Friday, August 28, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's not the size...

UN Reform: Don't Hold Your Breath

Ian Williams | August 26, 2009

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus

The interminable wrangling over the composition of the UN Security Council, scheduled to resume August 27, is unlikely to bear much fruit anytime soon. And that may not be such a bad thing. Almost all the proposals are worse than the situation they purport to remedy.

Reform of the UN Security Council (SC), under "open-ended" negotiation for almost 20 years, isn't an issue to stir the masses. Those members of the global public who care about the UN at all are more likely to worry about the efficiency of the Council than its composition. However, in the diplomatic community the issue is about prestige and increasing the chances of smaller powers to get a seat at the top table.

In fact, all the various reform proposals should be read in the light of the motives of their proponents, who are often more concerned with diplomatic posturing than preparing the Council to deal more efficiently with global affairs. Indeed, many of the reforms suggested would tend to make the Security Council even less efficient.

The Italians, for instance, have suggested that a European Union seat should replace the British and French permanent memberships. The British and French vetoes rule out the idea, but even if the proposal has a spurious equity in terms of geographical balance on the Council, the EU is far from a decisive entity and a seat for it would effectively imply a perpetual abstention. Other maneuvers are simply blocking measures: the Italians are casting around for a way to deny Germany a permanent seat, the Pakistanis to thwart India, and the Argentineans to stop Brazil.
Expanding the Security Council?

Most of the current reform proposals involve adding members in order to broaden geographical representation, which is admittedly loaded in favor of the richer, more developed nations. Former unconfirmed U.S. representative to the UN John Bolton was rarely right about UN issues, but he certainly had a point that increasing the size of the Council much beyond 20 would turn it from a committee to a mass meeting.

Take the example of the Economic and Social Committee, which was supposed to handle the crises that possibly fueled World War II. This committee has trebled in size in order to become more "representative." In 1965 the UN Charter was altered to increase its membership from 18 to 27 and in 1971 to 54. Its effectiveness has diminished in inverse proportion. Its most newsworthy work now is blackballing various NGOs who have upset prominent members.

In the case of the permanent five members of the Security Council (P5) — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the motive behind opposing reform is naked: the preservation of their historical privileges. The UN Charter is explicit: Any of the P5 can veto any changes to the Charter. These five countries have made it clear that they will not accept any significant change in their prerogatives. Indeed, while divisions among them have been a major factor in stopping the Council from being effective, they all unite firmly in opposing any reduction in their prerogatives.

During the Cold War, there was a certain brutal logic to position of the P5, since they were the only declared nuclear states. This status gave their SC veto more heft. However, no one today suggests giving North Korea, India, Pakistan, or Israel a permanent seat because they now have the nuclear qualification.

The veto is a touchy issue. Clearly unjust and unfair to those that do not have it, it is also a pragmatic response to the experience of the League of Nations. A Security Council bound by consensus would be totally ineffective. At the same time, major members, in particular the United States, probably would walk out of the organization if faced with decisions they did not like. In fact, much of the damage the veto does is by implication. A veto-holder uses its threat to dumb down resolutions before, and this is an American specialty, vetoing the attenuated result.

The veto may be unjust, but so is the world. The United States did not have to veto a resolution condemning the invasion of Iraq — because nobody put one up for consideration. The positive resolutions by which the United Kingdom and United States sought Council approval were defeated, not by vetoes, but because Blair and Bush could not get a majority. Smaller powers have suggested that a nay vote be distinguished from the more portentous exercise of the veto. That would allow the United States and China to vote against a resolution, scoring points with their friends but allowing the majority vote to take effect.
Selective Additions

The P5 are now prepared to accept, in principle, the addition of more permanent members. But they continue to oppose any extension of the veto to the new permanent recruits. Their motives may be selfish but they are quite right. A Council frequently rendered ineffective by the possession of five vetoes would be condemning itself to perpetual irrelevance by doubling that possibility.

However, agreeing in principle is different from agreeing on exactly which countries get promoted. Since Japan and Germany pay more than four of the P5 in dues, they clearly have a claim to representation. But for the historical reasons that once stigmatized them as "former enemy powers," both countries punch way below their military and diplomatic weight. Their membership is also opposed, respectively by China and Italy. And if they were accepted, the industrialized world would be even more over-represented on the Council.

Adding representation from the developing world encounters many obstacles as well. India would appear to be the most widely accepted candidate, but Pakistan and Indonesia each would quibble. Brazil, the favored representative of Latin America, could expect some opposition from Argentinean pride. Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa are in the running for the putative African permanent seat. The parlous state of democracy in the first two outweighs their population and power as candidates and there is no clear consensus.

One way around this regional opposition would be to add to the numbers of temporary seats on the Security Council. But this would bring the numbers to the breaking point. Indeed, the African states collectively pose almost as much of a threat to an effective UN as the veto-holders. The countries take turns for the temporary seats. The candidates are generally known decades in advance — and they are not always the continent's brightest and best.
Uniting for Change

The most creative proposal for change comes from the "Uniting for Change" group, which represents a range of motivations from Italy's obdurate resistance to Germany becoming a permanent member to Canada's apparently altruistic concern for UN efficacy. Instead of creating new permanent seats, this group suggests new, longer-term temporary seats, perhaps re-electable. To sweeten the pill for all the diplomats waiting their turn, they have also added more of the current form of temporary seats, putting the Council's size dangerously close to ineffectiveness.

Apart from the fatal flaw of not flattering the amour propre of the aspirant great powers, this proposal certainly does more to enhance the democracy that is on every diplomat's lips. The re-election provision would certainly help regional powers to be more accountable to their neighbor's wishes, while the ending of current term limits would boost their ability to counter the P5's current incumbent advantage.

Canada has also proposed three changes to make the Council work more effectively. First, the veto would be restricted to decisions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter — those that involved forceful solutions. Second, the veto should not apply in discussions about "genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes." And third, when a member does use a veto, it must explain and justify that use publicly.

For the Canadian proposals to move forward, the United States as the only effective veto-wielder must agree to some or all of such changes. The Obama administration might be temperamentally more inclined than any U.S. government in the last three decades to embrace such changes. But at the moment, the last thing the Obama administration needs is for the anti-UN nuts joining the National Rifle Association, the "birthers," and the anti-healthcare crowd.

Public diplomacy has hitherto meant states influencing people. The best, and sadly faint, hope for genuine UN reform is concerned citizens influencing states, particularly the United States and other permanent members, through monitoring and lobbying.

Senior Foreign Policy In Focus analyst Ian Williams is a journalist and author. Much of his work can be found on his blog, Deadline Pundit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Compassion - A Scots term with no American translation

Lockerbie deal l
eaves no clean hands
By Ian Williams
Asia Times 24 August 2009

United States President Barack Obama owes Libya and Scotland a lot. The release of Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was like throwing red meat to the wolves who have been on the president's case. For a week, hysteria about Obama-care, euthanasia, abortion and the rest has been subsumed under a wave of bipartisan indignation about Megrahi.

The America that gave the world the Salem witch trials and the lynch mob ran unabashed and there was the unedifying spectacle of the Obama team running alongside, baying in harmony. (Although perhaps one of the most ill-augured boycott calls ever made is the one to eschew Scotch whisky.)

In contrast, over much of the world, Scotland's decision to release Lockerbie bomber [1] Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he is dying of terminal cancer seems reasonable, as Scottish Justice Minister Kenneth MacAskill so eloquently expounded when giving his decision.

Even so, listening to MacAskill's dithyrambs of self-praise for Scottish judicial compassion would have evoked a guffaw from generations of convicts who were victims of Scotland's vindictively Calvinist prisons in times past. Compassion is a relatively recent official trait in the country, but American furor can make Scotland pride itself on its double independence, cocking a snook at both London and Washington.

However, "compassion", no matter how recent in Scotland, still has no part in the US political or judicial make-up. The American news media were filled with reports about how Britain and Scotland were "on the defensive", and how the victims' families were crying for revenge. But victims' families in Britain supported the release, and the decision created nowhere near the fury in Britain and Scotland that it did on the other side of the Atlantic.

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller called the Libyan's release "a mockery of the rule of law" and complained to MacAskill that his decision was "as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice".

MacAskill does not need lessons in justice from the US, certainly not from the FBI, with its notorious use of paid informants and provocateurs. When the USS Vincennes indisputably shot down an Iranian Airbus in 1988, killing 290, the crew involved received medals. When the case of dubiously convicted murderer Troy Davis came up before the Supreme Court this month, two justices, fortunately a minority, declared that there was nothing unconstitutional about executing an innocent man as long as he had had a trial.

The US has an incarceration rate more then four times Britain's, almost 10 times that of the European Union as a whole and even higher than Russia's. Clearly, dying in prison has no fears in the US - for those who inflict it. Prisons have had to be adapted for wheelchairs for inmates too old to walk, let alone commit new crimes.

Few people come out with clean hands from the episode. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown certainly knew of the impending release, and did not strive too officiously to avert it, while his protests at Libyan celebrations provide cover against the equally expedient and contrived protests from the White House. British and American oil companies will still be knocking on doors in Tripoli - and finding them opened.

In an oil-short world, Libya has been able to behave with almost Chinese impunity. When I saw that the Swiss president had apologized to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son Hannibal, I briefly wondered if it was because his ancestors had mistreated the Carthaginian general's elephants on their way across the Alps.

