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International Law

The lessons of ‘Non-discrimination’ from pandemic COVID-19

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The unprecedented outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 has stretched the frontier of human capacity to combat an emergency situation. Before the emergence of this virus, we had not often been forced to face the fact that human beings are hostages to nature. The present world has witnessed many classifications of human beings. This classification was done on the basis of wealth, human resources, technology, atomic energy, even on the basis of culture, and so on. Moreover, the terms ‘developed society’, ‘developing society’, ‘least developed society’, and ‘underdeveloped society’ crystalize this classification. But this lethal COVID-19virus, infecting indiscriminately, reminds us of the principle of equality. It infects people from all classes (!), people from all countries regardless of their status, health, wealth. However, it teaches us many things. It has given the environment a considerable pause from human intervention. It has stopped some cruel wars existing in the world. It teaches us the cleanness of body and mind. It sets some people to pray to their God. It makes us understand that there are things which human beings can’t grasp because of their superficial knowledge, or their health, or their fame, or their pride, or their wealth. The most important lesson of COVID-19 we have found is that it does not discriminate while it infects people. It does not discriminate between a president and a beggar, between rich and poor, between a servant and a boss, between an inmate and a free person, between an asylum seeker or migrant and a national, between a stateless person and a citizen of a country. It has infected us going beyond the so-called classifications of the modern world. So, it can confidently be said that this virus keeps us all busy with the measures of protection from this virus. It does not know who are migrants, or refugees or stateless persons. Governments have also been very busy developing precautionary measures and with the treatment of infected citizens – but each is more concerned about the health of their citizens – those who have the nationality of their country.

Questions arise – for example, do we all get equal treatment from the government in response to this invisible virus regardless of our nationality and our present status? The answer seems to be ‘NO’. Amongst others, we would like to highlight the situation of migrant workers, asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons; the most vulnerable groups of people who lack equal treatment from the governments of the countries where they have been living amid the COVID-19.Let us have a look at the scenario of the miseries of these people during this crisis. The outbreak of COVID-19 abruptly halted the movement of people all over the world. People are required to stay at home and to maintain social distance. This outbreak and the requirements of precautionary measures have emerged as an extra health threat to migrants who work abroad to keep their families well and also, to asylum seekers. These people play a crucial role both in the economy of the countries they live andin their countries of origin too. They promote trade and investment and bring innovation, skills, and knowledge to their countries of origin and destination. But amid this crisis, migrants especially those who lack legal status or who work on a temporary basis face obstacles in many cases like housing, food, water, sanitation, obstacles to access to health care programs and other services. Frequently, they have to live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions. They along with others are often denied an adequate standard living by the countries of destination because of their legal status, and often also some regulatory and practical barriers. While the authorities make demands of the people to practice good personal hygiene migrants workers often have no other option but to live in overcrowded places not permitting social distancing which may increase their contact with the disease.

Migrants workers especially who are from the least developing countries have been passing hard times usually having no work and no supplementary budget from the governments. We have seen in places like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait governments have introduced policies to move migrant workers to camps or to detention centres, or to remote islands. But it is often seen that these camps, detention centres and islands are not suitable enough to accommodate the huge number of people.  This means these workers have to live in crowded places where there is no access to proper water, sanitation, enough space to breathe even. The same policy has also been adopted by countries like Bosnia, France, Greece, Libya for asylum seekers. It is also to be noted too that countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium have suspended administrative services for migrants and asylum seekers. Let us acknowledge the contribution of migrant workers (legal & who lack legality) in the national economy and health sector of the countries of destination during this pandemic. A study of Migrant Policy Institute shows that around 6 million migrants which is 19% of the total U.S. front line workers, work in industries vital to the pandemic response like health care, grocery stores, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. This statistic helps us infer the contribution of migrant workers in their countries of destination. Accordingly, they should not be denied a reasonable standard of living by the governments of the countries where they live during this crisis. They should be included in any support provided by the governments to their citizens during the pandemic COVID-19.Further, to overcome this unprecedented crisis, migrant workers should not be left behind but should be included in any of any measures taken by governments. Christine Cipolla; an ICRC’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific also said “Governments in the region should do more for the migrants. It is in their best interest. It saves lives, it protects society as a whole”.

In this context, stateless people and internally displaced people are also in extremely vulnerable positions. They face disproportionate risk in relation to this invisible lethal virus as they often live in a very overcrowded conditions. They frequently  live in unhygienic camps, often in tents where it is next to impossible to follow the directions of WHO given as precautionary measures to combat the pandemic. These people are often denied access to proper health care, safety net programs, and other social welfare services taken by governments.“If COVID-19 arrives in the camps it will be devastating”- says UNCHR. We cannot deny this warning and this is the same picture of all refugee camps in the world. We must keep in mind that these people did not take the term ‘stateless person’ by themselves. It is “WE” who forced them to be stateless, to be refugees. Diverse political opinions, ideological conflict, wars, racial discrimination, religious persecution are things that drove these people to be Rohingya refugees, Syrian refugees, Venezuelan refugees, etc. It is unfortunate to see that many countries have adopted measures to combat the situation leaving behind this large number of people. While this virus shows us the principle of non-discrimination we have been doing discriminatory treatment excluding these people from the national health care system. However, there is news that some countries have been doing well in providing facilities to these people. We should applaud these countries which host these large numbers of people and have been doing their best to provide multi-sectoral responses to mitigate risk.It is pertinent to mention here that the majority of the world’s 25.9 million refugees and 41.3 million internally displaced persons are living in developing countries. So, it can confidently be assumed that these countries like Bangladesh, Lebanon, Syria, Kenya- with their limited resources – will face considerable hurdles to provide adequate support to these large numbers of people.

We must remember that the unqualified words ‘HUMAN BEING’ brings with that phrase the entitlement to human rights; as each person was born as a human being. These fundamental rights are the same in nature in all regions and in jurisdictions. These rights cannot be denied by any country in any situation just because of even by the justification of the crisis brought about by this virus. As the pandemic poses a global threat to humanity more than ever, the world should face the situation collectively irrespective of the status of people. And the world’s financial institutions and other multinational companies should come forward to help governments play a vital role in this crisis. In 2015, the UN with the presence of world leaders adopted SDGs to create a better world by 2030. The motto of this agenda is “leaving no one behind”. This echoes the vision of an inclusive society where everyone irrespective of their status will be included in the process of development. It does not discriminate against migrant workers, or refugees, to stateless persons, or internally displaced persons. So, in the year 2020, we should not forget our responsibility to work for an inclusive world where no one will be discriminated against on the basis of status, race, and country of their origin.

Let us have a look at some universal principles of non-discrimination. Article 2 of the UDHR provides that no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. In Article 25, it also protects the right to health for all people under all circumstances. We should not forget that the United Nations was established, amongst other reasons, with the purpose to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

The constitution of the World Health Organization recognizes the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health; one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. Article 3, 33 of the UN Convention Relating to the status of refugees, 1951 also establishes the principle of equality and non-expulsion while the host countries deal with the refugees. One of the core Human Rights conventions, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CRMW), 1990 also sets minimum standards for migrant workers and members of their families. Considering these provisions, we must admit that the right of these people under international law and comity have received great attention and the same must be protected by the countries of reception. To respect the principle of non-discrimination, countries are to guarantee that the human rights of these people are to be exercised without discrimination of any kind based on their sex, race, political opinion, country of origin, status, and so on. Therefore, they should not be left out of mainstream services provided by countries to their citizens. This disease can only be controlled if there is an inclusive approach, truly leaving no one 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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