Wednesday, January 30, 2008


On January 30, 1948 one of the greatest men in this world, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was shot and killed. When the humanity denies the truth, those who press hard for it are annihilated physically. But only physically, for the ideals and the spirit of their deeds make up the everlasting and eternal.

• It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
• Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
• The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
• An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
• Hate the sin, love the sinner.
• I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.
• Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.
• Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
• Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
• Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.

(click here)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Outline for IL

If I were to teach international law, I would use the following general outline. Of course, under each there are numerous subsections. But a student of international law must look at this big picture:

1. History/origins and development of international law. Its relationship with international relations.

2. How international law is made and applied. Sources of international law.

3. Enforcement of international law. Jurisdiction. Role of the UN bodies.

4. Human rights law as a separate and prominent segment of international law. Jus cogens and lack of consistent responses to violations of such norms.

5. Role of NGOs and their increasing influence.

6. Future of international law. Is it a captive of world politics? What is its status in the world and how it can make a difference.

7. Special areas of interest: transnational criminal law, environmental policies/law, business transactions, trade and IP.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Children victims of poverty

Survival of children under 5 is still a severe problem despite some recent progress in the developing countries. Every day more than 26,000 children die from malnutrition and various diseases that are treatable. Instead of focusing on children and women's health the leaders of these countries pay a lip-service to the UNICEF demands and continue fighting amongst themselves for already diminishing resources. In many of these countries, in Africa, Middle East, and Asia there are corrupt governments, civil wars, violence in the streets, wars among chieftains and military. But of course, these have many other global causes that individual leaders of these countries simply are not in control of. How can these problems be solved?! I have no clear answer. Would anyone?

See the full report by UNICEF

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Grace O'Malley

Having read “The True Story of Grace O’Malley” by Anne Chambers I threw up my hands. I thought it was all fiction... Yet, it is a true story!

Granuaile (anglicized Grace O'Malley) was born in approximately 1530 in Gaelic Ireland. A daughter of a well-known seafarer, she was to become his ‘son’ in the image of a woman when she begged and achieved to come on board of the ship with him—unheard of for women of those times. That was the beginning of her career. A famous seafarer, notorious pirate and plunderer, shrewd politician, a captain and commander-in-chief of a sophisticated army of men who passionately followed her to their deathbeds, she rebelled against all gender roles and usurped and surpassed the men’s role turning into an anathema for the powerful men of the times.

She seemed well used to power, as one that hath
Dominion over men of savage mood…

The charisma, power and courage of this woman are exemplified in myriads of folktales handed down to us through hundreds of years. Because of long-lived sexism she was not even mentioned in the historical annals and her story reached us only thanks to the folktales and original parchments of state papers. This itself lends credence to the legend that she is. The Queen of the pirates, she was equal to the very Queen Elizabeth of England, whom she personally met and impressed.

An account of this meeting further reveals her character. During the meeting she needed a handkerchief and Elizabeth gave hers. Upon using it, Granuaile threw it into a nearby fireplace. To the rebuke of the Queen that it was supposed to be put in her pocket, Granuaile told her that in her country they had a higher standard of cleanliness. Another story shows how unrelenting she was. During a battle, her son lost courage and hid behind her for safety. She turned to him in anger, “Are you trying to hide behind my backside, the place you came from?”

She was an object of admiration, exaltation but also of awe, fear and revulsion. Personally leading her men to battle, she was fierce and instilled much fear in the chieftains.

… dared the tempest in its midnight wrath
And through opposing billows cleft her fearless path.

Lord Justice Drury said about her, 'Chief Commander and Director of thieves and murderers at sea.' But she called it ‘maintenance by sea and land.’ Twice married to notable chieftains, she was never a Mrs. Maid, and was fully independent, excelling her husbands in war, seafaring and politics. Her legend received a deep political dimension because of the turbulent times she lived in and the role she played. Subjugation of Gaelic Ireland-- sheltered from Renaissance and divided into tribes and clans-- by a more sophisticated and modernized England was set in motion. In the midst of this tempest and fire she was to play a unique role of a woman rebel, but also a pragmatist devoid of nationalism or patriotism. Survival as her innermost instinct, she was known ‘as the nurse of all rebellions,’ but also sought and achieved protection of the Queen to continue her trade in exchange for loyalty to the Queen.

