U.N. Security Council Silent on Tibet Protests

How do changing ideas about sovereignty–from sovereignty viewed as a “right” to sovereignty viewed as a “responsibilty”–affect the nature of how states act and the functioning of organizations such as the United Nations?  Just before spring break we viewed the documentary The Peacekeepers, where you were able to witness the deliberations that take place behind the scenes at the United Nations and the Security Council specifically. For Wednesday, we’ll read Erik Voeten’s article on “The Political Origins of the UN Security Council’s Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force”, the main point of which is obvious given the title. Today, the Guardian reports that the Security Council remains silent on the current situation in Tibet.

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council will likely keep silent about China’s crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet, mostly due to belief that provoking Beijing would accomplish nothing, diplomats said on Monday.
China, which has sent in troops to enforce control in the regional capital Lhasa, said earlier that the violent protests by Tibetans were organized by followers of the Dalai Lama seeking to derail the Beijing Olympics in August. Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has denied this charge.
“The issue did not come up in the council,” China’s Deputy permanent U.N. representative Liu Zhenmin told Reuters after a meeting of the council on unrelated issues. “This has nothing to do with peace and security,” he said. “It is local violence, … a domestic issue.”
China, like the United States, Britain, France and Russia, is a permanent veto-wielding member of the council and would be able to block any attempts by the council to act on Tibet.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, currently president of the council, told reporters without elaborating that he did not expect the 15-nation Security Council to discuss Tibet. Several other ambassadors confirmed this view.

Book Review: “Justice in Conflict? The ICC and Peace Processes”,

icc.jpgWe will be analyzing international law next week upon our return from spring break. The recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent (i.e., it has no linkn to the United Nations, unlike the International Court of Justice–ICJ) international court located in the Hague, has in its short existence (it came into force in 2002) been the subject of heated debate between those who view it as a bold and necessary step in the fight for international justice, and those who view its powers as undermining to a dangerous degree state sovereignty.

This week’s weekly letter from the International Crisis Group (ICG) contains a book review of Nicholas Waddell and Phil Clark’s “Justice in Conflict: The ICC and Peace Processes. The author of the review, Nicholas Gronko, writes:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now investigating or prosecuting individuals involved in three of the most devastating conflicts in Africa – Darfur, northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In each case, the ICC has been forced to confront the challenges inherent in pursuing peace and justice simultaneously. What happens – and what should happen – when efforts to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities coincide with a peace process? What is the best approach when the price of a peace deal may be a degree of impunity for those most responsible for such abuses? One common and convenient response is to hide behind truisms and make general statements of principle to the effect that no trade-off is required because peace and justice are inextricably linked. Clearly peace and justice are complementary in that justice can deter abuses and can help make peace sustainable by addressing grievances non-violently. But good things don’t always go together, and to present peace and justice as invariably mutually reinforcing is misleading and unhelpful when the difficult reality of peacemaking often proves otherwise. We review below arguments surrounding the ICC’s impact on prospects for peace in Uganda and go on to offer some general considerations that international policymakers should heed when seeking to balance peace and justice demands.

Here is a look at the 106 (most recent count) signatories to the Statute of Rome (which established the ICC).  States in green are signatories to the statute.

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The United Nations and Peacekeeping in Congo

In PLSC250–intro to IR–this week we viewed a documentary made by the National Film Board of Canada, which addresses the UN’s peacekeeping role in Congo. After reading Chapter 7 of Mingst, you should now be aware that the UN in the world’s most important and powerful IGO, and the UN Security Council plays the most prominent global role in the area of international security. Here are a couple of screen shots from the film and the film’s description:

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With unprecedented access to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping, The Peacekeepers provides an intimate and dramatic portrait of the struggle to save “a failed state.” The film follows the determined and often desperate manoeuvres to avert another Rwandan disaster, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC).
Focusing on the UN mission, the film cuts back and forth between the United Nations headquarters in New York and events on the ground in the DRC. We are with the peacekeepers in the ‘Crisis Room’ as they balance the risk of loss of life on the ground with the enormous sums of money required from uncertain donor countries. We are with UN troops as the northeast Congo erupts and the future of the DRC, if not all of central Africa, hangs in the balance.
In the background, but often impinging on peacekeeping decisions, are the painful memory of Rwanda, the worsening crisis in Iraq, global terrorism and American hegemony in world affairs. As Secretary General Kofi Annan tells the General Assembly at the conclusion of The Peacekeepers: “History is a harsh judge. The world will not forgive us if we do nothing.” Whether the world’s peacekeeper did enough remains to be seen.

United Nations Security Council Imposes more Sanctions on Iran

In intro to IR, we’ll analyze the role of IGOs, NGOs, and international law in international politics.  Arguably the most important IGO is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)  Today, the UNSC voted (14-0) to impose tougher sanctions against Iran as a result of that country’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.  From the New York Times:

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UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council on Monday adopted its third resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enriching uranium, an activity that the West suspects Iran may be using to create fuel for a nuclear weapon.

