Connect with us

Diplomacy

Reforming the Universal Organization

Published

on

Europe, and especially its smaller nations and their prominent leaders, could play a decisive role in ending the ‘dysfunction, discord and disagreement’ that has turned reform of the UN Security Council so intractable, argues Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN Deputy Secretary General; and Minister of State at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, and friend of MD.

 

If two middle-aged singles were to re-tie the marital knot, the likely reason would be to share their lonely old age. Yet there might be altogether more dynamic reasons for the EU and the UN to consider renewing their vows. They could, at a stretch, become the world’s new power couple.

As a policy brief by the European Council on Foreign Relations entitled “Why Europe Needs a New Global Strategy” argued recently, despite the despondency that grips its politicians and publics, Europe achieved several decades of dynamic diplomacy that slumped into failure only in recent years. That success centred on the soft power successes of the EU’s own enlargement strategy, still arguably the single most significant geopolitical shift of our times, and on building up regional partner institutions like the African Union, where Europe has largely bankrolled improved peacekeeping and conflict resolution capabilities. Europe has made a much bigger contribution to peace on the African continent, for example, than has the U.S. creation of its Africa Command.

But now the ‘Big Rises’, notably of China and its fellow BRICs, and the ‘Big Fall’ of President Obama’s America leave Europe apparently naked and middle-aged, a far greater symbol of Western decline over the last decade than the United States itself. Europe’s failure to apply to its Arab neighbours the same soft power skills of economic inducement and political smooth talking that brought Eastern Europe into its fold has reinforced a growing perception that Europe has lost its way.

Consumed by the internal crisis of the euro and lacking political will, resources and vision, Europe has watched its Arab neighbours slump back into instability and authoritarianism. Nowhere is Europe’s failure, and in this that of the wider world as well, more evident than Syria. Feckless diplomacy, a divided UN Security Council, and empty threats of intervention all amount to a casebook study of how not to handle a crisis. Russia and the U.S. deserve the major share of the blame, but Europe is left wringing its hands; Russia and America have been powerful meddlers, while Europe was just impotent.

01qu

Europe’s diplomats need to rediscover how to work the UN’s corridors, and the EU needs to become a more imaginative leader of UN reform

01qd
Within the bowels of this disaster, though, lie the clues to a way back for Europe, and perhaps even Syria. The first lesson is that the only forum in which EU member countries can make their views heard in a situation such as Syria is the UN. Public opinion in Europe won’t countenance, at least for now, sabre rattling by NATO or the creation of coalitions of the willing, let alone military intervention. The vote in the British Parliament against even limited punitive air strikes after the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime made that very plain.
Like it or not, Europeans in this day and age expect their governments to pursue their international objectives through the rule of law, international institutions and through the sometimes rather elusive concept of soft power. They are increasingly wary of the projection of force unless all other means of dispute resolution have been exhausted. In other words, Europeans imbue the core approach of the United Nations since its founding. Although British and French governments may sometimes hanker after the gunboat diplomacy of bygone times, more cautious governments like those of Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden better represent long-term European public sentiment. The last decade has seen a 20% fall in Europe’s military budgets, an even greater fall in military R&D spending and an increasingly deep-seated wariness about foreign adventures. A recent U.S. Secretary of Defense noted with concern that Europe is in danger of “demilitarising”.

For most Europeans, any military deployments must be with the authorisation of the UN Security Council. The sad examples of Iraq and Libya are now etched into the political consciousness of Europe. In the UK, this is carved deeper every time former prime minister Tony Blair speaks up in favour of another intervention. It is a history of personal and national political vanity that most Britons want to forget.
Europe is not necessarily on a path to unilateral disarmament, where the value of the UN would be only as a debating chamber for Europe’s powerless armchair warriors. Quite the opposite, because the EU’s enlargement along with other assertions of European leadership show that ‘Big Values’ and a ‘Big Market’, combined with modest force projection under a UN banner and an activist multi-lateral diplomacy, can bring sweeping gains for Europe. Most recently, the European Council did discuss defence for the first time in five years at their December summit, although not very convincingly.

For an EU pairing of diplomatic charm backed by the reluctant use of force to be effective, however, Europe’s diplomats need to rediscover how to work the UN’s corridors, and the EU needs to become a more imaginative leader of UN reform. If it is to put its faith in a UN dimension to its foreign policy, Europe needs a UN that can deliver.

From the decade since Iraq in 2003, Europeans at the UN have been a house divided. Too often, Britain, and latterly France, have either followed their own star or that of America. For a time, Germany’s ambition for permanent Security Council membership put it at odds with Italy. And at times the different economic and neighbourhood interests of northern and southern Europe created their own strains.
Europe has tried to address these divisions through laboriously negotiated common positions, and by lots of prickly protocol about who gets to speak for Europe on what. Missing, though, is a strong EU policymaking process that would give Europe real leadership and a powerful voice in multi-lateral deliberations. For now, Europe remains less than the sum of its parts.

There is an important proviso to this. The further down the list of individual member states priorities an issue is, the better the common position. It’s easier to get consensus on Congo than China, or on Rwanda than Russia.

