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To what extent does international aid provide a sticking plaster, rather than a solution, to post-war recovery?

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The theory of Good Governance (GG) relies on the belief an effective government builds upon the criteria of transparency and accountability. Moreover, government brings together the formal institutions of the state and their monopoly of legitimate coercive power (Stoker, 1998). The post-colonialism era left many states in a situation of civil war, bankruptcy and corruption, where an alliance of elites controlled the country’s main resources and wealth, which led to persistent inequalities and divisions within a country (Henderson, Stalker, 2000).

Thus, the fragmented state’s incapability to provide security, justice and basic needs, legitimized, in the citizen view, the use of force as not recognizing government’s authority.  The on-going tensions in the Middle-East illustrates how the longer a civil war lasts the more likely an escalation of violence will occur and lead to a spillover effect from a state to region. This in turn might have a significant impact on international peace. Following, post-war recovery donors believed the maintenance of political stability and peace-building process required assistance of the international system in order to limit the threat of a return to violence. This last point is essential, as it highlights the subjective use of foreign aid and need for mutual responsibility of the donor and recipient to apply the basic principles of humanitarian aid: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

This essay will argue contemporary humanitarian aid effectiveness is undermined by the politicization of the process, which is the pursuit of political objectives by humanitarian instruments. As a consequence, this results in the donor’s national interests and security being privileged over recipient’s need. Aid policy would then be determined by selectivity of which state receives aid and on the contrary, the circumvention of some governments.  This concept does not only impacts humanitarian principles, challenges the ethics of donor countries but also has long-term devastating consequences on development strategies. Boone (1996) argues, that instead of supporting development aid can provoke and enhance poverty as directly given to governments ‘that consume aid inflows instead of investing in their country’ (pp-289).  In order to analyze the impact politicized foreign aid had on developing countries Afghanistan and Somalia will be used as case studies. As, they both suffered from complex political fragmentation following a fall of a regime and required impartial assistance. This essay argues, efficient aid should be implemented by a return to classic humanitarianism through the establishment of democracy and good governance and so the likelihood of sustainable peace.

Outline and Literature

Afghanistan and Somalia has been chosen as case studies as they highlight the argument no matter the amount of humanitarian aid the recipient receives, if the institutions are weak and the aid subjective then it will not be incorporated homogeneously to the society.

To begin, intervention is not new and relies on peaceful stability. In order to understand the influence and consequences of politicization on foreign aid during post-war recovery three major concepts of humanitarian aid will be defined: ‘humanitarianism imperative’, impartiality as a component of legitimacy, and the use of conditionality as reward of Good Governance.  First of all, Joanna Macrae, described humanitarianism as ‘designed to mitigate the impact of war’, mainly led by the West (Macrae, pg 7).

Nonetheless, The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross introduced the concept of ‘humanitarian imperative’, which defines the principle of humanity as the right to receive and to give humanitarian assistance (Schweizer, 2004). This point highlights, even though humanitarian aid is imperfect, it is a right and duty to bring assistance to people in need. Furthermore, in order to restore legitimacy of the state it is essential to establish or reform the national government, which often requires impartial cooperation on the ground with local actors. A solution for cooperation and legitimacy has been addressed through the application of conditionality which Nelson and Eglinton (1992) defined as a set of strategies that the donors apply in order to bring in political and economic reforms in the recipient country. It has further been used as a reward for Good Governance and a pressure mechanism for compliance to peace-process. For instance, bilateral donors and UN agencies applied them in post-war recovery of Somalia and Afghanistan.

However, it will be argued first of all, it is not the most appropriate approach to strengthen good governance. Secondly, it often excludes groups from the reconstruction process, which leads to social exclusion and has a negative impact on sustainable peace (Manning, 2010). While in both countries the humanitarian field staff has been criticized for both economic and political reasons. This paper will focus only on the political aspect of international aid as opposed to economical factors because the implementation of growth-promoting activities requires strong political infrastructure.

