environment/resources

Do Your Part,” Allied posters proclaimed during World War II. Women were urged to join the U.S. Army Auxiliary to work at defense plants, families were pressed to keep farms producing, and all were advised to keep their mouths shut. This coming-together defeated Axis enemies and gave rise to unprecedented postwar intergovernmental cooperation.

That 72-year-old global infrastructure is under threat. Last week saw fractious meetings at NATO headquarters (where I’m due to bring students later this month) and Taormina (just 75 miles north of the Siracusa summer school where I was then teaching). Today it’s the President’s invocation of the provision permitting U.S. withdrawal, in about 4 years, from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, to which 195 – nearly all – the countries in the world have agreed.

The news spurs reflection on the very small part I played in the development of the Paris Agreement.

As with most international accords, this one did not happen on the spur of the moment. Rather, countries had engaged in consultations and negotiations for years before the summit. France was especially active, eager to accomplish something significant in October-November 2015, when it would host COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Thus in June 2015 I joined French and American colleagues at a symposium entitled “Le Changement climatique, miroir de la globalisation (Climate Change, Mirror of Globalization),” a pre-summit preparatory meeting whose cosponsors included the Collège de France and Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme. Our interventions aided thinking about the impending summit.

My own contribution, “Le changement climatique et la sécurité humaine,” reprised a chapter published in Regards croisés sur l’internationalisation du droit : France-États-Unis (Mireille Delmas-Marty & Stephen Breyer eds., 2009). As indicated in the English version, “Climate Change and Human Security,” the essay demonstrated that litigation would not proved a fruitful method for combatting climate change. It thus advocated a human security approach, one drawn from U.S. legal traditions like the 1941 Four Freedoms speech of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the 1945 Statement of Essential Human Rights of the American Law Institute.

The essay concludes:

“Emphasis on state duty carries with it an assumption that legislative and executive officials will assume their obligation to avoid harm from occurring. Such officials may not assume, as seems the wont of some who operate under a litigation model, that they may act as they wish unless and until a court steps in to order some belated and imperfect sanction for the wrongs they have committed. A state that endeavors to achieve human security, moreover, is likely to fashion comprehensive, before-the-fact remedies. That is preferable even in isolated cases; in other words, we would rather have an agent of the state eschewed torture than have to compensate a victim after she has suffered state torture. This comprehensive, before-the-fact framework is even more preferable with regard to human insecurities that have communitywide, even planetary consequences – to name one, the threat to human security posed by climate change.”

Theories like these undergird the agreement reached in fall 2015. They yet may maintain a firm hold in these next 4 years.

radianceTimes of war are marked by yearnings for peace. The landmark 1863 Lieber Code regulating combat thus said, with reference to “nations and great governments”:

‘Peace is their normal condition; war is the exception. The ultimate object of all modern war is a renewed state of peace.’

But what “peace” means is a question that lingers after combatants put down their arms. This is a point that many thinkers have made (in a recent essay I referred to the positive v. negative peace and direct v. structural violence concepts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Galtung). And it is a point that Ishmael Beah makes, beautifully, in his just-published novel, Radiance of Tomorrow.

Beah is best known for A Long Way Gone, his 2008 memoir of child-soldiering during the 1990s civil war in his homeland, Sierra Leone. (Prior postscredit for January 2014 photo of Beah at Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta) Some child soldiers figure in the new novel, Radiance, as well. They are now veterans:

‘Children and young people came by themselves with no parents. In the beginning they came one at a time, then in pairs, followed by four, six, or more in a group. They had been at various orphanages and households that had tried to adopt them. Some had even been at centers to learn how to be “normal children” again, a phrase they detested, so they had left and become inhabitants of rough streets in cities and towns. They were more intelligent than their years and had experienced so much hardship that each day of their lives was equal to three or more years; this showed in their fierce eyes. You had to look closely to see residues of their childhood.’

beahLong after the fighting has ended, these youths and other persons of all ages return to the village of Imperi – a name that shares roots with “empire” – in “Lion Mountain,” the anglicized name for Sierra Leone. Together they try to rebuild.

