Friday, June 30, 2006

What are our global values?

By Otto Spijkers

What are the world’s values? What are the values that can give international cooperation between states, i.e. multilateralism, a sense of purpose and direction? This is the question I intend to answer here.

When searching for a list of global values to guide interstate relations, it may be useful to look at the United Nations. The work of the United Nations, the centre for multilateralism, is often divided into the following three categories: peace and security, human rights and humanitarian affairs, and development. From this categorization, the following list of global values can be derived: peace and security, humanity, and sustainable development. Following the interpretation of the UN values by the United Nations Intellectual History Project, I would suggest adding a fourth global value: independence. This list is not exclusive; there may be more.
I will - very briefly - discuss each of these global values in turn.
  1. International peace and security is regarded as the most important of all global values. Initially it meant peaceful coexistence of states. To collectively ensure international security was – and still is - the main purpose of the United Nations.
  2. The second global value is humanity. This value is about respect for human rights, the principles of humanitarian law, and the human dignity of all people in this world. The primary responsibility of every state is to care for its own people. When a state fails to fulfill this most important duty of all, i.e. when a state fails to be a proper state, both the individuals immediately concerned and the international order as a whole will be challenged, and thus other states may have a duty to assist and intervene.
  3. The third global value is sustainable development. Sustainable development is: development which satisfies the needs of the present generations of people without compromising the possibility of future generations to meet their needs. The environment is a global issue by definition, and a common policy is required.
  4. Finally, the fourth global value is independence, sovereignty. It is still a principle of international law that states can determine their own policies, without outside intervention, as long as they do not cause damage to other states, act within the limits of international law, and, one could add, respect the duties and responsibilities that flow from their membership of the community of states, which requires respect for the other three global values.

The four values listed above are closely linked. Some authors see, or desire, a broadening of the concept of international peace and security; to have it include not only the security of states to be free from outside (military) intervention (value of independence), but also the security of individual people to freely enjoy their human rights (value of humanity), and possibly the security of the environment (value of sustainable development). And thus, in general terms, one may say that in that view, international security is also threatened whenever the other values are trampled upon.

Not only are the global values closely linked, a balance of these four global values is also essential. An unconditional right to independence for all members of the global community could clash with the other values, and even with the very idea of a global community. A more balanced right to independence does not. As the ILA New Delhi Declaration of principles of international law relating to sustainable development (UN Doc. A/CONF.199/8) says, with regard to balancing independence and sustainability: “It is a well-established principle that, in accordance with international law, all States have the sovereign right to manage their own natural resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause significant damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” And with regard to balancing the values of humanity and security with independence, the concept of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ is relevant. The two basic principles of this concept are as follows:
  • State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.
  • Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.

In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (UN Doc. A/RES/60/1), the responsibility to protect was accepted by the UN General Assembly, although only in exceptional cases (e.g. genocide).

Photos: United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Security Council, United Nations Secretariat.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

After Peacekeeping

By Richard Norman

Stephen Harper’s Conservative party came to power earlier this year promising to reinvest in the Canadian military after more than a decade of martial downsizing under the previous government. In late June came announcements, thematically staggered in four Canadian cities, that Ottawa would be investing fifteen billion dollars ($C) in military hardware including supply ships, new trucks, new helicopters, and new strategic lift airplanes.

The announcements come at a time of great debate over the role of the Canadian military in the world, and a larger debate over the part to be played by middle powers in the increasingly “managed” conflicts of the world.

2006 is an appropriate year for such a debate in Canada. Fifty years ago, the Suez Crisis, a potentially major conflagration, was averted in part by Lester Pearson, the Canadian foreign minister at the time, who advocated what was then a new idea: sending UN troops to the region with a mandate to keep the peace. In the intervening years, a commitment to peacekeeping has come to be seen by Canadians as a national value. Not only does the idea of such a commitment make Canadians feel good about themselves, but as a cornerstone of Canadian foreign policy it distinguishes that country from the United States (widely seen in-country as an added bonus).

