Blessed be the peacemakers…

 

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“Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.”

I have always loved the Sermon on the Mount, but I doubt I fully understood it until this morning.

Yes, this morning, in the shower, when I had an intuition (a full download, as a friend of mine would say). No surprise, my best intuitions are often in the shower, that’s when my rational mind is at rest and it doesn’t interfere.

Here it is. Since childhood, I have always thought of the peacemakers (and the meek and the poor in spirit) as the first Christians, the persecuted,  and, then, missionaries, men and women of God and all those who make themselves small and dedicate their lives to others.

I think of them in a non-denominational way, as I see all the religions as equal paths to God and I think that also people outside the official religions may fall within these categories, moved by spirituality or a strong ethical commitment.

Now I see how my reading of that text was limited.

Peacemakers are many more.

I am a peacemaker and I know many peacemakers. Everybody who works to build peace is a peacemaker. Changemakers who have a recipe for peace are peacemakers.

Being a lawyer with a background in the EU law I have my recipe for peace, I see law as a bridge between people, between nations and cultures.

For me peace is not the absence of war, peace is having structures which make war very unlikely: conferences, assemblies, joint committees and councils, and all sorts of places for dialogue. Law is also the tool to frame procedures: decisional procedures which are perceived as legitimate and fair. Once we have shared rules, we have a social pact, we have a legal order and a community, we don’t need anymore to take the law into our own hands, pick up our rifle.

What is true for individuals is true for states as well. Nowadays it is an (almost) universal truth that individuals have surrendered their right to take the law into their own hands as they belong to a society, sharing rules for justice and safety. But the international community – in spite of many efforts – is still half-way between society and Far West.

And I know that my role as peacemaker is to promote bridges instead of walls and guns.

But there are many more peacemakers who are at work to build these and other important tools. Many people involved in civil society organizations are at work to reduce inequalities and violations of fundamental rights which at the roots of many conflicts. Many people, who fund these organizations, are making their activity possible. There are political leaders and activists who promote peaceful political solutions. Social innovators – tech innovators as well as business innovators –  promote new models for shared responsibility for global problems. And many educators and coaches are at work to spread awareness and raise consciousness over the traditional patriarchal and hierarchic models grounded on strength and dominance.

The list is incredibly long.

This post is to tell them they are peacemakers and sons of God.

They too could have fallen in the interpretation trap I fell since childhood, and think that peacemakers are others. Please don’t underestimate yourselves, the world needs you.

If you want to connect with fellow peacemakers, you will meet a good number of them in Lecce,  on April 26-27.

To Brexit or Not To Brexit

The nowadays famous article 50 of the EU Treaty didn’t exist before the 2009 Lisbon reform.

The founding fathers’ vision of an ever closer union didn’t contemplate a way back … or a way out. The marriage had to be for life. But then, after the big enlargments in 2004 and 2007, some practical minds decided to foresee the possibility of a divorce.

And here we are, with a divorce we didn’t expect to see.
As a British colleague made me notice, the 48% of the voters who expressed the will to remain are not parties in this divorce process, they are the victims: the children.

And the divorce is not formalized yet and this doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon.

Those who say that enacting art.50 is a competence of the British parliament are certainly right, as the  parliament ratified and enforced the European treaties in the British legal order and cannot be bypassed by the goverment, repealing these acts. By the way, both the parliament and the government  look reluctant as they didn’t really want this outcome.

Those who say that the will of the citizens cannot be ignored are right too. It is absolutely reasonable that such an important decision should require a larger majority, but there wasn’t any rule about it and a majority won.

Both the fields -the Brexit supporters and the remain supporters – have solid arguments on their side.

But there isn’t only the British membership of the European Union at stake. That would be too simple an assumption.

The remain voters are not necessarily supporters of this Union, which has its own undeniable flaws. Most of them stand for an idea: being united with our  diversities, being  stronger together, being peaceful as a family which solves its own divergences discussing at a common table.
Most of them know that the Union is a work in progress which can be improved only from the inside. And they know there is much to gain from the EU’s open borders and European citizenships’ rights if you are willing to move, explore and challenge yourself and your national limiting beliefs. They reasonably don’t want to lose these rights.

