The End of International Geneva?

The Spirit of Geneva is firmly embedded in the liberal international order created by the West, and especially the United States, beginning at the end of the 19th century and particularly through the interwar period. From the Lieber Code during the American Civil War and the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Alabama Room to Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, the Spirit of Geneva is at the heart of International Geneva. And the Spirit of Geneva represents a liberal international order based on the rule of law, international institutions and arbitration for resolving disputes.

Recently I spoke with an Ambassador from one of the newly emerging world powers called the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). What surprised me in our conversation was his lack of interest in that traditional order. While recognizing the existing institutions and clearly conversant with the system itself, he kept referring to fundamental changes in the world system. In essence, he was politely telling me that the international multilateral system and the institutions in Geneva were being bypassed by other considerations.

What were those considerations? For him, they were firstly the national considerations of his country. Rather than extol the virtues of multilateral organizations, he, almost reluctantly, talked of their utility in certain situations for his home state. He was not dedicated to re-inforcing the system itself. It quickly became obvious as well that he viewed the current system as an outreach of Western imperialism. While appreciating the positive contributions of certain institutions, he was rather looking to a new world order wherein his country and the other BRICS were better represented and had more power.

In a recent editorial in the International Herald Tribune, Ian Bremmer and David Gordon write about the "Rise of the different". In describing the rising powers, Bremmer and Gordon note that "they see further development as a right, and remain more concerned with economic growth than responsible international stakeholdership..." With the United States more and more absorbed with domestic considerations, the lack of interest in international institutions by the rising powers does not bode well for a global order.

What does this mean for International Geneva? The Doha Round of trade talks has not concluded. The Conference on Disarmament is deadlocked. The Human Rights Council has little effect on the grave violations in Syria. The liberal international order had leadership and vision. That is what is behind the Spirit of Geneva and what made International Geneva. We are far from that leadership and vision today.


18:12 Publié dans Geneva | Lien permanent | Commentaires (5) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |


Syria and the "International Community"


The United Nations has decided to suspend its observer mission to Syria. Because of increased violence and threats to the observers themselves, the monitors will remain in safe areas within the country but make no attempt to bear witness to the continue violence and increasing massacres. The observers had been sent as part of a six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan as special envoy of the U.N. and the Arab League.

While many commentators are announcing the failure of the Annan plan, a more profound failure is taking place. The United Nations was established to help maintain international peace and security as well as guarantee a minimum of human rights. Beyond the declarations of intended objectives was the notion of something called the international community. That community was supposed to represent a collective will, a collective sharing of aims and values if not minimally shared interests. As opposed to a coalition of the willing which assumes insiders and outsiders within and beyond states, the international community is a general term that was created to capture larger, recognized commonalities. Although it is perhaps best represented within international organizations such as the United Nations, the international community is a more encompassing term including civic society in all its manifestations. It is such a huge tent indeed that often when used it is difficult to imagine anything outside the tent.

Lire la suite

16:08 Publié dans Arab World | Lien permanent | Commentaires (2) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |


Who Lost Russia?

Following the division between Mainland China and Taiwan, a debate raged in the West about “Who lost China?”. It is becoming more and more evident today that we should be asking the question “Who lost Russia?”.

Lire la suite


The Queen’s Jubilee: A Jolly Good Show

The 60th anniversary celebrations for the reign of Queen Elizabeth was a show for the ages. From millions of people lining the streets of London to thousands of boats cruising along the Thames to Elton John and Paul McCartney rocking and rolling in front of Buckingham Palace, it was quite a performance. Someone well outside the monarchical British Empire had several reactions while watching the spectacle.

Lire la suite

14:34 Publié dans Europe | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |


Direct or Indirect Democracy on International Treaties?

Every four years I try to explain the system of electing the President in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion, the President of the United States is not elected by popular vote. The Electoral College elects the President and Vice-President. The College was established by the founding fathers as a compromise between the election of the President by Congress and an election by popular vote. Citizens are chosen to be potential members of the Electoral College by political parties. These citizens, unknown to the public, become members of the Electoral College based on the popular vote in each state and the District of Columbia, with the most populous states having the most electors. Most states require a majority of one for all the electors of one party to be chosen, meaning that a candidate can be elected by the Electoral College who has not received a majority of the popular vote. The popular election for President and Vice-President to choose the electors takes place in November; the Electoral College votes in December; the Congress counts the electoral votes in January and then officially declares the winners.

Lire la suite