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The Idea of Global Governance

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“Global governance” has increasingly become common sense within the political-economic sphere in the context of preaching for accountability and transparency. There is,however, a grey space that claims questions of what the end goal of such coherence is called for and who it seeks to serve. This paper shall descriptively delve into the need for Global Governance in today’s world and governance for the future while enumerating its corresponding challenges and criticisms.      

“International solidarity is not an act of charity, it is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains towards the same objective. The foremost of these objectives is to aid the development of humanity to the highest level possible.” – Samora Machel

The international arena in the 21st century requires a catalyst to unify the world beyond borders and to build global institutions that can combat disparagement of the idea of globalisation. The resolution to this conundrum is the dilation and legitimisation of global governance. Global Governance is essentially a framework that proposes global relationship and a knit playing field integrating all spheres of a society including social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental sectors to revolve issues with a collective consciousness[1] as liberalists would preach.

This is however unachievable without all actors in the system including, states, political figures and leaders, quasi state actors, corporate sector and institutions, NGO’s, MNC’s and the financial system collaborate to form a coherent structure that can vastly influence the grassroots of the system. This is parallel to the idea of mega diplomacy proposed by Parag Khana, a profound specialist in international relations. As Parag Khana stated, “We’re moving into a post Westphalian world, a world which is populated where the authoritative actors are not just governments. They are companies”.[2] He explains how diplomacy has widened as a tool into diverse spheres such as private mercenary armies, AI and technology, humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations, the educational sector; schools and universities, religious institutions and organisations and much more. He believes that diplomacy stretches beyond multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the World bank or bilateral relations between nation states themselves. This is more efficient as it uplifts the accountability held by state and non-state actors. It propagates a sense of global order and global citizenship in an interdependent world as an aftermath of proactively embracing globalisation.

While there is no universally accepted definition of ‘Governance’, The Commission of Global governance defines the same as ‘the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs’. It has posited that governance is ‘a continuing process through which conflicting and diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken’.[3] The concept of Global Governance is viewed narrowly as a movement to address today’s issues while it is fundamentally much more. As Whitman (2009:8)[4] stated, it is an instrument to help independent states reach out for help in the face of emerging international issues and come together to create the envisaged world of peace and harmony. This stems out of the inefficiency and the failure of global institutions. For instance, humanitarian relief having been sent to Rwanda in 1994 during the genocide by the UN enforcing the Tusi military could have deterred the massacre at its grassroots.

Globalisation backlash may be seen as a growing hindrance to the expansion of Global Governance as states are reluctant ant towards embracing the rapid interdependence often leading to circumstances and conflicts that arise out of intervention. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations rightfully stated while addressing the assembly that “the Central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people, instead of leaving billions of them in squalor”.[5] While an ambitious concept, it may serve to be counterproductive in nature. The shift towards abandoning globalisation in neither desirable nor pragmatic. Revoking the systemic change, it has brought about for more than a decade now would bring along multifaceted problems hand in hand. It goes unrecognised, that the issue isn’t globalisation, but how we work around it and how it is managed. As rightly pointed out by Stiglitz, the macroscopic problem lies in the hands of the global financial institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank and The International Monetary Fund (IMF). They go beyond their mandates to ideally sere the best interest of the developed nations as opposed to the developing unindustrialised nations.

Need for Global Governance

Transnational policy challenges influencing nation states on an individual level see the need for cooperative global approaches within the contemporary world. This would require re-building of the mechanisms of global governance and its constant expansion to address global issues that are on the rise. Globalisation, being the epicentre of the framework, is array of opportunities alongside challenges. While the debate on pollution persists, issues such as terrorism, drugs abuse, arms proliferation, climate change, and data security have crossed national borders in search of global solutions. These while picked up within the domestic affairs of individual states within their political agendas, require integrated policy change in the international arena to be dealt with in an effective and constructive manner.