Additionally, It is worth highlighting, politicized humanitarianism theorists argued classic humanitarianism is faulty as ‘neutrality is only a myth’. Furthermore, O’Brien (2004) and Anderson (1999) point out, neutrality is impossible to obtain as when aid decides to intervene in a conflict it has a political view ’international assistance (…) becomes a part of that context and thus also of the conflict’’ (pp-1). She gave an example of the Sri Lankan government, which considered Tamil-speaking refugees are similar to the Tamil Tigers; in this situation then providing humanitarian aid would also be helping a rebel group. Nonetheless, it has been stated politicization is a violation of the Geneva Conventions on the Laws and Customs of War, and so should respect the principles of impartiality and transparency.

For the reasons discussed above, this paper will support the argument politicization hinders the success of foreign aid following post-war recovery by examining how the use of conditionality in Afghanistan and Somalia was ineffective in influencing the government and was applied even though harmful to the population. Secondly, following this analysis it will be discussed if the political aspect of foreign aid can be neglected by focusing on a bottom-up mobilization through NGO’s. However, this solution will be argued not efficient as to obtain sustainable peace and development the state’s political structure will need to be constructed around the concept of ‘impartiality’, ‘country ownership’ and ‘good governance’.

Links and Case Studies

Since the cold war Afghanistan has been an aid-dependent country as in order to fight the Red Army, and so the communist invasion, the United States had given over $600 million per annum to the country (Giradet, 1998, pg. 118). Moreover, while the communist part of the country equally needed assistance, the US-led aid only focused on one side, the Afghan mujahideen, by supporting them both financially and technically. Following this period of aid flow, another one happened during the civil war in Afghanistan, from 1992 through the end of the Taliban regime in 2001. It will further be argued; the emphasis of foreign aid was not on meeting the basic needs of Afghanistan’s population but on encouraging trade (Fayez, 2013). Similarly, to Afghanistan, Somalia post-cold war suffered from war and famine and the situation did not improve with foreign aid assistance. In fact, it is still considered as the most modern state collapse in the world. Moreover, the famine drew attention of the United Nations on to the Somali civil war in 1992, through the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) however they withdrew in 1994 due to conflict between Somalia and American forces.

Unfortunately, the lack of neutrality and impartiality in foreign assistance to Somalia was most markedly felt following 9/11 and so the beginning of the ‘war on terror’ led by the United States. In fact, the concerns focused on keeping international peace and securitization rather than humanitarian protection of Somali population.  As Bradbury stated (2010) ‘the emphasis on reviving a central government has simply served to perpetuate a violent conflict over control of the state.’ (pp-2)

The situation in Afghanistan and Somalia are similar and support Easterly (2002) statement of foreign aid, which argues ‘the tragedy of aid’, is mainly due to a lack of accountability and management. Furthermore, due to the difficulty to collaborate with weak state framework and infrastructures often lead NGOs to endorse the role of providing security from a bottom-up mobilization rather than acting through a government in order reaching the population directly (DeMars, 1996: 81).  Nonetheless, they can undermine the state’s responsibility to deal with the crisis as well as aggravate the issue by not providing equal assistance to different groups.

Arguments and counterarguments

When analyzing the effectiveness of international aid, one has to consider specific tools of the process such as conditionality. As stated above, conditionality is the use of ‘bargaining aid’ in orders to reform the recipient’s country policy, and is argued to be a major support for increased living standards and development (Montinola, 2007).  

However, the situation in Afghanistan challenges this perspective as conditionality has been used mainly for short-term recovery for security interests instead of sustainable peace. Furthermore, The Bonn Agreement, was a series of agreement attempting to re-establish the State of Afghanistan following the US invasion and has been argued to favor only one side of the conflict, which was the ally of US during ‘war on terror’ (Goodhand, 2009). For instance, the agreement established the foundation for future Afghan governance in order to help the U.S. eradicate al Qaeda and,’ in the long term, would be stable enough to deny terrorists a haven’ (Fields, 2011). The fact emergency security was the main interest of donors brought them to keep elites at their posts in exchange of promise of stability, which consequently excluded a minority.  The fragmentation of Afghan politics and institutions, limited the application of conditions.

