to our common responsibility in determining the future of humankind.

991 Los Angeles Times Syndicate