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International Law

Is Racism and its Consequences the Fate of the Human Race?

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Fraught with violence, the human race resorts to it as if it was endemic and the most natural of any recourse. 

Looking at a map of the world, it is difficult to find a region unscarred by a dislike, often bordering on hatred, of the other.  If Ukraine is the latest phobic eruption holding the world’s attention, it is not the only one.

In Nigeria, it is north versus south, east versus west and now fundamentalists against the status quo.  The latest news has a train being attacked by Boko Haram and senseless killings.

In Sri Lanka, once a peaceful island, it has been Tamils versus the native Sindhalese since the 1980s until the former were mercilessly defeated.  It has led to scars and the mistreatment of Tamils.  Such divisiveness without healing has its own problems, and at present Sri Lanka is suffering a severe food and fuel shortage, no doubt also due to more immediate reasons.

In India, differences are regional and geographical:  West versus East, North versus South, indigenous versus mainstream, and, thanks to the ruling BJP, Hindus versus the Muslim, Christian and Sikh minorities.

Is Western Europe immune?  Unfortunately not.  The advertised liberal tolerance for minorities and immigrants is skin deep.  To recall a conference in West Berlin … the young girl offering information on what to do and visit in our spare time told us to avoid a particular area.  On further inquiry her face assumed an innocent expression of distaste as she quietly whispered, ‘the Turks, you know’.  I had heard exactly the same words from a friend in the Netherlands who meant well when warning about areas of Eindhoven some two decades earlier.

The U.S. is a sad case.  Slavery was followed by black segregation.  Denied decent schools by the system of local property tax funding of education, African-Americans were relegated to the lower social strata often serving as domestic help.

And unwritten codes of behavior can limit professional advancement for those in corporate management.  Of course civil rights legislation has improved but not completely eliminated this type of behavior.  Moreover, recourse to the courts can result in the litigant being considered a trouble-maker causing further damage to career prospects.

Frustration has sometimes led to riots both in the U.S. and Britain.  Yet nothing changes habits of mind or ingrained prejudice.  So separate cultures develop dividing us further.

Then there are the standards of beauty impressed upon us.  It leads to the increasing demand for eyelid cosmetic surgery in South Korea and nose jobs in Iran although not exclusively in those two countries. 

When are we humans going to learn to accept each other as we are … in our exquisite variety?  Perhaps when we do, and also learn to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than war, we will live in a world where we can work together to resolve the real existential problems facing us.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

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International Law

Between Consensus and Efficiency: The Future of Multilateralism

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The Multilateral world has been attempting to evolve for some time now. From Reformed to Effective Multilateralism, its struggles to find the balance between consensus and efficiency has sometimes led towards more questions than answers.

How much of a dent can one find in the current stalemate in multilateral forums such as the Conference on Disarmament and ASEAN Regional Forum? Can informal government groupings like the G20 and G7 bring this change? Will government-sponsored forums such as the Munich Security Conference offer solutions? Or will the wheel need to be reinvented to bridge the gap between consensus and efficiency?

At a time when walkouts have become the norm at multilateral meetings, the coming together of government, policy, and business leaders may seem like a success. Debates at international forums such as Manama Dialogue reflect pressing issues for the region and States. Almost every country with long-term foreign policy objectives engages in these forums to share perspectives, understand expert analysis, and learn from peers about different governments’ changing or permanent positions. But lack of progress on enforcement of crucial aspects such as climate change has been haunting the multilateral world for long.  

Although the G20 leaders achieved an outcome during Indonesia’s Presidency last year, the state of multilateral affairs is in a stalemate. States have typically come out with two broad options to deal with the situation. While one school of thought argues that conversations must continue towards effectiveness in these forums despite the deadlock, the other school of thought is to ignore the current multilateral forums and design new plurilateral, trilateral, and mini-lateral platforms. Many state actors, exhausted from waiting for a consensus in different multilateral institutions, have chosen to form smaller groupings to address global problems.