The Brexit  voters come from a range of different experiences:

  • Some of them  have suffered and still suffer austerity;
  • Some identify Europe with a suffocating bureaucracy and  a political failure, which is how Europe as been sold to British people for decades: as a useful scapegoat.
  • Some expressed a feeling of antipolitics, they would probably have rejected any political establishment and just prove the  crisis of democracy we all see around us.
  • Then there are the champions of national sovereignty, and all sorts of nationalism.
    This feeling has been fueled by the huge migrations from the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It is a real emergency and nationalist attitudes won’t help to find a solution whatsoever. But still we can understand where this feeling comes from: fear. Fear of invasion, fear of sharing already meager work opportunities and national resources.
  • Finally, some think that a free rider state will thrive on the global market, possibly a more and more deregulated global market. This is a completely different attitude, but still anti-EU. And more than the other views it looks anti-historical as the world goes in the opposite direction: solving problems which become more and more global will require more integration, not less. Even little tax heavens are (finally!) under threat of extinction.

    I am totally empathetic with the “remain” voters and still, while I wish the best outcome for them, I wonder if a Brexit is politically avoidable.

    However the dilemma will be solved, some lessons need to be driven:

    ⁃       austerity has not been the solution to the financial crisis. In some countries it even worsened the economic situation. In many states unemployment is still at record level. The price was especially paid by the weaker part of the population, poverty and inequality provided a good soil for populism and nationalism. Moreover, it has been errouneously attributed to Europe, while it was a national solution (as I already explained).
    ⁃       There is a crisis of democracy and a rise of antipolitics almost everywhere. I have my theory about that: the nation states are not anymore the right institutional framework for tackling most of our problems, we need to go more local and more global at the same time. But – be right or wrong my explanation – we need a serious reflection on our contemporary democracies.
    ⁃       Finally, we need to work for a better Europe, we owe this to those who voted against it as to those who voted in favour. I have written about this and for sure I will write more extensively in the future. I’ve already been too long!

    For those who arrived to the end of my reflections: these are challenges not just for polical elites, not just for governments and states, but for all of us. And this is a call of duty for new brave political leaders at all levels.

Ubuntu and International Law

Ubuntu is an ancient African word and it is difficult to translate it in a language that doesn’t hold the same concept.

It basically means: ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’ or: my humanity is inextrically connected to the group I belong; my happiness is their happiness; their sorrow is my sorrow.

The word became popular thanks to two African Nobel laurates, Nelson Mandela and the archbishop Desmond Tutu, and even more thanks to the Linux desktop bearing this name.

It recalls me a famous Latin quote by the poet Terentius “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” (I am a man, nothing human is alien to me), but ubuntu goes much further: not only everything human is not alien to me, it even affects me deeply. It tells us about belonging, interconnectedness, wholeness, even empathy and compassion.

It is not a legal concept, but for sure it is an ethical concept which inspired some legal statements about common concerns of humankind.

It is close to a legal concept which is around (and debated) since long time: the common heritage principle, which establishes that some resources or sites belong to all humanity and have to be available for everyone’s use and benefit. It is established as a guarantee for the future generations and the needs of developing countries.

The principle surfaces in many international legal texts, even if its most known application remains the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1975) which gives UNESCO the competence to designate the sites being of special cultural or physical significance. These, due to their outstanding cultural or natural importance belong to the common heritage of humanity and have to be preserved for the future generations. While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, they have to be protected  in the interest of the international community.

The idea was not new, one of the oldest appearences is in the Antarctic Treaty (1959). It is stated in its preamble that its primary purpose is to ensure “in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”.

A clear affirmation of the Common heritage of the mankind, not just  as a principle but as a rule, is in the U.N. Outer Space Treaty (1967):

Art.1: “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind. Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies. There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation.”

Art.2: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.

In the Moon Treaty, which came after (1979) we read that “[t]he Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind” (art. 11).

Then we had the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), where we read that “the Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind” (art. 136). This means that the Area and its resources cannot be claimed, appropriated, or owned by any state or person (art. 137). All rights to resources belong to mankind as a whole, with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) acting on mankind’s behalf (Article 140). Here we can see a step forward: an authority in charge to guarantee the interests of mankind.

