Eurasian Integration must be Based on Clear Values and Principles Rather than Simply Russian Influence

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in nostalgia for the USSR in some post-Soviet countries, as they have moved away from a system of collective security to individual insecurity. This nostalgia can be mostly attributed to the fact that, as part of the USSR, states were responsible for the provision of social protection and jobs to its citizens. Nowadays, such security is not guaranteed, as Ulugbek Badalov, a doctor in political anthropology states: “people having known Soviet times, apart from their age, show a high degree of uncertainty about their existence, which leads them to consider life only from day to day”.

Many argue that life was better in the USSR. Russian president Vladimir Putin once referred to the breakup of the USSR as the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century’ and it would seem that many Russians would agree that the breakup was a bad thing. A recent poll in Russia suggested that as much as 60 per cent of its population feels nostalgic for the communist era. Forty-one year old writer and Muscovite Zhanna Sribnaya, is one of these people. In her opinion all Russians feel some sort of nostalgia for the USSR: “It’s trendy because people my age, they can buy what they see, and they want to see their happy childhoods. We remember when ice cream cost seven kopeks and when everyone could go to the Black Sea for summer vacations. Now, only people with money can take those vacations.”

Generally speaking, older generations are those who suffer the most from this uncertainty, having grown up in a society in which life was more predictable. So it is perhaps unsurprising that, according to the Yuriy Levada Analytical Centre, the nostalgia in Russia for the Soviet Union is mainly evident amongst older generations: “Regret for the break-up of the Soviet Union is mostly shared by pensioners (85 per cent), women of all ages (63 per cent), 40-55 year-olds (67 per cent) and older respondents (83 per cent), those with less than average education (68 per cent), lower income (79 per cent), and rural residents (66 per cent)”.

Outside of Russia, the nostalgic feelings are less widespread. In Lithuania, a Soviet theme park was created so that younger generations could experience what life was like in the USSR. There is a bunker attraction where tourists can ‘enjoy’ being humiliated, questioned, and forced to confess crimes which were never committed, as well as exhibitions showing communist propaganda and an experience of being taught how to survive a nuclear attack. As a final treat there is the ‘Grutas Park’ where tourists can appreciate statues and objects, such as toys and portraits from the communist era.

Overall, the level of communist nostalgia differs across the former Soviet republics. According to theEurasia Monitor, Russia and countries surrounding the Caspian Sea such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan tend to be more pro-Soviet than the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This became evident when the latter three joined the European Union in 2004. After independence these countries focused on transforming their economies so that they could participate in the free market. In terms of wealth, Estonia is the most prosperous country of the former Soviet bloc, but Lithuania and Latvia have also experienced economic growth since joining the EU.

But not all post-soviet countries enjoyed a successful transition. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union,Kazakhstan initially suffered from the negative impact of reforming their economy. It was only in 2010 that the country began to experience higher economic growth, helping to reduce the inequality in the country.Turkmenistan also suffered in the initial phases of independence; the country spent several years in isolation and even today most of its population lives in poverty.

Belarus on the other hand presents an interesting case. Even after the break up of the Soviet Union, it continued to maintain close economic and political relations with Russia in contrast to other former Soviet countries. Belarus’ economy suffered a dip during the transition period after the dissolution but, due to its good relationship with Russia, it recovered fairly quickly.

In 2011 Kazakhstan, along with Russia and Belarus, signed an agreement that would lead to the creation of a Eurasian Union (EAEU), an idea based on the European Union, by 2015. According to Putin, the EAEU would be based on the ‘best values of the Soviet Union’ and the model of the EU, but that it is not ‘an attempt to capitalise on the nostalgic mood among the older generations’. However, many commentators see this initiative as a way for Putin to take advantage of this nostalgia and for Russia to re-establish its geopolitical influence in Eastern Europe in an attempt to become a ‘regional hegemon’ once more.

Will the EAEU ever achieve the same status and sphere of influence as the EU?

The chances for the EAEU to one day become as influential as the EU are highly unlikely, given the EU follows a certain set of principles such as democracy, equality, freedom, rule of law, human dignity and respect for human rights. These values are important; if a European country wishes to join the Union it will have to respect these principles to become eligible for applying.

The importance of principles such as democracy and equality for the EU is to guarantee that no member country will try to dominate or control the Union. One of the primary reasons why the EU is so successful is that all of its members are respected and treated equally.

Despite Putin’s assertions that it will be based on the EU model, it would appear that the EAEU is not based on similar principles. Some former Soviet countries such as Armenia and Ukraine have previously stated that Russia has been pressuring them to join the EAEU instead of the EU. By contrast, participation in the EU is on a voluntary basis without any external coercion or pressure, and the acceptance of a new member is voted upon by all member states; if one does not agree, a country’s entrance can be denied.

President Putin also claims that the EAEU will follow the principle of equality, but up until now Russia has clearly been leading the union. In the EU, even when one country is economically stronger than the others, such as Germany, it still does not have more power than other countries. The founding members of the EAEU also do not meet the EU’s principles, often having dictatorial inclinations, poor press freedom and high levels of corruption.

If Russia does indeed seek to achieve the same status and sphere of influence as the EU, it will have to change its approach toward other countries. The pressure it has put on countries such as Ukraine and Armenia to join will not last forever and if one day those countries are able to become independent of Russia’s influence, as we have seen in Ukraine, they could ultimately decide to leave the union they were forced into.

A union should be something countries want to be a part of. It should be mutually beneficial and equal. To quote Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili: “Armenia has been cornered… Moldova is being blockaded, Ukraine is under attack, Azerbaijan faces extraordinary pressure, and Georgia is occupied. Why? Because an old empire is trying to reclaim its bygone borders”. To my mind at least, this does not sound like a good recipe for a happy and prosperous union.

*Cover image ‘union‘ by Ewe Neon

Winter Skies, Frozen Seas and Northern Shores VIII: Sweden (part 2)

The Warriors’ Sagas

February 27, 2013. As the world follows the crisis in Ukraine after the protests fueled by the desire of many Ukrainian people to have closer ties with the EU, armed men, said to be pro-russian, seize the Parliament of Crimea. The next day, more armed men – suspected Russian Special Forces – seize two important airports in the Crimean peninsula while the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine ,Viktor Yakunovich, reappears in Russia after fleeing the country. Events escalate further when on the 1st of March the Russian president Vladimir Putin asks his parliament for an authorization to send troops into Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine asks for NATO’s help.

Crimea is still under occupation and dangerous tensions continue to build. But what does this terrible scenario have to do with Sweden and the Arctic?

Russia and Sweden have clashed before in the past both in the Baltic and Finland in wars started by both sides, and it is easily conceivable that the Arctic could simply become just another new theatre for those clashes of interest to take place[ii].

The Crimean crisis evidences Russia’s dismissal of cooperation in favour of the fulfilment of its own interests and Ukraine is perhaps the first step down a path that Russia might take from now on. Many of the Arctic nations (except Norway) rely highly on cooperation, dialogue and on Russia’s good behaviour in Arctic Institutions and its abiding by the rule of International Law[i]. But Russia has now shown that if it wants, it will use its armed forces (which are currently being modernized and expanded) and willingly break international law. [iii].

None of this is good news for Sweden, especially considering that its current state of defence is not prepared to handle such a complicated situation. This was seen when on two  separate occasions in 2013, Russian TU – 22 bombers, SU – 27 fighters and an ELINT IL-20 violated Swedish air space and the Swedish Air Force either reacted at a very slow pace or failed to scramble fighters to intercept altogether [iv]. This is a consequence of the downsizing and reforms made by Sweden and other European Nations immediately after the Cold War when there was the idea that Russia was a lesser threat. But, as Howorth (2007) remarks, such shifting was necessary because of the challenges that were taking place in the Balkans and other parts of the world at the time. Military reform was needed in order to transition from the national defence mentality of the Cold War to the development for overseas deployments capacities to accomplish other non-traditional missions  such as peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions.

Sweden’s defence policies from the 20th century to the present

Sweden has had a policy of neutrality since 1810, staying out of both the First and Second World Wars, that aimed to isolate the country from Europe. However, the policy has bias towards the West which as a result defines the country’s relations with Russia in regards to the aforementioned conflicts and the Cold War (Lundquist, 2013). In short, although Sweden is neutral, it has always been closer to the West rather than fully isolated.

It was during the Cold War that tensions between Russia and Sweden took a turn for the worse, since Russia perceived Sweden not as a neutral but as a “western nation”, and therefore a hostile one. Interestingly, even before this situation, Sweden had strengthened its armed forces to give credibility to its neutrality and even considered the possession of nuclear weapons. (Lundquist, 2013)[v].

Tensions between the two nations reached their peak on a number of occasions, most notably when the Soviet Union shot down an intelligence and a search and rescue airplane inside Swedish territory (near Gotland) in 1952. There were also frequent Soviet submarine intrusions in the 80’s and 90’s, the most remarkable incident being when a Soviet submarine became stranded outside the Swedish naval base in Karlskrona in 1982 (Lundquist, 2013).

The end of the Cold War meant for Sweden stronger cooperation with NATO and the EU, as it embraced the idea of interdependence and of a peaceful and stable Europe. Sweden, as a result, began to implement reforms in their security sectors transforming its defence forces into ones that would deal with fighting wars abroad, peacekeeping and domestic policing. Also, the idea of an independent EU being able to have a strong military collaboration was on the table at this time (Lundquist, 2013).

