Written by: Gustav Opsahl
One could argue that the liberal peace ideal of our western society is facing a greater challenge than it did after the league of nations fall and the beginning of the second world war. The far-right movements are gaining an increased foothold both in European politics, and also in the US under President Trump. As ISIS terrorised several metropoles across the world to spread their extremist ideology, the political agenda of nationalistic political parties is almost as appealing as it was in the 1930s. At the same time, human rights have never been more important and the fight for equality between genders, ethnicity and social classes all over the world is central topics in the current debate. This goes to show that it is not as one-sided as it first may seem.
A resurrection of nationalism?
Values such as freedom, equality, democracy, transparency and of course human rights is central to the modern western world. You could say it started as far back as Immanuel Kant’s On Perpetual Peace and has since then evolved through Woodrow Wilsons League of Nations and into today’s UN and EU. All through this, the very idea of a liberal ideal has faced one challenge after another. The liberal based normative order is not easy to uphold.
As mentioned one can see an increase in nationalistic rhetoric in global politics. It grows stronger through fear, and we have never been more afraid. It is us against them, them being mainly the refugees and terrorist from the Middle-East but also foreign workers and immigrants. The most appealing answer to these challenges seems to be a reactive protectionist policy.
President Trumps famous wall on the border of Mexico is probably the most figurative symbol of this yet. A more literal example is his repeated attempts of making the “Muslim-ban” a reality or the US’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that aimed to lower the global trade barriers. In France Le Front National, a far-right nationalist party, almost won the president election and thereby established itself a substantial political force both in France and Europe. In Germany the nationalistic and arguably neo-Nazi party Alternative for Germany has become Germanys third largest party. The same tendencies can be seen in The Netherlands with Gert Wilders’ Party for Freedom.
All of these political developments represent a shift in global politics. The previously mentioned values of freedom, equality and human rights is for these parties more important for citizens of specific states, than for the citizens of the globe itself. More than anything it represents a change on the actor-level; this type of thinking is no longer the thoughts of small isolated groups, but of big political parties. I would not go as far as to say it is the norm, but it may very well be the start of one.
Same message, new platform
On the other hand, we have seen a substantial development in humanitarian work and focus on civil rights. Challenges directly linked to core values of the liberal peace tradition is getting more attention than ever before. With the emergence of social media and an increased availability of news it is easy to be kept date on current affairs. Organizations and groups are able to portray their message to a broader audience and thereby engage more people.
A great example of this is the human rights movement in the US. This is a movement that has been considerable force for many years, but in the last four to five years we have seen an increased engagement and focus all the way to Capitol Hill. After the shooting of Mike Brown in 2014 it took only a day before mass protest against police brutality and racism started. This lead to major focus on these specific problems and the movement for black rights have not been greater since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King. The massive corporate and private media coverage of said case and civil rights in general should be given a lot of credit for the engagement that ensued.
On a more global scale the Me Too campaign which started in the US, has now spread to every corner of the Western world. The campaign is obviously about men in power positions taking advantage of women, but it is also so much more than that. Values like freedom and equality are central in this discussion. It is a case which has united people of all genders, races and nationality to stand up together for a better world. This might not have been possible if it were not for the spotlight social media and constant media coverage provided.
The point of these examples is not to argue that social media and media in general is the key to keeping western liberal values. But it is a tool which we did not have 20 years ago at the level we have today. This tool enables organisations and group to reach more people and make them aware of both violations and challenges in the world. And this is the fuel that keeps the liberal engine running; awareness and engagement - none of which are currently absent in the global society.
Balance in the force
The fact of the matter is that liberal peace ideals have been under threat from the very beginning. All the way back to the feudal systems of which prompted the creation of works such as Immanuel Kant’s On Perpetual Peace and the liberal movement itself, and all the way to present. These visions and ideas of liberal peace have been a target for reactionaries. At the same time, the reactionary forces have also been under constant pressure to change.
The movement for liberal peace and all the values that goes with is very much alive and strong as ever, all the while the alt-right and nationalistic movements is gaining ground and is challenging these very norms and values. This is a game of weight/counter-weight, where there always will be an opposition ready to fight for either side. As the late liberal-idealist Woodrow Wilson once said: “The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”
Written by: Magnus Azevedo Stirø
Much has happened in the European Union (EU) since Angela Merkel welcomed refugees in 2015. Brexit has dominated the headlines, but a shift occurred that has left the liberal, human-rights-promoting EU with a bad image and has closed borders as it works to prevent refugees from reaching Europe.