Finally, we can read in the preamble of the Paris Convention on Climate Change:

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

To date, the principle is still waiting for application in other important fields:

The UNESCO adopted two declarations inspired to it (which are just declarations, not binding treaties): the  Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and the Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations, both in 1997They are potentially part of international customary law, if international or national judges can verify that they match the general practice of states and what states have accepted as law.

What about other resources which are at the core of our interdependence? Internet? Big data? Or, more trivially, the air we breath?

This application of the oneness principle to the difficult field of international law was first an intuition by Immanuel Kant in his essay Perpetual peace (1795), it is nowadays supported by cosmopolitanist theories and by the doctrine of global public goods. To be properly enforced, nonetheless, it requires a shift in legal paradigms that is really controversial (challenging traditional international law concepts such as acquisition of territory, sovereignty, sovereign equality, and international personality).

And it requires a shift in consciousness towards  Ubuntu.

 

 

Why Is Supranational Democracy so Difficult to Imagine?

The inadequate attention that international organizations’ statutes  give to legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness hails from the limited role that IOs played at the beginning of their history and from the subsequent scarce attention to democracy in a setting different from the national state.

In today’s different international context, it is worthwhile to challenge the unsurmountable hurdles stemming from the use of the word “democratic” in connection with an international organization.

Even though there isn’t a generally accepted theory of democracy – or more broadly of supranational democracy – in international organizations, we can examine the possible portability of the individual elements that make up this notion from the state level – for which they were originally created – to the international level. This is the experiment I’m almost obsessed about.

However, two kinds of difficulties arise from the fact that we are not considering a community of individuals, but of nations.

The first obstacle is the difficult applicability of the principle of equality, inherent in the notion of democracy. It is based on the concept of equal dignity for all human beings which leads to ignore and even amend the differences that give some people a “birth right” to succeed. All states are sovereign and therefore equal inside the international community, but this principle is nothing but a fictio. Far from wanting to ignore or minimize the differences, the international community focuses upon the preservation of the status quo, which is attenuated only by the shared goal of the sustainable development and protection of fundamental rights. Even when all the countries will get, as we hope, to share similar levels of prosperity, they would be far from equal. Too many facets help mark the differences: the size of territories, populations and economies, as well as the control over natural resources and the weapon supply.

As a consequence, several organizations agree on the principle that states are differently represented to reflect their different situations. Other ones simply ignore their substantial difference, but special provisions or practices make some States more equals than others.

Important scholar studies try to offer solutions to this dilemma, but there isn’t any adequate diffusion and sedimentation of shared assessments. The reflection on the subject has followed two clearly distinct lines: the statism theory, which sees international democracy as the result of the joint action of the states, as essential building blocks; and the doctrine inspired by cosmopolitanism and transnationality, which is based on the assumption of a global demos.

Even if an international organization achieved the perfect representation of all its members and was thus fully legitimate to act, we couldn’t conclude that it was also, indirectly, fully representative of their citizens. In fact, if some of its member states weren’t democratic, or only partly democratic, they wouldn’t be representative of all their citizens. According to the Democracy Index 2015 of the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 20 countries out of 167 are full democracies.

Such a lack of legitimacy is inevitably reflected on the state’s opinions and stands in the institutions of the IO it is part of and on the overall credibility of the institutions themselves. This is a difficult legal dilemma, that can only be solved if the organizations require their members to be democratic – as the European Union does (even if it should keep a closer eye on their evolutions). It is obvious that in organizations with a universal membership the issue must be labeled as “non permanently solvable”and shelved.

There is so a good point for the cosmopolitan approach: only building on some kind of legitimacy driven directly from the global demos we can overcome the “states obstacles” which are their inequality and their imperfect democratic representation.

Even so, the imperfect representativeness that we assume as inevitable, could be compensated by accountability, which can be fully obtained at the supranational level also by designing and experimenting new legal and institutional forms.

International organizations are not really equipped for substancial legitimacy as they are not for full accountability. New channels and tools need to be imagined to provide that their decisions and lines of actions reflect the values and the will of the people.We need new and fresh ideas, in line with the reality (and the technology) of an interconnected society. 

Unfortunately, we are now accessing the realm of imagination, and here there are two more powerful obstacles.

The first one is the power of the status quo: the resistance of political and economic elites, the power of traditions and cultural heritages and the trite old say “it has always been so”.