But no, the Swiss had released Gaddafi's son a year ago after the latter had paid off the domestics who had complained to the police about abuse. However, since Libya ratted on the Irish Republican Army comrades it used to arm and finance, the British government has had no compunctions in cozying up to Gaddafi, and the eagerness of US business to get into the country has been palpable.

It was naive of Brown to expect the notoriously quixotic Gaddafi to abide by the "no public rejoicing" clause in whatever discussions led up to the release. Indeed, it meant that he showed much more loyalty to Megrahi than former president George W Bush did to his convicted aide Scooter Libby, or indeed Brown is likely to show to MacAskill.

Voluntary fall guys are the noblest fools in politics. Megrahi "volunteered" to go to The Hague and take the rap for Libya to rejoin the world economy. If one overlooks the possibility that dire things might have happened to his family if he hadn't, greater love hath no one ... [2]

His sacrifice is all the more so in view of the strong possibility of his innocence. Totally lost, as so often in the US, is any doubt that someone convicted could possibly be innocent. In fact, it would be a stretch to say that a secret policeman for Gaddafi was "innocent". The regime has proven blood aplenty on its hands, but there is plausible evidence that investigators were so determined to "convict" Libya that they ignored all other leads.

Megrahi's eventual conviction hinged on the confused and contradictory evidence of a Maltese shopkeeper, whose recollections had him aging, rejuvenating, growing and shrinking, depending on who was taking the testimony, and who only finally identified him after his photographs had been widely circulated. The trial as part of the "cleansing" of Libya along with the several billions in blood-money took place in The Hague with Scottish judges, who found his co-accused, on almost identical evidence, not guilty.

Many observers suspect a jury would have thrown both cases out. His release on compassionate grounds was predicated on him dropping his appeal against the conviction, which many felt had a good chance of success. Indeed, he seems to have needed Gaddafi's say-so before dropping the appeal. If Megrahi were guilty, it was because he was acting as an agent for the Gaddafi now being greeted by politicians all over the West. If he were not, then the intelligence agencies of the West framed an innocent man to score political points at Libya.

MacAskill's halo is the only one on the horizon in this murky world.

1. Pan Am Flight 103 was Pan American World Airways' third daily scheduled trans-Atlantic flight from London's Heathrow Airport to New York's John F Kennedy International Airport. On Wednesday, December 21, 1988, the aircraft flying this route - a Boeing 747-121 named Clipper Maid of the Seas - was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie, southern Scotland, were killed as large sections of the plane fell in and around the town, bringing total fatalities to 270.

2. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.

Ian Williams is the author of Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past, Nation Books, New York.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chomsky takes Slobbo's Bait.

Response to Chomsky

this my response to Chomsky's unphilosophical screed in response to mine on R2P

Ian Williams | August 21, 2009

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus

I am afraid that simply because Noam Chomsky makes an ex cathedra observation does not make it "uncontroversial" — not even when he hyperbolically accuses me of having "blood on my hands." He still defends his statement that "NATO air raids on Serbia [beginning March 24, 1999] actually precipitated the worst atrocities in Kosovo," and is surprised that I find this untrue — let alone morally unpalatable.

One hesitates to teach logic, let alone linguistics, to the distinguished professor, but his use of the world "precipitate" shifts the blame for the massacres and mass deportations that he admits took place from the actual perpetrators to those who were trying to stop them. (Incidentally, at the time Bogdan Denitch and I called for intervention but also condemned the form of intervention that President Clinton chose — high-level bombing.)

One can certainly accuse the West of neglecting the plight of the Kosovars, but it was Milosevic and his regime that deprived the Kosovars of their rights and then began to kill and deport them. It was that regime that had recently killed up to 8,000 Bosnians at Srebrenica, whose dismembered and reburied bodies are still being found. There was no NATO bombing to blame for that rather shameful inaction.

In fact, faced with that cold-blooded massacre, NATO leaders had every reason to fear the worst in Kosovo.

I would recommend that Chomsky read the judgment of the UN war crimes tribunal, after it had considered the evidence of 113 witnesses for the prosecution and 118 for the defense, not to mention tens of thousands of pages of documents submitted by both sides. It found five Serb officials guilty of the "criminal enterprise" that he attributes to NATO. It concludes that "the direct testimony from many witnesses demonstrates that the Kosovo Albanian population was fleeing from the actions of the forces of the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] and Serbia, rather than the NATO bombing and the KLA."

For a flourish that should excite some indignation, the report added that "there is no doubt that a clandestine operation consisting of exhuming over 700 bodies originally buried in Kosovo and transferring them to Serbia proper took place during the NATO bombing" and adds that the "great majority of the corpses moved were victims of crime and civilians, including women and children."

In finding the Serbian officials guilty, the tribunal noted that "the NATO bombing provided an opportunity to the members of the joint criminal enterprise — an opportunity for which they had been waiting and for which they had prepared by moving additional forces to Kosovo and by the arming and disarming process described above — to deal a heavy blow to the KLA and to displace, both within and without Kosovo, enough Kosovo Albanians to change the ethnic balance. And now this could all be done with plausible deniability because it could be blamed not only upon the KLA, but upon NATO as well [italics mine]." The blame-shifting certainly seems to have worked with Chomsky, but the judges looked at the mass of evidence and decided to the contrary.

Chomsky betrays a persistent Manichaean worldview in which the United States is always the source of evil in the world. Even with that in mind he would surely like to reconsider his implied comparison of the United States with Nazis. ("It would be like raising the question of why Nazis didn't intervene to stop the slaughter of Jews by local forces in the regions they occupied.")

The United States is often, but not always wrong, and its enemies are sometimes, but not always right. The United States was certainly wrong in East Timor, and indeed in the near contemporary situation in Western Sahara, and I have been reporting on those injustices for many decades. Along with the other members of the Security Council the United States had a clear duty to intervene to assert international law. In the absence of effective international (i.e., U.S.) intervention, the Indonesian military would have been every bit as brutal and aggressive.

We could deplore this intervention as much as we like, but I fail to see what was going to stop Indonesia's brutality otherwise. Indeed, Chomsky points out that it was Clinton's intervention that persuaded the Indonesian general's that the game was up in East Timor. Yes it was long overdue, but it was an American intervention, which deserves some grudging credit. Also, by delegating U.S. forces to the UN on the Macedonian border, the United States successfully prevented yet another former Yugoslav republic being sucked into Milosevic's bloodstained mire. There are hundreds of thousands of dead Rwandans who would have welcomed a U.S. intervention there.

However, Chomsky takes an absolutist position on intervention in principle, which would have had him picketing the Normandy beaches to stop the war against German workers.

The United States is culpable in many ways over East Timor, but that should not detract from the primary role of the Indonesian government and military. Nor should any person of ethics try to shield the Milosevic regime from its unique culpability for events in Srebrenica and Kosovo. Chomsky's quasi-theological conception of the United States as the supreme evil power tends to exonerate the less evil powers, turning Ariel Sharon, the Indonesian generals, Milosevic, and the others into mere secondary agents. Meanwhile, condemning in principle any effective action to stop these malign actors actually lends them aid and comfort — while doing nothing for their victims.

Senior Foreign Policy In Focus analyst Ian Williams is a journalist and author. Much of his work can be found on his blog, Deadline Pundit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Talking Turkey Istanbul: A Great European City

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009, pages 38-40

Talking Turkey
Istanbul: A Great European City

By Ian Williams

AFTER HALF a millennium of Crusader-style propaganda, Westerners all know that Turks eat babies. But in fact, walking the streets of Istanbul with a six-month-old baby is a revelation: adult males—as much as, if not more than women—could not resist coming up to stroke the baby’s hand and chin.

The city defies expectations and stereotypes and now looks like the cosmopolitan world capital it was for so many centuries. It is an organic growth of ultra-modern high rises rising from a seedbed of traditional wooden houses, sadly being reduced to mulch by time and gentrification. Apart from the great monuments, the Roman walls, the mosques and churches, it is sad that so little of the ancient city survives, but that is because the all-too-flammable wood that has been the favored building material for millennia has led to urban renewal by conflagration.

Old Ottoman wooden houses crumbling on the backstreets are eloquent testimony to the relative fragility and evanescence of the city’s fabric over the centuries. A lamp overturned could do as much damage as barbarian invasion, and even Ottoman palaces went up in flames.

My favorite part of Istanbul is Sultanahmet, which clusters on the hills near the Topkapi Palace. A few decades ago, Sultanahmet was a louche quarter of gangsters and smugglers. They have moved on, but it still maintains a definite charm.

The narrow, steep and winding cobbled streets allegedly follow the Ottoman strictures: they were to be no wider than three horsemen could ride abreast. In many of them, their stirrups would have tangled with each other, and in any case the Sipahis—members of the Ottoman Empire’s elite mounted cavalry force—would have crashed their helmets on the overhanging medieval-style upper storeys.

Nevertheless, such restrictions do not prevent cars from trying to squeeze past pedestrians up the steep slopes and around the hairpin bends.

In keeping with their multi-faceted exterior walls, the roofs of Sultanahmet are a Harry Potter fantasy of tumbled tiles and random angles and equally random chimneys poking out, enhanced by rooftop flower pots and the new talismans of satellite dishes. Concrete in bright hues of yellow and pink escapes the Third World ubiquity of turquoise blue, and is interspersed with wooden and corrugated iron additions and extensions.

