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International Law

Refugee Capitalism: A Mess of Moral Convenience and Ruthless Politics

Brian Hughes

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The Syrian refugee crisis has clearly displayed the difficulties of Western societies to accept culturally and religiously different peoples in the wake of regional civil war.

This is in contrast to previous refugee crisis solutions that were fully embraced and enforced successfully (elaborated below). Namely, the decision on whether to accept Syrian refugees has hinged on the perceived immediate detrimental effects to the economy and a not-so-subtle concern about ‘hidden terrorism.’ This is not only a more brutal side to globalization, but is also using terrorism to power a new xenophobia, turning refugees into something akin to human capital estimates.

The Iranian Example

Historically, perhaps the most telling refugee immigration was the Iranian one, lasting decades in the long shadow of the Ayatollah revolution. At a time when the United States’ population was diametrically opposed to the Iranian government, America still kept its borders to Iranian migrants and refugees largely open. Importantly, due to the Shah’s close relationship with Washington, Iranian familiarity with English, and Western education, there was relatively little transitional difficulty for the Iranian population. Iranian immigration largely continued unabated, with nearly 15 percent of Iranians with a tertiary education leaving for the US by 1990. Additionally, the IMF reported that more than half of the over 420,000 Iranians living in the US with higher education degrees were physicians or engineers. Thus, even as the political and societal opposition to Iran was at a heightened state, the US clearly recognized the economic value of Iranian refugees and did not fear there were ‘secret Ayatollah plants’ trying to get in.

The Iranian migration is in stark contrast to American (and Western in general) reaction to Syrian refugees, many of which have little firm knowledge of English, are poorly educated, and are perceived to observe very different cultural customs and religions. While the US abruptly went from allies to enemies with the new Ayatollah regime, public opinion about Iranians had not changed to reflect the changing political situation. Numbers affirm this: as refugees and migrants from Iran continually increased throughout the 1980s, they were mostly accepted into the US, found success in the wake of fleeing their home state, and are the most highly educated among all refugee groups in the US.

The Yugoslav Example

As a result of the civil war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, a third of its entire population now lives outside of its borders. Germany alone contains approximately 240,000 Bosnian refugees. At the time of the mass migration of Bosnian refugees, the rhetoric was almost identical to what is expressed about Syrians today. In 1996, the Economist noted that “most countries are simply slamming their doors in the interest of looking after their own.” In addition, Germany took the brunt of Bosnian refugees and criticized the UN Convention on refugees and overall EU policy as incoherent. Despite this German chastising, most European countries simply ignored or refused Yugoslav refugees, as the crisis was far from their borders and they were not involved in the war. The Bosnian crisis is echoed nearly two decades later as Syria fits many of the same attributes, including the same ‘problematic’ religion as Bosnians.

Kosovo was similar to the Bosnian crisis, but had very different timelines and outcomes. As NATO controversially got involved in the Kosovo crisis in 1999, there came a deep moral obligation to assist in the refugee problem. This largely stemmed from the fact that NATO air strikes helped displace over 1.5 million people, with 800,000 of them being refugees. Thus, NATO created its own very painful dilemma, being seen as both liberators in war and yet also forcing the Kosovo population from their homes. Therefore, largely because the Western world was directly involved in the unrest, it felt obliged and responsible to help those forced to flee. It also seemed important to repair the diplomatic public relations image of NATO.

A very stark difference is evident in the NATO assistance to Kosovo vs. Bosnia: refugees were centered around nearby countries, not in far-off developed Western states, as the conflict ended relatively swiftly. This may be why there is such reluctance and slow reaction from NATO countries for Syria today: the conflict is most certainly not going to be short-lived and refugees cannot be housed safely in the most immediate nearby countries, thus demanding greater participation from far-off ones.

The Haiti Example

Similar to Syria, Haiti was experiencing an unstable government and tumultuous political climate from the 1980s through the 1990s. During the massive influx of 100,000 Mariel Cuban refugees in 1980 (who had special protections), some 1000 Haitians also arrived each month. In 1981, President Reagan changed the policy on “excludable aliens” and as a result Haitians were subject to incarceration and exclusion proceedings. Additionally, the Republic of Haiti and the United States formally agreed that the US would interdict on the Haiti “boat people” and Haiti would do no harm to them when they were returned. During the next ten years over 350 vessels and 21,000 Haitians were intercepted, with only six admitted to the US. Damnably, the same policy that allowed Cubans to stay and become citizens never applied to Haitians. Perhaps more tellingly, after the Cold War ended in 1994, the policy toward Cubans was also reversed and Cubans were then treated like the “Haitian boat people.” Thus, while the Cubans and Haitians were nearly identical in mode of transportation and time of arrival, their treatment did not become identical until the Cold War was decisively over, insinuating that the deeply divided politics between Cuba and the US decided refugee and migration treatment, not the actual crisis situation on the ground in-country. This could be most disturbing when looking at Syria: without an explicit and highly defined Cold War proxy development (though some might say that is happening now with Russian air strikes against DAESH in Syria), it seems that many Western countries will not find Syrian refugee populations important enough to make sacrifices.