Syria is now driving home the need for two key UN reforms where EU leadership could be decisive: humanitarian action and Security Council reform. On the first, the UN has allowed its relief operations for Syria to be ‘captured’ by the Assad regime. It cannot significantly expand cross-border feeding and health programmes to communities that are either controlled by rebels or under siege from the government. This has allowed the regime to make relief a weapon of war. It reflects how UN humanitarian work has become subject to Security Council approval rather than being governed by independent ‘Red Cross’ principles of humanitarian need. In the days of the Cold War, when the Security Council was routinely deadlocked, it never occurred to me as a young UN relief worker to seek express Security Council approval. My colleagues and I operated under a higher authority, so to speak, by claiming the mantle of international ethics and humanitarian law.

01qu

For the gridlock to be broken the Security Council must be reborn as a forum for co-operation and dialogue that existing members such as Russia and China can trust and invest in

01qd
Europe is the biggest collective funder of UN humanitarian work, and a champion of these activities. It should seek to restore the principle of political independence for that work. And behind this European interest there lies a growing attention to human rights as against state rights. One expression of this may be detaching humanitarian action from political control, but ultimately the very European re-calibrating of the rights of the individual versus the state requires a much bigger make-over.

Over the last 68 years, the greatest change in the UN has been the trend giving more weight to individual rights and less to sovereign rights, with Europe in the forefront of this. As my old boss Kofi Annan wrote back in 1999, “state sovereignty, in its most basic sense is being redefined – not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation.” To that should be added the forces of mass communication because there is a journalist in every war zone and a television screen in every living room.

At the UN’s founding in 1945, the principle of state sovereignty prevailed. The UN Charter represented small concessions of sovereignty to the UN, but ultimately was more about preventing a return to war than enshrining the rights and protection of individuals. In the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there were considerable differences between the 18 delegates on the nature of these rights and the proper relationship between the individual and the state. But it wasn’t just non-democratic powers like the Soviet Union that resisted turning the UN into an international arbiter that could overrule national sovereignty in favour of individual human rights. Historians like Mark Mazower record that “the British, embarrassed by the colonies, the USA, embarrassed by segregation and civil rights” sought also to ensure that the Universal Declaration was non-binding.

Sixty years later, after the rights revolution of the 1970s, the end of the Cold War and tragedies in Biafra, Rwanda and Bosnia, the tide turned. In 2005, the UN’s General Assembly endorsed the responsibility of each individual state to “protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” Should a state fail to do so, that responsibility to provide such protection would devolve to the international community, acting through the Security Council and on a case by case basis ‘to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner’ including the use of force pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In short, sovereignty was declared to be conditional on a state’s discharging its primary responsibility to protect; it is not absolute without regard to its behaviour.

The introduction of this doctrine of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ or ‘R2P’ was one of the most important reforms of Kofi Annan’s term as Secretary-General. Although it was really a clarification in international law regarding state sovereignty, it was accompanied by such institutional reforms as the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the replacement of the UN Commission on Human Rights with the Human Rights Council.

Yet it is these institutions, particularly the Human Rights Council, together with an unreformed Security Council, that have disappointed. The Human Rights Council started out as a farce, devoting almost all of its meeting time to Israel and passing eight resolutions of condemnation. Things have not improved – it has been described as a ‘theatre of the absurd’. Most recently, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Vietnam were all elected to the Council despite significant evidence of human rights violations and having denied access to UN human rights monitors. Just four years after the Peacebuilding Commission was set up to encourage post-conflict reconciliation, justice, reform and investment, an official assessment described its deficiencies and it is often described as ‘unwieldy’, though these failings are not terminal.

But it is the Security Council that is truly broken. And where it is broken, dysfunction, discord and disagreement trickle down into other parts of the UN. Samantha Power, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in an article in 2004 that the UN’s reputation “rises and falls these days based on the performance and perceived legitimacy of three of its most visible components – the Security Council, the Commission on Human Rights and the peacekeepers in the field”. The latter of these were at least addressed in some part by the reforms of 2005, but then as now, Security Council reform proved too intractable.

I have previously described Security Council reform as institutional chiropractice. If only this critical piece of the organisation’s spine was properly aligned around members that are thought to represent the world as it is today, then the alignment would fall down through the lower spine, arms, and legs as the whole body politic recalibrates itself. Where there is disagreement or gridlock in the Security Council over such pressing issues as the crisis in Syria, or worse where vast swathes of the UN’s 193 member states feel utterly disenfranchised, the entire co-operative underpinning of the United Nations is compromised.

01qu

The veto’s use is not nearly as widespread as is thought; the Council does most of its business without a veto. It is wielded, though, when the stakes are high

01qd
To lead on security or any other issue, and to hold convening power, the UN and its Secretary-General must be able to act with moral authority. Yet authority is derived from legitimacy and representativeness. Where the Security Council has twin deficits in both, the UN is weakened and wider reform is frustrated. The Security Council’s dysfunction is toxic, in itself.
The current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, is often criticised for not doing enough to press member states for comprehensive reform, or to institute reforms in the secretariat. But although the Secretary General can enable and advocate reform, ultimately the power to implement wide-ranging change lies primarily with UN member states. Without permanent membership or representation on the Security Council, countries like India, Brazil and South Africa as well as many other smaller countries, will engage less with the UN and look to regional bodies like the African Union and the Arab League as forums for co-operation and communication.