 The previous two measures gained the unanimous support of the 15-member panel, but in balloting on Monday Indonesia abstained, saying it “remained to be convinced of the efficacy of adopting additional sanctions at this juncture.” Fourteen countries voted in favor.

The resolution authorizes inspections of cargo to and from Iran that is suspected of carrying prohibited equipment, tightens the monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and extends travel bans and asset freezes against persons and companies involved in the nuclear program.

It adds 13 names to the existing list of 5 individuals and 12 companies subject to travel and asset restrictions. The new names include people with direct responsibility for building fast-spinning centrifuges that enrich uranium ore and a brigadier general engaged in “efforts to get around the sanctions” in the two earlier resolutions.

Notice two things: first, the use of “targeted sanctions.”  Second, the story byline reads “United Nations”, not New York.  I wonder if this is standard practice for stories originating from the United Nations headquarters in New York.  Does anyone know?

Peace and Punishment–An Insider’s Account of the ICTY

Marko Attila Hoare, whose blog (Greater Surbiton) is a great place to read about South East European politics, has a post on the recently published book by former spokeswoman of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Florence Hartmann.  The book is written in French and the title is Paix et chatiment: Les guerres secretes de la politique et de la justice internationales [Peace and Punishment: Secret Politial Wars and International Justice].

Hoare has a long post about the book. Here are some snippets:

[Hartmann] has used her eyewitness’s insight into the inner workings of the ICTY to support her blistering critique of the failure of the Western alliance to support the cause of justice for the former Yugoslavia. Her book paints a portrait of Western powers, above all the US, Britain and France, stifling the ICTY and preventing the arrest of war-criminals through a combination of obstruction, manipulation, mutual rivalry and sheer inertia.

One of the best parts of the book concerns what Hartmann terms the ‘fictitious pursuit’ of the two most prominent Bosnian Serb war-criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, involving repeated failures to arrest them. Hartmann gives various reasons why the Western powers might have behaved in this manner, among them the alleged agreement in 1995 between Milosevic, Mladic and French President Jacques Chirac, that in return for the release of two French pilots shot down by the Serbs over Bosnia, Mladic would never be prosecuted by the ICTY; the similar alleged agreement between Karadzic, Mladic and the US’s Richard Holbrooke in 1996, for Karadzic to withdraw from political life in return for a guarantee that he would never be prosecuted; and the readiness in 2002 of Bosnia’s High Representative, Britain’s Paddy Ashdown, to sabotage the attempts of Bosnian intelligence chief Munir Alibabic to track down Karadzic, out of rivalry with the French intelligence services with which Alibabic was working…

Peace and Punishment, nevertheless, remains essential reading for several reasons. It reminds us that, however critical one may be of del Ponte’s performance as Chief Prosecutor, she was very far from being the only senior individual responsible for the ICTY’s failures. It gives an insight into the sort of debates and conflicts over strategy that preoccupied war-crimes investigators at the OTP. And it highlights the fact that, far from being an agent of Western imperialism, the Chief Prosecutor was acting in a frequently hostile international arena, in which she had to struggle for international cooperation, and in which the ICTY was frequently squeezed rather than supported by the Great Powers. Although, as I have indicated, I am highly critical of several aspects of this book, I would nevertheless recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of why international justice has failed the peoples of the former Yugoslavia.

Human Security Resources

A general trend has developed, amongst governments, academics, and (especially) activists working in IGOs and NGOs worldwide that has moved the focus of security away from traditional concepts–such as protecting borders from external threat–to a new approach that focuses specifically on human security. What is “human security?” Well, the Human Security Report Project, at Vancouver, Canada’s Simon Fraser University, defines human security in this way:

Unlike traditional concepts of security, which focus on defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals…

For some proponents of human security, the key threat is violence; for others the threat agenda is much broader, embracing hunger, disease and natural disasters. Largely for pragmatic reasons, the Human Security Report Project has adopted the narrower concept of human security that focuses on protecting individuals and communities from violence.

Traditional security policy emphasizes military means for reducing the risks of war and for prevailing if deterrence fails. Human security’s proponents, while not eschewing the use of force, have focused to a much greater degree on non-coercive approaches. These range from preventive diplomacy, conflict management and post–conflict peacebuilding, to addressing the root causes of conflict by building state capacity and promoting equitable economic development.

The website has an informative and very useful set of links to various organizations, governmental institutions, research institutes, etc., that focus on issues of human security.

Another excellent source for information related to human security is the Human Security Gateway. Below is a thumbnails which will take you to a screen shot of their home page. (Notice the RSS feed icons in the left sidebar.)