While viewed as transnational, the effects of global governance have a direct influence within the domestic there of each individual state. As Halabi (2004:23)[6] stated, that the framework of global governance is best suited to manipulate globalisation’s forces, control its detrimental negative effects and recognises that globalization cannot lead to global governance like cooperation correspondingly may not be facilitated by the anarchy that prevails in the international system. In the anarchic system, the challenge stands as states seek authority, power and control. While this collective consciousness is imperative for change, the thirst for power breaks down the cooperation and leads to violations in search for a state of hegemony. While offensive realists would argue that this is natural, this state of neutrality is least beneficial for the scale of change that meets the eye. A multilateral approach is therefore the only possible explanation which not only levels the playing field for all but also doesn’t compromising on valuing the voices of each of its stake holders from time to time.

While the framework sounds equitable, it is impossible to isolate domestic values in a multilateral setting. Deliberation and debate may still lead to decision making that isn’t convincingly adhered to by all states. Hence, policy development needs to be holistic in nature.

Challenges

One of the main challenges to Global Governance is state sovereignty. Stemming from the widely accepted grassroots of the Westphalian system that today UN carries forward in its mandate stated, “the concept of nation-state sovereignty based on two principles: territoriality and the exclusion of external actors from domestic authority structures ”.[7] Global Governance can be maximised in the state of absence of state governments and a collective sense of shared sovereignty to create a cohesive international community.

The ability for nations to contribute to change may diversely vary corresponding to their standing and their state capabilities. As Halabi (2004:24)[8]recognises, while global governance seeks to resolve disputes and issues, it does not restrict states in continuing to pursue wealth within the created structure of their own. Hence, we need a global interface that can pool in these independent capabilities and empower international actors to foster change.

Domination and subordination of states hinders the process of global governance. As pointed out by Mehta (2007:4)[9], the idea of ‘international’ is often perceived as the G8 or the G20. The G8[10], while primarily focusing on economic issues are seen to represent and speak for the entire international community as they guide the forces of response to global issues and challenges. From an economic lens, the G8 as one might multilateral institution concentrates the power to manipulate the procedures of world economics. This prevailing hierarchy in the system therefore deters the comprehensive bridge between the rich and poor states, further breaking down the cooperation.

Limits of Global Governance

Some of the fundamental limits to the idea go Global Governance includes the force’s ability to comply with international rules, to maintain transparency, to be able to create win-win resolutions that are mutually beneficial in interstate disputes, and its ability to empower international organisations to deliver required international aid in terms of services and public goods for all nations to thrive in an equitable system. All nations have an intrinsic need to join these international organisations and institutions to prove their international legitimacy within the global community.

These challenges have been witnessed prominently in many spheres of transnational issues. The United States’ non-cooperation in the environmental protect through the implementation of the targets to reduce CO2 emissions that would help curbing global warming in accordance to the Kyoto protocol[11] is an apt example of the same. The target of global poverty reduction has prompted international economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to strengthen their policies through the launch of CDF (Comprehensive Development Framework) and PRSP’s (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers). Yet, the need for radical reformation persists. A report by the IFIAC, also known as the Maltzer Commission[12] deduces the inefficiency of the World Bank by pointing out the inconsistency in its assistance provided to the social programs for the rural as its administrative work overlaps significantly with the domestic and regional developmental banks hence leading to low performance of the institution as a unit. The commission called for a privatisation of the World Bank’s lending operations leading to its conversion into a World Development Agency.

The field of human rights has been widely debated due to the lack of coherence and inconsistencies in policies that are adapted to the domestic affairs of each state. Human rights for the moral compass for global governance as violation proliferate across the globe. The asymmetry of information enables institutions and states to exercise policies that impede several rights that individuals are fundamentally entitles to. The use of policing, coercion and torture violate rights including their rights to food, health care, housing and many more. The conundrum of capital punishment and its violation to the fundamental right to life has been debated for decades. The implementation and an ability to uphold and maintain this moral compass of human rights is a test of the potential of Global Governance.