The elimination of conscription and the modernization of military hardware were the most prominent steps taken after the Cold War, the first boosted by the performance and outcome of the First Gulf War in 1991 (professional vs. conscript-based army) and the need for a transformation of the forces to execute peacekeeping operations by 1993[vi]. The second led Sweden to decrease its emphasis on quantity, opting instead for quality thus acquiring Leopard 2 (Stvr 122) battle tanks and JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighters (Lundquist, 2013).

In NATO, Sweden had an active participation in many of the missions carried out by the Alliance since 1994 and under the Partnership for Peace Program, where Sweden saw an opportunity to seek guidance and information for its forces’ adaptation and interoperability with NATO operation (Lundquist, 2013). However, a full NATO membership was ruled out for the sake of neutrality but enhanced cooperation with NATO and Swedish membership in the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process has  allowed the country to focus and gain security of Europe and the Baltic through cooperation.

This approach to NATO is most likely part of the reason for Russia’s distrust of Sweden. This coupled with the fact that Sweden has active interests in the Arctic means that it could be perceived once again as part of a hostile West by Russia, potentially marking it as a target where Russia can, in the best of cases, exert military pressure and in the worst of the cases, unleash a war[vii].

The Sweden-EU membership had a long debate on neutrality, given the country’s long tradition and the lack of will for any involvement in a conflict. The solution consisted of readapting the policy into a one where Sweden as a state would defend itself keeping the action within its territory. Later on, both Sweden and Finland both managed to shift the focus on common defence to a new one on crisis management and peacemaking operations with a special chapter of cooperation in non-military areas (Lundquist, 2013).

The War on Terror with its Afghanistan chapter and the financial crisis of 2008 also affected Sweden and its defence capacities.

Europe, along with Sweden, realized that to combat terrorism other tools that were a combination of military and civilian were needed, while the objectives to defeat terrorism consisted mainly of fighting terrorism itself, the decrease of WMD proliferation, and addressing regional conflicts and organized crime. This resulted in the inclusion of the nation without a formal membership to either NATO or the EU (Lundquist, 2013).

The financial crisis of 2008 forced Sweden to decrease its defence budget while facing the same dilemma as Europe of gaining better self-defence capabilities with a US that is also shrinking its military expenditures and shifting its strategic interests (namely towards Asia and the Pacific) (Lundquist, 2013).

In the meantime the Battle Group was launched with the intention of establishing rapid reaction forces with assets in the three military domains (Air, Sea and Land) and with the task of executing humanitarian aid, peace enforcement, crisis management and post-conflict stabilisation operations. But such initiatives never went beyond the blueprints (Lundquist, 2013). Thus the Swedish security concept was based on conflict prevention either in the vicinities or in another part of the world.

A strategy of Solidarity was adopted by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, where Sweden would collaborate on any UN, NATO and EU peace support operations, while at the same time launching the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) with the aim of setting a common defence framework to facilitate mutual defence, including operational cooperation and development and acquisition of material between the Nordic/Scandinavian nations (Lundquist, 2013). NORDEFCO is regarded as an important instance for cooperating in training, exercises and to manage resources, as well as in operations executed in international operations. Cooperation has so far been achieved with Finland, Norway and Latvia.

In 2009, Sweden issued its latest security and defence policy with the general objectives of safeguarding the population, the functioning of society and the protection of the Swedish ability to maintain values such as democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom. Protection of sovereignty, rights and national interests, preventing and managing conflict and war, and protection of society and its functionality by aid to civilian authorities were also included. (Lundquist, 2013).

Interestingly, the Swedish Home Guard is considered as an important element for national defence, with national established forces permanent units on standby for fast availability and issued with modern hardware, equipment and improved training. Contracted personnel are also an organic part of the Home Guard and although based in the Swedish regions, they have a new concept of mobility that will allow them to support the tasks of the regular Armed Forces whenever and wherever needed[viii]. This is achieved by having a mix of contracted and voluntary units, as well as the Army, organized into battle groups with a “manoeuvre battalion” acting as a core of the group comprised of sections of different units. [ix].

The Air Force, in turn, is intended to develop capacities for multinational operations across Scandinavia & the northern countries, and even outside, and also to be able to execute operations within low-scale and high-intensity conflicts. The multi role SAAB JAS 39 C/D Gripen will be the core of Sweden’s air defence, while the helicopter battalion will have new models introduced[x].

Not to be left out, the Navy is to be operating in the Arctoc region, with the amphibious battalion transformed into one manoeuvre battalion with amphibious capacities whose focus are the off-shore sea combat and port areas. Cooperation with other nations in the region is also contemplated.

The Defence Policy of 2008/2009 reflects the Swedish efforts to transform its army, but the most remarkable is that all of the forces has now voluntary personnel, or to say more accurately, professional personnel with compulsory service only for the worst of the cases. In addition, the Ministry of Defence (2013) points out the role of the Ministry (and thus the Armed Forces) in coordinating and executing in the prevention and response to accidents, disasters, crises and even war. Disaster relief is also included along with search and rescue and reconstruction. Even humanitarian assistance is mentioned.

However, despite all this, Sweden still seems not to be ready at all to protect itself and the neighbouring states in the Baltic and Scandinavia, and it would be even less prepared if the Arctic turned into a geopolitical hot-spot. A situation that due to the events in Ukraine has become so much more believable and one that might also include Finland and the Baltic nations. The next part will focus then on whether Sweden is really prepared or not, why Finland and the Baltics might feel the weight of tensions between Sweden (and other Western Arctic Nations) and Russia, as well as the NATO and NORDEFCO implications for Swedish defence.


Åkested, T (2011). Hemvärnsförbaden 2012. Tidningen Hemvärnet. 71 (5), 14 -15.

Cenciotti, D (2013). Russian Intelligence Gathering Plane Flies Near Sweden. Swedish Air Force Allegedly Fails to Intercept it. Retrieved from: on 01.02.2014

Cdt Lunquist, D (2013). Swedish Security & Defence Policy 1990 – 2012. The transformation from neutrality to solidarity through a state identity perspective. Retrieved from Försvarshöksolan.

Stockholm, Sweden.  Retrieved from: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-3821.

Försvarmakten (n.d). Artillerie Regemente – A 9. Retrieved from: on 02.02.2014

Forsvarmakten (n.d). Helikopterflottiljen. Retrieved from: on 03.02.2014

Försvarmakten (n.d). Nörrbotten Regemente – I 19. Retrieved from: on 02.02.2014

Försvarmakten (n.d). Norrbottens Flygflottilj – F 21. Retrieved from: on 02.02.2014

Howorth, J (2007). Security and Defence Policy in the European Union. London: Palgrave.

Ministry of Defence (2009). A functional defence, Fact Sheet. Stockholm, Sweden.

Ministry of Defence (2013). The Ministry of Defence. Government Offices of Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden.

[i] Of course, Denmark and Canada are those that are also investing in a significant military presence in the area, although they do not have the same extent and power as the Norwegian one.

[ii] This point in particular will be further elaborated later on.

[iii] The reader must bear in mind the author’s previous review on Russia illustrating its military build up

[iv] See: Retrieved on 01.02.2014

[v] Neutrality, however, did not prevent the Swedish participation in the Korean War.

[vi] However this was fully implemented by 2010.

[vii] This probably by attacking Swedish territory from the sea or by advancing across the Baltic States and Finland to drive Sweden to battle.

[viii] For what concerns only the Artic/High North areas, by 2012 The Home Guard has 8 battalions stationed in the mid and upper areas of Sweden, all of them with air, reconnaissance, amphibious and even Chemical, Biologic, Radiologic and Nuclear defence as well as Arctic capacities. See: Åkested (2011), Hemvärnsförbaden 2012, pp. 14 – 15.

[ix] On the sole Arctic aspect, the army has the Norrbotten Regiment, with two mechanized (STVR 122 battletanks and CV90 Combat Vehicles included) and a ranger battalion tasked with developing the Ranger’s capacities and the overall Swedish Armed Forces’ winter warfare capacities. Also, there is the Arméns jägarbataljon which is a light elite infantry battalion and part of the Norrbotten Regiment, the Artillery Regiment with the tasks of Close Air Support, development of indirect fire support assets and the new Archer artillery system. See:

[x] The Norrbotten Air Wing is the aerial element for an Arctic scenario with the SAAB JAS 39 C/D as main assets, and a helicopter squadron based in the location as the Norrbotten Air Wing. See:

*Cover image ‘Viggen_08b‘ by

The End of The ‘JAMAICA’ Goverment in Germany, Or: The Crisis No One Needed

Last night, the negotiations between the Christian Conservative parties (CDU & CSU), the Greens and Liberals (FDP) to form a government officially failed as the Liberals withdrew from the talks. With the totally not prepared and 110% spontaneous words “Besser nicht regieren als schlecht.” (Better not to govern than to govern badly) the Liberal party delivered the political crisis to Germany that everyone so desperately needed.

After last night’s deluge of notifications about impending doom, the electorate woke up curious about what was to come next – and unlike everyone else, the Liberals came prepared. Starting an image campaign with said slogan of “Better not to govern than to govern badly”, the FDP gave a gift of gifts to everyone but themselves.