Thus, the Bonn Agreement while attempting to reform the state, in the US interests, did not create de facto sovereignty and domestic legitimacy; which are essential to sustainable peace.

In comparison, Somalia post-war recovery attracted many interests especially in terms of trade and geopolitical location. For instance, the fact the main donors were the US and USSR reflected the on-going cold war rivalry and the desire for both countries to access the red sea. (Mehmet, 1971) However, the large amounts of aid flow did not accelerate growth and development, as there was no existence of efficient administration.  In contrary, when the trade interests are situated in another state the humanitarian aid will follow the trend. Moreover, Britain cut off aid to Somalia, which they argued was based on Human Rights violations. But, Britain selectivity towards aid was actually caused by difficulty to administrate aid and mainly political factors. Therefore, much of the attention at the time was on Nigeria, due to Britain strong trade interests with the country. As, the world economy today depends significantly on oil and Britain is no exception. Actually, the Nigerian oil production and the British foreign assistance to Nigeria begin since the colonial history, which explains their interest to keep the territory stabilized as weak Nigerian oil out-put could have negative impact on the donor as well as the recipient of aid (Vazul, 2010).

National interests from donors thus undermined promoting good governance and strong political infrastructures in post-recovery of developing countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan (Sorensen, 2013). To sum up, conditional aid seems incompatible with the self-interested nature of bilateral donors. As concerning the role of international organizations it also seems like the main interest of IMF, which is to promote global growth and economic stability and so is not in compliance with the actual needs of citizens in recipient country. This last point raises the question, if conditionality has been ineffective due to fostering violence, marginalizing a part of the population and delegitimizing the state then would the use of unconditional aid be more benefiting? Furthermore, we will see the use of unconditional aid through NGO’s can also be problematic and has its flaws with the example of cash-based transfers since 2000 in Somalia which illustrated the difficulty to monitor the process as most payments were involved in fraud and diversion problems. (Hedlund, 2012) Nonetheless, even though the complex discussion around the question of which policy is more suitable between ‘conditional’ or ‘unconditional’ aid is still ongoing, studies have shown the latter has more chances to progress towards the establishment of democracy and ‘country-ownership’ than states that received conditional aid (Kersting, 2014).

It has been argued one way of dealing with the dilemma of sending substantial aid flows to weak institutions is to by-pass the state-centric phenomena of humanitarianism. And so, to deliver aid through Non-government Actors as Acht (2015) would advocate. Their main point is that government-government assistance is more likely to be inefficient as the recipient state suffers from “bad” governance, which they define as ‘‘human rights violations, lacking representativeness of the government and high levels of military expenditures’’(Acht, 2015, pp-2). Thus, this would lead donors to find another way to deliver aid, by targeting directly the population. Furthermore, their empirical analysis is build on the theory bilateral channel are most of the times chosen by donors which goals are non-developmental and interested in securitization through stability process or build upon post-colonialism relationships, as mentioned above. Instead then using NGOs would be more useful to depoliticize aid, especially when emergency on the ground is required. They believe, local ownership of reforms to promote good governance has been lacking satisfactory evidence and so bypassing bilateral channels seems to provide a ‘rational’ choice to the issue (Acht, 2015).

In line with this thought, Djarklov (2012) holds that foreign aid could lead politicians and so elites of developing countries to ‘engage in rent-seeking activities in order to appropriate these resources and try to exclude other groups from the political process’ (pp-169). And so, bilateral foreign aid by creating dependency could undermine democracy. Nonetheless, the solution to solely use NGOs to bypass governments and to underestimate the efficiency of aid when used impartially could lead to undergoing human catastrophes with no long-term solutions. Furthermore, the role of NGO’s in Somalia and Afghanistan illustrates how the roots of the causation of inefficient foreign aid is not the bilateral channel but the non-development goals and the lack of interest from donors in establishing an accountable democracy.

