By Keith Best
It is always a pleasure to note new Individual Members of our International Member Organisation (IMO) and a number of you have joined recently. The numbers are growing as more and more global citizens realise that one way of showing solidarity with our vision and ideals of a more democratic and better governed world with appropriate institutions supporting the international rule of law is to join us. This enables those who may feel somewhat powerless as individuals not only to gain greater information about various global initiatives but also to know that they can play a part in what we all know are the essentials to ensuring the survival of our planet in a peaceful and prosperous environment.
This is a time when we must keep our nerve. There have been massive recent reverses: the unprovoked attack on a sovereign and peaceful nation by Putin and his cronies, the weaponisation of energy and food supplies which could cause millions to starve and die, the sabre-rattling of China over its claim to Taiwan and dominance of the South China Seas, further development of nuclear weapons by the DPRK, a diminution of global supply over demand and a retreat from free trading and the best effects (there are bad ones as well!) of globalisation thereby shortening supply lines, increasing costs and surging inflation – an incomplete list and I have not even mentioned the now manifestly obvious effects of climate change leading to drought and, perversely, to massive floods and destruction of homes an livelihoods as well as the loss of species and aspects of Mother Earth which can never be replaced.
Against all that there is increasing understanding of the need to address the protection of our environment and reduction of reliance on fossil fuels coupled with development of renewable energy. Technological advances in the generation and storage of energy in less depletive ways, beneficial use of artificial intelligence, sophistication of rapidly overcoming disease with newly developed drugs and the lifting of millions in poorer countries from absolute poverty show that humanity can heal itself and our surroundings if it only has the political will to do so. WFM/IGP and many of you in our IMO are actively involved in many of these ways forward. We continue to promote the need for more accountable democratic governance of global resources and the people and states are listening more to this message.
The wars in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere have demonstrated the redundancy and danger of the threatened or actual use of the veto among the P5 at the UNSC – there is now a group of states (including some of the P5) and academic lawyers which are actively seeking to place limitations on this. Thanks to Bond and other organisations we see more active participation of civil society alongside meetings of G7, G20 and others – most recently personified at COP26 – so that it is now inconceivable that civil society would not be closely engaged in such matters in the future. Unstinting work by Democracy Without Borders continues to gain support for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. We have an active Transnational Working Group (ably led by One World Trust) which has published a paper on the need and desired extent of international regulation of artificial intelligence and this is getting significant recognition around the world in the fora that deal with these issues. WFM/IGP is now seeking to replicate the historic success of the creation of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (without which many learned commentators have said that we still would not now have an ICC!) with the creation of a coalition of civil society for protection of the environment: much work has already been done on this with ideas and organisations promoting an International Court for the Environment as well as having drafted a new offence of Ecocide to be added to the panoply of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.
We now have the new crime of Aggression which is part of the ICC and we must encourage more states to ratify this provision. Big powers like USA and Russia are beginning to see the adverse consequences both politically and economically of an attack on another country without obtaining the authority of the UNSC and UNGA – another reason to diminish the power of the veto and to ensure that there is no further intervention without global authority: this, in itself, with what has been a massive universal application of sanctions (albeit not yet on energy supplies) against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine may yet be sufficient to deter China from an assault on Taiwan (it has not recognised the Russian annexation of Crimea). More and more states are taking action either individually or in concert with others to condemn (with notable exceptions) both aggression and abuse of human rights in other states. The actions by The Gambia and Argentina to bring to bear the authority of the ICJ and universal jurisdiction on the part of the Rohingya in Myanmar (in addition to the investigation by the ICC) are examples. Shareholders are on the march both with their voting rights and as part of the purchasing public in pressurising both national and international companies and in boycotting goods which have been produced using semi-slave labour and poor working conditions or whose governments are pursuing or tolerating human rights abuses (such as the Uyghurs).
I could continue but at the expense of my readers’ patience for what is already a lengthy piece, yet there are so many other examples which should be an encouragement and stimulus to us to do more and to keep the momentum. The challenge is there. We must continue to seize it!