As parts of the developed world have made additional pledges to take in more refugees, much of the world is refusing to do so. Predominantly, this has been dominated in the media by Hungary’s closure of its borders and Japan’s echoing of European history when it declared it would take care of its own people before caring for others. However, while xenophobia plays a large role, these decisions can only occur in a country that has no moral, economic or political benefit for accepting refugees. In the United States, accepting Iranians meant allowing the best of Iran into its borders (who were also diametrically opposed to the anti-American revolutionary regime). Cubans were welcomed in face of the anti-American Civil War as deserters of dictatorship and a prong against the Soviet Union. This element does not exist yet in Syria and thus, apparently, Syrian refugees are simply out of luck.

The goal of Western countries should be to eliminate these various cultural and political prerequisites for accepting refugees. While the Refugee Convention of 1951 is easily navigated around, public opinion and strong leadership can enforce humanitarian ideals in the face of xenophobic realizations, as has been shown by Germany in 1995 and again two decades later. Refugees being judged ‘worthy or unworthy’ according to their long-term human capital to the hosting nation is viciously cruel and ruthless, even if economically rational. The Syrian refugee crisis presents a soft power opportunity that is distressingly rare. Western countries must stop turning to isolationism and their policy concerns must not continually and conveniently turn inward. Hungarian barbed wire and American Islamophobia does not represent the Western ideals of democracy and human freedom. Rather, they are antithetical and regressive. There is nothing wrong with the free market per se, accept when it is forcibly used in the Syrian crisis to create a ‘refugee capitalism’ that should be the shame of Western leaders and will no doubt become a huge destabilizing regional problem, especially across the Greater Caspian region.

Brian Hughes is currently a student in the International Security and Intelligence Studies program at Bellevue University in Omaha, NE, USA.

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International Law

Human Rights Council election: 5 things you need to know about it

MD Staff

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The United Nations General Assembly held secret-ballot elections for the Human Rights Council (HRC) on Friday.  As of 1 January next year, the 18 newly-elected States will serve for three years on the UN’s highest inter-governmental body, mandated to protect and promote human rights worldwide.

While the institution has been the subject of controversy since its creation in 2006 – culminating in the withdrawal of the USA this past June – UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated that it plays “a very important role” in the UN’s human rights architecture.

1. First of all… how does it all work?

Elections to the Council happen annually, with countries serving for three years on a rotational basis, as some of the seats expire on 31 December every year. There are 47 seats, equitably distributed according to five regional divisions.

Countries need a minimum of 97 votes to get elected, and everything happens by secret ballot. This year, 18 seats were up for election:  five for Africa, five for Asia-Pacific, two for Eastern Europe, three for Latin America and the Caribbean, and three for Western Europe and other States.

2. So… who’s in and who’s out?

After Friday’s election, here’s how the Council will look from 1 January:

IN, elected this year: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, India, Italy, Philippines, Somalia, Togo and Uruguay.

IN, continuing their terms: Angola, DRC, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Iceland, Spain, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

OUT, because they didn’t apply for a second consecutive term: Belgium, Burundi, Ecuador, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Panama, Slovenia and Switzerland.

OUT, because after two consecutive terms, they’re not eligible for re-election: Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Germany.

3. What does the Council actually do?

In a nutshell, the HRC is a multilateral forum to discuss anything relating to human rights issues around the world.

In addition to launching fact-finding missions and establishing commissions of inquiry into specific situations, it meets three times a year to review the human rights records of all UN Member States, in a special process designed to give countries the chance to present the actions they have taken, and what they’ve done, to advance human rights. This is known as the Universal Periodic Review.

This video explains it all in a simple way:

4. How come some countries accused of human rights violations still serve?

The HRC was created in 2006, following a proposal by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In a report titled “In Larger Freedom”, he noted that the Commission on Human Rights, created in 1946, was suffering from “declining credibility and professionalism” and was “in need of major reform”. Subsequently, based on his recommendations, the Human Rights Council was established by the General Assembly to replace the Commission and several measures were put in place to try and avoid the same problems that eventually arose with the Commission.

For example, as it is understood that the Council can only be as effective as its Member States, the election process was placed directly in the hands of the General Assembly, the only UN organ where every one of the 193 countries has equal voting weight.

In addition, the geographical group divisions and seat allocations are meant to prevent disproportionate focus on just a handful of regions and countries, and ensure that every country has a chance of fair consideration.

