A reflection on the state of international relations and global ethics in 2011
Where is forward?
By: Hubert Ancelot, Staff Writer
2011 raised many ethical questions on various subjects. First, there was the issue of complex multilateralism, with the struggles faced by the people involved in the Middle Eastern uprisings and the Occupy protests. Both aimed at curbing the authority of the powers instated.
It’s a changing world, but will it become a platform of universally accepted ethics? In other words: where is forward?
Women’s efforts for equal status also gained much attention last year. Recently, the world has taken considerable steps towards giving women more rights, both in parts where this progress was foreseeable and where we didn’t expect it to happen. It’s a changing world, but will it become a platform of universally accepted ethics? In other words: where is forward?
The Middle Eastern uprisings raised the following questions in the field of international relations: who should we listen to? Is it the people or their leader? Is it legitimate for us to intervene in a country’s internal affairs? One can argue whether the NATO strikes on Libya were an affirmation of global ethics, but international law is clear: there were proofs civilian populations were under threat, hence the need to intervene.
The concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was developed by the UN in 2005 and affirms the responsibility for governments to protect their population from genocide, war crime, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. R2P was designed as a response to Rwanda, Bosnia and other struggling nations. The norm stipulates that the international community has the responsibility to assist the ‘irresponsible’ country in the fulfillment of its duty.
Although much progress towards a unified covenant for the protection of civilian populations was made, the decision-making structure of the UN Security Council is limiting any efforts in the case of Syria. As late as Monday, China and Russia responded angrily to Hillary Clinton’s comments on the position of the two countries over Syria, characterizing it as ‘despicable,’ while only arguing the case for economic sanctions on the country. The resurgence of realism in the doctrines of many countries ultimately inhibits the urgent application of ethical procedures already set up by international bodies of law.
2011 was also the year that saw Liberian activist Leyman Gbowee, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemeni journalist Tawakel Karman. The three are women who took part in non-violent struggles for peace. Karman, who questioned her government’s actions in her newspaper, was the youngest person and second Muslim to receive the award. She eventually proved to be an influential proponent for the resignation of president Saleh within the Yemeni elite and the international community.
The emancipation of what The Hindu newspaper calls ‘the Other Half’ is especially visible in developing economies. South America has recently seen women occupying the top positions of different states: Bachelet in Chile, Kirchner in Argentina, Rousseff in Brazil. It was Saudi Arabia that shocked the world in September 2011 by announcing it would introduce women to its Consultative Assembly by 2013. The country is seeing a considerable change with women protesting for their right to drive cars, possess a proper identification system and refuse polygamy. Progress is slow, and sentences are harsh. The case of Shaima Jastanyia particularly attracted the attention of the media, when the 34-year old woman was sentenced to 10 lashes by court for driving a car in the fast-growing Jeddah.
The reality is that change is on its way, and it will happen fast. Forward will never completely be the same direction for everyone, but there is a tangible feeling that the field of global ethics will prove much simpler in the future decades as people regain their power and voice their own ‘forward.’
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