However, global problems such as climate change and food insecurity cannot have long-term solutions if constricted to a small group of states. Thus success in these smaller forums is premature, as it would be restricted to specific regions at best. Bringing consensus in smaller groupings, pursuing an exclusionary behavior, and disbarring select states would not bring a successful multilateral verdict. It could further alienate some countries, aggravating the existing multilateral mechanisms as decisions from these mini-laterals cannot be imposed on other multilateral forums.

Thus, in their search for solutions between efficiency and consensus, state actors have yet to succeed in either of the two schools of thought. Smaller groupings bring consensus but are inefficient, and more significant groups focus on consensus but lose efficiency.

Bending the ‘rules’

Another argument against multilateral institutions’ effectiveness is how ‘rules of procedure’ within forums are misused by actors. These rules, set up in a different time and era, do not consider the changing political dynamics and are being nick-picked to suit the needs of some actors. While multilateralism demands that states rise above nationalistic considerations, expecting states to ignore loopholes and not safeguard their national interests seems far-fetched in the current geopolitical environment.

Multilateralism demands that states come together and seek standard solutions for global problems. But security concerns, national discourse, and international norms are in an internal tussle to ensure a 360-degree perspective. And in the see-saw between consensus on the way forward and an efficient way ahead, multilateralism has become the collateral damage.

At a time when nationalistic requirements seem to be overpowering the want for comprehensive multilateral results, progress would be hard to find. If states continue to exploit the prevalent gaps for national goals, the remaining trust in these institutions would also diminish over time- completely dismantling the structures to assist states during crises.

New Mechanisms And Way forward

Nations realize this dilemma. Recent statements by US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, acknowledge this deep-rooted problem which exists at multiple levels. African states, too, have become more vocal with the Kenyan representative stating that for real and sustainable results, the UNSC would need to be more balanced by permanent African membership. Think tanks such as SIPRI and the Atlantic Council have alluded to this dilemma as well.

Reform of the multilateral world has been a discussion point for many years. The G4(Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) has been unsuccessfully seeking reform every year since its inception in 2005. Many from the G4 find the old structures too well-entrenched to accept any change, even as they continue to raise their voice towards reform. A recent attempt was the France and Germany-sponsored Alliance for Multilateralism (2019). It could not build on the momentum after releasing a declaration of principles in 2020.

But there are also some success stories of actions implemented to address the problems facing multilateralism. During its chair-ship of the UN Security Council in 2022, the US added an ‘Explanation of Vote’ or EoV for every veto decision by a P5 member to ensure that the veto is understood as a responsibility. Other examples include the Blue Dot Network launch in November 2019, a certification scheme initiated by Australia, Japan, and the US, to mitigate infrastructure financing risks, and regular use of export control mechanisms via the Wassenaar Arrangement to ensure stronger industry compliance.

Even informal groupings such as the G20 have evolved to reflect the changing geopolitical challenges. The 2022 G20 Bali Summit was a culmination of the 20 most critical economic leaders, but they added a new dimension to their declaration relating to nuclear weapons: “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.” 

The core tenet of multilateralism is to ensure consensus with a spirit of compromise. UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism has been tasked to come up with concrete suggestions for improving cooperation at the multilateral level to meet the challenges of an unpredictable future. The board builds on ‘Our Common Agenda‘ and most recently, came out with a statement proposing six transformational shifts in global governance that would lead to effective multilateralism.

A signature event of India’s UNSC presidency (2020-22), the New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism (NORMS), was circulated in November 2022 to address the current challenges and future obstacles that may arise in ensuring effective and consensus-driven multilateralism. It seeks the critical elements of a “new orientation” and ideas on how best to move forward in a time-bound manner.

Parallel evolution of multilateralism is the guest country invitees for informal government groupings such as G7 (India) and G20 (UAE). Guest countries do not have pen-holder status, and their inputs may not hold the same value as permanent members due to the existing ‘rules’ and structures. Nonetheless, these decisions could be considered a part of the small steps to find consensus and efficiency in the multilateral world.

Next Steps

The primary purpose of multilateralism is to find convergence between national concerns of all states. This requires, at the very least, a commitment to enforcing multilateralism. Multilateralists, within state structures and outside of it, are as aware of this and are attempting to come together to fulfil this goal.

