From A Dysfunctional World Order To A Sustainable Future

Em. Prof. dr. Richard Falk

In the interview that follows, Richard Falk, an internationally-renowned scholar of Global Politics and International Law, offers his insights on the contemporary state of world politics and shares his radical vision of the future world order. Richard Falk is Alfred G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University, where he taught for more than forty years, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine and Advisor of the POMEAS Project, Istanbul Policy Center, Sabanci University. He has served on scores of Commissions on International Law and Justice and is author and editor of more than fifty books, including (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance, Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope and Chaos and Counterrevolution: After the Arab Spring.

C. J. Polychroniou is scholar, author and journalist. He has taught at numerous Universities in Europe and the United States, was founder and director of the now defunct Centre for the Study of Globalization in Athens, Greece, and author and editor of scores of books, academic articles and popular essays. His latest books Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change (conversations with Noam Chomsky) and The Political Economy of Climate Change and the Global New Deal (conversations with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin; forthcoming).

C. J. Polychroniou: Richard, I want to start this interview on the state of global affairs near the end of the second decade of the 21st century by moving from the abstract to the concrete. To begin with, it’s regarded as axiomatic that the postwar international liberal order is fracturing and that we are at the same time in the midst of a geopolitical transition where the most prominent characteristic seems to be the decline of the United States as a global superpower. With that in mind, can you offer us a panoramic perspective on the contemporary state of global affairs? In that context, what do you consider to be the primary changes under way, and the emerging challenges and threats to global peace and stability?

Richard Falk: There are many crosscutting tendencies now evident at the global level. At the very time when globalizing challenges are intensifying, the mechanisms available for regional and global cooperation are becoming dangerously less effective. The failure to address climate change, so clearly in the global public interest, is emblematic of a dysfunctional world order system. This failure can be further delineated by reference to two distinct, yet interrelated developments. The first characterized by a vacuum in global leadership, which reflects both the overall decline of the United States as well as its explicit renunciation of such a role by the Trump presidency. Trump proudly proclaims that his only political agenda is shaped by American national interests, declaring he was elected president of the United States, and not the world. The second broader development is the rise of autocrats in almost every important sovereign state, whether by popular will or through imposed rule, resulting in the affirmation of an ultra-nationalist approach to foreign policy, given ideological intensity by chauvinistic and ethnic hostility toward migrants and internal minorities. This kind of exclusionary statism contributes to the emergence of what might be called ‘global Trumpism’ further obstructing global problem-solving, shared solutions to common problems. A discernable effect of these two dimensions of world order is to diminish the relevance and authority of the United Nations and international law, as well as a declining respect for standards of international human rights and a disturbing indifference to global warming and other global scale challenges, including to biodiversity and the stability of major global rainforests.

Overall, what has been emerging globally is a reinvigoration of the seventeenth century Westphalian regional system of sovereign states that arose in Europe after more than a century of devastating religious wars, but under vastly different conditions that now pose dire threats to stability of international relations and the wellbeing of peoples throughout the world. Among these differences are the dependence upon responsible internal behavior by states in an era of growing ecological interdependence. The tolerance of fires in the Amazon rainforest by the Brazilian government for the sake of economic growth, via agrobusiness and logging, endangers a vital global source of biodiversity as well as depletes essential carbon capturing capabilities of the vast forest area, yet there is no way under existing international norms to challenge Brazil’s sovereign prerogative to set its own policy agenda, however irresponsible with respect to the ecological future. Read more

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Nieuwjaar

‘Gelukkig nieuwjaar.’
Het buurmeisje is terug van vakantie.
We lopen naar buiten. Ze vertelt dat ze veel plezier heeft gehad in Brussel.
‘En nu mag je morgen weer naar school.’
‘Daar heb ik zin in”, zegt ze, ‘niet in die toetsen en dat huiswerk, hoor. Maar ik zie mijn klas weer.’
‘Dat is mooi om te horen”, zeg ik.
‘Maar ook verdrietig’, zegt ze, ‘want over een half jaar gaan we uit elkaar. Allemaal naar andere scholen.’

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The Abuse Of The Right To Sexual And Reproductive Health In Nigeria: The Way Out

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Somewhere in Osun State, Nifemi, a three-year old baby, has been put under the knife for her clitoris to be cut off. Somewhere in Zamfara, thirteen-year-old Aisha has been betrothed to a 65-year-old Alhaji. Somewhere in Lekki, ten-year-old Ayoola is being sexually abused by his uncle. Somewhere in Zamfara, new mother, Aisha, just drew her last breath after bleeding profusely due to the negligence of the medical practitioners that handled her childbirth. Each of these people are victims of the failed healthcare system which Nigerians are constantly being subjected to. For a long period of time, the issue of the abuse of the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare in Nigeria has been ignored like a slowly growing pimple. However, the previous pimple has now developed into an unavoidable boil ridden with pus and blood. Much to the chagrin of the powers that be, the ripple effects of the poor handling of sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria, can no longer be swept under the carpet.

The World Health Organisation defines reproductive health as: “A complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters related the reproductive system, its functions and its processes” [1]. The right to sexual and reproductive health has slowly garnered recognition over the past five decades. From the World Population Conferences in Rome and Belgrade held at 1958 and 1965 respectively [2], to the Beijing Conference of 1995 [3]; reproductive and sexual health has constantly been reaffirmed as a sine qua non in the lives of both men and women. In Nigeria, several Acts, and policies alike, have been enacted in order to guarantee this right to every Nigerian. They include, amongst others: The HIV(Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2013; the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015; and the National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria (2019-2023) [4].
However, the Nigerian situation seemingly sings a different tune. In spite of the existing legal framework, there have been numerous cases bordering on the flagrant abuse of the right to reproductive and sexual health in Nigeria- ranging from child marriage to sexual violence.

Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of child brides in Africa [5]. Over 20% of global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria with a staggering 600,000 maternal deaths enumerated from 2005-2015 [6]. In the same vein, over 25 percent of Nigerian women have been circumcised, with Osun State hosting the highest prevalence rate of 77 percent [7]. Each of these violations have negative effects on victims, hence, the global attention which the right to reproductive and sexual health has attracted. For example, there has been no report on the health benefits triggered by Female Genital Mutilation; however, numerous studies and research works have reported the harmful effects of female genital mutilation which could range from immediate complications which include: shock, haemorrhage and genital tissue swelling; to long-term complications which include: pain during sexual intercourse, urinary tract infections and menstrual problems [8].
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