Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The briefing was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) prior to the Committee’s consideration of Brazil’s second periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the country.
Almost a decade on from the presentation of Brazil’s first report to the HRC, the Committee will begin tomorrow with another review of the provision of civil and political rights in the country. In its briefing Amnesty International lamented the failure of Brazilian authorities to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights of all the population since 1996.
“The “turning point” offered by the creation of a National Human Rights Plan, in 1996, has not resulted in the necessary reforms to ensure that Brazilians no longer suffer torture, threats and killings at the hands of those meant to protect them,” said Tim Cahill, Amnesty International researcher on Brazil.
“Successive governments have consigned human rights to the back-seat of government policy. The lack of investment of political will and financial resources in the protection of human rights continues to decimate the lives of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians.”
According to Amnesty International, while advances have been made by the Brazilian authorities in some areas, these have not enjoyed the sustained support to produce concrete improvements on the ground.
Although a Torture law was introduced in 1997, only a limited number of persons have been prosecuted under the legislation and torture by state agents remains widespread and systematic. The majority of cases continue largely unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished, while victims continue to be from the most vulnerable sectors of society, mainly poor, young black or mixed race males who are criminal suspects.
Human rights defenders across Brazil have suffered death threats, intimidation, defamation suits, and killings. Until recently, state and federal authorities have either shown reluctance or an inability to provide measures to ensure the suitable and effective protection of those under threat. The Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, launched by the federal government last year, has made a notable contribution to promotion of the work of those fighting for human rights in Brazil and across the region. However, the programme continues to lack the necessary infrastructure for its effective implementation.
Having ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Brazil has an obligation to report periodically to the UN Human Rights Committee on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Covenant in the country. Brazil’s second periodic report, which was due in 1998, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Committee by a government delegation in a public meeting on 26 and 27 October in Geneva.
For a copy of Amnesty International’s briefing to the Human Rights Committee on Brazil’s report, please see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAMR190212005
The impact of the diplomatic maneouvres is already being felt in Kosovo itself. The signs around the Pristina headquarters of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik) may still be reminiscent of a “spaghetti western” – visitors are instructed “No loaded weapons beyond this point” and “No longbarrelled weapons inside the building” – but the atmosphere started to change perceptibly even before Kai Eide’s report was sent to UN secretary-general on 7 October.
Although elections in October 2004 saw an administration dominated by Kosovo Albanian politicians come to office, under the constitutional framework established in February 2002, it is Unmik that has effectively ruled Kosovo since 1999. Thus it is Unmik and the UN secretary-general’s special representative (SRSG), the international community’s pro-consul, that has received most of the blame for lack of progress or when things go wrong – as with the unexpectedly violent riots of March 2004 when Serb buildings and properties were attacked and nineteen people (ten of them Kosovo Albanians) were killed.
The riots reflected deep local frustration at the lack of political progress since the agreement that ended the Nato air war of 1999, when UN Security Council Resolution 1244 reaffirmed Kosovo’s status as a province of Serbia even when its Albanian majority of around 90% were in favour of independence. The slow “unfreezing” is likely to start with the Security Council appointing former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari – fresh from his success in brokering the Aceh peace agreement in Indonesia’s northwest region – to chair the negotiations.
In that case, the process of Unmik withdrawal will see the Kosovar government assume more powers. The current SRSG, Søren Jessen-Petersen, has already sanctioned the formation of Kosovar ministries of the interior and justice before the end of 2005. Both are major symbols of sovereignty and have already been welcomed by the Albanian Kosovars. At the same time, there is no timeline at present for the creation of two other key ministries for a sovereign state – foreign affairs and defence.
This combination of progress and stasis emphasises a problem for Kosovo; that “independence” is not a sudden “on/off” switch but a process – and that the real problems are likely to start when the switch is mostly “on”. A few days ago, Ardian Gjini – a PISG minister and close collaborator of former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj (whose trial in The Hague for war crimes connected to his role in the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] is scheduled to begin in January 2007) – told me that “Kosovo will have UN membership by the end of 2006”.
My group of visiting American students joked that Kosovo does not yet have even the primary symbol of nationhood – a flag – but Ardian Gjini was not worried. He is also a former KLA fighter but his weapons today are diplomacy, politics and negotiation; and for all the corruption in both Kosovar and international organisations in Kosovo, politics not violence is the name of the game for almost everyone
Beyond Hashem Thaci and the other former fighters who have exchanged the AK-47 for the parliamentary motion are “hard men”, militants who are quite prepared to return to violence. Over the summer they have made their presence felt with continuous minor attacks on UN vehicles; many of these – the small bomb set off at 2am with a warning in an empty parking-lot – are for propaganda purposes, but they could become more significant in the absence of a political solution.
There are three further potential obstacles to political and constitutional progress in Kosovo. The first is the succession to Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo; he was diagnosed with lung cancer in September and clearly the chances of him continuing as a political leader for very long are slight. Rugova began the Kosovar Albanians’ march to independence and though his political authority was waning even before the diagnosis, there is no obvious candidate to follow him. A fight on this issue in the middle of delicate negotiations could have destructive effects on the Kosovar position and on the negotiations as a whole.
