Work in Progress
||A Review of Research Activities of|
The United Nations University
|Volume 15, Number 3 |
Public Affairs Section
The United Nations University
|Work in Progress A Review of Research Activities of the United Nations University
Volume 15, Number 3/Summer 1999
Editor: Manfred F. Boemeke
Consulting Editor: John M. Fenton (New York, USA)
Administration, Production and Distribution: Sumiko Sudo
Public Affairs Section
The United Nations University
53-70, Jingumae 5-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
Telephone: 81-3-3499-2811 Fax: 81-3-3499-2828
|Work in Progress aims at providing an edited sampling of the research conducted by, or of interest to, the United Nations University. UNU copyrighted articles may be reprinted without permission provided credit is given to Work in Progress (United nations University) and a copy is sent to the Editor. A Japanese edition is also available.
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The Changing Face of Peace:
New Security Challenges and the United Nations
We are now nearing the end of the most war-ravaged century in human history, a period that gave birth to the grisly terms, "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing." War-related deaths in the 20th century are estimated to total nearly 110 million – more than five times the total of the previous century and 25 times the total of Europe’s savage 30-year war in the 17th century. For all its barbarity, the Second World War apparently had little impact on humankind’s willingness to resort to violence. Since 1945, there have been nine conflicts that each took at least a million lives.
"We face a paradox," notes Ramesh Thakur. "The incidence of war in human society is as pervasive as the wish for peace is universal." This paradox – so much violence, so widespread a desire to end it – has had significant consequences for the United Nations, which, since the end of the Cold War, has been increasingly confronted with new security challenges. In recent years, from Cambodia to Somalia to Kosovo, its peace-keeping activities have been directed mainly at easing internal civil conflicts, not wars between states.
This issue of Work in Progress features a review of ongoing scholarly thinking conducted under the auspices of the United Nations University’s Peace and Governance Programme, headed by Ramesh Thakur, Vice-Rector of UNU. Peace research, as Thakur points out in his lead article, has changed its focus "from the welfare of the state to that of individuals and the system: how everybody gains when parties in conflict avoid violence." This sentiment, along with its particular implications for the United Nations’ responsibility as a global security provider, is echoed by most of the contributions written by UNU researchers and their collaborators at research institutions around the globe.
The changing role of the use of force in international relations has greatly influenced the efforts of international organizations in conflict resolution. We are confronted by the emergence of much more pluralistic, decentralized structures of peace operations, with an enhanced role for non-United Nations actors. In order to meet this challenge, conflicts in the post-Cold War era call for more ad hoc management structures – such as the cooperative arrangements that are emerging in Kosovo between NATO and Russia.
The emergence of the forces of globalization poses a dual challenge to the security responsibilities of the United Nations. On the one hand, globalism has brought to centre stage an array of new actors: transnational corporations, social movements, advocacy networks. These need to be given a voice in the new architecture of global governance. However, we are also faced with rising threats from the "dark side" of globalization – transnational organized crime, drug use and corruption. They threaten to impose their own uncivil order and confront the UN with tasks very much like those traditionally faced by nation-states – protecting the lives of their citizens and guaranteeing their rights. These tasks must now be addressed at a global level.
The tremendous human, economic and political costs of conflict and conflict management call for much greater emphasis on conflict prevention. Conflicts need to be resolved before they escalate into violence and war. However, conflict prevention can only be effective if the UN monitors, regional organizations enforce, and civil society helps build peaceful relations among individuals, groups and states. The challenge of such cooperation is the coordination of activities within the UN system and between the UN and its regional and local partners.
The development and promotion of the concept of universal human rights has been one of the UN’s greatest accomplishments. However, different states have come to see human rights differently, and foreign policies reflect the tensions between countries’ human rights concerns and conflicting national interests. A major challenge for the 21st century will be to seek agreement on effective international courts to implement human rights and discipline those who violate them.
Africa, Latin America and Southeastern Europe have been among the most volatile regions in the past few years. Ravaged by conflict, they are of crucial concern to the work of international organizations – and of the United Nations in particular. Africa’s (in)security is driven by a broad spectrum of dynamics, at global, regional and local levels. Globally, the continent is bedevilled by the threat of "drugs, gangs and guns." Regional problems arise from issues such as refugee flows or covert interventions by neighbouring states. Both manifest themselves locally in the eruption of domestic strife. Interdisciplinary research, feeding into policy at the local and regional levels, needs to consider the crucial triangle of state, economy and society. Latin America is slowly emerging from a turbulent and painful history, marked by political repression and civil war. The rebirth of democratic governance and society is possible, but reconciliation has to be the foundation of all those efforts. Moreover, while the procedures for a new political society may be in place, it is the substance of true change that needs to be addressed by scholars and policy makers alike.
Southeastern Europe has been at the centre of much scholarly attention over the past few years. As the horrors of Bosnia gave way to slow, but gradual, peacebuilding in this war-ravaged country, the headlines during most of early 1999 have come mainly from Kosovo – where NATO used military force to compel a sovereign state to comply with humanitarian norms. Kosovo could well become a "defining moment" in reshaping relations between regional security organizations and the United Nations on the threshold of a new century. We are certainly still struggling with the question of how humanitarian imperatives can be reconciled with state sovereignty.
Some of the answers have to come from original research conducted in divided societies. Researchers and governments at all levels, inside and outside of conflict-torn societies, need to understand the roots of conflict, in more general terms and in the context of each specific conflict. It is only then that conflict prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding can be successful. The researcher plays a crucial role in informing both local and international actors of the causes of violence and appropriate remedies – a responsible and crucial task that lies at the heart of the United Nations University’s activities. – Editor
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By Ramesh Thakur
The United Nations is the only universal forum for international cooperation and management. The global public goods of peace, prosperity, sustainable development and good governance cannot be achieved by any country acting on its own.
The United Nations University (UNU) is the embodiment of the UN ideal with regard to the international community of scholars. The method of the UNU – research, reflection and capacity-building, especially in developing countries, through a global network of scholars, academic institutions and think tanks – distinguishes it both from other UN organizations and from other universities. The UNU’s mission is to contribute, through research and capacity-building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are of concern to the United Nations and its Member States.
The mission of the Peace and Governance Programme of the UNU is to promote sustainable peace and good governance. We face a paradox. The incidence of war in human society is as pervasive as the wish for peace is universal. The idea of force has become anathema to the modern conscience. The UN Charter repudiates the unilateral use of force in world affairs. The UNU exists to test the limits of what can be achieved through the force of ideas. The Peace and Governance Programme’s research agenda is best described as "peace research."
The central problem for peace research as an academic endeavour is violence: the nature, causes, consequences, management and resolution of conflict. It aims to control the manifestation of arms and violence, and to question their instrumental utility in promoting societal values. It has a bias towards organized violence in conflicts between political actors, but is not restricted to international conflicts. Insights gained from the structure and processes of conflict in family or factory settings cannot be dismissed a priori as being outside the scope of peace research, nor as irrelevant to international conflict. At a broader level still is the notion of "structural violence." Deaths can be caused by the direct application of force, as on the battlefield. But they can also be caused, in greater magnitude and more pervasively, as the unintended consequences of structural inequalities in social systems. Poverty and malnutrition take a far deadlier toll on many more people each year than direct violence by their own or an enemy state.
The task of peace research is to challenge the basic tenets of the conventional analyses of violence and to offer critical alternatives. The challenge can be normative-philosophical, legal, even religious. Or it can be empirical: How well do the conventional propositions stand up to facts? For example, does the evidence support the claim that if we want peace, then we must prepare for war? Or do preparations for war cause war, or make it more likely?
Perhaps the most important aspect of peace research to bear in mind is that its primary motivation is to improve the human condition. It seeks not simply to understand violence, but to eliminate or tame it. It focuses on the aetiology of conflict and conflict resolution. The problem is war; the approach is normative-philosophical or empirical-mathematical; the goal is the generation of a body of prescriptive propositions that can be put to practical use by governments and international organizations.
Peace Research and Strategic Studies
As such, peace research needs be distinguished from strategic studies. At any given time, most of the countries in the world are ready to go to war if necessary. Yet most of them are also at peace, and long to keep it so. Therein lies the key to the difference between peace research and strategic studies.
As a general rule, strategic studies is infused with realist assumptions. International politics is a struggle for power. The primary actors in world affairs are autonomous states engaged in power-maximizing behaviour. National security is the ultimate and overriding goal, and force is the principal instrument. In such a realist paradigm, violence is seen as endemic, inevitable and an instrument of conflict resolution. The task of strategic analysts is to predict courses of action that will enable states to maximize their own power while neutralizing or minimizing the national power of opponents.
By contrast, peace research changes focus from the welfare of the state to that of individuals and the system: how everybody gains when parties in conflict avoid violence. Strategic studies focuses on the successful use of violence; peace research is concerned with reducing the frequency of latent and manifest use of force by human beings. Strategic studies accepts and refines the instrumentality of violence; peace research questions and rejects it. From the perspective of strategic studies, the most critical lesson of the interwar period (1919–39) is that pacifism and appeasement do not work against the Hitlers of the world. Few peace researchers would dispute this. But most would point to the injustice and inequity of the Treaty of Versailles, and the subsequent treatment of Germany from within the realist paradigm, as having spawned Hitler in the first place.
Possibilities for the breakdown of peace exist everywhere and at all times. The task for strategic studies is to identify them through the exploration of worst-case scenarios. Possibilities for building peace exist in every human crisis. The challenge for peace research is to identify them through the exploration of best-case scenarios. From the strategic studies paradigm, states hope for the best but prepare for the worst. "Trust, but verify," said President Ronald Reagan in the context of the historic agreement on intermediate-range nuclear forces. From the peace research point of view, nations should be prepared for the worst but work for the best: verify, but do trust. And, where possible, love thy neighbour.
The concept of security is being broadened to incorporate military, political, economic, societal and environmental dimensions. The several dimensions are not treated mechanistically, but holistically, with many linkages and some tension between them. Environmental security can be linked to societal security, for example, when collective identities depend upon particular relationships with the land or landscape. This applies, for example, to the Inuit (Eskimos) of Canada and the Aborigines of Australia. As for tensions, self-sustaining economic growth, an important measure of economic security, can come into conflict with sustainable development, a requirement for environmental security.
The border between the domestic and the international has become increasingly irrelevant with such a holistic approach. Analysts of the security problematique are likely in the next century to be grappling simultaneously with problems of internal social cohesion, regime capacity and brittleness, failed states, economic development, structural adjustment, gender relations, ethnic identity, external threats, and transnational and global problems like AIDS, environmental degradation, drug trafficking, terrorism, child soldiers, child prostitution, and so on.
A radical conceptual shift – and the most significant for peace research – is from "national security" with its focus on military defence of the state, to "human security" with its emphasis on the individual’s welfare. This has a dual aspect. Negatively, it refers to freedom "from": from want, hunger, attack, torture, imprisonment without a free and fair trial, discrimination on spurious grounds, and so on. Positively, it means freedom "to": the capacity and opportunity that allows each human being to enjoy life to the fullest without imposing constraints upon others engaged in the same pursuit. Putting the two together, human security refers to the quality of life of the people of a society or polity. Anything that degrades their quality of life to the point of crisis – demographic pressures, diminished access to or stock of resources, etc. – is a security threat. Conversely, anything that can upgrade their quality of life – economic growth, improved access to resources, social and political empowerment, etc. – is an enhancement of human security.
Human security directs our attention to the rationale, forms, techniques and measures of state coercion: from the holocaust and the gulags to the death squads and disappearances in Latin America, the killing fields of Cambodia, the cruelty of apartheid in South Africa, the plight of indigenous peoples in many countries, and the oppression of women almost everywhere.
For strategic studies analysts, the key question on Kashmir is how best to secure the province against the threat from India or Pakistan (depending on the nationality of the strategist). For a peace researcher, it is equally legitimate to ask how best to protect all segments of the people of Kashmir against the killings of terrorists and the extra-judicial killings of security forces. The threats posed by the administrative, judicial, police, paramilitary and military structures of the state to individual and group rights are contrary to strategic studies. They are central, not incidental, to human security studies.
This can be shown by a simple but stark statistic. Rudolph Rummel has documented that the number of battle deaths for all international and civil wars in this century (up to 1987) is 38.5 million; the number of those "murdered" (his words) by states in the same period is 151 million.
Peace Research During the Cold War
Peace research, then, is the consciously critical and constructive alternative to conventional wisdom on international security. Applied to the Cold War, the logic of realist analyses produced policy prescriptions of containment of the "evil empire" through a sustained posture of armed strength. The peace research community grew in strength, conviction and numbers in opposition to the logic of confrontation. Its adherents argued that the adversarial approach to Cold War international relations intensified mutual antagonisms, fed the conventional and nuclear arms race, and increased the probability of war by design or accident. A true appreciation of the nuclear age Cold War would enlighten governments to the reality of structures of common security. The two major antagonists shared an interest in reciprocal self-preservation, which was, or should have been, more powerful than their apparent enmity. In some ways the early peace researchers anticipated "the politics of antagonistic collaboration" that was to produce the period of détente in the 1970s–80s.
The 1980s witnessed heightened interest in peace studies, which was, of course, directly related to the heightened anxiety about the precarious state of the nuclear peace. Many people had simply lost faith in the ability of traditional, prenuclear realist analyses and prescriptions to explain and underpin patterns of behaviour in the nuclear age.
Peace Research After the Cold War
Hylke Tromp, Professor of Peace Research at the University of Groningen and Director of its Polemological Institute, declared in July 1990 that, "the Cold War is over. Nobody won. Everybody lost. " The Soviet Empire had collapsed into impoverishment, crime, corruption and pollution. But during the Cold War, the United States too had suffered from a proliferation of social decay, violent crime, pollution and an increasing national debt. Both superpowers had contributed to the militarization of international affairs. That particular legacy lives on in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, southern Africa and elsewhere.