The upcoming Summit of the Future (SOTF) has been proposed as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate global action, recommit to fundamental principles, and further develop the frameworks of multilateralism, so they are fit for the future”.

The road leading up to SOTF in September 2024 is long and tedious in its agenda of bridging the gap between consensus and efficiency for multilateralism. While steps have been taken by State actors within existing multilateral institutions and informal groupings, deliberations at international forums such as the recently concluded Munich Security Conference and the upcoming Raisina Dialogue add to this direction of change. The process of change is complicated, and as actors seek solutions for an efficient and consensus-based multilateral world, the goal may be not just inclusive but also egalitarian.

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International Law

The ICC acts naively in foreign affairs

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International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands. Image source: Wikipedia

On March 17, 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants of arrest for two individuals in the context of the situation in Ukraine: President Putin of the Russian Federation and his aide Maria Lvova-Belova who is in charge of Children Rights Affairs at the President’s Office. The ICC did arouse a sensational news in global media, but it is also seen as a diplomatic farce and a political fuss among the Global South.

The ICC was created with a view to working for a global fight to end impunity and, through International Court of Justice, it has since aimed to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. Yet, the ICC is aware of the reality where it can’t reach these goals alone. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC has been literally the world’s first permanent international criminal court. Later, it has one Liaison Office to the U.N. headquarters in New York and seven field presence/ country offices: Kinshasa and Bunia (Democratic Republic of the Congo, “DRC”); Kampala (Uganda); Bangui (Central African Republic, “CAR”); Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire); Tbilisi (Georgia); and Bamako (Mali), where ICC field offices are responsible for developing and maintaining cooperative relationships with key stakeholders in situation countries and supporting the Court’s mandate and resulting activities in these countries.

Now the question arises if the ICC has acted as an inter-States legal organization of fairness, neutrality and humanity. The answer is saliently “No”. International law essentially consists of rules and principles of general application dealing with the conducts of states and of international organizations and with their relations inter se, as well with some of their relations with persons, whether natural or juridical. [Malanczuk, 1998] Yet, the decentralized nature of international law is fundamentally rooted in the decentralized structure of international society or what it is termed of «anarchic system». As some legalists argue that modern international law has in any case always been dual in nature: it is based on state sovereignty while making an effort to regulate if not limit it. With the League of Nations in 1920, it began the establishment of the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague. Since 1945, it was renamed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that has since played a major role in the formation of international law.

Yet, at the end of the WWI, the winning side of the war came to argue that the individuals of the losing side would be subject to criminal prosecution for their part in the outbreak of the war and the conducts during it. In doing so, the Versailles treaty affirmed that the Kaiser of Germany was liable to criminal prosecution on account of “a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties” in terms of the violation of Belgium neutrality. However, the Dutch government refused admitting the clauses providing for the extradition of the German Kaiser (Art. 227) due to the fact that all the great powers of Europe had become involved in an arms race prior to the total war. Accordingly, in 1919 the peace treaty acted a deliberate policy of discrimination against Germany referring to “keeping Germany down”. After the WWII, several dozens of German and Japanese military and political figures were prosecuted and sentenced by the tribunals of the allied powers in Nuremberg and Tokyo. This has inspired the liberal scholars and some of public groups to set up international criminal courts under the auspices of the U.N. in Arusha after the genocide in Rwanda and in The Hague after the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. The Rome Statute provided for the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), where persons are to be tried for serious violations of the laws of war and crimes against humanity.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) officially came into existence in 2002 following the 60th ratification of the Rome Statute, heralding a new era for the effective prosecution and punishment of serious violations of international humanitarian law, e.g. the ICC investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Today there are approximately 121 countries that have joined the Rome Statute system and then taken a stand for supporting the ICC to fight against impunity, so that perpetrators of such crimes are punished, and to help prevent future occurrences of these crimes. This idea is claimed as the cause of all the humanity. Thus far, ICC judges have issued 40 arrest warrants, by which 21 persons have been detained in the ICC detention center and have appeared before the Court, while 16 persons remain at large. No doubt, the ICC has been recognized by more than half of all sovereign states of the world. Yet, in the case of Russia, there is no question that the ICC acts naively to accuse President Putin for alleged war crimes involving abductions of children from Ukraine.