Members of the General Assembly continue to feel disenfranchised on key issues, without leadership on the Security Council and without much of a say on the appointment of the Secretary-General. They therefore see empowerment of the Secretary-General and the Security Council as a power grab by the large countries that make up the P5, and refuse to acknowledge that across the board reform is about strengthening the institution as a whole rather than diminishing the role of the General Assembly.
Security Council reform is needed to underpin wider UN reform, and in truth it is more than this. Not only does the spine of the Security Council facilitate the working of the rest of the UN, but the Security Council deals with the most important issues relating to peace and intervention and is thus also its most vital organ. If the Security Council is powerless to stop atrocities in Syria, as it was during the Srebrenica massacre or the genocide in Rwanda, it is, as Hillary Clinton described it in 2012, ‘neutered’.

Barack Obama, who in part won the Nobel peace prize for his “emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other institutions can play”, similarly dismissed the Security Council’s resolutions as ‘hocus pocus’ as recently as last September. Then, in October, Saudi Arabia announced that it would not take up its hard-won, non-permanent seat on the Security Council, and accused it of ‘double standards’ while demanding its reform before it would participate. The recent past has nevertheless seen some Security Council breakthroughs; two and half years of diplomatic deadlock were broken last September when a deal on Syria’s chemical weapons emerged, and most recently the Security Council authorised an African-led and French-backed peacekeeping force to quell spiralling violence in the Central African Republic. The recent nuclear agreement with Iran was a Security Council-plus exercise, a rare but important success too for Europe and Catherine Ashton, its foreign affairs chief.

But friction remains, and in the words of France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius, “these positive outcomes cannot hide the fact that, for a long time, the Security Council, constrained by vetoes, was powerless in the face of the Syrian tragedy.” As seen with Libya and UN Resolution 1973, even when the Council reaches a decision, its implementation can be the cause of dispute. In Syria, although an agreement was reached on chemical weapons disarmament, the Security Council has not been able to force peace negotiations or protect civilians. The distrust sowed by the action taken in Libya has led to inaction in Syria, with non-Western Security Council members seeing any action as the thin end of the wedge.

For the gridlock to be broken the Security Council must be reborn as a forum for co-operation and dialogue that existing members such as Russia and China can trust and invest in. This will only happen when the Security Council is more representative of the balance of power in today’s world.
In the seven decades since 1945, membership of the UN has almost quadrupled from 51 to 193 states. The number of permanent members is the same today as when it was created, and the number of non-permanent members has increased from only six to ten. The basic proposal, which remains stuck on the drawing board since the Annan reforms of 2005, is to add six or seven more permanent members – Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa, plus one more African country. But what exactly would happen to the veto under such a plan is not agreed.

In November 2010, President Obama endorsed India for a permanent seat, and as Security Council reform is only realistic with the full backing of the United States, this was an important step. As a UK minister, I myself came enticingly close in 2009 to getting all the permanent members to commit publicly to Security Council reform, but then the new Obama Administration, fresh in office, pulled back and wanted more time to think about it.
Beyond the U.S., the UK supports widening permanent representation on the Security Council to Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. At least one, and I would say two, representatives from Africa must surely also be appointed, given that a majority of the items on the council’s agenda deal with Africa, and yet the continent has no voice equivalent to a permanent member.

Expanding the Security Council’s permanent membership is not enough. To make the Council work, veto and procedural reform is also needed. The veto’s use is not nearly as widespread as is thought; the Council does most of its business without a veto. It is wielded, though, when the stakes are high. Last October, France’s Laurent Fabius proposed a significant alteration – that the P5 would “voluntarily regulate their right to exercise their veto” in the face of a ‘mass crime’. This crime would be determined by the secretary general at the request of at least 50 member states. This ‘Responsibility Not to Veto’ (RN2V), pushed by human rights advocates is in the eyes of some “subjective, vague and open to interpretation”. Crucially, it doesn’t involve France or any other of the P5 giving anything up in favour of new or non-permanent members.
Requiring two vetoes rather than one may one day be a more realistic approach as it will preserve the balance of power in the Security Council – a prerequisite for the U.S., the UK and other western powers – while enhancing the institution’s legitimacy and representative character. The core objection today would be America’s concern that it alone could no longer veto anti-Israeli resolutions. But if joined by Germany, that might give some reassurance given the latter’s long post-1945 history of single-mindedly protecting the status of Israel in international forums.
But adding Germany may be a bridge too far for the rest of the world, which already considers Europe to be over-represented. This is the calculation Europe needs to make, because making Germany another European power with full privileges, veto and life membership is a deal-breaker for many other countries.

Instead, Europe may want to lead on a different proposal to create a new class of regional members, initially including the current P5, who would enjoy 10-year renewable memberships. The criteria for candidacy (say share of regional GDP, aid and defence spending, etc.) would favour a region’s leading members, even though who those are may shift over time. For instance, there was talk in 1945 of admitting Brazil, and now, it would again deserve membership. But for the decades in between it would not have done. China and the U.S. are unlikely to be unseated, as to do so would leave a large part of global power unrepresented at a fatal cost to the Council’s legitimacy.