The area is undergoing serious gentrification, but only in a few favored cases does that involve repairing and repainting the topsy-turvy blackened wood structures. Rebuilding is done mostly in concrete, often with the same eccentrically shaped exteriors, and from a quick view of construction techniques they are unlikely to be much more durable than the rickety, and sometimes deserted, wooden houses alongside.

Perhaps the best indication of Turkey’s accretive civilization is the incredible archaeological excavations taking place in Yenikapi, just south of Sultanahmet. To set the contrast, I once stood in the Beersheba museum, in a confiscated mosque, perusing the Israeli Department of Antiquities time chart—in which the mosque did not exist, since history stopped in 660 and resumed in 1900.

When, during the digging for a new underground railway tunnel, Turkish archaeologists discovered the silted-up remains of a Byzantine harbor with the preserved remains of 9th and 10th century ships, they did not concrete over the inconvenient reminder. Instead they delayed the hugely expensive project while they excavated and rescued the relics. Indeed they went digging even further, and took the origins of the city back to Neolithic times.

The archaeologists assured me that there was no popular upsurge against the display, rather pride in this reinforcement of the antiquity of their city.

One of the joys of Istanbul is stumbling across ancient churches and mosques nestled among the houses, quite apart from the better-known and huger monuments such as Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) and the Sultan Ahmet mosque that gives the district its name. One of the relatively unknown treasures hiding near the waterfront is the Küçük Ayasofya, the little Hagia Sophia, since it was a template for the big one when it was built.

The original late Roman Arches can be seen in the dome, and the adapted Arab style on the outside wall. In the foreground are the chimneys for the kitchens to feed pilgrims and travellers (Photo I. Williams).

Ironically, as an immaculately maintained and cleaned working mosque, in some ways it gives a better impression of the original church than its larger descendant, whose shabbiness, reconstruction work, dust and thronging tourists demand an effort of the imagination to conjure up its original effect. Its marble walls survived intact, while around its interior walls the Greek inscription to the Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora also remains intact after 1,500 years.

Indeed, shocking to more conservative Muslims, the Ottomans surrounded their holy places with graves and tombstones, emulating the Christian tradition. Indeed, one great Christian practice they adopted enthusiastically was collecting relics. The Amanat in the Topkapi Palace preserves relics of the Prophet and others. There may be some room for doubt about the rod with which Moses struck the rock, for example, but with a continuity of tradition and polity from the Prophet’s days, the hair from his head and beard, the fragment of his tooth and the original standard lends them serious credibility.

To fundamentalists, however, their provenance would not diminish their idolatrous nature—indeed, some emissaries were sent from Mecca specifically to protect them from iconoclasm. Fortunately, as the ruling AKP in Turkey is demonstrating, Turkish Islam covers a wide spectrum, and is self-reliant enough to eschew the excesses of more austere fundamentalists.

To some extent, it has little option. After the Ottomans, Kemal Ataturk constructed a Turkish identity that was not confessional, unlike many others in the region. That secularist identity—which can be fairly fundamentalist itself—has its drawbacks, one of which has certainly been the restrictions placed on the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch and the seminary that used to supply candidates.

Roman walls in the area the Turks stormed in 1453 (Photo I. Williams).

Those restrictions exist not because he is Christian, but rather because he is seen as “Greek” Orthodox, and has indeed been taken to court for claiming the title of ecumenical. It is a very shortsighted stance, which not only raises human rights issues for EU accession, but also deprives the city of prestige and tourism and pilgrimage dollars. As the sultans realized, it is better to have such a potent title to hand than drive it into exile!

History is always seen through the prism of the present, or the more recent past. The Cold War/Clash of Civilizations view places like Istanbul as a front line between Islam and Christianity, or more recently between Islam and Judeo-Christianity. The West looks at the Sufi-inspired Islam of the Turks and Balkans through a lens ground from the sand of the Saudi desert.

In reality, of course, these are crossroads and meeting places rather than battlegrounds. Istanbul is often regarded as a Turkish nationalist name imposed to erase the Greek past inherent in Constantinople, when in reality it is the Greek words “to the city,” the polis, that was its basis, while Constantine is a Latin name.

To confuse the simplicities of retrospective nationalism even more, the “Greeks” of the Byzantine Empire never called themselves either Byzantine or Greek. They were Romans. It was Westerners trying to assert the legitimacy of the Holy Roman Empire in the face of it being, as Voltaire quipped, neither Roman nor Holy who foisted these names on the citizens.

And right up to the end of the Sultanate, the Phanariots, the Greeks of Istanbul, were a considerable proportion of the cosmopolitan population of the Ottoman capital—and indeed crewed the navy and filled the bureaucracy.

Although, sadly, most of the Phanariots were driven out in the 1950s, some still remain, along with Armenians, Bosnians and Uzbeks and other peoples from along the Silk Road.

Turkish Islam is distinct from its more southerly forms. Sunday is the day off in Turkey and the environs of the Eyup mosque, allegedly the burial place of the Prophet’s standard-bearer, as revealed in a dream to a sultan, swarmed with the visibly pious, men in skull caps and women in chadors pinned across their face coming to pray. But the men and their wives walked hand in hand, and on less solemn occasions fundamentalist feminine fashion includes colorful figure-hugging silk attire, with chic headscarves surrounding immaculate maquillage.

However, as the more pious immigrants from the Anatolian hinterland move into the city, the headscarves are certainly more widespread, even if they coexist with miniskirts and tight blouses from the more secular. Another audible testimony to growing Islamic power is the decibels from the minarets, which are distinctly louder than they used to be. I am inclined to be fundamentalist on this issue. I think the muezzen should climb the minaret and use his lungs to benefit his own soul and body, and delight the ears of sleeping citizens. More secular citizens also complained that beer and raki were disappearing from supermarket shelves and restaurant menus, but that was the whim of the proprietors, not a legal edict.

This mixture of Islam and secularism, despite the occasional atavistic whiffs of authoritarianism, made Turkey a sensible place for President Barack Obama’s first major visit abroad, sending discrete but strong signals across the region. The country, as its involvement with Damascus has shown, is a possible partner in winning a Middle East peace process, an essential part of which is to persuade Muslims that the U.S. is not irredeemably Islamophobic—or, for that matter, irredeemably Israelophilic. It was well worth his blocking our access to the Blue Mosque on his visit.

One cannot help but suspect that Obama’s immediate predecessors would not have made a walk around the mosque and a trip to a Muslim country their first priority, especially if they had been accused of being a crypto-Muslim, and if their host had publicly dressed down Israeli President Shimon Perez on global TV.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of course, gained immense popularity across the Muslim world, and indeed much further, for his sermon to the Israeli leader at Davos, when so many others prevaricated on or supported Israel’s attack on Gaza. Interestingly, the tidal wave of obloquy that would normally have deluged over him was muted—and then almost silenced. The Turkish armed forces are Israel’s only ally in the area.

The generals may have their own disagreements with Erdogan, but let their Israeli counterparts know that they would be unhappy with foreigners calumniating a Turkish leader. Hence the rapid silence which overcame the initial vociferous pro-Israel indignation. Even Obama benefited from the amnesty!

One lesson is clear: successful conduct of foreign policy comes by talking to foreigners, not listening to domestic lobbies. The other is that Turkey should be in the European Union. There are legitimate hurdles on minority issues—but the Muslim majority population should not be a bar to membership. Istanbul is one of the great European cities and should take its place with London, Paris, Madrid and Berlin.

Nationhood: Ties that Bind, or Free?

My opus for the latest WPJ, don't forget to check out
the nice cartoon by Nicholas Vadot at the end!
(nice, easy to read pdf at

Nationhood: Ties that Bind, or Free?
Ian Williams

In February 2009, Kosovo—the last compo-
nent of the former Yugoslavia to win inde-
pendence—celebrated its first anniversary of
freedom. Three months later, it was wel-
comed into the International Monetary
Fund, a critical step toward international
recognition of its status as a truly self-gov-
erning, self-reliant nation. But it does not
exercise effective authority in its northern
enclave and is heavily dependent on foreign
aid, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) troops and UN resolutions. These
defining moments impel reflection on the
question of what independence, sovereignty,
and citizenship really mean in today’s glob-
alized world.
It brought me back to just how much—
and how little—has changed since the sum-
mer of 1999, just after NATO had moved in-
to the former province of Serbia, before in-
dependence or peace had become even a
possibility in this violent corner of the
world. Dumped from the Skopje bus at the
Kosovo/Macedonia border, my Kosovar col-
league and I had to drag ourselves and our
bags to the other side to get a UN shuttle
bus to Pristina. At least I was in short
sleeves. The U.S. troops in the stalled con-
voy that I trudged past wore helmets and
full body armor in 90 degree-plus heat, and
were probably beginning to understand why
the Crusader knights did not stay the course
in the medieval Middle East.
In those years, millions of families across
the Balkans had suddenly, often violently,
been forced to cope with such new realities:
that what once had been a local trip—the
equivalent of passing, say, from Brooklyn to
Queens in New York—now involved cross-
ing international frontiers. My Kosovar
companion grumbled that it was taking us
longer simply to clear the border than it
used to take him to drive the 76 miles from
Pristina to Skopje for a night out on the
town. Back then, all he needed was his dri-
ver’s license and some cash. Now he needed
to change currencies and carry a passport—
with the appropriate visa. We were crossing
an international border, as impenetrable
for many as was the Iron Curtain in the
era before glasnost. Welcome to the new
In a world where tiny, indefensible, and
drowning atolls claim a sovereignty they
could only enjoy on sufferance, where previ-
ously academic exercises in cartography sud-
denly make people aliens in their place of
birth, and where most of Western Europe is
incrementally abandoning many of the tra-
ditional prerequisites of nationhood, it bears
looking at how shaky many of our axioms
on sovereignty and nationality really are.