Leaving that aside, the need for peace research increased after the end of the Cold War, for three reasons. First, because a number of non-Cold War related conflicts emerged from under the shadow of the Cold War and needed to be studied. As the cohesiveness of the familiar power blocs declined, so the hopes of the world for a substantial peace dividend gathered fresh momentum. The end of the Cold War did not mean, however, that the idea and possibility of war have been eliminated from international relations. Human societies are still divided by disputes over beliefs and interests, and as long as there are organized polities prepared to support rival groups, war cannot be ruled out. Indeed, as the shroud of the Cold War lifted from the world, the multitude of national and ethnic fault lines stood out with sharper clarity. The need for systematic explorations of the causes of war and containment of conflict has grown correspondingly greater.
Second, during the Cold War the peace and security studies literature was heavily imbalanced in favour of strategic studies. The balance has now tilted relatively more towards peace research, both because of the diminution of the prospect of a transcendental war between the superpowers, and because the major powers are themselves now interested in cooperating to contain conflicts among the others rather than exploiting regional conflicts to their own agendas.
Third, as noted earlier, concomitantly with the end of the Cold War there has occurred a substantial broadening of the definition of security to embrace non-traditional notions and threats like environmental degradation and human rights violations. These are issues that are better addressed within peace research than strategic studies paradigms.
The distinct identity of the peace research community thus vests in the broader conceptions of "peace" and "violence." During the Cold War, strategic thinking could be left mainly in the hands of the major powers that bore the heaviest responsibility for preserving the balance of terror through policies of nuclear deterrence. Now, with broadening definitions of security, there is a relatively greater need for other countries to develop their own intellectual resources for independent assessments of the international strategic landscape.
The above thoughts took shape during my previous position as Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University. In Canberra, there is a memorial, at one end of ANZAC Parade, to the friendship between Australia and Turkey. It is a fine example of reconciliation between erstwhile enemies. There can be few more moving words than the lines of poetry penned by Kemal Ataturk, one of Turkey’s most revered patriots. Carved in stone on the memorial in ANZAC Parade, the poem is addressed to the foreign invaders of his country:
You, the mothers
Who sent your sons from faraway countries
Wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And in peace.
Having lost their lives, they have
Become our sons as well.
The need to temper justice and vengeance with reconciliation and reintegration of traumatized and bitterly divided communities is an increasing imperative in many parts of the world, from Latin America to South Africa to Northern Ireland. Ataturk’s words can serve as the inspiration to the work of peace research everywhere: if we fail to learn wisdom from the dead, then we shall surely join them in the peace of the dead.
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Beyond Disciplines: Use of Force and the Evolution of International Organization
By Veijo Heiskanen
Most of the important intergovernmental organizations were created some fifty years ago in the aftermath of the Second World War. These include the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which subsequently evolved into the World Trade Organization. The purposes and functions of these organizations not only reflect the legitimate balancing of political interests and concerns of that time, but they also embody a certain concept of rational international organization.
Over the past fifty years, however, fundamental changes have taken place in the international organizations’ operational environment. This includes the globalization of mass media and economy, multiplication of non-governmental organizations, the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of the Internet. On the other hand, since the end of the Cold War many international organizations, in particular the United Nations, have been struggling to maintain or re-establish the role that they once were perceived to have in international relations. This perceived "legitimacy deficit," along with the magnitude of changes in the operational environment, suggest that the time has come to take a fresh look at the philosophy of international organization.
While international organizations have been around for a while and have established their presence in the international arena, there has been very little theoretical interest in the subject. This reflects divergent views on their role and relative independence. The "reductionist" argument can be – and has been – made that international organizations as such do not necessarily constitute a legitimate subject of research, particularly if considered in isolation from their political environment. As international organizations can be seen simply as extensions or instruments of state power, an excessive focus on their formal structures easily diverts attention from the real subjects of international politics – states and governments.
In contrast, an "institutionalist" proposition can also be made. It can be argued that international organizations enjoy a role in international affairs that is relatively independent of their creators, states and governments. Not only are the tasks performed by international organizations impressive and increasing, suggesting that such organizations perform functions that states and governments alone are incapable of performing; the reductionist thesis also fails to explain the increasing importance of non-governmental international organizations. These latter cannot be seen simply as extensions or instruments of state or government power; they are formed directly by, and thus derive their legitimacy directly from, the "people."
The tension between "idealism" or "institutionalism" (i.e., those who view international organizations as having an independent role or function) and "realism" or "reductionism" (i.e., those who view international organizations as extensions of state power) presents a methodological challenge that cuts across various disciplines. While it may be difficult for a legal scholar, for instance, to avoid opting for some form of institutionalism, a political scientist is likely to favour a more reductionist approach. Sociologists, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on the role and function of non-governmental organizations. Consequently, a broader, more philosophical approach is required to overcome the initial methodological challenge and to avoid the attendant pitfalls of disciplinary bias. Such a comprehensive approach is more likely to result in unbiased theorizing about the rationality of international organization.
The use of force is a case in point. One of the many achievements of modernism is the submission to the requirement of rationality of decisions on the use of force in international relations. While the process of rationalization in this area began only relatively recently (in the early 19th century), it evolved rapidly, culminating in the establishment of the United Nations after the Second World War and in the concurrent prohibition of the use of force in article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter. In this sense, the story of the rationalization of the use of force can be read as a story of the evolution of international organization and, vice versa, the evolution of international organization can be understood as a story of the various, increasingly organized attempts to subject the use of force in international relations to the requirement of rationality.
As a result of the gradual modernization of international politics and the corresponding increase in the level of international organization, it became possible to assess rationally the legitimacy of the use of force. The differentiation of the criterion of rationality from its metaphysical, imaginary background, in which war was previously embedded, allowed for a distinction between organized – and therefore rational and legitimate – and unorganized or unauthorized – and therefore irrational and non-legitimate – use of force. This distinction is most clearly set out in the contrast between the prohibition of the use of force as embodied in article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, on the one hand, and the collective security system envisaged in article 43 of the United Nations Charter, on the other. The purpose of the former article is to eliminate irrational and illegitimate use of force, whereas the latter serves to identify the purpose for which force can be legitimately used.
However, as international organization evolved in the course of the modernization of international politics, so did the criterion through which the legitimacy of the use of force was assessed. The distinction between legitimate and illegitimate use of force created a tension within modernism, which eventually resulted in the division of modern rationality into two competing (and, in practice, often conflicting) concepts of rationality – formal and communicative. The former focused on attempts to establish a permanent collective security structure, whereas the latter sought to institutionalize procedures for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. International political organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations testify to the success of the politics of collective security, while the International Court of Justice and the various other legal and arbitration forums that exist today reflect the achievements of the policy of peace.
Recent developments in the field since the end of the Cold War suggest that modernism is being replaced by a more complex and technical "post-modern" concept of rationality. According to this emerging concept, use of force in international relations is no longer opposed to diplomacy, but is viewed as inseparably merged with other, "peaceful" means of managing international crises. These developments signal the end of the modern era in international relations – and the beginning of a new, post-modern era of "international crisis management."
As a continuation of modern international politics with other means, the concept of international crisis management embraces both the use of force and diplomacy. However, they are not separated from each other – they are inseparable parts of one technical, managerial approach. The question is not whether the use of force or diplomacy should be preferred, but rather what the appropriate tool is under particular circumstances. This may result in a combination of force and diplomacy (e.g., peacemaking operations to protect civilians while seeking a diplomatic solution with conflicting parties). The post-modern approach to international crises is an exercise in project management: Is there evidence of an international crisis emerging in a particular region? What kind of organization should be set up to deal with an emerging crisis? What are the resources required? How should the crisis management plan be marketed in order to get the required/desired political support?
The post-modern approach differs from the modern approach in a number of ways. Unlike the formal rationality, post-modernism is not interested in setting up a permanent collective security system. The post-modern rationality is intellectually prepared to operate within a much more decentralized and pluralistic institutional structure. Military and political organizations such as NATO, WEU or OSCE, which are not part of the United Nations system, or regional and non-governmental organizations, private corporations and associations, or even research and other academic institutions – if necessary or appropriate – are all potential "business partners." The appropriate institutional design depends on issues such as the nature of the crisis, the parties involved or the tasks to be accomplished. Instead of setting up a massive permanent international organizational structure, post-modernism sees as one of its main challenges the establishment, on an ad hoc basis, of appropriate project management structures. Those structures would allow for individual treatment of international political crises and allow the immediate abolishment of such structures once the crisis is over.
Moreover, post-modernism is not hampered by a moralistic approach to peace. Armed conflicts are no longer necessarily viewed as results of intentional acts, or deliberately delinquent behaviour – a harmful activity that needs to be banned. International crises are viewed, indeed, as crises – as a social condition, if not a disease, that must be managed or worked through, even "cured," if possible. This may require limited military operations, even "surgical" use of force. Prioritizing limited, surgical use of force over large-scale military operations requires, in turn, delegation of decision-making power over the use force to the "micro" level, or the operative level of international crisis management. As a result, use of armed force takes on a different, less passionate and more clinical character, resulting in a professionalization, or "civilization," of the decision to use force. Paradoxically, then, while being the most "cold-blooded" of the various theoretical justifications for the use of force in international relations, the post-modern thinking is also the most "peace-minded" in its strategic and operational modesty.
Unlike the two strands of modernism, the politics of collective security and the policy of peace, international crisis management is not preoccupied with grand issues of international institutional or political design. Its concern, or interest, is limited to the question of how to manage a situation in which a country or a region is undergoing a process of political change that may constitute a threat to international peace and security. Whether or not a particular crisis is of such a magnitude is, by definition, a matter of judgement. It thus is an issue of policy that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis; but making this determination is the only "political" – or rather, policy – aspect of international crisis management. Beyond that, the decision as to which of the various tools in the toolbox of international crisis management should be used remains a management issue – a decision based on an analysis of the nature and developmental state of the crisis, the parties involved, their military strength, the risks posed by the crisis to the civilian population, the resources required to deal with the crisis or the resources already available.
While post-modern thinking shares with modernism the concept of politics as the realm of the irrational, its approach to international political problems is more technical, or managerial, than that of its modernist counterparts. Accordingly, the post-modern international crisis manager seeks to "de-politicize" international political problems rather than find a political solution to them. So long as an international crisis is properly managed, it does not matter whether the politics of collective security or the policy of peace should claim the credit. The role of "politics" becomes one of international macro-management – supervision and monitoring of the use of delegated authority to ensure the consistency of micro-managerial operations with the institutional goal of international macro-management – and maintenance of international peace and security.
The "rationality" embodied in the concept of international crisis management is not derived from a grand political theory; it is based on a simple appreciation of professional competence and expertise. According to the post-modern rationality concept, the important thing is to get the job done – and get it done well, based on the best professional standards, given the operational circumstances. Rather than the question of whether the crisis can be or has been "resolved," the measure of success is the degree to which the management of the crisis reflects best professional standards. As international crises may be "terminal" or too serious to be cured, the "resolution" of a crisis cannot be rationally required or legitimately expected. What can be rationally required or legitimately expected is that the best effort is made, in the circumstances, to deal with the crisis, e.g., by seeking to protect the civilian population from its spillover effects. If the warring parties cannot be separated by diplomacy or surgical use of force, they must be left to fight it out among themselves, if necessary. Here the assumption is that members of armed forces must know what they are doing, why, and what the consequences of their actions may be.
The evolution of international organization from the nation state-based system that dominated from the early 19th century to the establishment of international political organizations and their adoption of peace as their official policy, as well as the eventual emergence of the pluralistic, post-modern international institutional structure, embodies different concepts of the rationality of the use of force in international relations. During the modern era international politics has been dominated by attempts to rationalize, monopolize, ban or suspend the use of force. However, during the post-modern era the use of force turns into a management issue that is no longer identifiable as a separate, politically charged issue; it is embodied and included in a wider context of international crisis management. As a result, the use of force is viewed much less passionately and "politically" than it was during the early modernist, Clausewitzian era, or during the modern era of international institution building and the promotion of peace.
While international institutions, and the promotion of peace as their official policy, still serve as the prevailing criteria of rationality and legitimacy of international politics and law, the center of gravity of international politics has shifted from the macro level to the micro level. As a consequence, a more managerial and technical approach has displaced intellectual debates about rational international organization and the legitimacy of the use of force. Indeed, such very terms as "rationality" and "legitimacy" seem out of place in the post-modern discourse about international crisis management. Competence, expertise and professionalism have entered in their stead. While the resulting debate may be less rewarding intellectually, it nonetheless seems more focused and less passionate – and thus, perhaps, also more "rational."
Of course, post-modernism has to address some challenges. The merger of diplomatic and military thinking that post-modern reason has managed to forge at the conceptual level remains problematic when applied on the ground. The military assets – arms and ammunition – that are available for post-modernism still largely reflect the 19th-century Clausewitzian thinking: they have been designed to serve the war machine. Rather than the protection of civilians in armed conflict, their functional purpose remains that of destroying the enemy. The resulting gap between the concept of crisis management, which seeks to harness the use of force for peaceful purposes, and the technological tools that actually lie at its disposal, tends to create unmanageable difficulties. This proves critical particularly in situations where preventive diplomacy has already failed and peace-keeping is still premature – in other words, in instances where peacemaking proves necessary. In such extreme situations the logic of crisis management tends to break down – and the war machine breaks loose.
To recognize the conceptual rationality of post-modern thinking is thus not to suggest that any action taken under the cover of international crisis management must be, by definition, rational or legitimate. The concept of crisis management would be incapable of serving as a criterion of post-modern rationality if its sole purpose were to legitimate and if it could not also be used to assess and criticize. It is arguable that the application of technical concepts such as the "clinical" or "surgical" use of force has remained relatively non-technical, if not blunt. Taking these concepts literally, one could imagine other, more innovative and more controllable ways and means of dealing with international crises. While a surgeon can perform an operation with or without anaesthesia, one with it is likely to cause much less noise, pain and resistance than one without.
In any event, given the remaining gap between logic and technology, it seems premature to write off the era of modernism in international relations. Modernism, with its innovative technology, may after all have to provide us with one last service. Ironically, the key to breaking into the Clausewitzian war machine may not lie in disarmament, but in rearmament.