So a rotating, renewable regional membership offers greater legitimacy and flexibility of representation. For Europe, such a Council might start with the two incumbents, Britain and France, but come the first election Germany would probably elbow one of them aside. And no doubt Italy or Poland, and perhaps Sweden at the head of a Nordic bloc, will one day press their own claims. It would make for a dynamic, accountable – and democratic – international governance, and an end to the P5 sinecures of representation without accountability.
It takes people to make a marriage and a moment may come when there is new leadership in Brussels and New York. A new European Commission in Brussels will be followed in 2016 by the election of a new UN Secretary General. Many argue it is Europe’s turn to nominate a candidate, and a better UN is surely a good cause for Europe and what it stands for. It might also give Europe and the UN a second honeymoon.

(First published by the Europe’s World, article re-posted per author’s permission.)

Continue Reading
Comments

Diplomacy

High expectations from the newly designated Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan

Published

on

The new designated Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Nong Rong, an expert in trade and commerce, currently serving as a minister in a Guangxi provincial government. According to the website, The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nongrong, a male, born in September 1967, Zhuang ethnicity, a native of Mashan County, Guangxi Province, joined the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) in January 1987, started work in July 1991, holding a MASTER degree in business administration, Senior management, and International business. He has been serving in the Government in various capacities including, foreign trade and economic cooperation, ASEAN-business, City Mayor,  and Hong Kong, Macao & Taiwan regions. In December 2019, he assumed the post of Secretary of the Party Committee of the Ethnic Minority Language Working Committee of the Autonomous Region and Vice Minister (and concurrently minister) of the United Front Work Department of the Autonomous Region Party Committee. In January 2020, he assumed the post of Director of the Ethnic Minority Language Working Committee of the Autonomous Region. Deputy to the 13th National People’s Congress and member of the 11th Party Committee of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Mr. Nong Rong will replace Ambassador Yao Jing, who has been serving as a Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan and has served in Pakistan three times in the various capacity of the diplomatic mission. He has also served in India as Deputy Head of Mission and as Ambassador in Afghanistan. He understands the regional issues very well and has been a successful Ambassador in Pakistan. However, he has been called back two months in advance before completing his three-year tenure. He enjoys popularity in Pakistan. He will be joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing until the assigned next assignment.

China and Pakistan are traditional friends, strategic partners, and a nation of shared destiny. Pakistan is the largest supporter of Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013. Pakistan is a host of one of the Six-Planned Corridors, “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC). The CPEC is a flagship initiative and in the most advanced stage of its execution among all other Corridors. Pakistan is the largest beneficiary of BRI, in the form of CPEC.

The early harvest projects, or generally known as phase I, have been completed or going to be completed soon. Most of the projects were in Power Sector and Infrastructure development. Pakistan has almost over-came the shortage of electricity, and a vast network of Motorways and Highways has been established the width and length of Pakistan. The Railway network is being ug-graded soon.

CPEC is to enter into phase II, where the focus will be Agriculture, Industrialization, Services Sector, etc. It will enhance Economic activities and eradicate poverty. This phase will be crucial for Pakistan, as the country is passing through the worst economic crisis. Both governments have been in close consultations to make the second phase more fruitful.

The designated Ambassador is a political appointee and expert of Trade and Commerce; he might be the right choice for Pakistan to take-off CPEC phase II. Keeping his track-record of success and achievements in Guangxi province, it is believed he will contribute toward CPEC a lot. China and Pakistan both nations are committed to turning CPEC as a “role model” of BRI for the rest of the world to be followed. Designated Ambassador has the requisite and relevant expertise.

Although, previously, several Chinese Ambassadors were career diplomats and have been served in the diplomatic assignments in several countries before their appointment as Ambassador to Pakistan. The Appointment of Mr. Nong Rong is out of routine and expected to perform extraordinarily. However, he is not the only political or non-career diplomat appointee. General Geng Biao was also a political appointee as the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan in the 1950s, and he also performed extraordinarily. He was known as the Chief Architect of China-Pakistan relations.

Based on Mr. Nong Rong’s profile and success stories & achievements, high expectations are circulating even before his arrival.

Continue Reading

Diplomacy

Doubt candy: How to sell inconsistency

Madina Plieva

Published

on

“Ah, it is easy to deceive me! I long to be deceived myself!” — thus famously ends one of Alexander Pushkin’s poems entitled “Confession”. A lot is being said today about the negative consequences of forced positivity as well as the effect that the excessive   advertising   has   on   our   psychological   well-being.   Gender   studies specialists point to the disruptive influence of unrealistic expectations of both women and men perpetuated by the media and society at large. For some reason though, foreign policy research, along with the scholarly work on public diplomacy — a field more readily associated with public outreach — rarely find themselves integrating findings from psychology; social, group subdiscipline of the latter all the less so.

Truth be told, the explanation seems to be obvious. Foreign policy making remains an exclusive, if not elitist, and not necessarily very transparent domain. On top of that, we still primarily associate it with the classic European tradition of diplomacy, wherein the grandmasters such as Metternich, Talleyrand, Richelieu and Bismarck almost single-handedly formulate and execute the chess game moves allegedly beneficial to their respective states. This hardly comes as a surprise: one of if not inherent then certainly currently observed features of democracies is the abundance of apolitical, uninformed or ill-informed citizens whose political activity or lack thereof directly impact the nature of the government. Given the high stakes involved in what is known as the high politics, providing for a separate set of procedures appears justifiable on both rational and irrational grounds: after all, the very essence of the social contract lies with the state ensuring security of its subjects.

