Feared Congolese militia commander Bosco Ntaganda made his first appearance at the International Criminal Court in the Hague yesterday. Last week, Ntaganda unexpectedly presented himself at the U.S. embassy in Kigali and requested that he be sent to the ICC for trial. He was indicted by the ICC in 2006, although the arrest warrant wasn't made public until 2009.
The precise events that prompted Ntaganda's sprint for the embassy aren't known yet, but a split within the M23 rebel movement to which he belonged appears to have prompted his decision. There's been informed speculation that Ntaganda may not have felt safe seeking refuge with the Rwandan government, although he was born in Rwanda and reportedly received Rwandan assistance over the years. The ICC likely looked like the best of several bad options for the beleagured warlord.
That may say something important about the role the ICC can play. One of the debates that swirls around international justice efforts is whether they may actually impede political transitions by backing key actors into a corner. During the Libya conflict, many observers -- and likely some Western government officials -- worried that ICC indictments of Qaddafi and his lead henchmen might cut off the possibility of exile and encourage him to fight to the last. But the Ntaganda case suggests an alternate possibility: that the ICC itself can become a form of exile.
A sojourn to the Hague has several distinct advantages. Pre-trial proceedings and trials themselves are drawn-out affairs, meaning that indictees can sometimes spend years before facing a verdict. Acquittal is a real possibility. Cases against senior leaders are notoriously complex and sometimes rely on evidence that doesn't hold up in court. Accommodations for prisoners while they await the end of their trials reach pretty high standards, with television, computer access, and ample opportunity for exercise and recreation (see the video at the bottom of this post for a virtual tour). The food is carefully prepared:
Detained persons are provided with suitably prepared food that satisfies in quality and quantity the standards of dietetics and modern hygiene. Additionally, detained persons are allowed to cook for themselves; they can purchase additional items, listed on the shopping list of the Detention Centre, as available, in order for them to adjust the meals provided to them, according to their taste and cultural requirements.
There's nothing to prevent a retired warlord or dictator from penning memoirs and staying in touch electronically with friends, family and colleagues:
With a view of maintaining family links, as provided for by the Regulations of the Registry, the Registrar gives specific attention to visits by the family and visits by the wife or partner of the detained persons; and may take measures to assist the family in the necessary procedures thereof, if required.
Even if a guilty verdict does eventually come down, the ICC's statute does not permit the death penalty; the worst possible outcome is extended imprisonment (although not in the same detention center). Being indicted for serious crimes may sting, but for many it will be more enticing than the possibility of living life on the lam, with the possibility of Muammar al-Qaddafi's grisly end always in the background.
(Click anywhere on the image to stop/start play.)
Today brought the startling news that Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda has presented himself to the U.S. embassy in Kigali and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda has been a leader of the M23 rebel movement in eastern Congo, which has reportedly enjoyed support from the Rwandan government (although Rwanda has vehemently denied this). The ICC issued a sealed arrest warrant for him in January 2006. Two years later, the court made the arrest warrant public.
To this point, Ntaganda has mostly lived openly in eastern Congo, where the Congolese government lacked the wherewithal and inclination to challenge him directly. His fortunes began to change recently, however, as the M23 militia movement clashed directly with government forces -- and then apparently splintered from within. The Rwandan government first reported the news that Ntaganda had made his way to Kigali and presented himself to the U.S. embassy.
Neither Rwanda nor the United States is an ICC member and neither has a legal obligation to effect the warlord's transfer. U.S. law limits official cooperation with the court and prohibits the provision of funds to the court. The law -- the American Service-members' Protection Act -- also prohibits the U.S. government from transferring any Americans to the court, but there is no explicit prohibition on U.S. involvement in transferring non-U.S. citizens.
That legislation notwithstanding, the U.S. approach to the court has been gradually evolving from the outright hostility on display during the Bush administration's first term. In 2005, the United States allowed a Security Council referral of Darfur to the ICC. Shortly after it took office, the Obama administration began attending annual meetings of ICC members. In 2011, it voted affirmatively to refer the Libya case to the court.
To this point, however, the United States has not been directly involved (at least publicly) in the transfer of indictees to the ICC. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reported today that the United States "strongly supports" the ICC investigation in Congo and is seeking to facilitate Ntaganda's transfer to the Hague. Whether the United States will seek to involve another government as an intermediary and whether the Rwandan authorities will cooperate with the transfer remains to be seen.
President Obama's State of the Union endorsement of a free trade pact with Europe has moved the issue to the policy front burner. For both sides, the deal's expected economic lift is the principal selling point. But European and U.S. officials have emphasized another advantage: the benefits of a trade pact for the troubled multilateral trading system, led by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Washington and Brussels insist that a bilateral pact would in fact advance global trade liberalization. The EU envoy to the United States made the point in a Wednesday op-ed:
Working toward a trade pact also recognizes that a more intense EU-US partnership can enhance the capacity of Europe and the US to deal more effectively with other regions of the world.
Reaching an ambitious economic agreement between us would send a powerful message to the rest of the world about our leadership in shaping global economic governance in line with our values.
The battle to promote free and open democratic principles and practices, as Europe and the US interpret them, is far from over and the attraction of undemocratic formulas of governance is a reality in many parts of the world. A free trade agreement not only serves European and US interests, it serves the interests of the world – and promotes democratic values.
The White House point person on international economic affairs, Michael Froman, also emphasized that a pact would "help set global rules that could help strengthen the multilateral trading system."
Unsurprisingly, Washington and Brussels are taking the most sanguine view of the longstanding debate about the compatability of regional and global trade liberalization. They're not alone in their optimism. Indonesia's candidate to lead the WTO told Reuters that a bilateral deal would push other players to get more serious about stalled global talks. "The U.S.-EU deal will be a catalyst...Others will see the momentum and they won't want to be overtaken by events."
But advocates of global free trade have long worried that the trend toward regional and bilateral trade blocs will suck the energy out of global trade talks and, worse, create a confusing and inefficient trading system. WTO officials reacted cautiously to the news of a US-EU trade push. Via Agence France Presse:
Creating preferential trade agreements (PTAs) between states, such as an EU-U.S. deal, may achieve some of the same ends, but many experts are concerned that breaking the world into blocs could end up creating new obstacles to global trade.
"The more problematic side of myriad different PTAs is that they create a hodgepodge of different regulations, standards and norms that can evolve into serious non-tariff barriers," said Keith Rockwell, chief spokesman at the Geneva-based WTO.
British prime minister David Cameron will deliver a major speech on the country's relationship with the European Union this Friday. Via Reuters:
"He sees it as important to set out his view about it being in the British national interest to remain in the European Union, though (with) a changed relationship," the spokesman said.
Cameron has repeatedly said he wants Britain to remain in the EU but has made it clear he intends to try to repatriate a wide range of powers from the bloc in policy areas where his ruling Conservative party believes Brussels' influence has become overbearing and pernicious.