The breakdown of trade agreements highlights the over reliance and dependance of developing nations on the export of commodities that carry the brunt of collapsing prices. Such disputes and inequities within investment and trade may also be seen among large and advanced nations that seek to uphold leverage against one another such as the persisting trade conflict between USA and China. The shift in focus is therefore now on the diversification of exports that may be facilitated if Global Governance can effectively manage the forces of globalisation and streamline it through new international agreements supporting the price of commodities.

Last but not the least, the uprise of civil society conflicts and revolutions are grossly mismanaged. The recent measures taken by the United Nation of disputes such as the ongoing Syrian Civil War and unrest have led to questioning the legitimacy of the proposals passed through the Security Council and the body itself. While funding for the institution is always constituted as a fundamental issue, no constructive measure to rectify the same has been collectively formed by the member states of the international organisation.

Conclusion

While Global Governance seeks to benefit all, it is over ambitious and idealistic. There are several reforms that are imperative to its efficient implementation. Firstly, it is important to modify how states perceive state sovereignty and dismiss the threat that global governance poses to it. It is crucial to sustain he representation of state governments to retain the democratisation of global institutions. With that said, the international community has a heavy reliance on national governments as opposed to weakening them. Weak states carrying a contrasting perception are not only a threat to themselves but also to the framework of Global governance. Weak legitimacy in nations that may categorised as rogue states, fake democracies or quasi authoritarian states have a high degree of threat on their efficiency and potential. This is however enhanced in states that exercise more liberty and freedom, where the civil society representation is high.

Secondly, global governance requires an accountable and moral structure. These two elements must be universally recognised as backbones of the framework that are essential and uncontested. Subsequently, regional governance and domestic affairs must be trusted and respected to maintain development and management of state infrastructure and the preservation of natural resources. Emerging regional powers must refrain from dominating the playing field and facilitate trade and regional agreements to foster global governance by mobilising people, boosting imports and exports, and effectively managing resources.

Correspondingly, the needs to be an urgent democratisation of international economic institutions such as the UN, World Bank, WTO and IMF to filter and check the viability of proposals and measures taken. There needs to be a reiterated call for conformity of these revolutionary and policy making bodies with the cause of strengthening global governance, enabling them to efficiently respond to current and emerging global challenges. There needs to be an expansion of the Security Council that restricts the veto power in the hand of a few elitist nations and a reformation of the mandate of the UN enabling it to target short term goals making it more effective.

Lastly, the legal structure require reform. The international judiciary and legal system need to be strengthened adhering to the globalised relationships between states that supersede domestic dynamics of legal frameworks within states. International courts such as the ICJ and the ICC must take cognizance of the changing world that the seek to serve.

The global community must in tandem minis the unilateral rule and isolate the quest for hegemony to create a system of cooperation and enable the upliftment of subordinated sections of societies such as women, children, indigenous people, underprivileged, refugees and many more. The structure should encompass all state and non-state actors to help developing nations in the society meet the Millennium Developmental Goals to ensure peace, harmony, uphold human rights, reduce the detrimental effect of global warning on climate change, combat terrorism, curb migration and nuclear proliferation alongside fostering growth in the international, regional and individual state level. Global Governance is there a vital instrument that seeks to intertwine global interests and look beyond domestic foreign policies to form a global knit community that envisages a world of peace and harmony. Yet the question prevails, is global governance an answer to the echoing anarchy or a mere euphemism of a global government?


[1](n.d.). Retrieved from http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/collectiveconsciousness.htm.

[2]Bigthinkeditor. (2018, October 5). Parag Khanna on the Rise of Mega Diplomacy. Retrieved from https://bigthink.com/big-think-edge/parag-khanna-on-the-rise-of-mega-diplomacy.

[3]Hägel, P. (2011). Global Governance. Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0015

[4]Whitman, J. (2009). Conclusion: The global Governance Prospect. Palgrave Advances in Global Governance, 189–203.