On the Macedonian border, which bi-
sects (regardless of local wishes) a majority
Albanian area, families found that what
had been an imaginary line on the map was
now a militarized barrier separating them
from their relatives in Macedonia. In the
north, the Serb minority who lived in
Kosovo watched truculently as the United
Nations erected boundary posts between
Kosovo and Serbia after the latter’s military
A Militarized Frontier
Modern Yugoslavia’s godfather, President
Jozep Broz Tito, had tried to square the
circle of nationalisms by keeping Kosovo as
a titular province of Serbia, but giving it
practical autonomy and an equal and inde-
pendent voice in the Yugoslav Federation. It
was a nominally successful arrangement for
40 years, but depended too much on Tito’s
personality. The Rube-Goldberg machinery
of a rotating collective presidency that he
designed to replace himself fell apart at the
first proddings of Slobodan Milosevic, who
pandered to Serb nationalism by overturn-
ing those arrangements. The Kosovars had
been uncomplaining about their previous
autonomy in the Yugoslav federation, but
their experience after Slobodan Milosevic
had instituted direct rule and ethnic Serbian
hegemony from Belgrade meant that despite
the weasely language in UN resolutions af-
ter the NATO occupation, it was clear Kosovo
would never be part of Serbia again. (In any
rational consideration, a state that tries to
deport the majority of citizens from a
“province” as Milosevic did in 1999 after
depriving them of their rights for the pre-
ceding decade has terminally severed any
claim to their loyalty.)
Even so, the Kosovars had no great am-
bitions to be part of a putative “Greater Al-
bania,” uniting Macedonian and Kosovar
Albanians with their compatriots in Tirana.
This was the bugbear of Serb nationalists,
who spoke of it as axiomatically bad even as
they assumed the self-evident merits of a
Greater Serbia. Kosovars chose independ-
ence, despite total dependence on Western
aid, NATO security, and even its adoption of
the Euro as currency—all calling into ques-
tion just how independent it can ever be.
Indeed, its “independence” is in some
ways reactive. A linguistically distinct pop-
ulation chose to sever the sovereignty that
Serbia had claimed over them. Serbia has
referred the question of Kosovan independ-
ence to the International Court of Justice,
which may return—probably years hence—
a verdict that Belgrade does not like. In-
deed, Serbia’s foreign minister has pre-emp-
tively declared that the government would
disregard any adverse judgment. In any case,
over 60 nations have recognized Kosovo.
Belgrade is no more likely to resume sover-
eignty over Kosovo than the United King-
dom is to re-annex the thirteen American
colonies or indeed than the former princi-
pality of Serbia is to resume its former sta-
tus as part of a Turkish empire in Europe.
Ironically, Albanians, Kosovars, and
Serbs—along with all their neighbors in the
Balkan cockpit of nationalities—unite in
sharing the same overriding ambition. They
all desperately want to join the European
Union, which would entail them giving up
much of the sovereignty that they have been
so zealously squabbling over. In stark con-
trast to the splintering of former Yugoslavia
and the Soviet Union, Western Europe is
becoming a new borderless nirvana. It is
possible to travel from the shores of the Arc-
tic Ocean to Spanish enclaves in North
Africa without showing a passport. Euro-
pean Union citizens can live and work any-
where they want within the EU, claim edu-
cation, healthcare, and welfare benefits—
and even vote in many elections. For all
those nations, whose working definition of
sovereignty seems to include the right, in-
deed the duty, to harass foreigners at the
borders and inside them, this is serious self-
denial in the interest of a broader human or
economic security.
Self-Determination and Statehood
The origins of many of the problems we see
in the Balkans today may be traced back to
1919 and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen
Points—or rather popular perceptions of the
Points. In fact, while encap-
sulating the concept of self-
determination, his points al-
so included a host of messy
and somewhat less princi-
pled details about their
application amid national
boundaries drawn with only a cavalier ges-
ture toward the real desires of the people
who would be forced to live within them.
Neither the League of Nations nor the
peacemakers who concluded the Treaty of
Versailles were quite as insouciant as they
have since been depicted, at least when deal-
ing with those who did not lose the war.
Still, it would be difficult to claim that
the post-Versailles world represented un-
mitigated progress or freedom. During
the twentieth century, the application of
Wilson’s Fourteen Points introduced a new
phenomenon—the stationary tourist, indi-
viduals who found themselves under the se-
quential rule of a half-dozen or more states,
simply by virtue of the land where they
lived having changed hands through wars,
revolutions, or boundary changes.
We need to remember that there has
been a major shift of sensibilities since the
international community and the League of
Nations organized and facilitated population
transfers, such as those between Greeks and
Turks over Cyprus, displacing communities
that represented three millennia of continu-
ous settlement in order to make them fit
newly constructed national or international
agreements. At the end of World War II,
the “national” claims over the human rights
of individuals had its last orgasmic consum-
mation with population transfers across Eu-
rope that moved Germans from the East,
Poles from Ukraine, and sundry others
across the continent. Within a few years, as-
sessment of this wholesale geo-ethnic engi-
neering would move from acts of ruthless
but effective statesmanship to indictable
crimes under international law. The Pro-
crustean concept of truncating or stretching
people to fit boundaries persisted through
the division of India and Pakistan, and even
today in Israel and Palestine.
Throughout this period, there have been
recurrent expressions of disquiet from hu-
manitarians at such forced movements, as
much about the savagery with which the
transfers were conducted as the principles
behind it. Some, looking at the relative
peace in Europe since the Oder-Neisse line
defined the Polish-German frontier at the
end of World War II, and the mass transfer
of populations to match the new borders,
will claim “but it worked.” And perhaps it
did for a while, until the cataclysm of the
dissolution of the Soviet Union knocked the
Balkan satellite from orbit, sending it into a
relentlessly downward spiral.
Indeed, the most violent problems
stemmed from old, and previously almost-
forgotten, “internal” boundaries, drawn up
on alleged ethnic principles, which sprang
to life with new rigidity—all the more
visible because their previous irrelevance
had left them to fossilize for decades rela-
tively unchallenged. They were old impe-
rial boundaries between Ottomans and
Hapsburgs in the Balkans, and Stalin’s dic-
tatorial whims in the case of the USSR. In
The most violent problems
stemmed from almost-forgotten
‘internal’ boundaries.
both cases, they rarely coincided with the
needs or desires of the people who lived in
these states—such as Kosovo, whose bound-
aries now include some Serbs, but exclude
some Albanians in Serbia. In Yugoslavia, the
EU’s Badinter Commission set out criteria
for recognizing the former federal republics
that included accepting their existing re-
publican boundaries. Similarly, the Soviet
republics, in general, accepted the eccentric
lines Stalin had drawn for them when it
came time to create new nations out of the
Soviet Union.
While some countries are born into in-
dependence and others seize it, most of the
former Soviet republics had it thrust upon
them. The result was millions of people who
found themselves faced with the choice of
hightailing it back to Russian or other post-
Soviet motherlands, or being stranded as
minorities in far away places with newly
assertive natives.
Under the old USSR, Khrushchev’s
reallocation of Crimea to Ukraine went
relatively un-noticed by its citizens. Few
of them would have cared that Ukraine,
along with Byelorussia, had a UN seat or
indeed, that while the majority of the cur-
rent Crimean population was Russian, the
deported Crimean Tartars thought they
had a prior lien on the property. But with
the dissolution of the Soviet Union, anom-
alies such as Crimea and the Nagorno-
Karabakh, let alone Chechnya, were time-
bombs waiting to explode. In Georgia,
the Abkhaz and Ossetians reacted to a viru-
lent Georgian nationalism which denied
them their linguistic and cultural rights.
They thus expelled Georgians, who in the
case of Abkhazia, reputedly outnumbered
the Abkhaz.
In each case, a fictional template of a
sovereign nation-state was being applied in
circumstances for which it was rarely, if ever
relevant—and more disastrously revived in
circumstances in which it was disastrous.
Wail Freedonia
In the West, we now look down indulgently
on the Marx Brothers’ Freedonian excesses as
the foibles of nations imagining themselves
into being. But that is how all of our na-
tions were birthed.
For centuries, indeed millennia, Greeks,
Arabs, Serbs, Bulgarians, Kurds, Turks,
Jews, Albanians, and others lived side by
side in cities which held mixed communi-
ties. A century ago, there were ancient
colonies of Greeks surviving around the
Mediterranean and Black Sea. Now the
Greeks of southern Italy, Alexandria, Anato-
lia, the Pontus, and Caucasus are an often
suppressed memory, while the Phanariots of
Istanbul, who had been the majority even in
the Sultan’s capital, are a faint shadow of
their former Byzantine glory. They were vic-
tims of that romantic nationalism whose ul-
timate manifestation is one people, one
state—and, all too often, one cynical but
charismatic leader.
In the twenty-first century, the nation
state is not what it was, and indeed proba-
bly never has been: that is, the metaphysical
ideal of a nation—a contiguous territory oc-
cupied by people with a shared identity
united in a sovereign entity, huddling to-
gether for security under a single govern-
ment. While this reappraisal of the nation-
state in some measure appears to be an inno-
vation, it actually hearkens back to an older
era, which in retrospect looks increasingly
attractive. The Ottomans in Istanbul, and
the Hapsburgs in Vienna, with varying de-
grees of tolerance and efficiency, ruled over
multi-ethnic states that allowed a large de-
gree of cultural autonomy. Few nations have
their own exclusive, native languages, with
roots going back over a millennium. Para-
doxically, peoples like the Basques or the
Welsh—with claims to relative cultural,
linguistic, and genetic continuity—rarely
have their own nation-states. Adding to the
irony is that so much of the savagery sur-
rounding the creation or implementation of
nation-states is an emulation of that first-
born creation of the Enlightenment—post-
revolutionary France—which tied together
the feudal idea of territory with the innova-
tive concept of the “people.”
When the French Revolution and Bona-
partist reforms swept aside the old feudal
boundaries, perhaps as few as a quarter of
the citizens of France actually spoke French.
They spoke Basque, Alsatian German, Bre-
ton, Corsican, Languedoc, and countless
mutually unintelligible dialects. Their laws,
customs, weights, and measures varied from
county to county and town to town. Indeed,
even this year, the United Nations Educa-
tional, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) identified no less than 26 threat-
ened languages in France. While initially
attachment to the tricolor was enough qual-
ification for citizenship, speaking French has
become increasingly important.
The French example provided the impe-
tus to convert Germany from a linguistic
and geographical definition. Bismarck’s
Germany, even before the Nazis, expressed
a nationalist drive to create lebensraum, or
“living space,” in the East, with attempts
to assimilate or move out Czechs, Poles,
and other Slavic minorities such as the Old
Prussians, Sorbs, and Wends, as well as to
annex any nearby German-speaking areas.
This produced the ultimate nightmare: na-
tionalism, national self-determination, and
sovereignty insouciant to the opinions of
other peoples. The Nazis came to power
by demanding that Germans, too, had the
same right to self-determination that Wil-
son had offered their neighbors. But self-
determination for one does not mean self-
determination for all—and the Nazis were
not shy about denying “minority” commu-
nities their right in the sun.
After the Allied victory in 1945, the
peacemakers truncated Germany to fit their
new design. Indeed, 1945 saw some of the
most brutal and wholesale ethnic cleansing
of the century, as millions of ethnic Ger-
mans were bayoneted out of their ancestral
homes to the east and south into the cur-
tailed frontiers of what is now the modern,
homogeneous Federal Republic. From East
Prussia, Silesia, and the Sudetenland to
Transylvania and Vojvodina, German popu-
lations that dated back to medieval times
were ethnically cleansed, forcibly and bru-
tally deported—to a state of which they had
never been a part and whose origins in the
nineteenth century came half a millennium
or more after their settlements. In a brutal
application of vae victis, the episode is never
really overtly justified—it is simply ignored
by all but the victims.
Bring Back the Hapsburgs
Despite the exception of Germany, the
process of national homogenization in West-
ern Europe is far from complete. Indeed it
has been slowed, even halted, by modern
sensibilities and the European Union. The
new continental unity is not based on a
forced homogeneity; rather, the core of the
European Union endows national groups—
Basques, Catalans, Bretons, and others—
with new linguistic and cultural rights. The
union has bestowed upon these marginalized
peoples a renewed sense of identity, since
the shared benefits of European citizenship
do not depend on swearing allegiance to a
majority language or the culture of a single
nation. For countries with populations in a
position to benefit from EU minority rights
policies that are a condition of membership,
joining the European Union involves
foreswearing majoritarian monoculture. Yet
the feverish reaction to a Kurdish MP using
his own language in the Turkish parliament
show that the EU’s efforts to bolster minor-
ity rights is still a work in progress.
Still, there remains hope for progress.
Indeed, even in places like Britain, the right
of individual appeal to the European Court
of Human Rights in Strasbourg has im-
proved human rights and human security, as
well as the sovereignty of the individual—
though at the expense of the sovereignty
of one of the oldest continuously existing
states in the world. After numerous success-
ful appeals against its government, Britain
has now incorporated the European conven-
tions on human rights into its domestic
The European model certainly does not
have the seductions or passionate attach-
ment of the nation state. Its attractions are
much more muted. Across Spain, for exam-
ple, local authorities will fly the European flag
along with the Catalan, Andalusian, or Basque
flag, as if to counterbalance the Spanish national
flag. The Welsh or Scottish flags fly proudly
alongside the Union Jack in the United Kingdom.