But the involvement of Canadian soldiers in an aggressive and dangerous mission in Afghanistan has led to new discussions about the role of Canada's military. The federal Liberal Party, suddenly out of power for the first time in thirteen years, is one of the places this issue is being debated. The party, currently in the midst of a leadership campaign, is divided into two camps. One is led by Bob Rae, who in a recent debate suggested that the Canadian mission in Afghanistan runs the risk of turning “into a combat force that's engaged in counter-insurgency and counter-guerrilla forces," and warned that Canadians would lose their way "as peacekeepers and as people who believe in the maintenance of peace.” The other faction is led by Michael Ignatieff, the current frontrunner. Ignatieff has taken fire for his outspoken support of the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, both in his former career as an academic at Harvard and now as a freshly elected member of parliament. Responding to criticism from Mr. Rae, among many others, Mr. Ignatieff said recently that he felt he “had to make a choice to stand with [the Afghanistan] mission, stand with the troops, and stand with their extension . . . because Canada is a serious country.” While neither man makes a particularly eloquent case—withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is a way of “maintaining peace”? In what way is peacekeeping an un-serious pursuit?—their views are representative of an increasing number of citizens who are being polarized by casualties and frequent violent engagements in Afghanistan.

If Michael Ignatieff becomes Liberal leader there will be an unlikely consensus between Prime Minister Harper and himself—two intellectuals who have never served in uniform—that the Canadian military has outgrown (or has the capacity to outgrow) its days as a middle power peacekeeper and instead take an active and engaging role in the international scene. A striking symbol of this change in thinking is the recent endorsement of Mr. Ignatieff by Romeo Dalliare, of the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. General Dallaire, an eloquent and outspoken critic of the bureaucratization of conflict management, entered the political arena last year when he was appointed as a senator for Quebec. His endorsement reconfirms an increasing shift away from the mealy peacekeeping of yesteryear.

But in the midst of this vital policy debate it is important to remember that the reason a rejuvenated Canadian military can be effective in a new and international context is because of the moral capital Canada itself has built up over a half-century of peacekeeping. Too often this debate involves false dichotomies: the Canadian military must turn to American jingoism or face total obsolescence. A reorientation is clearly important, but a reorientation outside of the current strictures of the debate. A revitalized, deployable, development-oriented force is what is required--one that can engage the enemy (because enemies do exist), but set its own priorities and defend its own interests.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

New Way to Wage War: World Cup Soccer

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Border Crossings and Brain Drain

By Regien Stomphorst

In order to develop a country, it needs, among other things, highly educated people. But in case the highly educated people live in a poor country, they often want to leave the country for greener pastures abroad. In some countries the highly educated flee in large numbers, while in other countries the government prevents these flights.
In this paper I will illustrate the dilemma between the freedom to move freely, which causes brain drain and the prevention of brain drain by limiting freedom of travel. Both strategies cause problems. The personal interests of the people do not coincide with the communal interests of the country. Ethiopia allows people to leave the country. While teaching in the country I experienced the results of the brain drain directly. In Eritrea visas to travel abroad are hard to get and hence stories about people feeling imprisoned in the country are abundant.


In 2004, when I was teaching at Addis Ababa University, I was confronted with the exodus of highly educated people. This exodus is called the brain drain. When I first heard the expression brain drain it sounded a bit mysterious, with a slight medical connotation. But during my stay in Ethiopia I became familiar with the word.
During my stay in Addis Ababa I taught undergraduates quantum mechanics. I taught 60 male students. I used the same teaching material as at home in The Netherlands. The mathematical knowledge of these students was quite good and eventually these students performed at the same level as their Dutch fellow-students. Twelve out of the 60 would be qualified as top-students in The Netherlands.
I also taught a postgraduate course. This course gave me a lot of headaches. At the beginning of the course 6 elderly men turned up. The first thing they told me was that this was an optional course for them and that their only aim was to get a high mark without putting effort. They were after a certificate because it would provide them a salary increment at their working place. They had reading glasses and their notebooks were stowed in expensive attaché-cases but the knowledge below their bald skin was very limited. Eventually 5 of them dropped the course because they could not cope at all. The one who continued, failed the exam.
I asked my colleagues: how is it possible that 12 of my undergraduates are top-students and that my graduate students fail the easiest tests? The answer was easy and shocking: bright students get a scholarship to go abroad and only the ones who fail to leave the country continue their education in Addis Ababa. This is how brain drain works!


Eritrea tries to prevent a brain drain by refusing highly educated people exit visa, which means that Eritrean people cannot leave their country. I heard the story of an Eritrean man, who was at the time I heard the story already 6 years married to a British lady. The couple had two kids. Every year the couple tried to visit Granny in Britain but every year the Eritrean man had to remain in Eritrea. He never managed to obtain an exit visa to leave the country for a visit to his in-laws. The government is not willing to take the risk that this highly educated man would decide to settle in Britain.

Open borders or not

Ethiopia and Eritrea have different strategies. Both strategies cause problems. Open borders provides individual freedom to move but deprives the country from its high potential staff. Closed borders serve the common interest of the country to benefit from the highly educated elite but the highly educated population feels imprisoned in the country.