First of all, NGO’s can be considered as enemies and so targeted by local actors due to delegitimization of aid from their perspective as they consider Western aid as political entities (Irby, 2012). Secondly, donors can see NGO’s as an extension of their military interests (Abiew, 2012). Finally, NGO’s do not provide long-term post-war recovery, as the question on the duration of this alternative is questionable.

Spang (2016) questions the view NGO’s provide a clear alternative to bilateral channel by argumenting ‘politicization of aid may cause (…) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground to become strategic targets in the conflict’ (pp-1). As foreigners and so NGO representatives could be seen as targets, intervening in an area where a specific entity has authority on the conflict zone. For instance, in Somalia Al-Shabaab attacked NGO internal personnel in order to manipulate and control the organizations as they considered them as ‘spies or agents of foreign intervention’ (Irby, 2012, pp-6) but was also manipulated for material gain. Especially Médecin Sans Frontières (MSF), when trying to negotiate access to territory has experienced this challenging obstacle to the process of providing assistance.

In comparison, NGO’s has been used as an extension of the donors military particularly in Afghanistan where humanitarian agencies had to work with states agencies, which undermined their neutrality.  The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell stated in a speech the close relationship the US has with NGO’s during the Enduring Freedom operation in Afghanistan (Abiew, 2012). This situation was later confirmed when the organizations applied the government program. The fact, western government lack of neutrality in bilateral foreign aid also undermines NGO’s at the same time, as local actors perceive them as an extension of modern imperialism.

To sum up, this essay does not argue NGO’s are not a useful tool to provide assistance during post-war recovery but that these alternatives are only short-term solutions, as they do not have the resources or the capacities to bring sustainable peace when corrupted and weak political infrastructures are still governing.

While there has been a consensus among academics that good governance is essential in order to promote development, it is a subjective theory and so means different things depending on individuals.  In this paper, good governance will be referred as the qualities of a state to govern around the principles of democracy, accountability, transparency and legitimacy. Moreover, The 1997 UNDP Report Governance for Sustainable Development sums up effectively the objectives a strong political infrastructure should have in order to be considered as legitimate: ‘it is, among other things, participatory, transparent and accountable, effective and equitable, and it promotes the rule of law.’ Moreover, by providing assistance without considering if the government prior intervention was well governed would improve the view of local actors on foreign aid and so would bring more likely collaboration.  Additionally, along this line aid is mainly undermined because donors do not take into account that even with substantial amount of aid if elites are still exercising power with no development goals then peace will not be sustainable.

 Thus, the aid policy should be applied and delivered with consideration of the reality of what is happening in the country and so the state’s policy. This last point raises the question, what kind of government should be established in order to develop a country post-war?

While some academics argues democracy is not they key to development, as the recipient country needs to find their own solutions.  However, democracy has actually been the most satisfactory solution in order to give the opportunity for equal participation to the political environment. We can consider, development and sustainable peace as the outcome while democracy and good governance are the process to obtain a convincing solution to post-war recovery.

It is essential to highlight the limits of good governance theory, as it is a difficult task to establish a causal relationship between the latter and development. For instance, while it is true democracy does not always lead to sustainable peace and development, the fact it incorporates human rights, transparency and accountability makes it an effective government where there is higher chances that aid will be distributed homogenously to the population (Opara, 2007).

As strong political infrastructures are needed in order to manage grievances and be able to handle conflicts before they will turn violent. For instance, analysis of the situation in Haiti have concluded the only alternative for post-war recovery is to bring the necessary assistance to establish a cohesion between the state and citizens and to work effectively towards a ‘participatory consensus’ (Kumar, 1998).

Conclusion

Considering the above, it can be concluded that in order to establish a long-term post-war recovery the process has to be political, in the sense of establishing good governance.