Finally, during the elections for each regional group, the General Assembly allows extra blank slates: this should theoretically ensure there are more candidates than available seats, enabling a competitive process. However, if – as was the case this year with 18 candidacies for 18 available seats – no extra countries apply, then no competition occurs, and whichever Member State applies, is likely to get elected.

5. So does the HRC make a difference for human rights worldwide?

Although human rights have always been a very sensitive matter for Member States, the Human Rights Council remains an essential part of the UN’s human rights architecture.

The Council has the power to adopt resolutions, launch fact-finding missions and investigations, and establish commissions of inquiry. In particular, the HRC can appoint independent experts on specific issues. At the moment, there are 44 thematic experts and 11 country ones appointed to monitor and report on human rights issues as requested.

All these mechanisms allow for grave violations to be highlighted and brought up on the global stage for examination, discussion and, whenever feasible, action.

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International Law

Unilateralism Vs Multilateralism

David Ceasar Wani

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During the 73rd sessions of the general assembly at the UN, the crunch of unilateralism and multilateralism between US and China kicked off, in which Trump’s unilateral visualization of the world likely to hurt the US, but it might undermine his presidency. As the competitions between unilateralism and multilateralism are viewed inversely. According to the international relations scholars, unilateralism has defined an approach in international relations in which states act without regard to the interests of other states or without their support. Unilateralism is usually contrasted with its opposite approach, yet multilateralism is acting cooperatively with other states. Though unilateralism is often used in a negative way, experts agree that there are positive aspects to occasionally acting unilaterally, such as in issues of national self-defense.

Some politicians and international experts support unilateralism, at least for certain issues. An example of a unilateral action is the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord in 2017. The Paris Climate Accord was actually negotiated and approved by nearly 200 nations around the world, and the issue of climate change is impossible to be handled significantly without united efforts of all the countries, particular the major ones. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, saying that it hurt American jobs and American interests as well. Trump’s decision was opposed by many experts and average people around the world including the United States.

Nevertheless, it is believed that unilateralism is a policy of dealing with affairs that may be violent, regardless of the will of other countries or nationals. Given this, the most prominent feature of multilateralism is the negotiation since it can pay close attention to the shared interests of the majority and take practical and reasonable measures to deal with affairs in international affairs. The U.S. adopts unilateralism as a kind of closed rather than open behavior. Self-interest is the American priority mentality that Trump previously reiterated, and this approach seems to be a good way to safeguard the interests of the United States, but in fact, it is inconvenient for American nationals, and for the United States.  Conversely, politics, diplomacy, and trade all have disadvantages and this disadvantage can be a hindrance to domestic investment, risk from political changes negative influence on exchange rates, higher costs, economic non-viability, expropriation, negative impact on the country’s investment, modern-day economic colonialism and etc.

From this point of view, it can be said unfavorable to Americans. The reason why the United States has become strong from a dispersed federation compared with the confederation is mainly between states. Improvement of politics and other status has enabled the United States to develop and be strong because of a strong government. If the United States 1787 Constitution was originally formulated by the founding fathers’ generation, and then adopted unilateralism and did not negotiate, it is unimaginable that there would be a powerful United States today. So now Trump adopts unilateralism, which is contrary to the spirit and method adopted by the U.S. Constitution. The threat to his presidency is great because unilateralism is difficult to promote the cooperation and development of national economies. The interests generated by the United States are very short-lived, but they pose great threats to their long-term development and the long-term interests of their citizens. Therefore, when dealing with state affairs or international affairs, multilateralism should be adopted and negotiated. The problem is that we can better safeguard the interests of all parties, maximize the benefits, and promote the development of countries and their own economies.

In conclusion, it is important to understand the evolution of China’s concept of multilateralism, because one has to begin with China’s particularly humble experience with multilateral institutions e.g. it’s being kept out of the United Nations (UN) and its institutions during its preliminary decades as also for it is being the target of UN criticism and sanctions (for Korean War) during those years. The things were to begin to change following the Sino-US rapprochement and China’s entry into the UN and other multilateral institutions from the 1970s. Another crunch change to overlap with the late 1970s was the rise of Deng Xiaoping to power in China. Deng’s economic reforms and openness become the driving force behind China’s conclusive shift toward multilateral institutions.

According to Zhang Baijia, expert at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central School, numerous internal and external developments during the first half of the 1980s were to expressively influence Deng’s strategic thinking in three major ways: (a) Deng aborted the long-held view that world war is inevitable’ and instead stresses on ‘peace and development’ as central theme for China; (b) Deng acknowledged that the contemporary world is heterogeneous in nature and that conflicts coexist with cooperation and competition with interdependence; and (c) Deng maintained that independence does not equal isolation and self-reliance does not mean rejecting all foreign things as had been the case during Mao’s times. Change in Deng’s worldview was to result in the change in China’s approach towards international institution and towards the whole idea about multilateralism.