The second obstacle lies in the fact that economic and legal minds are not really educated to work with imagination, at least not on a big scale. It’s easy to imagine a new interpretation of a rule or a new financial product, but what about a whole new system? Do we feel really empowered to do that?

We hear almost every day that challenging the status quo, working with imagination, “disrupting” are the new frontiers for entrepreneurs and marketers, but this is also true for those who want to prove themselves on institutional engineering… and maybe change the world, for the better.

One Humanity: Shared Responsibility

The Istanbul Summit is approaching, the first of its kind: a world humanitarian summit.

When the UN Secretary General called it in 2012, he could not imagine, that in May 2016 it would have been the no.1 issue on the agenda, because of all sort of humanitarian crises.

Every day, more funding and more organization is needed to save life and to offer first aid, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance exploded in the last 12 months. Frustration is growing on both sides: the one of those who need help and that of those who do not know how to help.

Released a few days ago, the Report of the Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit is a first provisional answer, aiming at paving the road. It offers a vision, inclusive and universal.

Here is the annex Agenda, summarizing the core proposals and the envisaged actions and tools.

Among others, a clear effort is needed to enhance law and governance tools, as pointed out in the Core Responsibility II. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity, where we find under letter D:

Reinforce our global justice system

Adopt national legislation encompassing the full range of international crimes and universal jurisdiction over them, and strengthen and invest politically in national law enforcement and invest financially in strong and impartial judicial systems.
Carry out systematically effective investigations into and prosecutions for allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Provide adequate political, technical and financial cooperation and support to the International Criminal Court and for the systematic investigation and prosecution of international crimes”
and under letter E:
“Uphold the rules: a global campaign to affirm the norms that safeguard humanity
Launch a global campaign
Launch a global effort to mobilize States Parties, civil society, and other global leaders to prevent the erosion of international humanitarian and human rights law, demand greater compliance with them, and ardently pursue the protection of civilians.
Adhere to core instruments
Urge all states to accede to core international instruments aimed at protecting civilians and their rights and implement them.
Promote compliance by engaging in dialogue on the law
Hold regular meetings of States Parties and experts on implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law and new challenges to reinforce its relevance, identify areas requiring clarification, and offer opportunities for legal assistance to ultimately compel compliance.
Use high-level United Nations Member States forums, such as the General Assembly, Security Council or the Human Rights Council for dialogue on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
But what we find really innovative and important is the last para. in Core Responsibility IV. Change people’s lives – From delivering aid to ending need

 “C. Deliver collective outcomes: transcend humanitarian-development divides

Commit to the following eight elements in order to move beyond traditional silos, work across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries and with a greater diversity of partners toward ending need and reducing risk and vulnerability in support of national and local capacities and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda
Create a joint problem statement driven by data and analysis
Collect, analyse, aggregate and share reliable and sex –and -age disaggregated data with adequate security and privacy protection as a collective obligation to inform priorities.
Make data and analysis the basis and driver for determining a common understanding of context, needs and capacities between national and local authorities, humanitarian, development, human rights, peace and security sectors.
Develop a joint problem statement to identify priorities, the capacities of all available actors to address priorities, and where international actors can support or complement existing capacities.
Identify and implement collective outcomes
Formulate collective outcomes that are strategic, clear, quantifiable and measurable, and prioritized on the areas of greatest risk and vulnerability of people identified in the joint problem statement.
Aim for collective outcomes to have a positive impact on overall national indicators of advancement toward the 2030 Agenda and for multi-year plans to be installments toward achieving national development strategies in line with the 2030 Agenda.
Develop multi-year plans in three to five year duration that set out roles for various actors, adopt targets and drive resource mobilization to achieve collective outcomes.
Draw on comparative advantage
Deliver agreed outcomes based on complementarity and identified comparative advantage among actors, whether local, national or international, public or private.
Promote a strong focus on innovation, specialization and consolidation in the humanitarian sector.
Coordinate collective outcomes
Coordinate around each collective outcome with the diverse range of actors responsible to achieve it.
Empower leadership for collective outcomes
Empower national and international leadership to coordinate and consolidate stakeholders toward achieving the collective outcomes
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to ensure coherent, collective and predictable programme delivery of the United Nations and its partners toward the full programme cycle of the multi-year plan and the achievement of collective outcomes.
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to request and consolidate data and analysis to develop the common problem statement; moderate and conclude the setting of collective out comes; ensure implementation and monitoring of progress; and to steer adequate resources to ward the agreed multi-year plan.
Adapt structures, processes and financial systems at headquarters of agencies and donors as appropriate to reinforce this approach towards collective outcomes.
Monitor progress
Ensure clear performance benchmarks and arrangements are in place to monitor and measure progress toward achieving collective outcomes, to ensure timely adjustments, and the right re sources and political support are in place.
Retain emergency capacity
Enable and facilitate emergency response and people’s access to life-saving assistance and protection in contexts where meeting longer-term collective outcomes will be difficult to achieve.
Recognize the provision of emergency response as a short-term exception and all efforts should be made to reduce need, risk and vulnerability from the outset.”

