Category: United Nations

Sovereignty, Poverty and Interdependence

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Seán Lemass, Taoiseach of Ireland 1959-1966. Lemass believed Ireland had given up its sovereignty to the International Community in the years after World War II.

Ireland has had a well documented, rather turbulent recent economic history.  Following on from the bursting of the property bubble and the attendant banking collapse, an extraordinarily myopic political decision to nationalise the exposure of the banks led to a sovereign debt crisis, and, ultimately, a bailout from the troika of the IMF, ECB and European Commission.  Apart from the loss of money, there was plenty dramatic wailing about the loss of National Sovereignty, and references to the War of Independence and the heroes of 1916 and ‘is this what they died for?’ rhetoric.  There was even a nuance to the sovereignty question, in that the country had lost her economic sovereignty, whatever that meant.

Now, politics has always had an uneasy alliance with the propriety of language, bending it to its will as any situation may have seen fit.  The distinction between economic sovereignty, and other sovereignty, one supposes, is that while we’re not necessarily allowed to award pay rises to civil servants, we are still permitted to invade England.  At least we have that, I guess.   Of course, the extent to which we are – truly – permitted to invade England is limited in exactly the same way as our freedom to spend money has been limited.  It is not a flat prohibition on action through coercive or other power that has limited what Ireland as a State can do; it is the threat of exclusion from international systems upon which we have become irrevocably dependent that limits our action.

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The Informal State

logo-undpI posted just yesterday about the Informal Economy described by Robert Neuwirth as System D, where it is projected that by 2020 two thirds of the world’s workers will operate.  That’s an economy almost entirely independent of the state, and the nation state structure.  It all harks back to the Industrial Revolution, which spawned Marxism and the labour movement, a movement that brought communism and great intellectual struggle.  We have to believe that within those workers there will be able leaders; English as a language is increasingly unifying peoples.  It could be an interesting century yet!

I mentioned in passing yesterday that ‘In Africa, many tribes operate … with their own systems of justice’, though I did not have a reference.  This morning, my attention was brought to a recent UN Development Program (UNDP) report entitled Informal Justice Systems.  In it, the report states that ‘…80% of disputes are resolved through informal justice systems in some countries’. The claim is based on research by Ewa Wojkowska .  The combination of the Informal Economy and Informal Justice is of course mesmerising.  If those two beasts can find some resonance with an Informal Security apparatus, then hey presto, you have a de facto State, but not one in the conventional family of nations, rather is it more like some globalised feudalism, a million miles from Manhattan.

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Blurred Lines: Defining Terrorism

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Careful now! (image credit News With Attitude)

Glenn Greenwald’s most excellent series on Security and Liberty in The Guardian addresses most recently the definition of terrorism, and in particular the case of a gangland shooting where a man called Morales shot and killed an innocent 10-year-old girl by mistake.  The State of New York convicted him of being a terrorist, defined by state laws as acting with ‘intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.’  The interpretation of the court was that Morales actions were designed to coerce the entire Mexican-American community, and were therefore terrorist.  On appeal, the court not only rejected the terrorism conviction, but also sent the entire case for retrial, as the standards by which terrorist trials were conducted were different to those of non-terrorist offences.

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Will The Legitimate Syrian Government Please Stand Up?

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Bashar Al-Assad: Time’s Up

A draft declaration from talks in Marrakech on the situation in Syria from the Friends of Syria has recognised the opposition as ‘the legitimate representative of the Syrian people’.  Which is nice for them, I guess.  Not so nice, one would presume, for the president of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad and his friends.  Syria has generally been on the wrong side of US foreign policy, and even when the US has needed its support, for example in the lead up to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, the extent to which it was willing to court Syrian support was arms length and defensive.  President Obama’s declaration of support for the opposition coalition yesterday was not unexpected, and is likely to hasten the demise of the ruling family in Syria, which has been in place for over forty years.

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