Admittedly, the so called Jamaica talks (for the colours of the parties involved: black, yellow, green) were an ambitious project to begin with:

  • The conservatives CDU/CSU had to deal with inner struggles due to Bavarian elections in 2018 and its prime minister who is fighting for his survival due to an abysmal performance in September’s federal elections, leading to a push to move the party even further to the right, in an attempt to combat the Alternative for Germany (AfD)
  • Additionally, there is the question of Merkel’s succession; Angela Merkel’s fourth term will likely be her last one – and so far no one is any the wiser about who can or will succeed her as historically the contenders for such a position have been tossed aside by Mrs Merkel without too much of a thought
  • The Greens, who once said that for them to become part of a coalition the CDU needs to become more ecological, the FDP more social and the CSU more liberal, have to explain to their base why exactly it is the right move for them to venture into a coalition with a party that openly courts anti-migrant sentiments
  • The FDP (Liberals) only just returned to the federal parliament, four years after a disastrous run as junior partner to the conservatives (and a self-fulfilling implosion of the party), so while they are the party who has been in government longer than any other in Germany, they were justifiably cautious about putting all their efforts into rebranding themselves (as what, I have yet to understand, the ‘party that knows how to use Instagram filters’, maybe) to the immediate test of government responsibility

So, what’s next? New elections, likely as not. At this point the other possible government coalition, between Conservatives and Social Democrats, has been rejected by the SPD out of hand. and after having suffered badly after four years in that very coalition. Similarly, a minority government of the remaining ‘Jamaicans’ seems unlikely at best as their existing frictions will serve them ill when shopping for other parties’ votes (and frankly, Germans aren’t that adventurous). So new elections, then.

Who stands to gain:

  • The AfD – Germany’s far-right party has just been given living proof that establishment parties are not trusted, spontaneous estimate: +5-10% votes
  • The Social Democrats, maybe, as they for once didn’t budge and discontinued a coalition that cost them dearly. This past election was a historic low for the party, hard to imagine them not recovering in a re-run, provided their campaign is done right. Estimate: +2%

Who will stand their ground:

  • The Federal Conservatives (CDU) – dealing with their Bavarian brethren was a necessary act of coalition building before Jamaica, and a slightly disappointing run in 2017 will probably not be enough to overcome the unifying power of Angela Merkel in her last run at staying the course in national and international politics. Chance of returning voters that protest-voted for other parties. Estimate: +2-5%
  • The Greens – they tried, they stood their ground, while still putting in the effort of making Jamaica work – and they have the Liberals as a beckoning scapegoat. Their conservative members will be happy that they genuinely tried and their more progressive members will be happy that they held onto their beliefs. +/- 2%
  • The LEFT (die LINKE) – were less visible than the other parties of late, did their usual thing of discussing strategy, personnel and all that jazz. Might benefit from off-center sentiments and end up in a left-off center coalition in 2018, should the SPD do the impossible. +/-2%

Who stands to lose:

  • The Liberals – running a fancy Instagram campaign which focusses on the oh so hip and modern head of the party with dreamy pictures is good and fun if you are on a budget, but you might wanna deliver on the ‘being a party of substance’ thing. The very same chairman who after having led his party to a historic result in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, humbly announced that he’d be in Berlin from September onwards anyways now blinked first. As it seems this “scandal” was long-planned as indicated by the well-prepared graphics essentially saying “Wasn’t us!”. This could cost them dearly, if too many voters go for “Yes, it was.”. Will likely stay in parliament, but only just. Ergo: -2-5%

Too soon to tell:

  • The Bavarian Conservatives (CSU) – the CSU has many troubles these days, finding common ground with their more centrist sister party followed by Jamaican talks was a strain on a party that is yet to agree on a strategy for how to deal with this September’s bad results and the surprising inroads that the AfD made on their territory. The prospects of current chairman and prime minister Horst Seehofer are far from certain as he is facing ongoing challenges and calls for a generational change in the top position, especially from his ill-liked crown prince Markus Söder who has been waiting for his turn for some while now – and who is firmly to the right of the man who wants to prevent his ascension. Federal AND state elections could be a make or break moment for Bavaria as the CSU has to stand united (wherever they stand) against far right and centrist challenges at the same time
  • Angela Merkel – the newly minted leader of the free world had the task of keeping politics sane on the national (prevent the AfD from becoming a thing) and international (prevent Trump’s thing from becoming THE thing to do if you want to be successful). She then stumbled on the home front, first with her own parties’ results in the September elections, then in the Jamaican talks. Christian Lindner’s FDP can easily be blamed for the end of Jamaica, but the September election? For now, Merkel is still too strong to be challenged, but for how long yet? If the 2018 elections go ill, and the CDU needs to reinvent itself, Mrs M. might find herself retired before she intended to

In short: the German liberals just made a show of painting a target on their back, and while no one in their right mind would want new elections, at least everyone has a common scapegoat. Or as Aaron Sorkin might say: FDP, boy I don’t know.

#Germany #BTW2017 #CDU #CSU #FDP #Grüne #Greens #SPD #AfD#Petry #dieLINKE #democracy #elections #Merkel #reelections #christianlindner #jamaica #BTW18

Author Biography

Moritz Borchardt has a Master of Public Policy from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt, Germany. A native German from Lower Saxony, Moritz spent his under-graduate years at the universities of Erfurt, Vilnius and Jena, graduating with a degree in Governmental Studies in 2011. Having a weakness for old school hats and civil society, he is interested in those areas where personal development is positively or negatively affected on a larger scale (i.e. Impacts/challenges of digital media, suppression of civil society) and structural shifts in societies writ large. He wrote his master’s thesis on a compliance-based understanding of society and chances for change in contemporary Belarus.

Cover Image European Union 2012 – European Parliament ‘EU Summit – Schulz and Merkel walking towards the family photo‘ under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license.

The Rewriting Of History In Action: President’s Macron’s Africa Narrative

Over the past few months, the term ‘civilization’ has been used by state leaders in worrying trend. In the first instance, the term was used by President Donald Trump on a visit to Poland, where he articulated the threat that ‘Western civilization’ is experiencing currently and needs to address through military might. Although the rhetoric, in light of recent terrorist attacks, is perceptible and the sentiment of defense justified, the meaning behind such rhetoric is exclusionary and excessively simplistic in a world that has undergone fundamental changes since the Second World War .These changes are explored through a second state leader who made suggestions of ‘civilization,’ off-handedly, President Emmanuel Macron of France.

While President Trump’s views of world politics and trade and insistence to affirm America’s position in the world are long noted and perhaps entertaining to watch, they often obscure the focus on other world leaders and analysis of positions. President Macron’s presidential victory over Marine LePen in May was seen as a victory over the potential for European neo-Fascism. Contrasting Le Pen ideas, Macron is seen as being more liberal and having a pro-European vision, purporting a platform which found a success in maintaining the European Union narrative and affirming a broad status quo in ideological practice. The reality of such a status quo, however, is to the detriment of France’s former colonies in Africa.

In his statement following the G20 Hamburg conference, President Macron was asked a question in reference to Africa’s development. His answers were riddled with references to poverty, a ‘civilizational’ problem, and corruption. The President’s remarks were viewed as deeply offensive and archaic at the least. The comments that Macron made about Africa with particular reference to Francophone Africa quite explicity overlooks and negates the contribution Francophone Africans have made to France. The President’s failure to mention the direct colonial legacy of which France still broadly enjoys would suggest a degree of humility when discussing African affairs. After all, it was only in April of this year that former President Francois Hollande gave 28 World War II veterans from its former colonies French citizenship, an agreement that was meant to have been honoured since the end the war more than sixty years ago. Adding insult to injury, the pensions of said World War II veterans from the colonies were lower than their French compatriots and for a period of time were even frozen. These veterans have long struggled for recognition and equality in France.

The complex relationship and effective stranglehold of France on Francophone Africa doesn’t end with pay or appropriate residency violations for time served in the armed forces. Francophone African troops who served were gunned down by the French troops after the liberation of France when they mutinied over unequal pay and pensions. This despite the fact that Paris’ liberation during World War II was done in large part by troops from the colonies. While up to two-thirds of the Free French Forces were colonial soldiers, they were systematically removed and replaced by soldiers to lead the liberation of Paris even though many of the replacements originated from North Africa, Spain and Syria. In the brief exercise above, it becomes quite evident that the French state in its current form has not only taken the lives of former colonial subjects with little regard but has not honoured them contractually or spiritually.

President Macron’s statements about the ‘civilizational problems’ on the African continent are seemingly an indirect affirmation of France’s colonial theory of ‘mission civilisatrice’, which was meant to bring all the benefits of Frenchness to the continent. As the term suggests, the theory is based on the ‘civilization’ of people, resulting in them becoming ‘Western’ through French identity. The concept therefore presupposes the ‘civilizational’ superiority and burden of responsibility upon the civilizer, in this case the French Republic, disregarding former French colonial soldiers contribution in France’s and the Allied Forces hour of need. The treatment of the Francophone colonial African soldiers, countries and citizens coincides closely with the perceived inferiority of their lives and labor by the French State since WW II, regardless of their contribution.

