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Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), Summer Fellows Workshop
International Peace and Security Institute (IPSI), The Hague Symposium
On 18 July 2014, the Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted the first of several consultations on the work of the Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance. The objective of these consultations is to solicit the feedback of scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, and students on key research and policy interests of the Commission, highlighting lines of tension and consensus and identifying issues for further consideration.
Dr. Richard Ponzio, Head of the Global Governance program at the Hague Institute, and Dr. Joris Larik, a Senior Researcher, introduced the consultation participants to the Commission’s areas of focus: Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, Cyber-Economy, and Climate and People. Dr. Larik also elaborated on the conceptual framework that underpins the Commission’s work, which is being developed jointly by The Hague Institute and The Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.. This framework is premised on the view that the intersection of security and justice is critical to understanding and addressing common global threats and challenges, the effective management of which requires innovative and collaborative action at various levels.
The two groups invited to participate in the consultation were composed of academics, practitioners, and students. Following the introduction to the Commission, participants divided into four groups for break-out sessions, which focused on the three thematic areas mentioned above and the overarching conceptual framework. Each session was moderated by one or more members of the Global Governance Program and lasted for approximately 25 minutes.
The Intersection of Security and Justice in Global Governance (Conceptual Framework)
Moderator: Dr. Joris Larik
Is the interplay of Security and Justice mutually reinforcing or disruptive in global governance, and how do international actors shape that interaction (for better or worse)?
Participants stressed the board scope of the concepts to be tackled by the Commission, as well as their inherent interdependence. They cautioned against potential misuse of these concepts as buzzwords, rather than complex phenomena.
The participants considered the causal relationship between security and justice in some detail. One participant described this relationship as a “chicken and egg” problem – in that it is difficult to determine which has precedence. Other participants disagreed, arguing that basic security must be established before justice can be implemented. They did acknowledge that security concerns could re-surface if justice is not forthcoming in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Some participants suggested that the extent to which a “culture of justice” prevails in a country may determine the need for efforts to establish security. This discussion suggested that it is important to consider whether efforts related to the establishment of security and justice should be sequenced or take place concurrently.
Participants also discussed how the perception of justice affects the prospects of long-term stability in fragile or conflict-affected situations. Several participants suggested that long-term stability requires that all parties to a (former) conflict perceive the resolution to have been just. Several cases in which a security response was followed by measures aimed at providing justice were discussed to this end (e.g. East Timor, Horn of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo). One participant also noted that local institutions charged with providing security and justice often suffer from an accountability deficit. This portion of the discussion suggested that it is important to account for local perceptions of justice when designing, implementing, or evaluating justice measures, and consider how to address accountability and legitimacy deficits in local security and justice actors and institutions.
Is the UN still capable of summoning sufficient leadership to overcome political obstacles to addressing current and emerging threats from state fragility, the cyber-economy, and climate change?
None of the participants readily embraced the UN in this context, with the discussion shifting to the role of regional actors (see below).
How well do more recent intergovernmental arrangements (e.g., the G20, WTO, UNFCCC, and regional organizations) relate to civil society, the business community, and the use of public-private partnerships to help address complex global challenges?
The discussion of the effectiveness of intergovernmental arrangements stressed the importance of regional organizations, such as ECOWAS and the East African Community, in providing for security and justice. Participants noted that these organizations often have greater experience with and knowledge of local contexts and cultures, and therefore, they have a greater ability to influence member states. The importance of regional judicial institutions, such as the European Court of Human Rights, was also discussed in this vein.
Fragile and Conflict-Affected States
Moderators: Ms. Gabriella Zoia and Mr. Xiaodon Liang
The UN and other organizations have been giving direct security support to fragile states and governments. However, the resources of the international community are finite, and new and complex conflicts may draw them away from existing situations prematurely. Furthermore, direct support can even delay or substitute internal capacity-building in fragile states. How can the international community best address these dilemmas?
The group discussion focused first on how the internal procedures of the United Nations and other development support institutions could be improved in order to achieve security and justice aims. One participants stressed the importance of moving beyond one-size-fits-all programming and organizational procedures that resist localization. Another participants elaborated that strict monitoring and evaluation methodologies can sometimes limit the responsiveness of programs by preventing customization.
While institutional and individual learning are an important component of successful program implementation, participants cautioned against applying strategies which worked in one context to another without considering the ways in which fragile and conflict-affected situations can differ. For example, the impact of gender-sensitive programming on women varies depending on the culture and dynamics of different fragile or conflict-affected situations. In addition to understanding the differences between fragile and conflict-affected situations, participants also stressed the importance of differentiating between populations served by programming on the basis of gender and generation. The importance of specific programming directed at youth was emphasized during this discussion.
Participants also highlighted the importance of taking into consideration local prioritization of basic needs. In this context, participants discussed whether the provision of basic needs has a greater impact on peacebuilding than diplomatic interventions to solve the political causes of local conflict.
Participants also addressed the issue of corruption, particularly with regard to local actors and institutions and noted that all actors involved in peacebuilding efforts should exercise due diligence to avoid fuelling corruption. International actors should also consider how best to safeguard limited resources against depletion due to corruption.
On the subject of the responsibilities of the state vs. international actors, one participant underscored that there are some functions which the international community cannot perform adequately on behalf of states. This suggests that it is important to consider how international efforts can complement, rather than supplant the state.