There are tensions, but overall, people can maintain multiple,
parallel identities if they are not forced to
choose between one and the other.

Indeed, the EU’s starry circle on blue is
not a flag to move people into paroxysms of
patriotism. Its main attraction is that what
it stands for reduces the likelihood of such
jingoistic spasms. It is not that everyone
suddenly loves one another, but that ten-
sions and prejudices become manageably do-
mestic when disentangled from lines on the
map and demands of exclusive loyalty. Peo-
ple from Liverpool and Manchester, Naples
and Milan may hold jaundiced views about
each other, but these days, neighbors are un-
likely to go to war (beyond the occasional
soccer match, of course). In a sense, the
European Union makes all Europeans neigh-
bors, successfully reviving the long-discard-
ed model of the multi-ethnic Ottoman and
Hapsburg empires—that is, a separation of
ethnic identity from political sovereignty
and territoriality. The revival may be partly
in reaction to how the principles of Wilson-
ian self-determination and Westphalian sov-
ereignty have been pushed beyond absurdity
to tragedy so often in the last century’s na-
tionalist-inspired wars.

The Erosion of Sovereignty

While at first glance, the European drive to
integration would seem a natural extension
of the UN Charter, it is in fact almost a
negation—but only superficially. The UN
insistence on the legal fiction of absolute
equality and sovereignty of its member
states was, in a sense, a step backward in or-
der to take two, or more, steps forward.
The United Nations’ more absolute con-
cept of the sovereign equality of all states,
effectively vetoed older and more complexly
graduated concepts of nationhood that
ranged from suzerainty to protectorates. On-
ly sovereign states were to be admitted. Yet,
there were anomalies to begin with. India,
even before its official independence, along
with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and
South Africa, were in the United Nations
although all were technically part of the
British Empire, with the British King (ef-
fectively Emperor) George VI as their head
of state. In fact, the British “dominions,” al-
though considered automatically bound by
the British declaration of war in 1914, were
still represented separately at Versailles, part
of a grand, if questionable, compromise.
Three decades later, membership in the
United Nations in 1945 confirmed that in-
dependence. On the other hand, Ukraine
The European model does not
have the seductions or passions
of the nation-state; its attractions
are much more muted.
and Byelorussia were also founding mem-
bers of the United Nations, though these
“nations” certainly had substantially less
autonomy than most American states.
Nevertheless, the founding UN princi-
ple of sovereign equality has generally been
enhanced over the years, not least when
Ukraine and Belarus translated fiction into
fact after the dissolution of the Soviet
Union. Nauru, an 8 square mile, mined-out
guano islet, and China, a global behemoth,
are equal sovereign nations. Only in the rar-
ified chambers of the Security Council do
the permanent members evoke the Orwell-
ian state of the real world, where some na-
tions are definitely more equal than others.
While the UN Charter emphasized the
sovereignty of its member states, its signa-
tories, at least in theory, surrendered their
most basic sovereign right—waging war.
The charter submits acts of self-defense to
ratification by the Security Council once the
immediate emergency has passed. Of course,
there have been all too many wars since the
founding of this international body, but it
is significant that, de jure, the international
community has not recognized any acquisi-
tion of territory by war—not East Timor,
Western Sahara, or the Occupied Territories.
Indeed, if Saddam Hussein had left intact
the government he briefly installed in
Kuwait and withdrawn, Washington would
likely not have been able to assemble the
international coalition to remove Iraq from
its neighbor. Rather, Saddam’s foolhardy
annexation provided the legal excuse for
UN sanctions and political support for the
ensuing Operation Desert Storm.
And so, in the wake of the first Iraq
War, “microstates” rushed to take out what
amounted to anti-annexation insurance by
joining the United Nations. Previously, the
United States had demurred at accepting
the sovereignty (and thus, membership) of
microstates, but as history would have it,
the Prince of Liechtenstein happened to be
a friend of President George H. W. Bush.
And thus a single snowflake became a
squall: San Marino, Andorra, and Monaco
were followed by a flurry of atolls and islets,
many of which, such as Nauru, had fewer
citizens than the United Nations had staff.
Each is now a sovereign nation in the view
of the world body, and maintains its right to
cast a vote equal to China’s or India’s.
In the case of the former U.S. Strategic
Trust territories in the Pacific, the defini-
tion of sovereignty became stretched even
further. In 1990, when the UN Trusteeship
Council considered the status of Palau, the
last trusteeship and mandate left over from
the First World War, the Soviet emissary
was indignant when I suggested that this
tiny state would want to join the United
Nations. “But their compact of association
with the United States—they will not be
independent,” the Soviet official protested.
I could not resist recalling for him the ex-
ample of Byelorussia and Ukraine. “But
they were frontline states against the
Nazis,” he shot back. When I suggested
that these islands were in the frontline
against Japanese militarism in the Pacific he
became strangely silent, and later the Russ-
ian delegation raised no objections when
they joined.
Indeed, when Palau, Micronesia, and the
Marshall Islands (the other “compact” states)
finally became members in 1994, the USSR
was no longer what it had been. Russia had,
almost surreptitiously, inherited the Soviet
seat—sovereignty and all—without any
formal declaration or resolution, while the
former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and
Ukraine had morphed their courtesy mem-
berships into real UN memberships, fol-
lowed soon thereafter by other former Soviet
and Yugoslav republics. In the end, it was
left to a British diplomat to raise, more
in the nature of a footnote, the issue of
whether Palau—with its defense and finance
in the hands of the United States, and its
treaty obligation to consult with Washing-
ton on foreign policy—was really a sover-
eign state in the traditional sense.