France’s direct influence over many of its former colonies is best articulated through the existence of the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc – to which a total of 15 African states belong. The currencies are underwritten by the French treasury where the reserves are located and pegged to the Euro. Though providing relative price stability in the countries, the currencies are over valued for the markets they serve, resulting in a low manufacturing output at 10% and an over reliance on commodities and agriculture. With a low manufacturing base, the respective markets are dependent on importing manufactured goods which undoubtedly would predominately originate from France. Ultimately, French economic and military presence in Francophone Africa is very much part of its Africa policy. The President since taking office has pledged support for the G5 Sahel fighting force in Mali, providing additional combat support for the 4,000 troops in the region.

President Marcon’s flippancy in discussing an issue that is a core issue for the French state to address suggests that Francophone Africa should not expect any change in attitude from the Republic, in its concerns about their undue influence and prejudicial attitude regarding its true economic and political independence under this French government.

Any shift in a truly different approach and liberal agenda that Macron appears to propose within France and the European Union should consequently be adopted to France’s spheres of influence on Francophone Africa. The current clear conflict of interest in the economic sovereignty of CFA Franc countries needs to be urgently addressed by the President. This view may excessively put the onus of responsibility on the current President as Francophone- African Presidents have previously found themselves ‘removed’ from office when attempting economic reform away from French influence.

The innovation of the ‘civilizational’ statements made Trump and Macron hold part of the very problems that the world seems to be facing; the notion one’s own superiority over another. In a time of globalization states and their leaders need to face hard questions about the nature of their state’s global footprint and their place in history. President Macron’s tenure holds an opportune position to open the question of how to seriously address the France-Africa relationship and consequently the EU and African States. For too long, many Francophone-African states have attempted to be part of a cohesive discussion on their own affairs only to be effectively dictated to and marginalised. If he chooses to do so, Macron can help African states build self-sufficiency, concertedly support good governance and democracy, and finally change the stage by hailing a new era in French-Francophone African relations.

Author Biography

Chiziwiso Pswarayi is Master’s graduate in International Relations at the University of Cardiff. Chizi’s interests include Southern African politics and migration issues.

The International Criminal Court: Reputation and Reform

The International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002, was created on the basis of becoming a permanent institution for the trial of individuals who have committed the world’s most serious crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court was founded on a basic principle that all humans are of a shared origin and heritage and that a universal set of fundamental standards should be acknowledged and protected with regards to human rights. Despite its noble aspirations, the ICC comes up against continued scrutiny and criticism over its operational activities, effectiveness and focus on Africa. Several of these criticisms have led to a potentially existential problem for the ICC; a few member states, notably African nations such as South Africa, Gambia and Burundi, have renounced membership of the ICC—or are threatening to. During such a crisis, it is important to reflect on the reputation and common perspectives of such an organisation in order to construct a critical analysis of where systemic flaws may lie and to concoct a recipe for reform. The US and other superpowers including China and Russia, have historically and fundamentally opposed the ICC for numerous reasons – thereby weakening the court on a fundamental moral basis. Reviewing statistical data of prosecutions, cases, arrests and investigations is vital to identifying flaws, diagnosing disparity and suggesting reformative actions. The future of the ICC is in question and, without change, the court could face existential problems. Questions of sovereignty, cooperation, adequacy and equality have engulfed the ICC in 2016.

As of November 2016 there are ten situations that the ICC is investigating, nine of which are looking into crimes committed by individuals from African nations (and the tenth being from Georgia). To offer a snapshot of the ICC to date they have publicly indicted 39 people, issued arrest warrants for 31, have on-going proceedings against 22, nine are officially fugitives, four are under arrest (but not in the court’s custody) and, finally, they have seven individuals detained. All investigations are under the Rome Statute’s (the ICC’s establishing treaty, adopted on July 17 1998 and entered into force July 1 2002) three defining crimes – war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Two questions could intuitively come to mind after realising those statistics of the ICC in 2016. Firstly, why are so many investigations based in African nations when the name of the organisation is the International Criminal Court and not the African Criminal Court; secondly, do seven arrests in 14 years show adequate capabilities and competencies as a court of justice?

There are many arguments as to why such as high proportion of investigations focus on cases in Africa. The ICC combats accusations of ‘picking on Africa’ as follows: the ICC encourages countries to voluntarily come forward and refer a case to the court, an aspect out of the court’s control. Of the 1700 communications they have received from 139 countries, 80 percent of these were outside their jurisdiction (not cases of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes). As such, it appears coincidental that most of the cases that came to the attention of the ICC prosecutors, and also fell under their jurisdiction, happened to be in African nations. An argument made by Olympia Bekou and Sangeeta Shah in the Human Rights Law Review states that, “strengthening domestic prosecutions so that the ICC does not have to intervene should be the ultimate goal of every state”, suggesting the weaker domestic judicial systems of African nations has led them to approach the ICC for support.

Other primary issues the ICC faces include the number of convictions made by the court, the cooperation from member states to the Rome Statute, the future relationship between the African Union and the ICC, and the non-implementation of pending arrests. A key pillar of the ICC lies in the active participation of ratified states, notably around the lack of an ICC police force, as they rely entirely on national police forces to arrest the indicted. A key example of absence of cooperation is in the case of Sudan’s president, President Omar Al-Bashir. Two arrest warrants have been issued to the president, one in March 2009 and a second in July 2010, over accusations of all three crimes under the court’s jurisdiction, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He is since still at large (and in power) due to lack of cooperation from Chad, Kenya and South Africa. In June 2015, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, along with other South African ministers, plotted and executed an escape for Al-Bashir from South Africa when the high court had ordered him to stay in the country, pending a decision to arrest (or not) following an ICC warrant. Obed Balep, head of the ANC’s (African National Congress, ruling party in South Africa as of early 2017) international relations sub-committee and South Africa’s deputy minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs claimed they were choosing between law and politics and, in this instance, chose politics. Deputy Minister Balep also claimed We would have been seen as lackeys of the West. We had to choose between the unity of Africa and the ICC and we chose Africa,” highlighting further discontent with the court’s operations. This Omar Al-Bashir situation is, therefore, still in its pre-trial stage since the ICC does not try individuals unless they are present in the courtroom.” It takes only minimal examination to uncover examples and evidence of clear systemic failings in ICC operations.

In the United States, publicly voiced interests towards the ICC have changed over time, often to suit their circumstances (whether they feel Americans will be political prosecuted or not) and dependent on the administration, “The United States has had and will continue to have a compelling interest in the establishment of a permanent international criminal court”, wrote David J. Scheffer (American lawyer and diplomat) in his 1999 journal, The American Journal of International Law. It would be logical to conclude that in 1999 this was, most likely, correct. The general US perception of the ICC during the late 1990s and right up to 2002 was that of consent and backing, a claim reinforced by US rhetoric, namely from Bill Clinton, US president from 1993 to 2001. Scheffer goes on to claim, “the question for the Clinton administration has never been whether there should be an international criminal court, but rather what kind of court it should be”. Again, this may have been true at the time of publication of Scheffers’ book, but is apparently a bygone stance for the US in 2017, who, along with Russia, have refused to ratify the Rome Statute, claiming issues over sovereignty.

More specifically, the Bush administration fell under the belief that the ICC would be used to prosecute American citizens and soldiers, “We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept”. The fear of prosecution of US military and citizens was combatted by the Bush administration with the 2002 American Service-Members Protection Actenacted just one month after the inauguration of the ICC. This act and point-of-view adopted by many US administrations comes with controversy due to past interventions and stances on liberal internationalism. An example of this is the 2003 Iraq operation to remove Saddam Hussein from power for, among other reasons, “outrageous human rights abuses”. It is therefore justified that some international actors sense some hypocrisy, American exceptionalism and lack of consistency on this disposition.

The lack of US backing for the court is likely to weaken its effect and efficiency on the international stage since many other liberal democracies align their thinking with US administrations. Tempting the US into ratification and acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC would strengthen the position of the organisation, but questions of the likelihood of this are substantially debated. In a US Department of State statement, in 2010, they appear to have been making positive moves towards the ICC with the party being present at the ICC on an observatory level and assisting State Parties in cases with direct US interest. This highlights some intent to cooperate with the ICC under the Obama administration, which is a stark contrast to that of the Bush administration that pressed states to conclude bilateral immunity agreements (BIAs), guaranteeing immunity from the court’s jurisdiction. The question of how to create an environment whereby the US would ratify the Rome Statute is open-ended and difficult to answer; imagining a scenario in which the US can uphold their bilateral agreements and be an operating member of the ICC is both directly contradictory and practically improbable. This environment can be difficult to achieve since nations in support of the sovereignty of nations, along with possessing a pro-intervention international stance, find it difficult to reconcile both norms in cases of humanitarian crisis—often leading to an inconsistent and hypocritical orientation.

Contradictory to the negative implications of this article, the ICC does deserve some praise, i.e. for its moral foundations, potential as an effective intergovernmental organisation and its impact to date. Taking the court’s comparatively short history into consideration, it has in fact had quite a remarkable impact on the international forum and is having success in indicting and arresting individuals. One notable conviction was that of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and leader of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC, Congolese Liberation Movement). In March 2016, Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison for five accounts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes were that of rape and pillaging committed by Bemba’s troops, between October 2002 and March 2003, in an armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). This was deemed a major success for the court for many reasons; firstly, he was the highest ranking official to be brought to justice to date, showing proficiency in the processes and influence of the ICC; secondly, the nature of the crimes highlighted that rape could be perceived as a legitimate stratagem in war, making the case a significant success for advocates against sexual and gender-based crimes. This indictment has been promoted as a “much needed boost” following many setbacks in other recent court cases.