The second obstacle is the structural elements of “conditional independence” itself. A senior official in the SRSG’s office put it this way to me: “There can be ‘independence if’ or ‘independence but’”. “Independence if” would entail little change from today’s situation: the international community would give Kosovo independence if and when it fulfils certain conditions (in the jargon of the last eighteen months, “standards before status”).
“Independence but” would entail a series of compromises: a Kosovo army (surrounded by a continued Nato/KFOR presence), plus guarantees for Serb enclaves and historic sites. Most Kosovar Albanian politicians and people could live with that outcome, especially if it resolves present uncertainties, such as who owns property or nationalised industries and whether the Pristina government can take out loans and make international agreements.
The third obstacle is the position of Belgrade and the Kosovar Serbs; neither side is publicly prepared to accept the “loss” of Kosovo in any negotiations. This is not just because of Kosovo’s symbolic place in the Serbian imagination, but because of the consequences of full or conditional Kosovo independence on Bosnia, and on Serbia’s state partner Montenegro.
There are many, interlinked difficulties ahead. But stagnation is not an option. On 24 October 2005, Kosovo may at last have reached “the end of the beginning”.
As he walked to the polling-station, José Maria da Silva pondered the R$470 million ($215 million) spent by the government to organise the referendum, and wondered to himself: what is the real question the government is asking?
His answer, Brazilians’ answer, was “no”. Almost 64% of the 120 million citizens obliged to choose between “yes” or “no” in the referendum voted for against the proposed new law banning the sale of firearms. The first such plebiscite in the world – in a country where 36,000 people died by gunfire in 2004 alone – showed no space for progressive politics.
Three major facts influenced the voting and explain why the Brazilian left lost one more opportunity for its voice to be heard:
the recent corruption scandals involving the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and some leading figures in President Lula’s government
as a result of the first two, the Brazilian people’s current lack of faith in politics
“It turned out to be a plebiscite about the government and its public security policies”, said Raul Jungmann, a congressman from a socialist party (PPS) who led the “yes” campaign.
No surprise that the major newspaper Folha de São Paulo published on its front page on referendum-day an opinion poll showing the popularity of the president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva falling fast. 13% of people completely disapproved of the government in December 2004; the number now is almost 30%. A referendum where the citizen is obliged to vote, coming three years into a mandate spent fighting big political fires and in the wake of a systemic corruption crisis, had all the ingredients of disaster. Instead of a serious discussion about a major social issue, there was a massive protest.
At the same time, the plebiscite starkly reveals how public money is typically managed in Brazil. The ministry of justice’s official data shows that only 5.5% of the money previously allocated for the national fund for public security – R$ 23 million out of the R$ 412 million available – was spent from January-October 2005; yet the government spent R$ 270 million in organising the referendum and will deduct R$ 200 million from the taxes due to be paid by the TV networks for broadcasting the “yes” and “no” campaigns’ advertisements.
When José Maria da Silva is asked to trust the public sphere in a country whose current spending, salaries, unequal pension system and interest rates cost six times more than all the money invested in education, health, public security and infrastructure, his answer is short and straight: não.
In light of all this, and after the extinction of the hope the PT fed the country for decades – preaching that everything would be different once the party was elected to govern – the Brazilian people is turning its back on politics. Government is transforming the country into one where reactionaries have a voice and progressive politics don’t. Brazilian people voted against a postmodern policy because in fact the country still lives in a pre-modern era.
After voting, José Maria da Silva felt something was wrong. Something he had felt before but never so strongly. After pushing the button of an electronic ballot, José Maria da Silva felt his act makes no difference.
Deploying shame is an effective tactic of those who seek to check the excesses of the mighty. During his spell as UN special representative for children and armed conflict, Olara Otunnu drew up a “list of shame”, a catalogue of the leaders, governments and factions that were enlisting child soldiers or whose military adventures visited suffering upon the unprotected heads of children. Within weeks, Otunnu was fielding calls from some of the planet’s most bloodthirsty warlords begging to be removed from the list.
each month, you – as a reader of openDemocracy and (we hope) a supporter of democracy – email your nominations for the month’s worst democrat
the nomination can be from any country or institution in the world, as far away or as close to home as you like (our editorial staff are already quaking – why did we publish that Sasha Abramsky article…?)
the candidate you propose might be a politician who has abused his mandate, pilfered from the public purse or betrayed public trust; a tyrant who has feasted while his people starve; a corporation, committee, party, army, sect, vicar, imam or mandarin who has undermined democratic governance
a shortlist of the six most heinous candidates will then be put to the vote – your vote, that is
each monthly victor will be informed of their success and sent an appropriate garland of shame
after a year, readers will be invited to crown one of our twelve reprobates Bad Democrat of the Year
the possibilities don’t end there: we may even invite the year’s nominees to pick their own choice for Bad Democrats’ Bad Democrat; and if all goes to plan, the whole project will culminate in an annual shindig of staggering gluttony during which the planet’s despots, fiddlers, riggers, rogues, bungsters, grafters and gerrymanderers will be presented with statuettes by – who else? – Imelda Marcos and Henry Kissinger
Happily, we are not at that stage yet. For now, you are asked to do no more than nominate bad democrats over the coming month and vote on the first month’s candidates. (In the interests of transparency, we should declare that this month’s list is the result of a straw poll of openDemocracy’s staff and friends. Allegations of bias or nepotism will be vigorously denied and, if necessary, silenced.)