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Global Governance: Civil Society and the UN
By Volker Rittberger and Tanja Brühl
Global Civil Society and Changing World Politics
During the Cold War, peace research primarily dealt with the prevention of major (interstate) war. This has changed considerably during the past 10 years: security communities, constructive conflict management and domestic structures conducive to peace are new and important fields of research. Additionally, peace research faces new developments that result in major changes of the international system. One manifestation – as well as one of the driving forces – of these changes is globalization. Due to multifaceted processes of globalization, new challenges have come to the fore (such as the changing roles of the nation state), and new actors entered the stage. The latter represent a very diverse group that includes, among others, transnational corporations (TNCs) and business organizations as well as transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs) and networks of advocacy groups.
Until the beginning of the 1990s, peace research and the study of international relations in general concentrated primarily on states as the major actors in world affairs. Since then, however, the focus has changed. non-state actors are receiving more attention from both political scientists and politicians. There are two reasons for this development.
First, transnational "market forces" and "civil society actors" play a more active part themselves. The number of non-state actors has skyrocketed. Many of these actors try to influence world politics, for example, by attending – and participating in – world conferences. Others are far more interested in pursuing their activities outside governing structures. TNCs, for instance, are interested in maintaining a worldwide scope of action, unencumbered by heavy governmental interference. While these business actors are, of course, important to understand the complex web of contemporary international affairs, the following discussion focuses on the relationship between NGOs, often labelled as civil society organizations, and the United Nations.
Second, increased (legal) possibilities of action offer these new actors considerable opportunities to act on the stage of international politics. Non-state actors have been granted better access to governmental and intergovernmental decision-making processes. The United Nations offers a telling example for this development: Whereas, in the past, mostly international NGOs were granted consultative status with ECOSOC, since 1996 the possibilities of accreditation have broadened. Now, even regional and national NGOs are allowed to take part in ECOSOC-related policy-making processes. UN-sponsored world conferences and their follow-up activities offer another example of the increased opportunities for non-state actors’ participation. At the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the number of accredited NGOs at a UN conference reached a new peak. The Rio Conference was not an isolated case: at subsequent world conferences, such as the Copenhagen Social Summit (1996), the number of NGOs in attendance was even higher.
These two crucial developments have resulted in increased participation of NGOs and other civil society actors in international politics. Of course, the appearance of these new actors is a challenge to existing governance structures, as it strains their efficiency and challenges their legitimacy. This is due to the fact that existing governing structures are still state-centric: Non-state actors have not been included in a sufficient manner in decision-making processes, and state-centric governance structures thus fail to reflect the actual distribution of power and actors in "global affairs." Indeed, we need to recognize that we have moved beyond the traditional concept of "international" relations.
Towards Legitimate Global Governance
In order to maintain effective and legitimate governance structures at the international level, non-state actors have to be included to a greater extent than previously. Creating an adequate balance of new (non-state) and old (state) actors in international governance is a major challenge for practitioners and scholars of politics. The goal of the ongoing discussions on governance structures should be the establishment of a system of effective and interlocking institutions. This system must be able to regulate relations (and disputes) between and among a broad range of actors that are located at different levels of policy-making (from the local to the global).
Some attempts have been made to create such a new governance structure, but they are not far-reaching enough. Therefore, peace research is called upon not only to study the ongoing changes of governance structures, but also to contribute to the reform processes. On the basis of such suggestions, an adequate governance structure may be established that offers a balance between different actors and levels of policy-making. Such a structure would contribute to settle conflicts peacefully, distribute wealth equitably and make collective decisions democratically. Of course, these rather general remarks need to be clarified further. The following paragraphs will do this by focusing on the relationship between the United Nations and civil society actors.
The United Nations is of extraordinary importance to any future (global) governance structure, as it is the only global, universal organization. It is thus legitimized, at least in principle, to act on behalf of all nations. In order to contribute to an effective global governance system, the United Nations faces at least two challenges in terms of its relations with international civil society. First, the United Nations has to address the incorporation of international civil society through effective democratization. Second, it cannot afford to ignore the downside of international civil society, such as the transnational spread of crime and corruption.
Democratizing International Governance
As to the first point, the United Nations system is confronted with the question of democratization at the international level. Beyond the normative claim that public policies should be democratically legitimized, the effectiveness of implementing these policies calls for the establishment of democratic rules and procedures at the international level. If those at the receiving end of public policy are convinced that they have a chance to influence the rule and policy-making process, the probability of compliance will likely be higher. However, opportunities to influence policy-making processes have decreased significantly during the past few years due to increasing internationalization. Since the degree of interdependence is high (and is still rising), national regulations cannot solve existing problems, most notably in the areas of economics and the environment. Thus decisions are transferred to a "higher" level of governance – to the international level – and the distance between policy makers and citizens grows even further.
This trend puts even more pressure on the United Nations to push forward its democratization efforts. Whereas public policies at the state-level were, at least partially, democratically controlled (especially after the third wave of democratization in the 1980s and 1990s), mechanisms of civil society representation are still missing in the context of international public policy-making (with the EU being, at least to some degree, a notable exception). It is thus important that analyses of the possibilities to minimize this distance and democratize policy-making in the United Nations are vigorously pursued. One such analysis proposes to enlarge the consultation or even participation rights of non-state actors in international decision-making processes. As a first step, ECOSOC’s rules on the consultative status for NGOs were revised in 1996. However, the result of the ECOSOC reform was not as progressive as many had hoped for: NGO participation rights are still restricted only to ECOSOC and its deliberations. NGOs still have no formal consultation standing with other major UN organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council.
A particularly far-reaching proposal to overcome the democratic deficit of the United Nations calls for the creation of a United Nations Second Assembly. The Assembly would either be composed of parliamentarians, elected by national legislatures, or, as envisioned by an alternative proposal, its members would be representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations that are accredited by the United Nations. By creating this "Second Assembly" or "Civil Society Forum," state delegates and representatives of civil society would be represented at the international level. Since these civil society representatives would be accountable to their constituencies, they would effectively minimize the distance between states and citizens that exists at the international level.
A third important proposal calls for ECOSOC to be transformed into a representative civil society institution. This proposal is in part driven by the recognition that ECOSOC has, over the years, lost much of its policy-making relevance as originally envisioned by the UN Charter. Most issues that were previously handled by ECOSOC are increasingly handled by more powerful UN bodies – or by major powers themselves during G 7/ 8 summits.
The "Dark Side" of a Global Civil Society
Second, the United Nations faces the challenge to monitor and control more effectively expanding transnational activities that threaten the integrity and stability of global governance and the global community in general. The corrupting and subversive activities of transnational criminal organizations are a significant challenge to a working system of global governance. These organizations pursue their self-serving goals by creating their own autonomous transnational system of quasi-governance, which undermines and jeopardizes the public law and order on which society at all levels depend.
So far, these actors and the consequences of their activities are under-researched by students of global governance. Along with the commonly embraced benign concept of non-state actors, it is also important to recognize and address the "dark side" of an internationally expanding civil society. In comparison with most other civil society actors, transnational criminal organizations have dramatically different goals and methods of action. They want to minimize their vulnerability to state control of their illicit activities, and they seek to enhance their illicit "business" opportunities – by any means necessary, legal and illegal. Thus, they pose a great risk to the integrity and stability of public order at all levels.
In December 1998, the United Nations took a significant step forward in addressing this challenge by establishing an ad hoc committee by the General Assembly. The Committee’s task is to develop a new comprehensive convention against transnational organized crime, to be drafted by the year 2000. This effort is based on the understanding that only international cooperation will ensure the minimization of opportunities for illicit action. In addition, some other projects have been initiated by the Centre of International Crime Prevention of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna. The Centre’s"World Organized Crime Report" assesses the threats posed by transnational organized crime worldwide.
The UN and Civil Society: Tasks Ahead
The United Nations faces at least two central tasks in its attempt to embrace civil society as an active and crucial actor in global governance. First, it has to deal with the task of democratization. It has to open itself up to the participation of civil society actors. Second, the United Nations has to address the challenge of international crime and corruption. These tasks are very similar to those of nation-states, whose central duties are to protect the life and property of their citizens and guarantee their civil and political rights. Whereas in the past democratization and regulation were issues only at the national level, they must now also be addressed at the international level. That does not imply that the United Nations will or even should become a world government or a world state. The goal is much rather to diversify and democratize collective responses to global challenges in coordination with all key actors in world affairs – including governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The Journal Global Governance:|
An Award-Winning Joint Effort of ACUNS and UNU
Since 1995 the United Nations University and the Academic Council on the UN System (ACUNS) have sponsored Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations. It is produced four times a year (January, April, July, and October) by Lynne Rienner Publishers. Independently edited and refereed, this academic journal is distributed to all ACUNS members.
The first editors of the journal, Roger A. Coate (University of South Carolina) and Craig N. Murphy (Wellesley College) will complete a six-year term in June 2000. A new editorial team, W. Andy Knight (University of Alberta), S. Neil MacFarlane (University of Oxford), and Thomas G. Weiss (The Graduate Center, The City University of New York), will then begin a five-year term.
Global Governance provides a much-needed forum for practitioners and academics, which was recognized by the 1996 Association of American Publishers Award for "best new journal in business, the social sciences, and the humanities." The journal focuses on the impact of international institutions and multilateral processes on sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights.
The editors and distinguished editorial board are committed to ensuring that the journal has a truly global focus and contributions from a wide range of multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives. In particular, Global Governance welcomes articles challenging conventional wisdom, whether written by scholars or by practitioners.
Major articles published in the journal have included:
- James N. Rosenau, "Governance in the Twenty-first Century";
- Peter M. Haas and Ernest B. Haas, "Learning to Learn, Improving International Governance";
- Samuel M. Makinda, "Sovereignty and International Security: Challenges for the United Nations";
- Mary Ann Tetreault, "Justice for All: Wartime Rape and Women’s Human Rights";
- Sally Morphet, "Organizing Civil Administration in Peace Maintenance";
- Paul Wapner, "Environmental Ethics and Global Governance";
- Kofi Annan, "The Quiet Revolution";
- Jennifer Clapp, "The Privatization of Global Environmental Governance"; and
- Fanny Benedetti and John L. Washburn, "Drafting the International Criminal Court Treaty."
Inquiries regarding the journal should be addressed to Managing Editor, Global Governance, Department of Political Science, Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481-8203 USA, or e-mail
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Preventing Conflict: Who, When and How?
By Albrecht Schnabel and David Carment
Conflict Prevention – Theory and Practice
In response to the weak record of the international community’s recent peace-keeping and conflict management efforts, academics and policy makers have begun to re-examine conflict prevention as a preferred instrument for the creation of peace in a war-torn world. The main message of those involved in the theory and practice of conflict prevention is as clear as it is obvious: Compared to conflict management, it seems less costly in political, economic and human terms (a) to prevent tensions from escalating into violent conflict, (b) to employ early warning mechanisms to allow the international community to monitor relations between and within states, and (c) to facilitate outside involvement before tensions become intractable. Thus, instead of conflict management, "peace management" should be the central task of international and regional organizations and others involved in crisis management activities.
In its most general form, conflict prevention refers to actions that affect the process and outcome of an evolving dispute or crisis between two or more actors. Preventive efforts are undertaken by actors at all levels – non-state actors, NGOs, states, and regional and international organizations.
The nature of such interventions is best seen as a continuum. Different third-party techniques are set in motion at different stages of a conflict. At one end of the intervention spectrum is pure mediation – the facilitation of a negotiated settlement through persuasion, control of information and identification of alternatives by an actor who is perceived to be impartial. Further along the spectrum of preventive strategies is
"mediation with muscle," or the deliberate and strategic use of rewards and punishments to bring belligerents to the negotiating table. Finally, where consent is absent, third-parties are likely to be required to take on a multiplicity of functions, including peace-keeping, humanitarian assistance, and possibly peace enforcement. At this end of the spectrum, preventive efforts involve the exercise of force either to deter or, possibly, subdue intransigent combatants. Thus, the forms of crisis prevention range from traditional preventive diplomacy to its more forceful descendants.
Recent international developments have led to fundamental changes in the nature of conflict prevention. Before the end of the Cold War, preventive efforts were generally performed through the offices of the UN Secretary-General, and peace-keeping missions were sent to monitor cease-fire arrangements between two warring states. The superpowers of the Cold War period could either block formal United Nations missions or deter most unilateral efforts on the part of their rival. With the reduced importance of traditional ideologically based rivalry, the ability for individual states or state coalitions to intervene in the conflicts of others has increased dramatically. And, with the loosening of ideological bonds and the erosion of strong state centres backed by foreign governments, the likelihood of intrastate conflict has risen, especially conflict over territory and identity. This essay examines the conceptual debate of conflict prevention in this international environment and the requirements for effective conflict prevention through cooperation between a variety of non-state, state and intergovernmental actors.
Towards a Proper Definition of Conflict Prevention
The broad definition of "conflict prevention" mentioned above hints at a major weakness of the concept: it has been turned into a catch-all word for any activity by any actor to reduce the possibility of conflict, from development assistance to human rights activism, preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping activities, conflict resolution and even post-conflict peacebuilding. Numerous definitions have emerged, some more and some less helpful for attempts to situate conflict prevention activities within the context of the activities of state and non-state actors. Moreover, most organizations that are in some way involved in a region before, during or after a conflict now claim to be actively involved in conflict prevention. However, if conflicts are to be prevented successfully and systematically, possibly with the help and/or guidance of the United Nations, the only multi-purpose and universal international organization, a more useful definition of conflict prevention needs to be applied by those who become involved in creating, providing and applying early warning mechanisms to detect the emergence of a potential conflict. This also applies to those who respond at various stages to an escalating conflict in an effort to contain or stop the conflict from developing into all-out violence.
Former UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali offered a very generous definition of conflict prevention that has often been used by governments and regional organizations. What he calls preventive diplomacy "is action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur." He further argues that "the most desirable and efficient employment of diplomacy is to ease tensions before they result in conflict – or, if conflict breaks out, to act swiftly to contain it and resolve its underlying causes.... Preventive diplomacy requires measures to create confidence; it needs early warning based on information gathering and informal or formal fact-finding; it may also involve preventive deployment and, in some situations, demilitarized zones." However, such a broad approach to preventive action, virtually circumscribing all perceivable stages of conflict, from prevention to resolution, is of limited help. As Michael Lund notes, "defining conflict prevention as actions taken at virtually any conflict stage – from the causes of disagreements through many possible thresholds of bloodshed – is too inclusive and... blurs important operational distinctions among the interventions made at different stages of conflict."