Captured and locked in castles a few times by her male foes, she escaped the execution by miracle and survived to live for almost 70 years. The fact that she could persuade the Queen, her adversary, to protect her points to her incredible political talent. Perhaps, the similarities between these two women contributed to it. Grace O'Malley was listed as the only woman political leader in Ireland of her times. But while the Queen ruled by the Divine Will, Grace O'Malley ruled by her personal will and the power of her own sword. As one editor described her, “… the original trail-blazer and mould-breaker. It is only now that women were beginning to achieve in politics, business and in the maritime field, the goal set for them four hundred years ago by Grace O’Malley.”

Truly, the story of this woman makes me wonder about the true potential of a human being and whether after all, there are any limits to it. The reason that traditionally women were always portrayed as inferior to men is perhaps a result of the hidden fear of this potential. The women in the West have come a long way, but most women in the rest of the world are still suffering from this long-standing prejudice and have not yet been able to march forth with full swing. I only wish more women in the world set their ships into the freedom of the ocean, fearlessly and with no regard to culture, religion and law, just like Grace O’Malley.

Russian elections 2008

Vladimyr Putin, the most influential person in Russia today, on behalf of his party, United Russia (Edinaya Rossiya), has endorsed Dmitriy Medvedev as his successor to Presidency. Putin also reminded people that this is the time not to praise for past achievements, but outline what challenges are still ahead. For that job, he strongly supports Medvedev. (here)

Born on September 14, 1965, in St. Petersburg, Medvedev is a lawyer and a businessman, who has been very close with Putin since he became President. Given the popularity of Putin and his influence on the Russian public, the polls have shown that the vast majority of Russians (over 70%) are ready to vote for Medvedev just because of Putin's endorsement (here).

In his speech after the endorsement by Putin, Medvedev spoke about improving the infrastructure and the world leadership of Russia with the help of Putin. In fact, Putin would be a Prime-Minister, as the head of the Parliament, if Medvedev becomes the President. Basically, Medvedev would probably be the shadow of Putin who will continue influencing Russian politics in all spheres.

Is there a viable opposition to Putin and Medvedev? While there is opposition, since Putin and Medvedev follow the general spirit of policies that the Russian population has been in favor of, there is really no chance for the opponents to garner as much support or popularity.

You may ask, what is the main reason that Russians love Putin and disliked either Gorbachev or Yeltsin? Competence and repairing the fallen image of Russia. After all, Yeltsin was an alcoholic and deeply incompetent, while Gorbachev proved to be just as incompetent in economic policies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

'Women's rights are human rights'

People should really learn about Hillary Clinton's record on children and women's rights because many attack her for not using the 'right' words when describing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (click here). Words are hollow phrases thrown in the air without action. Those who talk a lot about civil rights and Dr. King do not even live up to the minimum of these standards. When it comes to real action, people cave in to their prejudices or unwillingness to sacrifice. So, no matter what 'words' people use, I really would like to see less talking, more acting.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sacrifice we should never forget...

Human greatness is immeasurable, inexplicable and never fully ascertained... The greatness of Dr. King is not conducive to simple words and could never be reduced to such. He will remain the torch in the hands of the Statue of Liberty symbolizing not only the good in America, but also the good of the humanity...

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

2008 elections

Why the 2008 elections are so important for the US? People talk a lot about the economy, oil crisis, big business, jobs, the middle-class... They talk a lot about the health care, incompetence and broken machine in Washington. Of course, they also talk a lot about the war in Iraq. But, while important, these are little pieces of a mozaic, little tidbits of a larger picture that we should not forget to look at. These elections are about the identity of America, its place in the world as a nation. It is about the definition of democracy. It is about how the US can continue defending itself as a nation against perceived and real enemies without shedding human rights, without reneging on the promise of democracy, without resorting to hypocrisy in its relations with other nations in the world. It is also about the ability to co-exist with others in the world and not impose values on other peoples around the globe. Patriotic Americans much too often cross the line from benevolent patriotism to xenophobic nationalism, which has given its deplorable fruits in these last years. We do not have to be the most prosperous nation in the world when the rest of the world is enmeshed in poverty. We can learn from other nations in things they have done better than us. We do not have to be the 'strongest' nation militarily and intimidate others, wiping out all those who disagree with us. Can we be an example? Can we be a leader? Sure. But only if we uphold the deep values that have been at the core of this country from the beginning.

So, when you are listening to all the media stories, about all the imperfections of all candidates, search and find the big picture, do some heart-searching when voting.