One of the great conundrums of power is that, generally, the people who want it should be denied it at all costs. The century past saw democracy spread its wings, and saw those wings brutally clipped. There was Idi Amin, who despatched death squads while anointing himself King of Scotland; Augusto Pinochet, who announced that he would save Chilean democracy by bathing it in blood; Richard Nixon and his paranoid bugging of opponents; Hirohito and Hitler, self-styled messiahs and incomparable butchers; Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, enforcers of an incarnadine brand of communism; and the shameless Forbes Burnham of Guyana, who clung to power even after it emerged his support had included thousands of fabricated expatriate voters in England.
More recently, democracy has been violated by those wielding titanic power who never pretended to be elected. The governing family of Wal-Mart has appointed itself keeper of the values of America; the chief executive of Exxon Mobil is referred to in some quarters as “The Emperor”.
2005 has given us a number of spectacular perversions of democracy. On 1 February, King Gyanendra of Nepal declared a state of emergency, afforded himself summary powers of arrest and rounded up 3,000 suspected dissidents. The country’s Maoist insurgency – not a shy bunch themselves – would be crushed, along with almost anyone else not wearing a crown. The gloriously named Royal Commission for Corruption Control would do the dirty work.
George Bush, meanwhile, is busy domestically seeking to pack the Supreme Court with ideological and personal soulmates. Abroad, his policy is governed not by the swelling pacifism of the US public but by that most vengeful of national security advisors, God. In July, both were present when the G8 again flexed what must be the least accountable muscles in global politics.
Democrats everywhere were appalled at the arm-twisting and naked fraud that marred elections in Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, and Egypt.
And so we turn to our inaugural nominees: an ungracious mogul, a diplomatic wrecking ball, a hungry monarch, a bespectacled authoritarian, an eccentric egomaniac, and a megalomaniac bank. If there are two things that Silvio Berlusconi, John Bolton, King Mswati III, Alvaro Uribe, Saparmurat Niyazov and the World Bank have in common, it is an unshakable belief that power is theirs to dispense by right and that pipsqueaks who dare to differ should be steamrollered (literally or otherwise).
We cordially invite you, openDemocracy reader and democracy supporter, to vote for one of them – if they have their way, it may be the only chance you get.
The second qualifier regards the involvement of women in Northern Ireland in peace processes. Northern Ireland has a history of strong women making a difference. However, I write this in mid-September 2005, after the worst riots in Belfast for a decade. Last Saturday, the road I live in was blocked by loyalists (many other roads were also blocked) in support of the Orangemen’s protests about having their march redirected 100 metres (in order to lessen offence to a nationalist community). I gained permission from the police to walk my dog through the line of protesters and was appalled to find the bulk were young women and children and kept thinking, why did I find this so appalling? We have seen more than a week of violence, disruptions to normal activities, hijacking of cars and buses, burning of vehicles and shops, shootings and violence aimed at the police, accusations of police brutality and the invoking of much tension and fear. Many loyalist women and children visibly support this violence. There are few women elected political representatives and few women publicly voicing alternatives. The message is clear, women potentially can make a difference but we must never assume they always will.
In many places, women socialise children into a cultural identity that includes the learning of ethnic hatred. Some Catholic and Protestant women in Northern Ireland perpetuate sectarianism that promotes violence. In Rwanda, many women encouraged revenge for the dead. Women have been liberation fighters in Eritrea, Nicaragua and Indonesia. In Eritrea, Sri Lanka, South Africa and across Latin America, women are one-third of the guerrilla armies.
My third qualification refers to the significance of Resolution 1325 and practices within the United Nations. In April 2005, I attended the United Nations University Directors meeting in Bonn, Germany. United Nations University acts as a UN think-tank and has both ‘Peace and Governance’ and ‘Environment and Sustainable Development’ strands. I was astonished to find that at this meeting, there were 23 men and two women. Aren’t universities supposed to be enlightened institutions where matters of equality and inclusion of difference are taken seriously? Several directors agreed with me that there should be more women present. Why? For reasons of gender equity, plural inclusivity and because of women’s potential unique contribution.
Thus, I turn to the main points of this article and affirm that women can make a difference, that 1325 is unprecedented in calling on persons to take action in: increasing women’s participation in decision-making and peace processes; including gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping; encouraging the protection of women; and integrating gender mainstreaming in UN programs by assessing the in/equality implications for women and men of all policies and programs.
