Feb 5, 2007

"cosmopolitan justice" and the United Nations

Here's an article that might be useful for the most recent LD resolution, "Resolved: The United Nations' obligation to protect global human rights ought to be valued above its obligation to respect national sovereignty."

Titled "Cosmopolitan Justice and Institutional Design: An Egalitarian Liberal Conception of Global Governance," by Simon Caney, in Social Theory and Practice.

The abstract:
Caney argues that there should be suprastate institutions charged with protecting persons' fundamental rights--including, for example, their interest in security, a healthy environment, and not suffering from poverty--and mediating fairly between competing ideals of world order. This preferred world order thus posits a multilevel system of governance--one, that is, in which there are state-like political systems that possess considerable autonomy but are not fully sovereign, and in which authoritative decision-making powers are also held by regional organizations, global institutions, and substate political authorities.
Note that Caney doesn't defend the UN as an entity. Rather, his arguments show that national sovereignty must give way to human rights; if we adopt his reasoning, then, the United Nations ought to concern itself with the same priority of values.

Some of Caney's more specific arguments:
A number of considerations support the claim that the protection of persons' vital interests requires international institutions.

(1) First, international institutions are sometimes required to solve collective action problems and to implement just policies that would not otherwise be implemented. [Quality of life--disease, "race to the bottom," etc., require international governance.]

(2) [International organizations] are needed to allocate responsibilities. To explain this we need to grasp two points. First, I take it that any plausible account of eradicating global poverty requires embracing some positive duties of justice. We need positive duties of justice to cover cases in which people's fundamental interests are vulnerable because they are jeopardized by natural infirmities or natural disasters or because others have violated them. In each case an adequate protection of the interests requires more than a system in which people are said to be under negative duties. Even if people observe their negative duties, it remains possible that some have a very low standard of living, (a) because they are physically weak or senile or suffer from mental or physical handicaps, (b) because of natural calamities, or (c) because others have violated their negative duties. If we are concerned, as I think we should be, with protecting people's basic interests, then we need positive duties to aid the vulnerable when persons are disadvantaged because of (a)-(c).26... What is then required is an authoritative mechanism for allocating responsibilities....

(3) ... In many instances, however, injustice results because some actors (states, corporations, transnational associations) act unjustly. International institutions are therefore required to curb such behavior. They can do this in a number of very distinct ways. First, membership of international institutions is often of considerable benefit to member states, and international institutions are therefore able to use these benefits as an inducement to desist from unjust policies. For example, the European Union insists that those states that wish to join must comply with some principles of justice if they are to be accepted....

International institutions can also curb unjust behavior in a quite different way. As a number of international relations theorists observe, international institutions are often a means that the weak can employ. If there is a rule-governed international institution, then weak states are able to hold powerful states to account by ensuring that the latter adhere to the commonly agreed-on rules. Multilateral institutions thus constrain the actions of individual states: they offer a rule of law rather than an anarchy in which powerful states can simply avoid commitments that disadvantage them.31 ...

Third, and finally, international institutions may simply be able to prevent/punish egregiously unjust actions in cases in which those whose rights have been violated are too weak to defend themselves and in which their government is either unwilling or unable to stand up for their rights. These are the kinds of rationale that would justify the International Criminal Court....

(4) The last argument took states' preferences as given. That is, it addressed the problems that arise when states have unjust motivations and sought to find ways to discourage them from acting on these motivations. We can, however, go further. One further reason for endorsing a system comprising international institutions is that the latter can "socialize" other actors, including states, and inculcate in them certain social norms. This can serve an important role if it leads states with warlike or repressive intentions to embrace a less martial and more tolerant set of values. This argument draws on research in international relations on the phenomenon of "state socialization."...