The government's current strategy is to seek reform in the relationship with the EU (including, likely, the repatriation of some powers) and then subject the new relationship to a referendum, likely in 2017 or 2018. That approach has led certain European leaders to charge that Britain is "blackmailing" other EU members by holding out the implicit threat of withdrawal.
Others, including the Obama administration, are concerned that by opening fundamental questions about the relationship British leaders may be unleashing a process they cannot control. Anders Aslund argues that Britain is perilously close to a catastrophic decision:
If the United Kingdom were to have a referendum on its relationship with the European Union and actually depart, it would lose most of its relevance in Europe and with the outside world, notably the United States.
With its departure from the European Union, the United Kingdom would more specifically lose all its influence with the European Union. It would decline to the kind of dependence and high costs of financial contributions that Switzerland and Norway face. Little wonder, that the elites of those two countries want their nations to join the European Union.
A British exit could only be understood as a stab in the back to the European project, so the United Kingdom should not expect any sympathy. Such alienation would in all probability lead to the United Kingdom suffering worse conditions than Switzerland and Norway. A departing United Kingdom cannot take its access to the much-appreciated single European market as granted.
Less commented upon has been the danger that Cameron's strategy poses to the sovereigntist bloc in British politics. If the renegotiation-and-referendum strategy succeeds, the prime minister will have dealt a strong, and perhaps lethal blow to the Euroskeptic wing of his own party.
Last week, Human Rights Watch's Philippe Bolopion published a devastating indictment of the Rwandan government for its support of brutal rebels in eastern Congo. For Bolopion, the fact that Rwanda has just assumed a seat on the UN Security Council, engaged in "lifesaving work", makes its activity particularly noxious:
Few countries dare challenge the Security Council the way Rwanda does; even fewer get away with it. Yet on Tuesday, despite backing an abusive rebel group that has attacked U.N. peacekeepers in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda will take a two-year seat on the council. At the famous horseshoe table, Rwanda will get to make life-and-death decisions on the future of countries in crisis, including the very neighbor it is accused of destabilizing.
Bolopion is right to call out Rwanda and to note the incongruity of a country engaged in nefarious behavior serving on the body charged with maintaining international peace and security. But flouting Security Council resolutions is an activity hardly unique to Rwanda. And the problem of suspect Council membership is much more widespread than Bolopion implies. This month's Council president is Pakistan, which is almost certainly supporting elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan and is likely in violation of Council resolutions on countering terrorist activity. Plenty of other recent Council members have been conflict-ridden, including Lebanon and Nigeria. Gaddafi's Libya was a Council member in 2008-2009. Bosnia took a turn on the Council recently even though it lacks a functioning central government.
Rwanda's election to the Council is a symptom of a much broader problem with the UN's regional rotation and election system. The dominant view is that serving on elite UN bodies is a matter of right, not something that countries earn. It's a view that runs deep and is only beginning to yield.
I have a piece on the FP mainpage arguing that the steady accretion of global influence by key Non-Aligned Movement players poses a long-term challenge for the movement. How long will coming powers like India and Indonesia find the NAM identity useful? This post at the Wall Street Journal's IndiaRealTime blog makes clear that the Tehran summit has created some headaches for Indian diplomats:
The Prime Minister’s trip has placed New Delhi’s ties with Tehran under fresh scrutiny. On Wednesday, Mr. Singh is set to meet the Islamic Republic’s top rulers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the first meetings of this level since 2001.
Mr. Singh is expected to try to advance India’s energy and security interests by developing closer ties, but doing so without making the U.S. uncomfortable will be a challenge.
“India is not going to abandon Iran just because the U.S. wants it to,” says C. Raja Mohan, a fellow at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation. “But it doesn’t mean it will pick a fight with the U.S. either.”
Former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal argues here that, on balance, the NAM still serves Indian interests:
While extracting whatever is possible from it, India should treat its NAM membership as merely one component of its international positioning. While being clear sighted about NAM's limitations, for India it is nonetheless diplomatically useful to mobilise the movement to counter onesided, inequitable western prescriptions on key issues of trade, development, intellectual property rights, technology, environment, climate change, energy etc, and build pressure for consensus solutions.
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has just wrapped up a visit to Egypt, and she released a statement suggesting that the Fund will move quickly to design a loan package:
The authorities have indicated that Egypt would like the IMF to support Egypt’s economic program financially to help the country recover and to lay the foundation for strong growth that benefits all. We are responding quickly to this request. A technical team will be arriving in Cairo in the early September to work with the authorities on their program and discuss possible forms of financial support from the IMF.
Egypt faces considerable challenges, including the need to restart growth and reduce budget and balance of payments deficits. Getting the country’s economy back on track and raising the living standards for all will not be an easy task. The Egyptian people have legitimate expectations for a better life and greater social justice. We at the IMF, stand ready to help.
Anti-IMF sentiment has often run high in Egypt, and small groups of protesters reportedly demonstrated as Lagarde met senior officials.
Iran is trying its hand at ad hoc multilateralism on the Syria crisis. More than a dozen countries will be participating in a conference today in Tehran. Via Reuters:
At least 12 nations with "a correct and realistic position" would attend a meeting on Thursday in Tehran to discuss the conflict, a senior Iranian diplomat said this week, indicating that no nation that backs the opposition and calls for Assad to leave power would be present.
Russia - which along with Iran has strongly supported Assad since the crisis erupted 17 months ago - has said it will attend the meeting at ambassadorial level but it was unclear which other key players would be present.
Iranian media has reported that China would also be present, along with Algeria, Tajikistan, Venezuela, Pakistan, India and six members of the Arab League but there was no independent confirmation.
Its image as a "rogue" state notwithstanding, I've often heard from sources that the Iranian diplomatic service is highly competent. This conference has been billed as a foreign-ministers level meeting, but it appears that several countries will send ambassadors only and that other invitees won't participate at all. Even able diplomats may not be able to turn this event into anything more than a mediocre photo op.
European Union officials are chiding the United States for backtracking on its multilateral climate change commitments. Specifically, EU diplomats are dismayed by U.S. wavering on the goal of keeping climate increases below 2 degrees Celsius. Via the BBC:
At the 2010 UN climate convention meeting, governments agreed to take "urgent action" to meet the [2C] target.
But last week the chief US climate negotiator Todd Stern said insisting on the target would lead to "deadlock"....
Isaac Valero-Ladron, the EU's climate spokesman, said governments including the US had to live up to prior promises.
This most recent sparring is part of a continuing divergence between Washington and Brussels on global environmental policy. The United States and the EU had very distinct strategies for the recent Rio earth summit and reacted quite differently to the outcome document. U.S. officials mostly expressed satisfaction, while the lead EU negotiator grumbled about the document's lack of ambition and concrete goals.
