Many observers of this year's United Nations meetings focused on two tests to the organization's credibility. Most central was whether the Security Council could enact an enforceable roadmap for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. The Syria negotiations dominated news coverage of the , but the potential visit of indicted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to the UN was a notable subplot. Key human rights groups warned that a Bashir visit to New York would have been an embarrassment to the organization and a blow to the notion of accountability for grave crimes.
With the annual meetings moving toward their close, what can we say about the outcome of these tests? I'd argue that both suggest a phenomenon that could be termed global governance by annoyance. Last week, the Security Council adopted a resolution requiring Syria to relinquish its weapons and to cooperate with international inspectors. But the Council left quite murky what it would do in the case of noncompliance. In effect, the Council punished the Assad regime by making him reckon with a group of pesky investigators who will likely struggle for weeks and maybe months to secure access and ensure that the regime hands over its stockpile. The unarmed inspectors won't pose any threat to the regime, but their presence might in certain circumstances complicate its operations. At the very least, they'll force the regime to think frequently about how to manage the international presence.
For its part, the Bashir drama ended without a visit to New York. The precise reason for Bashir's change of plans are unclear. Maybe he never planned on coming and was using the threat of an awkward appearance as leverage. It's possible he wasn't granted a visa in time. Protests at home may have changed his mind. Perhaps he even worried that his plane would be intercepted en route. Whatever the reason, it's clear that the ICC indictment serves as a continuing impediment to Bashir's travel and to the enjoyment of the normal perks of being a head-of-state.
Widely perceived has having flouted basic global norms, Assad and Bashir now both find themselves vexed--if not exactly threatened--by international institutions. Through a dark lens, the fact that they are not more directly challenged demonstrates the fecklessness of global governance mechanisms. The Syrian regime hasn't yet been punished in a meaningful way for its chemical attack and stands free to pursue its campaign against rebel forces; Sudan's Bashir is still president and still has a mostly free (and bloody) hand within his borders. But the annoyance factor may still be significant, not least for other serving and potential heads of state watching the spectacle.
The outlines of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria are now clear. The permanent five members have struck a deal, and it's expected that the full Council will approve it as early as this evening.
As with most contentious Council resolutions, this one has multiple layers, lots of ambiguity, and is subject to a range of different interpretations. Colum Lynch sees in the outcome Russian mastery of the UN's procedures:
A draft U.N. resolution that was endorsed this afternoon by the U.N.'s five big powers -- and which is expected to be approved by full the Security Council in a matter of days -- threatens no automatic penalties against Syria if it fails to comply with its obligations or even if it launches a fresh chemical attack....
But if Syria cheats, the president will find himself constrained from acting. Under the terms of the resolution, a committee of diplomats and functionaries from the United Nations and the Organization on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will determine whether Syria has violated the terms of the agreement.
The matter would then be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. In principle, Russia has agreed that in the event of a Syrian violation it is prepared to impose measures under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter -- a provision that is used to authorize sanctions or the use of military force.
But it doesn't have to. A provision of a confidential draft resolution proposed last week by Russia suggests how difficult it may be to convince Russia to press ahead with any stern measures. First, Russia insisted that evidence of a violation be "indisputable and proved" and that it must be of a particular "gravity" to merit the adoption of a new resolution. So far, according to U.S. and European officials, Russia has disputed what they believe is indisputable evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against his own people on August 21. The latest draft has also dropped a provision calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute those responsible for using chemical weapons. Instead, he council will merely states that perpetrators of such attach should be held accountable for their crimes.
Writing at Think Progress, Hayes Brown offers a much more sanguine view:
What the two sides agreed to as a compromise in the draft resolution agreed to on Thursday is elegant in its simplicity and tremendously important for future resolutions. Rather than the preferred language of “Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter” to indicate its binding nature, the draft resolution instead reads “Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 [...] to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions.” Which is true and plain as can be within the Charter.