Let us now take a closer look at the concept of consistency. We rightfully expect the politician of our choice to deliver on the promises made during the campaign. Or else, we like his or her personality to the point where our emotional predisposition makes us likely to consider this person’s failures as non-critical for re-election. One can think of a number of cognitive biases helpful in explaining this deviation from presumed  (now  we  know:  bounded)  rationality;  to  name  just  two,  subjective validation and halo effect are at play. But then, whenever this figure crosses the threshold of our approval, and this often comes in the form of not fulfilling some of the points we prioritized when casting our votes or even ruining our pre-existing image of oneself completely, he or she may well give up on a career of a politician.

Whether this pattern brings us closer to living in a more prosperous country might not be the question that is normally asked; however, neither is denying globalization of humanity’s challenges an option to consider. What is more, an act of taking a person off the political scene and refusing him or her the professional and otherwise future because of a stain on the reputation is frequently driven by the accusers’ own fears or self-interest. It is yet to be explicitly stated, with all the grassroots talk of mental health, what Monica Lewinsky and many others like her really did suffer for. Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony can be further generalized to account for the desire to preserve a given state of affairs by attaching moral evaluations to one’s behavior; without being trained in psychology, it is still easy to acknowledge that guilt tripping is a powerful manipulative technique. Another supporting line of thought was developed by Carol Gilligan, an American psychologist who criticized Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development as biased against women. She found that only white men and boys participated in his experiments and also that Kohlberg clearly saw the consideration of individual rights and rules as more important compared to the consideration of care in human relationships. Further research revealed that in competitive contexts, despite men being prone to reason from a justice rather than ethic-of-care perspective, they demonstrate lower moral standards than do women. This observation might be of an utmost significance to those engaged in social and political theorizing; what is left out of the picture is more telling than what serves to confirm a theory. Theories have the property of affecting us deeply since our mind is programmed to adopt shortcuts to navigate in a demanding environment; all the worse is the impact of those of them that gain broad recognition in spite of, or owing to the biases they are built on.

To add fuel to the fire, premature disappointment with a public figure is hardly a smart measure in the pursuit of one’s political aspirations. The person in question might be a real fighter and a quick learner, yet in no social interaction, and especially not within the complex interrelated governmental systems can one act in complete independence. Before blaming the culture of instant gratification for this tendency in people’s behavior — although undoubtedly invigorated by the former —  let us refer to  the  collection  of cognitive biases  once  again.  Here  we find  the fundamental attribution error, categorized as one of the common distortions emanating from the need to act fast. Humans are inclined to assume that what people do reflects who they are; except when judging ourselves, we assign a greater importance to the external factors.

Every peculiarity of the thinking process had at some point its adaptive value, otherwise it would not have developed. The modern civilization, while taking enormous pride in the achievements of the rational mind, is no better prepared for a drastic revision of its founding principles, however outdated they might be, than any of its precursors. At the heart of liberalism lies the conviction that human beings are selfish by nature whereas proponents of anarchism assert that people are born equal; they bear neither merit nor guilt for their innate differences and are capable of interacting harmoniously without setting up a hierarchy. As the British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman observes, people today are fearful of public gatherings and joint decision-making; anarchic society, on the contrary, demands that the individual be active, open to dialogue and uninterested in handing over to the state or any superior group of people responsibility for managing one’s own life. What stands behind our willingness to be dependent on a state, is it not conformity or status quo bias? Have we not, in fact, had enough revolutions, or is it merely an ordinary ruling class rhetoric?

It is time to explore in greater detail just what exactly the above-mentioned rational and  irrational  justifications  for  singling  out  the  foreign  policy  making  are.  The curtailed opportunities for popular control of and say in developing strategies and decisions applied in this public policy area is something often taken for granted or seen as historically inevitable. As Eric Alterman shows, the democratic deficit in the way the foreign policy of the US, a traditionally strong democracy, is being made is no recent phenomenon. He comes up with a proposal to set up a novel institution allowing for a more inclusive discussion, thereby tackling the root cause of the problematic situation —  a tradition of  institutional and, in particular, presidential secrecy in foreign affairs. This political reality precludes the enlightenment of the people, necessary for a healthy functioning of republic. Neither are the conditions for it created nor the incentives of the elites to proceed in that direction are formed.

The idea that a handful of specially trained people would do a better job of deciding on highly complicated issues than a larger group of non-specialists holds in most contexts. The content of the training and the organizational setup, however, are of crucial importance. Social institutions within which the reflective forms of information processing  are  encouraged  effectively  attenuate  common  biases.  All  too  often, closed systems operating on rarely questioned principles — this is what many states’ foreign policy communities resemble — amplify cognitive biases by relying on shared misconceptions. When the price of making commitments is low; when there is no audience to judge one’s choices; when there is a high degree of certainty regarding one’s professional future, no motivation to think more flexibly and rigorously exists. Accountability pressures have to be introduced artificially. Additionally, experimental work indicates that the choice process taking place in the open and transparent settings is characterized by a reduced number of breakdowns in consistency on the part of decision-makers. Here is another reason to transform the conventional mechanisms of shaping the foreign policy — if only consistency is what we are striving for.