There's also been longstanding tension over a planned European tax on carbon emissions by airliners. Earlier this month, the United States hosted more than a dozen countries--none European--to discuss the issue. The New York Times reported that "all the participating nations reaffirmed their strong opposition to the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)." Prodded by U.S. airlines, the Obama administration is apparently considering filing a formal complaint with the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization, a move that would likely sour relations further.
Update: U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern, whose speech last week triggered reports of a policy shift, has released a statement insisting there has been no change:
There have been some incorrect reports about comments I made in a recent speech relating to our global climate goal of holding the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. Of course, the US continues to support this goal; we have not changed our policy. My point in the speech was that insisting on an approach that would purport to guarantee such a goal -- essentially by dividing up carbon rights to the atmosphere -- will only lead to stalemate given the very different views countries would have on how such apportionment should be made. My view is that a more flexible approach will give us a better chance to actually conclude an effective new agreement and meet the goal we all share.
Kishore Mahbubani argues that China achieved a tactical victory but a strategic defeat when ASEAN ministers splintered badly earlier this month over what to say on the South China Sea:
For the first time in 45 years, the Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) failed to agree to a joint communique, ostensibly because Asean's current chair, Cambodia, did not want the communique to refer to bilateral disputes in the South China Sea. But the whole world, including most Asean countries, perceived Cambodia's stance as the result of enormous Chinese pressure.
China's victory proved to be Pyrrhic. It won the battle of the comminique, but it may have lost 20 years of painstakingly accumulated goodwill, the result of efforts such as the Asean-China free-trade agreement, signed in November 2002. More importantly, China's previous leaders had calculated that a strong and unified Asean provided a valuable buffer against any possible US containment strategy. Now, by dividing Asean, China has provided America with its best possible geopolitical opportunity in the region. If Deng Xiaoping were alive, he would be deeply concerned.
For a similar argument from the Lowy Institute's Graeme Dobell see here:
China overplayed its power to get a short-term diplomatic win in Phnom Penh; very short term. The cost of Beijing's 'win' was to galvanise ASEAN to a point of such anger that it tore up the final communiqué altogether. A bland document with the usual ASEAN-speak about ongoing dialogue would have been the usual ASEAN response. Instead, ASEAN is confronting its own purposes in a way that must have astounded Beijing even as much as it is surprising ASEAN itself.
What happened in Phnom Penh was a sign of how high the stakes have become. The diplomatic struggle reflects the power interests in play. A China that pushes so hard to win the communiqué argument is just as likely to overplay its naval strategy.
A very un-ASEAN war of words has broken out over who is responsible for the regional organization's failure to agree on a joint communiqué at the most recent ministerial meeting. The Philippines claims that Cambodia did not work energetically to achieve consensus on South China Sea language that most members could support. For its part, Cambodia appears to believe the Philippines insisted on importing its recent spat with China into the text in a way that several other members couldn't abide.
The Philippines is not directly accusing Cambodia of doing China's bidding, but other observers are less reticent:
Fairly or not - during Cambodia's time in the Asean chair, it has faced accusations of doing Beijing's bidding rather than supporting its colleagues.
Cambodia has tried - as far as possible - to keep the South China Sea issue off the agenda of Asean meetings.
Its refusal to allow a reference to the Philippines' dispute with China stymied attempts to issue a closing statement following last week's meetings.
It seemed to confirm the worst fears of diplomats about Asean's vulnerability to conflicts of interest caused by China's influence in the region.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has taken on the role of mediator after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to reach a common position on the row at a gathering in Phnom Penh last week.
"Despite suggestions to the contrary, in actual fact ASEAN remains united," Natalegawa told reporters in the Cambodian capital, on the third leg of a regional peacemaking tour after visiting Hanoi and Manila on Wednesday.
Natalegawa said he was working to identify "basic ASEAN positions on the South China Sea", which would dispel the perception that the 10-member group is divided.
"We are now on the cusp of formalising this consensus," Natalegawa said.
Indonesia's foray is its second high-profile effort to mend intra-ASEAN fences in as many years. Jakarta also sought to resolve last year's Thailand-Cambodia border dispute, with mixed results.
Bangladesh's government is engaged in an increasingly tough war of words with the World Bank. Last month, the lender cancelled funding for a high-profile bridge project, citing evidence of high-level corruption. The Bangladeshi authorities have chosen not to take the rebuke quietly. Via today's Guardian:
Ministers have sought to contain the damage from the highly embarrassing accusations of corruption made by the World Bank, portraying the row with the lender as a matter of "national honour", and calling on the World Bank not to punish the people of Bangladesh.
In a speech in parliament on 8 July, [Prime Minister] Hasina appealed to nationalist sentiment by invoking memories of the 1971 war of liberation. "They want us to beg. They want us to continue as guinea pigs," she said. "We will go ahead with this project using our own resources."
Hasina's government has laid out ambitious plans to mobilise resources, including levying surcharges and issuing sovereign bonds worth at least $750m (£480m). The prime minister said she had already told different ministries to slash development projects and divert the money to fund the $2.9bn Padma multipurpose bridge – a key election pledge.
As the article points out, this strategy carries risks for the government. External lenders could be available, but they would likely charge much more than the Bank. If it diverts its own scarce resources away from other projects, the government may face domestic consequences.
The confrontation could be consequential for the Bank as well, which has ramped up its efforts to combat corruption in recent years. Bangladesh is no bit player for the institution; last year, it was the largest recipient of loans through the Bank's International Development Association, dedicated to lending to low-income countries. If Bangladesh is able to finance the project without Bank support, that may create an important precedent for other low-income borrowers, many of whom chafe at the Bank's instrusive conditions and monitoring.
British foreign secretaryWilliam Hague announced today a rather unusual new government investigation: one designed to assess all the ways in which the European Union has power over the United Kingdom:
Every Government department will be ordered to establish which areas of everyday life are affected by EU regulations. The plan is to compile a complete audit of how Europe impinges on individuals, businesses and government.
The Foreign Office stressed that the audit was not about trying to identify which powers the Government might try and repatriate or scrap.
However, many Conservative MPs hope the study will lay the groundwork for a future Tory-only government to renegotiate a new membership deal with the EU.
The move appears calibrated to appease Eurosceptic elements in the Conservative party without opening the door to the referendum on British participation in the EU that some have advocated. Hague's statement announcing the audit hit key eurosceptic notes while abjuring any intention of breaking with the EU:
It is not a consultation about disengaging or withdrawing from the EU. The coalition government’s policy on Europe has not changed. We remain committed to our membership of the EU and to a strong and stable Europe.
I also believe the European Union’s future lies in continued variable geometry, in different layers of integration. Britain will choose not to take part in some layers, such as Schengen or the Euro, but will continue to play a leading part in completing the Single Market, championing free trade and enlargement, foreign policy and new areas like the Unitary Patent that benefits British business.