A historic shift
The EU has, via its European External Action Service (EEAS), made deals with Turkey and one of the two Libyan governments claiming power and with several other African countries to prevent refugees from entering Europe. This is far from the origins of the EU with the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 where the idea that trade, namely between historic rivals France and Germany, would deter countries from entering war came into practice. Since then, the EU has evolved into an organization that keeps human rights at its core, a value that was tested by the arrival of refugees. Barbed wire and fences were put up along borders that were once open and now the EU is paying others to ensure no more arrive. The idea that the EU is actively working to stop refugees who are fleeing war and conflict is in stark contrast to the idea during the time when what would become the EU, the ECSC, was born, shortly after the deadliest war ever, World War II.
Out of sight out of mind
The EU has made several deals since the 2015 refugee crisis caught it off guard. To prevent future refugee crises, it has struck deals giving countries an economic incentive to stop refugees trying to enter Europe, especially from Africa. This entire process is promoted by the EEAS and their High Representative, Federica Mogherini. It has given hundreds of millions of euros to several African countries to stop refugees and has sent personnel to train local security forces and law enforcement. Among the more substantial deals is the one with Libya, which is still very unstable because of the ongoing civil war that broke out after the 2011 NATO intervention. This deal entails that the Libyan coast guard will intercept boats with refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to Libya, where the refugees will face an unsure future in Libyan camps. The conditions in these camps have been criticized by many organizations and even the United Nations has called the EU-Libya deal inhuman. In other African countries, refugees stopped on their journey toward Europe are also held in camps. Not all countries the EU is cooperating with are fully democratic, so the EU is funding countries that suppress their own citizens. This process is highly unfortunate for an organization that claims to champion human rights. This shameful act of sweeping the problem under the rug stains the EU’s reputation.
In stopping refugees, some EU member states have sent personnel to African countries to train security forces and law enforcement on the EU’s behalf. The Lisbon Treaty is being used as justification in talks, currently quite advanced, about the EU forming its own army. Even Federica Mogherini commented in November 2017 that if such a force were formed it could be deployed to Africa to stop refugees from reaching Europe. Having European forces in Africa smacks of colonialism and that their goal would be rounding up refugees seems to violate ideals the EU cherishes.
A price to pay
The EU’s efforts to stop refugees have put the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner in a bad light. Among the things cited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in awarding the prize was the EU’s human rights work. Nowadays this seems highly ironic because the EU pays other countries to lock up refugees in camps. The conditions within these camps are far from the standards the EU observes in refugee camps in Europe and for those detained the future is uncertain. That is unfortunate for a Nobel Laureate and shows the disregard the EU has for citizens other than its own. The fact that the EU condemns others for their human rights violations is ironic because it supports and funds human rights violations itself. A frequent target of EU criticism is U.S. president Donald Trump’s “build the wall” rhetoric. But with its current refugee policy, the EU is putting such rhetoric into action. The Mediterranean is Europe’s wall and by paying off some countries the EU is seemingly building a fortress.
An uncertain future
How long will this policy last? The EU has no guarantee that its economic barrier will hold. Libya is highly unstable and could see renewed conflict between rival factions, endangering the EU’s agreement with Libya’s coast guard. The situation in other countries the EU supports financially is not to be taken for granted, because several are undemocratic and could see changes that could destabilize the region. There is no clear answer, but one thing is sure. By doing these deals, the EU has diminished its reputation as one of the world’s liberal leaders. The damage done to the human rights of refugees is an atrocity committed by an organization that can’t truly champion human rights, because it pays for its troubles to disappear. Ultimately, this could be the start of something much worse if nothing is done.
Skrevet av Stine Aspevik Bosheim
Illustrasjon av Hanna Flesche Hellenes
Torsdag stemte Stortinget nei til forslaget om å kunne frata statsborgerskapet fra mennesker som er mistenkte for å være en trussel mot nasjonens sikkerhet, uten å gå via domstolene. Som en respons skriver Listhaug på Facebook ”Arbeiderpartiet mener terroristenes rettigheter er viktigere enn nasjonens sikkerhet. Lik og del”, med et bilde av maskerte og tungt bevæpnete menn i bakgrunn.