Half a Sovereign = Lienty

Coincidentally, the British Foreign Office
has just abandoned a concept that could
have been usefully applied to this and other
cases. In 2009, to the pleasure of the Chi-
nese and the disgust of the Tibetans, Britain
dropped its previous stand—inherited from
the days of the Raj and the Younghusband ex-
pedition to Lhasa—that China had “suzerainty”
over Tibet.
Instead, London quietly accepted Beijing’s “sover-
eignty” over Tibet, since in the modern post
UN Charter world, sovereignty is a binary
concept—countries either have it or they
Suzerainty is an old imperial concept
implying allegiance without much in the
way of authority. The Ottomans specialized
in this nebulous concept, and indeed
claimed suzerainty over Serbia for much
of the nineteenth century. When the
grandfather of former UN Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros Ghali became prime minis-
ter of Egypt in 1908, he needed a firman, or
decree, from the sultan in Istanbul who had
suzerainty over Egypt, to confirm his ap-
pointment, even though it was some cen-
turies since Egypt had actually been under
any effective form of Ottoman control. In
fact, for some four decades, it had been un-
der British occupation.
The British were also adept at exploit-
ing the degrees of lack of sovereignty im-
plied by suzerainty. Much of British India
was not directly ruled by the British but by
local rulers, who, nonetheless, acknowledged
British suzerainty in much the same feudal
way they had previously deferred to the
Moghul Emperor in Delhi. On a wider
scale, the various stages of autonomy from
outright colony to self-government to full
independence have been traversed by the
Commonwealth countries and Ireland as
they drifted away from the motherland. In
1914, when the King’s government in Lon-
don declared war on Germany, this declara-
tion also applied automatically to the self-
governing dominions. But, nearly a century
later, the nations of the former British Com-
monwealth have evolved to the point where
despite close historical ties, the presence of
kith and kin, and even the occasional shar-
ing of a monarch, they hold no hint of
suzerainty or surrender of sovereignty in the
modern age.
The very terms “sovereignty” and
“suzerainty” are Norman French, and carry
with them feudal, hierarchical connotations.
So perhaps it is time for us to coin some
modern Norman French (might I propose
“lienty”?) to describe countries which ac-
knowledge a tie, a lien, without any hint of
hierarchy. Serbia and Kosovo, China and
Taiwan, India and Kashmir, Morocco and
Western Sahara, are just some examples of
countries afflicted with large, clingy neigh-
bors that could benefit from a lateral rather
than vertical relationship.
If sovereignty is treated with flexibility,
on a scale from suzerainty down to lienty,
then there are possible solutions that con-
sider individual rights as opposed to state
rights and group rights. The European
Union perhaps can provide some insight.
Who knows? Canadian universal health care
“In the wake of the first Iraq War,
‘microstates’ rushed to take out
what amounted to anti-annexation
insurance by joining the UN”. “

for Americans, American minimum wages
for Mexicans, and the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may all begin to
look attractive.
Indeed, each member of the United
Nations has subscribed to lienty, or non-
hierarchical suzerainty, under the UN Char-
ter. Each has forsworn the right to wage
war, and instead of sovereign states existing
in a state of nature, red in tooth and claw,
each has, nominally at least, accepted a rule
of global law to regulate relations between
Perhaps the ultimate abdication, albeit
in its very early stages, is the abandonment
of the Westphalian principle that what a
government does to its own people is no
other state’s business. At the UN Millenni-
um Summit in 2000, member nations
adopted the “responsibility to protect,”
which declares that the organization’s au-
thority under its governing charter grants it
the right to preserve peace and security be-
tween nations, which extends to internal ap-
plication in the case of breaches of humani-
tarian law. Indeed, this chipping away at
sovereignty gave member nations more than
the ability and authority to involve them-
selves in the internal doings of other states
—it granted them a moral responsibility.
Admittedly, the application of the
responsibility-to-protect doctrine will take
considerable time. At this stage, however,
the principle is more important than the ap-
plication. Still, the hitherto unprecedented
International Criminal Court indictment of
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is a his-
torical step in eroding the concept of ab-
solute sovereignty.

Ties that Bind, Ties that Free

The complexities of the modern world chal-
lenge the basic Hobbesian social contract
that a state’s citizens have exclusive loyalty
and duty to it in return for protection. Take
the European Union, for example, which of-
fers portable passport privileges for the citi-
zens of its member states; or consider the
growing acceptance of dual, or even multi-
ple nationality. Both fly in the face of this
presumed concept of exclusivity. The social
contract has been extended so that the na-
tion-state has more tenuous claims to the
loyalty and debt owed its citizens, and cer-
tainly fewer ethnically based claims. In the
United States, the nativism that mirrored
European state-building, while still present,
is undercut and eroded by huge blocs of
hyphenated Americans, those whose loyal-
ties are shared between the United States
and Ireland, Mexico, India, Israel, Poland,
or Russia, among many others.
Just as governments no longer have ex-
clusive claims on their citizens, people no
longer have exclusive duties to their govern-
ments. If the country whose passport you
hold is breaching international law, where
does your duty lie? Citizens owe differing
degrees of duty, loyalty, and attachment to
their district, their people and places of
origin, their place of residence, and to the
country or countries whose passports they
hold—not to mention to institutions like
the European Union, or even the United
Nations, to which their nation-states have
In particular, and striking at the heart
of the old concepts of sovereignty, military
personnel can plead refusal to abide by or-
ders that international agreements consider
illegal. From the Nuremburg trials to the
International Tribunals for the Balkans and
Rwanda, it is clear that obeying orders
handed down by the state is not an accept-
able excuse for committing crimes that hu-
manity, as a whole, considers abhorrent—
just as the indictments of Milosevic and
al-Bashir demonstrate that ordering others
to commit crime makes each culpable for
the deed committed.
Yet none of this means that the nation-
state will soon fade away. Indeed it is
surprising how quickly people transfer
loyalty—and their expectations of personal
security, even human security—to their
newly created or adopted nations. However,
modern Europe and an increasingly global-
ized world are eroding the concept of exclu-
sive and unqualified loyalty to one state,
and it is happening without the construc-
tion of a “super-state” that competes for
patriotic sentiments. There’s a very Haps-
burgian feel to it. (The Austro-Hungarian
Empire was a convenience more than a cause
to die for, as became quite clear when it
finally collapsed like a house of cards at the
end of World War I.)
Europe misses the dynastic glue of
the Royal and Imperial Hapsburgs and
Ottomans, but their absence is mostly a
positive. It was the dynastic war-standards
which were the focus of their empires’ mili-
tarism. Modern Europe’s laid-back sense of
multiple identities is a big improvement.
As the “scourge of war” invoked in the UN
Charter was so much a European phenome-
non, it is fitting that Europe should have
been so successful in mitigating it.
The Balkan tragedy with its resurgence
of history and atavistic nationalism, actu-
ally highlights the EU’s successes. Indeed,
Brussels’ arms are open to the new Balkan
states—as soon as their nascent economies
are in a position to assume the responsibili-
ties and rights of membership in a united
Europe, which include agreements on fron-
tiers and minority rights.
The European Union’s triumph in
reconciling pride in national and local iden-
tities with a cessation of military rivalry
between each member state is all the more
striking because governments and bureau-
cracies have been driving it, rather than
mass popular movements. These govern-
ments are, of course, democratic and respon-
sive to their respective citizens, but they are
also tied laterally: within the European
Union, within the United Nations, within
the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development, and other conventions
and organizations. And governments take
these multinational responsibilities equally
seriously, paralleling the same multiple loy-
alties and duties that modern individuals
It was the Enlightenment in Europe
whose ideas gave birth to the United States
and the French Revolution. Today, without
its nationalist baggage, the Enlightenment
has returned and holds court in Brussels,
not as a threatening super-state but as a
convenient and useful set of ideas around
which Europe has built a pragmatic federa-
tion of proud nations whose citizens gener-
ally accept that its benefits outweigh its ir-
ritations and threats.
Of course it is not that easily replicable.
The success of the European Union is built
on democracy and a common belief in eco-
nomic security and human rights across the
continent. Even so, it did entail prosperous
nations making sacrifices to raise those com-
mon standards, and it perhaps helped that
the nations involved were generally self-con-
fident in their post-war status, even if it
took decades for Britain to reconcile itself to
the loss of empire. However, the determina-
tion to make borders simply lines on maps
rather than scars on the land, to spread and
exchange the benefits of citizenship without
hegemonic relations, certainly provide a
worthwhile example for others, ranging
from the Commonwealth of Independent
States to NAFTA, or from the Association of
South East Asian Nations to the Arab
League to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In an improving world, the nations that
preach old-style sovereignty will sound as
atavistic as if they were talking of the divine
right of kings. Sovereignty will never be the
same again. But then, it never was what it
claimed to be.