In the future it is my view, as it is the prime minister’s, that we must take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation. That should involve less cost, less bureaucracy, and less meddling in the issues that belong to nation states.
For their part, Labour representatives did not object to the audit but described it as "contextless and rather ahistorical."
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
The dust from the May 2011 U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden has long since settled. Bin Laden is dead and buried, the Pakistani authorities have razed the compound where he lived, and the troubled U.S. relationship with Pakistan limps along. In the legal academy, however, the raid remains a hot topic; the debate on the legality of the operation is just hitting its stride.
That debate has several distinct but overlapping elements, including whether a state of war exists (or even can exist) between the United States and al Qaeda; to what extent the "zone of conflict" in Afghanistan extends into Pakistan; whether Bin Laden himself was a "combatant"; and whether U.S. special forces should have attempted to capture bin Laden. To my mind, the most interesting question is whether the raid violated Pakistan's sovereignty and, in so doing, the UN Charter's restrictions on the use of force. That issue is a subset of a broader question that is critical to military operations against transnational groups: when do you need the consent of a state to conduct operations on its territory?
Several recent articles offer new perspective on that question. Writing in the Israel Law Review, German legal scholars Kai Ambos and Josef Alkatout remind readers that nothing in existing UN Security Council resolutions on terrorism explicitly allows for cross-border raids without the permission of the territorial state: "Quite the contrary, the relevant-antiterrorism resolutions...confirm the need for respect of the integrity of the territorial state concerned." Given this, they are skeptical that bin Laden's presence created a threat immediate enough to trigger the U.S. right to self defense and allow a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. Meagan Wong, writing in the Chinese Journal of International Law, mostly concurs:
As a general rule, prior consent from the territorial State should be a prerequisite to the use of extraterritorial force on its territory. In the light of these circumstances, a limited exception to this general rule may be allowed when there is an immediate necessity to use force to either halt or repel an armed attack. It goes without saying that the use of force can only be directed against the non-State actor and its military objective and not the territory of the State.
Responding to Ambos and Alkatout, David A. Wallace insists that the Pakistani government's incapacity or unwillingness to deal with terrorists on its soil rendered the operation perfectly legal: "the raid into bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad did not violate Pakistan’s sovereignty because Pakistan was unable or unwilling to prevent bin Laden from hiding in its territory and planning future attacks against the United States." But Wallace's analysis begs the question of how governments should assess unwillingness or inability. For a fuller elaboration of what that standard might mean, see this article by Ashley Deeks.
At a downtown briefing this morning, representatives of Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, and the Arms Control Association were modestly optimistic about the prospects of a useful arms trade treaty (ATT) emerging from UN negotiations that begin next week. Preliminary talks about such a treaty began in 2006, and that process will finally culminate in a month-long negotiating session in New York.
There was a lot of talk at the session about the absurdity that sales of bananas are more regulated internationally than sales of assault rifles and about the need for more states to enact domestic legislation regulating arms transfers. The assembled activists did leaven their optimism with a dose of reality. They acknowledged that the treaty almost certainly would not contain any binding language or enforcement mechanisms. Instead, every country will determine for itself whether an arms sale or transfer is likely to contribute to human rights violations. (Under the ATT likely to emerge, Russia could report that it has duly considered whether arming Syrian forces would lead to violations and decided that it would not. Nobody would be able to gainsay the Kremlin, at least not through the treaty mechanism.) What's more, the treaty negotiations will be conducted on a consensus basis (Washington insisted on that), which means that any state can block adoption of a text it doesn't like.
So given all this, why the optimism? Even in the absence of enforcement mechanisms or independent assessments of state claims, they believe an ATT will cement into international law the principle that states must consider the consequences before transfering weapons. They're hopeful that a treaty will provide new talking points to those condemning arms sales to bloody-minded regimes. And they contend that because the treaty may require states to adopt export legislation, it could open avenues for domestic activists and opposition groups to challenge sales by their governments.
Negotiations in New York are scheduled to run from July 2 through July 27.
The Obama administration has made reengagement with the UN's human rights infrastructure one of its signature accomplishments in the multilateral realm. In 2009, the U.S. campaigned for and won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a body that the Bush administration had spurned. Active U.S. diplomacy on the Council has helped produce a number of notable accomplishments, including condemnation of abuses by Iran, Libya, and Syria. As former State Department official Suzanne Nossel wrote recently:
Due in significant part to vigorous, determined efforts by the United States, the Human Rights Council demonstrates a newfound credibility as a human rights watchdog. The story of how the United States and others turned around the Human Rights Council since joining the body in 2009 offers a case study on effective tactics for achieving U.S. policy goals through multilateral diplomacy and advancing human rights norms at the United Nations.
The United States has laid special emphasis on the Council's use of special experts, individuals given a mandate to investigate some particular country or human rights theme. The U.S. fought successfully for the appointment of a special rapporteur for Iran and has urged states to cooperate fully with these and other experts. As a 2010 report by the Brookings Institution emphasized, these experts are highly dependent on cooperation from involved states: "Lack of state cooperation...represents the chief obstacle to their work. Failure to accept requests to visit, to respond to allegations and to follow up on their recommendations as well as hostile attacks on their work are the most glaring and widespread areas needing attention."
So how does the United States react when the council's experts want to scrutinize its behavior? In many cases, the U.S. record is positive. James Ayana, the Council's expert for indigenous issues, reported excellent cooperation from the administration. "I met with every agency and department with which I asked to meet in the administration," he told National Public Radio (Ayana did indicate however that he got little response from Capitol Hill).
Ted Piccone, author of the Brookings study, characterizes the United States as a "middling performer" in engaging with UN experts. A large number of rapporteurs have visited the United States and met with U.S. officials, but the U.S. government has not issued the kind of standing invitation that many other Western countries have. What's more, the United States often lags badly in responding to written requests from UN experts. "A lot of rapporteurs get no responses or get very insubstantial ones," he says.
Unsurprisingly, U.S. cooperation is least fulsome when UN experts request information about sensitive areas of national security and counterterrorism policy. The Human Rights Council's point person on extrajudicial killings recently expressed frustration with what he argues is a policy of evasion regarding U.S. targeted killings:
Christof Heyns, the U.N.'s independent investigator on extrajudicial killings, had asked the United States to lay out the legal basis and accountability procedures for the use of armed drones. He also wanted the U.S. to publish figures on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes against suspected terror leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.
After a two-day "interactive dialogue" with U.S. officials at the United Nations in Geneva, Heyns said he was still waiting for a satisfactory reply.
"I don't think we have the full answer to the legal framework, we certainly don't have the answer to the accountability issues," he told reporters on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting.