[5]Speeches. (2019, February 13). Retrieved from https://www.kofiannanfoundation.org/topics/speeches/.

[6]Halabi, Y. (2004). The Expansion of Global Governance into the Third World: Altruism, Realism, or Constructivism? International Studies Review, 6(1), 21–48.

[7]Timberman, T., & Timberman, T. (n.d.). The Peace of Westphalia and its 4 Principles for Interstate Relations Isn’t Failing. Retrieved from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-peace-of-westphalia-and-its-4-principles-for-interstate-relations-isnt-failing.

[8]Halabi, Y. (2004). The Expansion of Global Governance into the Third World: Altruism, Realism, or Constructivism? International Studies Review, 6(1), 21–48.

[9]Mehta, M. D. (2007). Good Governance. Encyclopedia of Governance.

[10]Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia (suspended), the United Kingdom and the United States.

[11]What is the Kyoto Protocol? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol.

[12]International Financial Institution Advisory Commission. (2016, December 23). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Financial_Institution_Advisory_Commission.

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International Law

Upholding Dharma by Mob lynching?

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Label any Muslim a cow smuggler, accuse him of carrying beef and then lynch in the name of protecting religion. These premeditated barbaric acts seem to have become the order of the day. According to “Hate Crime Watch”, around 90% of religious hate crimes have occurred after the change of Central government in India in 2014. Although Muslims are victims in 60% of incidents, people from all religious faiths have suffered hate crimes.

India’s constitution promises its citizens justice, liberty and equality, but the shattering of social life through mob violence triggers an inescapable sense of powerlessness among its citizens. After the 2015 gruesome Dadri lynching, Mohammad Azam was lynched in July 2018 by a mob in Karnataka after a series of WhatsApp messages had warned locals that child kidnappers were on the loose. The mob assumed that Azam, who worked for Google, and his friends were co-conspirators and lynched him. In 2019, Tabrej Ansari became the first victim of the gruesome hate crime in the second term of the current regime led by proponents of Hindutva. He was lynched by a mob that forced him to chant Hindu religious slogans. In June this year, three people were lynched on suspicion of cattle smuggling in Tripura.

It needs to be recalled that lynching was used to terrorize black community for generations in the United States; blacks were lynched on dubious and false criminal accusations but this was put to an end through NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People). In a similar fashion today, there is a growing perception that mob lynching happens with disturbing regularity in India to terrorize not only minorities but also dissenters in the name of religion and culture.

Violence against those who dissent is sought to be rationalized as nationalistic. The killings of Mohammad Akhlaq, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabolkar and Gauri Lankesh were masterminded by religious bigots masquerading as nationalists. In fact, the recent murder of George Floyd at the hand of a racially bigoted policeman in the United States, and custodial torture and death of a father-son duo in Tamil Nadu are hate crimes which are blots on the conscience of democratic societies.

Contemporary India has witnessed a surge in right-wing Hindu extremism, and crimes committed in the name of Love Jihad, beef eating, child kidnapping, cow slaughter and anti-Muslim fake news are aimed at normalizing this disturbing phenomenon. This right-wing propaganda usually spreads like a wildfire on the internet, particularly on the so-called Whatsapp University where it has become quite common to see pictures and videos of dead cows lying in a puddle of blood. It has been noticed that such videos and images on social media platforms are always of questionable veracity whose primary purpose is to incite fear, anger and violence. Very often, the text accompanying the videos appeals that everyone should spread it as much as possible in order for it to reach at the highest political executives. When this damaging and dangerous content is continuously circulated, the resulting fear in the minds of majority community gets converted into hatred toward the minority community.