Yet in each of these four key areas, there are stark failures in translating the rhetoric into reality. Three changes are necessary: expand the concept of peace-building in order to transfer skills acquired in informal work to participation in decision-making; understand that security means different things to different groups and; keep insisting on the need for quotas and benchmarks.
In war zones and in conflict societies, women are not just victims, many are active peace-builders. The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, was instrumental in defining those areas of concern considered to represent the major obstacles to women’s advancement and making recommendations for change. Since then, the global network of NGOs working on women’s rights has expanded. This includes lobbying the UN in the lead up to the 24 October 2000 Security Council session on Women, Peace and Security. The resultant resolution is a global advocacy tool.
It is a necessary resolution because women are active in informal peace protests, community dialogue, promoting intercultural tolerance and in practical peace initiatives. However, they are overwhelmingly absent in formal peace processes. They must be included in formal processes in order to establish meaningful gender equality.
First, women and men are affected by conflict and therefore also are affected by the consequences of peace agreements. These agreements are not merely about ending war, they are also about establishing the conditions for new just societies where plural perspectives are taken into account.
Second, women’s inclusion in all stages of peace processes is essential for inclusive social justice.
Third, the presence of women in political, policy and legal decision-making contexts often makes a difference to the sorts of issues addressed like education, health, nutrition, childcare and human security needs in places as varied as South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Liberia or Guatemala.
Women universally are prime carers in families and communities and they have a huge interest in community stability, so they play important roles in peace-building in unofficial ways. Some women are peace activists advocating for non-violence, others are mediators, trauma healing councillors, practitioners addressing the root causes of violence, educators or facilitators of capacity-building.
First, it overlooks all the hands-on, unofficial work women do to build peace in grassroots groups, communities and families.
Second, it provides inadequate validation for including women at negotiating tables. Failure to accord acknowledgment for women’s active conciliation in all stages of peace processes, consistently results in their exclusion from political decision-making.
I am suggesting that peace-building is a process that needs to flow through the pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict stages and elaborate this in my forthcoming book, Peace-building: Women in International Perspectives (Routledge, 2006). Peace processes consist of both formal and informal activities. Women are prominent in informal peace work. However, despite 1325, they are rare in formal peace processes as defined by the UN to include “early warning, preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace-building and global disarmament”.
The UN distinguishes between different aspects of these processes. Peacemaking includes mediation, conciliation, arbitration and negotiation to bring hostile parties to agreement. Peacekeeping involves keeping parties from fighting or harming each other through multinational forces of armed soldiers and police. Peace-building includes constructing the conditions of society to foster peace through development, aid, human rights education, reconciliation and the restoration of community life. In the UN, peace-building typically refers to formal approaches used in post-conflict reconstruction.
As Christine Chinkin argues, for many women this concept of ‘post-conflict’ is a problem. When active conflict or violence ceases, women still have to deal with traumatised children, family members who were combatants and the inevitable difficulties of meeting everyday needs while dealing with intense traumas. The notion of ‘reconstruction’ may also seem meaningless for women who never have known full citizenship, social justice or a respect for human dignity and rights.
So it is a positive thing that the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan is expanding his view and says, ‘the participation of women and girls and inclusion of gender perspectives in both formal and informal peace processes are crucial in the establishment of sustainable peace’. Certainly, UNIFEM’s emphasis on peaceful, just relationships of equality contrasts with orthodox emphases on structural reconstruction.
Most women’s understandings of peace-building are far broader and more holistic than UN or conventional usages of the term. As Sanam Anderlini writes in Women, Violent Conflict and Peace-building: Global Perspectives , “the intricate tapestry of what constitutes real peace and security…[includes] social justice, domestic reform, women’s rights, co-existence, tolerance, participatory democracy, transparency and non-violent dialogue as necessary ingredients for addressing social differences and building sustainable peace”.
In their book, Susan McKay and Dyan Mazurana provide examples of how women understand peace-building and security. In South Sudan, for Nuer women, “making peace means figuring out how to meet the material, social and spiritual requirements of life”. Similiarly, with women in Somalia, “peace is not seen as a matter of discussion, but as a way of living, of security and food for your family, of the future for your children”. In Sierra Leone, building peace means “taking in the children of neighbours, friends or family members who were killed in the war”. In Kosovo, “peace work means rebuilding damaged houses as well as friendships with former neighbours who had turned against them during conflict”. Lebanese women discover peace-building is building bridges between factions involved in the civil war. All these activities revolve around connections, healing, spiritual wounds, rebuilding relationships and meeting everyday family needs.
Accordingly, when women are present around negotiating tables (Guatemala, South Africa, Northern Ireland, East Timor), they initiate different issues – questions related to human security and well-being – like feeling safe and being inclusive, as well as focusing on the practical needs of food, water, health, education, land rights and economic livelihood. As Johan Galtung puts it, ‘human security’ initiates a new paradigm where people’s needs are central to international security and root causes of insecurity are tackled.
