Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ban ki Moon in Burma

Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, is in Burma trying to persuade the generals to behave sensibly. Good for him, but he really needs to be working on a set of rules to make the process of becoming a dictatorship more difficult.

The international community treats each dictator in an ad hoc way, as if it is somehow a unique event. As consciousness rises of the dictators' brutality, political pressure slowly rises, discussion ensues, and appeals to his (it is usually a him) better nature give way to calls for some kind of sanction, which is then blocked in the United Nations Security Council because one or other of the members there has a trading relationship with the dictatorship.

It doesn't have to be like this. There are identifiable steps to dictatorship, such as closing down the free press, arrest of political opponents, and setting aside the results of elections. The UN needs to set up a tariff of sanctions targeted at the regime, applied when each step is taken, and lifted when the repressive step is repealed. The stick of action in the International Court of Justice can be balanced with a carrot, guaranteeing the dictator a comfortable life in exile if he leaves office voluntarily. More here - scroll down to Dealing Effectively with Dicatators.

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