The use of that language clearly managed to win over the Russians and Chinese and allow for a much stronger resolution than would otherwise be expected given the high stakes. In particular, the draft makes judicious use of some of the strongest phrasing available to the Council — such as “Demands,” “Decides,” and “shall” — that give the decisions made heft under international law and indicates commitments that the international community doesn’t just recommend but fully requires Syria to follow through on.
My lawyerly side also likes that the resolution moves beyond the silly notion that Chapter VII resolutions are legally binding while others are not. But that's a sideshow. The key question, of course, is how the Council will judge whether Syria has complied and what it will do if Syria hasn't. The question of who determines non-compliance is left a bit vague in the draft resolution. But as Colum Lynch noted, outside actors appears to be in control. The resolution provides that the Council:
Decides to review on a regular basis the implementation in the Syrian Arab Republic of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council and this resolution, and requests the Director-General of the OPCW to report to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, who shall include relevant information on United Nations activities related to the implementation of this resolution, within 30 days and every month thereafter, and requests further the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General to report in a coordinated manner, as needed, to the Security Council, non-compliance with this resolution or the OPCW Executive Council decision...
It's almost certainly a good thing from the standpoint of enforcement that the Council itself doesn't determine noncompliance. The OPCW chief is a Turkish national with plenty of NATO experience and may be primed to declare that the Syrian regime isn't playing ball. But it is almost certain that a determination of compliance will be a drawn-out affair that affords the regime time. If the Assad regime is smart, it will maintain a slow but steady pace of concessions on the ground even as it pushes its advantage over rebel forces. (The regime will very likely be able to keep a strategic reserve of chemical weapons out of international hands in case of emergency). But let's say that the OPCW does finally throw up its hands. What happens then? The penultimate paragraph of the draft provides that the Council:
Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter;
As implied threats go, this is pretty weak sauce. Depending on how one defines "measures", this could mean simply another stern resolution, sanctions, an ICC referral, or, conceivably, an authorization of force. Past resolutions in similar contexts have included much more threatening language, such as "serious consequences." In short, if the OPCW decides Syria is out of compliance, the Council has pledged to do something under Chapter VII. And anyone familiar with the Council's work knows that a Council pledge is what Mary Poppins would call a pie-crust pledge: easily made, easily broken.
I draw two conclusions from the Council's work. First, this is not nothing. It sets into a place a process for, at the very least, reducing Syria's chemical stockpile and making it harder to deploy. If one's aim is nothing more than to insist that the international community won't shrug at the use of these weapons, this resolution counts as a success. Any leader contemplating their use knows that he will likely face some kind of international response.
But in the broader political and strategic context, the resolution is a victory for the Assad regime and its Russian backers. The status quo is working in their favor. A few weeks ago, the regime faced the imminent threat of military force that might have changed that status quo. Now, it faces the annoyance of inspectors and an obligation that may or may not be enforced to hand over its chemical weapons. Meanwhile, the regime's campaign to defeat its opponents can continue mostly unimpeded. As a bonus, regime officials don't face the threat of international prosecution. For regime leaders battling for survival, that threat probably wouldn't have mattered all that much. But it's nice not to worry about.
I actually don't chalk this up to Western diplomats having been outnegotiated by wily Russian veterans. Once the threat of imminent military force receded, leverage on this issue shifted decisively. The West needed a resolution to prove that something was being done and that its somewhat ham-handed threat of force had been worthwhile. And when you sorely need something at the Security Council, that means you've got to pay the price, often in rubles.
It's official: the next summit meeting of NATO heads of state will take place in the United Kingdom. The Guardian reports:
Britain is to host next year's Nato summit for the first time since the end of the cold war in 1990.
The prime minister, David Cameron, said the biennial gathering would be an "important moment in the history of the alliance".
"It will be an opportunity for leaders to recognise the contribution and the sacrifice made by our servicemen and women as the Isaf mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, and as Nato draws down its forces and looks to help Afghanistan in different ways," he said.
