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International Law

Coronavirus, one of the boomerang effects of globalization

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San Francisco, New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Kinshasa, Karachi, Bangkok and then Peking. Those are the cities that in just a week Dr. Peters must visit in order to release the lethal virus that will wipe out 99% of humankind in the movie Twelve Monkeys. Probably not even the great Terry Gilliam could imagine in 1995 that all this perambulation would seem quite excessive 25 years later for any psychopath out there who would wish to start a pandemic. In 2020 have been enough for the virus to originate in a city like Wuhan so that it could be replicated across the planet in less than two months.But it is not surprising, in a short time globalization has become radically more intense than in 1995 and we, its participants, more interdependent. Today we travel and trade more than twice what we did then, and China’s GDP, for example, is twenty times greater.

However, in terms of global governance institutions, things have not improved since the mid-1990s, it actually seems to have gotten quite a bit worse. If we analyze the current situation we will be able to realize that the panorama is critical. The World Health Organization (WHO) takes center stage when a pandemic like the one we are experiencing now occurs, it is one of the most heard voices and a source of hope for many, but this United Nations agency is abysmally far from having a truly crucial role in the quest to solve a problem like the one at hand. In fact, it does not even seem capable of fulfilling one of its more modest functions, such as coordinating the global response to health emergencies. At the end of the day it is no more than a voice that is lost among the crowd, within a sea of other relevant global actors.

Global catastrophes continue to be addressed (glocalized) from eminently national strategies, that is: in a fragmented way. Even the member countries of the European Union have taken their own measures, consulted their own experts and are using all the resources at their disposal exclusively within their own borders. We know that China has sent doctors and medical equipment to different countries, including Italy (the country that registers the most deaths from the virus so far). Even Cuba has sent doctors to help this country. But, on the other hand, we have heard nothing about samples of aid from Sweden or Portugal, countries where the outbreak so far remains relatively mild. What has been done almost immediately has been the closure of borders, clearly the harmony and coexistence in the European Union is based on the maxim: “everyone for themselves”.

But what else can be expected from the famished global governance that we have today? We have long lived in what Ian Bremmer calls the G-zero, that world order where there is no power or group of powers interested in ruling over global issues. Each country is on its own precisely in the face of threats to which they are too small to handle: the big problems, those that when they manifest kill thousands or millions of people. The worst thing is that the trend is going in the opposite direction, each time more is committed to promoting purely national interests. If anything has gone global in recent years on this issue, it is Trump’s America First. As if it were a virus in turn, what was initially harshly criticized as protectionist has been replicating its localist postulates even among the most cosmopolitan governments.

The worst thing is that this withdrawal from globalism is not limited to the mere populist jargon of politicians at both ends of the classical political spectrum (left-right), but it translates into concrete actions. In February of this year alone, the U.S. government proposed halving its contribution to the WHO budget by 2021. Therein lies the root of the problem, given the lack of an adequate budget, this agency cannot be expected to be much more than an entity that classifies the type of problem we face (pandemic or epidemic) and makes some general recommendations, as if It would be an expert in deciding whether or not someone is ill, but who is unable to implement any type of treatment. The WHO budget (which has not increased in the last 10 years) for the 2020-2021 biennium is ~ US $ 4, 421 million, less than half the budget the government of Costa Rica has budgeted to spend in a single year, or which is the same, less than what the Mexican government spends in 6 days.

In 1995 the consequences of eating an animal bought in a wet market in Wuhan probably would not have crossed the Great Wall of China, but although the key difference is that globalization is now much more intense, the problem is not globalization itself, but the kind of globalization we have wrought. We are experiencing a globalization at different speeds where, for example, the globality of the markets does not compare with that of the health standards. In the end, it was the capitalist economy that determined the logic of global relations and, according to this, it was best for China to be part of the vigorous trade network in only some respects. Otherwise it would have been impossible to exploit the dumping that a country with more than 770 million poor people in the late 70s had to offer. Things are like this because when you start to demand that a country adopt certain measures, such as labor rights, environmental protection laws or public health policies, labor and imports are no longer so cheap and the very sensitive pockets of the richest 1% of the planet begin to suffer.

Everything is happiness until the boomerang effect occurs, until those risks that obviously will come sooner or later manifest itself, since it is a logical consequence of the scheme under which the world works. It is something that, at least since 1986, Ulrich Beck had commented almost as an omen:

Unlike poverty, Third World risk pauperization is contagious to the wealthy. The empowerment of risks turns world society into a community of dangers. The boomerang effect also affects rich countries, which have taken the risks off themselves, but import food at a good price. The extreme international inequalities and the interrelations of the world market bring the poor neighborhoods of the peripheral countries to the gates of the rich industrialized centers. They become hotbeds of global pollution that also affects (similarly to the contagious diseases of the poor in crowded medieval cities) the wealthy neighborhoods of the world community.