How can the UN Security Council and the thus-far-advisory UN Peacebuilding Commission better contribute to sustained and effective international engagement for the prevention and resolution of violent conflict in fragile states?
The participants had limited time to address this question. The discussion centered around whether the UNSC should delegate the responsibility of taking preventative action to the UN Peacebuilding Commission or retain this power. Some participants suggested that it is important to consider what role might be played by states that are able and willing to intervene in the absence of UN-led action.
Moderator: Ms. Sash Jayawardane
How can a better balance be struck between the need for on-line surveillance against international terrorist and criminal groups and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in an open internet architecture?
Participants began the discussion by reflecting on the revelations about the nature and extent of dataveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Several participants observed that while the collection of personal data might sometimes be merited by national security considerations, the processes by which personal data is collected by governments should be transparent, with opportunities for challenge and remedy if and when the process is violated. The need to establish such processes and enshrine them in law was emphasized. These views echo those expressed by UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue in his 2011 report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/17/27).
Several participants expressed concern that many states may be unable to guarantee the security of personal data collected by intelligence agencies, which exposes citizens to threats posed by terrorists and/or hostile states. There was consensus amongst the participants that citizens have a right to know which data is being collected, and how it is being used and stored.
The participants expressed varying degrees of comfort with the idea that governments should be allowed to collect personal data for reasons of national security. They concluded that an individual’s level of comfort with such actions is a function of (among others factors) the level of individual and public trust in the state.
In sum, the discussion highlighted (1) the importance of establishing transparent legal procedures for the collection and storage of personal data for national security purposes; and (2) the need to make citizens aware of these procedures and how to seek redress if a violation should occur.
How can essential, affordable broadband access to the internet be better facilitated in the Global South, and especially in fragile and conflict-affected states, to promote economic opportunity, knowledge sharing, and sustainable livelihoods?
The discussion began with a participant noting that deficiencies in Internet access are not unique to the Global South. It was observed that many remote communities in countries belonging to the Global North also lack the requisite infrastructure for Internet access and have poor levels of digital literacy. Examining the causes for limited Internet access in parts of the Global North could provide for a more comprehensive understanding of factors that inhibit Internet access worldwide.
Participants also debated whether internet access should be considered a basic human right or simply an aid to development. Many participants agreed that access to the Internet is indeed a human right, given the transformational impact of the Internet on the daily lives of people across the world. Other participants argued that it was unnecessary to conceptualize access to the Internet in this way, and expressed that the anticipated benefits of Internet access are already provided for by other legal rights, such as the right to information or education.
Participants also discussed the role of the Internet in enabling political activism, particularly during the Arab Spring. The group agreed that while the Internet played a critical role in allowing protestors to organize and communicate their political message, it was also used by repressive regimes to identify and target political opponents. The Internet can thus be a double-edged sword in conflict situations.
The discussion highlighted several issues for consideration by the Global Commission, including examining case studies in both the Global North and the Global South to identify which factors have the greatest bearing upon Internet access; identifying and articulating clearly the benefits of Internet access for populations in the Global South and assessing whether Internet access should indeed be a legal right; and exploring the impact of the Internet on political freedoms in the Global South.
Climate and People
Moderator: Dr. Richard Ponzio
Present global political institutions were not designed to help societies mitigate or adapt to the effects of global climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has had some impact on public opinion and public policy. How can the UN’s comprehensive approach be implemented more effectively, including through more productive approaches that incorporate a regional focus where the science points to substantial variations in impact by region?
Participants in this break-out session began by discussing the merits and weaknesses of the predominant top-down approach to managing climate change. Several participants criticized the apparent unwillingness of larger states to do their share. For some participants, a bottom-up approach seemed more promising. These participants stressed the importance of education on climate change issues through government-sponsored programs, as well as the need to take into consideration the opinions of constituents and those communities affected by climate change.
Participants also noted the different challenges that developed and developing countries face in playing a role in climate change initiatives, and questioned whether the distribution of responsibilities has been appropriately determined. The participants discussed past and future implementation of carbon-trading schemes, hard- and soft-caps, and various quota-transfer ideas. The discussion turned to considering how actors outside of government can be induced to support climate change initiatives through tax credits or other forms of economic benefits, rather than direct penalties. Some participants suggested a method that focuses on incentivizing small steps and downplaying distant targets. Ultimately, the group decided that governments will always be central to efforts to address climate change.
Participants made the case that framing climate change as a security or humanitarian issue might be one way to focus attention on an otherwise ephemeral and distant concern. For instance, highlighting the impacts of climate change on water availability in Sudan, or refugee crises in multiple areas, might make the problem more tangible for voters and policymakers.
Finally, certain participants suggested connecting sub-regions or areas of geographical similarity in research and policy network, as well as for pioneering new methods and creating new standards through collaboration.
The pathfinder consultation was successful in stimulating substantive discussions on the issues, producing a range of views that will be incorporated into the two host institutions’ ongoing preparatory work for the Commission. Further, the event successfully demonstrated the viability of the consultation concept and the Commission’s approach to engaging outside expertise and opinions.
Across the four break-out sessions, participants outlined both divergent and comparable relationships between security and justice. The alternately conflictual and complementary aspects of this relationship became apparent once the discussions incorporated the wide range of experiences brought in by the participants. In more than one session, the discussants began by expressing concerns about the wide scope of the prompts, but were, ultimately, able to find common sub-themes around which to orient a debate.