There are many positive instances of 1325 helping women to make a difference (see pdf). In Sri Lanka, in 2002, the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, supported by Norway, established a subcommittee on gender issues to elaborate gender-sensitive guidelines for the peace process. In Somalia, in 2002, fifty women undertook training in negotiation skills and the provisions of 1325 in order to take part in the peace process.
It is overwhelmingly the case that it is women in NGOs and feminist academics who are really utilising the resolution – more than politicians and policy-makers. In Rwanda, even in a context where almost every woman survivor of the genocide has a dramatic story of rape, hunger, fear, flight and loss – women began forming groups to confront common problems. By 1999, Rwandan women’s organisations exceeded 15,000. After 1994, the UNHCR began the Rwanda Women’s Initiative, taking a practical approach to assisting income, agriculture, land title, childcare and gender-related violence. When Erin Baines, researcher, asked a Rwandan woman if the Initiative had made a difference in her life, she replied, “you cannot dance if you cannot stand”.
Many women’s organisations involve both Hutu and Tutsi groups. These groups concentrate on what unites rather than divides, that is, the commonalities women face everywhere such as poverty, violence against women, feeding their children and shelter. Pro-Femmes? the umbrella organisation of women’s groups mobilises women “to spearhead the promotion of a culture of peace, tolerance and non-violence in grassroots activities”. There is the view among survivors that women are better than men at forgiving, reconciling and building peace.
Ironically, Rwanda has now surpassed Sweden as the country with the highest proportion of women legislators. From the 2003 elections, women hold 48.8% of the seats in the National Assembly and nine out of 28 ministerial posts. Funding from the Netherlands trained women in decision-making and political awareness. Such a commitment helps translate rhetoric into reality.
But let us return to Northern Ireland, where there are many dedicated women peace activists and hundreds of small women’s groups, for a final example. Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan led large demonstrations of Catholics and Protestants to protest against terrorist violence in 1976 and were awarded the Nobel Prize. Despite being deeply divided politically, activists in Northern Ireland come together over basic issues of childcare, housing, education and job skills, avoiding political differences. Two historic examples of women making a difference include the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and their place at the negotiating table, and the McCartney sisters’ stance against the IRA and the demand that there can be no peace without justice.
‘The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition was initiated by women with long histories of engagement in civil, human and workers’ rights. The Women’s Coalition adopted equality, human rights and inclusion as their principles. They also agreed that participants should acknowledge their political identity differences rather than do what is more typical in Northern Ireland, keep silent or fight about controversial differences.
Monica McWilliams, the Coalition’s leader talks of “women’s central role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building”; of the dangers of sectarianism, which see “the world exclusively in terms of the interest of your “own” side as against the other side”; and of the importance of “working with, not burying, our differences”. The Coalition made a noteworthy difference to electoral politics in Northern Ireland, with forthright and positive women presenting a vision of how politics should be different. Whenever the parties were bogged down, the women brought the debates back to personal issues of bereavement, loss and hopes for children’s future.
In a bar fight on 30 January 2005, Robert McCartney was murdered by a known leader of the IRA and several of his associates. McCartney’s five sisters – Paula, Catherine, Gemma, Claire and Donna – and his fiancé Bridgeen Hagans are demanding justice. These women “are being seen as a metaphor for where the nation finds itself – still struggling for unity, torn by savage grief yet looking for justice, peace and reconciliation” (Jo-Ann Moriarty, The Republican, 14 March 2005).
These women say, “we have no fear of the IRA…and we will not be bullied by them”. This is worth mentioning because Northern Ireland sectarian conflict has claimed more than 200 lives since the paramilitary organisations called their 1994 ceasefires and only thirty people have been prosecuted for murder. Such women motivate other families who have lost family through paramilitary murders.
Despite the significance of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, women remain absent or are marginalised from negotiating tables, political decision-making opportunities and senior advisory positions. Inclusion matters. Without plural inclusivity, there is no peace with justice and equality and 1325’s call to “all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective” goes unheeded. The substantive content and implementation of peace agreements require balance between women-specific provisions and gender mainstreaming.
What exactly do I mean by the latter? “Mainstreaming gender equality” means transforming the “mainstream” and focusing on the systems and structures that create disadvantages for women and men. Mainstreaming gender is all about working within institutions to integrate equality concerns into all policies, programs and projects so that issues of gender equality become part of organisations’ actions, beliefs, values, priorities, needs and actual decisions.
In 2000, Sanam Anderlini gave four warnings in a preliminary audit on the international community’s response to women, peace and security.
During 2001 and 2002, Elisabeth Rehn and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Guinea, Israel, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia to present an independent assessment in their Women, War and Peace. They found terrible stories, but also women who were surviving trauma and rebuilding communities. Yet, “time and again women described the wonderful documents that had been created and signed – and the failure to implement most of what has been promised”.
Lack of will among member states, consistently seeing women’s participation as not a priority, institutionalised sexism and patriarchal cultural mores remain major obstacles in translating the grand rhetoric of Resolution 1325 into practical reality. To include women in political decision-making in transitional societies is to take seriously gender justice, gender equality, women’s human rights and the rebuilding of relationships in formerly militarised societies.