UNCA Awards, $40,000

United Nations Correspondents Association
$40,000 prizes for Journalists

Annual Awards, 2009.

SG Ban Ki Moon could not attend our event on the originally planned date so the

so the UNCA Awards ceremony will now take place on Friday, 4 December.

As a result the deadline for entries, which now applies to all categories, is September 21, 2009, for work published in the year before August 31, 2009.

Please forward this information widely to all colleagues you feel

might be interested in entering. The revised notice is below.

The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)

2009 Awards for coverage of the United Nations

and its agencies:

UNCA invites media worldwide to submit entries for its Fourteenth

Annual UNCA Awards for the best written and electronic media

coverage of the United Nations, its agencies and field operations.

The prizes amount to over $40,000 with $10,000 each for the main


Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will present the prizes at the UNCA

Awards Dinner at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, December

4th, 2009.

There are no entry fees of any kind for submissions.

The Awards now include:

The Prince Albert Foundation/UNCA Global Prize for coverage of Climate Change
The Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize, sponsored by the Alexander Bodini Foundation, for written media (including online media) coverage of the UN and its agencies and their work.
The Ricardo Ortega Memorial Prize for broadcast journalism coverage of the UN, and its agencies.
The United Nations Foundation Prize for any entry in any medium that best covers the humanitarian and development aspects of the U.N. and
its agencies.
Elizabeth Neuffer, The Boston Globe bureau chief at the United

Nations, died while on assignment in Baghdad in 2003.

Ricardo Ortega, formerly the New York correspondent for Antena 3 TV of Spain, was one of the leading Spanish journalists of his generation who was shot dead on mission, in Haiti in 2004.

The judges will look for similar courage and qualities in entries for the UNCA

Journalism Awards.

The awards are open to all journalists anywhere in the world for work in print, Internet, radio or TV between 1 September, 2008 and

1 August, 2009 covering the UN and its agencies in whatever capacity. The judges will look for entries with impact, insight and originality, and will take into account the courage and assiduity of the journalist. Investigative work is welcome.

Entries not in one of the official languages of the UN should have a translation into English or French, and video entries should be in disc or VHS (preferably NTSC) format. We particularly welcome entries from outside the USA and even more so from developing world media. A written transcript assists judging of radio and TV entries. Multiple or joint entries will be accepted. Previous winners are welcome to try again!

Mailing address:

Fedex, registered or couriered packages should be sent to:

UNCA Awards Committee

Mailbox 613

The Chrysler Building

132 East 43rd Street

New York, NY 10017, USA

+1 (212) 867-0001

Scanned or email entries to:

Any questions, please email address above or telephone Awards Chair:

Ian Williams at +1 212 686 8884

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mary Robinson under attack by the "right" people

As Mary Robinson is, deservedly, honoured by Obama, she and he are under attack from the Likudniks.... almost as good as the medal, I think in terms of honour!
Here is an old interview with her... 26th July 2002
Mary Robinson
The outgoing U.N. high commissioner for human rights talks about running afoul of the Bush administration over Israel and the Palestinians, ending the "cycle of impunity" and standing up to bullies.

By Ian Williams

On Tuesday, the United Nations General Assembly approved Secretary-General Kofi Annan's nomination of Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello to become the next U.N. high commissioner for human rights. His term -- Vieira de Mello is just the third individual to hold the position -- will begin on Sept. 12 and he's sure to be watched closely -- by both human rights groups and the Bush administration.

After Vieira de Mello's nomination was announced on Monday, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, "[Vieira de Mello] brings to the job an impressive diplomatic and U.N. background, but he lacks hands-on human rights experience. The challenge he faces is to prove that he will stand up to governments and be an unwavering voice on behalf of the victims of human rights abuse."

As Vieira de Mello himself told Reuters, "The job in itself is a minefield ... It is the risk of politicization and how to manage that, how to ensure that human rights are not over politicized." And no one can vouch for his assertion better than Mary Robinson, the outgoing high commissioner, whose term ends on the now iconic date of Sept.11. It's common knowledge that her defense of the Durban Conference against Racism, which U.S. and Israeli representatives walked out of, her views on the Israel-Palestine conflict and her condemnation of the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Camp X-ray at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay provoked the Bush administration to oppose the extension of her term.

Robinson became the second United Nations high commissioner for human rights in June 1997 after resigning as president of Ireland. Before Robinson, Ireland's presidency was a ceremonial office, whose holder was expected to do little more than shake hands with VIPs and open schools and hospitals. But when Robinson -- a woman with socialist and feminist leanings -- was elected, it symbolized the changes in what had been a traditionally conservative and religion-dominated country. She stretched the boundaries of the presidency to fit her concerns, one of the most prominent of which was human rights. She made trips to places like Somalia and Rwanda, and in the Great Lakes region of Africa she coined the memorable phrase, "the cycle of impunity," to describe the process by which leaving mass murder unpunished encouraged others to do the same.

Her name had actually been raised as a replacement for Boutros Boutros Ghali at the head of the U.N., but although she was the right gender, Ireland was not in Africa, and that was where the consensus said that the next secretary general should come from. And when he did, Kofi Annan tapped her for the human rights job. As high commissioner for human rights, she brought a sense of urgency to the position, and the authority of a recently retired head of state. It irked the type of U.N. bureaucrats who would much rather file reports of massacres at the bottom of a cabinet than upset governments. For her, human rights transcended national affiliations. For example, just because China was big, or Israel had friends in Washington, was no reason to stay silent.

The word went around in the corridors of power in Washington and New York's U.N. headquarters. She was "difficult to work with." Just because the U.S. and Israel walked out of the Durban Conference, she saw no reason to close it down when the rest of the world stayed. She was forthright about abuses of human rights by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority: In Washington she was damned.

However, though she leaves the U.N. in a matter of weeks, Robinson refuses to limp like a lame duck. Recently, she was in New York to report to the Security Council on the massacres and the human rights situation in the Congo and was as forthright as ever before giving up what she calls "the day job."

Putting it politely, from the outside it looks as if the Middle East issue was the one that led to, shall we say, diminished enthusiasm for your renewal in office. Is that a fair assessment?

Indeed. It's ironic in a way, because the issue I'm most committed to is the integrity of the human rights agenda, and shaping it so it's not politicized. I applied that faithfully to addressing the problems both in the occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel, and I have mentally, emotionally and intellectually tried to be bound by it. I may have made some mistakes but that is where I'm at, because that is essentially the core of why I took this job.

It was very interesting to me that it is not so perceived on the Israeli side. It may be because I've been over-appreciated on the Palestinian side. But I have condemned unequivocally suicide bombing, and reiterated the need for human security in Israel for political debate.

Even then, in 2000, it was very evident that the occupation is at the root of many of the human rights problems, and the intifada, which had started then, was only at the stage of stone throwing and young people being killed. Since then we have drive-by shootings and suicide bombing which is of course appalling and cannot be condemned strongly enough, certainly not justified by any cause -- but the Israeli responses are also excessive.

Jul 26, 2002 | It worries me that in this great country [the U.S.] that's not the perception: They don't see the suffering of the Palestinian people; they don't see the impact of collective punishment. They do immediately see and empathize -- and rightly -- with the suffering of Israeli civilians who are killed, or injured, or just frightened, and of course I do too. But I find it very disheartening that there is not more understanding here of the appalling suffering of the Palestinian population, nor appreciation that this is not going to lead to a secure future. It's going to lead to greater hatred and desperation, of further suicide bombings.

You believe your views on this issue were the reason why the U.S. so vigorously opposed an extension of your term?

Yes, combined with the Durban conference. I urged and begged the U.S. and Israel to stay. I told them that all the draft language, which was unacceptable, would be taken out -- and it was. But once they left, there are those who refuse now to accept that any good came out of Durban.

I'm not defensive about my record on the Middle East or the Durban conference. I think we achieved an extraordinary breakthrough in Durban against all the odds. But there are two very different perceptions. I was in Mexico last week for the first of the follow up regional conferences from Durban, and it was a joy to see how much it means for countries in Central and Southern American, Mexico, the host, Brazil, Chile, the way it has brought new hope for indigenous peoples, for people of African descent, for black Brazilians. I was hearing the plans for action to follow up on Durban from civil society and government -- and I thought, "At last! The true agenda is resurfacing." Of course, we need it more than ever following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now, after five years as high commissioner, do you think you have made a difference?

Certainly there's been a change ... I [recently] addressed the Security Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and they will publish my report as a document. Five years ago, the S.C. would not have listened to a high commissioner!

There's also been a dramatic shift, and one that I do take some credit for, in the developing world's attitude. When I started back in September of 1997, I was quite taken aback by how many leaders of developing countries told me: "Don't you know human rights is just a Western stick to beat us with? It is politicized, nothing to do with real concern about human rights."