Heyns' predecessor, Philip Alston, was also displeased by the limited detail and exceedingly vague legal justifications U.S. officials offered regarding its drone campaign (U.S. officials issued a statement yesterday regarding the UN's inquiries here). Other UN experts have encountered similar obstacles. According to Piccone, a group of special rapporteurs that sought to visit Guantanamo Bay prisoners during the Bush administration were presented with a list of conditions they could not accept. More recently, the UN's rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, was repeatedly frustrated by the government's unwillingness to let him meet privately with the accused Wikileaks source Bradley Manning. Mendez was investigating whether holding Manning in solitary confinement for an extended period constituted torture.
The mixed U.S. record, particularly on sensitive national security matters, creates a potentially significant problem of double standards. After all, the issues the United States wants other countries to address tend to be their own most sensitive points, often going directly to national security and regime survival. Helping to reinvigorate the UN's human rights machinery has been positive in many respects. But it also invites some uncomfortable questions about how seriously the United States takes the system it's touting.
Writing in the Financial Times, Kevin Gallagher, Stephany Griffith-Jones, and Jose Antonio Ocampo urge the International Monetary Fund to adopt more flexibile guidelines on how states regulate international capital flows. The authors contend that the Fund's push for the free flow of international capital in the 1990s contributed to several international financial crises:
In the 1990s....the IMF pushed to amend the IMF Articles and require that all nations liberalize their capital accounts and effectively deregulate global financial flows. Just as the IMF’s effort was gaining momentum, capital account liberalization played a big role in the Mexican, Asian, and related financial crises of the 1990s. The attempt of the IMF to acquire authority over countries’ capital account was rejected.
In any case, after their own crises, nations shunned IMF loans when they could, and instead “self-insured” by accumulating reserves and putting in place capital account regulations (traditionally referred to as capital controls). Interestingly, recent IMF research has shown that those nations that regulated cross-border finance in the run up to the global financial crisis were among the least hard hit.
The authors acknowledge that the IMF has engaged in serious research on the topic recently but appear concerned that these new insights won't make their way into the final guidelines. Brazil, which has recently seen a flood of international capital, has been particularly active in making the case that goverments must have the right to control excessive inflows.
Last week, I wrote about Russia's prodding of the International Criminal Court to investigate any NATO war crimes in Libya. In that post, I argued that the UN Security Council resolution referring the Libya situation to the court precluded prosecutions of non-ICC member state nations. Not so fast, says Kevin Jon Heller, writing at Opinion Juris. He argues that the Security Council can't refer only part of a situation to the court: "Paragraph 6 of Res. 1970 might have made non-member NATO states feel better about the ICC referral, but it does not prohibit the ICC from prosecuting their nationals."
Heller and I agree that any prosecution of NATO forces is extremely unlikely,and the question of ICC jurisdiction will almost certainly remain an academic one. But it's an academic question that gets at an important dynamic: the relationship between the ICC and powerful states. Mark Kersten offers a great take on that here:
A wider issue, alluded to by Heller, Bosco and others, remains the relationship between the UN Security Council powers as the dispensers of ICC jurisdiction via referrals and the ICC as the guardians of the Rome Statute. The Libyan referral...was tailored to the political interests of the most powerful states on the Security Council. Not only did Operative Paragraph 6 seek to exclude citizens of non-state parties from the ICC’s jurisdiction, the Council also restricted the Court’s temporal jurisdiction to crimes committed after February 15, 2011, in contradiction to the Rome Statute which gives the Court jurisdiction back to July 1, 2002. But if these restrictions on the ICC contradict and contravene the Court’s legal mandate, has the OTP made an issue of it? The answer is no.
The OTP has remained completely silent on both the imposed restrictions on who can be investigated and prosecuted and the time period when the ICC can investigate. This silence falls precariously close to re-affirming the view that the infusion of political interests into international criminal justice will be unchallenged at best, eagerly accepted at worst.
The coming week's multilateral extravaganza kicks off with the G8 meeting at Camp David followed quickly by the NATO Summit in Chicago. Neither session is likely to produce much concrete, but both forums are worth celebrating. NATO is the much more venerable entity, but the G7/G8 has now been meeting for almost forty years and has proved useful as a coordinating committee of the world's most advanced economies. The summits will be presented as exercises in global diplomacy, but it's worth recalling that neither NATO nor the G8 are global, and neither are really representative of the world's array of political regimes. Both groups are stuffed with liberal democracies (Russia is the only member of either club that doesn't fit the bill).
NATO made liberal democratic principles part of its founding treaty. The preamble of that document declares its members' intention to "safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law." The alliance members made a notable concession to political reality right away by including Portugal (and they would make additional concessions later on), but NATO has retained its character as an alliance of liberal democracies.
Dean Acheson, U.S. secretary of state at the time of the alliance's founding, thought the enterprise had much better odds of success than the United Nations (about which Acheson was deeply skeptical) precisely because its members shared a common culture. "It is important to keep in mind," he said in a March 1949 broadcast, "that the really successful national and international institutions are those that recognize and express underlying realities. The North Atlantic community of nations is such a reality. It is based on the affinity and natural identity of interests of the North Atlantic powers."
To an extent, the G7/G8 has also represented an important underlying reality: that the world's most advanced economies have common interests and a shared vision of the world economy and financial system. Somewhat against the odds, the forum has persisted even after the G20 was declared the world's "premier forum" for international economic cooperation. Some observers attribute the group's sticking power to its greater coziness; once invited guests are included, G20 events have become quite large. But Stewart Patrick argues insightfully here that the G8's persistence is not just a matter of size; the political similarities of the G8 countries (Russia again partially excluded) have kept the forum relevant in the face of a challenge from the more representative G20:
[L]eaders from the developed world have clearly decided that it's useful to continue meeting as a smaller group, hammer out some consensus on the major problems that they all confront, and coordinate a response to major global shifts--without having to talk about every (often valid) gripe of all twenty countries in the G20. The seven leaders (not including the Russian substitute) have a diverse set of tasks from their electorates, but are far more aligned than the G20--in terms of both motivations and domestic constraints.
To the extent these forums remain useful and effective, they may be a vindication not of multilateralism per se but of cooperation and coordination between essentially like-minded governments.
One of the more notable trends in South Korea's recent foreign policy has been an embrace of multilateral institutions, both at the regional and global level. When Seoul hosted the G20 summit in 2010, the government spared no effort to highlight South Korea's global role, and particularly its potential to serve as a bridge between the developing and developed worlds. There were even reports that the Korean government was keen to host a permanent G20 secretariat. Seoul's embrace of international summitry has continued. In March, the country hosted the Nuclear Security Summit, which brought together more than fifty countries.