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Voter Turnout Across the World

O’Neil (in Chapter 6) argues that democracies are institutionalized through the institutions of participation, competition, and liberty.  The most common form of participation in democracies is voting in elections.  Yet, the general sense seems to be that voters are turning out to vote in ever smaller numbers over the years.  Do the data bear that out?

The IGO IDEA–The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance–has a fantastic website dedicated to, amongst other things, tracking voter turnout levels in elections around the world. Referring to the map below, we see that voter turnout levels differ from country to country. Why might this be the case? This observation could be used as the first step in demonstrating Lave and March’s four-step process of modeling social and political phenomena. Thus, step one (“observe a social fact”) is voter turnout levels are higher in some countries and lower in others. Step two, then, requires us to consider a social process that could have accounted for this variation in outcomes. Can you think of a social process that can account for the findings on the map below?

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Here are some important findings from IDEA’s report on world voter turnout trends.  For a complete list of data for each respective country, go here.

  • High turnout is not solely the property of established democracies in the West. Of the top 10 countries in the 1990s only three were Western European democracies.
  • Turnout across the globe rose steadily between 1945 and 1990 – increasing from 61% in the 1940s to 68% in the 1980s. But post-1990 the average has dipped back to 64%.
  • Since 1945 Western Europe has maintained the highest average turnout (77%), and Latin America the lowest (53%), but turnout need not necessarily reflect regional wealth. North America and the Caribbean have the third lowest turnout rate, while Oceania and the former Soviet states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Central Eastern Europe are respectively second and third highest in the regional league table over this period.
  • The overall average turnout in the post-war period for established democracies is 73%, which contrasts with an average of 58% for all other countries. However, turnout rates in both established and non-established democracies have been converging over time.
  • Out of the 81 countries which had first and subsequent elections between 1945 and 1997, the average turnout in first elections (61%) is actually lower than the average for subsequent elections (62%). This represents a mixed pattern backed up by the fact that turnout in 41 countries dropped between the first and second elections but turnout actually rose in another 40 countries.

Data Sources on Development, Poverty, Economics, Environment, etc.

For your edification, but also to help you with your assignments, papers, and blogs, here are some data sources that will allow you to compare levels of development and poverty across the globe. The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report is an excellent source of information on indicators related to development. Click here if you would like to look up data and/or statistics. You can search for statistics by country, indicator, or table.

Another excellent data source is the World Bank Development Indicators collected by the World Bank. This link provides access to the Education, Gender, Health & Nutrition & Population, and Poverty databases as well as Country Statistical Information, and Development Gateway Data and Statistics.

Finally, the United Nations maintains a statistical division, whose website can be found here, and which collects a wide range of data from social and demographic statistics, through economic, environmental and energy statistics, to statistics related to Millennium goal indicators.

Timor Leste (East) and Nation-Building

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has a new report on the situation in Timor Leste. Some of you may be aware that Timor Leste broke away from Indonesia four years ago following a brutal war of secession, during which forces loyal to the Indonesian government were alleged to have committed horrendous crimes against humanity. Thanks to UN intervention, the killing stopped and the small state of Timor Leste gained its independence. Recently, however, the UN-directed nation-building exercise in Timor Leste has imploded, along with domestic order.

According to the ICG.

Four years after Timor-Leste gained independence, its police and army were fighting each other in the streets of Dili. The April-June 2006 crisis left both institutions in ruins and security again in the hands of international forces. The crisis was precipitated by the dismissal of almost half the army and caused the virtual collapse of the police force. UN police and Australian-led peacekeepers maintain security in a situation that, while not at a point of violent conflict, remains unsettled. If the new government is to reform the security sector successfully, it must ensure that the process is inclusive by consulting widely and resisting the temptation to take autocratic decisions. A systematic, comprehensive approach, as recommended by the UN Security Council, should be based on a realistic analysis of actual security and law-enforcement needs. Unless there is a non-partisan commitment to the reform process, structural problems are likely to remain unresolved and the security forces politicised and volatile.

The problems run deep. Neither the UN administration nor successive Timorese governments did enough to build a national consensus about security needs and the kind of forces required to meet them. There is no national security policy, and there are important gaps in security-related legislation. The police suffer from low status and an excess of political interference. The army still trades on its heroism in resisting the Indonesian occupation but has not yet found a new role and has been plagued by regional (east-west) rivalry. There is a lack of transparency and orderly arrangements in political control as well as parliamentary and judicial oversight with respect to both forces.

The situation in Timor Leste illustrates–from the perspective of comparative politics–the importance of the state and its crucial role in facilitating stability by consolidating political power and maintaining, to paraphrase Weber, a monopoly on the legitimate use of political violence. From an IR perspective, we see the difficulty of imposing legitimate order on a society from outside, whether–as is the case here–through intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) like the United Nations, or–as in Iraq–through unilateral, or multilateral means.

Here’s a report from the BBC on the upheavals of April-June 2006.