These are nothing but politically motivated polarizing tactics and diatribes which only feed off pre-existing demeaning stereotypes of minorities. Technology has become an enabler of violence for various political and cultural reasons. There are many parties and stakeholders involved in these hate crimes but victims are only innocent people and invariably from vulnerable socio-economic groups. But the most shameful is the attitude of India’s politicians and police officials who justify these crimes, garland the lynchers, deny it ever happened or shrug off their responsibility by preferring to watch as mute spectators. Even delayed or muted condemnation of communal violence, by those in positions of power, only signal tolerance of such activity. Unfortunately, both the mob violence and the official response to it are symbolic of the Indian state’s rising incompetence in countering religious intolerance.

In recent years, the alarming idea that the ‘nation’ belongs only to the majoritarian community has made global strides as many countries like Poland, Hungary, Brazil and Turkey have come under its sway. Even many long-established democracies, including the United States, are feeling the pressure of this authoritarian tendency. The emergence of Hindu nationalist ideology in India, which is seen as replacing Indian civic nationalism, promotes the notion of a unique national culture grounded in Hindu cultural supremacy. The proponents of Hindu right-wing extremism are trying to radicalize their children and youth with ultra-conservative and fictional thoughts which often re-assert historical prejudices and ungrounded hatred toward Muslims.  

One may be wrong, but cynical indifference shown by the middle class citizens tends to breed servitude and perpetuate complacency. When the victim of mob violence dies a death, shockingly there is no remorse from the crowd. Only the victim’s family remembers the event even as the societal silence is spine chilling. Actually, one should not ignore the performance aspect to mob lynching. Those indulging in mob lynching or public beatings ensure that their acts are recorded and then the potential circulation of such videos is targeted to send a strong message of the majoritarian men terrorizing minority men into humiliation and subjugation.

The dominant mainstream assumptions that cattle slaughter and beef trade directly concerns only Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and Christians is also far from reality. Unfortunately, framing of the debates around bovine trade along communal lines has been sustained by provincial media which acts as an echo chamber to propagate Islamophobia. It has also been observed that the messages of hate get intensified after any terror attack, and instigate people to act against specific communities, primarily Muslims.

In July 2018, a landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court had condemned the incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism as ‘horrendous act of mobocracy’, asking the government to enact strict law to counter them. Nevertheless, in spite of comprehensive guidelines and anti-lynching laws in some states such as Rajasthan, Manipur and West Bengal, the mob violence continues unabated. In many states where the right-wings groups feel emboldened such as Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, there is widespread feeling that the enactment of stringent cattle preservation legislation has further exacerbated such crimes. Those who think that the lynch squad is a thing of the past are wrong.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) do not have specific provision dealing with the mob lynching because this was never seen as a crime in India. It is similar to terrorism for which we have the most stringent laws. But mob lynching causes more than just a death; it kills the spirit and substance of democracy. We are told that Hindus and Muslims share the same DNA in India. How can the cold-blooded lynching of one’s brethren make one a hero rather than a murderer? How can a policeman’s lynching and alleged cattle lifter’s lynching possess different form of bestiality? In fact, the time has come to brand mob lynching as ‘domestic terrorism’ and a serious threat to India’s internal security.

Does glory to Lord Rama be restored through unruly mob justice? Does the path to righteousness come through killing innocent people in the name of Cow? Does circulation of derogatory and hateful projection of Muslims bring glory to Hindus? Are those calling publicly for violence against Muslims and Christians are real friends of the Indian State and government? Is not hate crime the prelude to genocide? These uncomfortable questions shake the core of India’s multi-religious and pluralist democracy. India’s timeless civilization has unflinchingly celebrated the foundational principles of humanity such as non-violence, tolerance, peaceful-coexistence and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which is one of the most important moral values engraved in the heart of every Indian. These eternal principles come under violent assault whenever a mob kills an innocent Indian.

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International Criminal Court and thousands of ignored complaints

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©ICC-CPI

The civil war in Donbass has been going on for more than seven years now. It broke out in 2014, following Kiev’s decision to launch a military operation against the local militia in Donbass, who did not accept the Maidan coup that had happened in February of that same year. More than 10,000 civilians were killed in the conflict.