Seoul's enthusiasm for multilateral diplomacy is being reciprocated. Quietly, South Korean nationals are collecting an impressive set of multilateral posts. Most notable of course is Ban Ki-moon, former Korean foreign minister, who was elected to his second term as UN Secretary-General last year. But Korea also boasts the president of the International Criminal Court, Sang-Hyun Song. The next World Bank president, Jim Kim, is American of course, but he was born in South Korea and lived there as a child. Kim was not shy about highlighting that fact as he sought global support for his candidacy.
The South Korean winning streak continues. Just a few days ago, the World Trade Organization named a new member of its powerful Appellate Body, which has final say on trade disputes. He is Chang Seung-wha, a trade expert from Seoul National University.
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is sounding an optimistic note on the hunt for fugitive Joseph Kony. Via AFP:
Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony will be captured or killed this year, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said Thursday.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo added that the "Kony 2012" video, produced by the Invisible Children advocacy group and viewed nearly 100 million times online, forever changed a conflict that has raged since the late 1980s in relative obscurity.
"We reached a complete new generation," following the 28-minute video's release, said Moreno-Ocampo, who in 2005 secured an arrest warrant for Kony and four of his top deputies, two of whom have since died.
"Kony will be arrested or killed before the end of this year," the Argentinian Moreno-Ocampo told journalists, without specifying why he felt the elusive rebel leader would finally be found.
Moreno-Ocampo wraps up his nine-year term as prosecutor in the next few months.
In today's New York Times, David Gordon and Douglas Rediker (who was, until recently, one of the U.S. representatives to the Fund) worry that the Euro crisis is undermining the independence of the International Monetary Fund. Because the IMF has played second fiddle in bailouts orchestrated by Europe, they see a danger that the Fund is subordinating its analysis functions to elements of the EU:
Moving forward, the I.M.F. must loosen its partnership with the commission and the E.C.B. While coordination remains critical, the I.M.F. should make clear that on financial matters, it remains in sole command of how its resources will be deployed.
In particular, the fund must present its financial analysis separately from any key political deals that might be struck by other troika members, allowing markets to assess the underlying assumptions. Only then will I.M.F. programs lend market players the confidence to re-engage with those countries that desperately need private capital. Maintaining credibility will also reassure the fund’s shareholders that I.M.F. resources are being deployed in a manner consistent with the organization’s mandate as a global financial truth-teller.
If the I.M.F. is involved, it needs to be on its own, and not anyone else’s, terms. Ignoring that truth will have dire consequences for global finance, and bolstering the fund’s resources this week won’t change that.
The trick, of course, is that Europe is heavily represented on the IMF board and led by a former European finance minister. It is of course reasonable to demand that senior IMF officials and staff, whatever their state of origin, act in the best interests of the institution and the international financial system more broadly. But it makes little sense to ask European board members (appointed by European states) to analyze potential loan packages without reference to the broader strategy of their governments. What's missing from the piece is an acknowledgement that the IMF is in very important respects an intergovernmental organization, and that European governments are key players.
I also think Gordon and Rediker greatly overestimate market confidence in the IMF. They cite the African overlending of the 1990s and the current Euro crisis as unfortunate departures from an otherwise strong record of independent analysis. But in fact there's very strong evidence in a much broader array of cases that IMF analysis and lending practices have been influenced by political considerations. Randall Stone, in particular, has done great work documenting how the United States has often intervened informally to loosen IMF conditionalty for key allies and strategic partners. Nor does the IMF have a strong recent track record of independent analysis. The Fund failed completely to sniff out the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and an internal evaluation determined that a variety of cognitive biases may have played a role.
In short, it's hard to imagine that the Eurozone lending packages are teaching the markets anything new about the Fund's shortcomings.
According to this account, Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has conceded that the race to lead the World Bank is over (formal action is expected later today). In so doing, however, she is bolstering the narrative that, however flawed, the process has been a step forward for the institution:
"You know this thing is not really being decided on merit," Ms Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance Minister and a former World Bank managing director, told reporters at a briefing on the country's 2012 budget.
"It is voting with political weight and shares and therefore the United States will get it."
The World Bank's directors meet on Monday to decide who will be the powerful institution's next chief, with all expectations that the United States will maintain its unbroken lock on the position.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said that despite the apparent failure of developing nations to have a nominee appointed to the post, her candidacy had helped inject change into the process.
Today's Guardian features a good examination of the broad legal arguments surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Like a post I wrote several weeks ago on the subject, it pits the views of legal scholars like Anthony D'amato against the more conventional interpretations of what uses of force are permissible.
But that article and my own posts have focused entirely on international law addressing the resort to force (questions governed by the UN Charter and by customary law regarding self-defense and aggression). Almost all writing that I've seen on the subject has omitted a different but potentially important legal question: whether striking a nuclear facility can be legal under the rules that govern how conflicts are fought. Reza Nasri, a PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, sent me some interesting thoughts on the matter:
Under [international humanitarian law], not only are these [nuclear] facilities considered civil objects by nature and purpose, but they also fall under a particular category of specifically protected objects. This is what Article 56 of Additional Protocol I expressly provides in this regard: “Works and installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population”.
This means that under the laws of warfare, the humanitarian cost of attacking such hazardous installations is deemed to be so high that no military considerations will likely justify their targeting. In fact, some authors even argue that attacking nuclear installations should be subject to an absolute prohibition just as the use of chemical and a biological weapons is, no matter what “military advantage” their destruction could confer to the assailant.
The provision that Nasri cites is not included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but the Rome Statute does include a provision that makes illegal:
Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.
Of course neither Israel nor Iran are members of the ICC, and so the question is academic for the moment. But it doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility that Iran might, in advance of a strike, take a page out of the Palestinian playbook and submit a declaration giving the ICC jurisdiction over its territory. Doing so would, at the very least, create some headaches for Israeli legal advisors.
More: Martin Holterman, a researcher at the European University Institute, offers this reaction:
Given the politics of the matter, Israeli lawyers wouldn't need a "guaranteed-win" argument. Instead, all they need is an argument that is plausible enough to convince people who are already on their side and everyone who is more or less neutral. In order to do that, all they have to do is prove (in the court of public opinion) that the attack is not “clearly excessive”....What we’re comparing is the loss of life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects on the one hand, and that only insofar as it was foreseeable, and the advantage of not being nuked by Iran on the other hand. Now obviously the latter is to be discounted by the fact that an Iranian nuclear attack is by no means a certainty, but still. (I’m ignoring the “natural environment” thing because, well, come on…) Let’s put a number on it: Unless the Israeli attack gets hundreds or thousands of civilians killed, they’ll be OK in the court of public opinion, and therefore also in the actual Court in The Hague.
News reports today suggest that India will likely bring two new cases against the United States at the World Trade Organization. The first relates to the cost of U.S. work visas, which India claims discriminate against Indian information technology firms. The second likely case charges that a U.S. import duty on steel pipes violates international trade rules. The Indian moves come just a few weeks after the United States filed a complaint based on Indian poultry restrictions (India insists that the restrictions are based on health concerns). According to WTO data, these new cases would make India a country that complains to the organization as often as it responds to complaints.