But a  new force invades even as they endeavor to retie the bonds of what had been a traditional, agrarian society. It is the outside world, capitalism in the forming of a mining company. It extracts valuable minerals first from the surrounding area and eventually from the town itself. Schools and story-telling lose support as the town center fills with bars and brothels. The resting place of ancestors is dug up even as new casualties of hazardous work are buried.

The old ways will not survive. The hoped-for “radiant tomorrow” of the book’s title will occur in a new place – even in a new voice. In the novel Beah renders into English poetic phrases from his mother tongue, Mende. As he explained in the foreword:

‘For example, in Mende, you wouldn’t say “night came suddenly”; you would say “the sky rolled over and changed its sides.” Even single words are this way – the word for “ball” in Mende translates to a “nest of air” or a “vessel that carries air.”’

The technique works exceptionally well in the novel’s first part, which is rich in imagery: “the dark spots where fire had licked with its red tongue,” for example, and “the day that war came into her life.” It seems to wane as the novel unfolds, however. This erosion of prose-poetry may be intended to mimic the depletion of Imperi and its people.  The prosaic replacement may reflect the people’s new and different life – as Beah puts it in passages with which the novel begins and ends, their new story. Beah thus provides a thought-provoking answer to the post-conflict question of the meaning of peace.

cousinDelighted to see Ertharin Cousin, since 2012 the Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, on the annual list of Time‘s Top 100 Most Influential People.

The magazine chose Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to write about Cousin, so it’s no surprise his profile focused on her childhood “in a lower-income neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago.” But here in Athens, we celebrate her as a 1982 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law.

Just last year, Cousin returned to her alma mater to keynote “International Law in a Time of Scarcity,” a symposium sponsored by our law school and its Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law and Dean Rusk Center for International Law & Policy. ((c) Georgia Law photo by Cindy H. Rice) This week’s Time honor will not surprise anyone who heard Cousin’s inspiring talk, summed up in this quote:

‘Just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.’

IWC latest logo 210x64Some lawmakers and lobbyists in Japan displayed their distaste for whaling bans this week with a whale-meat eat-in in Tokyo. The Japan Daily Press reported:

‘In an act of defiance against a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) halting the nation’s whale hunts, pro-whaling legislators and lobby group gathered on Tuesday to eat whale meat while pledging to continue what they call one of the country’s centuries-old traditions.’

Stoking these opponents’ appetite was the March 31 judgment in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening). (Prior posts here and here.) The Hague-based court held 12-to-4 that Japan had violated the 1946 International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling by granting permits to harvest 3 species of whales areasin an area of the seas known as the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. (In yellow on map at right; see p. 3 here.) Japan asserted that a scientific research exception to the Convention’s whaling ban justified the hunts. But a majority of the ICJ disagreed, in a ruling that Rutgers Professor Cymie Payne analyzed in a recent ASIL Insight. (credit for above logo of the International Whaling Commission, which monitors compliance with the Convention)

Yesterday, the Japan Times reported, Japan’s government announced that it would still engage in what it calls research whaling, albeit at a reduced rate and in regions other than the area of concern to the ICJ case. The report indicated that the decision to go forward marked a victory for Japan’s Fisheries Ministry and a defeat for its Foreign Ministry.

Particularly vocal among the opponents of the ICJ’s ruling has been the man who’s served as Fisheries Minister since last December: Yoshimasa Hayashi, a Harvard Kennedy School graduate. Hayashi spoke at the Tokyo banquet on Tuesday. And in a February interview with Japan Times, he explained his position:

‘Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security, I think it’s very important … We have never said everybody should eat whale, but we have a long tradition and culture of whaling. So why don’t we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don’t have that culture.’

Payne’s Insight agreed that, notwithstanding the March 31 issuance of the ICJ’s opinion, resolution of “fundamental cultural conflict[s]” awaits another day.

bailarSAN JUAN – What a treat to spend the winter holiday in this 500-year-old city.

A 3-hour flight transported us from the cold rains of north Georgia to the warmth (and some warm rains) of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan was in full holiday swing. Quite literally: in the nights before Christmas, the department store windows featured humannequins, dressed as presents and dancing to blares of Latin music.

mural_pajaroQuieter corners featured brilliant murals, of birds, lizards, and other island flora and fauna.