Initial success for the court came in the form of the Rome Statute passing with a notable victory. As a result of a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998, 120 of 160 governments present voted in favour of the treaty—it highlighted a certain necessity, especially among smaller states with weaker judicial systems. A foundational success came in the form of the court establishing itself as a complementary institution, maintaining the domestic jurisdiction of the individual states to prosecute their own criminals who may call on the ICC to assist if necessary. It is this complementary fundament that appeased many states reluctant to ratify the Rome Statute and thereby strengthened the institution through sheer numbers. In terms of legal proceedings, judges decide the fate of the accused, instead of a jury. And, lastly, the court has shown flexibility in establishing itself and taking on broad criticism by adopting legislation and semantics from the UN Security Council; a vital characteristic of such an unestablished international institution that relies on state legitimization.

Since the court’s inception, it had never lost a single member state until losing three in 2016. South Africa, Burundi and Gambia all pulled out of the treaty on the basis of ‘picking on Africa’. While Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, is looking to reverse some of former president Yahya Jammeh’s isolationist policies – including reversing withdrawal from the ICC – the court’s solidarity remains tenuous. With fear of a domino effect, the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda stated at a conference in The Hague, “I don’t think we should feel we are defeated and that the court will close tomorrow. No, the court will have its challenges. We will counter those challenges. We will confront them and move forward.” Acknowledgement of flaws is essential to reform.

The Future

While it is apparent there are issues to overcome for the ICC, strong foundations give it the potential to form into an even more capable and forceful institution with positive effects on war crimes. In the future the US will continue to traverse the political and philosophical minefield over sovereignty vs. interventionism, potentially leading to US ratification of the Rome Statute and a subsequent strengthening of the court. This commitment to multilateralism and international justice, however, seems unlikely given the recent election of President Donald Trump. The court will need to diversify their focus to other continents (without diminishing their judicial obligations in Africa) and will need to reform some multilateral agreements over enforcement of prosecutions and how to bring the indicted to justice—achieved through strengthening existing agreements and the coordination with national police forces. Incrementally, the court should aim to stop negative rhetoric in the media by halting the withdrawal of member states and recognising internal operational failings, so not to create a snowball effect and to appease any hostility from member states. It should also strive to act as a preventative measure. To do this the ICC needs to show it can be an effective and permanent institution with clear standards, goals and success stories of convicting war criminals in different parts of the world. With these considerable hurdles tackled, the court’s future could change from possible gloom to becoming a fruitful and effective pillar of the international community.

Author Biography

Luke Pierce holds a BA in International Relations from Nottingham Trent University. His work focuses on news and analysis, both written and film, with focuses on conflict, international development, crisis and effectiveness of intergovernmental organisations. Luke aims to analyse global issues through written work and through educational documentary film.

Cover Image ‘International Criminal Court Building’ via Global Panorama under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported | Wikimedia Commons

The non-Aligned Movement: A Worthy Ideological Fight Or A Lost Cause?

This month Venezuela has been host to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit at Margarita, an island situated off the northeastern coast of the country. The movement officially has 120 member states, although this year only 12 Heads of State made an appearance, down from the 30 that made the last summit in Iran.

Recent news concerning the event have focused on the fact the movement is from the Cold War era, or that in light of the summits’ low head of state turnout, questions can be asked about its relevance and significance in the future. Yet, this view is perhaps more of a reflection on the simplicity in which international political economy is currently seen, rather than the strength of the Movement itself. One may recall the saying that ‘what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.’ Yes, many Heads of State did not show up for the summit, but that does not necessarily mean what the Non-Aligned Movement is irrelevant or outdated. It is after all the second largest membership organization after the United Nations.

The notion of trying to relegate the movement to the pages of history is perhaps an injustice to its young history. Following this logic, perhaps we should as well relegate the U.N. itself, to the pages of history.

So, what is the Non-Aligned Movement?

Founded in 1961, the movement was formed in response to the escalating arms race between the USSR and the United States of America. The organization was a set of countries that aimed to not align themselves in a time when the two dominant global superpowers (U.S.S.R and the U.S.A) expected the world to choose a side. To complicate the process further, this was a time when colonialism was still rife, perhaps explaining why all African countries are part of the movement except South Sudan which did not exist at the time. The Cold War coincided with many African States’ struggles for independence. The organization’s concerns when founded in the 1960s revolved around issues of colonialism and Western influence in developing countries. Following the end of the Cold War, the organization has found itself also being concerned with restructuring the World Economic order amid an increased globalization.

Since its formation, the movement therefore has strived to be an organization that espouses the need for peoples of the developing world to achieve their independence in relation to neo- and direct colonialism, and more broadly to the needs of their citizenry.

In current global politics the notion of ‘colonialism’ seems outdated and from a bygone era as it is perceived to no longer exist and perhaps more importantly it has an un-savoury public persona. As such, it may be true that the movement has lost much of its steam, but the fact is that there are 17 ‘non-self-governing’ territories according to the U.N; arguably there could be more when wanting to define self-government. Colonies therefore still do exist in our lifetime and consequently so do the associated socio-economic structures of power and influence that determine the fates of peoples. Though the world has definitely changed since the Cold War and its colonial past, there are areas of contention that still exist in spite of the equalities we take for granted as citizens in ‘free’ states; the existence of the 17 territories is but one testament to this reality.

Admittedly, the NAM does not currently speak to the issues affecting these 17 territories, but rather focuses, for instance, on the Palestinian cause for an independent state and Puerto Rico’s independence. The movement touches a core that underlies much of international and local politics: the lack of equality in the international political economy. The NAM was founded due to the need for developing nations to come together and work on a more inclusive international political order that includes reforming the U.N Security Council to better represent the current international political order and promoting intra-developing state trade and self-reliance. This, however, is an ideal that has not been realized in the six decades after the NAMs founding. Inter-African trade for example stands at 12% of its global trade and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) trade at 20%. By comparison intra-European trade stands at 60% of its total trade and 40% for North America. By developing economic and political ties developing states in theory would be able to leap-frog their development and destabilize the global economic order by trading amongst themselves, rather than the traditional developed state – developing state dynamics.

Perhaps the strongest statement from this year’s summit is Venezuela’s suggestion to tackle ‘Other Issues’,

Other issues in which there were specific agreements among NAM member countries are the rejection, through concrete policies, of all forms and expressions of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia or any other related intolerance. This includes new forms of slavery, trafficking of humans and the rights of the young people and women. The members furthermore spoke of the need to refrain from adopting or implementing extra-territorial or unilateral measures on fellow members as well as the condemnation of terrorist acts.

As inequality in the developed world becomes of greater concern, the lived experiences of minority groups within such states are consequently disproportionately affected. Such is the case with the ‘black lives matter’ movement in the U.S.A and the rise of xenophobic acts of violence in countries such as FranceGermany and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this new reality in developed countries reflects a routinely avoided issue, that there never was equality to begin with in this post-Cold War era, whether in international or local politics. The current global economic environment has therefore opened a window into the underlying inequities that exist.

Although this year’s summit was held in Venezuela and consequently much of the media’s attention was devoted to the low Head of State turnout and the economic straits of the country or notorious Heads of State such as President Mugabe of Zimbabwe; It is important to remember that what NAM seeks to foster is perhaps a naïve notion of an inclusive non-hierarchical political economy.

The importance and relevance of NAM in today’s uncertain world is a matter of affirmation to the core values it aspired to at its founding. There still exist gross economic and political inequalities and thus the NAM’s voice should be ringing out louder in our generation. It should now be working to make itself a movement of global contention, forging meaningful alliances with member states beyond media spotlights. After all, if someone can at least hear the pleas in a sea of chaos, the NAM should by right be that institution. And because of that we can perhaps hold ourselves more accountable to our ideas and actions in perpetuating the same inequalities that we aim to eradicate.

Author Biography

Chiziwiso Pswarayi is Master’s graduate in International Relations at the University of Cardiff. Chizi’s interests include Southern African politics and migration issues.

Cover Image ‘Presidente Salvador Sánchez Cerén es recibido por el Presidente de Venezuela , Nicolás Maduro’ under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Editorial: Disabled in an Abled World

Today marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and I am one of them, kinda. At this point, I have officially been ‘severely disabled’ for fifteen months (according to German law), with all the perks and all the thoughts that come with it. Mind you, on a scale of 0% to 100% disabled, I register at 50% due to a severely messed up spine, but just that. Slightly severely disabled, if you must.

Seeing that I am an outsider in both the fully abled- and the more heavily disabled realm, the topic of disability in general and my own disability especially has been a difficult and awkward one to talk about, to say the least. To quote Ben Folds – this is me trying:

My disability is a physical one, and just that: my spine may be bent six ways from Sunday, and I’d certainly trade it for an intact model in a heartbeat, but overall I can function, not always well, but for the most part I manage.
The main thing you learn once those limits manifest is to manage your energy well and to plan ahead. I am quite capable of doing a fair share of grand and epic things once I am up and ‘running’, but only then. My average day starts with two related, definitely not fun challenges: a) get out of bed (i.e.: put weight on the spine for the first time of the day, quite lovely that) and b) put socks on, which continues to be the most-dreaded part of my any day, especially without having moved about for a bit before. My lower spine has an inbuilt sideways right angle (imagine the left ‘side’ of a rhombus), so bending forward to reach my feet and put on the aforementioned clothes is a joy and a sight to behold. Once up and running, energy conservation is key – if longer periods of standing (or going out) are ahead – bring a cane, when picnicking – find a tree to lean on and when there is a chair available to sit on – use it.