Correspondent of the French newspaper L’Humanité Vadim Kamenka, French historian Vincent Boulet, as well as a MEP and a member of the Spanish Communist Party Willie Meyer took part in the international conference “Topical Issues of Human Rights Violations in Donbass.”

Moderating the conference, organized by the Society of Friends of L’Humanité in Russia (the French leftist newspaper’s Russian office), was the head of the interregional public organization “For Democracy and Human Rights” Maxim Vilkov.

The conference was also attended by the deputy foreign minister of the Lugansk People’s Republic Anna Soroka, human rights activist Yelena Shishkina, director of the Society of Friends of L’Humanité Olesya Orlenko, and head of Donetsk National University’s department of political science Artyom Bobrovsky.

The participants discussed numerous cases of human rights violations by the Ukrainian security forces and paramilitary units in the course of the civil war in Donbass. The left-minded European participants paid special attention to the fact that none of the 6,000 complaints about the actions of Ukrainian security officials and nationalists had actually been taken up by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Small wonder too, since the atrocities committed in Donbass immediately bring to mind the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s when leftwing antifascists from across the world fought supporters of fascists and Nazis. Let’s not forget that even DW (foreign agent) admits that the share of neo-fascists in Kiev’s Azov regiment is very significant.

The participants called upon the ECHR to pay attention to the non-investigation of crimes committed in Donbass.

Human rights activists and public figures from Russia, France and the unrecognized republics of Donbass called on European international human rights organizations to pay attention to the failure to investigate crimes committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine. This is stated in the statement, which was sent to European international organizations after the conference.

The statement also calls attention to obstacles created to prevent citizens from filing applications to investigate crimes, as well as to attempts to ignore pertinent complaints from international bodies.

The latter, according to the authors of the statement, is especially important since “10,650 applications have so far been submitted to the ECHR concerning violations of citizens’ rights during the civil armed conflict in Ukraine. Of these, 8,000 come from Crimea and Donbass, including 7,000 from Donbass alone. Moreover, 6,000 are complaints made against Ukraine proper. However, during the past seven years, not a single complaint pertaining to the conflict in Donbass has been considered.”

Human rights activists called on the ECHR and the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to ensure that the crimes committed in Donbass are investigated in full compliance with the ECHR and ICC charter, as well as to bring pressure to bear on the political leadership of Ukraine to fulfill its obligations to protect the rights of its citizens.”

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International Law

Crime of Ecocide: Greening the International Criminal Law

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In June 2021, an Independent Expert Panel under the aegis of Stop Ecocide Foundation presented a newly-drafted definition for the crime of ‘ecocide.’ The Panel consisting of 12 international lawyers proposed that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be amended to include ecocide as the fifth international crime along with the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The inclusion of the crime of ecocide in the Statute will entitle ICC to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of causing grave harm to the environment.

The term ecocide comprises the Greek word ‘oikos,’ meaning house or environment, and ‘cide,’ meaning an act of killing. Premised upon the term ‘genocide,’ ecocide means the significant destruction of the natural environment by human actions. In 1970, it was first used by Arthur Galston, an American biologist, at the Conference on War and National Responsibility in Washington DC. The term was further quoted by the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in his opening speech at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm. Since then, multiple efforts were made to include ecocide within international law. Interestingly, it was adopted as an additional crime in the early drafts of the Rome Statute; however, later, it was dropped due to the lack of an adequate definition. If succeeded this time, it will be a significant victory for the environment since none of the existing international criminal laws secures it as an end-in-itself.

Definition of the crime of ecocide

The Panel has defined the crime of ecocide as, “For the purpose of this Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.

The definition comprises two thresholds that should be fulfilled to constitute a crime of ecocide. Firstly, there should exist a substantial likelihood that the ‘acts’ (including omissions) will cause severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment. In other words, along with the damages causing severe harm to the elements of the environment, such damages must have an impact on a wider geographical location or for an unreasonably longer duration.