Peace-building is a process that is important in pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict stages in both formal and informal settings. Practical peace-building must be truly inclusive of women and men from all branches of life. The 2005 World Summit Document commits states “to fully and effectively implement Security Council Resolution 1325”. This commitment must translate into reality.
“Democracy and openDemocracy” lists ten institutional and legal principles of democracy and four core values which lie behind them. Many of the principles have proved over time to conflict with each other quite painfully (entrenched property and economic rights, social justice and basic security, to name only two sets); others are hard to recognise as institutional or legal principles (such as “an ethos of dialogue, questioning, trust, and moral awareness”); and even the core values very readily clash in application.
Behind these flaws is a deeper problem of method. Democracy, in the speech of today, is too projective a category to clarify the relations between so many types of human good. At this late stage in its intensely political history as a word, it cannot provide a reliable basis on which to allocate political allegiance.
The deepest reason why it cannot goes back to democracy’s birth as a word, a set of ideas, and a political order. In Athens the citizens did not understand democracy as a basis on which any set of persons ruled, and therefore did not hear it as a basis on which anyone in particular could claim to be obeyed. Democracy was a regime in which, if anything ruled, it was the laws, and in which the citizens together chose how to interpret, extend or emend them.
Today, as Joseph Schumpeter crassly pointed out, the form of government we now associate with democracy means the rule of the politician. (On just how judges come into the picture, a key question as Barnett & Hilton stress, democracy as an idea has nothing to say.) But not even politicians see their role as a ground for obedience in itself, and they specialise in identifying and broadcasting one another’s unsuitability for obedience.
Even in Athens where the role of politician was far less sharply defined, the accusation that in practice democracy meant the rule of politicians was politically damaging. In modern states, where much obedience, both to politicians and to rules, is incessantly required, this accusation has proved over time very damaging indeed. The more values or political principles are conflated with democracy, the less compelling a basis it can hope to provide for answering the question why incumbent claimants to obedience are entitled to receive it. If it cannot answer that question, it cannot answer any questions at all.
There are equally important and fundamental questions about human life at any time to which democracy as an idea can suggest answers, but which prove to be pretty dismaying. What values (if any) should hold binding authority for human beings independently of how many of the community to which they belong consciously share them or feel them with any force? If democracy has an answer to that question, the answer, as Plato long ago pointed out, is none. If you don’t find that answer disturbing, you must either be very confident in the historical company you’re keeping or very feebly attached to your own values.
Both the limits to democracy’s scope as a political idea, and the limits to its moral and practical plausibility, matter. The impulse to extend it beyond those limits comes from its political potency. The impulse to rescue its plausibility by diluting it with other ideas in sharp tension with it also testifies to that potency. Neither response clarifies political issues or steadies political judgment.
What has made democracy such a potent idea is not fully understood, not least because most people are so unfamiliar with the historical trajectory by which it won its power. The key prerequisite for seeing this is to distinguish sharply between the fortunes of a word and a loosely associated set of ideas, and the history of a form of state to which either the word or the set of ideas apply quite precariously.
For most of its history as a word or set of ideas, democracy clearly meant a political structure in which many, or even most, free, male adults, an indeterminate proportion of them quite poor, played an active part in taking political decisions. For most of this history, too, most reasonably informed commentators on politics assumed that this was a dangerously unstable way in which to organise the life of a community and determine its destiny.
When it re-entered politics in the modern era, largely by the back door in the shaping of the American republic, and more conspicuously and alarmingly in the turmoil of the French revolution, all the misgivings painstakingly laid out in the masterworks of ancient Greek political thinking were revived and intensified; but the political appeal of the associated ideas won a dramatically wider audience. Since 1794, to take an arbitrary date, both word and ideas have reached a very long way; but in doing so they have largely lost touch with the political, economic and social realities to which citizens and analysts now try to apply them.
The form of state that since 1989 – when the fall of the Berlin wall heralded the collapse of communism – has confidently assumed an exclusive title to embody democracy as both word and idea has also shown remarkable political potency over the last three quarters of a century. But its victory is very recent; and its meaning is still taken far too passively from the scale of the (richly deserved) defeat it inflicted on its adversaries.
In particular, there is no shared grasp of how much of that defeat came from a strictly economic superiority, how much from a political superiority which genuinely lay in the aspects of western Europe and the United States’s own political structures which are regarded as democratic, and how much from sheer luck.
This somewhat befuddled condition has not made people in western states any more pleased with their own political experience in the interim; and there is no reason to assume that it would have done so, even without the array of fresh political ills that have arrived since then (supposedly fundamentalist terror, ever more obviously well-advised ecological panic).