Coming back to the question of personal consistency in political leaders, let us now address the following question: since ensuring security is referred to as the most important function of the state and the competence unique to it, can a popular preference for the strong, confident and principled leaders be connected with the public understanding of security? A situation in which the people of the country vote for an authoritarian personality after having been through a period of tumultuous transition or war is well-known and can easily be described in psychological terms. Yet the right choice to make is frequently counterintuitive. In fact, if by consistency we mean sticking to the same set of values and beliefs all along as well as maintaining little to no gap between words and actions, then by putting it first, we basically deny a politician opportunity for personal growth. People would rather have it predictable than look out for someone who is capable of reassessing his or her past behavior, draw conclusions and change; someone whose approach is nuanced and adjustable. Both the US-led and the USSR-led camps during the Cold War rallied behind an unambiguous ideology and both, just as observed in the aforementioned studies on male morality in competitive contexts, committed horrible things while positioning themselves as firmly committed to the common good — only to  preserve  a  holistic  facade  and  come  out  a  winner.  The  American  approach towards proliferators of the weapons of mass destruction has the quality of placing every hostile to it authoritarian regime in the same box regardless of the motivations behind the pursuit of weapons — at the same time, treating proliferators friendly to the US much more leniently — and the following adoption of harsh measures with little attempt at negotiating. Possibly out of the experience of a highly consistent but criminal political regime, today’s Germany pays greater attention to specific circumstances of the proliferator and acts on the basis of the nature of the threat, if any, and the degree of urgency of prevention. On the other hand, its commercial interests prevailed on a number of controversial occasions in the past and it might be argued that the same is happening these days, too. These examples demonstrate just how typical is the connection between the exhibited and desired consistency and the quest for power. A psychological explanation for the proposed cases requires a reference to the need for closure, an urge to put an end to uncertainty, to find a clear answer to a disquieting question. In the words of Vladimir Bibikhin, a prominent Soviet-Russian philologist and philosopher, “..Unfortunately, nothing in humanity is as widespread, takes away as much energy and kills the mind as mercilessly as mending consciousness  for fear of  rupture.  Supposedly in life  there must  be  a “harmony” of consciousness. No, there should not, for this is death.”

Before moving on to the issue of application of marketing tools in public diplomacy, let me add another stroke to the psychological portrait of a person who chooses to outsource his or her security. Prospect theory, which was developed by Kanehman and Tversky in 1979, challenges the expected utility theory by positing, on the basis of empirical information, that people assess their gain and loss perspectives in an asymmetric manner. Not surprisingly, this approach is extensively applied to political decision-making,  predominantly  in  matters  relating  to  security.  The  statesmen trained to view the international arena as a realist-type environment of self-help and resenting certain historical occurrences are tempted to disregard the subjective well- being of the citizens they supposedly serve and work towards tilting the geopolitical balance. Their perception of a probability of success or failure in this endeavor has a decisive influence on whether an attempt to do so, and by what particular methods, will be undertaken. And so, because chances are — and as we learn from history, they are high — that the decision-makers under- or overestimate those probabilities, the nation is at great risk of suffering economic and otherwise hardship. Even if the venture turns out to be successful, availability bias — the tendency to overestimate the probability of events that come to mind easily — along with a long list of other cognitive distortions inevitably are here to plague every new cohort of politicians. Conversely, the population does not fancy any alternative institutional setup and regards conflicts as normalcy: people are either unaware of a larger socio-political context or live with implicit ideas of an established state of affairs, not recognizing that many of their private struggles result from a mode of societal functioning they take for granted. Yet beyond it there may lay a reality in which a discontinuation of outsourcing security brings about a more peaceful and prosperous world. Until then, we are destined to instinctively choose the leaders whose apparent resolve to prevail at all cost feels comforting and makes us believe that the entity meant to protect us will not disintegrate.

It may be objected that the role of the liberal norms in contemporary international community  is  such  that  hardly  any  state  wholeheartedly  believes  and  has  a possibility to exercise Realpolitik. This statement does not stand up to criticism; to see that, it suffices to review the latest doctrines and policy proposals in the fields of security and defense issued by various states. The language being used and the total absence of references to any recent psychological discoveries that have the potential to alter our threat perceptions are indicative. The promise of nuclear disarmament enjoys little enthusiasm of possessor states. This traditional political actor has indeed lost much of its mandate in the last decades, but a number of states nevertheless pretend to be operating in an environment where the primary demands  of  their  citizens  are  concentrated  not  around  their  own  material  and spiritual well-being but around an imaginary success of an imaginary community.

Political choice is optional, economic choices are inescapable. Marketing experts never tire to emphasize the importance of consistency in branding. A brand, just like a country, is both imagined and experienced. Companies seek to promote a clear picture of themselves, to become associated with certain values, to gain trust of potential customers. Money is a key resource people dispose of and exchange for what brings comfort and satisfaction. We choose from a great variety of options and quite naturally, every firm does its best to appeal to us and be preferred over others.