(Find out more here about the Bush Administration's actions in the war on terror.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Culture and women

Check out the new publication by UNESCO here, Gender Perspectives on Cultural Heritage and Museums.

Much too often we are oblivious of the criss-cross of culture and feminism. Since education plays a vital role in transforming and empowering women, in a culture where traditionally education is not viewed as one of the prerogatives of women, women are informally placed at a backdoor. That way culture tends to freeze women in a box from which there is little escape. That does not necessarily mean that culture cannot be reinterpreted and refocused in light of human rights of women. But that is a very slow process that unfortunately has not yet come to fruition in many parts of the world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Race, gender, etc.

We have seen how the race between Hillary and Obama has aroused major debates over race and gender (of course, a debate that never really ends in America). But I have got a major problem with what is happening and the way people approach these issues. First, for the record, if Hillary was not qualified, I would not vote for her just because she is a woman. I seriously believe that she is the most qualified out of all the candidates to get this job (although I have to be careful here and clarify that ultimately if Obama wins the nomination, I will 'endorse' him with both hands). I respect Hillary more because she is not using the 'gender' card as much as Obama is using the 'race' card. At the rally where I was, she was asked the question about whether she feels the pressure being the first 'woman' candidate for President. She spent literally two minutes on the issue and ended with a quick note that she is not running for President because she is a woman, but because she is qualified. I think, Obama on the other hand, is spending more time on race, which may seem a bit self-serving. On the other hand, given the deplorable situation with the civil rights in this country, this issue must be raised somehow.

Second, I think people look at race and gender formalistically. I think disadvantage is a substantive, qualitative issue and should never be viewed from a formalistic, categorical perspective. I always ask people, who is more disadvantaged-- a rich black woman or a white male who is homeless in the street? A white female who is an immigrant, learning to speak English, and has to overcome a host of barriers, or a black female who was born and raised in the US in a middle-class family?

Do I believe that there is still discrimination against blacks in this country? Oh yes. Just check the numbers of blacks holding white-collar jobs. Do I believe that there is still discrimination against women and other minorities in this country? Oh yes. But I still also believe that discrimination and disadvantage need substantive evaluation. That is why, I have some problems with Affirmative Action. Although I still do think, there should be some degree of it, quotas are ridiculous. I think that people should work hard to earn everything and should not use their class, race, gender or religion, or ethnicity to get ahead.

I can give you my example. My family moved to this country in 1996, when by the way Clinton was getting reelected. From the day I set my foot on this ground, I faced and had to fight many, many challenges. I was blessed because I have a supportive family. I was also blessed to have met some wonderful people, most of whom were my professors, who encouraged, supported, inspired me. I owe to these people for the rest of my life. But I worked hard, triple times more than most people of my age, and never asked for things that I thought I did not earn yet. I deprived myself of little pleasures of this life and sacrificed at every step of it. It took me a lot of nerve and patience. When I made mistakes, I was hard on myself and committed to never making them again. Even today, I have to be patient with those people who assume that just because I speak with an accent, my English is perhaps not good enough.

While I have compassion for those who do not put this much effort into it or those who are less lucky, who have less supportive families, I still think that people who are lazy do not deserve to stand up and shout that they are being discriminated on some basis or that they were disadvantaged. There is opportunity in America for virtually everyone if you only work hard to earn it.

Here is the problem though that we have in America. We have kids born in poor ghettos in uneducated families, with little or no choice of lifestyle. They end up joining gangs and turning into career criminals or simply into adults with no education, rendered into irremediable poverty. Regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, these kids are simply a group that we need to worry about the most and help. That is the job of the government which can create a strong social network that will guide these kids from K-12 onto the right path into a normal life. And the government today has basically failed on all counts of this mission. Why?!

Neither Hillary nor Obama have been personally disadvantaged in any way in their lives. But the whole question is who do you identify yourself with the most. Most women will identify with her, while most African-Americans will identify with Obama. Guess what, most white males will identify with John Edwards or John McCain. (This said in very general brush strokes, because we all have multiple identities that are very situational and influenced by many other variables. Also, keep in mind that sophisticated and informed voters may not vote for those they identify with the most. They vote not on their hearts, but on their minds).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tested and proven-- Hillary for President!

