BIG NEWS GUYS.
I read this recently and felt it was imperative I talk about it. I mean, the IR kid in me was screaming this changes everything.
So if you haven’t clicked on the article link yet (in the title) or want to click it afterwards, let me bring you up to speed: Robert Mugabe (President of Zimbabwe) was recently appointed to the position of Special Tourism Ambassador for the United Nations. For those of you who don’t know who President Mugabe, he doesn’t have the best reputation in the international sphere. Aside from being noted as racist towards white people and being staunchly homophobic, he has been blamed for the Second Congo War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This war started during a time of extreme economic struggle in the DRC and was waged to help the struggling regime in Kinshasa. Mugabe invaded Rwanda and Uganda and helped to develop the tensions in those countries into something we know today as the Rwandan Genocide.
The UN at the time was occupied with a Yugoslavian crisis of ethnic conflict not to dissimilar from that in Rwanda. Despite many pleas from figures like Romeo Dallaire, the UN responded more to Yugoslavia than Rwanda. The reasons why can be argued till kingdom come. Some say there was racism toward Africa, some saw Yugoslavia as more geopolitically relevant and much more crucial in the international scheme of things, the list goes on. The point is, when the UN finally did step in it was too little, too late. And you should condemn the UN for that, yes. A huge loss incurred and thousands were brutally murdered.
I also would like to bring up that the UN Charter by no means is explicit in its definition of genocide, crimes against humanity, and many war crimes. This is the crux of the UN. In an attempt to create and solidify a supranational government with laws by which eventually and hopefully all nations will abide, compromise must essentially be made. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a room of 50 people trying to order a pizza, but it is a miracle to get them all wanting the same thing. You have to make a quarter of the pizza vegetarian, a quarter of the pizza cheese only, a quarter of the pizza meat lovers and a quarter vegan. And that’s if you’re lucky. And wait till people start complaining that they got a slice that touched the side of something they absolutely detest. Keeping everybody happy is HARD.
The UN is not without its faults, trust me. I’ve spent the past 3 years studying it closely to know that it’s got a lot to work on. But it’s also the only organisation who is successfully working to a supranational government we need so very much. In a world of increasing globalisation through trade, culture and politics, you need more than customary law to create common ground. You need laws that create standards for nations, that can be enforced, and that create a ground on which all people will wilfully respect and obey these laws.
It was a major feat to get genocide to be written into the UN Charter. It took decades thanks to one relentless man who would not stand for another Holocaust. And with thanks to him, we have it in our UN Charter. But as there were more than just 5 people at this law making pizza party, nobody could come to a consensual definition of what genocide was. Yes, it’s bad, yes it kills people, but look at what is defined as in the Convention on Genocide 1948:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- (a) Killing members of the group;
- (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
What you don’t see here is how many people does it take for this to be punishable. Moreover, there’s another thing when it comes to enforcement and persecution. Yes, anyone arrested of genocidal crimes must sit in the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice (depending on the charges the perpetrator may be charged as an individual or as a state and each court deals specifically with the former or the latter), but before that happens, this little article must come into hand:
Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3.
(Article 8 of the Convention on Genocide 1948)
So say you’re a signatory member of the UN. Great! Welcome aboard, we were looking for a state just like you to make this world a better place. Now I know you’re going through an economically troubling time and you don’t want to put your people on the line, but in Rwanda people are dying and we need to do….something….I think……
Here comes the issue: You’ve got 50 people at the pizza party, but now people don’t want to cut their own slices because they’re hoping you’ll cut the slice for them and put it on a nice fancy napkin. They may be just learning how to eat, or they may be that supremely high and mighty. When they accepted the invitation to the pizza party they hoped that maybe some rules wouldn’t mean that much. You sign onto attending a pizza party and as considered appropriate the pizza slices are to be cut so that nobody is eating ripped pizza. It doesn’t say someone specifically, but it says that anyone at that party may be called upon to slice the pizza. And then starts the whole game “well, I don’t want to do it, you do it!” “No, you do it!”. And the party starts to become chaotic, the pizza goes cold, and the point of party disappears because we’re all fighting over who’s going to cut the pizza and the pizza spoils. Now pizza is nowhere near as important as genocide, but I’m trying to explain this as clearly as I can.
Obedience of law is really hard to maintain. People like things that sound nice, they want to stop genocide, but when push comes to shove, some people just aren’t willing to put their own citizens on the line for “someone else’s problem”.
It might sound like I’m digressing but hear me out. Mugabe’s appointment is rightfully accused to be preposterous. I mean, come on. Special Tourism? It sounds like a pointless position but the fact that he got one at all boggles my mind. This guy isn’t being tried for his crimes and has rigged and corrupted his country into utter chaos.
However, pulling out of the UN has more consequences than just being symbolic. I can understand why Baird did it, despite disagreeing with him fundamentally. He opposes the UN awarding Mugabe, great. But when you pull out of the UN, even as a medium power in the world you make all its efforts less functional than they already are. You undermine its legitimacy bit by bit, and potentially could start a domino effect by setting that precedent. What took decades to implement (the genocide convention) will be for naught. Because if we were just more stringent, if we actually made the UN work better as we are constantly doing every day, then Mugabe wouldn’t be awarded with his appointment to Special Tourism Ambassador, but tried and convicted of his war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal crimes.
What I see Canada do is continually backing out of things it doesn’t like simply because it doesn’t believe in it on the international stage. With Kyoto, yes Harper may have been dealt a bad hand of cards, as the world is dealt when joining the UN (I mean, you can’t honestly thing the world on any level works like sunshine and daisies). But backing out of it doesn’t solve the problem. These injustices will continue to occur. And backing out of a body that could potentially try (both judicially and literally) to fix these problems doesn’t make you seem like the wise one in the room, it makes you seem like the coward who doesn’t want to step up to the plate.
You want Mugabe to stop getting credit? Make the bodies that you are a part of stronger so that you don’t only stop people like him from getting ahead, but you can help prevent and try other disasters that will surely arise in the future.
And by the way Canada, all those alliances you’re a part of, all that say you thought you had, may not be as weighty as you thought they were once you start to slowly pull out of everything and become an island. It’s only going to bite you in the butt in the future (and I can’t wait to see how the Arctic Sovereignty issue will change now that you’ve done this).
Canada, you did a symbolic thing. You spoke out against injustice and managed to create your own injustices by denying other countries the right to as equally maintain the legitimacy of a body that could do major positive changes. And should they ever strengthen without you, don’t think your exodus will go unnoticed. Even if you seek re-entry, you’ll always be the black sheep because of this on the international stage. No longer a peace keeper, but a coward. Canada, I’m worried for you.
Guys, I’d love to hear your opinions on this, I tried to word it a little more strongly than I normally would just because I am impassioned about this and have studied a lot about it, and I want to get your blood flowing as much as it did for me when I read the article :)