In doing so, it essentially cultivates its recognizable identity with a view to grab its share of customer attention and finance. Is market economy, especially when regulated loosely, not an example of a kind of self-help space similar to that pictured by the realist school of thought in international relations? Simon Anholt might regret having coined a term “nation brand”, but what happened to it is a timely reminder of how politics is about economic competition more than anything else.

The  central  problem  is  the  same  as  outlined  above:  people’s  interests,  not necessarily expressed in economic terms but necessarily contradicting, are nowhere to be represented. As Naomi Klein brilliantly put it, “..Unlike strong brands, which are predictable and disciplined, democracy is messy and fractious, if not outright rebellious.” In other words, the task of self-presentation for a country is complicated by the fact that there is no such thing as an absolute consistency whereas dynamic objects evade clear-cut definitions. Governors are supposed to appreciate and act on the feedback from those affected by the measures they enact. When a country seeks  to  improve  its  image  and  feels  pressed  to  present  itself  in  a  consistent manner, it is tempted to clamp down on some of the dissenting manifestations of itself, both domestic and external. However, this goal itself is questionable. Among Robert Jervis’ hypotheses on misperception there are some underlining human tendency to assume that others act in a more coordinated fashion than is the case. The foreign ministry is responsible for conveying the state’s official position, but it is only natural that the state institutions are incapable of keeping tabs on the moves of every agent associated with it. What makes this impossible should not be called the state’s weakness, for this term is misleading. Expanding state control will not only gain us a diminished discrepancy between what it claims to oversee and what it actually does, but will also come with all of the adverse effects of centralization. Instead, reinventing a state’s role would avert the need to correspond to an unlikely standard.

Psychological research does more than chronicle human cognitive imperfections. In actuality, it also uncovers the features of behavior that give hope for the positive change. It was shown that people dislike being instructed by infallible and overly smart leaders. Not only do you have to be an effective communicator — and this correlates with emotional intelligence stronger than it does with IQ — but you also have to, in order to gain public sympathy, be able to admit your shortcomings and thus give people a sense of being in the same boat rather than clearly standing out. An  approach  both  human-oriented  and  strategic,  said  to  be  more  congenial  to women, wins over hearts and drives the business forward. If men are socialized to suppress their emotions to be able to concentrate on what is called the facts of life and fix the problems, we can now claim that this practice probably entails more negative repercussions than benefits. A caring, empathetic governing style is usually not welcome in the top political circles and especially not in those of the nation states aiming to project a coherent, uniform image. It is not the change per se that is a problem,  but  rather  an  adversarial  mindset  we  are  taught  in  our  families  and societies, often ageing and inherently conservative.

Man-made orders cannot but be flawed, if only because so are our ways of thinking. Order is created and maintained to ensure predictability and one’s freedom to be fulfilling one’s vision using captured resources over at least some period of time, always at the expense of somebody else’s freedom to do so. Hence, the question of whether inconsistency as a characteristic of an image projected outwards can induce desire to take possession of or grow closer to the given object, can be curiously rephrased. What kind of people and under what circumstances would find the lack of security, predictability and material wealth to be a positive, not a negative? This question makes me think of revolutionaries who are committed to an idea and brings to mind the unfortunate events of the Russian 20th century. Together with that, it reminds me of how high of a price in violence, stifled voices and, ultimately, underreported and unresolved problems is being paid in the name of the status quo. Knowing that social reality impacts immensely on the way we perceive and interpret things, one may well arrive at a thought that we have to learn to transition smoothly. Only then will a deep-entrenched association between the change and humiliation gradually retreat into the past, along with all the cognitive biases borne of fear of defeat and exclusion. And if today, triggering the erosion of this link still requires some risk, those who embark on this path regardless may draw some courage and inspiration from a proven fact — and prove it yet again — that people fall for honesty.

Continue Reading

Diplomacy

Exceptional Diplomacy: Counter-hegemony and Resistance in International Relations

Published

on

Formally established in the summer of 2013, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) outlines its governing principles by stating that it is “a global non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports-isolated territories.” Distinguishing itself from and operating outside of and beyond the oversight of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), CONIFA instead provides an ostensibly neutral and apolitical platform from which marginalized, oppressed, or endangered communities can interact with one another on the global stage while competing in what is arguably the world’s most popular sport. Unfortunately, this year’s CONIFA World Football Cup, originally scheduled to take place in Skopje, North Macedonia, was cancelled because of concerns related to the spread of the corona virus.

While at first glance it might be easy to diminish, if not outright dismiss, the relevance or significance of CONIFA and its project, upon further and deeper consideration what becomes clearer is how it and similar organizations and alliances can serve to challenge existing geopolitical and commercial hierarchies. By creating and participating in alternative and parallel spaces, these groups help to establish novel forms of counter-hegemonic power and resistance that can provide for unique, creative, and exceptional forms of diplomacy, trade, and cultural exchange.