In today's Washington Post, Fred Hiatt accuses the president of being soft on freedom. As he tells the story, the Arab Spring has been a historic opportunity that the White House has mostly fumbled; successes--Libya notably--have mostly been at the insistence of others. This argument is a familiar one and has been well debated. What interests me most is Hiatt's explanation for the absence of presidential passion. It's not because the president is a realist, says Hiatt, it's because he's a multilateralist:
[Obama's] stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. The democrats’ uprising in Iran threatened his hopes of negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran’s rulers. Aid to Syria’s democrats requires approval from the U.N. Security Council, which is unattainable without Russian and Chinese acquiescence.
His instincts might have been predicted from the 2007 article, which was contemptuous of the “conventional thinking” of the Bush administration that viewed problems as “state-based.” Obama promised to “rebuild the alliances, partnerships and institutions necessary to confront common threats.”
Hiatt doesn't make the case all that persuasively. But his analysis is a good reminder of a fundamental difference between the neoconservative worldview and the liberal interventionist one: the role of international institutions and law. Those of a neoconservative persuasion aren't much interested in global architecture; they're intent on achieving liberal, democratic governance at the national level whenever and wherever possible. Indeed, they believe that consensus-based international organizations and procedures tend to obstruct that enterprise as often as facilitate it. Liberal interventionists share the desire to spread freedom and the conviction that outsiders can help do so, but they also care deeply about building international architecture (almost always) and respecting international rules (usually).
There appear to be two principal differences at work. First, the two camps likely disagree over the extent to which international organizations and rules are an obstacle to maximizing freedom. Neoconservatives seem to have burned in their collective image of the United Nations the spectacle of dictators, despots, and fellow travelers employing their voting weight to protect their own and attack actual democracies. Liberals, as is their wont, acknowledge the problems but see progress and growth. A key recent example would the work of the UN Human Rights Council. Neoconservatives remain highly dismissive of the body while mainstream liberal interventionists have hailed its moves on Syria, Libya, and a host of other issues.
Second, and this is even more speculative, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists may part ways on the importance of global architecture once freedom has been maximized and despotic regimes ousted. In the neoconservative worldview, it often seems that collective action problems other than getting rid of despotism either do not exist or are so insignificant that they do not merit the kind of international architecture that liberals cherish (or perhaps they believe that we should contemplate new forms of global governance only once the overwhelming majority of states are liberal democracies). To liberals, by contrast, it is self evident that more advanced global governance is necessary not just to promote democracy but to deal with a host of other shared governance issues. This assumption is so hard wired in liberal thinking that the development of international organization often appears to be an end in itself.
More: Over at Andrew Sullivan's place, Zach Beauchamp argues that an even more salient difference between the camps is confidence in the efficacy of military force:
While both liberals and neoconservatives are often supportive of military interventions, the former group doesn't require a belief in the general efficacy of military force as a condition of entry.
Liberals often differ sharply about, for example, humanitarian intervention: it's entirely coherent to self-describe as both a foreign policy liberal and believe that humanitarian intervention usually does more harm than good. Neoconservatism, by contrast, makes a belief in the morality and efficacy of preventative wars against rogue states (Iraq, Iran), nation-building endeavors (Afghanistan post-2009), and overwhelming US military dominance more broadly into bedrock principles. While liberals might endorse any or all of those three, it's not at all required by liberal commitments that they do so.
Even more: A reader offers this smart take:
Liberal Interventionists care about international legitimacy, but they also care about going to war for humanitarian reasons. When the two come into conflict, the liberal interventionist comes up with some fig-leaf of legitimacy--a UN Resolution twisted behind recognition, a NATO sanction, an Arab League invitation--that serves as a green light to go to war.
The neoconservative sees the US as moral authority enough, pausing for international sanction only as a coalition-building tool, either domestically (securing votes in Congress) or to get allies on board.
Liberal internationalists may, in the end, be as willing as neoconservatives to ride roughshod over international law. But they feel sort of bad about it and wish they didn't have to do it.
In today's New York Times, Aryeh Neier contends that an Arab League tribunal should investigate crimes being committed in Syria. With the International Criminal Court out of the game (unless the Security Council agrees to refer the matter), Neier is understandably casting about for another way of bringing justice to bear. In so doing, he strongly suggests that creating an Arab League tribunal would mitigate the conflict and deter future atrocities:
[T]he urgent need to prevent further atrocities justifies giving [perpetrators] an incentive to stop. Of course, some of those responsible for crimes would imagine that they would never be apprehended and brought to justice. Yet the record of other international tribunals makes it increasingly necessary for them to take such courts seriously.
That's a questionable claim. Neier cites the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as an important precedent but slides over the fact that the war's worst atrocity (the Srebrenica massacre) occurred after the court was up and running--and, indeed, after key Bosnian Serb leaders had been indicted. Nor are the more recent Darfur and Libya cases (both investigated by the International Criminal Court) strong evidence for the deterrent power of international justice. Despite a weak evidentiary record, key supporters of international justice persistently make deterrence claims. I don't understand why. As they would certainly acknowledge, justice is a worthy end in itself.
I spoke recently with Judge Sang-Hyun Song, who serves as president of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Elected by all the ICC judges, the president oversees the operations of the court and often represents the institution internationally. Judge Song was in Washington for a series of meetings marking the tenth anniversary of the court, which opened for business in July 2002.
We spoke at some length about the recent verdict in the Lubanga case--and the fact that it took more than three years to achieve. He acknowledged that the length of the proceeding suggests a need for reform:
We at the ICC have repeatedly talked about a need to conduct a lessons learned exercise as soon as one judicial cycle is completed...we believe now is the time to commence this lessons learned exercise.
But Song also cast the prolonged Lubanga trial as an important exercise in institution-building. The case featured repeated clashes between the prosecutor and the panel of judges assigned to it, and Song believes those clashes were critical in enforcing judicial limits over the prosecutor.
There was some procedural tension between the chamber and the prosecutor and this tension itself was a cause for delay. Eventually, the judiciary successfully reined in the Prosecutor’s possible abuse of power. It’s the first case that the ICC has ever handled. We the judges and that particular chamber were determined to set the procedures straight and correct, once and for all, despite all the objections from the prosecutor and the defense.
One of the persistent objections that the ICC faces is that its work embodies a double-standard: tough scrutiny for weaker states, particularly in Africa, but a hands-off approach to conflicts involving big players. Song insisted that the court is simply following the world's worst crimes:
I don’t think the ICC has deliberately targeted weaker, poorer African countries. In my view, what is being targeted is not any country, what is being targeted is impunity, which is more rampant in that particular continent than any other part of the world.