We have analyzed, foreign aid is mainly undermined by its politicization, due to the donor’s instrumentalization of aid for national and security interests. It is more likely, bilateral channels would be more effective if they provided assistance impartially based on humanitarian need rather than conditionality and so reward of good governance. The current foreign aid assistance in Somalia and Afghanistan civil wars requires the participation of NGO’s and unconditional aid but the roots of the conflict has to address before, as the prerequisite of sustainable peace is good governance and legitimacy of the state.

For further research, the causal relationship between democracy and development should be further analyzed with its applicability to different post-war situations. Furthermore, it would be interesting to consider the variability of democracies in order to establish not a one size-fit all model, but one which could correspond to the state’s cultural and traditional background. While, the Westernized perspective of political infrastructures cannot be applied to every post-war recoveries, engaging in a reform of the current government to promote transparency, accountability and participation could stabilize the conflicts.

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International Law

A Threat Assessment of South China Sea

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Authors: Areeja Syed and Muhammad Rizwan*

In the international arena, rapidly evolving economic power, China has emerged as a colossal threat to the U.S and her hegemonic powers. 21st century is witnessing both U.S and Asia to bridge their gulfs and draw closer to each other. During the cold wartimes, the United States was more inclined to decrease the power and its influence of Soviet Union in Asia but with the massive alteration in the international political and economic scenario, upsurge of china and its regional dominion has become the main trepidation for the U.S. Many tactics have been adopted by U.S to contain china but many tensions keep arising between these states, like trade war, south china conflict, Taiwan issue.

It’s a well-established fact that The Pacific Ocean is one of the major and important Oceans in the world. The word pacific means peace and serenity. It was named Pacific in 1520 by a voyager Ferdinand Magellan when he sailed through it. The Pacific Ocean stretches from California to china covering 60 million square miles and spreads tens of thousands of feet under the outward of the ocean in many regions. Contrary to its name, The Pacific is, a violent and humongous water body. Most of its part is still unexplored and undiscovered yet this half-discovered ocean is contributing considerably in changing humans’ lifestyle through deep-sea excavating, industrialized harpooning and fossil-fuel fiery. This extensive ocean is replete with plenty of earth’s most idiosyncratic kinds of life. South China Sea is a part of Pacific Ocean and is a bone of contention between ASEAN states and China. The United States of America while having cordial relation with ASEAN state is trying act as balance in South China Sea. While running his presidential campaign, in 2018,Donald Trump viciously badgered Barack Obama for being bungling of averting China from escalating its influence in the South China Sea. Trump blamed Chinese Navy for being aggressive to the US in the undecided sea area. China has clashes with the US owing to the regional incongruities in the South China Sea. Also, China has disagreements with Japan in the East China Sea. Both the disputed regions are probable to be rich in oil reserves and several other natural resources and can enhance the international trade. China retains its claim, claiming almost the entire South China Sea.

It is a row over land and veracity over ocean areas, and the two island chains Parcels and the Spartlys, demanded by an assortment of nations in whole or in share. These chains include hundreds of sharp cliffs, minor islands, shorelines, and aquatic life, like the Scarborough lagoon, adjacent to one another. The ocean itself is a chief trading path and abode to fisheries on which the people living alongside the region depend for their wellbeing. China has always made extensive claims in South China Sea that whole sea belongs to it. It specifies the two clusters of islands sliding inside their limits entirely. Philippines is the other noteworthy plaintiff in the region and as a part of grouping considers its physical nearness to the spratly island as the foundation and primer. The other island chain, Scarborough Shoal well-known as Hengyang island in China was claimed by both the Philippines and China just over 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from Chinese territory. Other states like Malaysia and Brunei also approve their avowal to region in the South China as declared in The United Nations convention on the Maritime law, as described by UNCLOS. Burnei does not hold any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia has control over a quite minuscule number of Spratly islands.