The ills themselves have nothing intrinsically to do with democracy (though, in defiance of the British prime minister, you can blame democracy for them if you think it an accurate name for the ways in which he and his government have ruled, since it beggars belief that those ways have played no causal role in generating the ills in question). What does have something intrinsically to do with the recent history of democracy as a word, a set of ideas and a form of government is the degree of befuddlement public discussion of them now so conspicuously evinces
Democracy as a word and set of ideas has contributed directly to that befuddlement in a number of respects. The clearest and most important has been the way in which it encourages us to think (and fail to think) about equality. Crudely speaking, the political appeal of democracy lies in its claim to realise political equality. (So, soberly speaking, does its potential political menace.)
At a textual level it is unlikely that political equality is any better secured in the constitution of the United States of America than it was in that of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or still is in that of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). All are probably textually clearer and more determinately located than they are in what passes for the constitution of the United Kingdom.
In practice, as everyone knows, matters were very different. But just how much of that difference is clearly attributable to democracy in any sense at all? In law, as I understand it, I am the political equal of the very great majority of British citizens, and the deviant cases don’t much matter (at least to me). But in fact, within the politics of the United Kingdom, I am far from being the political equal of the corporate media magnate Rupert Murdoch; and Rupert Murdoch is not (and as far as I know never has been) even a British citizen. Even Britain and America’s political parties are as open to the whimsical (or interested) generosity of the very rich as their football clubs or baseball teams.
The only serviceable remedy recently envisaged for this ignominious relation is a cartel of the more prominent political parties to tax the rest of the citizens for their joint convenience. There are good reasons for the evolution of the sort of state that citizens in Britain now belong to, and it has many evident benefits. But it neither clearly nor convincingly described by the category of democracy.
For over two thousand years, as a word and a set of ideas, democracy was thought to threaten economic inequality. The last three-quarters of a century have superannuated that judgment decisively. But they have done so not by clarifying democracy as an idea or realising it more concretely in institutional forms, but by superimposing upon it the requirements of an especially effective way of generating and reproducing economic inequality.
This can quite reasonably be seen as the victory of the best historically available option; and it has certainly brought a great many benefits of different kinds to immense numbers of human beings. But it has done a lot else too. Even if many of its concomitant effects are ignored, a very strong stomach is needed to see it as an outcome simply good in itself. Even then, it would require being terminally muddled to attribute the outcome to democracy as an idea.
Modern representative democracy has become, very recently, the canonical global form for legitimate rule as the sole defensible alternative to two versions of autocracy. The first is premodern and hard to adjust to the operating requirements of global capitalism, its plausibility constantly eroded by the latter’s impact on the daily lives of the population. The second is a version of socialism, the “wager on the weak”, which had a chequered career while it lasted but has now virtually vanished from the earth.
The one element clear right through representative democracy’s advance across the world has been the centrality of popular rejection of autocratic effrontery, often exhilarating at the time but in retrospect a transitory pleasure. The structure of modern representative democracy (the form of state now called by that name) does not provide a clear model for any community to rule itself in freedom, let alone in reliable serenity and prosperity. What it provides is a practical basis through which to refuse to be ruled unaccountably and indefinitely against your will.
Less steadily and on far less egalitarian terms, it also provides a framework through which to explore together what people should and should not attempt to do as a community. Virtually none of the elements of an answer to that question can come from democracy as an idea. Almost all have to be pieced together arduously from somewhere else.
"Musharraf is a great man”, said Umar Khan, a baggage porter in Lahore who was wheeling medical supplies towards the airport customs counter on the evening of 9 October, just thirty-seven hours after the monster tremors ripped through the Himalayas. "He will get this job done, because he is not corrupt." Musharraf's pragmatism, which has spurred Pakistan's economic growth, had been widely admired in a society more accustomed to kleptocrats and their cronies. But then the earth moved.
It took days before the army would reach any stricken areas beyond the towns; while it dallied, tens of thousands of loved ones were smothered under the rubble and the injuries of survivors went septic. Without any shelter, vulnerable infants and elders contracted pneumonia when intermittent downpours soaked their bedding. In grief, people could only cling to one another for body heat as hail pelted down and thunderclaps heralded more aftershocks. Villagers grumbled that the army must be tending to its own casualties first and had abandoned its hapless civilians to the elements.
Pakistan announced that more than 400 of its military personnel died in the tremors. In addition, reports that the quake killed a hundred militants in training camps established near the line of control (LoC) separating Pakistani- and Indian-administered Kashmir have been circulating; the government has never acknowledged that such camps exist, even though India has since 1989 accused Pakistan of arming and supporting Islamic guerrillas and demanded the camps’ closure.
Other Kashmiris, displaced by shelling during two wars fought over the terrain, had been rehoused in squalid and cramped quarters which did not withstand the severe jolts. Faced with destruction on such a vast scale, Brigadier Sikander Javaid admitted that the army had to rely on survivors fit enough to walk down to their bases and inform them where aid was most needed. An estimated half-million quake victims are struggling to cope on their own.
"We tried to wave the helicopters down, but they refused to land here", complained Sumair Ahmed, a tailor, after an aerial assessment team had hovered in a helicopter over his village on the edge of the Kaghan valley. "Are we not also part of Pakistan?"