It is appreciable that the Panel has widened the scope of the definition by incorporating spatial and temporal dimensions to its meaning. However, they have changed their position adopted in the previous legal instruments to employ a mix of conjunctive and disjunctive formulations in the definition. In addition to its severe nature, such harm could be either widespread or long-term to constitute a crime of ecocide. Thus, any severe and widespread activity, such as chopping down huge rainforests, could be attributed to ecocide. Similarly, any severe activity whose consequences prevail for a longer duration, for example, causing the extinction of a plant or animal species, could also amount to the crime of ecocide.

Instant reading of the first threshold indicates that the ecocide definition might include day-to-day human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damages. It raises a question – Whether humans are environmental criminals? Though, it might be true that most human actions, directly or indirectly, are continuously degrading the ecosystem around us. However, the definition of ecocide is primarily concerned with the large polluters whose irresponsible activities at a massive level are a threat to the environment. Thus, to narrow down the ambit of the definition and identify criminal activities precisely, the Panel added a second threshold, that is, the ‘acts’ causing damage to the environment must be unlawful or wanton.

It means, only when the actions are either prohibited under national or international laws or indicate a reckless disregard for excessive destruction of the environment in achieving social and economic benefits will they amount to the crime of ecocide. The second threshold hints towards an anthropocentric approach of the definition and protects a range of human activities deemed necessary, desirable, and legitimate for human welfare. To determine the lawfulness of the acts, the actions should be seen with their potential social and economic values. The ecocide definition relies upon the principle of sustainable development to balance environmental destruction with human development and prohibits all destructive activities that outweigh their social and economic benefits. It also means that the definition places a ‘limited’ environmental harm outside the scope of the definition, which cannot be avoided for achieving social welfare that includes housing developments or establishing transport links.

The proposed definition is more concerned with the massive instances of environmental damages. It does not consider small ‘necessary’ ecological harms caused by day-to-day human activities. However, it is equally essential these negligible-looking destructive contributions of humans, made in their individual capacity, should not go unnoticed. These small contributions combined with each other also significantly impact the environment in the form of climate change, biodiversity loss, and other hazards. Thus, the reckless human lifestyle is a significant issue and needs to be regulated through some international code of conduct, if not as ecocide.

Undoubtedly, the proposed ecocide definition is a remarkable effort that should be appreciated for multiple reasons. First of all, the release of this definition indicates that the time has come to start penalizing environmental offenders and create deterrence so that such destructive activities can be minimized. It establishes the responsibility and accountability of big corporate houses and political leaders whose regular investments are causing substantial harm to the environment. Moreover, this definition founds its bases upon many core principles and concepts of public international law, international environmental law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law. For instance, the principle of no transboundary harm, sustainable development, proportionality, and necessity are aptly referred to in the ecocide definition. Moreover, it also provides a sufficiently broad definition of the term ‘environment’ to primarily include any damage committed towards the earth, its biosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and outer space.

Way Forward

Though the ecocide definition is a significant development, it still has to go a long way to be included in the list of international crimes. For this purpose, any of the 123 member states to the Rome Statute can officially submit the definition to the UN Secretary-General. The proposal has to be accepted for further consideration by the majority of the members through voting. Further, the text will be subjected to debates and deliberations and must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the members. Moreover, the member states need to ratify or accept the proposed text. Only after one year of such ratification or acceptance ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over the crimes of ecocide committed afterward. This entire process can take many years or even decades to get completed. It is also possible that the structure of the current definition might change in due course of its acceptance.

Today, it is unclear that whether this definition will succeed in amending the Rome Statute or not, but what can be said with certainty is that this definition will play a crucial role in building awareness and discourse around ecocide among the governments, corporate houses, professionals, and masses across the globe. With the pressing needs of humans and prevailing threats to the environment, it is the right time that the actions of the offenders should be regulated through the prism of international criminal law.

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