Lund provides a more useful approach to conflict prevention. He differentiates between "peacetime diplomacy or politics" during eras of durable and stable peace, "preventive diplomacy or conflict prevention" during eras of unstable peace, "crisis diplomacy or crisis management" during a crisis situation, and "peacemaking or conflict management" during war. In what he calls the "Life History of a Conflict," Lund envisions "peace enforcement or conflict mitigation" as the appropriate response to war situations, "peace-keeping or conflict termination" as a means to defuse war and conflict, followed by "post-conflict peacebuilding or conflict resolution." Each of these stages requires different operational and institutional responses, while conflict prevention as such is only effective during a situation of unstable peace – when the signs for an emerging conflict become obvious to the informed outside observer. Bruce Jentleson echoes this more subtle interpretation of conflict prevention by distinguishing between "normal diplomacy," "developmentalist diplomacy," "preventive diplomacy" and "war diplomacy,"an approach that seems much more fitting to explain the wide range of external involvement in zones of instability.
Of course, the most effective approach to conflict prevention would be to create an environment of stability, prosperity and opportunity in which competition over land, resources and political access and control would be a non-issue. This is highly unlikely to happen in many parts of the world. However, steps in that direction can and should be taken. Addressing structural causes of conflict and strengthening institutions that can foster democracy, development, human rights and peaceful relations between groups and states are important components of a long-term, early approach to conflict prevention.
Who, When and How?
If an activity can preserve peace and prevent the eruption of conflict, any activity by any actor is welcome. Currently, numerous actors at various levels are involved in any of the broader conflict prevention tasks outlined above. This includes non-governmental organizations, both local and external; it includes prominent persons and epistemic communities; and, of course, it includes states, regional organizations and various agencies of the United Nations system. The project activities on which this essay draws, for instance, are a collaborative effort between a UN organization, a university, and a government agency. While numerous organizations and actors are involved in conflict prevention, there is as little coordination between activities as there is an understanding of each actor’s comparative advantage at any given stage of conflict and conflict prevention. This leads to much overlap in activities during, for instance, post-conflict reconstruction, while it leads to very meagre activity at the pre-conflict stage.
Of course, it is much easier to convince donors and other money-giving constituencies of the need for involvement at the post-conflict stage, where the damage has been done and outside involvement can be measured for both its cost as well as its success. Quick rewards are to be had in post-conflict peacebuilding, while little measurable success can be produced at the early pre-conflict stage. For those actors who have to prove to someone what they have achieved in a certain – usually very short – period of time, real conflict prevention, i.e., activity that prevents conflict from erupting in the first place, will be unfeasible. That is perhaps the prerogative of states and international organizations who are not only interested in preventing a particular conflict, but who have a strong interest in creating and securing a stable environment for trade and other interactions. Due to the nature of those organizations’ budgetary cycles and broader limitations of accountability and proof of measurable success, they are in a better position to develop long-term approaches to conflict prevention.
Conflict prevention can be successful only if it rests on the successful coordination of activities between the UN, regional organizations, states and civil society, based on each actor’s comparative advantage. Ranging from long-term activities during peacetime to involvement at the immediate pre-crisis and, possibly, crisis and post-crisis stages, conflict prevention has to be coordinated between and according to actors, activities, and timing of involvement. Traditional actors in short-term approaches to conflict prevention are governments and international organizations whose diplomatic channels can be used to put immediate pressure on disputing parties to stop the escalation of conflict short of the use of violence. Track-two actors, such as NGOs, civil society, universities, epistemic communities, churches or schools, are more suitable to the long-term activities of peace stabilization. However, if the most powerful actors – states and regional and international organizations – limit their involvement only to situations that are clearly on the path towards violent conflict, valuable opportunities for long-term conflict avoidance and human security provision short of violent conflict will have been missed. They have to develop long-term strategies to conflict prevention, rooted in economic development and political stabilization (with an emphasis on sustainable democratization). Track-two actors have only limited capacities and mandates to create the political, economic and social stability and justice that are necessary to ensure lasting peace and to prevent the need for short-term prevention. However, their roles at the micro-level of conflict prevention – through educating about inter-group conflicts and early mediating of social disputes – as well as their roles in early warning of impending conflicts are invaluable.
One could argue that if the UN monitors, regional organizations enforce and civil society builds peaceful relations between individuals, groups and states, a culture of peace management, with an emphasis on the stabilization of peace and human security, can be created. The ultimate aim of conflict prevention would then be to create a social, political and economic environment in which conflicts between states and groups will be solved with nonviolent means, as the disruptive and destructive nature of forceful conflict management is commonly understood to be too costly too pursue. If (counter) violence is not anymore an acceptable tool for conflict resolution, as is the case among some groups of highly interdependent countries (such as Western Europe), a better international and intergroup order will have been created. This is what conflict prevention as an activity aims to achieve.
Cooperation Towards Workable Conflict Prevention
How would the proposed division of labour between the UN, regional organizations and civil society work? The United Nations would monitor peaceful relations. It would engage in early warning of escalating threats to peaceful relations. If necessary, it should be the UN’s task to legitimize, initiate and monitor conflict prevention measures. Of course, the UN’s various organs and specialized agencies need not only monitor the work of others, but become directly involved as key actors to coordinate the efforts of other regional, state and non-state organizations in addressing human security needs and in reducing the likelihood of social, political and economic disruptions that are large enough to have systemic consequences. Key roles have to be played by UNHCR, UNDP, OHCHR, IMF or UNICEF – not to speak of the UN’s principal organs such as the Secretariat, the Security Council, the General Assembly and ECOSOC. Nevertheless, the main task even of these organizations will be to initiate and monitor the work of regional organizations, states and civil society actors who are more numerous and – in their total sum – far more powerful than the United Nations system.
The financial, moral and political support of Member States, so necessary for effective action, has been absent in a number of cases of proposed UN involvement (for instance, in Rwanda or the Transcaucasus). Regional organizations such as the EU, OAS, OAU, OSCE, and ASEAN (or subregional organizations such as SECI, ECOWAS and others) may be in a better position than the UN to deal with regional peace and stability. The UN has recognized the increasingly important role of regional organizations. When the UN finds itself too weak to garner international support for long-term and emergency involvement in all zones of instability around the globe, regional organizations are better equipped and show greater political will to respond quickly and effectively to political, economic and social destabilization in their own backyards.
While the proposition to subcontract peace management to regional organizations sounds appealing at first, the possible consequences could easily counter the initial advantages of effective and quick response. Regional organizations reflect the interests of the region, often compounded by the predominance of one or more strong actors. The role of the CIS in the Transcaucasus is driven by Russian interests in the region, ECOWAS’ work is reflective of Nigeria’s interests, and NATO’s interests are driven in large part by American interests. As in the recent case of American bombing campaigns in southern and northern Iraq and NATO’s military actions against Yugoslavia, this can turn into open dissent within the United Nations and many of its Member States. Thus, it remains important for the UN to secure a degree of authority over the actions of regional organizations, to monitor their actions and ensure that effectiveness will not come at the cost of injustice and non-compliance with UN prerogatives.
Finally, non-governmental organizations of moral, social, economic (business) and political authority have to be engaged in building peaceful relations. Both in non-democratic and democratic political systems, civil society organizations work directly with states, regional organizations and the UN to express the interest of the people. Civil society needs to be brought into the decision-making process of states, regional organizations and, in particular, the United Nations as it attempts to become a more global organization, serving and reflecting in its actions the interests of humanity at large. However, civil society is a shaky concept. While it defines a community of actors whose flexibility in size, wealth, interest, influence, structure and organization is appealing and conducive to their role as advocates of the people, it is difficult to coordinate activities within an undefined community that lacks a common structure, purpose and voice. Moreover, many international non-governmental organizations represent and promote particular Western values of political, economic and social relations – which do not necessarily offer the most appropriate responses to instability and poverty.
Of course, one should not make the mistake to leave states out of this equation. States will for the foreseeable future remain the main organizing principle of the international, although increasingly global, community. States play crucial roles in the work of regional organizations and the UN. If conflict prevention is to work at the regional and global levels, states must be convinced of the need for a more profound emphasis on human security in international and global relations.
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Human Rights, the United Nations and Foreign Policy
By David P. Forsythe and Barbara Ann J. Rieffer
The development of universal human rights through the United Nations is arguably the redeeming feature of a very harsh twentieth century. One can only hope that the actual protection of internationally recognized human rights will be improved in the twenty-first century. If that transpires, it will be largely because of state foreign policy – a relatively neglected subject when it comes to human rights. Although we have many studies of international law and human rights, and of international organizations – both public and private – and human rights, and various treatises on the philosophy of rights, there are precious few studies linking human rights, the United Nations and foreign policy. This essay seeks to remedy this.
In the early 1990s, when the Security Council decided to regard the situation in Somalia or Haiti as a threat to international peace and security, this decision was: 1) primarily about human rights, and 2) made possible by certain state foreign policies. When the General Assembly voted to approve the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – "the essential document, the touchstone, the creed of humanity that surely sums up all other creeds directing human behaviour" – and a series of Treaties on specified human rights, these votes were a reflection of state foreign policy. When the UN Human Rights Commission voted to censure a variety of states for their violations
of rights, or voted not to censure, this was a result of state foreign policy.
This is not to discount the human rights diplomacy, done at the United Nations, that is not controlled by states. One can cite the use of good offices and quiet diplomacy by Secretaries-General and by the High Commissioners for Human Rights, or actions by the many bodies made up of expert or uninstructed persons (independent persons who do not take instructions from governments) such as the Human Rights Committee or the Human Rights Sub-Commission. Specialists know that the UN Human Rights Commission, composed legally of states, utilizes uninstructed experts as thematic and country-specific rapporteurs.
Yet the fact remains that we recognize universal human rights primarily because states negotiate, sign and ratify treaties. United Nations bodies since about 1970 have tried to supervise human rights conditions under these treaties, because states have agreed that such supervision is a legitimate part of international relations. States may be pushed and pulled on human rights by non-governmental organizations and the communications media. But in the last analysis, it is states and their foreign policies that make the most important decisions pertaining to internationally recognized human rights, frequently within the UN framework but sometimes outside – as demonstrated by the 1999 crisis in Kosovo. Even when states act outside the United Nations, UN recognized rules still form the normative background for such action.
When states address human rights issues in international relations, their decisions usually reflect their national political culture. Americans think of human rights as only civil and political rights, and U.S. foreign policy reflects this thinking. Russian political culture in the 1990s is conflicted, with liberal and illiberal values struggling for dominance. Russian foreign policy on rights is equally ambivalent and inconsistent. Japanese political culture manifests a conservative liberalism in which democracy flourishes, but without anything close to gender equality and without a broad range of highly active interest groups; there is much deference to traditional elites. Japanese foreign policy on rights is characterized by rhetorical support for UN standards, but great reluctance to see those standards interfere with traditional security and economic pursuits. Costa Ricans see themselves as an especially humane and peaceful people, which leads to an active rights policy in foreign affairs that persists across political parties and individual presidents.
State foreign policy on human rights is also frequently affected by domestic factors connected with aspects of political culture. In the United States, Congress sometimes pushes rights issues into foreign policy against the wishes of the State Department and the White House. Influential interest groups teamed with certain congressional Republicans to elevate the issue of religious freedom higher in U.S. foreign policy than the Democratic Administration of Bill Clinton wanted. A compromise resolved the issue internally, but domestic pressures led to new emphases in foreign policy concerning religious freedom. In Hungary, widespread societal concern with ethnic Hungarians in foreign states such as Romania and the Ukraine led to active foreign policy on that issue. The bilateral treaties, which resulted, were oriented to protecting minority rights. A similar concern existed in Russia regarding ethnic Russians or Russian speakers abroad, which led to active Russian diplomacy in its "near abroad" – again oriented toward the protection of minorities.
A common constant in foreign policies on international human rights was the tension between perceived national interests and a consistent integration of international human rights concerns. While domestic factors could not always be ignored in understanding foreign policy and human rights, perceived international factors remained highly important. The United States took the lead in writing human rights into the UN Charter. But officials did not want specific, legally enforceable language, as they were aware of the continuing racial segregation in the United States. Later, the Mandela government in South Africa took a high profile approach to many questions of human rights in international relations, but it also had an active program of arms sales in the troubled politics of Africa. Britain muted its human rights diplomacy for the sake of arms sales and good relations with Saudi Arabia. Russia tried to combine concern for rights with traditional friendship for the Serbs in the Balkans. The result of this tension is that all states manifest great inconsistency in their foreign rights policies and go to great trouble to find an acceptable mix of moral, economic, and strategic concerns – whether because of domestic politics or perceived national interests or the interplay of the two.
One sees the importance – and complexity – of state foreign policy in the evolution of human rights at the United Nations. After 1948 a great variety of actors, both states and non-state parties, contributed to the International Bill of Rights (made up of the Universal Declaration plus two basic Covenants) and various supplemental treaties ranging over time from the Genocide Convention of 1948 to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1991. During the four decades of the Cold War, most states paid lip service to universal human rights. Even European communist states, despite their domestic repression, contributed to developments in four ways: by participating in the Nuremberg Tribunal establishing individual criminal responsibility for certain international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes; by allowing the Universal Declaration to come into existence without negative votes (they abstained, as did South Africa and Saudi Arabia); by verbally stressing the importance of socio-economic rights; and by accepting human rights and humanitarian principles in the 1975 Helsinki Accord. (The first and last of these events took place outside the United Nations.)
It is no doubt correct to say that these normative developments indicated more international agreement than was present in reality. Or, there was a formal-legal consensus on behalf of universal human rights, but the real political consensus was much weaker. Not only the authoritarian governments of the Second and Third Worlds, but also the liberal democratic First World manifested deep reservations about really restricting national prerogatives in the light of truly enforceable global standards.