For better and worse, my limitations are less visible than those images instinctively conjured when ‘(severe) disability’ is mentioned – and seeing that my talents and occupations are not centered around physical activities, I am hardly ever in environments in which they materialize in ways that are overly visible/recognizable to others.

Card-carrying membership is optional but possible

So, yes, I am disabled, I can’t run far, lift anything heavier than an average backpack or stand still for longer periods of time without facing the music afterwards. I won’t be able to hold and carry future children past early childhood and those sports I was traditionally drawn to (volleyball, football goalkeeping, basically anything that involved jumping and landing in less than fortunate ways) have been off limits for a while now, but that’s alright, such is life. Can’t change the cards you’re dealt, only how you play ‘em, right?

One quite interesting thing has been the label of ‘disability’ and ‘disabled’ and the treatment/reaction to it by both myself and others. Of course being disabled still has a ring of stigma to it, even today, even in so-called developed countries and whether we want it or not this fact does creep up on us every once in a while. 80 years ago my home country was governed by an elected (!) regime that actively euthanized ‘un-worthy life[forms]’ by the tens of thousands, so: thank you, dear accident of birth, and while the world and Germany have mercifully moved on since then, a remnant of the idea of disabled people being less than average (read: incomplete/unfinished) still persists today, implicitly and explicitly.

Or as high culture has it when introducing one of its most infamous villains:

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass
I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.

  • William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act 1, Scene 1

Of course, we learn that disability is not a key factor that identifies us, or by which we identify ourselves (especially not us members of the brainy bunch), but it is an active part of our identity, part of our daily experience, from trying to get out of bed noiselessly to crawling back into it. And whether we are card-carrying members of the club, or not, the reality of that lived experience can lead to the occasional disconnect with one’s environment “Are you in pain?” “Why would you want to get the official recognition of your status?” “Why would you want to talk/write about it?” “But you aren’t severely disabled!” – well, yes – because it is nothing to be ashamed of because it cannot be. That said: being a white, heterosexual cis-gendered male, born in Germany has been a real-life cheat beyond measure, so my complaints are cushioned by plenty of luck in the lottery of birth.

Thankfully, varieties of support systems and agencies have been put in place by governments and NGOs around the globe, helping disabled people in all manner of ways. Thus marks today’s date not just an awareness day for the struggles and continuing challenges towards the de-facto equality of disabled and abled people, but also a day to celebrate all those aides, activists and volunteers supporting people with disabilities on a daily basis.

This is just my personal story as someone who is part of that continuum, but far² removed from the challenges that others, too many others, face in much worse circumstances than my own. And while it is certainly true that many a time terrible circumstances breed the very kind of strength necessary to overcome them, I am continuously humbled by the strength and energy of those individuals, by their drive and their determination to not let minor things like physicality get in the way of their path.

They are role-models to all of us, let’s celebrate them – today and every day.

Moritz Borchardt is a Director of GPPW.

Cover image by Abhijit Bhaduri

Creating A Fairer Indonesia For People With Disabilities

Earlier this year, Indonesia made a significant shift in the use of a human rights-based approach to the issue of disability by passing a new law, Law Number 8 of 2016 on Persons with Disabilities. This marked a positive legal step by the government, having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) in 2011. However, people with disabilities in Indonesia still have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, higher rates of poverty, and reduced access to employment and economic participation. As we approach the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, it is important to examine how social inclusion and human rights education are essential in Indonesia to create a fairer world for people with disabilities.

The Gap between Law and Practice

Over the last decade, Indonesia has made significant progress in alleviating poverty and raising per capita income, as well as in making international human rights commitments by ratifying treaties that protect the rights of vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. Doing so, the government has also adopted a number of laws and policies to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. For instance, Law No. 39/1999 on Human Rights states that people with disabilities have the right to facilitation and special treatment; Law No. 28/2002 on the Construction of Buildings stipulates that facilities should be made accessible for persons with disabilities; and the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration circulated a letter relating to job placement of workers with disabilities in the private sector. In 2014, Indonesia passed a new Mental Health Law to ensure a humane and dignified treatment of people with psychosocial disabilities and the recently-passed disability law also replaced the social-based approach that was used to draft the previous 1997 Disability Law. The new law was passed after decades of advocacy and campaigning from disability activists.

Despite having the legal foundations that are required, Indonesia has significant challenges in living up to the commitments of these laws and treaties. Indonesia is home to millions of people with disabilities, despite an uncertain data accuracy – for instance, the number of people with disabilities between the World Health Organization and government’s official figures demonstrated a significant difference. A large percentage of people with disabilities have a poor quality of life; there are very limited services and facilities and many go without access to specialist medical treatment, assistive technology and carers and the severe lack of accessible public transportation systems and road access limit their mobility. People with disabilities are more likely to be in poverty – a study by University of Indonesia reported that the poverty rate for households with disabilities is 13.3 percent, which is three times higher than households without people with disabilities at 10 percent and also 50 percent higher when compared with urban households – and are often socially excluded and face discrimination in accessing education and employment on a daily basis. The same study reported that almost 70 percent of children with disabilities have no access to education and children with disabilities only had a 66.8 percent chance of completing primary education. They also reported that having a mild disability gave a person only a 64.9 percent chance of being employed. Reflecting on these statistics, we should look at some cases and successes that could provide lessons towards promoting a better future for Indonesians with disabilities.

Changing the Way People Perceive Disabilities

So what is next after Indonesia’s new disability law? The new Law 8/2016 is an excellent start as this law marks the changing of perceptions from using a social-based approach in the previous law to a rights-based approach. The key to the implementation of human rights, however, lays not only in the legal foundation but also in social attitudes and education. Individuals with disabilities are often socially excluded and face discrimination in social- and community life. Slamet Thohari, a widely known Indonesian activist for people with disabilities and a secretary of Brawijaya University’s recently-opened Centre for Disability Studies and Services, outlined how various religious and cultural traditions play a role in shaping societal perceptions of disability – for instance as objects of charity, gifted people with magic, or a medical “problem”. Thus, there is much work left to do to challenge the current perceptions amongst a broader civil society.

There are some cases of social inclusion in Indonesia that could provide useful lessons in ensuring a better future for people with disabilities. One such exceptional example is the case of the Bengkala village in Bali: The small village in Buleleng, North Bali, is known as “the deaf village” where 42 out of 2,749 local residents were born with hearing impairments. A study published in the Journal of Medical Genetics found that the congenital hearing impairments in Bengkala are caused by an autosomal recessive mutation at the nonsyndromic congenital recessive deafness gene, DFNB3, locus.The name ‘Bengkala’ itself means ‘a place to hide’. In this village, the residents are able to primarily communicate using kata kolok, a rural sign language that is independent from the Indonesian Sign Language (ISL) and Balinese language. Local children learn kata kolok along with Balinese and Indonesian that plants a sense of tolerance and equality among the residents. Those with hearing impairments also perform a unique dance routine called Janger Kolok which has been a part of the local culture for decades. The Bengkala village presents an important lesson on how tolerance, information, and equality can be embedded in local communities. Another recent case can be seen in the increasing number of individuals with disabilities who engage in sport in Indonesia. The country participates in international events for people with disabilities; a Balinese powerlifter, Ni Nengah Widiasih, won a bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Paralympics. She received IDR 1 billion, or around USD 74,000 and a monthly allowance of IDR 10 million, or around USD 740, from the Indonesian government after her success. Widiasih is viewed and admired by many as an Indonesian heroine who has successfully overcome adversity and has received wide media coverage for her achievements.

Positive stories like the above examples provide an important lesson for the Indonesian government to alter negative societal perception and attitudes on disability into a more positive perception where people with disabilities are viewed as equal and capable of doing something despite some of their particular differences. It is important for persons with disabilities to be able to live in a tolerant society, where they can have more independence, become more involved in public activities and work to achieve their dreams. The media coverage of Widiasih’s  achievements should be used to change negative societal perceptions of disabilities and to highlight the ongoing inequalities that are faced by persons with them in Indonesia. The government needs to do even more than awarding an achievement fund to athletes as received by Widiasih after her bronze medal success; the recent paralympic games achievement should be a lesson and a motivation to provide even more accessible facilities for millions of other people with disabilities in various fields so that they all can have equal access to realise their full potential and to increase their overall wellbeing.

Widiasih endured a long struggle and there are still millions of Indonesians with disabilities who still struggle on a daily basis and their challenges need to be met with the improvements of their social determinants of health. As technology and infrastructure develops in a modern Indonesia, the government has to ensure that public transportation, buildings, public facilities, and technology and information tools are accessible for individuals with disabilities. Another important point to note is also to ensure that the recent introduction of the National Social Health Insurance Scheme (Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional/JKN), which has allowed millions of people with no or limited health insurance to access medical treatments for free, is utilised to allow persons with disabilities to receive medical help and assistance they need. Last but not least, using a rights-based approach in disability law would not be enough if it is not followed by human rights education. This education is important for all Indonesians, since it is the key to empowerment and to a tolerant society – the more knowledgeable and aware people are about their rights and the rights of others, the more likely they are to respect, defend and protect these rights. Knowledge is also essential in ensuring that a broader civil society are more involved in policy-making processes and the evaluation of the programmes for people with disabilities, as well as advocating needs such as the need to collect and measure stronger data on the number of people with disabilities so that it would be useful for providing services and ensuring the political rights of them. Knowledge about the human rights is also an important way to help holding both the central and regional governments accountable for their actions.