(5) A further reason for international institutions is that in the modern globalized world, so much trade crosses into many different jurisdictions that it is sometimes unclear which system of laws and regulations applies to a specific firm or product. In some cases a system of purely national jurisdictions makes little sense when corporations straddle the world and are based in a plurality of different states and thereby governed by a plurality of different jurisdictions. Such is the extent of interdependence, and the complexity, that an international authority is needed to determine what jurisdiction applies....

A second, more ambitious, version goes beyond this and argues that, in some areas, trade is so globalized that the notion of national jurisdictions is of dubious applicability. On this view, an international institution is needed to perform a legislative role and create a system of common rules.... [S]ome phenomena, such as e-commerce, are so globalized that a system of global rules is needed for practicality's sake and hence that a global institution is needed to create these common rules...

(6) Suppose that major political actors (including firms and states) do in fact cooperate. Even this does not obviate the need for international institutions. It is possible, for example, that some will cooperate to further the desired cosmopolitan ideal but that not all will bear their rightful share.41 Some may bear an unfair duty and others may free ride or contribute less than their fair share. Given this, an international body is needed to ensure that the allocation of duties is fair...

(7) One final instrumental argument for international institutions proceeds as follows: The effective treatment of an issue requires a system in which the relevant agents can be held to account. In addition to this, accountability generally requires the identification of a particular actor who is charged with the responsibility of dealing with this problem. In short, accountability requires that we can point the finger at some particular agent and say that it is its job to deal with this issue.... the fewer actors there are, the greater the prospects for accountability.
If you set up a value structure on the Affirmative...

V: Human Rights
C: Positive Duties of Justice OR some other conception of justice that squares with the above

Some of Caney's arguments might neatly show the unique benefits of a suprastate organization that has the "last word" in competing rights claims.

At least, that's how I think it might work. Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

8 comments:

Dominant said...

I find Caney's arguments salient and clear, but what continues to baffle me is how to apply a Criteria to these arguments. Let's say that we provide a contention that the globalization of commerce demands a globalization of justice... how does the criteria filter through and link to the value of Human Rights?

Simply put, I have a hard time understanding how the criteria works in the round. I've read a lot of examples that use other resolutions, including a ridiculous one involving pizza, but in this case it's not quite clear to me.

Jim Anderson said...

Justice as a "positive duty" means that we must take action to achieve human rights. "Negative duties" are avoidance of "bad" actions. Respect for national sovereignty is essentially a negative duty--our duty to not interfere. Thus, in a scheme where justice is defined positively, human rights must be valued above national sovereignty, since protecting them is a positive duty.

At least, I think that's what I meant a while ago when I first wrote this.

The criterion is generally interpreted in two ways: one, as a "weighing mechanism" to choose between competing values or competing arguments, or two, as a necessary and sufficient precondition to the value.

Dominant said...

hmm... so does this mean that you use "justice" as your criteria or "positive duties of justice?"

My feeling about criteria is that it is a neutral scale type device that allows both aff and neg fair ground to argue or play tug of war on.

if I said, "positive duties of justice" was my criteria, then might I argue that bodies that enact policies must always have justice in mind, and some of their actions may be just for some and unjust for others... using positive duties of justice, valuing human rights produces a greater good for more people than defending a nation's rights to ignore or devalue its own citizens?

Jim Anderson said...

That sounds about right to me. Simply put, promoting good outweighs merely avoiding evil.

Travis Boren said...

The way that my coach described criterions to me is that it is used to rank the value on a ladder, making it more important than other values.

An example:

Which word do you like more, disco or apple?
The criterion is how you decide which is better. When I am struggling to find a criterion, I usually pick a value that is held as the most important by a philosophy. In the 2006 September-October resolution I used a value of Life and Maslow's Hierarchy as a criterion.

Jim Anderson said...

Travis, that's good advice. All you novices out there take heed.

Jamie said...

How would you support that human rights are better than sovereignty with this article?

Jim Anderson said...

She gives many, many reasons why sovereignty is, to a degree, outdated or overwhelmed by international concerns. (There's even a specific mention of the ICC above.)

The whole article is worth reading.