This does on reflection, seem to contradict my resolve to withdraw from the GP policy making process, but I think members who were not at Conference should be able to see what is wrong with the debating process, hopefully to avoid fiascoes in the future. Secondly, as I take this forward in other arenas, it will be useful to have it stress-tested.
This is the motion as presented, with minor improvements in [square brackets]:
Motion on Dealing with Dictators
While the Global Index of Human Rights will add a steady, continuous pressure for all countries to improve their human rights, unfolding world events frequently demonstrate the need to restrain dictators who are acting against the interests of their citizens. At present the international response to dictators is ad-hoc, politically driven and inconsistent, depending on whether major powers regard the dictators in question as useful allies or trading partners.
The UN needs to set up a fair, open and pro-active approach to would-be dictators, aimed to dissuade them from progressing towards absolute dictatorships, and rewarding steps taken towards a more democratic and open regime.
This is based on sound psychology. It is well established that the best way to modify unwanted behaviour is to set a consistent and fair framework of punishments for unwanted behaviour and rewards for appropriate behaviour.
Insert new IP 336 and re-number.
The Green Party will press for the UN to set up a framework of international rules of governance that will help all dictators, indeed all rulers, to learn that certain courses of actions will certainly lead to unwanted effects on their freedom to act to the detriment of their citizens.
Specified forms of conduct that indicate a tendency towards dictatorship will be matched with a tariff of targeted sanctions which are applied in a measured, stepwise and consistent basis.
There are a number of identifiable steps on the road to dictatorship. The following examples are advanced as indicators of such a tendency:
1. Electoral fraud
2. Intimidation at the polling booths
3. Ignoring the result of a democratic election
4. Banning critical newspapers and media
5. Banning non-violent opposition parties
6. Imprisoning people for their beliefs
7. Use of torture
8. Violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators
9. Lavish expenditure on palaces for the dictator
10. Disproportionate spending on arms
11. Oppression of minorities
Each of these steps will be legally defined, and the question of whether the regime in question has committed them will be tested in a timely way in an international court.
IP338 Each step, or constellation of steps, will have a specific sanction attached to it. The targeted sanctions applied will be made appropriate to the specific case, will be recommended by the international court of law, and will be subject to ratification by the UNSC.
Examples of the tariff of sanctions are:
1. At the mildest level, increased intensity and frequency of inspections by UN rapporteurs will take place, and the regime will be offered education in the ways and advantages of democracy.
2. [Next,] tightening up of border [(customs)] controls.
3. Banning [of] opposition parties [may] lead to financial support to non-violent opposition parties whose aims are judged to be helpful to the welfare of the people of the country.
4. Ignoring the result of a democratic election [may] result in a ban in foreign travel for members of the regime.
5. Use of political imprisonment and torture could result in the regime being denied eligibility to serve on appropriate UN councils, for example, the Human Rights Council .
6. Lavish expenditure on palaces for the dictator could result in sanctions against the import of luxury goods.
7. Violent suppression of minorities and peaceful demonstrations will result in freezing of financial assets of the regime.
8. [Proven use of torture would result in a] ban on foreign travel for members of the regime, with possibility of arrest of such people if they do travel abroad.
9. Disproportionate spending on arms will result in a total ban on arms sales.
The sanctions will be cumulative and progressive, and will be withdrawn promptly, in reverse order, if the regime takes action to retrace its steps.
The objections raised at Conference, both in the workshop and the plenary were as follows, and also amplified form the debate on this blog, are below. My responses are in italics:
- An objection to use of the word "Dictator". Well, OK. Any other suggestions? Totalitarian/authoritarian? Oppressors? And why the objection to the word anyway? Is this PC? Let's call a dictator a fecking dictator. It is not as if they are sensitive flowers.
- The fact that the effects of the policy could equally apply to the US or Britain. Well, exactly. Great. This is not an objection to the proposal, but a comment presented as an objection.
- The exact circumstances of a regime should affect the situation. Which is why there is a legal process involved, in the proposal itself. If a regime has crossed one line, say has set aside the results of an election,the allegations are tried in court, and if found to be in breach of the rules, a penalty is imposed. The court will look at all the circumstances, that is what courts do.
The thing is here, we are in a double bind. If we insert every detail, it is criticised for being too long. If we condense it, it is criticised for leaving details out.
- The objection that "luxury goods" had not been rigorously defined. See above.
- The motion is unchanged from last time, when it was referred back. This is because I placed it on the International and Policy discussion lists, and there was zero response.
- "The following examples are advanced as indicators of such a tendency" is vague: Well, OK. But if it had read "Here are the indicators of such a tendency", objectors could respond "What about X? You've left X out!"
The fact is that the UN will have the job of final legal definitions. This objection is perfectionistic.
- It is is ludicrous to imagine that dictators "will be offered education in the ways and advantages of democracy". No it isn't. This is an integral part of the UN's existent Responsibility to Protect mechanism.
- The motion adds nothing to the Index of Human Rights policy. Yes it does. I co-wrote the Report on the Global Index of Human Rights with Peter Tatchell, and in the writing, while Burma and Zimbabwe were bubbling around in the news, I thought "The Index does not really address Burma and Zimbabwe as they are. How can we improve it? And we came up with this idea. OK, I came up with it (not wanting to drag Peter into the matter, he has enough on his plate right now).
- The motion is trivial. No it isn't. Ask the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda. The entire point is to prevent average regimes from setting off down the slippery path that leads to dictatorship. OK, to authoritarian/totalitarian regimes. Once a dictatorship is formed, it is bloody hard to get rid of. Prevention is better than cure.
- "Sanctions" will hurt the people. The motion says targeted or "smart" sanctions, which are designed to have effects on the regime without affecting the wellbeing of the population. It is important to distinguish between these measures and the anti-humanitarian sanctions that did such terrible harm to Iraqis after the Gulf war.
Looking at it again, I can see that the language could do with smoothing out, but as there was no feedback in the inter-Conference period, this smoothing did not come about. I suggest that the 10 objections assembled so far all lack staying power.
OK. Open for comments...