Seeking refuge within the borders of our nation-states is the most immediate response to these kinds of problems. The enormous figure of Leviathan has always been the great protector of the societies that constitute it, that is its greatest virtue. However, as Byung-Chul Han says, “it is a shallow display of sovereignty that is useless.” In spite of everything, there is serious talk of the possibility that this virus will end up accelerating the process of deglobalization within a search by the political units in which the world is divided to break with interdependence and become self-sufficient. The problem is that globalization has unleashed forces that have freed themselves from the powers that gave rise to them and have adopted their own dynamics, you can no longer put the genie back in the bottle. As things stand now, even the best of the old leviathans is doomed to be crushed by the juggernaut of modernity.

We will survive this one, but next time who knows. The global governance that we currently have cannot guarantee us that, in a few years, in those biological alchemy laboratories called wet markets, a new virus, more deadly and contagious than the one that now plagues us, will not be transmuted. No matter how hard they try, nations, even the richest, will not be able to erect walls that are high enough to prevent the boomerang effects of what they have caused in their capitalist ambition: pandemics, migratory waves, terrorism, climate change. Therefore, unless, as in Twelve monkeys, we have a machine that takes us to that past in which the problems were truly national, the answer must be in the opposite direction: we must seek to build a globalization of politics that can ruling over global spaces that nation-states simply cannot reach. Only in this way can we procure some kind of security against the ever-present risk that, in the most forgotten corner of the world, the germ of that thing that erases the rest of us will be unleashed, regardless of which flag we hide behind.

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International Law

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century

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For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and  American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.

In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.

Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.

On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.

In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of  “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;

I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.[1]

As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.

For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;

For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.

Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.

The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.


[1] Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.

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International Law

Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it

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Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.

However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.

To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding. 

To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it.  Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”

Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.

Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.

Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.

Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.  

Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.

Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.

Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.

For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy.  This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not.  If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention.  This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts.  One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well. 

Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding.  Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.

Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.

A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.

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International Law

Authentic Justice Thus Everlasting Peace: Because We Are One

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The ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a good thing. We thank God for it. Be it between two individuals or institutions or nations or the internal colonial and colonized, war does not do anything except cause more immediate or future mass misery and human destruction. Our continued memories of our interpersonal and international and internal colonial and civil wars and the memorials we erect to remember them recall and record wounds and pains we never get over. 

So it becomes a bothersome puzzle as to why we human beings still just don’t get that war like oppression leads to nowhere except to more human devastation. And we should have learned by now but have not that peacemaking like ceasefires mean nothing without justice.

 It is the reason why I constantly find myself correcting those who stress Peace and Justice.No Justice No Peace is more than a cliche.It is real politic emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.

Our American inner cities like those in every continent where culturally different and similar people live cramped impoverished lives and nations and colonial enclaves with such unequal wealth remind us of their continued explosive potentialities when peace is once again declared but with no justice.Everyone deserves a decent quality of life which not only includes material necessities but more importantly emotional and spiritual freedoms and other liberations.Not just the victors who conquer and rule and not just the rich and otherwise privileged.

 And until such  justices are  assured to everyone peacemaking is merely a bandaid on cancerous societal or International conflictual soars which come to only benefit those who profit from wars which are bound to come around again when there is no justice and thus peace such as  family destroying divorce lawyers, blood hungry media to sell more subscriptions , arms dealers to sell more murderous technologies, politicians needing  votes so start and prolong wars, and military men and women seeking promotion while practicing their killing capacities.

So if those of us who devoutly practice our  faiths or our golden moral principles,  let us say always and pray and advocate justice and peace always  as a vital public good  and  do justice then lasting peace in our personal lives and insist that national leaders, our own and others do the same in their conduct of international affairs and affairs with those who are stateless in this global world. 

All such pleading is essential since we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God who created all of us  in God’s image as one humanity  out of  everlasting divine love for all of us so we should love each other as God loves all of us  leading to desiring justice and thus lasting peace for each and every one of us.

This is difficult for those in international affairs to understand who take more conventional secular approaches to historical and contemporary justice and peace challenges as if our universal spiritual connectivennes  ( not to be confused with the vast diversity of organized religions)as human beings which makes us all brothers and sisters has no relevance. But if we are going to find true enduring peace we have no alternative but to turn our backs on increasingly useless secular methods which go either way, stressing peace then justice or justice then peace and understand how much we must begin to explore and implement approaches which we look at each other as spiritually connected brothers and sisters in which it is the expectation that peace only comes and lasts when  through the equal enjoyment of justices for every human being, we restore our universal kindred rooted in the everlasting love of God and thus for each other, no matter the different ways in which we define God or positive moral principles which originate in understandings that we human beings in all our diversities are one and thus brothers and sisters.

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