As a result, the whole of the 1980s witnessed extraordinary qualitative and quantitative changes as China gradually involved itself in not only international organizations in the political domain but also expanded its participation in economic and security types of multilateral forums. As regards China’s future vision on multilateralism, it has been motivated primarily by China’s felt need (a) for undermining the basis of United States’ unilateralism and its global power profile and (b) for making efforts to become acceptable as the benign rising power amongst its immediate neighbors and amongst the world at large. By far these two remain China’s most important foreign policy challenges through its rise as a major power has already been accepted as a given reality in general. The conditions have also been facilitated by external dynamics, especially following the collapse of former Soviet Union which has shifted the focus of international relations and led to the widening of the whole understanding of security and strategic calculations amongst major players therefore moving the dynamic of international power politics beyond two superpowers to include new actors like China.

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International Law

Strengthen UN, Implement UN Charterer in true spirit

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Humanity is suffering everywhere whether it is Syria or Yemen, Afghanistan or Libya, Iraq or Myanmar, Palestine or Kashmir. The one who are being killed are human beings, irrespective of his or her race, color, religion, nationality, its human lives which are being lost. Last couple of decade, around 2 million people have been killed, 6 million have been made refugees in their own country or forced to migrate to other countries. Threats and tension is felt in Iran, Turkey and North Korea, Ukraine, and many other parts of the world.  If one switches on TV or read or listen to News, it is all about War, Killings, Blasts, hate and suppressions. People are fed-up of bad news all the time. Everyone is suffering with mental torture. Geo-political situation is deteriorating rapidly. The world is less safe than few decades ago. Insecurity feelings are rising exponentially. What is new world order? On the name of World new order, we have made this world more hostile and fragile. Who is suffering, humanity! Who is the beneficiary, end of the day, no one will be winner.

United Nation General Assembly is busy in its 73rd session. Leaders from all over the world are meeting each other and making speeches one after another, but what will be the out-come or result?

United Nation was founded on 24 October 1945, just after the World War II, in replacement of League of Nations. Its head quarter is at New York, USA. The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization tasked to promote international co-operation and to create and maintain international order. The charter of UN was very well drafted and very comprehensive. Its charter was formulated on justice and equality. It was hard work of genius people.

But with the passage of time, it is losing its effectiveness and failed to maintain world order. Some nations became so strong that, they put aside the UN and act unilaterally. Some nations are so stubborn, that they violate UN charter openly and feel no guilt. Some countries are so feeling-less that the whole world condemned them but they keep criminal silence.

Should we stay calm and just became spectators and watch what so-ever will happen? Should we leave all the issues to our next generations to suffer? Should we close our eyes and do not acknowledge the issues? Can we escape? Can we be ignorant? Can be we so cruel to our kids and leave them to be humiliated?

I believe, it is time to think and raise our voice, and struggle for a better tomorrow, better tomorrow for everyone, better tomorrow for my kids, better tomorrow for your kids, better tomorrow for our next generation, better tomorrow for everyone. We should struggle to make our tomorrow better than our yesterday. Think positively, act smartly and be optimistic.

We demand, respect of the UN , we demand for implementation of UN charter, We demand for justice, We demand for equality, We demand for fair-practices, We demand respect for human kind, We demand for a stoppage of killing, we demand stoppage of violence, We demand for protection of weak, We demand for uniformity etc.

It is natural, when we live together, the differences may rise among us. It can be among individuals or nations. It is very much normal and was happening since ages. We quarrel with our kids, brothers and sisters, parents, spouse or friends, boss or subordinates or colleagues. It is understandable. But we live in a civilized world. There are mechanisms to resolve the differences. In our day to day life we are over-coming on many issues and resolve with each other. The same approach may be followed to resolve the differences or misunderstanding among nations. UN is the right platform, UN charter is the proper guidelines for resolving the issues. Diplomacy is the weapon of civilized world. We all must respect UN, and its charter and resolve all issue through peaceful manner and dialogue. No one should have the right to by-pass UN or impose its decisions unilaterally.

I suggest, the International Community may join hands and strengthen UN and implement its charter in true later and spirit. UN may investigate the history of almost 7 decades and point out all the violators and let them declare responsible for their wrong doings. Force them to rectify their mistakes, compensate their wrong doings. UN should strengthen to the extent that any country how strong it might be, should not dare to violate UN charter. Any sanctions without UN approval may be declared null and void. Any military action without UN approval may not be recognized and declared criminal acts. They must be punished for their heinous crimes and war like crimes.

Let us struggle to make this world a place of “Peace, Harmony, Justice, Equality and Prosper” place for our generations to come. We may sacrifice but our next generation may enjoy Peace, Harmony and Prosperity.

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