Questions about the Relevance of the International Community

Questions about the Relevance of the International Community

In the international community there are clear distinctions between those nations that have influence and those who have none. For example, the United Nations (UN) is an organization where these distinctions have been coded and accepted by some and while merely tolerated by others. As this struggle for influence and power continues, the predicted results are only a fragmented world. What follows captures very strong sentiments about the world order we live in, and it is our hope that these opinions are acknowledged and properly addressed for the sake of justice and peace.

In the May 8-14, 2016 issue (N° 2887), the Publishing Manager of French weekly magazine Jeune Afrique, François Soudan, wrote a review of a book by Hubert Védrine titled Le Monde au Défi, translated as The Challenged World. Francois Soudan titled his review “The West and its Navel,” which he starts with this claim: “Americans and Europeans cannot imagine that they aren’t the ones who should re-design and lead the world.”

According to Soudan in the Jeune Afrique review, Védrine argues:

“…the concept of ‘international community,’ this mantra of medias, NGO’s, and multilateral summits, is nothing else but a verbal tic – except for some 170,000 United Nations Systém’s officials who, moreover, are living well in this virtual world. The Russians, the Chinese, the Africans, the Muslim World, each has of this notion a vision that feed their own interests, for a simple reason: this international community is in fact a Western, or rather an American-European Community. At the same time self-obsessed and proselytizing in essence, it covers a ‘community of values,’ the so-called universal values, that are meant to be exported. This old tradition, says Védrine goes from the ‘civilizing’ missionary and colonialist to the Bush-ite Neo-Conservatists, through the so called duty of human rights activists interference. Reprimands, warnings, injunctions, sanctions, boycotts: those who do not comply with the rules set by this Community should watch out or else. This Community has arrogated itself ‘the monopoly of the narration of the world, of the definition of the reality, of the hierarchy of values.’ This ideological conception based on the conviction that everything must always start off from the West, from its role and from its responsibility, is especially noticed in the United States, but also among French political elites and medias. The ‘land of human rights’, of which the universal role and historical pretension, keeps entertaining the media popularized ideology once it is a question of talking about Africa…

To be over with this myth of the international community, there is no doubt that one needs to agree with the author of the ‘Monde au Défi’ that those who are the first to crow thereabout and to impose rules thereof are also the first to distrust it. Fundamentally unilateral, the Americans ‘cannot imagine that it is not the US that re-designs and leads the world’, says Védrine, who opportunely calls back this Barack Obama’s heartfelt cry while delivering his last speech on the state of the Union early 2016: ‘The United States is and will remain the world’s most powerful nation. Full stop.’” (Read this quote and more in French here)

On the long list of factors leading people to question the relevance of the international community is the legacy of colonialism. This legacy is well embodied in the famous answer of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Algerian journalists’ question about whether France was ready to ask for forgiveness for the crime of colonialism in Algeria; he stated, “I am for a recognition of facts, not for repentance, which is a religious notion and has no place in state-to-state relations,” (Sarkozy: France should recognize colonial history, AP, 2007).

This kind of attitude provides context to people like the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and his views about international organizations such as the United Nations in which France holds a powerful seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. Speaking at the UN on September 23, 2009, Gaddafi questioned the relevance of the UN, saying that  “[the] Preamble says that all nations, small or large, are equal. Are we equal when it comes to the permanent seats? No, we are not equal… Do we have the right of veto?…The veto is not mentioned in the Charter. We joined the United Nations because we thought we were equals, only to find that one country can object to all the decisions we make. Who gave the permanent members their status in the Security Council? Four of them granted this status to themselves.”

Furthermore, On May 12, 2016, diplomats from the United States, Canada and Europe walked out of the inauguration ceremony of President Yuweri Museveni of Uganda in protest after he criticized the International Criminal Court (ICC). Briana Duggan, Samson Ntale and Brent Swails writing for CNN reported that President Museveni stated, “Earlier we thought the ICC was useful, but to us, now African leaders, we see it is useless. It’s a bunch of useless people.” It is alleged that these comments were triggered by the presence of Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir who was recently sought by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against his own people and those living in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan. Similarly, we must recall what is written in the Bible in Luke chapter 6:45b: “… out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

While Gaddafi and Museveni are not ideal models of fair leaders, we must recognize that their sentiments towards institutions of the international community are passionately felt and widely expressed, and therefore must be given appropriate response.

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