Wrapping the old quarter are ancient stone walls, built by Spain to protect this Caribbean holding against encroachments by other would-be colonizers, among them the Dutch and the British. The walled coast is seen here through an artillery turret that the United States added to one of San Juan’s forts, Castillo de San coldwar_viewCristóbal, in the days of the Cold War. It’s just one of many reminders of the island’s territorial relations with the United States.

Another was a placard in one restaurant, telling us that at that site, in the room just above our table,

Pedro Albizu Campos (September 12, 1891-April 21, 1965) fue arrestado.

Albizu Campos was a leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement. After being denied (on account of his “mixed racial heritage”) the valedictory speech he’d earned at Harvard Law, he went home to practice law and foment change. For his efforts he spent 26 years in U.S. prisons, in Georgia and elsewhere.

teachContemporary tensions were evident even last week. Teachers were protesting the government’s slashing of already earned pensions. During a march on Puerto Rico’s capitol, doors were forced and a couple police officers reportedly hurt. That provoked a shutdown of streets all ’round the building, and with it, a massive traffic jam. Police presence diminished by Christmas, but the pension problem lingers.

yellow_gingerFar from that madding crowd lies El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest among the United States’ national parks. Part of the Luquillo biosphere preserve recognized by UNESCO, it’s a wonderful trove of plants and animals, a place to hike amid the rush of waterfalls and the hush of rain that falls yet mostly is caught by the canopy above.

In all, a welcome respite from the grid.

wall_point

unesco‘And so UNESCO is in the midst of a budget crisis, and the USA is poised to lose a great deal of influence over an organization that runs Tsunami warning systems, teaches literacy to the same Afghan police officers that are being trained by American soldiers, runs education programs for girls around the world, and has conferred “World Heritage” status on 22 American monuments and sites.’

– Mark Leon Goldberg, in a UN Dispatch post on events earlier today in Paris: having refused to pay its dues since UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, the United States lost its voting rights in that body, formally known as the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization. (credit for (c) UNESCO photo of Afghan schoolchildren)

Goldberg decried the federal  legislation that required the United States to become a UNESCO deadbeat. (See § 414(a) here and § 410 here.) And he worried what could happen, to the United States and to U.N. agencies with “more obvious connections to American security” (he named the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), if such agencies likewise were to admit Palestine to membership.

“Has International Law Failed the Elephant?” That was the question posed a dozen years ago in an American Journal of International Law article by Michael J. Glennon, who’s now a Professor of International Law at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Diplomacy. In prose rife with admiration for the imperiled pachyderm, Glennon compelled his readers to answer “yes” to the question he had asked. He lamented the weaknesses inherent in the structure and implementation of CITES, the 1973ellies Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, and urged a range of improvements aimed at reducing the illegal market for elephant-harvested ivory. Inspired, my California-Davis Law student Jonathan Kazmar followed up with his own 2000 article, “The International Illegal Plant and Wildlife Trade: Biological Genocide?,” calling for the addition of criminal prohibitions to the limits contained in the original CITES.

These prescriptions have not taken hold. Trafficking in ivory increases and the number of elephants decreases. What is more, violence that long has ravaged civilians in the region encompassing Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo now claims elephants as victims. (credit for photo by Nuria Ortega/African Parks) According to a June 2013 report by the Enough Project:

‘The Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, is now using elephant poaching as a means to sustain itself. LRA leader Joseph Kony – wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity – has ordered his fighters to bring him elephant tusks. Eyewitnesses report that the LRA trades tusks for much-needed resources such as food, weapons and ammunition, and other supplies.’

Those allegations found voice Thursday. U.N. Security Council Resolution 2121 on the Central African Republic was passed

[c]ondemning the devastation of natural heritage and noting that poaching and trafficking of wildlife are among the factors that fuel the crisis …’

Which begs questions: Will international law again fail the elephant? Can stepped-up attention change the tide absent new international enforcement tools?  Assuming the requisite proof, could Kony be held criminally liable for a war crime of endangered species trafficking, framed within the terms of Article 8 of the ICC Statute as, perhaps, an act of pillage, destruction of property, or an unwarranted attack on a civilian objective? For answers to these questions, further study is in order.