Listhaugs kritikk er rettet mot AP, på tross av at alle opposisjonspartier og Venstre stemte nei til forslaget. Ifølge Listhaug kommer innlegget som en respons på APs ønske om at egen asyl- og innvandringspolitikk skal bli strengere. ”I praksis viser de det motsatte. Nå stemmer de ned viktige forslag for å bekjempe terrorister og fremmedkrigere” sier Listhaug.
I ettertid har hun fått kritikk fra flere hold for sin uttalelse. Lørdag skriver Venstreleder Trine Skei Grande på sosiale medier ”Jeg har forståelse for at Listhaug er skuffet over å ikke få støtte for forslaget sitt, men kritikken hun retter mot Ap er totalt urimelig. Dette er ikke måten å føre en saklig politisk debatt om terrorbekjempelse på”.
Listhaugs facebook-innlegg føyer seg inn i rekken av stråmannsargumenter som ikke holder mål i virkeligheten. Arbeiderpartiet har ikke uttalt et ønske om å ivareta fremmedkrigeres rettigheter heller enn Norges sikkerhet. De er enige om at det skal være mulig å tilbakekalle det norske statsborgerskapet. En strengere asyl- og innvandringspolitikk burde derimot ikke innebære å fjerne rettssikkerheten til norske statsborgere. AP-leder Jonas Gahr Støre sier til NRK ”Vi er enig i at vi skal kunne frata folk statsborgerskapet, men vi mener det må skje innenfor rettsstatens rammer”.
Forslaget om å kunne frata mistenkte det norske statsborgerskapet uten å gå via domstolene er svært problematisk og utfordrer demokratiske prinsipper justisminister selv skal være en forkjemper for. I proposisjonen heter det ”Departementet var av
den oppfatning at tap av statsborgerskap av hensyn til grunnleggende nasjonale interesser kunne vedtas administrativt”.
Norge er bundet av den europeiske menneskerettighetskonvensjonen (EMK) jf. §2 i den norske menneskerettsloven. Artikkel 6.1 om retten til en rettferdig rettergang fastslår ”For å få avgjort sine borgerlige rettigheter og plikter eller en straffesiktelse mot seg, har enhver rett til en rettferdig og offentlig rettergang… ved en uavhengig og upartisk domstol opprettet ved lov” (mine kursiv). Det kan diskuteres hvorvidt justisdepartementets forslag om lovendring faktisk er uavhengig og upartisk, da det gir justisdepartementet makt til å frata statsborgerskap.
At justisministeren i Norge ønsker å utviske demokratiske instansers verdi ved å øke eget departements makt er forkastelig. Rettsikkerhet er et grunnleggende element i demokratiet, et urokkelig prinsipp vi skal holde fast ved om vi holder demokratiet kjært. En justisminister som ønsker å fjerne disse prinsippene tyder på et demokrati i nedgang og populisme uten hold i virkeligheten i anmarsj. Rettsprinsipp er ikke på anbud i en lik- og del-kampanje, og bør forbeholdes en opplyst debatt uten usaklige angrep på parti som er uenige. Listhaugs facebook-innlegg er et stikk til Arbeiderpartiet og sier mye om den politiske retorikken, så vel som den politiske sitasjonen i landet.
Rettsikkerhet burde være en selvfølge i et land som Norge, ikke et diskutabelt prinsipp hvor man skiller mellom mennesker basert på mistanke heller en lov og dom. Vår viktigste rettskilde, Grunnloven, sier alle er like for loven. Lov og dom bør ikke gjøres til administrativt arbeid hvor upartiskhet og uavhengighet ikke er sikret.
Det er nødvendig med en opplyst debatt rundt hvorvidt en kriminell handling skal kunne føre til fratagelse av et norsk statsborgerskap, og om dette virker terrorbekjempende eller ikke, uten usaklige utspill. Listhaugs respons på sosiale medier etter avstemningen på Stortinget torsdag, føyer seg inn i rekken av usaklige og grove utsagn fra justisministeren – utsagn enhver politiker bør unngå for kunne å ivareta en konstruktiv debatt. Å gjøre menneskerettigheter til gjenstand for en usmakelig og usaklig lik og del-kampanje bør vår justisminister holde seg for god for.