The US navy claims that it is safeguarding and watching the South China Sea to guarantee the freedom of navigation in that region predominantly where China has seized many islands and reefs into its control. This disputed region is the route of trillions of dollars of trade travels annually which is at stake due to the conflict and belligerence in the South China Sea can also threaten and berate the safety of a region. This region cannot afford any armed skirmish that would have possibly far-ranging and callous repercussions. This war is the exact portrayal of China-U.S supremacy scuffle. The problem is for influence and military dominance in the region between China and US. It is becoming a same cold war like situation in which both countries are trying their best to dominate a particular region. But the problem is, during the course of these events even a miscalculation or small incident can escalate in to full fledge which will be very difficult to control even for belligerent parties.

*Muhammad Rizwan is pursuing M.phil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad.

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International Law

National Interest surpassing human rights: Case study of Kashmir

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Authors: Rizwan Malik and Areeja Syed

The Indian government revoked the exceptional status accorded to Indian-occupied Kashmir in Indian constitution. This sudden development is the most sweeping political move on the disputed region in seventy years. A presidential pronouncement issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of Indian constitution that ascertained the special rights to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, including the rights to have her own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all affairs apart from communication, defence, and foreign policies. This shocking move literally shook Kashmir and Pakistan at their cores. Now It has been more than one month now since Indian forces started a lock down in Indian administered Kashmir. Due to continuous threat of mass protests against this illegal action, additional troops were deployed in already heavy militarized valley. Crippling curfew was imposed and Internet services were suspended. Indian security forces have also arrested all the political leadership of the valley. Different International media outlets have published news regarding the brutal suppression of local Kashmiri people by Indian forces.

With the evolution of United Nation and other international institutions, rights violation and other disputed issue that could undermine peace and stability are paid umpteen attentions by the international community. Time to time we have witnessed intervention on humanitarian bases by International Community .Even force was used in many states to stop oppressive regimes from committing atrocities.

India claims herself to be the largest democracy in the world and champion of human rights protection. But this is absolutely contrary and devious to the ground realities. Especially since BJP came into power in 2014 with an expansionist agenda, it is actively involved in different crimes and often violated the sovereignty of many states. BJP government has conducted military operation in Myanmar in 2015 without taking into confidence the local government. Later, Pakistan was targeted in February 2019 though it resulted in shooting down of one of Indian fighter jets. This shift has deteriorated the already-heightened tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which relegated its diplomatic relations with India.

Kashmir has been a bone of contention and a disputed region between Indian and Pakistan since 1947. Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in full but rule it partially. The nuclear-armed neighbors remain at daggers drawn over this issue and have fought three wars over this territory but Kashmir issue is still unresolved. A rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir has been continuing for past 30 years. United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions on Kashmir and has given Kashmir citizens the right of self-determination .UN instructed both India and Pakistan to withdraw their troops from disputed region and to organize plebiscite there. Though India did not agree to these demands and never held a plebiscite but a special status was granted to Indian occupied Kashmir which made it a semi-autonomous region. Different round of talks were arranged between India and Pakistan to solve this dispute which means that India recognized Kashmir as international dispute.

But on August 05, 2015 BJPs government removed this special status of Kashmir and directly imposed the rule of central  India.BJP has established a stance that Kashmir is integral part of India and vowed to attack even Pakistani administered Kashmir.