Now, eleven days afterwards, regional officials report a death toll of more than 79,000, and admit that 20% of the most remote villages are still cut off, in the upper valleys beyond the range of helicopters or pack mules. As well as destroying a 30,000 square-kilometre chunk of the Himalayas, the cataclysmic Kashmir earthquake has unearthed deep faultlines in the politics of Pakistan. General Musharraf went on television to apologise to the nation for unseemly delays, but irritatedly pointed out that his army was quicker off the mark than Washington's response to hurricane Katrina.
Particularly in the strategic but underdeveloped areas near the Indian frontier, Pakistan's civil service has been gutted under Musharraf's rule, and no detailed plans for a disaster response existed. When the earthquake severed landlines and radio communications and mobile-phone systems were unable to cope, military officers became utterly paralysed. They were slow to act because they were waiting for top-down orders that never came.
Samina Ahmed, Islamabad-based director of the International Crisis Group, observes: "In recent years there has been a disproportionate build-up of the army and a neglect of civilian concerns. The military lacks professional management skills. They are trained to fight wars. They can get boots on the ground but that's it."
Meanwhile, long before the arrival of army regulars, international aid agencies, or emergency search and rescue teams, an alternative volunteer army was reporting for duty in the earthquake zone: the jihadis. Bearded young men converged on towns close to the epicentre, after threading their shiny white mini-vans or military vehicles through boulder-strewn roads. More trekked by foot across rockslides, carrying picks and shovels. Yahya Mujahid, a Muslim militant chief, said he ordered his guerrillas to put aside their Kalashnikov rifles and hired 100 mules so they could get relief supplies up to the heights and carry out the injured.
The efforts won accolades from anguished survivors. No one else was on the spot to help locals unearth the injured and administer first aid, shroud and bury their dead, or dish up dates and hot soup so they might break the Ramadan fast at dusk. These aidworkers appeared extremely organised. In Muzaffarabad, a garrison city and the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a big banner was erected over a tarpaulin spread with prayer-mats and quilts. It identified the energetic do-gooders as Jammat-ud-Dawa. This group is known to be a spin-off of the banned religious militants, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and is widely seen as the fundraising and recruiting wing for Islamist warriors who cross into India.
Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans, outlawed Lashkar as a terrorist organisation in 2002 because of its links to al-Qaida. The name change has allowed Jammat-ud-Dawa to continue building its religious seminaries, to train preachers for mosques, and dispense medical care to the indigent. But will they be able to muster support and force their way onto the national political agenda?
There are parallels with Palestine and Egypt, where religious groups took up the initiative wherever the government fell short in its performance. Washington's financial crackdown on Islamic charities following the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 means that donations from abroad have been languishing, collecting interest in western banks, before essential transfers could be made to help victims in Pakistan. Local Muslim charities did not face such restrictions.
Hassan Sharjeel, an architect, clawed at the debris of a ruined high school classroom and managed to free his 16-year-old niece, Hadia Pundit, from her desk in the front row after eleven hours. Lashkar-e-Taiba were the first ones there to help dig out her dead classmates, he pointed out. "I hate them", Sharjeel muttered, "but one must give credit where it is due. In our hour of need Lashkar were there."
A 14-year-old boy, freed by Lashkar-e-Taiba volunteers from under the wreckage of his collapsed hut after four days, learned that both his parents had perished in the earthquake. His saviours renamed him "Bobby", bundled him into a van and drove him to their fundamentalist madrasa outside Lahore. "He's ours", they told the neighbours, before pulling away.
Musharraf's military mindset blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the needy. He spurned an Indian offer of emergency-relief helicopters (which would have doubled the country's fleet) unless Delhi agreed that only Pakistanis pilot these loaned aircraft.
The demolition of most of the infrastructure that the armies have erected in the region since the British left in 1947 does not diminish generations of mistrust. The earthquake thus opens the prospect of India and Pakistan being reduced to fighting over ruins, while shifting the balance of advantage between them: Pakistan was much the harder hit, and can expect fewer peace concessions from an India whose hand the disaster has strengthened.
After the Indians lifted restrictions on mobile-phone calls to enable contact between earthquake-stricken families separated by the frontier, Musharraf proposed on 18 October allowing Kashmiri residents to cross the ceasefire line to help with reconstruction efforts. "We will allow every Kashmiri to come across the Line of Control and assist in the reconstruction effort", he said.
India immediately welcomed the move. "This is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LoC for relief work and closer people-to-people contacts", enthused Navtej Sarna, an Indian foreign-ministry spokesman.
Musharraf's sudden announcement on television was seen as a bid to boost his popularity after the debacle of the army's earthquake relief efforts; the technicalities of allowing civilians to cross the line, while simultaneously preventing troop movements, will take time to work out.
Against all odds, the slow response to this killer earthquake has eroded the respect that the military once commanded in every strata of Pakistani society. As converts clamour to join the jihadis, the ground under General Musharraf's feet is shaking again.