"The summit will also be about the future of our alliance. Britain has always been at the forefront of shaping the alliance, from its start in 1949 to Nato's current operations, and the 2014 summit will be critical in ensuring Nato remains a relevant, modern, adaptable force fit for the 21st century."
The chance for a hallway encounter between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart has come and gone:
After two days of discussions between American and Iranian officials about a potential meeting of the leaders, a senior administration official said the Iranian delegation indicated that it would be “too complicated” for Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama to bump into each other.
“We did not intend to have a formal bilateral meeting and negotiation of any kind,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. “For them, it was just too difficult for them to move forward with that type of encounter at the presidential level, at this juncture.”
But another notable sideline meeting between adversaries appears to be in the works. Via Reuters:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif will meet this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Singh said on Wednesday, amid heightened tension between the neighbours over Kashmir.
Analysts expect the meeting will address a series of fatal clashes along the Line of Control dividing the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, events that followed a pact by the two nations to resume stalled talks to strengthen ties.
Most accounts suggest that a Singh-Sharif meeting will be much more substantive and detailed than an Obama-Rouhani confab was ever going to be. And it's at least arguable that it deals with an even more dangerous situation.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff kicked off this year's General Assembly session by directly criticizing the United States for alleged snooping on the electronic communications of Brazilian government officials, businesses and citizens. Coming on the heels of the cancellation of a planned state visit to Washington, Rousseff's challenge to the United States won headlines around the world.
The rest of Rousseff's speech received much less attention, which is unfortunate. By through what she said and what she didn't, it shed light on how Brazil sees itself fitting into the multilateral architecture. The NSA scandal will blow over soon enough, but that deeper question of how emerging powers like Brazil fit is here to stay.
Rousseff spoke at length about the shortcomings and inequities of the current world order. She warned that the International Monetary Fund must at long last complete reforms to give emerging powers greater say, and she lamented that the Security Council has still not reformed its antiquated membership structure. This is all pretty standard stuff from Brazilian leaders, who have repeatedly argued that multilateral institutions need revamping.
Rousseff then pivoted to some of the challenges that the Council faces--including Syria and the Middle East peace process. One might think that a leading aspirant to a permanent Council seat would offer substantive thoughts on how those crises should be addressed. How important is the norm against chemical weapons use? Is it ever legitimate to use force without Council authorization? Brazil's position on those questions could be influential. Its officials have often articulated a vision of world order that relies less on coercion than dialogue. But Rousseff steered well clear of that sensitive ground. Instead, she strained to link Brazil's push for a permanent seat to the broad discontent with the Council's performance on Syria:
The limited representation of the UN Security Council is an issue of grave concern, considering the challenges posed by the 21 st century.The immense difficulty in offering a solution to the Syrian crisis and the paralysis in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exemplify this concern.In dealing with important issues, the recurring polarization between permanent members generates a dangerous paralysis.
We must provide the Council with voices that are at once independent and constructive. Only the expansion of the number of permanent and non permanent members and the inclusion of developing countries in both categories will correct the Council's deficit of representation and legitimacy.
But legitimacy to do what? And why should we expect the addition of new voices to alleviate the tension between the existing veto-holders? Brazilian officials lean heavily on concepts like legitimacy to push their case for greater voice but rarely explain how that voice will improve global governance. With the world's leaders watching, Rousseff had a chance to weigh in on a developing crisis; she opted instead to go after the NSA.
Kenya's second-in-command, William Ruto, wants to be at home to help deal with the mall attack by Islamic extremists. The problem? He's on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over charges stemming from 2007-2008 violence. According to Reuters, Ruto's lawyers have asked the court to grant him leave to return home:
Judges at the International Criminal Court will meet on Monday to decide if Kenya's deputy president can return home to deal with the armed occupation at a Nairobi shopping mall in which 59 people have been killed, a person close to events said.