Infact, one of the (many) problems to overcome is the fragmentation of each emergency response among an impressive number of actors, acting at different level and often without a shared vision. Not only state actors and international actors may address different priorities or have in mind different goals, but also at the same state level (even  at the same international level) different actors could contradict each other, not to speak of the not always clear sharing of competences among international institutional actors (as the UN and the many specialized agencies).

What the Agenda do not get to say is that we need a control room, possibly in the UN, and we need an holistic approach to include development policy, equality, humanitarian emergencies and peace-keeping.
Of course, these are different problems that need tailored responses and dedicated specialists, but we could not deny that they impact each other significantly. A common vision on preventing conflicts would avoid displacements – having an impact on development, equality, health emergencies. Working on development and equality, on the other hand, reduces the risk of conflicts, and so on….
My best wishes to the World Humanitarian Summit, my hope is that  – approaching the date – it becomes even more ambitious and far-reaching (as it just happened in Paris).

The Global Goals and All the Ways to Communicate Them

Sustainable development goals are ambitious. They are milestones intended to change the world in the next 15 years.

As you can read, the 5 Ps in the preamble reveal a broaden view…

The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet:

People

We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

Planet

We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainableconsumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgentaction on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and futuregenerations.

Prosperity

We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfillinglives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

Peace

We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fearand violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

Partnership

We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through arevitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.

Many will notice that this list is much longer than the previous one, the list of Millennium development goals, written fifteen years ago. The focus is not just on the people, but on the planet too and on all the living creatures on it. As somebody said, “What does not benefit the hive, is no benefit to the bee.”

Are they achievable? Yes, they are. But if we look at the previous 15 years we can tell than setting a direction doesn’t guarantee that we are going to reach the target. Nonetheless, it is far better than not setting it at all. If we fall short, we’ll be somewhere on the way. Somewhere closer.

Of course, the goals and their formulations are the results of negotiations and compromises – not necessarily the best possible – and the follow-up won’t be easy (you can read something more here)

Nonetheless, this new 15-years-race has been better prepared than the previous one.

First of all, the SDGs are the final results of many different levels of contribution, which have involved an impressive number of people. Even if the diplomatic and political level played the decisive role, it has been preceded by on-line polls (involving more than 8 million people), thematic and national consultations, large debates, meetings with civil society.

The idea is that creating a sense of ownership – through a bottom-up dialogue, inclusive planning structures such as the World We Want Platform  and multi-stakeholder partnerships – will benefit its delivery.

Another powerful idea is that communications is in itself a key to making the targets attainable.

If a majority of people around the world will believe in the goals they will become achievable. Not only because private action will join the efforts of government and international organizations, but also because – on a deeper level – a sort of global awareness will make them appear realistic so that many small actions will add up to the big ones.

The effort to communicate the new goals appears, in this early stage, already impressive.

For instance, for the number of testimonials…

…or for the different targets, including children

…and for the spontaneous involvement of private companies.

Virgin, for instance, has created an app in support of the global goals, wich could transform all of us in superheroes to join ‘the global goals alliance’.

I’ve chosen for myself the superpower “partnership for the goals” ( no.17)

Embarrassing, isn’t it?

But what I think is really great, it’s the idea that we can contribute in many different ways and so several different platforms are just being created to offer us occasions to engage, such as the PEOPLE + PLANET PROJECT or the Global Citizen Community.