Just returned from a rally where I met Hillary. I can share with you my thoughts and emotions.
She exceeded all my expectations. She has ‘grown’ and has taken up the role of the new leader we are in search for. Charismatic, passionate, fearless, strong and full of charge for the challenge. Knowing very well what a nightmare the next President will inherit from Bush, she is standing up to the podium, ready to serve, ready to deliver. Not only she is ready, but she has the record to display behind the podium, suggesting that it is not only about words and beautiful speeches, but foremost about work you have done to stand up now and ask for a vote. This is a woman who can make a real difference in your lives. She is tested and proven. Through the years she fought hard for universal health care, for your jobs, your security at home. She was able to stand next to her husband and not leave him in difficult times. She was also able to survive Washington and the media who tried to destroy her so that she does not get to this day! Even right now she is very patient with the media and her male contenders who are constantly attacking her for every single thing! She has proven to be tough enough to withstand all crises and yet remain a woman, who can gracefully walk to the podium, smile and show her femininity! Who can also say, ‘I am running for President not because I am a woman, but because I am the most qualified. (quoting from today's rally). She is standing up and talking about America that we all lost hope for, she is talking about the ‘green-collar jobs’ that we can create to solve the energy crisis, she is talking about your homes in foreclosure that she will take steps to protect, she is talking about our troops coming home and how we are going to take care of them. She also talks about the America abroad that lost its face and how can regain it!

This is a leader who will roll up her sleeves and get to work the next day she is inaugurated President. She has the record to show that she will fight for you, those of you who are called by the name of ‘middle-class’—a group that is basically vanishing from the American scene, giving in to poverty. She is there for you! She is full of rechargeable power and energy that fires up the hearts of women, men, who love this country.

Vote for the first woman President of the United States of America! Vote for the powerful leader who can in fact make a difference in your lives! This is just the beginning of a new America!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Promise kept alive

The ANCA (Armenian National Committee of America) has just released the news that Hillary Clinton will co-sponsor the Armenian Genocide Resolution bill. Barack Obama has also expressed his intent to give careful consideration to the bill. In fact, listening to his response, it seems, he cannot give a full commitment yet by saying, 'I will check with my staff.' Here

So, Hillary (and potentially Obama) are in it for the Armenian vote, knowing how intensely the American Armenians care about this. The question is whether they will act on their promises if elected as President.

Heavens and earth

The School of Athens was painted by Raphael sometime in 1510-1511. Here you will find all the philosophers of ancient times. The center figures are Aristotle (384BC-322BC) and his teacher Plato (424BC-347BC). Aristotle is pointing to the earth, reflecting his belief that knowledge was derived from experience, that materia prevailed over idea, that physical reality dictated our existence. Plato, on the other hand, points to the heavens, suggesting that in fact the opposite is true that the ideals shaped and configured our material world. These two philosophical currents, materialism of Aristotle and idealism of Plato shaped the Western philosophy through the ages, culminating in Hegel and Kant, Hegel influenced by Aristotle and Kant by Plato. Kant once said, ‘I am not saying anything new. I am only organizing and conceptualizing what Plato said in ecstasy.’

Of course, these philosophical trends were more complicated to be coined just by the names of ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’. After all, both Aristotle and Plato knew very well the absurdity of oversimplification. The world is driven by both the physical earth-grounded elements and non-earthly, non-material elements. That is why ideals that cannot be materialized or realized in the real world are not relevant. It was Jose Ortega y Gasset , the great existentialist, who suggested that a theory that is incapable of being put into practice should be deleted and replaced with another. In other words, the theory that fails the practical experiment is not a good theory. That is why, there soon came the disillusionment with Communism. Marxist ideology, a theory, failed the practical experiment of mankind.

We all dream. In fact, the prerequisite of success and achievement is dreaming. Without dreaming, we do not have a clear vision where we are going, and why we are going. Without dreaming, we do not even have willingness to make a step forward. Dreaming entails passion, obsession, some degree of mental frenzy and restlessness. Nothing is impossible. Generally, the sky is the limit. But dreams that are not capable of being materialized in the world we live in, are not good dreams. Specifically, we all know that the world and society erect many barriers to our individual ideals day after day. Also, the lifespan of a mortal human being, the limitations of our physical existence are internal barriers that we simply are not in control of. So, there are external and internal barriers to realization of our dreams. What do we do then? Do we stop dreaming? Do we stop obsessing over our ideals? Do we simply give up? If Aristotle points to the earth, does that mean we should only settle for what is around us, forsaking Plato’s direction to the heaven?