First, as some observer put it that the warrant marks the first time that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state. However, Russia, like China, India, Israel and the United States, has not signed on to the ICC, citing concerns about the court’s jurisdiction and potential impact on national sovereignty. Moreover, it remains a challenging issue whether it is a responsible act to issue a warrant of arresting a sitting head of state who has enjoyed wide support and sympathy from his people while the BRICS and the Global South have refused labelling Russia as an invader in the case of the Ukraine war. Finally, as one of the great powers of the world, Russia will never allow it happened to see its head of state being arrested as a war criminal since Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the charges outrageous and unacceptable. The only flash spot of the ICC’s investigation lies in political and diplomatic ramifications for Russia as the West could further isolate Russia from the international community or lead to much severer economic sanctions. Geopolitically, it becomes salient that the U.S.-dominated West has aimed to keep Russia down, as they did to Germany in 1919.

As a matter of fact, China has argued that Russia must be kept as a major player in the world affairs, not to mention its role in rebuilding the European security architecture. Historically, Russia has been one of the major powers of Europe to act a key balancer of European equilibrium. Today, the rise of China equally needs a powerful and prosperous Russia as its good neighbor and a geostrategic partner to counter any unilateral hegemonic world order. As China reiterated recently that over the last decade, China and Russia have followed the principles of good-neighborliness, friendship and win-win cooperation in advancing exchanges and cooperation in various areas. Under the new historical circumstances, the two sides will view and handle China-Russia relations with a broad vision and a long-term perspective, in a bid to bolster the wide-ranging cooperation between the two countries going forward.

It is worth noting that the ICC has also faced criticism and challenges over the years. Some countries—the United States, Russia, China, and India—have not signed on to the ICC, while many countries of the Global South have criticized the ICC of its bias against certain countries or groups of countries, politicization, and inefficiency. Obviously, some critics argue that the court is dominated by Western countries since it has unfairly targeted leaders from Africa while ignoring atrocities committed by leaders from other parts of the world. This is a very strong statement because on March 18, just as China’s President Xi was about to take his trip to Moscow, the ICC issued an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes. The warrant, which was flatly rejected by Russia as a political ploy from the West, was applauded by President Joe Biden and his allied partners. The basis of the claims seem to hinge on the fact that Russia took Ukrainian children out of the war zone and brought them to protective custody in Russia. Or put it simply, the claims seem to imply that Putin should have left the children in the war zone where they would possibly be killed.

Now it concludes that the ICC acts naively with a view to advancing a strategy that aims to jeopardize China’s desire to be seen as a broker for peace between Russia and Ukraine given that Putin is officially a war crime suspect. For sure, in the immediate term, the ICC’s warrant for Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on Russia’s image or China’s stance on the Ukraine issue. However, the stain of the arrest warrant could well work against China and Russia in terms of public opinion. In doing so, it is ridiculous to see the ICC as a fair court and transparent forum struggling for international justice and the world peace.

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International Law

What does the Arctic Ocean hold for the world in changing global politics?

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arctic silk road
Photo: NOAA/Unsplash

“The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate”, a book by Robert Kaplan sheds light on the imperative role of geography in changing the destiny of nations. Only geography of a country doesn’t  benefit countries much, but technology and research open ways to become a developed nation. History showed the true manifestation of this fact. The arrival of Vasco de Gama in the Indian Ocean and his discovery of the trade route brought the interest of great powers of that time to the subcontinent. The arrival of these powers in the subcontinent changed the fate of indigenous people. However, they also benefited from the sea and natural resources of the Indian subcontinent. The past tells that sea and  national resources are the cornerstone of the country’s position in global politics but also attracts attention from world powers. Similarly, In today’s world, where the world is confronting the energy crisis, global warming, challenges of the supply chain, and chasing maximization of resources as a strategic benefit, the arctic ocean grapes the world’s attention. The Arctic Ocean is located in the North polar region. The main countries sharing the arctic ocean are the US, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. According to the world economic forum, 13% of undiscovered oil is present in the arctic ocean as well as 30% of undiscovered gas is present there. Apart from these bordering countries, non-Arctic countries also have a great economic and strategic interest in the arctic which includes India, japan, south korea, and many more.