A recent case that reveals the complex and complicated dynamics of modern statecraft is the successful outmaneuvering of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) by the Taiwanese foreign ministry in its successful establishment of a representative office in Somaliland. Insofar as both Taiwan and Somaliland are considered un- or under-recognized states by the wider international community, their decision to establish representative offices is noteworthy. In a brief prepared for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Thomas J. Shattuck, Research Associate in the Asia Program and Managing Editor at FPRI, discusses the productive and disruptive potential of the economic and political alliance forged between Taiwan and Somaliland by arguing that “Taiwan can offer mutual respect—something that it fights for around the globe every day, something that is in short supply for Somaliland internationally, and something that Beijing cannot provide. Mutual respect between two unrecognized countries will foster stronger bonds than any economic package ever could. (emphasis added)”

By resisting and denying the overtures of the PRC in favor of pursuing a relationship with Taiwan, Somaliland has in effect successfully subverted China’s so-called aggressive “wolf-warrior diplomacy” and was able to reject the economic enticements associated with the Belt and Road Initiative which for many nations around the globe has ended in the accumulation of unsustainable levels of debt and dependency. For its part, Taiwan has shown that it has a continued and sustained interest in establishing its autonomy, if not explicit sovereignty and independence, in the face of relentless pressures placed on the island by the PRC.

In response to Taiwan’s recent success in Somaliland, Paul Antonopoulos asks the following question: “If Taiwan is creating a network of unrecognized and partially unrecognized states, especially as it already recognizes Kosovo, could Taipei in the near future approach the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (recognized as a part of Morocco), the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognized as a part of the Republic of Cyprus), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (recognized as a part of Georgia), the Republic of Artsakh (recognized as a part of Azerbaijan) and Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (recognized a part of Moldova)?” While the risks and challenges for Taiwan associated with conducting such an agenda are manifold, Antonopoulos’s speculation as to the potential efficacy of the pursuit of this type of policy is indeed suggestive as it gestures toward the idea of the establishment of a kind of counter-hegemonic power referenced above.

Above and beyond achieving the much sought after and deeply important status of international legitimacy or the demand for recognition of territorial, cultural, or linguistic rights afforded by existing conventions and protocols, other regional and political blocs advocate for policies relevant to mere survival. Recognizing the threats of global warming and the potential catastrophic effects of the melting of the polar ice caps, the Alliance of Small Island States pushes for more aggressive measures regarding ecological justice and other pressing environmental issues.The mission of the alliance is as follows: “AOSIS is a coalition of 44 small island and low-lying coastal developing states, including five observers. As a voice for the vulnerable, its mandate is more than amplifying marginalised voices as it also advocates for these countries’ interests. In terms of size, AOSIS closely resembles the countries it represents on the global stage, but often punches far above its weight, negotiating historic global commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, among other achievements.” Thus, in contemporary international relations, defined as they are typically by the demands and dictates of large states (both in terms of area and population), it is of crucial importance for alliances such as AOSIS to have a seat at the proverbial table in order to have their very necessary and urgent concerns addressed.

Of course, no discussion of marginalized people or vulnerable and at-risk populations is complete without mentioning the continuing struggle of the Palestinians for justice and international legitimacy. Obviously, a complete and total history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is impossible in the space of a brief essay; suffice it to say, however, that recent developments, including the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem and the Israel – United Arab Emirates peace agreement, can be read as actions that serve as barriers to what is hoped for in Gaza and the West Bank will be the eventual successful establishment of a universally recognized independent Palestinian state. And while the latest ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel are constructive, especially regarding the maintenance of peace and security as well as concerns over the spread of the corona virus, they are not necessarily indicative of a lasting and durable framework for the cessation of hostilities in the region.

Ultimately, in order to adequately and forcefully confront the neoliberal status quo now governing the international political order, new, perhaps even idiosyncratic, strategies are required. Among these are certainly the ability of a wide variety of actors, including unrecognized states, NGOs, and various blocs and alliances, to offer alternatives to and different perspectives on traditional modes of conflict resolution, resource allocation, and territorial disputes. And finally, in full recognition of the transcendence of sport, let us hope that very soon there will be a rescheduled CONIFA World Cup to lift our spirits after a supremely demanding 2020.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia48 mins ago

Interpreting Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy

September 28, 2020 marks the 74th birthday of Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. On the occasion of...

Newsdesk3 hours ago

As Businesses Embrace Sustainability, a Pathway to Economic Reset Emerges

In the midst of a deep recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing consensus that the...

New Social Compact5 hours ago

Right to Education as an elementary Human Right: From Thinking to Living it

The situation of education in general, and of higher education in particular, is not considered as a priority in developing...

Southeast Asia7 hours ago

Reflection of Indonesia’s National Farmer’s Day

September has been a memorable and recorded month in the nation’s development process. One important event that should not be...

Urban Development9 hours ago

Rebuilding Cities to Generate 117 Million Jobs and $3 Trillion in Business Opportunity

COVID-19 recovery packages that include infrastructure development will influence the relationship between cities, humans and nature for the next 30...

South Asia11 hours ago

Russia expanding influence in India and Sri Lanka

Authors: Srimal Fernando and Vedangshi Roy Choudhuri* In the post-World War II era the diplomatic influence of former Soviet Union...

Europe13 hours ago

From Intellectual Powerhouse to Playing Second Fiddle

A multi-ethnic, multi-religious culture built Spain into an intellectual powerhouse so much so that after the reconquesta scholars from various parts of...

Trending