This illegal move of Indian authorities is accompanied by the brutal use of force in the valley. International community which asserts it as the protector of International law and human rights round the globe has basically done nothing against this inhuman/illegal occupation of Kashmir. Reason is that international community is following real politik .According to realist school of thought , International relations states only protect their own national interests. They do not have much appetite for human rights and International Law. This is best depicted in response of international community on Indian moves in Kashmir. If we analyze the international reactions to this recent development one by one we can see that these great powers have their own vested interest in India that is why they are not willing to take any concrete step. For example due to changing geopolitical situation in Asia-Pacific region United States considers India as its strategic ally against the regional power of China. According to US, Indian will contain expanding Chinese influence in south Asia and will act as balancing forces. Moreover Indian with its huge population and large economy is very good trading partner of United States .That is why US will not take any concrete steps against Indian aggression. Countries like France and Russia are huge arms exporters to India so they will not try to lose a client by taking any concrete steps against India. States like Saudi Arabia and UAE which have influence on India because to their oil exports and other trade relation will not take any action .Reason they have very strong trade ties which they do not want to threaten .Secondly they themselves are oppressing regimes so promoting human right in any other region will jeopardize their own position as international actor.

With this realpolitik prevailing at international politics Pakistan is left with pauce options. Pakistan has very strong religious and cultural bonding with Kashmir people and she considers it her legal and moral responsibility to help Kashmir people who are facing wrath of Indian forces. it is the responsibility of the International community to speak for the human rights violations in Kashmir instead on just focusing on their own vast national interests.

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International Law

A bird’s eye view of Asia: A continental landscape of minorities in peril

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Many in Asia look at the Middle East with a mixture of expectation of stable energy supplies, hope for economic opportunity and concern about a potential fallout of the region’s multiple violent conflicts that are often cloaked in ethnic, religious and sectarian terms.

Yet, a host of Asian nations led by men and women, who redefine identity as concepts of exclusionary civilization, ethnicity, and religious primacy rather than inclusive pluralism and multiculturalism, risk sowing the seeds of radicalization rooted in the despair of population groups that are increasingly persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized.

Leaders like China’s Xi Jingping, India’s Narendra Modi, and Myanmar’s Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside nationalist and supremacist religious figures ignore the fact that crisis in the Middle East is rooted in autocratic and authoritarian survival strategies that rely on debilitating manipulation of national identity on the basis of sectarianism, ethnicity and faith-based nationalism.

A bird’s eye view of Asia produces a picture of a continental landscape strewn with minorities on the defensive whose positioning as full-fledged members of society with equal rights and opportunities is either being eroded or severely curtailed.

It also highlights a pattern of responses by governments and regional associations that opt for a focus on pre-emptive security, kicking the can down the road and/or silent acquiescence rather than addressing a wound head-on that can only fester, making cures ever more difficult.

To be sure, multiple Asian states, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have at various times opened their doors to refugees.

Similarly, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) disaster management unit has focused on facilitating and streamlining repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

But a leaked report by the unit, AHA Centre, in advance of last June’s ASEAN summit was criticized for evading a discussion on creating an environment in which Rohingya would be willing to return.

The criticism went to the core of the problem: Civilizationalist policies, including cultural genocide, isolating communities from the outside world, and discrimination will at best produce simmering anger, frustration and despair and at worst mass migration, militancy and/or political violence.

A Uyghur member of the Communist Party for 30 years who did not practice his religion, Ainiwa Niyazi, would seem to be the picture-perfect model of a Chinese citizen hailing from the north-western province of Xinjiang.

Yet, Mr Niyazi was targeted in April of last year for re-education, one of at least a million Turkic Muslims interned in detention facilities where they are forced to internalize Xi Jinping thought and repudiate religious norms and practices in what constitutes the most frontal assault on a faith in recent history.

If past efforts, including an attempt to turn Kurds into Turks by banning use of Kurdish as a language that sparked a still ongoing low level insurgency, is anything to go by, China’s ability to achieve a similar goal with greater brutality is questionable.

“Most Uyghur young men my age are psychologically damaged. When I was in elementary school surrounded by other Uyghurs, I was very outgoing and active. Now I feel like I have been broken… Quality of life is now about feeling safe,” said Alim, a young Uyghur, describing to Adam Hunerven, a writer who focuses on the Uyghurs, arrests of his friends and people trekking south to evade the repression in Xinjiang cities.