Such was the paradox of international relations during this time that standards of universal human rights continued to grow in number and even salience, yet nationalism and state commitment to national sovereignty remained strong. Indeed, at the 1993 UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, arguments resurfaced about the validity of cultural relativism and national particularism, and about whether universal human rights were a form of Western imperialism. The conference reaffirmed universal human rights and strengthened the reality of the end of the Cold War: states found themselves enmeshed in a liberal legal framework of their own making, centred on the United Nations, and mandating their attention to a very long list of universal human rights. This record is one of the major accomplishments of "the United Nations," but that phrase fundamentally reflects the pooled or coordinated effect of state foreign policies.
What is supremely important is not only the irreversible fact of international standards of human rights, but also the fact that since about 1970 states have agreed on the legitimacy of certain international action to hold states accountable for their policies under these standards. It is now universally accepted that there should be a UN diplomatic review of state compliance with the international law of human rights. This occurs each year in such bodies as the General Assembly, the Human Rights Commission, its Sub-Commission, and the many monitoring mechanisms under specific treaties. The notion of domestic jurisdiction has been greatly reduced in scope by these developments. Mary Robinson, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights, discusses all types of subjects with state officials without being charged with interference in domestic affairs. Strange as it may appear, states have used their sovereignty to restrict their sovereignty by consenting to human rights treaties that legally restrict their freedom of policy choice. It has not been widely appreciated how much states, especially in Europe, value human rights even over independence in policy-making.
Two questions loom large for the future of universal human rights in the twenty-first century. First, is it permissible for states, acting either inside or outside of the United Nations, to override state choice and enforce human rights standards through coercion? And second, can states come to agreement on effective international courts to enforce human rights standards with a minimum of coercion? The answers to both questions hinge on foreign policy.
The subject of humanitarian intervention is an old one, and owing to justified fear of its misuse, or partial misuse, in the service of realpolitik, there is clearly a presumption against unilateral intervention in contemporary international relations. During the Cold War some relatively humane unilateral interventions took place without widespread condemnation, such as when India stopped massacres in East Pakistan in 1971 (and created Bangladesh), when Viet Nam ousted the Khmer Rouge from full control of Cambodia in 1979 (and installed a government of their choice), and when Tanzania overthrew the murderous dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda in 1978.
After the Cold War, two developments merit attention in this regard. The first of these is that the UN Security Council has employed an expanded notion of threats to international peace and security as a substitute for a doctrine of collective humanitarian intervention. Led by the United States, the Council has declared on several occasions that essentially human rights conditions inside states can constitute reason for invoking Chapter VII of the Charter. Such a view has led to a binding "decision" by the Council, and on occasion to its authorization of "all necessary means" to respond to a situation. Under such a UN green light, states have deployed force or applied non-military sanctions in places such as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. In Somalia, the primary issue was mass starvation (a denial of rights to adequate nutrition and health care under the Socio-Economic Covenant). In Haiti, the primary issue was democratic governance. In Bosnia, it was ethnic cleansing and other abuses of personal security. In none of these cases was Charter Chapter VII invoked in response to a traditional military attack by one state on another (although that was obtained in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait). Thus, the Security Council has authorized collective humanitarian intervention in the guise of responding to an international security threat without much regard for national borders. But they have done this by bypassing the doctrine on humanitarian intervention, which remains anathema to most governments of the Global South. In the coming century we will see if this UN use of an expanded notion of international security continues, and/or if a clear doctrine of collective humanitarian intervention emerges.
A second and related development concerns state enforcement of human rights without the explicit approval of the UN Security Council. Four Western states used force in northern Iraq during and after the spring of 1991 in order to protect Iraqi Kurds from further repression by Saddam Hussein, and later in southern Iraq concerning Shi’ite Iraqis there. This action proved to be a precursor to the 1999 Kosovo crisis.
The Kosovo crisis has brought the question of humanitarian intervention to centre stage. Nineteen NATO countries have used extensive military force in Yugoslavia for the stated purpose of compelling the government of Slobodan Milosevic to cease its repression and expulsion of ethnic Albanians living in the area of Kosovo. NATO member states did not take the issue to the Security Council, anticipating Russian and Chinese vetoes. Not wanting Western policy to be held captive by a Russia historically sympathetic to Serbia, and by a China unsympathetic to international enforcement action for human rights, NATO states proceeded to undertake air strikes. Alliance unity and Western public opinion held firm in support of extensive bombing, despite controversy over selection of targets and collateral damage to civilians.
At the time of writing, the denouement of this crisis was yet to be known. Much Western opinion was caught in various dilemmas. Having stood aside during Hitlerv’s rise to power, with disastrous consequences, should the West defer to Yugoslavia’s sovereignty and allow Milosevic to work his evil? Given the lack of Western vital interests defined in traditional terms, did liberal democracy in Europe constitute a new vital interest?
At the end of the twentieth century, it seemed clear that when the Permanent Five members of the Security Council could avoid profound disagreement, Charter language about international security could be stretched to include human security inside states. This approach could provide for collective intervention to protect various human rights. Should NATO prevail on issues pertaining to Kosovo, a strong argument could be made for another step toward establishing collective humanitarian intervention in customary international law, supplemental to the UN Charter. No doubt controversies would remain about what situation justified such intervention, and whether such claims were employed responsibly.
This leaves us with the increasingly salient issue of international criminal courts. A majority of states in the Security Council once again used Charter Chapter VII in a creative way, approving a criminal court for both former Yugoslavia (1993) and Rwanda (1994) and mandating state cooperation with them. These were the first international criminal courts since the ones at Nuremberg and Tokyo after the Second World War. They possessed jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. By 1999 they had convicted a handful of persons, but none of the highest officials responsible for atrocities in the two areas. In Europe, Western states had shown a reluctance to try to arrest such persons, fearing the taking of casualties in the process and the loss of public support for continued Western involvement – particularly in Bosnia.
In 1998, a diplomatic conference in Rome approved a statute for a standing international criminal court, to be loosely associated with the United Nations. But the United States voted against the statute and threatened to try to block the emergence of any such court. Despite numerous provisions in the statute designed to ensure that the court would not be misused for inappropriate purposes, Washington continued to oppose it creation. The United States did not want its nationals to appear before the court. Despite this blatant double standard, the international community proceeded to open the statute for signature and ratification. But it was difficult to see how indicted persons were going to be consistently arrested for trial without the support of the greatest military power.
So, while there were new developments pertaining to the enforcement of universal human rights, it was not entirely clear how reliable international protection of rights would be at the start of the twenty-first century. At least states were grappling with the thorny question of how to close the gap between abstract ethical values and intentions on the one hand, and the demonstration of real commitment to seeing that all persons benefited from their recognized rights – regardless of race, creed, colour, gender or other characteristic. The question was at least clearly posed: how could equal human rights on the books be translated into equal rights in action? The answer would lie in large part with state foreign policy, especially at the United Nations.
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Human (In)Security in Africa: Prospects for Good Governance in the Twenty-first Century
By Timothy M. Shaw and Albrecht Schnabel
"The end of the Cold War has certainly changed the nature of international relations. From the point of view of the South, it has both offered opportunities, in new coalitions and trading partners, and provided new constraints, in new political and economic conditionalities. For the discipline of International Relations, the end of the Cold War has opened up the security agenda to new thinking, which has the potential to include concerns about development... "
Anna Dickson, Development and International Relations, 1997.
Africa’s International Relations: Forging New Partnerships between State and Non-state Actors
Although Africa may be the most marginal continent in terms of economic production and performance, it is increasingly central to issues of global conflict and insecurity of both traditional and non-traditional varieties. Such a distinctive position poses challenges of analysis, policy and process for a multiplicity of actors and approaches.
Africa’s unique status, juxtaposing emerging markets with profound security challenges, raises questions about the range of responses and resources required, both in the short and longer term, and both from within and outside Africa. In particular, it suggests the imperative of going beyond so-called "complex political emergencies," "peace-keeping operations" and "humanitarian interventions" towards the recognition of and reaction to the structural roots of inequalities and tensions. Proactive conflict prevention in the wider sense becomes a greater priority in the African context (and elsewhere, of course) than reactive management of existing conflicts.
Such reflection and redirection is required not only by states and inter-state institutions but also by non-state organizations. After almost two decades of structural adjustment conditionalities – the plethora of cumulative economic and political liberalization – no state in Africa can govern without the private sector and civil society, as well as international agencies. "Governance" on the continent, as elsewhere, now involves a range of heterogeneous actors on a continuous basis, as recognized in the World Bank’s influential World Development Report 1997. According to the Bank’s notions of vpartnerships" among states, companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), "good governance," involving governments at several levels, from local to national, along with for-profit and not-for-profit agencies, should promote sustainable human development and security. However, one needs to ask if good governance really serves to minimize conflicts and, vice versa, will less conflict advance better governance?
This essay assumes that sustainable peace and good governance are organically interrelated. However, this same relationship also applies to conflict and poor governance: The proliferation and persistence of conflicts and crises on the continent may thus serve as an indicator of the state of the interrelationship between human security and good governance. However, the issue of causality is problematic, along with the means and sequence of actions required to advance rather than obstruct those two objectives.
The interrelationship and interdependence between state, economy and society are central to war and peace in Africa: this trio of forces affects prospects for both sustainable development and sustainable peace. Such triangular "partnerships" are advanced in the 1997 World Development Report on "The State in a Changing World." The Report expects as well as encourages the downsized or diminished state to create an "enabling environment" in which the private sector and non-governmental organizations would fill existing voids in programme delivery or basic needs. Together such triangles determine whether governance – the way in which this trio of heterogeneous actors makes and effects general and specific decisions on a range of issues – is "good" or not.
Human Security and Good Governance: Keys to Peace and Development
If a pattern of good governance is realized over time, then the prospects for "human security" are enhanced; in the words of the pioneering UNDP Human Development Report in 1994, human security means "safety from the constant threats of hunger, disease, crime and repression." It also means "protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of our daily lives – whether in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities or in our environment."4
Human security thus embodies sustainable communal, economic, ecological, gender, health and personal security. The basic requirement for these diverse characteristics of security is good governance at all levels, from the global to the local. Moreover, good governance requires not only occasional cooperation and innovation among the trio of heterogeneous actors, but also protracted involvement and commitment. Therefore, human security throughout Africa requires sustainable governance to ensure sustainable peace.
At the global level, the continent is confronted by a myriad of "new" global security threats, particularly the nexus of drugs, gangs and guns along with other so-called "small arms." In addition, we are confronted with ecological vulnerabilities to droughts and floods, and the social disruptions associated with migrants and refugees. Moreover, although the Cold War is over, extra-continental "interventions" have yet to disappear: the arms trade and renewed mercenary threat – now euphemistically characterized as "subcontracting to private armies" – plus ubiquitous "humanitarian interventions" by INGOs and other organizations. Nicholas Wheeler suggests that such "non-forcible humanitarian intervention" now extends beyond the pacific activities of states, international organizations and NGOs in delivering assistance and facilitating third-party conflict resolution and reconstruction "to encompass global interventionary strategies designed to address the underlying causes of human suffering in world politics."
At the continental level, much work has yet to be done. After a half-century of orthodox intergovernmental activity, both the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) are becoming more flexible in their relationships to a range of non-state actors, with an emphasis on private corporations and civil societies. In the post-bipolar order, the continental security architecture is hardly robust – no effective African interventionary force exists as of yet, despite French, British and American diplomacy. However, both available peace mechanisms and civil society centres facilitate track-two diplomacy and post-conflict enquiries or tribunals.
Most conflicts and responses occur at the regional level, even though almost all social strife initially erupts internally. Thus, Africa’s domestic disputes all have regional dimensions, from arms and refugee flows to the overt or covert interventions of neighbours. At the formal inter-state level, regional groupings such as ECOWAS, IGAD and SADC have orchestrated nominally collective peace-keeping operations, even if in reality these reflect the interests of just a minority of typically hegemonic actors. In association with occasional "track-two" diplomacy, involving non-state actors such as think tanks, academics and NGOs, such regional endeavours might lead to novel forms of "security communities" in parts of the continent. Conversely, the spread of new and old inter-state alliances (particularly around the fraught territory of Congo) in the late-1990s may cause the return to more orthodox realist calculations, even if some allies include extra-state mercenary formations. As Christopher Clapham recently asserted "...the proliferation of African insurgencies and their often powerful impact now makes it imperative to incorporate them into any understanding of Africa’s international relations."
The evolution of embryonic regional security communities in Africa poses considerable challenges for national and regional governance: How does one construct a peace coalition and then sustain a range of actors and interests in conflict prevention and peacebuilding? On the other hand, any return to more exclusive state-centric realist calculations would imply a retreat towards more authoritarian patterns of government. Clearly, the outcome of this dichotomy between security community and new realism during the first few years of the new millennium holds profound implications for the prospects of enhanced human security and development throughout the continent.
And finally, at the national or local levels, the persistence or recurrence of conflicts urgently calls for new analyses as well as responses. The few relative "success stories" of Mozambique or Uganda stand in contrast to the several troubled communities in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Somalia. The latter indicate the need to go beyond short-term diagnoses or "band-aids" towards careful investigations of the underlying deep roots of conflicts. That, in turn, points towards the need for an understanding of the real political economy of civil strife. As last year’s pragmatic Report of the UN Secretary-General on Africa indicated,
[d]espite the devastation that armed conflicts bring, there are many who profit from chaos and lack of accountability, and who have little or no interest in stopping a conflict and much interest in prolonging it... in Liberia, the control and exploitation of diamonds, timber and other raw materials was one of the principal objectives of the warring factions... The same can be said of Angola, where protracted difficulties in the peace process owed much to the importance of control over the exploitation of the country’s lucrative diamond fields... (and) Sierra Leone...
Given the large scale of the African landscape, compounded by often rudimentary infrastructure and the relatively modest scale of competing military forces, many of the national/regional conflicts occur over rather narrow border areas. A framework of "triangles" (state, economy, society) of conflict and response may thus be the most appropriate intermediate level of analysis and policy prescription.