You know, there was an element of truth in that, and so I found it necessary to find, first of all, the true agenda of human rights at the international level. That is to be strong in civil liberties, in the protection and promotion of civil and political rights, and strong in the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, and to fulfill the express vision and mandate of the establishment of the high commissioner's office, which was to seek consensus on the right to development. That's an individual and a collective right, the right of the people to gain the full flower of their human rights.

And that led to more linkage being made by leaders of developing countries between human rights and economic and social development. They began to realize that if you got your human rights right, you accelerated human development, economic development ... What is very clear is that human rights need protection at national and local level, and therefore unless there is more attention to strengthening human rights, and law and administration of justice at national level, then we are not really going to make great progress.

It's reflected very dramatically in the New Economic Partnership for African Development, the NEPAD. The text of that is an extraordinary indication of how far human rights have moved to become the priority tool of developing countries in making progress. They identified the four priority areas: to strengthen the administration of justice, the rule of law, tackling corruption, and adhering fully to international human rights norms and standards ... To me it is a moral as well as a practical issue. If countries give priority to these issues and cannot find the resources domestically -- then that's certainly an area I'm going to address by trying to build quiet alliances for it for when I quit the day job.

Do you have a new day job lined up?

I do feel energized at the end of this quite demanding job, so I have a real sense of wanting to bring this experience into a different and broader field. I have specific ideas for what I want to achieve, but I need to work out practical ways to do it.

I'm very interested in the whole debate on shaping globalization and I think that the international human rights norms and standards have a contribution to make to a more ethical globalization.

We have the international norms and standards, we have the treaty bodies working more effectively, we have the rapporteurs, there's an ability to name and shame, it's accepted that human rights don't stop at borders -- that if there are violations in a country, the international community is rightly interested. The crucial issue now in human rights is national capacity building.

Your concerns have not always been shared by some international organizations: the World Bank and IMF traditionally never let a few prison camps interfere with their appreciation of a good GDP growth rate. Have you turned them round yet?

Certainly, our office is working, particularly with the World Bank but also the IMF and WTO, and we're engaged in a very significant analysis of poverty reduction strategies and we're developing human rights guidelines for them, with close involvement of the W.B., the IMF, and the WTO. This would not have happened two years ago. It's a really interesting intellectual development. Human rights lawyers are listening to economists and vice versa in seeing how the human rights norms and standards can be a positive framework for addressing poverty, because they address participation; it gives civil society tools to measure whether there is progressive implementation of the right to education, right to health, to food, without discrimination against minorities, indigenous people.

The World Trade Organization especially has been seen as totally heartless and ethics-free by design. Have you really given them a heart transplant?

It's true that trade ministers going into the WTO meetings don't bring with them, as I believe they should, a consciousness of the commitments their governments have made to ratify covenants and conventions. Equally, we don't have a situation that it's in the front of the mind of the IMF. In a country like Argentina, where there are problems, is there sufficient consciousness to help such a government that has ratified the covenant on economic, cultural and social rights, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child to carry through on that, and to progressively implement these rights, or is the emphasis all on structural adjustment? So we need "joined up" government that brings the human rights commitment into the WTO.

At the moment, many governments all over the world are joining up to throw human rights overboard as part of the struggle against terrorism using Sept. 11 as an excuse. If you think you'd made progress before, don't you see lots of it evaporating?

It's a very serious concern. I was struck last month when we had the annual meeting of the rapporteurs and the coming together of the chairs of the treaty bodies, that all these experts were concerned about the deteriorating situation after Sept. 11. We all recognize the importance of human security, of coalitions against terrorism, of Security Council Resolution 1473 [calling for joint action against terrorism], but nonetheless the impact on the ground is very worrying for human rights. Governments are using it to clamp down on human rights and freedom of expression -- human rights defenders branded as terrorists; the harsh climate for asylum seekers and refugees. The worrying thing is that secure democracies such as the U.S. are not holding the standards properly. Just look at the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and even more so those who have been arrested under immigration laws with no access to lawyers and no information. Nobody knows exactly what his or her situation is.

You have worked hard to engage China, and you were attacked by some of the Irish press for pandering to the occupiers of Tibet. How successful has your engagement with the Chinese been?

In fact, I was impressed by how far we've been able to come since that first visit [to China] in September 1998. When I go back in August for a workshop on the independence of lawyers and judges, it will be my sixth visit as high commissioner. We've had an intensive series of workshops with them, on reeducation through labor, on the police and human rights, devising a human rights training manual for the police, on human rights education and to insert human rights values in the [school] curriculum on secondary and tertiary levels.

But I have no illusions. None of this means we have changed things overnight. On the other hand, nor does a technical cooperation program mean that I don't speak out on human rights issues. Every time I've been in China, I've been very tough on how they treat the Falun Gong, on their treatment of political dissidents. When I went in November after Sept. 11, I made the point to them that they were using it to be more severe on the Uighur population, branding them as terrorists in a way that had not been done before.

So I take up all these issues: They do say to me now, "We know your habits." But that being said, I'm impressed with the progress we've made. When the Chinese sign a covenant, they do it for Chinese reasons -- and they are quite serious about it. So we shouldn't underestimate what can be done. Even some of the federations, like the All China Federation of Women, are becoming more and more independent and more and more concerned with the rights of women.

Also, the last time I was there they were taking courageous stands as women in their own area to bring home that the denial and stigma attached to HIV/AIDS meant that there would be a rampant HIV/AIDS problem.

One phrase you coined that will surely live on is "the cycle of impunity." You used it in Central Africa to describe how each person who committed genocide thought they could get away with it because their predecessors had. Has the International Criminal Court put the brake on the cycle, or is it just symbolic?

I really think the ICC is an extraordinary step forward, a very important institution, a way of symbolizing that we are going to end impunity for egregious human rights violations. It may take time, but now there is going to be a permanent court, and you can be brought before it if you haven't been before a national court.

I really regret, first of all, the "unsigning" of the statute by the United States. You know, we deal with the integrity and strength of what we build up in human rights, and part of it is that when we sign and ratify instruments we stand by them. What the U.S. has done is to create uncertainty. Signing is usually an indication that ratification is on the way. Now if other countries are under pressure on human rights instruments they've signed, they may say "Well, the U.S. can unsign a treaty, then so can we."

Secondly, I found the controversy about peacekeepers to be very sad. The political resolution of it has angered the human rights community, but it's more important that we get back to strengthening the court. There have been 76 ratifications. Mexico and others are on the way. There will soon be 100 or more.

One of things about the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission in Geneva is that it certainly contains, shall we say, a statistically significant number of human rights offenders: many of them unlikely to rush to ratify the ICC. Even the worst of enemies, like Iran and Iraq, tend to team up there. It must embarrass your office. Can anything be done about that?

It is true that some countries with poor human rights records do try to get onto the commission, to thwart its protection mission. But I've emphasized that it's vital that there be a strong protection role. I also strongly suggested to the commission with both my opening and closing speech in Geneva that membership should mean something to members. It should be open to all members because that's the U.N. way, but becoming a member of the Human Rights Commission should mean a commitment to put the country in a better shape in ratifying and implementing instruments.

You were a head of state yourself. Has that made it easier to bust the bureaucracy and get things done with countries?

I think I was always clear that I came into this position to do a job, not try to keep a job. I got very wise advice from a friend of mine when I started -- "Mary, remember, if you get too popular in that job, it means that you're not doing a good job." So I didn't actively seek to be unpopular, but I knew that to do the job well and bring out what is really the culture of human rights, you have to stand up to bullies, you've got to be prepared to criticize both developed and developing countries. When I took issue recently with Australia over their harsh detention policy for asylum seekers, they were outraged -- "We're a democratic country, we don't need you here" -- as if international standards only applied to developing countries. There is that mentality. Whereas if you believe as I do in the integrity of human rights, then they must be applied without fear or favor. And if that's my legacy, I'm happy about that, that can resonate on, and that's very encouraging for those who work on the coalface of human rights and risk their lives. The most I risked is being criticized in press or parliaments.

Do you think your successor will have the same flexibility and force?

I hope for as smooth a transition as possible, to be as helpful as possible and then to clear the field for my successor, which is very important ... I think there'll be a lot of encouragement from the international human rights community, and from my own office. It took quite a lot of building up, but I now lead a great team of very dedicated people and that's the way they want it. And that's the way the rapporteurs and the human rights NGOs want it, so there will be a lot of encouragement.

Not long after you took office and I spoke to you, you referred to the "terrible bureaucracy" of the U.N. Have you mellowed?

I wouldn't alter a word of it. There are enormous frustrations with working in the U.N. system, not least that the office of high commissioner does not have control over its own financial position, its own personnel. There are so many bureaucratic ways ... a lot of mini managing, which isn't always well intentioned, but it's crucial to have a strong human rights voice in the U.N. in the office of the commissioner. But even so, one of things I've been very happy with is to see the fruits of this mainstreaming in the wider U.N. system, into the executive committees, into peacekeeping, development, into the work of country teams. They now focus more and more on a rights-based approach to development and poverty reduction.

We have achieved at an initial stage the mandate of mainstreaming, and now it needs to be brought to a deeper stage with the U.N.'s millennium goals for which the office is preparing human rights guidelines. It will be interesting to see if we can make this part of a U.N. that is value-led with a strong human rights input.
-- By Ian Williams