In a filing seen by Reuters, William Ruto's lawyers had asked judges to meet in emergency session on Sunday to adjourn the trial. If it had been granted, Ruto could have left The Hague for Nairobi on Sunday evening.
Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, also faces an ICC trial slated to begin in November. Both Ruto and Kenyatta have insisted that they will continue to cooperate with the ICC, but court officials and human rights advocates have decried what they see as a quiet campaign to discourage witnesses from testifying.
On other fronts, the tussle between Nairobi and The Hague is much more open. Kenya's Parliament recently supported withdrawing from membership in the court (that hasn't happened yet). And at the regional level, Kenyan diplomats are reportedly encouraging large-scale withdrawals from the ICC by African states. The spectacle of Ruto pleading for permission to return home in the midst of a crisis may deepen official African discomfort with an institution many see as interfering with diplomatic processes.
The United Nations Human Rights Council experts tasked with examining North Korea's human rights record have produced initial findings. North Korea has not cooperated with the probe, and Council investigators have focused on interviews with defectors and asylum seekers in South Korea and Japan:
Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had so far not cooperated with the Commission and it was pursuing alternative avenues to obtain direct and first-hand information in a transparent, independent and impartial manner. In August, the Commission visited Seoul and Tokyo and held public hearings that provided hours of testimony from victims and experts, pointing to widespread and serious violations including torture, imprisonment, forcible repatriation, sexual violence, inhumane treatment, arbitrary detention, abductions, starvation, and guilt by association. The individual testimonies did not represent isolated cases. They were representative of large-scale patterns. If any of the testimony could be shown to be untrue, the Commission invited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to produce evidence to that effect.
Kirby discussed some of the more gruesome findings with the BBC:
Mr Kirby told BBC World TV that they had received testimony from people who had been born into the prison camps because their family members were already there.
"They had to live on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards and on grass and they were subject to cruelty," he said.
Mr Kirby said that one case told of inmates having to watch the public execution of their mother and brother.
The New York Times reports that China is not pleased:
Although China did not actively oppose the investigation, a senior Chinese diplomat in Geneva on Tuesday criticized the interim findings. “Politicized accusations and pressures are not helpful to improving human rights in any country,” Chen Chuandong said, according to Reuters. “On the contrary, they will only provoke confrontation and undermine the foundation and atmosphere for international human rights cooperation.”
While IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has made diversity at the Washington-based IMF a priority, the institution has some catching up to do. As of the end of 2012, women at the fund held 22 percent of management jobs, compared with 37 percent at the World Bank and 34 percent at the Inter-American Development Bank, according to today’s report.
The IMF aims to have 25 percent to 30 percent of women in management by the end of this fiscal year...
The Bloomberg account also notes the report's data on geographic diversity:
The fiscal 2014 target for managers from Africa is 6 percent, which compares with a 2013 rate of 4.8 percent. East Asians made up 5.7 percent of managers, 1.3 percentage points under the objective. At 2.1 percent, emerging Europe is 1.9 percentage points short of the 4 percent target. Only the Middle East’s 5.4 percent already surpassed a 5 percent goal.
But perhaps the most interesting area of the IMF report is one the Bloomberg story skips over: the educational backgrounds and professional training of IMF employees. The more powerful critique of the Fund is not that its employees all look the same, but that they mostly think alike, having been educated at a small group of elite Western universities. The report acknowledges the issue:
For a knowledge institution like the Fund, an important expression of inclusion is diversity of thought. The basic premise is that by allowing differing viewpoints to be voiced and heard, groups can engage in more creative and innovative approaches and ultimately produce "better" solutions.
The report doesn't specify the educational institutions that IMF staff attended, but it does identify the country where staffers received their advanced degrees. The United States dominates; more than 60 percent of Fund staff with PhDs received their doctorates from American universities. Another twenty percent studied at universities in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. Voting weight at the IMF may be very slowly migrating toward the emerging powers and developing world, but the minds of IMF staff are being shaped in the West.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.