There has been no peace dividend from either the end of the Cold War or the end of apartheid and South Africa’s destructive regional destabilization. Nevertheless, renewed optimism generated by the successful transition to majority rule in the continent’s largest economy produced great expectations of a regional, if not continental, boom. To be sure, however, notions of emerging markets are no longer entirely novel (e.g., Botswana, Ghana or Mauritius), even if they coexist with apparent anarchies in several regions of Africa.9 The former has led to the articulation in the mid-1990s of an "African renaissance," to be juxtaposed with the contemporary "Asian crisis." While some scepticism already exists about this comparison, particularly in terms of inherent security and economic implications, such a renaissance might be compatible with the advancement of good governance and its spin-offs for human security and development. That applies particularly in fraught contexts such as in South Africa.10
The Need for an Interregional/Interdisciplinary Dialogue
What is urgently needed is a dialogue between academics and policy makers throughout the continent on the key questions of Africa’s political and economic future. Such a scholarly/policy dialogue has to be interdisciplinary and multidimensional in character. The interplay of politics, culture and economics in the African context is as important as the interplay of local, national and regional actors. This adds complexity, but also opportunity, as the most basic principles and modalities of political, cultural and economic interaction need to be re-thought, understood and translated into arrangements that create good governance in the service of human security needs. This is the hope for a new security agenda that will help to pave the way towards increased security, justice and prosperity across the continent.
Any consideration of definitions of and prospects for good governance and human security in Africa that incorporates both non-state and state actors, holds insights and lessons for a number of main key fields in the study of international relations, particularly in the context of comparative analyses of regions in transition.
Development studies point to the elusiveness of sustainable development and the complexities of humanitarian intervention that erode the prospects for human security. Foreign policies define the preferences of non-state as well as state actors on a myriad of contemporary issues. The region’s international political economy paints the picture of a continent that may be marginal, yet not outside – thus posing analytic challenges and potentially troublesome consequences regionally as well as globally. The continent’s international relations, both intra-regional and global, focus on an increasingly wide variety of actors and relations, including the possibilities for transnational coalitions and global governance. Finally, security studies address one of the greatest concerns about the future security landscape in Africa: the likelihood of a realist revival on the continent at the start of the next century causing further disintegration and instability.
Initiating the Dialogues
The security landscape and international relations of Africa in the post-bipolar era are changing. They are not anymore exclusively determined by states and their actions, but are increasingly defined by MNCs, NGOs/civil society as well as regional and global organizations. Since threats transcend governments’ reach and borders, the provision of sustainable human security in the region will also have to be addressed by non-state actors at the substate and interstate levels. This, in turn, will have to be reflected in changing foreign policies of governments throughout the region. Moreover, new and flexible forms of regionalism will have to respond to this new security environment, and will have to be reflected by new foreign policies. This new security environment calls for an alliance of human security providers at the substate, state, regional and international levels, thus defining the post-Westphalian international relations of Africa.
These propositions have to be examined by scholars and policy makers from inside and outside the region, in an attempt to explain Africa’s evolving security landscape and to explore viable options to mobilize and engage actors from civil society, states and the international community in local and regional efforts to bring security and stability to the region. It is important to engage in this process before (and perhaps as) we are witness to a relapse into an African realism driven by geopolitical power struggles between governments and their interests. The aim of such a dialogue is to facilitate a discussion on the changing security environment and new security provisions in the region, through track-two, capacity-building and confidence-building measures that are aimed at integrating, not disintegrating, an already highly volatile international environment on the African continent. Integrated into the academic discourse outside and inside the region, the dialogue must work with track-two actors at subnational and regional levels and invite the participation of, and share its findings with, government officials and regional organizations. An important step can be taken through the creation of a "New African Security Network," an ongoing process that engages academic, NGO, business, policy-making and IO communities in promoting human security throughout Africa.
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Democracy in Latin America: Reconciliation and the (Re)Construction of Political Society
By Edward Newman
"I am ready to forgive, but I need to know who I have to forgive. If they would just speak up and acknowledge what they have done, they would be giving us the opportunity to forgive. It would be more noble if they were to do that. There will be reconciliation only if there is justice. "
Testimony to the Chilean National
Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, February 1991
The legal and political issues raised by the extradition procedure against Augusto Pinochet have refocused the international spotlight upon the challenges of democratic consolidation in Latin America. Democracy offers great opportunities for the region after a turbulent and often painful history. However, democratization, in most cases, has had to confront the legacy of civil war and repression, and also the social dilemmas inherent in the integration of the region into the global market-based economy. As such, the lessons and experiences of Latin America continue to have real relevance for the dynamics of transition around the world. At a deeper level, the struggle for democracy in Latin America has had to address a destabilizing colonial legacy of social and ethnic division and power structures that precede, and still lie behind, democratic institutions.
There often appears to be a gap between the procedures of democracy – free elections, rule of law, political parties – and the substance of democracy in terms of efficiency, democratic ethos, civil society and participation in a meaningful "public sphere." This gap is an acute example of a deficiency in democracy around the world, but especially in post-conflict and post-authoritarian societies. Equally characteristic of democratic consolidation in Latin America is the delicate military-civilian interface and the role of civil society in the sensitive process of reconciliation. The relationship – and sometimes tension – between peace/stability and the search for justice has also been critical. Amidst these pressures, in some cases, it is little surprise that there are signs of regression back to undemocratic tendencies.
Latin America presents a host of democratic issues in the context of international economic and political trends that condition democracy from the outside. The evolution of Latin American democracies – as developing countries that have experienced, or are experiencing, conflict and authoritarianism – and the degree of success in consolidating democracy hold great importance for the people of that region.
Democracy in Latin America – particularly democratic consolidation and transition – has attracted much scholarly interest. Every aspect and dimension of the democracy discourse is played out in the region. Moreover, the struggle for democracy, human rights, social justice, and political accountability is far from won. The factors that determine or condition the outcome of this struggle must be analysed from both inside and outside the region. This can be approached from the perspective of challenges that must be mediated through reconciliation. In many democratizing situations, including Latin America, this has a familiar connotation: coming to terms with past authoritarianism and past human rights abuses. Countries such as Chile, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, Guatemala and South Africa are amongst the recent examples where this has been a central issue of democratization. But reconciliation can also have a wider connotation, implying the reconciliation of different and sometimes competing values, reconciling different concepts of democracy, and forming a social consensus upon these democratic norms. There is a broad range of challenges.
Justice and Reconciliation: Managing the Past and the Dilemmas of Memory
As democratic forms of government replace authoritarian regimes and civil conflict, a critical issue in the success of this transition is the management of past human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. With the memory of abuses still fresh, justice and accountability for the past is central to sustainable democracy and to instilling a sense of confidence and trust into public life. Moreover, this is not just a historical issue in Latin America: "disappearances" from the past continue to impose intolerable cruelty upon family members, and human rights abuses continue to occur. Conversely, the appearance of impunity for past crimes undermines confidence in new democratic structures and casts doubt upon commitments to human rights, which are integral to successful consolidation.
Simultaneously, however, the search for the truth can be destabilizing and can prolong the transition to consolidated democracy. Moreover, in many cases the transition from authoritarian rule depended upon the cooperation of actors and individuals directly involved in human rights abuses in the past. This has involved a delicate balance. The victim’s demands for justice must be met, but the participation and support of all major actors – including the perpetrators of crimes and their supporters – in the democratic system is essential for its survival, at least in the short term. Reconciliation has thus been difficult. Amnesty – even immunity, in the case of Chile – has been a necessary component, but inevitably it has been difficult to forget, much less forgive, the suffering that has occurred.
Many countries have sought a middle course that has been politically realistic but has not satisfied large sections of society. Democracy thus continues to be soured. Moreover, human rights atrocities were not confined to repressive governments or regimes; insurgents and citizens were involved in some cases – and sometimes against neighbours – and this has further embittered public social and political life. The trade-off made in Chile, for example, was not perceived to have given justice to the victims of torture, nor the families of those who disappeared or were killed between 1973 and the transition to democracy. The social and political divisions are still deep, eight years after the conclusion of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation.
There is a paradox to be solved: justice is necessary to move forward; it is integral to the democratization process. But stability and the inclusion and support of all actors make the search for truth and justice difficult. The handling of this dilemma, and the management of the past, continue to condition democratic politics.
The Transition to "Neoliberal Democracy"
The (re)birth of democracy in Latin America has been accompanied by a transition to market economics. In fact the two processes are inseparable, and this has given rise to the concept of "neoliberal democracy." This also gives rise to challenges with welfare and security implications.
The history of the region presents a variety of economic models. Populist welfare-based experiments, free market, and nationalist command economies are among them. However, there has been a swing to free market neoliberal policies in conformity with external economic patterns and structural adjustment programmes of international financial institutions. The transition to democracy has sometimes been paralleled by a socially disturbing process. "Shock" economics, a movement away from traditional economic practices/lifestyles, and an emphasis upon opening up the economy and exporting have had an impact. Globalization – demonstrated in the opening up that has accompanied NAFTA – has altered the political equation. In some cases, this privileges certain political actors – such as exporting business elites – over others, such as social reformists.
The emergence of "neoliberal democracies" also demonstrates the extent to which external actors have forged the agenda of democratization in Latin America. Foreign banks and governments, international financial organizations and multinational corporations have arguably made an alternative to neoliberal democracy difficult. Yet, at the same time, there is growing opposition to the neoliberal agenda of mainstream democracy, and this is often taking the form of extra-constitutional resistance. This raises serious questions regarding the ability for democratic structures to accommodate the desires and aspirations of those who have not seen their material positions enhanced through economic development.
A number of questions follow from this. How has the background of socio-economic change conditioned democratic agendas and choices? Have certain actors been privileged at the expense of others? Can neoliberal democracy be genuinely inclusive?
In most Latin American countries, democracy has been conditioned as much by external as internal forces. External inputs have both positive and negative connotations. Democratization, traditionally, is considered in the context of the political, cultural and socio-economic complexion of a particular political community. Indeed, according to the communitarian ethic, it is necessarily a culmination of "domestic" and historic processes. In recent decades it has become clear that transnational processes, international organizations, and the free flow of information have inevitably had a bearing on – and in fact have promoted – the process of democratization, sometimes with dramatic effect. In a more practical sense, the UN played a crucial role in negotiating the transition from dictatorial rule to democratic rule in some Central American countries, especially those emerging from civil war.
Some interesting theoretical and normative implications arise from this. To what extent is democratization conditioned by "internal" and "external" processes in Latin America, and is the balance changing? Can the UN and other external actors have a decisive and substantial (rather than just a facilitative) impact upon domestic transition and democratization? Is it right that an external actor should have such an impact? What values does an external agent like the UN bring with it to the democratization process? Practically, how successful has UN assistance been in terms of consolidating democracy in Latin America – what is the record? In post-conflict situations the democratization process involves particular sensitivities; democratization is an integral part of the peacebuilding process. In such a situation, the issues of justice and reconciliation, and of the legitimacy of political actors, raise particular challenges for the UN’s involvement.
In the liberal tradition, civil society forms an array of free associations between the family and the state, forming ideas, interest groups and political agendas. Civil society is integral to a healthy "public sphere" of pluralism. In Latin America, civil society has tended to play a somewhat different role in post-authoritarian and post-conflict societies than in established liberal democracies. In many Latin American countries, a history of repression has resulted in civil society as a form of opposition, especially as organized political parties were often prohibited or severely emasculated. In conflict and authoritarian situations civil society – sometimes including the Catholic Church – organized resistance and self-help, and raised consciousness, often in opposition to the state. The central question that arises concerns the role of civil society in democratic consolidation. Can civil society move towards the liberal model? What is the role of civil society in the search for truth and justice, and in forming political agendas?
In many Latin American communities wide social inequality, ethnic division, the presence of organized crime, casual and organized violence, insecurity, lack of confidence in (unaccountable) police, and corruption in public institutions undermine the ethos of citizenship. In many cases the colonial legacy has left ethnic social divisions that remain to this day. Indeed, power and wealth tend to be concentrated in the hands of settlers, whilst indigenous peoples continue to be disadvantaged, poor, and outside the mainstream political sphere. Particularly in Central America, it is notable that during times of repression, uprising and civil war, the ethnic division was pronounced and reflected deep socio-economic conflicts. The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, was only the most dramatic demonstration of a widespread feeling that certain sections or classes of society in Latin America are alienated from "democratic" institutions. Many less publicized challenges to established politics demonstrate a lack of faith in new "elitist" democratic structures.
Democracy: Procedure or Substance?
The "elusive citizenship" of Latin American democracies raises a further major issue: while the bare procedural requirements may exist – in terms of elections – the substance may be shallow. The degree of participation, the quality of debate, and the availability of real political choice is sometimes questionable. The tendency towards presidentialism – and, in particular, the tendency of presidents to suspend constitutional practices to enhance their powers or extend their terms – would appear also to cast a shadow over democracy.
There have been various labels for this: "illiberal democracy," facade democracy, neo-colonial democracy, or neo-authoritarian electoral regimes. According to this view, traditional power structures, ethnic divisions and the gap between rich and poor continue, with the support of international business corporations and governments. An important research question is, therefore, the substance of democracy. In particular, do the processes and institutions of democracy offer real opportunity for political choice and change? What is the degree of confidence of the people for this? Has the tradition of popular sovereignty, of social revolution, ended?
Gender is increasingly a focus of the democracy discourse, although traditionally, as elsewhere, women have not been viewed as public economic or political actors in much of Latin America. The experiences of Latin America’s struggle for democracy suggest that it is important to consider gender as an issue. Women often suffered in a particular manner during times of civil war and authoritarianism, and played a particular role during these adversities. Similarly, in many communities women played a distinctive role in the struggle for justice and democracy. It is interesting to observe how these experiences will alter perceptions of gender and democracy.
Clearly, there have been, and in some cases are, a host of intellectual and practical challenges involved in democratization in Latin America. The success that communities in the region have in addressing these challenges and in embracing a broad process of reconciliation will have an impact upon the welfare and security of millions of people. In turn, the lessons of this will have relevance for areas throughout the world.