Written by: Ingvild Stensby Bakken
Since the end of the Second World War, the spread of peace through liberalism has been a prioritized foreign policy, especially in the United States. The notion that a liberal market economy, democracy and peace are interlinked with each other stands strong both in academia and amongst people in various states working to export peace. Based on a series of recent studies, I find reason to ask if the liberal peace is, and should be, under threat. This question needs to be asked as we can see that pure market economies with few institutions or mechanisms for reallocating wealth between its citizens have been experiencing some sort of protests or political upheavals the last years.
We can start with one of the most shocking events in 2017: the election of Donald Trump as the president of The United States of America. From a typical Norwegian social democratic perspective, it makes little sense to vote for a businessperson to make up for the unfairness in the system you live in, but it probably seemed as if he was the only option against the established elites. Big parts of the reason for people’s anger towards the elites in the United States lie in their lack of prospects for the future. Young post-graduate students now are the first generation in decades to earn less than their parents. Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer.
Having a stable middle-class are one of the ground pillars of stability in a democratic society. The middle class should be the largest group. Instead, we are now seeing a rise in the amount of poor people, not only in poor countries anymore, but also in middle- and high income countries. This is especially problematic considering the overall rise in standards of living since the Second World War and the ability we now have to see people around us, both in traditional and in social medias, who have so much more than we could ever dream of. The reason that this is concerning is that we compare ourselves to others. This is the concept of relative deprivation.
Some decades ago, it seemed like the American dream was still alive, but it is slowly dying as the average American becomes more dependent on food stamps and three different jobs to be able to support their family. In a liberal market economy, an invisible hand is supposed to guide the market in the right direction, and the trickle-down effect would make sure that everyone could benefit when someone is getting richer. A few examples can support this, such as Bill and Melinda Gates spending a lot of money on making vaccines available for people in poorer countries. However, several studies show that rich people who get richer, through tax cuts or similar, mostly save their money or use them to buy luxury goods that do not support the economy in their country. Mostly, the luxury goods are manufactured by people who do not get a fair share of what the product is sold for.
The social comparison sickness
Inequality is becoming an increasing problem. Amongst others, Tony Atkinson and Thomas Piketty have provided us with studies to confirm this. Additionally, Oxfam recently presented numbers that show how the one percent richest in the world pulled in 82 percent of the wealth created last year, while the poorest half of the world got nothing. As mentioned earlier, we compare ourselves to each other. Therefore, when people around us get richer, our standards for how much we perceive as “enough” increases. It is not so important how we actually fare, it is more important how we fare compared to others. Even though we are not actually poor, we behave as if we were.
Keith Payne refers to this phenomenon as the “social comparison sickness”. When people feel they are falling behind, they eat more unhealthy food, smoke more, use more drugs and try to catch up by gambling or criminal activities. If somebody is achieving only a little bit better than us, we feel like we can catch up, and it works as an incentive to strengthen our effort, but if the gap becomes too big, the feeling of falling behind overshadows everything. This becomes a vicious circle where unrest and anger will be on a constant rise, and in the end, we will see the effect in increasing instability and turmoil around the world.
A change of course towards social democratic peace
Nils Petter Gleditsch, a Norwegian researcher in peace and international politics, proposes in his book Towards a More Peaceful World? an alternative understanding of how peace and democracy can be sustained in a stable way, namely a theory on social democratic peace. Important characteristics in a social democracy are democracy and market economy combined with a strong political management. The state takes on responsibility for its inhabitants through welfare and security nets for those at risk of falling behind. This leads to a general trust in institutions and trust in each other. Furthermore, we can see a high level of organizational density in social democratic countries, an aspect that is crucial for a democratic society where people are active participants and feel that their needs are being both heard and met. As we can see in today’s international society, the ideal of equality is being challenged. I would be much more optimistic for the future if we could start working for a stable democratic peace based on low social differences instead of creating societies solely based on survival of the fittest or most privileged.
Spreading the liberal economic peace with hopes of the invisible hand guiding the market and wealth trickling down, has led to social disparities being on a rise, and likewise a rise in discontent and unrest. My conclusion is, yes, liberal peace is under threat. It is under threat from itself. If the liberal peace receipt does not include mechanisms and institutions for re-distributing wealth anytime soon, it is going to lead to a self-inflicted death caused by uprisings in one way or another.
Artikler: Her publiseres Studentredaksjonens egne artikler.