Travelling in the region in 2014, an era in which China was cracking down on Uyghurs but that predated the institutionalization of the re-education camps, Mr. Hunerven saw that “the trauma people experienced in the rural Uyghur homeland was acute. It followed them into the city, hung over their heads and affected the comportment of their bodies. It made people tentative, looking over their shoulders, keeping their heads down. It made them tremble and cry.”

There is little reason to assume that anything has since changed for the better. On the contrary, not only has the crackdown intensified, fear and uncertainty has spread to those lucky enough to live beyond the borders of China. Increasingly, they risk being targeted by the long arm of the Chinese state that has pressured their host countries to repatriate them.

Born and raised in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, Rahima Akter, one of the few women to get an education among the hundreds of thousands who fled what the United Nations described as ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, saw her dreams and potential as a role model smashed when she was this month expelled from university after recounting her story publicly.

Ms. Akter gained admission to Cox’s Bazar International University (CBIU) on the strength of graduating from a Bangladeshi high school, a feat she could only achieve by sneaking past the camp’s checkpoints, hiding her Rohingya identity, speaking only Bengali, dressing like a Bangladeshi, and bribing Bangladeshi public school officials for a placement.

Ms Akter was determined to escape the dire warnings of UNICEF, the United Nations’ children agency, that Rohingya refugee children risked becoming “a lost generation.”

Ms. Akter’s case is not an isolated incident but part of a refugee policy in an environment of mounting anti-refugee sentiment that threatens to deprive Rohingya refugees who refuse to return to Myanmar unless they are guaranteed full citizenship of any prospects.

In a move that is likely to deepen a widespread sense of abandonment and despair, Bangladeshi authorities, citing security reasons, this month ordered the shutting down of mobile services and a halt to the sale of SIM cards in Rohingya refugee camps and restricted Internet access. The measures significantly add to the isolation of a population that is barred from travelling outside the camps.

Not without reason, Bangladeshi foreign minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, has blamed the international community for not putting enough pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back.

The UN “should go to Myanmar, especially to Rakhine state, to create conditions that could help these refugees to go back to their country. The UN is not doing the job that we expect them to do,” Mr. Abdul Momen said.

The harsh measures are unlikely to quell increased violence in the camps and continuous attempts by refugees to flee in search of better pastures.

Suspected Rohingya gunmen last month killed a youth wing official of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party. Two refugees were killed in a subsequent shootout with police.

The plight of the Uyghurs and the Rohingya repeats itself in countries like India with its stepped up number of mob killings that particularly target Muslims, threatened stripping of citizenship of close to two million people in the state of Assam, and unilateral cancellation of self-rule in Kashmir.

Shiite Muslims bear the brunt of violent sectarian attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Malaysia, Shiites, who are a miniscule minority, face continued religious discrimination.

The Islamic Religious Department in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state, this week issued a sermon that amounts to a mandatory guideline for sermons in mosques warning against “the spread of Shia deviant teachings in this nation… The Muslim ummah (community of the faithful) must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam,” the sermon said.

Malaysia, one state where discriminatory policies are unlikely to spark turmoil and political violence, may be the exception that confirms the rule.

Ethnic and religious supremacism in major Asian states threatens to create breeding grounds for violence and extremism. The absence of effective attempts to lessen victims’ suffering by ensuring that they can rebuild their lives and safeguard their identities in a safe and secure environment, allows wounds to fester.

Permitting Ms. Akter, the Rohingya university student, to pursue her dream, would have been a low-cost, low risk way of offering Rohingya youth an alternative prospect and at the very least a reason to look for constructive ways of reversing what is a future with little hope.

Bangladeshi efforts to cut off opportunities in the hope that Rohingya will opt for repatriation have so far backfired. And repatriation under circumstances that do not safeguard their rights is little else than kicking the can down the road.

Said human rights advocate Ewelina U. Ochab: “It is easy to turn a blind eye when the atrocities do not happen under our nose. However, we cannot forget that religious persecution anywhere in the world is a security threat to everyone, everywhere.”

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