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Kosovo and the Changing Contours of World Politics
By Albrecht Schnabel and Ramesh Thakur
The Kosovo Crisis
Kosovo 1999 might mark the symbolic end of the post-Cold War era. What better moment could we have picked than the sunset of the millennium, a year packed with activities of all sorts that commemorate the events of this century and celebrate the dawn of the next, to put the finishing touches to a more just and orderly global community? The Cold War was over, East and West were coming closer together, some of the last communist outposts were opening up to international engagement, and diplomacy was increasingly replacing bombs in solving conflicts between states. The force of ideas, not the force of war; human rights, not state rights; and reconciliation and conflict resolution, not Clausewitzian war-making, were supposed to ring in the new century and millennium.
Yet, the peace dividend of the end of the Cold War did not spread to all parts of the world. Throughout the developing world, conflicts, mostly internal, continued to be fought with intense ferocity and great loss of lives. Most of these conflicts went largely unnoticed by the major powers whose interest in the former Third World disappeared with the end of the Cold War’s bipolar competition over influence, ideology, geographic reach and power. Short of a few unsuccessful attempts to embrace the Third World within the emerging "new world order," the stable North showed little interest in the conflict-riven South. If Somalia was an experiment in mutual engagement, Rwanda was the harsh reality in the return to the solitude of separation between the two worlds.
The Kosovo Dilemma
While Somalia and Rwanda, located in Africa, were distant from Western consciousness, the Yugoslav war was an affront to the European liberal conscience. The Kosovo crisis presents major challenges to the evolving international environment that, while still featuring a range of internal conflicts, is generally characterized by a noticeable decrease of interstate conflicts. An extension of the wider post-Cold War Balkan crises that had come to an intermittent halt with the Dayton Accord of 1995, the current crisis in Kosovo has called into question the major principles underpinning world order and global governance, and the role of the major actors in international politics. The United Nations has been rendered virtually inoperable in a situation in which the Security Council members are split over geostrategic and normative dimensions on how to deal with Kosovo. Meanwhile, NATO, a military defence alliance, has decided to move out of its area to use military force to compel a sovereign state into compliance with humanitarian norms. In addition to large numbers of internally displaced persons, several hundred thousand refugees are threatening to destabilize an already fragile region. The conflict has the potential to be a defining moment by reshaping the relationship between regional security organizations and the United Nations, and between major powers in East and West – and within those camps. It may also call into question the unipolar moment that has prevailed since the end of the Cold War.
The normative, operational and structural questions that are raised by the Kosovo crisis will have long-term consequences for the way in which we understand and interpret world politics. For instance, can the UN Security Council veto now effectively be circumvented to launch selective enforcement operations? How can the humanitarian imperative be reconciled with the principle of state sovereignty; are we witnessing the end to absolute principles in the international legal framework and, if so, at what cost? Under what conditions do such absolute principles lose their legitimacy?
Perspectives from the Conflict Theatre
Kosovo, Yugoslavia and the Wider Balkans
The situation in Kosovo itself is tragic and, indeed, one of confusion. What is the price for independence that might never happen anyway? NATO’s quick and forceful response to the refusal of Belgrade to agree to every stipulation of the Rambouillet Peace Agreement was welcomed by many as a strong show of outside support for the Kosovar victims. Nevertheless, NATO’s refusal even to consider the deployment of ground troops, its insistence on the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, and the immediate withdrawal of all OSCE presence and most foreign journalists and diplomats from the battleground of NATO air raids, made this a mixed blessing at best. Moreover, Belgrade’s immediate launch of a major offensive against the KLA and its civilian "supporters" tragically aggravated the crisis on the ground and worsened the plight of the victims.
Most Kosovars found themselves driven out of their homes and across borders into miserable refugee camps in Macedonia or Albania. Few had the opportunity to move on to Western countries. The Kosovar political elite became deeply divided. The KLA continued to fight Serb forces in the quest for eventual independence and political control over Kosovo. Meanwhile, Serb looting and NATO bombing slowly but systematically destroyed Kosovo’s infrastructure. Many refugees will not have a home to return to – or even a street to walk on – once peace returns to their region. For many Kosovars it is very difficult to comprehend what has happened, and to understand who actually won or lost the Kosovo war.
Many Serbs are just as bewildered. Of course, Milosevic supporters are strongly opposed to NATO bombing, done without UN support and in direct violation of Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. In their opinion they have been attacked by the outside world, which failed to understand that its military actions in Kosovo only served to suppress a terrorist military organization, the oppression of Serbs living in Kosovo, and the protection of Serbia’s cultural heritage. For them, as for Milosevic, Kosovo, the "cradle of Serb nationalism," could not and should not be surrendered. Moreover, governments respond with great violence to secessionist uprisings all around the world, and few of these conflicts have ever resulted in the draconian punishment handed down on Belgrade. Even moderate Serbs are outraged at the international community’s response to Serb action against Kosovars, while no attention was given to Croatia’s expulsion of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina region only a few years earlier.
Opponents of Milosevic’s rule over Serbia are sympathetic to the Kosovars’ plight, but they also do point to the double standard applied by the international community in its punishment of Serb offensives in Kosovo, while many conflicts at much larger scale and atrocities virtually escape their attention. Such reasoning does not, of course, excuse Belgradev’s operations in Kosovo, but less military action and more diplomacy would have possibly achieved faster and less destructive results, without producing an essentially emptied Kosovo at the end of the air campaigns. They do point to the fact that Milosevic has been quite successful in reaching his goals (expulsion of a majority of Albanians and virtual defeat of the KLA), while NATO’s goals are far from being achieved.
Neighbouring countries have been suffering under the pressure of the refugee influx. The United States and its allies insisted on keeping the vast majority of Kosovars in refugee camps close to the borders of Yugoslavia to avoid permanent resettlement into Western Europe and North America. Countries such as Macedonia and Albania, on the other hand, have been pleading for international aid to accommodate the mass influx of expelled and fleeing Kosovars. Moreover, attention has been diverted away from Bosnia, a still-unstable country in continuing need of assistance from the European and international communities and their key security and economic organizations. Finally, an alienated Yugoslavia (government and population) and a further destabilized Balkans will ensure continuing volatility in the region.
Major External Actors: Returning to Cold War Fault Lines
In April 1999, members of the newly enlarged NATO gathered in Washington to celebrate fifty years of peace maintenance by this collective defence organization – when the alliance was engaged in an offensive war against a non-member. Rueful Russians could be forgiven for concluding that, after all, the Warsaw Pact had contained NATO, rather than the reverse. America seems to have lost its faith in quiet diplomacy and conflict management undertaken by international organizations. Congress has used the opportunity to ask for and push through long-demanded increases of the defence budget, and the USA and NATO had yet another opportunity (in addition to their ongoing engagement in Iraq) to test the evolving strategy of zero-casualty air wars against enemies that employ mainly ground forces.
The Clinton Administration defends NATO operations, their huge costs and the even larger costs of the subsequent reconstruction of Kosovo on the argument that something had to be done to oppose totalitarian leaders and stop ethnic cleansing and oppression. Little has been said if those principles would apply to other conflict theatres as well.
Russia and China have been bitterly opposed to NATO’s handling of the crisis. With their own"Kosovos" in Chechnya and Tibet, they are wary of the Alliance’s self-proclaimed authority to secure peace and stability in a globalizing world. They have frozen relations with the US and other NATO members. Russia, upset about yet more evidence of its waning role in world affairs, and the ease with which the West can bypass Russian preferences in conducting world affairs, have been seeking diplomatic face-saving solutions to end the conflict. On the other hand, heavy reliance on Western assistance in its attempts to bring its sliding economic situation under control allowed little more than verbal condemnation of Western action. NATO’s accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade has greatly damaged Sino-US relations and given China a role in European peace and security affairs for the first time in history. Aspiring members of the exclusive nuclear club, such as India, do ask if NATO would have attacked Yugoslavia (or if the US would still be bombing Iraq) if those countries possessed extensive nuclear arsenals backed by intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles. The international costs of Kosovo are high indeed.
The major European NATO allies have shown steadfast support for the NATO bombings. While Britain’s traditional "special" relationship with the US cuts across party lines, the governments of Germany and Italy face greater problems. In Germany, the first Socialist-Green coalition government had to justify Germany’s first military involvement after the Second World War – with a Green Foreign Minister and Socialist Defence Minister going out of their way to assure internal cohesion and support for Alliance policies.
Smaller NATO members played along, with little official opposition. This is somewhat surprising given the particular focus of Benelux and Scandinavian NATO members on non-violent and political approaches to conflict management. The southern members of NATO, particularly Turkey and Greece, felt less comfortable with the handling of this conflict. Turkey’s own Kurdish conflict and various Turkish-Greek disputes, as well as Greece’s Orthodox affinity to the Serbs, made it difficult for these countries to give wholehearted support to NATO. Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia are wary of a greater Islamic influence on the Balkans – particularly if Albania should be joined by an independent Kosovo. The Alliance’s newest members – Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary – are torn between loyalty to their new partners and uneasiness over the changing focus of NATO strategy and activity. Hungary’s position is the most uncomfortable one, as it is worried about the significant Hungarian minority living in Serbia, and as it is the only NATO country that directly borders on Yugoslavia. Moreover, these countries had joined NATO to protect themselves from military adventurers, not to join them.
Long-term Conceptual Challenges of Kosovo
Kosovo raises a great number of conceptual challenges that may well redefine our understanding of international affairs and global order. NATO actions in Kosovo and its strong affirmation of a new world role proclaimed at its 50th Anniversary Meeting suggest that (some) regional organizations will in the future re-interpret, on a case-by-case basis, the UN’s prerogative to sanction the use of force against sovereign states. This is an important step for an organization that has been redefining its own purpose from that of being a collective defence alliance to that of perhaps global, but certainly out-of-area, peace enforcer. Since NATO is not based on an equal partnership of members, its main motor (both militarily and politically), the USA, will be the actor with the heaviest imprint on NATO’s strategy, actions and preferences. Of course, a similar course of action could then also be justified by organizations such as CIS (with its hegemon Russia), ECOWAS (Nigeria) or SAARC (India). While, on the one hand, humanitarian interventions and other regional security operations will be easier to initiate under regional mandates and operational control, it also suggests a decentralization of the UN’s previous domain to authorize the use of force. Justice may well triumph eventually, but at what cost to peace and stability? And can a just order be secured in the midst of collapsing pillars of the international order?
What, then, is the role of the United Nations? Has it been permanently sidelined in its efforts to navigate states through the waters of peace and war in a more complex and volatile post-Cold War environment? Has it failed the cause of human rights and group rights in exchange for sticking to the principle of state sovereignty and the inviolability of its Member States? Has the Security Council finally proven to be of little use in a world in which old antagonisms between Council members resurface and taint their judgements on global issues? These are difficult questions. Given the failure of NATO to simply force its preferences onto Yugoslavia and the importance of Russian and (even) Chinese diplomacy in bringing the conflict to an end, one wonders if the post-conflict constellation of powers, and the political solutions available, differ so dramatically from the pre-war situation.
Humanitarian intervention has increasingly been used and abused as justification for Chapter VII missions of the UN or multilateral forces under the mandate of Security Council resolutions. Yugoslavia has been bombed over an internal conflict that seems minor in its local and regional effects compared, for instance, to Chechnya, Tibet, Kashmir or East Timor. However, Yugoslavia’s support of years of treacherous war on the Balkans between 1991 and 1995 has resulted in little sympathy when it received "a taste of its own medicine," particularly when it is still rather successfully run by one of the last surviving Stalinists of post-Cold War Europe. Given the large number of conflicts throughout the world that will never see any significant international involvement to protect and punish civilian atrocities and other "collateral" damage of inter- and intrastate conflict and warfare, it is unlikely that Kosovo will redefine our approach to humanitarian intervention, let alone enshrine humanitarian intervention as a legitimate validation of regional and international military interventions.
Public opinion, both within the conflict region and within the outside world, became an important instrument in a war that was as much a war of rhetoric as of arms. On all sides, major political figures were eager to throw out yet another, more dramatic, historical metaphor in their attempts to rally public opinion behind the course of their government’s action. The determination to avoid another Munich led to the folly of Viet Nam. The insistence on "No More Viet Nams," it is said, may produce another Munich in Kosovo. Or will we see a neo-Viet Nam syndrome emerging from the ashes of Kosovo for the new era?
Major media outlets in the West have been quick to support NATO’s mission and did whatever they could to bolster public support for the operation. Tales of horror committed by Serb forces against Kosovars made the headlines for weeks on. While much of that later turned out be true, little or no attention was given the atrocities committed by the KLA. Overall, the one-sidedness of major news agencies’ reporting on Operation Allied Forces has made the media a powerful ally in NATO’s war against Slobodan Milosevic. However, it also added to growing antagonism among the Serb people who, easily tapped into Western broadcasts though private satellite dishes and Internet access, saw that the West depends as much on state-sponsored propaganda as does their own government. Of course, propaganda has not been a matter of choice for news outlets in Yugoslavia. Particularly during times of crisis, dissenting opinions are punished with immediate closure, and only state-sanctioned propaganda are allowed to reach Serb households.
International Community, Force and Diplomacy
Have we returned to the days of Clausewitz, where the use of force was considered the logical extension of politics by other means? Or do NATO strikes portend a discontinuation of policy by other means? Bearing in mind that war itself is a great humanitarian tragedy, at which point, under what conditions, and subject to what safeguards can humanitarian intervention be justified? In order to answer these questions, the motivations for the roots and dynamics of the Kosovo conflict and, particularly, the nature of the international community’s response need to be understood in full. It may take some time before we can fully comprehend what has happened. As someone suggested on one of the numerous daily e-mail postings on one among many mailing lists devoted to the discussion of the evolving Kosovo crisis, the consequences of Kosovo 1999 will keep students of international relations – and no doubt policy makers – busy for years to come. If Kosovo turns out to be an anomaly, little will have changed. However, if the Kosovo conflict signifies a well-planned and intentional strategy on the part of the main actors, it will have serious and long-lasting consequences.
Much of the UN role in world politics will hinge on the fallout from Kosovo. As the only truly representative body of the world community, the UN will have to apply the lessons learnt to reformulate – or reaffirm – the basic rules and principles of international order and international organization.