There's been plenty of impunity in Syria, where the death toll is approaching 10,000, mostly civilians. For jurisdicitional reasons, the court has not opened an investigation of the conflict, and I asked Song whether the Security Council should now refer the matter to the court. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he chose not to comment on the Council's performance:
[T]o reach that decision the 15 countries on the Council will inevitably be engaged in all kinds of political debates. It’s their job. As the representative of a judicial institution, I’m not in a position of indicating anything one way or the other. It’s a political decision of the Security Council.
Song was somewhat less restrained, however, when it came to matters the Security Council has already referred to the court (Sudan and Libya). I asked him, in particular, about the Council's lack of action on visits to neighboring countries by Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, in defiance of an outstanding arrest warrant.
The ICC in the form of judicial findings sent a non-cooperation report to the Security Council for action. Every time non-cooperation has happened, we sent our report to the Council, and the Council has been sitting on them for quite some time. We hope that as a leading member of the Security Council the United States will play a more active role to get these things done.
That frustration aside, Song was almost joyful about the way in which the court's relationship with the United States has evolved in the past decade, including under the second Bush administration.
A group of us arrived at the court in March 2003....[and we] were not at all sure about whether this new baby would be able to survive all the hostility shown by the big powers....At that time the U.S. embassy in the Hague was under instructions not to even make contact with the ICC judges. We were never invited to the July 4th reception. As of three or four years ago, this attitude completely changed. The U.S. is now flexible, open, and cooperative with us. When I went to the State Department and met with Stephen Rapp, Harold Koh and Esther Brimmer, they all gave me one common catchphrase: positive engagement on the part of the Obama administration.
The South Korean jurist believes that, but for intervening events, the rapprochement between the court and the superpower might have gone even further:
[Bureaucratic obstacles] completely prevented the new administration from doing any overall review of their policy and then as the economic situation deteriorated, the ICC has to yield to other items in terms of priorities. The ICC became less of a priority than many other things.
In a speech today in Washington, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde made the case that the United States should commit new resources to the Fund--and approve commitments already made. She argued that the Fund's global firewall needs improvement, and that the current calm in the Euro crisis is the time to do it:
The recovery is still very fragile. The financial system in Europe is still under heavy strain. Debt is still too high, public and private. Stubbornly high unemployment is straining the seams of society. Rising oil prices have the potential to do a lot of damage.
What is crucial at this point is that policymakers use the breathing space to finish the job, and not lapse into complacency or insularity.
Lagarde insisted that any new U.S. resources for the Fund will be returned with interest:
[T]he IMF is a good investment for all our members, including the United States. Your money is not drawn upon until needed. Your money earns interest. Your money is used prudently—our programs always carry rigorous conditions to ensure their effectiveness.
No member country has ever lost money by contributing to IMF resources—and I assure you that will not change on my watch.
One last point: as the tectonic plates shift in the global economy—with dynamic emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, and China assuming an ever-greater role—these changes are also being reflected at the IMF. Our members have approved reforms to increase the quota share of these countries. Now countries must implement these reforms, and we are urging all to make progress by the time of our Annual Meetings later this year.
Even with these reforms, the United States will retain its leadership role as our largest shareholder.
The managing director also pointed out that, in historical terms, the IMF's resources are relatively low:
[T]he time has come to increase our firepower. The ratio of Fund quotas to world GDP is significantly lower today than in the past. Sixty years ago, it was as much as 3-4 times higher. We’ve a lot of ground to make up.
To my mind, this is part of the the case that the Obama administration should have been making to Congress and the public for months. It has mostly chosen not to, deeming the political waters too hostile.
The nomination process for the next World Bank president has yielded three official candidates: Jim Kim of the United States, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, and Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia (Jeffrey Sachs withdrew his candidacy after the United States nominated Kim). According to new procedures agreed to last year, candidates will now interview separately with the Bank's executive board, comprised of 25 executive directors. Once the interviews are complete, the board can begin its deliberations. Along the way, the body has the option of conducting an informal straw poll to test support for the various candidates and potentially winnow the field (the procedures recommend, but do not require, a straw poll if there are more than three candidates).
When it comes time to make a decision, most board members will likely push to do so by consensus rather than by vote. The procedures declare "the objective of the Board of Executive Directors is to select the President by consensus." In most cases, the Bank's board does operate by consensus; formal votes are relatively rare. Few key players will want to see the new president elected by a divided board. But of course the formal voting power of individual Bank members and the voting rules will shape even a decision ultimately taken by consensus, and so it's worth reviewing the somewhat byzantine World Bank voting mechanics:
--Each country that belongs to the Bank possesses a certain number of voting shares, and electing the Bank president requires a simple majority of the votes cast. The United States is the largest shareholder, with nearly 16 percent. This share is enough to block Board action on some matters (changing the Bank's articles or bylaws, for example), which require an 85 percent supermajority. Oddly enough, electing the Bank president does not require supermajority support. This is important; it has sometimes been assumed that the United States has the ability, on its own, to veto any candidate. As a question of practical politics it may have that power, but not as a formal matter.
--Voting share is based on the shares a given country holds, which is in turn based (loosely) on economic size. Taken together, the United States and the executive directors from European Union countries have a combined voting share that is almost exactly fifty percent. If the European board members all honor the "gentlemen's agreement" that has given the World Bank presidency to the United States and the the top IMF post to Europe, the election may be all but over. No other regional bloc can muster that kind of voting power; all African directors together, for example, account for less than six percent of voting share.
--Votes are cast by the executive directors. Major players--the United States, Japan, Germany, France, China, the United Kingdom, Russia and Saudi Arabia--have their own executive directors, but most countries form country groupings that "share" a director. The executive director from Austria, for example, represents Austria, Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Turkey. When he casts his vote, he votes the collected voting share of those countries, and there is no provision for splitting up that share.
This complicated structure generates several questions:
--Will the executive directors from EU countries line up behind the same candidate, or will they split? For the most part, the EU countries attempt to coordinate their policies at the World Bank and IMF (and here there is the added incentive of protecting European privilege at the IMF), but bloc voting is not a given. And it's worth noting that several EU executive directors include in their groups non-EU countries, which may complicate their decision. The Austrian director, for example, will have to at least think about what Turkey wants.
--Will the emerging countries and the developing world split their support between Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala? A key question will be whether the BRICS attempt to pool their voting power. They have occasionally attempted to present a unified front on global governance issues, but it's not clear that they will be able to do so here.
--Will a straw poll lead to the exit of either Okonjo-Iweala or Ocampo (likely the latter) and allow for support to consolidate behind one non-American candidate?
--Does Ocampo have broad support among Latin American countries? Unlike Okonjo-Iweala, who received the endorsement of the African Union, Ocampo has not received the formal backing of a regional organization, and it's not clear that all major players in the region support his candidacy.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.