That is the constant human struggle and no one of us will have the answer. Each of us will formulate own response to this ‘Aristotle-Plato’ dichotomy. But one thing is clear, without dreaming there will never be hope for better. Without hope for better, there is no meaning in life. But because there is a wide gap between the real world and our dreams, dreaming takes a lot more courage than you think. When you are crawling in the darkest tunnel with no light ahead, fearful to fall into the unseen pit ahead, in that darkest hour, if you can envision in your mind that light ahead, and smile, continuing to walk, that is courage, that is strength, that is spiritual power.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Contest of 'personalities'?

The race between Hillary and Obama reflects the true dynamics in politics. Charisma vs. experience, change over known paths. It is very interesting to look back in history and see when the American voters wanted stability over change and vice versa. In times of war generally they wanted stability, not change. But when they got fed up with things, they wanted change and quickly.

Now it seems Obama, a young, charismatic, a relative newcomer to the political scene has gained the momentum with crowds who are really fed up with Washington and the war we did not need. While Hillary has got much more experience and a longer track record, it seems, voters are more excited with Obama. Obama has the Hollywood spark, Hillary has the solid 'lawyer' type of an image. The general population who hates lawyers and anything associated with them, run to Obama. But what occurred to me, Obama is also a centrist. He can appeal to a broad segment of the population. Really, I think at this point there is not much of a difference between them two, except for 'image'. So, it will all depend on who the voters will 'like' the most. This is not a contest of issues, but a contest of 'personalities.' You may disagree? But Obama does not have a long track record for you to compare and contrast with Hillary. Therefore, in some sense he has the advantage. There is little to attack him for. Probably, the Democratic voters cannot forgive Hillary for supporting the war in Iraq. But let us face it. The war in Iraq could have been handled much more differently with good planning and thinking. So, another President, for example Hillary, would have probably handled it very differently. The American voters would have cared less if the war had been short, relatively painless and with sensible planning. After all, they are used to the US deploying military force in different parts of the world. Remember Kosovo, or the Kuweit war by the Bush father? As far as international law and human rights, which percentage of the American population even knows about them (unfortunately).

That is why sometimes politics does not make sense. It turns into a contest of 'personalities'.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Electoral College

We all know, there are problems with the Electoral College system of presidential elections in the US. Low voter turnout, focus of candidates on 'states' vs. 'voters', disparity of popular vote and states votes, to name but a few. But the Founding Fathers had antipathy against direct popular vote, devising this system. Some have urged to abolish it. Interestingly, the Electoral College has worked to the advantage of the Republican party in the last two elections. You get many solid 'red' states voting Republican, but many 'blue' states turn into battlegrounds where the swing voters all of a sudden are bombarded with campaign ads. These swing votes become determinative of the elections. Hence, we have had pretty tight races, where the Independent parties took away many of the swing votes from the Democrats. Therefore, really the Republican party has been using the Electoral College to its major advantage.

Of course, the most funny thing is when the popular vote does not coincide with the Electoral College votes. It has happened:

• In 1876 there were a total of 369 electoral votes available with 185 needed to win. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, with 4,036,298 popular votes won 185 electoral votes. His main opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, won the popular vote with 4,300,590 votes, but won only 184 electoral votes. Hayes was elected president.
• In 1888 there were a total of 401 electoral votes available with 201 needed to win. Republican Benjamin Harrison, with 5,439,853 popular votes won 233 electoral votes. His main opponent, Democrat Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote with 5,540,309 votes, but won only 168 electoral votes. Harrison was elected president.
• In 2000 there were a total of 538 electoral votes available with 270 needed to win. Republican George W. Bush, with 50,456,002 popular votes won 271 electoral votes. His Democratic opponent, Al Gore, won the popular vote with 50,999,897 votes, but won only 266 electoral votes. Bush was elected president.

for more see here

These battleground states also have major voting irregularities and computer 'glitches', so to speak, making people wonder, whether things really work smoothly or the way they should work. Cynical people stop voting because of these problems. The Florida 'nightmare' of 2000 has made many of us very cynical of the electoral system.

Another anomaly of the Electoral college is that it is possible for a candidate to not get a single person's vote -- not one -- in 39 states or the District of Columbia, yet be elected president by winning the popular vote in just 11 of these 12 states:
New York
New Jersey
North Carolina

Of course, many of these things change with changing demographics and voter characteristics. Voter turnout in light of this system is a subject of extensive studies in political science. Sometimes one wonders whether the whole system that was devised in the late 1700s is necessarily the right one for our modern times. America has changed dramatically and perhaps we can think of making some incremental changes without departing from the general vision of the Founding Fathers.