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Researching Violent Societies:
Methodological and Ethical Challenges
By Gillian Robinson, Albrecht Schnabel and Marie Smyth
Research in Divided Societies: A Poorly Documented Challenge
Despite the high level of research activity in conflict areas around the world, there has been little attention paid to the actual processes of conducting research in violently divided societies. Within a substantial literature on research methods, there is little that directly addresses the ethical and methodological challenges of researching in societies experiencing ethnic conflict and other violent upheavals. Often, researchers working in such circumstances have struggled to connect with the mainstream research community, yet are left to grapple in isolation with the special demands made on them in terms of research design, ethics and analysis.
It is against this background that INCORE’s International Workshop on Researching Violent Societies brought together over thirty participants, including academics, journalists and field workers from countries and regions as diverse as Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Spain and Switzerland. The aim of the workshop was to gain a better understanding of an issue that should be of concern to those involved in peace and conflict-related research: the methodological and ethical challenges involved in conducting research in societies divided by conflict and violence.
The documentation of approaches, insights and dilemmas shared by researchers at the workshop will be invaluable in supporting existing and new researchers in their work in violent and divided societies. It is also anticipated that such collaboration will provide relevant and useful training materials for those who work for aid and relief agencies, international organizations or NGOs. This essay reflects on some of the main issues raised during the course of the workshop – a first step taken by this group towards more effective, systematic and impact-oriented research in divided societies.
The Role and Function of Research in Divided Societies
Research in and on divided societies differs greatly between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres: the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland has generated several hundred simultaneous studies at any given time, which have yielded more than 5,000 publications at this point. This has in part also been driven by the financial resources that are available for studies in this context. Despite the fact that the level of violence has been declining steadily in Northern Ireland, the number of studies continues to rise. On the other hand, research on divided societies in developing countries is poorly funded and rarely encouraged. Governments’ interest focuses on potential and actual conflicts that have a direct impact on their countries’ security. Whilst these conflicts are important to be understood, it is also important from a humanitarian and world citizenship concern that other conflicts are also studied.
Much work has been done, for instance, on Bosnia, while very little research has been done on Somalia (before the international community decided to intervene) or on Rwanda (where genocide took place while the outside world looked on). Moreover, many governments in divided societies in Africa, for instance, used to oppose research on division and conflict. Their policies (and this is, of course, little different from governments in the North) have been mostly reactive rather than proactive. In the context of extremely limited resources, there has been little interest in funding research on the roots of conflicts prior to their eruption. Of course, this is a no-win situation. Societal divisions must be understood before they result in armed conflict, if the latter is to be prevented. Furthermore, research on Africa is done mostly by non-Africans, and has no local relevance or application with a resultant lack of effort to translate into policy. As a result of conditions of aid and humanitarian assistance programmes, governments have been forced to support educational institutions and civil society. There are now more opportunities in local institutions and universities to research intergroup conflict. Most of these, however, are still in South Africa, with very slow improvement of the situation in other parts of the continent. Finally, European and North American scholarship in this field has predominated, leading to a need to place more emphasis on local approaches and solutions to conflict and dispute management.
Even if there are greater opportunities to pursue research on intergroup conflict, an important question remains: Does researching divided societies have an impact on the actual situation on the ground? Or is much of the research done only to satisfy researchers’ thirst for knowledge, their need to enhance their publication record and other academically-driven needs, rather than the need to have an impact on the "objects" of the work? In general, researchers tend to overestimate their impact, while outsiders underestimate it. In order to rectify this imbalance, researchers need to make sure that their work "informs" and thus fosters others’ "understanding," and that it serves to "lobby" and "influence" those who may have the power to improve intergroup relations, adjust external and local policies, and alleviate evolving and actual conflict. In comparison with other cases across time and space, research has to be translated into general lessons that inform international organizations, policy makers and the public (outside and inside divided societies) who may be in a position to influence the situation of respondent communities. This also means that the researcher needs to speak (and disseminate!) in numerous "languages": as a specialist, as a generalist, as an academic, and as a journalist.
Ideally, researchers from divided communities should also serve an educational function for their own people by examining and questioning what divides, and what integrates, society. More often than not, societies do not fully understand their own social dynamics. A balanced mixture of external and internal research on the state of a society’s social fabric may assist in preventing the escalation of often dormant and poorly understood differences.
Researcher Identities and Position: Insider, Outsider, or Participant
It is clearly a challenge to research the roots of conflict in a society that is already marked by substantial inter-group tension. There are numerous challenges of being an "insider" or an "outsider" when researching intergroup conflict. To what degree can a local researcher study his/her own conflict without taking sides, without compromising his/her professional ethics, or without being perceived as biased, despite the best intentions and precautions? What are the dangers that a local researcher exposes herself/himself to when working in a violent environment? To what degree could and should these dangers limit one’s research activities and dissemination efforts? There are also advantages to being an insider or outsider. Among others, an insider gains access to information that often remains off limits for an outside researcher, while outside researchers often bring comparative perspectives and experiences to the task.
True "neutrality" is probably impossible in this type of research. At best, a researcher must identify his/her position and then proceed to conduct a study as objectively as possible. Passion for the plight of the people or the cause of their struggle are all issues that influence the researcher’s judgement and influence the type of information gathered. Researchers are scientists. They are in pursuit of knowledge. However, they are also humans – it is often an idealist drive to change and improve that has driven them into the battlefields of intergroup conflicts. At times, it may be unethical to remain a researcher and not cross the line and become an activist.
It is therefore important to emphasize accountability in the research process. This can be achieved by democratizing the process – by empowering those who are the "objects" of our work (people in divided societies) and the "consumers" (target audience). This effectively turns them into "subjects" in the research process.
The researcher is accountable to a considerable number of parties, and often for different reasons – to the academic community, government agencies, private foundations, NGO and humanitarian communities, respondent populations or various political causes. All these shape the research agenda, design and, possibly, the research results. The academic community (or the researcher’s academic employer) offers and withholds approval of the research plan, approves or disapproves of the work, and promotes or discontinues "unproductive" or "productive" researchers. The legitimacy, quality and scientific value of a researcher’s work is assessed in peer reviews before their utility is deemed worthy for publication in journals or books.
Governments and private foundations often provide the financial resource for research – or deny the same. Research needs to be valuable for adaptation in policy processes – however, this often only happens if there is an ideological congruence with the funders’ own principles. Respondent populations can inform the direction and methodology of the research. They can assist in negotiating ethical dilemmas and guide the researcher’s agenda. The researcher’s political and ideological causes influence and shape the research agenda and process, and they shape the collection and interpretation of information, and the selection of respondents. All these forces and actors need to be considered as major factors in a researcher’s work. Democratization of the management and process of research is a means of achieving greater accountability. However, in actualizing such accountability it is important that the researcher retain autonomy in the interests of scientific method and analysis. Indeed, there can be a tension between the added legitimacy created through accountability, and having one’s work steered according to political interests.
Action Research and Dissemination:
Making a Difference
Action research goes beyond traditional research. Through education and training, researchers work with their respondents in translating information and knowledge almost immediately into new thinking and understanding. In that function, the researcher directly contributes to conflict resolution while conducting research. He/she not only extracts information, but is involved in changing the process, in "intervening" in the conflict situation. However, the roles of researcher, educator and activist need to be clearly identified to maintain one’s professional integrity – especially in the eyes of the respondent population.
Dissemination is crucial in determining the impact of the research. Research results must be targeted at the right person, actor or organization, and be written in the right language and style. Few policy makers will read lengthy and complex scholarly accounts – they simply will not have or make the time to do so. Regrettable as this may be, it must influence research outputs and dissemination practices. Policy-oriented research will succeed in informing the policy-making process, with tight, crisp accounts of the research, a summary of the findings and a set of recommendations. Translating findings into solid recommendations requires the researcher to be willing and prepared to take a stand and to advise on application in policy and practice.
Every target audience will require a different research report. The scholarly community is interested in how newly gained insights contribute to existing knowledge, and how conceptual debates can be advanced as the result of such work. Thus, scholarly articles and presentations need to be prepared in that context. Funding agencies require brief statements of how the work has satisfied the goals of the initial project proposal and funding request. Have the goals been reached? Will there be an evaluation of the project’s impact? Respondent populations can use results that are easily translated into their immediate and long-term concerns.
A paradigmatic difficulty arises with the use of phenomenological approaches. There are limitations involved in "the description of phenomena" approach to research, which often fails to contextualize the phenomena. Contextualization is crucial in violently divided societies. Related to this is the transferability of concepts between languages and cultures that can pose difficult in comparative or international work. Again, it is important that dissemination is tailored to the target audience. At the micro-level the researcher has to be sure that conceptual frameworks are translated properly from one group to another; otherwise, research can run the risk of confusing or misinterpreting, instead of illuminating, the intergroup dynamics that are at the roots of conflict and violence. Thus, the action researcher faces three crucial moments during his/her work: framing the research agenda, conducting the research and disseminating the results. In the context of violent and divided societies, these are absolutely crucial and very difficult tasks.
What’s in It for Us?
Ethics and the Research "Object"
The workshop addressed the question of ethics from the perspective of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, which have attracted a range of humanitarian aid programmes and research projects. These programmes and projects have concentrated on those who have survived ethnic cleansing – dislocation, displacement, death, maiming, rape, torture, and loss of family and identity. Much of the research has been done without any effort to assess the data in the Yugoslav context, or to assure that these projects are used to improve the situation for those who have gone through the traumatic experience of intergroup war. Using these people as objects without treating them as subjects is ethically questionable. This becomes particularly important when respondents may deny the horrors that have happened to them and thus forgo an opportunity that may help them to address the experience, deal with it and, eventually, learn how to live a relatively normal life. Long-term commitment is needed to address these problems, beyond short interviewing and research trips. As in the general case, research in violent societies has to have a practical value to those participating; that much, the researcher owes to his/her objects.
The researcher who does not focus on the victims of conflict – the more usual scenario – but on the perpetrators of violence and cruelty faces particular difficulties. Researching guerrilla movements, for instance, is a great challenge. If the researcher wants to secure and maintain the trust and confidence of his/her respondents, the key to information access, he/she has to treat their activities with utmost confidentiality – a difficult task if that will entail witnessing acts of violence and destruction. Studying the perpetrator may mean observing the perpetration. This is itself an ethical challenge. Is such research the only way to gather knowledge about perpetrators? If so, will the results contribute to the ability to allow one to out-manoeuvre, militarily defeat or negotiate with such groups – thus "justifying" the ethical cost of studying perpetrators?
Comparative and Policy-Relevant Research
Finally, the workshop participants suggested that research should be result-oriented. Whilst research for knowledge’s sake is necessary, knowledge eventually should contribute to action. Improved knowledge about violent societies needs to result in improved responses to the division and violence that causes societies to drift apart and go to war within and against each other. Mediation and other forms of intervention should be informed by sound information on divided societies and by specific knowledge about each situation’s specific nature. Conflict is caused and driven by a combination of social, political, historic, economic and cultural forces that constitute and shape the fabric of society. Detailed and specific understanding of this is the key to creating or recreating a functioning, supportive social fabric that can contribute to an end to protracted violence. The rebuilding of peaceful relations based on trust and mutual respect depends on this kind of reconstruction.
Researchers have to follow two agendas – a more generalist one, based on the study of different scenarios and settings of violent societies, and a more specialized one, defining the nature and specifics of each conflict under scrutiny. This combination of defining the general and particular perspectives allows the researcher to produce meaningful work. Such work might eventually, if effectively communicated to the appropriate actors inside and outside a violent society’s community, lead to an improved response to the local and external management of internal conflicts. A blueprint to resolve violent conflicts in and between societies does not exist. However any emerging principles are enhanced in their effectiveness through the knowledge of local circumstances and causes of violence. The researcher has to follow those two agendas, inform both external and internal actors, and strive towards bringing them together to act in unity to prevent, alleviate and resolve violence within groups and societies.
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Tanja Brühl is a Research Associate at the Centre for International Relations/Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Dr. David Carment is an Associate Professor in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Dr. David P. Forsythe is University Professor and Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA.
Dr. Veijo Heiskanen is Director of the Institute of International Economic Law at the University of Helsinki School of Law, Helsinki, Finland.
Dr. Edward Newman is an Academic Programme Associate in the Peace and Governance Programme of the United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan.
Barbara Ann J. Rieffer is a Graduate Student in the Philosophy Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA.
Dr. Volker Rittberger is Professor of Political Science and International Relations and Director of the Centre for International Relations/Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Gillian Robinson is a Research Director at the Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity INCORE) and a lecturer at the University of Ulster, in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, UK.
Dr. Albrecht Schnabel is an Academic Programme Officer in the Peace and Governance Programme of the United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan.
Dr. Timothy M. Shaw is Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Development Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Marie Smyth is a lecturer at the University of Ulster, Derry/Londonderry, and Smith College in Massachusetts, USA. She is the project director of INCORE’s Cost of the Troubles Study.
Dr. Ramesh Thakur is Vice-Rector (Peace and Governance) of the United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan.
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List of Acronyms
ACUNS: Academic Council on the United Nations System
ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations
CIS: Commonwealth of Independent States
ECA: Economic Commission for Africa
ECOSOC: Economic and Social Council
ECOWAS: Economic Community of West African States
EU: European Union
GATT: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
IGAD: Intergovernmental Authority on Development
IMF: International Monetary Fund
INCORE: Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity
INGO: International Non-Governmental Organization
IO: International Organization
KLA: Kosovo Liberation Army
MNC: Multinational Corporation
NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement
NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization
OAS: Organization of American States
OAU: Organization of African Unity
OHCHR: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
OSCE: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
SAARC: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
SADC: Southern African Development Community
SECI: Southeast European Cooperative Initiative
UNDP: United Nations Development Programme
UNHCR: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
WEU: Western European Union
Work in Progress aims at providing an edited sampling of the research conducted by, or of interest to, the United Nations University. UNU copyrighted articles may be reprinted without permission provided credit is given to Work in Progress (United Nations University) and a copy is sent to the Editor. A Japanese edition is also available.
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