Friday, August 1, 2014

Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States

by Rudy Insanally

After the 'storm in a teacup' response to one of the Ministers' publicity stunts, I thought I would take down this book from the shelf and actually get around to reading it.

After finishing the introduction, it didn't bode too well as those countries who dominated the world after WWII and took plum positions, for example in the Security Council of the UN, are most reluctant to widen the playing field and acknowledge changing world situations - like the Asian tigers,BRICS countries and a peaceful united Germany.
I liked the smart cover that had a built-in bookmark but although he mentioned the book was unplanned in the sense that he had to look through and reconstruct his old speeches, I thought some dates might have been useful to get an idea of the timing of events - there wasn't even the year of publishing in the front!
Ch 1 noted growing inequalities within and between countries and the helplessness of the UN to address these problems due to lack of funds and political will. Many initiatives have failed and the two main Agendas have been distilled to:  the one for Development and the other for Peace. That's where Cheddi Jagan's New Global Human Order is mentioned as one giving broad suggestions on how both Development and Peace may be achieved by finding 'common ground on which future international cooperation  can be solidly founded, and to provide a comprehensive and holistic framework for development.'  Interestingly the writer notes that 'democracy often means not greater people participation and consensus, but the rule of the powerful and its manipulation of the majority.  Democracy is increasingly a cloak for government by oligarchy...' 

Ch 2 begins to put dates in some of the speeches and basically notes that the UN peace-keeping role would be strengthened if all countries gave up financing their armies and paid to a central fund-- for some reason scenes from the Star Wars sequels kept popping up in my head - whether it would at all be possible to persuade countries to give up their armies-- however that would free up a lot of money and resources to fund a central Peace-Keeping force. My take - It would make sense to have an overall coordinating body now that crimes are becoming trans-national eg. drug-smuggling and have sub-regional bodies with various branches having autonomy. How THAT would work is questionable seeing that Guyana is unable to haul in the local Drug-Lords who one assumes are under the control of larger organisations? However, the writer notes that instability undermines States which have then have the ability to affect economies - he then notes the pros and cons of nationalism vs internationalism, that while sovereignty should be respected - if gross inequality results it ought to be subjected to the imperatives for global good. The question then asked was how can trustworthy procedures be found? How can consensus be found? I began to see why the UN seem 'stuck' at times.

Ch 3 commented on the upheavals around the world and the need for the UN to gets its Agenda for peace rolling; the author again makes the point that this is closely aligned with the Agenda for Development as persistent economic marginalization leads to instability and conflict. Maintenance of peace seems to fall under the mandate of the Security council, but I was surprised to learn that rape and using children in conflict is not considered a criminal act?  Why ever not? Looks like a case for strengthening the International Court of Justice also with everyone agreeing to abide by its ruling.

Ch 4 dealt with problems that small states, in particular, face with even getting started after post-colonization, especially when the developed countries hold hold all the financing trump cards - many times being unable to fulfil their pledges or deliberately withholding - in fact the suggestion was made several times that an NGO suggested that in addition to recipient countries being made to jump through hoops to prove that they are using the money as intended; those countries not fulfilling their donation promises should be 'named and shamed' - the Nordic countries and Netherlands being the only regular subscribers who do not default.

Ch 5 writes about the importance of ensuring every human being get basic human rights, the establishment of the International Criminal Court being important to ensure the Rule of Law.(I was surprised to learn our neighbour T&T had made the original suggestion!) Interestingly although elections are cited as being important instruments for ascertaining popular will and facilitating democratic governments;  more important is the structures in place for the people to internalizing this process-- meaning participatory government. Education playing a vital part in promoting social cohesion, along with health and housing and halting social disintegration. He notes that newer post-colonial countries need help in establishing these and that there also ought to be democratization between countries and also between the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions to prevent duplication of efforts. He also called for more moral responsibility in international relations.  Here also he mentioned the Charter of the UN - 'enshrining the fundamental principles of human behaviour by which... succeeding generations might be spared the scourge of war'.

Ch 6  points out that the developed countries 'developed' with blatant disregard for the environment both in their countries and those they colonised and they ought to bear that in mind when linking development finance to new forms of restrictions.  I couldn't quite agree with his assertion that cutting down one greenheart tree encourages on average 5 saplings to grow- as it takes about 100 yrs for a tree to reach maturity  and also there are no figures to show how Guyana practises sustainable development apart from dodgy Government ministers mouthing off with untransparent figures.

Ch 7 talks about the implication of globalization for small states and about three pages later notes the reason why it is likely to fail( my take not the author's): 'the conduct of international relations depends on the full respect for the principle of the sovereign of equality of states'. Sadly it looks as if small states will continue to be screwed. The author however is optimistic that establishing a task force the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) 'to find ways and means to promote policy outcomes and institutional capacity building measures that will link the outcomes of the series fo inter-related international conferences already head.' He envisages that the G-77, which in fact has over 100 members, and China would support efforts to strengthen the General Assembly in the discharge of its Charter responsibilities to provide international economic and social cooperation. In Ch 8 he reiterates that a global common good of a fair international financial system would ensure a strong macroeconomic regime and establish appropriate policies and surveillance to ensure stability.  It would be interesting to note who benefits from an an unstable system and what degree of influence they have on the international stage?

Ch 8 I found most interesting as it dealt with reform of the UN and how those countries enjoying the privileges they gave themselves after WWII in 1945 are reluctant to acknowledge the changing world situation which gives them an unfair advantage in many fields.  Then I thought back to the American Ambassador concerned about democracy in Guyana-- that those entrenched in a position to reap the perks while the rest of the country degenerates and fights among themselves for the crumbs; his earnest wish that one person /one vote would count and reflect the true wishes of the people to ensure a more equitable distribution of the wealth (if any) and laughed out loud because THAT is exactly what the USA is NOT doing on the world stage as regards the UN -  clearly a case of 'the kettle calling the pot black' but in the US's case worse as they do not pay their dues (now in Guyana that would mean you cannot vote-- mmm-- we better than the UN who still allow the US to veto action that would curb their aggressive allies like Israel) in addition to imposing their poor foreign policies on the rest of the world! Nice example of democracy ya'll.

Ch 9 deals with problems that Small States face with the end of the Cold War period and the emergence of stronger northern alliances. He suggested more South-South co-operations and indeed the BRICS countries this week announced that they would support an new bank - maybe more responsive to developing country needs as the Bretton Woods Institutions seem resistant to change and primarily interested in preserving the status quo - nothing like competition to stimulate change! The emergence of the TIMP countries represent a new group maybe frustrated with the foot-dragging going on at the UN.It does appear that in unity there is strength but it it would mean a certain maturity to put away petty jealousies, also clear definitions of guidelines.. he noted that distrust of the other's motive was the main kicker to unity  (that I can attest to as it seems to me most friendly societies over here very quickly degenerate into vehicles for people's egos and their personal promotion or the members join in name only and one is forced to confront the awfulness of other people!)
He ends with some good suggestions but assumes that the intelligent people are in a position to make decisions when, in fact, the Law of the Jungle rules and the most cunning elbow their way to the top and promptly see those who are needed as threats to their status quo.


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