(above are the results of the 2000 presidential elections)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Balance of Powers and World Order

Thinking about the 2008 and the increasing destabilization of the world order, I would like to bring to your attention portions of Vladimyr Putin's speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy held last year (here). You can judge for yourselves. No extensive comments are needed here. One phrase-- balance of powers-- says it all:

I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation....

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this?...

I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.
And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and changes so quickly – changes in light of the dynamic development in a whole number of countries and regions....

I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. Where are these guarantees?...

The stones and concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall have long been distributed as souvenirs. But we should not forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was possible thanks to a historic choice – one that was also made by our people, the people of Russia – a choice in favour of democracy, freedom, openness and a sincere partnership with all the members of the big European family.
And now they are trying to impose new dividing lines and walls on us – these walls may be virtual but they are nevertheless dividing, ones that cut through our continent. And is it possible that we will once again require many years and decades, as well as several generations of politicians, to dissemble and dismantle these new walls?...

And there is still one more important theme that directly affects global security. Today many talk about the struggle against poverty. What is actually happening in this sphere? On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programmes to help the world’s poorest countries – and at times substantial financial resources. But to be honest -- and many here also know this – linked with the development of that same donor country’s companies. And on the other hand, developed countries simultaneously keep their agricultural subsidies and limit some countries’ access to high-tech products.

And let’s say things as they are – one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts. And if all this happens in, shall we say, a region such as the Middle East where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilisation.

I fear that the new next President of the US will continue pushing the same agenda of the Bush Administration in foreign policy-- world order under one single leader... As long as this agenda is pushed, the world will continue to be an unstable place... and peace will only be a far-fetched dream...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

International law making

Since treaties are crucial in international law-making, their formation, application and interpretation is also of great significance. The law governing this process is prescribed in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969). Perhaps this Convention is the crux of international law because the conduct of States in relation to international treaties indirectly reveals the ‘power’ or ‘weakness’ of international law. The power or weakness of international law in its turn will dictate the world order. When I say ‘power’ I mean legal consequences for violation of law.

Several provisions should be cited here:

Article 27:
A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty. This rule is without prejudice to article 46.

Article 46:
(1) A State may not invoke the fact that its consent to be bound by a treaty has been expressed in violation of a provision of its internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties as invalidating its consent unless that violation was manifest and concerned a rule of its internal law of fundamental importance.

Article 19:
A State may, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, formulate a reservation, unless:
a) the reservation is prohibited by the treaty;
b) the treaty provides that only specified reservations, which do not include the reservation in question, may be made; or
c) in cases not falling under sub-paragraphs (a) and (b), the reservation is incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.

There is no question that States are bound by treaties they enter into. The problem is how they perform their obligations in light of their interpretation of a treaty. So, performance is very much dependent on ‘interpretation’ of a treaty in the background of internal law. Also, what symbolic power does signing of a treaty have in the absence of consequent ratification by that State? For example, the US has put his signature under many many treaties, but later failed to ratify and even tried to ‘unsign’ them. Isn’t commitment or ‘consent to be bound’ expressed in the signature? What effect does the failure of ratification have on the power of international law? The US constitutional process in treaty-making is of illustrative importance.

Article 11 states:
The consent of a State to be bound by a treaty may be ex-pressed by signature, exchange of instruments constituting a treaty, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, or by any other means if so agreed.

The US signed under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on December 31, 2000, expressing its intention to be bound by the treaty creating the ICC. However, very soon a letter from the Under Secretary of State for Arms Contol and International Security, John R. Bolton to Kofi Annan said:

This is to inform you… [in connection with the Rome Statute] that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature… The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.

'Consent to be bound' and at what stage it becomes effective is important in terms of the commitment of the State in performing under the treaty. Of course, the role of internal elites is also important. A state is not an abstraction, but a directive effort of its elites, elected officials. Bill Clinton’s administration signed the ICC statute, and Bush’s administration effectively ‘unsigned’ it. How the failure to ratify this statute by the US affected the significance and further development of the ICC is a subject for further lengthy discussion. This is how elites play a crucial role in the making of international law.

(As a footnote, the US signed the Vienna Convention but has not ratified it. However, as the State Department states here, the US considers many of its provisions as customary international law.)