Quite interesting as a start, isn’t it?

A Very Personal Journey

I sailed to Utopia early in my life.

Since I was a teenager I had a quite cosmopolitan attitude and a confuse wish to fix the world. “Imagine” by John Lennon was my personal anthem.

Maybe it’s just normal, maybe most of the boys and girls have this same approach to life or just those of us who are labeled as “dreamers”.

Life, adults explain, is about other, more “realistic”, stuff: things like studying, getting a job, getting married, having babies.

Only now, thanks to the frequent conversations with my students, I realize how many precious energies and enthusiasms of this early stage of life are dissipated under a flood of social conventions.

But I was partly spared this awful destiny as I met, early in life, people like me who were taking dreams seriously. I joined the European Federalist Movement when I was seventeen and in a few years – after a shy childhood – I became a young woman able to speak in public and demonstrate for a united Europe. The movement counted several thousands of people in Italy and tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands across Europe.

One of the main lessons I learned was the definition of an activist (“militante”): “the man/woman who makes a personal issue of the distance between facts and values”.

I understood then that being a dreamer was not just inhabiting a beautiful world of ideas, but getting out there, seeing the problems, speaking out loud, claiming for a solution.  Possibly, offering one.

And I started sharing views and organizing campaigns with like-minded people from other countries and interacting in several ways (not always friendly) with political institutions.

I’ll never forget when, twenty-six, I had my speech in the European Parliament in a special session about the requests from civil society for the Amsterdam Treaty (one of the many reforms of the European treaties).

But life was also other stuff, as meeting expectations by parents and teachers: I studied much, started earning a living, got married, had children. My job became teaching and researching on the European and International law.

Utopia was still there, on the line of the horizon. Apparently, my journey to get there was on standby. From time to time, I even felt guilty as if I was betraying my purpose, but I was wrong. In fact- without even realizing –  I was just sharpening my saw.

And if I have a look back on my about twenty years of academic experience, I can tell you that utopia was the fil rouge connecting all I was writing or saying to my students. Even though – watching from outside – my life appeared more as a struggle to keep all together: job, family, children.

In 2009 I had a new turning point: with a group of colleagues I founded the think tank The Group of Lecce and, on the long wave of the global financial crisis, I started drafting communiques with them on how to improve the governance of financial institutions, in other words, how to fix the world, once again. The fact that since 2005 I had researched on the governance of the international financial institutions appeared to me as a sort of sign.

And I started attending the civil society policy forum convened twice a year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the occasion of their annual and spring meetings. I felt an activist again, in a different way.

What’s more important, I met many full-time activists from different backgrounds and paths of life: people who make a personal issue of the distance between facts and values; who act as watchdogs of international institutions; who speak on behalf of the poor; who bring suggestions and solutions to global problems; who choose to live a life of commitment instead of having better paid jobs (jobs for which they often would be more than qualified).

Once again, I measured the distance between committed people and institutions and I realized it wasn’t so big as many think.

And I saw how “normal” people may have a role in making the world a better place.

These were the two reasons for starting this blog (and for the book I am writing).

You know what? Immediately after I started posting about supranational democracy, like-minded people appeared to connect on Linkedin and Twitter… just as if the Universe were responding to some secret prayer.

We are not that few, you know???

IS THERE A WAY TO STOP TECHNOLOGIES WHICH BREACH (OR MAY BREACH) HUMAN RIGHTS?

(originally published on ODBMS.org)

The European Parliament voted on Sept. 8 a report presented by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats focusing on human rights and technology in third countries. In it, the EU Parliament claims that the Union should take a clear stance against those authoritarian regimes which use spying and hacking technologies to violate human rights. In order to do so they should lead in preventing this kind of technologies from falling into the wrong hands.
In the same day, the Parliament amended a Commission’s initial proposal to ban animal cloning to include the cloning of all farm animals, their descendants and products derived from them, including imports into the EU.

What do so different topics have in common?
They expect to have an impact on technology, or the use of technology.

Every year, the level of concern about the possible use of new technology raises exponentially: artificial intelligence, big data, drones, space race, not to speak about genetics or nanotechnologies (and being a lawyer I stop here, I’m sure my little list sounds poor and even silly to scientists).
Could we ever expect to stop technological evolution? And would it be something good?
The answer is clearly “no” to both the questions.
Technologies are the new borders of humanity exploration: pushing the limit to expand knowledge is in our very nature and enhancing human well-being through technological improvement is a moral obligation, especially where it is desperately needed.