Future Directions

It is crucial for the government and other non-State actors to give a firmer commitment and greater effort to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities. Accessible and inclusive public transportation and other facilities, as well as human rights education and social inclusion, need to be improved to support overall wellbeing. While disability-inclusive development comes with financial expenses, there are higher human costs of exclusion since excluding people with disabilities from equal access to employment and education is not only counterproductive to both community and global development, but most importantly, it is against the basic human right principles of equality.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a reminder for the government to keep their promise in implementing the new law and creating changes that are needed to achieve inclusivity and to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to health, education, and employment.

Citta Widagdo is a doctoral student at the University of Birmingham Law School, where she researches the domestic implementation of the human right to health in Indonesia. She has fibromyalgia syndrome and has spoken and written about her experience as a student with a chronic illness. She can be found on Twitter as @Citta_Widagdo.

3OS: America’s Next Revolution in Military Affairs

Since 2014, the Pentagon has been developing a new doctrine to combat America’s real and perceived vulnerabilities. It is this policy development, glossed over in major media outlets that will come in the shape and character of America’s armed services for the foreseeable future.

Named the third offset strategy (3OS), this doctrine is similar to the first and second offset strategies that defined US military procurement throughout the Cold War. First, Eisenhower hoped to offset Russian forces with increased nuclear stockpiles, after which the Reagan administration more successfully countered the threat of Soviet numerical superiority with advanced weaponry like precision-guided missiles, stealth aircraft and missile-defence systems.

Now the Pentagon top brass argues the US is once again vulnerable; with the rise of China as a Pacific rival necessitating the greatest action. While the previous strategies were made possible by huge increases in defence spending, the relative thrift of modern times has led to more novel for America to maintain its military edge to be considered.

Above all, artificial intelligence, the swarm doctrine and disaggregation of expensive platforms into smaller, more specialised and affordable systems are key themes in the Pentagon’s early discussions about future force configuration. Such developments could significantly increase lethality, cheapen the cost of military production, and alter the ability of organisations, large and small, to make war.


We are used to hearing of expert systems like IBM’s Watson or Deep Blue beating a human at Chess or Jeopardy. By weight and speed of processing power, computers can best humans in most set tasks.

However, a little-known company called Psibernetix has recently caused a stir by building an artificial intelligence (ALPHA) that can beat experienced USAF pilots in combat simulations.

Even when significantly handicapped, ALPHA has been able to outsmart and out-manoeuvre human pilots with no losses of its own.  Former Pilot Gene Lee referred to ALPHA as “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I’ve seen to date.”

The potential of AI in aerial combat is self-evident. Modern fighters are designed to operate at 40,000 ft. and speeds of over 1,500 mph (Mach 2 +). In such a scenario, speed of action and situational awareness is critical. ALPHA, which runs on novel language-based algorithms, can respond to changes in the environment 250 times faster than a human can blink. Despite this formidable processing power, the cutting edge technology can be run on a low-end PC.

Partially designed to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) it’s conceivable to imagine fleets of high-performance aircraft being controlled by algorithms, independent from human control.

This scenario is, however, unlikely. ALPHA and its successor AI’s will instead be incorporated into existing and future aircraft and will make the job of the pilot significantly easier, complimenting humans instead of supplanting them.  According to Nicholas Earnest (the creator of ALPHA), AI will begin to act as a digital assistant to pilots, easily processing incoming sensor data at speeds impossible to human cognition. Beyond the improved processing of big data, ALPHA has also demonstrated the capability of remotely controlling up to four aircraft. This allows for one piloted plane to have control of multiple vehicles, acting as something of a pseudo-satellite.

While automation has up till now supplanted human tasks, the future of war will increasingly see human-machine teaming, where a hybridisation of man and machine create a strong and adaptable system.

While ALPHA provides an example of software designed to engage enemy fighters and supplement pilot performance, other systems are being developed. One example, Mayhem, is an AI that can quickly scour vast quantities of code to determine vulnerabilities thus highlighting and mitigating the risks of cyber warfare.

ALPHA and Mayhem serve as milestones in the revolution in military-grade software. As targeting, electronic warfare, data-processing, and situational awareness are all improved and further delegated to onboard systems, the pilot’s role could change drastically. Airmen may stop resembling Tom Cruise’s Maverick from Top Gun, and increasingly consist of ad hoc data scientists instead.

Swarms- Small and Many

While the revolution in AI- and machine learning is a central pillar in the offset strategy, innovation in hardware will be just as vital.

One of the legacies of America’s preference for high-tech solutions has been increasing costs and development time for new military platforms, exemplified by air-superiority aircraft. The F-22 fighter took 25 years to develop, with each costing around $700 million. Of the 750 planned, only 138 were built before Congress shut down production in 2013. The newly introduced F-35 program has cost close to $1 trillion, with myriad setbacks.

The expense of these aircraft systems has had serious repercussions. In 1984, Norman Augustine prophesised that the exponential increase in platform cost with the linear increase in budget would mean that by 2054, America’s entire defence budget could pay for one plane. Though this is not quite the case, between 1996 and 2010, the number of fighter jets at America’s disposal dropped from 3002 to 2,159. [i]

Responding to the ever decreasing number of expensive aircraft, defence think tanks such as CSIS or CNAS have been pushing for the development of ‘small and many’ systems, or swarms. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter stated that swarm technology was a key part of a broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future war fighting needs.

Already scientists are working on smaller drones whose algorithms allow them to coordinate in large swarms. T. X Hammes, a former US marine, argues that 3D printing already allows for 10 small drones to be produced in a single day, and suggests that as printing technology improves, up to 1000 micro-drones could be produced every 24 hours.

These drones would naturally be small, lacking in range and deficient in payload, making them no match for current air-superiority fighters. However, their sheer numbers have the potential to overwhelm adversaries in a number of ways. Airborne swarms of flying explosives could overwhelm enemy air-defences, while the US Navy has worked on underwater gliding drones that can operate for up to 5 years without refueling. These systems could act as mines or self-propelled torpedoes, posing a threat to enemy surface and submarine vessels.

The increased potential of swarm technology is being enabled by the aforementioned developments in AI, as well as additive manufacturing, compressed gel fuels and nano-explosives. The production and deployment of many small, inexpensive systems in a short space of time would cut through the bureaucratic waste of the American defence industry, while significantly altering the nature and doctrines of the US military.

Barges- Big and Many

A swarm of semi-autonomous drones overwhelming Chinese air defences sounds exotic, but there are some difficulties. Particularly, the feasibility and small size of such systems limit their range and payload.

Another idea being touted is to leverage improvements in automation by building unmanned ‘arsenal platforms’ that carry large quantities of missiles and smaller systems.

By the lowest estimate, a Tomahawk missile carrying 1000 pounds worth of explosives costs as much as $500,000. Following the same estimate, one B-2 bomber costs up to 4000 Tomahawks. Strategists have thus revitalised a fringe concept of large retrofitted aircraft and boats; specifically designed to carry as many missiles as possible. Given advances in automation, these enormous platforms would not  have to be manned as space previously dedicated to accommodating the crew would instead be used to increase offensive and defensive capabilities. By Scharre’s understanding, a retrofitted B-52 bomber could carry up to 66 air-to-air missiles, compared to the maximum 6 of current US fighters.

These platforms would likely not be manned. Representing huge targets and designed specifically to carry ordinance, they would be highly visible and vulnerable targets. The ability of pilots to increasingly control multiple vehicles in the air thus allows ‘arsenal platforms’ to act in support roles, extending the number of missiles available to pilots in far-flung conflict zones.

Automation is thus allowing the DOD to replace expensive platforms that do anything for a huge price tag with a variety of simpler systems that do one thing well. Anticipating a likely future, there will be a far greater variety in the type of military hardware being used; from miniature swarm vehicles to submersible drone mines and gigantic pilotless aircraft filled to the brim with missiles.


The developments discussed are recent, and not excluding other, more traditional, developments in the US military (i.e. the upcoming B-21 Strategic bomber). Rather, the quantitative arguments for larger numbers of specialised weaponry are beginning to gain traction in the decision-making process.

At a time when devastating armaments and sophisticated platforms are becoming ever easier to access and manufacture, the highly elaborate and expensive weapons and platforms of yesteryear are becoming increasingly unattractive to defence planners.

Just as 3OS is being devised as a response to the anti-access strategies of America’s adversaries, countries like China are likely to react with new and innovative doctrinal changes of their own. 3OS is, therefore, likely to condition ever more ambitious military investment in the Asia-Pacific, suggesting a more adversarial stance on the part of both Washington and Beijing.

The previous two offset strategies were designed to counter the Soviet Union, an entity that lacked the scientific capabilities of America, with notable exceptions like Sputnik. By contrast, the probability of America maintaining a technological edge over China is increasingly in doubt. In the two previous offset strategies, The US was responsible for most military technologies of consequences, but in an increasingly globalised environment, increasing the affordability of platforms could negatively affect the balance of power in favour of Washington’s rivals.