Energy security, Europe and Russia

The invasion of Russia in Ukraine highlighted an issue of energy security in the world but on the other hand, the strategic use of renewable energy resources also came into the light. The rising energy prices and halting supply of energy gave a call for a diversification of energy resources to gain strategic defense where overly dependence can put countries in a vulnerable situation. In this geopolitics and geoeconomics scenario, Norway is fully reaping the benefits of its research and exploration of oil resources in the arctic ocean. In all these circumstances, the strategic importance of renewable resources in the arctic ocean came under discussion. The reason behind this is that renewable energy resources like wind and solar energy are difficult to be weaponized at the time of war. Somehow, the rising global warming which is opening avenues to utilize untapped resources also demands a shift toward renewable energy resources. Though the shift from fossil fuels is difficult, Ukraine Russia war triggers a debate on the use of renewable resources where the arctic ocean can be proved an excellent opportunity to opt for a renewable energy policy in the world.

New trade routes, Sino-Russia, USA, and non-arctic countries

The development of the Northern Sea Route by China and Russia will provide a faster route for the passage 0f traffic as compared to the passage from the Suez canal which will attract more attention from the world in terms of economic and environmental benefits i.e. fuel consumption reduced and it also has a positive impact on the environment. But it will have a drastic impact on Egypt whose major chunk of the economy is contributed by earnings from the Suez Canal. Additionally, the development of trade routes in the arctic ocean will also impact the Malacca strait, especially in Singapore and Indonesia. Therefore, it is showing that new trading routes  will have an impact on certain countries and supply chains will change. The strategic, economic, and strategic benefits of this area attract the world, but it also raises the question: will this region become a new area of strategic competition? According to Malte Humpert in his article New US Arctic Strategy Foreshadows Increasing Hurdles for Cooperation in a More Complex Region The U.S. strategy is built around four pillars: security, climate change and environmental protection, sustainable economic development, and international cooperation and governance. The US Arctic policy 2022 which is the first time published after 2013 highlighted The strategy specifically singles out Russia and China as the two main competitors in the Arctic and highlights their recent activities in the Arctic in light of the growing strategic importance. Contrary, sino-russia both have a point of divergence and convergence for interest. Since both countries are collaborating in different areas mainly in One Belt One Road and other areas of mutual benefit, most likely they will collaborate in areas of energy and research in the arctic ocean. Similarly, the interest of other non-arctic countries like Japan and India, etc in the arctic ocean also demands a collaborative approach between stakeholders. In today’s global world where every country is focusing on strengthening their economies by opting strategy of diversifying their income sources and trying to attain natural resources to gain strategic advantage, it is the need of the hour to have collaboration between countries under the umbrella of international organizations because a healthy competition between countries bring development in technologies and development but unhealthy competition results in a disastrous impact on the world especially under developing and developing countries.

Global warming, arctic ocean, climate challenges

The melting ice in the arctic ocean, and the exploitation of oil resources, and minerals will impact the climate of the world. The Arctic Ocean is one of the untapped resources of the world. The melting in the arctic ocean will bring a change in geo-economic and geopolitical areas. The exploitation of resources causes the emission of immense carbon dioxide that has  transboundary  impacts especially on  developing countries which are already facing indigenous challenges altogether. The heat weaves in Europe, devastating floods in Pakistan, and other examples create challenges for the world. Therefore, there is a need for a special focus on climate change concerning the arctic ocean.

What is next?

The future of the world lies in peace. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine depicts that the war has ripple effects and impacts the lives of every individual on the earth in this globalized world. The strategic competition between great powers is good until it fosters research, and the upgradation of technology which is a symbol of healthy competition, but when this competition shouldn’t result in a cold war which proves a disaster for the world. The stakeholders of the arctic ocean should come under one umbrella and work together by keeping in view mutual benefits. Therefore, the world needs to develop policies to counter global warming by keeping in view the arctic ocean.

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