But, how could we make sure that knowledge goes hand in hand with wisdom? How to avoid that the final result of this quest is nothing but self-destruction?

We face here two different problems, both difficult to solve: the How and the Who.

I. How the development of new technologies could be scrutinized in order to stop the research addressing wrong goals (goals of destruction of people or planet or control over other human beings)? How to avoid the misuse of technology which could have peaceful and fruitful applications?

II. Who should be in charge to do so?

First of all, an assumption seems inevitable: there isn’t much we can do at national level, not even at continental level. It’s even too easy, nowadays, to move a lab or a factory from one country to another, to shop among legal systems just to find the most accommodating (or the most interested) one. Even without moving, the product or the patent which is the outcome of a research can easily be sold abroad.

About the “how”, I doubt any international treaty could be effective. Too long negotiating processes, too difficult to verify the real implementation. Most of all a lack of flexibility in its content would make it immediately outdated. By the way, how many treaties should we need?

The only way to address the point is in identifying an evaluation body, in charge of screening in “the interest of humanity”.
And here comes the “Who” problem.

I don’t think that academic records or prizes and accomplishments would be enough to choose somebody for such a sensitive position. A clear commitment in the interest of humanity is needed for the members of such a value-centered group.
There are actually some bodies of scientists or experts in the UN, as the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, whose members are appointed by national governments according to a geopolitical distribution.

I am not sure this is the best formula (and I’m not sure to know the best formula), but I think that it should be possible to agree on some basic key points:

  • High profile of members (both ethical and scientific) recognized at global level;
  • Pluralism and diversity (and of course gender equality);
  • A transparent appointing process (by whom? The UN General Assembly? Or involving the same scientific community?)
  • Affiliation with a global organization or agency able to endorse and give authority to recommendations.

I don’t think that such a body should enter into details of single projects, but It could take charge of deep evaluation in areas of concern, to be submitted by states, international organizations or NGOs.
These are nothing but early reflections on a topic which I hope will be developed over the next months and years.

The scientific community – both academic and entrepreneurial- is called to join this debate and to be at the forefront in guaranteeing its own integrity in the interest of humanity.

Supranational Democracy in a Nutshell

A few days ago I had the opportunity to give a speech about the need for democracy at global level and about what we, as individuals, can do.

I post it here because it summarizes well what is explained in several previous posts:

 

 

 

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“Just” Utopia?

Utopia is a great place to go.

Literally, coming from ancient Greek (yes, this too) “u-topia” means non-place. So, in the common understanding, it means a non-existing place, somewhere where it would be absurd to go!

But what if you just added a little “yet”? A place non-existing “yet”? All changes!

All the great leaders headed to utopia, they depicted it in vivid colours, showed the way or -even better- opened the way.

They explained it clearly: this place doesn’t exist yet. That’s why we are going to create it. No tricks, the plain truth.

People bought their vision and made it possible.

I’m thinking of Mahatma Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, of Nelson Mandela.

They didn’t pretend to be realistic, they used words like “vision” or “dream” and they created what previously was just utopia. Because nothing would change or come to existence if it were not created in the imagination first.

I looked on the web for a map of Utopia. Surprisingly enough, I found many … and from different ages!

And I found this quote by Oscar Wilde:

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

Speaking of “real” maps, I came across the beautiful “Map of Humanity” by James Turner.

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On it, the island of Utopia lays just halfway between the continents of Wisdom and Reason in the Oceanus Procellarum.

I realized that he was making an interesting point here: to reach Utopia you have to cross the ocean of storms. Well, not exactly a stroll in the park!

So, the reward of reaching Utopia is for the brave ones, the determinate ones, the resilient ones. As Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Well, we are not Gandhi…

The good news is: when the way is open, when the first man or woman reaches Utopia – be him a leader, an explorer, a scientist, a philosopher- Utopia is not Utopia anymore, it becomes a real place, open to all.

That’s why people on a trip to Utopia have all my respect: they are generous, they are opening a way for us all.

To know more about my personal journey to utopia…