A further geopolitical consideration should be the possibilities for smaller non-state actors to compete with states in the production of weapons systems. Difficulties that terrorists have had in mass-producing explosive formed devices (EFP’s) have been overcome by the sophistication of 3D printers. Meanwhile, commercial drones are becoming cheaper and more numerous, even as they become more sophisticated. To name but one, Aerovel’s Flexrotor has an effective range of over 2000 miles (comparable to large military aircraft) yet only costs $200,000. The gulf in platform quality and volume between states and non-state actors, well defined for so long, is becoming increasingly tenuous. States like Iran have been providing groups like Hezbollah with Unmanned systems since 2006, and in his excellent 2015 book ‘Sudden Justice’, Chris Woods detailed the uncovering of Jihadist ‘drone-workshops’ in at least three nations.[ii]

3OS is America’s attempt to leverage new technology to maintain its military edge over rival states. However, technological innovation is increasingly democratising the ability to produce and use sophisticated and lethal weaponry in large quantities. The production of nuclear weapons, fighter jets and aircraft carriers all necessitated enormous state resources, across military, technical and scientific sectors. In trying to maintain its central role as the world’s sole military superpower, America is opening a Pandora’s box of technologies that could conceivably shake the monopoly of violence states have enjoyed for centuries.  contested.

[i] Martin Van Creveld, M. (2009) A history of air warfare. Edited by John Andreas Olsen. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. P. 361

[ii] Chris Woods, ‘ Sudden Justice’ p. 275

Author Bio

Rian Whitton is an author and graduate of Kings College London with an avid interest in technology and security, including cybersecurity, aerospace and unmanned systems. His recent publications cover anti-establishment narratives, UAVs and reviews of the documentaries ‘Lo and Behold – Reveries of the connected World’ by Werner Herzog and ‘Hypernormalisation – The respectable viewer’s Zeitgeist’ by Adam Curtis.

Image credit: DARPA

Drone Strikes in Somalia: On a Questionable Legal Basis

In March and April 2016, the United States launched two major strikes in Somalia. The first strike took place on the 5th of March and hit the “Raso” training camp killing an estimated 150 Al-Shabaab fighters. The second strike killed Hassan Ali Dhoore, who was described by the Pentagon as a senior figure in Al-Shabaab. The use of such strikes, with the objective of eliminating the military leadership or foiling Al-Shabaab operations, certainly serve a clear military purpose as the United States continues to actively support the fragile Somali government. However, such strikes raise questions of legality and oversight.

President Barack Obama’s early years in the White House were marked by an attempt to disengage the United States from full-scale military operations across the globe, and especially in the Middle East. Jeffrey Goldberg noted in his cover story for the Atlantic magazine that President Obama “fit the mold ‘of a retrenchment President’ elected to scale back America’s commitments overseas and shift responsibilities to allies”. Indeed, under his administration, US forces withdrew from Iraq and the President was able to substantially scale down the United States military presence in Afghanistan. However, even though the United States military presence across the globe is lighter than it was in 2008, it has become much more dispersed under President Obama. His successor will inherit a number of on-going military operations, from an anti-Daesh coalition in Iraq and Syria, to troops in Afghanistan, “advise-and-assist” operations in Uganda and Cameroon, to drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

The scope of current US military operations reflects the President’s preference for covert Special Forces and military operations with a light footprint, compared to the full-scale interventions of the previous Bush administration. During his tenure, President Obama has embraced special operations forces as one of the key facets of his military policy. The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has expanded by 25 % during his administration, growing from 33,000 personnel in 2001 to over 70,000 todayThe Nation reported that ‘during the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, US Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries’. The President’s marked preference for special operations forces is combined with a willingness to conduct air and drone strikes throughout the globe. According to data gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and presented in the Atlantic, President Obama’s administration authorised 372 drone strikes in Pakistan, 112 in Yemen and 19 in Somalia, compared to President Bush’s 51 strikes in Pakistan and only 1 in Yemen.

Somalia thus presents an excellent case study when analysing President Obama’s administration approach to military interventions. Somalia currently faces a prolonged insurgency from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab which threatens not only the foundations of the fragile Somali state but also the security of key allies of the United States in East Africa. In order to confront the threat, the United States has taken a pro-active role in supporting AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) and the Somali armed forces, through training and financial assistance, in the hope that these two entities would be able to conduct the bulk of the fighting against Al-Shabaab. Since 2007, the United States has also conducted covert operations in the country and has noticeably increased the scale of its drone strikes from 3 strikes in 2014 to 15 in 2015. This increase of US drone strikes in Somalia has however a questionable legal basis and highlights the controversy surrounding the legality of the United States’ drone policy.

There are two aspects of international law that are vital when assessing the use of American drone strikes in Somalia to target Al-Shabaab: Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello. Jus ad Bellum is applied to evaluate whether there is a right in and of itself to resort to the use of force (Right to War), as codified in Article 2 of the Charter of United Nations. Jus in Bello, also known as international humanitarian law, is applied with regard to the manner of conduct of the force itself, irrespective of whether or not the use of force is justified in the first place (Rights in War). This branch of law is derived from customary law, The Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

To understand the application of international law to American drone strikes in Somalia, it is necessary to understand the context in which these drones are deployed. American drone warfare is contingent upon the ‘War on Terror’ instigated through the September 11th attacks by Al Qaeda. To action a ‘War on Terror’ would be to resort to the use of force, thus necessitating the United States to prove that its actions are permissible under Jus ad Bellum. The right to resort to the use of force is only acceptable when a state is acting in self-defence, as per Article 51 of the UN Charter. Accordingly, resolutions from the Security Council permitted the United States’ right to self-defence against Al Qaeda, which was also codified in The Authorisation for Use of Military Force (A.U.M.F) by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001. This authorisation granted the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom the administration determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harboured said persons or groups.

The first issue therefore is the fact that this authorisation has been used far beyond its initial measure despite the fact that the U.S. has never officially declared war against Somalia. In fact, the current state of affairs reflects how this authorisation for the ‘War on Terror’ has now been expanded to enable a global drone campaign, which has particularly grown in Africa. In Somalia, the drones target the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Yet the American position on this seems highly problematic. After a series of drone strikes on March 5th, a Pentagon spokesman provided a statement suggesting that though the government was yet to categorise Al-Shabaab as an “associated force” in the Al Qaeda war, the airstrike was “authorized by the 2001 A.U.M.F.” Although the A.U.M.F was an act of self-defence against the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda which Al-Shabaab had no role in whatsoever. In fact, in 2001 the entity did not even exist.

Furthermore, the Obama administration has attempted to justify the use of force against Al-Shabaab as an act of pre-emptive self-defence, claiming that the fighters on March 5th posed an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States. However, in international law, the Caroline test outlines that pre-emptive self-defence can only be used if the threat is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”. Similarly, U.S. policy stipulates that lethal force away from an active war is only permissible “against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons”. Yet the juxtaposition of the words ‘continuing’ and ‘imminent’ here seems paradoxical; a threat which is ‘continuing’ suggests it may be a long term threat as opposed to one which is ‘instant’ and ‘overwhelming’ as per the Caroline test. In a memo released in 2013, the administration’s definition of ‘imminent’ did not require the United States to have ‘clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future’.  In fact, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said that “there was a sense that the operational phase was about to happen”, all of which greatly brings into question the imminence of the attack and the adherence to international law.

The other lens of international law that drone strikes in general must be reviewed under is international humanitarian law (Jus in Bello). Through this lens, the United States’ right to use force is largely irrelevant. What is important is whether the force used adheres to the principles of international humanitarian law, such as the principle of distinction. To abide by the principle of distinction is a fundamental requirement in international humanitarian law that requires belligerents to at all times distinguish between combatants and civilians. The attacks on March 5th allegedly killed ‘militants’, which in this particular scenario seems permissible due to several intelligence sources confirming that the site was a training camp. However, this may not always be the case and can be misleading as the administration defines ’militants’ as “all military-aged males in a strike zone” in all of its drone strikes. This gives the Obama administration a much wider scope to claim it has ‘lawfully’ targeted and killed individuals than the principle of distinction would allow, raising questions about the drone campaign in its entirety.

In essence, the military reasoning behind drone strikes is at most times undeniable. The major issue facing the United States’ drone policy has been a lack of clear legal coherence when reconciling their policy with the principles of international law. In the context of the ‘Global War on Terror’ and a spirit of ‘Hearts & Minds’, it is vital that the United States clearly abide by its democratic values and legal principles when implementing its military policy. Failures to uphold these principles will always provide militant groups with the propaganda victories that will weaken the United States’ moral position on the world stage. It is thus vital to highlight the United States’ legal flaws in order to create the necessary dialogue.

Author Biography

Maryam Siddiqui and Alexandre Raymakers met as undergraduates at the London School of Economics (LSE). Maryam Siddiqui is a Law Graduate of the LSE and an LLM Master of Laws Graduate of University College London. Her current interests include international law, civil liberties & human rights and national security with a particular focus on South Asia and the UK. Alexandre Raymakers holds a BSc in International History and International Relations from the LSE. He has extensive personal experience on the African continent having lived in five different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. He has previously worked for the Swiss Embassy in Kenya and in Strategic Communications in London. He currently works as a researcher for a London based Think Tank. His interests include International Security, African politics and European Affairs.

Cover Image On night operations with the African Union Mission in Somalia 15 under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication