5 November 2018 | Draft
Global Compact Enabling Complicity in the Ultimate Crime against Humanity
Institutionalizing global myopia in anticipation of excessive population growth
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Fundamental ironies in the light of Global Compact for social responsibility
Blinkered objectives of the Global Compact for Migration
Misleading framing of GCM in terms of existing agreements
Systemic negligence regarding population, migration and sustainablity
Compounding systemic negligence with future blindness
Migration as a temporal dilemma of ethics exemplified by the "trolley problem"?
Deniable responsibility for any ultimate crime against humanity?
Crimes against future generations
Produced in anticipation of the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Marrakech, 2018)
The UN's Global Compact for Migration (GCM) sets out nonbinding guidelines for an integrated approach to international migration (Refugees and Migrants, 2018). It is upheld as the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. As the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the full text was finalized by UN Member States (New York, 13 July 2018) in preparation for the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Marrakech, December 2018).
A number of countries have already indicated that they will not adhere to the provisions of the GCM. The following critique focuses on the total absence of any consideration of how the challenges of migration will become all the greater with the unconstrained growth in population of impoverished countries which are the primary source of migrants. The probability of ever increasing pressure to migrate is all the greater as the foreseen inability to cope with extreme shortages of food, water, land, shelter, health care, and other resources, becomes apparent.
Through the focus on the immediate logistical challenges to receiving countries posed by the arrival of migrants in ensuring their well-being and survival, the GCM is effectively an instrument of negligence with respect to the survival of those seeking to migrate in the years and decades to come. It also disguises the reality of the extreme levels of suffering and fatality which multitudes will experience in the future. At the same time the GCM obscures the nature of the pressures on populations and lifestyles in countries to which migrants seek to come. In that sense, as a legal framework, the Compact merits comparison with the legendary Trojan Horse, as argued separately (Humanitarian intervention as a Trojan Horse for Europe? 2018).
Framed as a global humanitarian commitment responsive to the tragedies of the present and the immediate future, the GCM totally fails to respond to the millions whose deaths are enabled by failure to address the process by which far greater numbers will be faced with such tragedy. As such it merits recognition as an act of global negligence, effectively a global crime against humanity -- which that future may caricature as a Global Crime of Man, since it is primarily by men that it has been formulated.
The GCM is a further instance of the inability of global governance to act coherently and effectively -- beyond token measures adapted to the public relations needs of the moment. The pattern is evident in claims for unquestionable urgency of action with respect to climate change by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN, The Guardian, 8 October 2018). Potentially more tragic, it is evident with respect to the astounding rate of extinction of wildlife, as part of the systematic process of degradation of the environment (Humans have caused wild animal populations to drop by 60% since 1970 according to WWF’s Living Planet Report, BBC, 31 October 2018; Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN, The Guardian, 3 November 2018).
In both cases, as with the GCM, every care is taken to craft reporting such as to avoid any mention of the exacerbating consequences of population growth -- or any sense whatsoever that the planet may be overpopulated beyond any capacity to cope. The "crisis of crises" is also framed such as to neglect any implication that the planet has become ungovernable, and may become increasingly so as resolution is sought through conflict -- itself engendering migration (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? Towards engaging appropriately with time, 2011). The deliberate failure to analyze the root cause of such crises in promoting instruments like the GCM is appropriately understood as an exercise in cultivating the Big Lie of global civilization (Existential Challenge of Detecting Today's Big Lie: mysterious black hole conditioning global civilization? 2016).
Fundamental ironies in the light of the Global Compact for social responsibility
There is a fundamental irony to the lack of reference to unconstrained population growth in the light of insights from the earlier Global Compact, agreed by the UN in 2000 to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. This was criticized at the time as an exercise in "bluewashing" the process of "globalization" and the controversial irresponsibility of multinational corporations ('Globalization': the UN's 'Safe Haven' for the World's Marginalized -- The Global Compact with Multinational Corporations as the UN's 'Final Solution', 2001). This has recently offered a widely appreciated cover for some of its founding members, now found to be complicit in a diesel emissions scandal -- the so-called Dieselgate.
A supreme irony lies in the fact that, in contrast with the absence of reference to population growth in the newly proposed GCM, a decade of research on sustainable business recognized the challenge of "growing population", both there and in a variety of other business-related reports. The study determined that:
Our survey of 1,000 global CEOs, from 27 industries across 103 countries, reveals that business leaders are not satisfied with business progress in tackling global sustainability challenges. Just 32% believe that the global economy is on track to meet the demands of a growing population within global environmental and resource constraints, and a clear majority -- 67% -- do not believe that business is doing enough to address global sustainability challenges (UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, 2013).
Ignoring any equivalent situation in Africa, the crafted communication with respect to population is reflected exceptionally in a document of the earlier UN Global Compact: Regional highlights: Asia and the Pacific Overpopulation, poverty and lack of enforcement of policy measures have compounded environmental problems in many parts of the region (Environment Principles Training Package).
Adding to the irony in relation to the earlier UN Global Compact is the degree to which many of the associated corporations engage in activities which are claimed by critics to constitute a health hazard -- decreasing the life expectancy of many in the population. As such they could be said to be the only intenational actors linked to the United Nations which are effectively constraining the rate of increase of the global population. The corporations in question would of course vigorously deny this, typically citing lack of concrete evidence.
Of related relevance to any systemic perspective is the number of corporations appearing amongst the first 100 of the Wikipedia list of Companies by arms sales -- who are also members of that Global Compact in adopting sustainable and socially responsible policies. These are:
Since many of these corporations are headquartered in countries which are subject to an influx of refugees, it is appropriate to ask how they (or their shareholders) specifically contribute responsibly to the integration of migrants -- especially since the military consequences of their arms manufacture notably engenders the flow of those refugees. Arguably of greater concern is the number of corporations on the Wikipedia list which engage in arms dealing -- but are not participnts in the original Global Compact -- potentislly fulfilling to a greater degree the dual function of increasing the flow of refugees and reducing the global population. From a systemic perspecitve, there is clearly a case for integrating aspects of the UN's two Global Compacts.
Blinkered objectives of the Global Compact for Migration
The objectives for "Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration" are listed within the GCM as follows, with no attempt to indicate the systemic relationships between them:
- Collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
- Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
- Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
- Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
- Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
- Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
- Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
- Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
- Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
- Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
- Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
- Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
- Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
- Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
- Provide access to basic services for migrants
- Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
- Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
- Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
- Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
- Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
- Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
- Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration
The most insightful critique is provided by Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and an independent consulting demographer. As quoted by As quoted by Thalif Deen (Global Compact and the Art of Cherry-Picking Refugees, Inter-Press Service, 30 July 2018), he informed IPS: The Global Migration Compact is a step in the right direction, but it will not resolve major problems, including the refugee crisis. Why?
- Fundamentally, he argued, the Compact is non-binding and voluntary and while various factors are at play, four key elements are human rights asymmetry, global demographics, limited migration options and growing opposition.
- Firstly, Human rights asymmetry: you have a right to leave your country, but you don’t have a right to enter another country. (See: Knock, Knock …. Who’s There? Many Migrants!).
- Secondly, Global demographics: the demand for migrants in receiving countries is far less than the growing pool of potential migrants in the sending countries. (See: Prepare for the 21st Century Exodus of Migrants).
- Thirdly, Limited migration options: the large majority of people wishing to emigrate basically have no legal means available to them other than illegal migration. (See: Understanding Unauthorized Migration).
- Fourthly, Growing opposition: countries worldwide increasingly aim to reduce immigration levels and stem record flows of refugees by erecting fences and barriers, strengthening border controls, tightening asylum policies and restricting citizenship. (See: Mind the Gap: Public and Government Views Diverge on Migration).
Chamie told IPS while the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol are legally-binding, implementation remains problematic, even when countries are in violation.
- The trend is clear: governments are increasingly resisting taking in refugees and those who seek asylum. Why?
- Global demographics play a central role because of the sheer record-breaking levels of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.
- Claiming refugee status: further complicating the refugee situation is as many unauthorized migrants seek to improve their lives and those of their children. (See: The Dilemma of Desperation Migration).
- Implicit message: the de facto message and understanding of men, women and children including smugglers as well as the implicit principle guiding many governments of receiving countries is: If you can get in and keep a low profile, you can stay. (See Illegal Immigration Illogic).
- Ineffective policies: due to the complexity of the issue, limited resources, human rights concerns and heated public sentiments, government policies have been ineffective in coping with surges of unwanted migration.
Other relevant critiques include:
At the time of writing, Austria, Australia, Croatia, Hungary and Poland will be absent from signing the agreement. The USA declined to participate in its negotiation.
Misleading framing of GCM in terms of existing agreements
Legal precedents: The preamble of the proposed Global Compact for Migration offers a lengthy listing of the formal legal precedents in terms of which it has been framed:
- This Global Compact rests on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
- It also rests on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the other core international human rights treaties; the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; the Slavery Convention and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery; the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; the Paris Agreement 2 ; the International Labour Organization conventions on promoting decent work and labour migration 3 ; as well as on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda.
- This Global Compact is a milestone in the history of the global dialogue and international cooperation on migration. It is rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and informed by the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development adopted in October 2013. It builds on the pioneering work of the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration and Development, including his report of 3 February 2017.
Missing referencs to population growth: References to The GCM is claimed to be the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner (Compact for migration, Refugees and Migrants, 5th April 2017). Especially noteworthy, however, is the total absence of any reference to the challenges of the population growth which is a primary factor driving migration. The only references to "population" are as follows:
- ... using administrative records for statistical purposes, such as border records, visa, resident permits, population registers and other relevant sources...
- ... develop long-term responses and outcomes that ensure respect for the rights of affected individuals, resilience and coping capacities of populations,...
- ... as well as for States to ascertain better knowledge of the resident population
- ... as well as by taking migrant populations into account in crisis preparedness, emergency response and post-crisis action
- ... open up gender-responsive distribution channels to underserved populations...
- ... efficient means of identification of own nationals such as through the addition of biometric identifiers in population registries...
Undeclared pressure from vested interests? It is difficult to avoid the impression that vested interests have brought considerable pressure to bear on the elaboration of the GCM -- consistent with the treatment of "population and development" on the occasion of the last International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and thereafter (Aubrey Manning, Population and Sustainability: the most inconvenient truth, Population and Susainability, 1, 2016, 1, pp 15-26; Jane O'Sullivan, Population Projections: recipes for action, or inaction? Population and Susainability, 1, 2016, 1, pp 45-56).
Such pressure could be said to be evident in the support of the Catholic Church for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (December 2015), as argued separately (Papal Concern for Climate Change and Refugee Care: a means of concealing criminal systemic negligence? 2015). The support took the form of Papal Encyclical on the Environment (Laudato Si' on Care of Our Common Home, 18 June 2015), readily to be understood as a "deal" for suppression of reference to population in that context, as on previous occasions (United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2008).
Insecurity: overcrowding vs overpopulation? The Global Compact for Migration carefully reinforces the assumption that "population growth is sustainable" and that "excessive population growth" is in no way to be called into question. There is necessarily no reference to the challenges that overpopulation might pose for migration within its purportedy "holistic and comprehensive" framework.
Curiously, from a systemic perspective, there is no reference to the dynamics within societies which engender opposition to the imposition of the provisions indicated by the GCM. Substituting the experience of "overcrowding" for "overpopulation" (as a controversial abstraction), it might be asked how that experience tends to engender violence and the issues of security already publicized with respect to the influx of migrants and the arguments of populism. The systemic relations between encroachment, overcrowding, proxemics, stress, fear, violence and insecurity are not factors considered worthy of consideration in the GCM (cf. Varieties of Encroachment, 2004). Inded what role does the influx of migrants play in engendering a culture of fear?
References to "security" in the GCM are primarily with respect to social security entitlements and only in passing (and by inference) to the insecurity already highlighted by those opposing the influx of migrants. Whilst the GCM is much concerned with "borders", understood as the boundaries between states, there is no sensitivity whatsoever to the "boundaries" between people within communities, as understood by proxemics -- and a major focus of opposition to migrant influx.
Concern for the receiving communities is only noted in passing in the following:
This Global Compact offers a 360-degree vision of international migration and recognizes that a comprehensive approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while addressing risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination... We acknowledge our shared responsibilities to one another as Member States of the United Nations to address each other’s needs and concerns over migration, and an overarching obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, while promoting the security and prosperity of all our communities.
In failing to consider issues of security, there is a further irony to the "360-degree vusion of international migration" in that a notable driver of migration is the insecurity experienced by those seeking to migrate, or obliged to do so as refugees from violence. The array of international conventions makes no explicit mention of those preoccupied with issues of security -- whether withn the UN as purportedly ensured by the Security Council in particular) or in regional security arrangements. What international provisions are made for the security of communities receivng migrants? What resources are allocated to the increase in resurces required to maintain security, already only too evident in some countries of Europe?
There is a further irony in that it is the potential countries of migration destiny which are the primary drivers of conflict-driven refugees. This results from the ever-increasing sale of armaments by those countries to the countries from which refugees are driven. The countries complicit in the supply of armaments are most notably the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, as discussed separately (Evaluating the Grossness of Gross Domestic Product: Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK) as a missing indicator? 2016).
Systemic negligence regarding population, migration and sustainablity
The rise in populism in a number of countries, in notable reaction to policies with regard to refugees and migrants, is readily deprecated and deplored as a challenge to democracy. Little effort is made to clarify the distinction between "populism" and "democracy", although it is becoming only too apparent that both lends themselves to manipulation through fake news and sloganeering. In both cases it is this oversimplification of social complexity -- together with its psychosocial implications -- which are in process of being embodied in the Global Compact for Migration.
It is strange to see the narrow focus on the humanitarian tragedy of refugees and migrants to the exclusion of any root cause analysis of the process, especially those vested interests deliberately encouraging unconstrained population growth when resources are not readily available or have any probability of being delivered. The humanitarian tragedy evoking the sensitivity of the "heart" is seemingly used through the media to inhibit any consideration by the "head" -- giving rise to an archetypal conflict between the "headless hearts and the heartless heads".
The economist Paul Collier has argued that: the debate on migration is polarised into two strident positions, a heartless and the headless (On Immigration, Head to Head: Al Jazeera, 7 August 2015; rerun on Head to Head, 18 August 2018). Subsequently he clarifies:
To rise to the challenge, we need to combine the instinctive compassion that mass suffering arouses with the dispassionate analysis necessary to craft an effective response. We need the heart supported by the head. The growing humanitarian crisis has come about because we've deployed one without the other. Our response has veered between the heartless head and the headless heart, and the results have been calamitous. (Why camps are the wrong way to help today's refugees, The Spectator, March 2017)
In an extensive review of the book which Collier co-authored (Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, 2017), the metaphor is further emphasized (David Jimenez, How Europe's 'Headless Hearts' Made Refugee Crisis Worse, The American Conservative, 27 September 2017). The current role of the migrant rescue vessel Aquarius in the European policy debate on refugees is an exemplification of this.
The core question is the institutionalized failure to acknowledge the challenge of growing population numbers and any sense that there may be a limit -- as is only to evident in trying to feed a growing family or in the constraining context of a life boat (Resource Insights from Plus or Minus 12 People on a Liferaft: Thought experiment to highlight global dilemmas in a comprehensible context, 2014).
The question is remarkably reviewed by Helen Kopnina (Discussing why population growth is still ignored or denied, Chinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment, 14, 2016, 2):
Due to a number of factors outlined in this article, the issue of population growth is excluded from the sustainability discussion. In this article, we explore some of the ethical presumptions that underlie the issues linking population growth and sustainability. Critics argue that action to address population creates social and economic segregation, and portray overpopulation concerns as being “anti-poor,” “anti-developing country,” or even “antihuman.” Yet, de-linking demographic factors from sustainability concerns ignores significant global realities and trends, such as the ecological limits of the Earth, the welfare and long-term livelihood of the most vulnerable groups, future prospects of humanity, as well as the ecosystems that support society.
However, recently, it seems that linking population and sustainability have become controversial. Policy documents issued by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) do not seriously address population issues. At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (also called Rio+20) in June 2012, among the problems discussed was a concern with agricultural productivity and efficiency, and the necessity to provide food for a growing population. There was practically no discussion about stabilizing and then reducing population, as if concerns with habitat destruction and biodiversity loss were somehow “unconnected” to it, when in fact they are a key driver. In fact, the focus lay on “sustainable growth,” redefined more inclusively with a special focus on the “bottom billion.” Likewise, the most recent “Degrowth” conference in Leipzig had little discussion of population as a key driver of environmental degradation.
I is also a theme of Ciprian N. Radavoi (Thoughts on the UN 2017 Population Prospects: procreation-related internationally wrongful acts, and overpopulation as global risk. Pace International Law Review, 30, 2017, 1):
The aversion of politicians and policy makers at the U.N. to approaching the population growth issue in the last two decades was noted by many scholars. It was shown, for example, that the United Nations Environmental Program ("UNEP") deals with everything but population, and that "neglect of human population size is indeed widespread". One author bluntly stated that "the United Nations ... does not want debate". [Stan Bernstein, 2005] Symptomatically, the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 completely ignored the issue.
Intergovernmental institutions, and the organized religions so instrumental in the questionable framing of the debate, are seemingly incapable of such systemic analysis, or recognizing the strategic decision-making trap in which they find themselves, as variously argued separately:
For David Louis Sussman:
Migration is a major factor in the global population problem. So long as countries with excessive population growths are permitted to dump them through the safety valve of the developed countries, there will be little incentive for these governments to deal seriously with their burgeoning populations. Former US president Richard Nixon actually commissioned a study on world population and planned to promulgate a US population policy, but church and industrial leaders undercut his idea to serve their own population agendas. At issue is not immigration, but rather massive human migration from lands with unsustainable rates of population growth. Ecological excesses engendered by human demands on Earth are the real threat, on the verge of straining an already overloaded system of natural resources to the breaking point. (The Cosmic Cancer: effects of human behavior on the life of our planet, 2014, p. 41)
It is the blinkered framing of the debate which is so strikingly insensitive to boundaries and limits, contrasting to such a degree with systemic perspectives of science (A, Wijkman and J. Rockström, Bankrupting Nature: denying our planetary boundaries, 2012; J. Rockstrom, W. Steffen, et al., Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 2009).
However, just as with the current IPCC report stressing urgency with respect to climate change, the preoccupation of science do not extended to any systemic insight into how a "safe operating space" may be engendered, as discussed separately (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). Ironically it could be said that any debate on the matter is "existentially unsafe" (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009).
Compounding systemic negligence with future blindness
Future blindness: Both with respect to climate change and wildlife extinction, a high degree of sensitivity to time is apparent -- one totally absent in the case of the Global Compact for Migration. There is almost no sense effort to estimate migration flows decades ahead, as separately argued (Anticipating Future Migration into Europe (2018-2050): Beyond the irresponsibility of current political and humanitarian short-termism, 2017). The burgeoning literature on "future migration" subsequent to that argument is not characterized by the capacity to engender estimates -- which would be political dynamite if publicized.
As with statistics on extinction of species and climate change, the point can be usefully focused by arguments such as that of Jan Van Bavel (The World Population Explosion: causes, backgrounds and projections for the future, Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 5, 2013, 4, pp. 281-291):
In the year 1900, Belgium and the Philippines had more or less the same population, around 7 million people. By the year 2000, the population of the Western European monarchy had grown to 10 million citizens, while the South East Asian republic at the turn of the century already counted 76 million citizens. The population of Belgium has since then exceeded 11 million citizens, but it is unlikely that this number will rise to 12 million by the year 2050. The population of the Philippines on the other hand will continue to grow to a staggering 127 million citizens by 2050, according to the demographic projections of the United Nations (UN 2013). The demographic growth rate of the Philippines around the turn of the century (2% a year) has already created enormous challenges and is clearly unsustainable in the long term: such growth implies a doubling of the population every 35 years as a consequence of which there would be 152 million people by 2035, 304 million by 2070, and so on.
Arguably it as though, systemically, every effort has been made in Enabling Fruitful Multiplication of Global Population (2015), such as to elicit massive social consensus by unconstrained reframing of strategic priorities. Speculatively, could this be said to have been seemingly compounded by a secretive cartel of interests -- reminiscent of the "Dieselgate" of members of the UN's other Global Compact -- a secret international convention (Prohibition of Reference to Overpopulation of the Planet: 2018)?
The question is how "future-blindness" comes to be so carefully cultivated. Why the inability to comprehend future impacts -- beyond the immediate challenges of climate change and the ongoing extinction of species on which humanity may be existential dependent. The psychology of the process has been argued by Karen A. Cerulo (Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006).
Apathy in the face of urgency: Especially intriguing is the sense in which multiple crises are now selectively recognized by international institutions, world leaders and commentators as extremely urgent:
- global warming and climate change (as noted above)
- species extinction and biodiversity loss (as noted above)
- environmental pollution, most obviously the accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans and food chains
- a collapse of the financial system, worse than those before
- rising levels of violence undermining the social fabric, most obviously recognized as terrorism
Strong cases are made that "something must be done urgently" -- with very little indication that anything effective will be done -- adequate to the nature of those crises. The posture of those claiming the need for urgency is also cause for suspicion, echoing as it does the urgency claimed down the centuries by religions -- for conversion to their respective faiths and guidance, or face imminent disaster. To the extent that the claims are made by natural scientists, proud of their disassociation from the social sciences, there is a degree of naivety to the assumption that society will respond as they would like expect. In systemic terms, there is a lack of understanding of the operation of the relevant feedback loops, especially those of higher order.
Most curious is the total insensitivity of international institutions to unconstrained population increase, despite a degree of recognition that it is a driver for those problems. There is clearly an inability to engage cognitively with probable disaster however urgent is claimed to be its nature. There is therefore little wonder at the naive surprise expressed on the occasion of flooding and other natural disasters -- despite a record of their previous incidence.
Cultivating a Big Lie? The challenge was argued in relation to a recent gathering of the Group of Seven world leaders (Group of 7 Dwarfs: Future-blind and Warning-deaf: self-righteous immoral imperative enabling future human sacrifice, 2018). The commentary explored the following themes:
Migration as a temporal dilemma of ethics exemplified by the "trolley problem"?
As now experienced by European policy makers, the migration crisis merits reflection in the light of the classic "trolley problem" -- a much-studied thought experiment in ethics and moral philosophy. It is a specific experiment among several that highlights the difference between deontological and consequentialist ethical systems. As discussed separately, the central question that these dilemmas bring to light is on whether or not it is right to actively inhibit the utility of an individual if doing so produces a greater utility for other individuals ( Migration crisis as a temporal "trolley problem" for Europe, 2018).
In relation to the migration crisis, the trolley problem could be framed in terms of the choice between saving relatively few in the present (condemning many to death in the future) or acting to save the many in the future (by constraining the response to the relatively few in the present). This emphasizes the temporal dimension in contrast with other articulations of the problem -- those of the future being effectively neglected as "over the temporal horizon", as with other forms of strategic short-termism (Roger L. Martin, Yes, Short-Termism Really Is a Problem, Harvard Business Review, 9 October 2015).
The trolley problem helps to focus any effort at root cause analysis of the migration/refugee crisis when its most disruptive effects may be experienced in the future rather in the present. Focusing on present adaptation by tinkering with policy "fixes" (as is currently the case), carefully avoids the need to attend to the dimensions of the crisis in the future, an approach which is similarly evident in the response to climate change, food/water shortages, and the like (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems: transcending bewailing, hand-wringing and emotional blackmail, 2013).
Pressure from the Catholic Church frames the focus on saving the relatively few in the present, gambling on the possibility that the fate of those in the future may be more appropriately addressed at that time -- if any thought is accorded to their fate. This is in sympathy with political short-termism and achieving acclaim for success within a current political mandate.
Hope is given through promises to those faced with death in the present; the fate of those in the future is in turn placed on hope, however unrealistic -- and even the possibility of divine intervention in some form (possibly to be compared with winning a global lottery). The approach could be understood in terms of an instance of immediate gratification -- for both the victims and authorities. This is consistent with current marketing philosophy and strategic short-termism (Neil Patel, The Psychology of Instant Gratification -- and how it will revolutionize your marketing approach, Entrepreneur, 24 June 2014).
The approach contrasts with understandings of deferred gratification, namely the process of resisting the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward. Such delayed gratification is otherwise fundamental to Church teachings regarding the relative value of later heavenly reward. A growing body of literature has linked the ability to delay gratification to a host of other positive outcomes, including academic success, physical health, psychological health, and social competence. In contrast, as with politicians, the Church would appear to be fundamentally indifferent to future suffering. This itself relates curiously to the indifference to the suffering of those faced with terminal illnesses, or the consequences of giving birth to children that cannot be effectively nourished. The economic implications of such choices are now explored in terms of time preference.
Irrespective of the time preference of the Catholic Church, far more problematic is the radical opposition to any debate on time preferences and risk analysis, as they may affect the fate of billions in the future. The position of the Church is non-negotiable and the possibility of dialogue with regard to that position is as "unacceptable" as the death penalty is now upheld to be. The posture frames any alternative remedial response as being the responsibility of wider society -- irrespective of how evidently it has proven unable to cope. The suffering of millions is therefore used as a form of blackmail -- seeking conformation to the worldview of the Church and those seeking full-spectrum dominance of moral discourse.
Deniable responsibility for any ultimate crime against humanity?
It can be readily imagined that action at this time -- or inaction -- will result in the death of millions (if not billions) in the foreseeable future. The (in)action could be understood as the ultimate crime against humanity -- rendering genocidal activities of the past mere details of history by comparison. It would be an exemplification of inhumanity to man.
Responsibility: The question to be asked is who might be considered responsible, and who could qualify that (in)action as a crime against humanity:
- Government(s): Surely not, since they are the legitimate representatives of their peoples, as recognized by international law, however questionable some might consider their legitimacy. Of course governments have a limited mandate in time and cannot be held responsible for consequences of their actions beyond that mandate -- just as they vigorously decline all responsibility for the actions of those preceding them in power. The point is well made with respect to slavery and colonialism. Typically their leaders benefit from extensive immunity from any prosecution. Exceptions are only made through dubious exercises in vindictive justice which deny the role of such leaders as representatives of their people.
- Religion(s): Surely not, given their divine mandates to which they respectively appeal. Is there then any sense in which they can do wrong? Their actions must necessarily be justified in that light, irrespective of their complicity in repressive measures resulting in considerable suffering, if not multiple fatalities. How then could they be held responsible for the future consequences of their (in)action -- irrespective of unimaginable levels of suffering and fatality? Empowered by divine mandate, such suffering is necessarily to be understood as an Act of God, however incomprehensible that may be? Just as governments have little cause to apologize for the actions of their predecessors, why should any priesthood apologize for actions of those that preceded them (Collective Mea Culpa? You Must be Joking ! Them is to blame, Not us ! 2015).
- Business(es): Surely not, especially when established as corporations of limited responsibility. Recent decades have seen multiple examples of token sanctions against corporations in the rare event of successful conviction for wrong-doing. The treatment of those engendering the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-2008, whether individually or collectively are instances of a pattern. How then could businesses be held responsible for (in)action with unimaginably disastrous consequences for generations to come? In that light it has been strange to witness the arguments of the earlier Global Compact in promoting the adoption of sustainable and socially responsible policies. How is the quest for profit reconciled with the subtleties of "responsibility" -- and how little relevance does this have in practice with respect to environmental degradation, and especially its future effects on human beings?
- Science: Surely not, especially with its claim to the disinterested advancement of knowledge. Curiously the sense of "wrong" has only the most restrictive meaning for science and its methodologies. The advancement of human knowledge is not constrained in practice by the social responsibility of scientists and engineers, whether individually or collectively -- except in arguments of little consequence. Instances of human experimentation are the most tragically obvious examples of this, as with . So-called "scientific whaling" evokes no sanctions from the relevant disciplines -- as with vivisection. Science is able to vigorously deny any responsibility for the manner in which its insights are used -- most obviously with respect to how they may be enable disasters affecting billions in the future.
- Manufacturing: Surely not, especially in the light of the complicity of arms manufacturing with the military requirements of government -- despite the massacres which result from the use of such weaponry. There is no sense in which the development of weapons of mass destruction of ever great power is subject to any constraint -- despite repeated assertions that they are capable of destroying the planet many times over. As with science, there is no sense in which arms manufactures are to be held responsible for the manner in which they are used.
- Parents: Surely not, especially given the rights accorded to children once they become adults. Vain efforts are made to argue that parents are responsible for the suffering caused to others by their children. The point is emphasized by the inability to attribute responsibility to parents for the actions of their children, however horrific their actions on reaching adulthood.
These all illustrate the extent to which the responsibility for present day initiatives operates within what might be termed a time cocoon. In relation to the post this my be reinforced in legal terms by a statute of limitations. Exceptions may be made in the case especially grievous crimes. However responsibility for consequences earlier than that can only be reframed in moral or symbolic terms. This may be especially relevant in the case of blood feuds and the operation of collective memory by which descendants may be held responsible -- as in the case of slave ownership or problematic treaties with indigenous peoples. These examples serve mainly to clarify how limited is the degree to which future generations will hold the present to be responsible for (in)action.
The point has been made and elaborated by David Armitage (Bonfire of the Humanities: the role of history in a society afflicted by short-termism, Aeon, 2014):
Timespans ranging from a few months to a few years determine most formal planning and decision-making – by corporations, governments, non-governmental organisations and international bodies. Quarterly reporting by companies; electoral cycles of 18 months to seven years; planning horizons of one to five years: these are the usual temporal boundaries of our hot, crowded, and flattened little world. In the 1980s, this myopic vision found a name: short-termism.
Responsibility for unemployment? The issue is curiously consistent with the development of technology, whether as a consequence of innovation or of planned obsolescence. In either case, the more sophisticated the technology, the higher the probability that it will become obsolescent in the shorter term. This is most notably evident in the case of information technology. Both hardware and software are likely to need replacement in a number of years comparable with formal planning and decision-making. With respect to optimistic provisions for the influx of the relatively unskilled, this has considerable implications for the availability of jobs in societies currently facing with challenges of an ageing workforce and sub-replacement fertility levels.
Extensive comments have been evoked by estimates for the replacement of relatively low skilled jobs by robots (Robot automation will 'take 800 million jobs by 2030' - report, BBC, 29 November 2017; Workers at risk as robots set to replace 66 million jobs, warns OECD, The Guardian, 3 April 2018). Clearly migrants will be competing with robots in the foreseeable future -- if beyond the focus of the Global Compact for Migration.
Unquestioned implication of "human rights": Much is made of "human rights" as the embodiment of the highest human values. They are of course enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its variants, most notably at the regional level. A degree of confusion is consciously or unconsciously cultivated through use of the term "rights". Through its legal connotations and interpretation it has the implication as being necessarily "right", as may be further reinforced by legislation.
Difficulties and abuse derive from this in that those (righteously) upholding such rights are able to confuse the values the rights may be held to embody with the "rightness" of those promoting and defending them. In this light organizations and individuals defending human rights can be readily held to be necessarily "right" -- especially in their own eyes.The situation is exacerbated by use of "human rights" in the title of any organization. A similar argument could be made with respect to use of "humanitarian" -- most notably as has been evident with respect to "humanitarian intervention". Is their a class of human initiatives which has effectively defined itself as beyond reasonable criticism?
It is profoundly curious that the polarized world of politics should be characterized by the right wing and the left wing of an ideological spectrum. The sense that the right wing should benefit to an unsuspected degree from association with being "right", seems to go unexamined. There is some implication that the "left" are those somehow "left behind", failing to benefit from any implication whatsoever of being right and even with an underlying sense of being sinsister and on the "left-hand path". Comparable implications are now considered unacceptable with respect to gender distinctions. Trivial or not, they raise questions with respect to the direction of writing and reading (Unquestioned Bias in Governance from Direction of Reading? Political implications of reading from left-to-right, right-to-left, or top-down, 2016).
It is then appropriate to ask the extent to which "human rights organizations" assume to an unfortunate degree that they are necessarily and unquestionably right in their framing of the humanitarian strategies in which they engage. Is there no possible sense in which they might be wrong or defective in their priorities? Who would have a right to raise this question -- and to be taken seriously in doing so? Is there no place for a "devil's advocate" -- prior to "canonization" by society. Expressed otherwise, is there a sense in which such bodies righteously exploit their close association with human rights as a form of "humanitarian shield" to protect themselves from questions which could be experienced as a threat to their integrity?
The question is relevant to the temporal preoccupation of humanitarian initiatives with the immediate present -- with those in tragic, life-threatening situations. Is this preoccupation, in response to relevant visual imagery, an unconsciously cultivated form of distraction from a far larger tragedy which is only too evident -- a "weapon of mass distraction" (Starvation Imagery as Humanitarian Trump Card? Counterproductive emotional blackmail engendering worldwide indifference, 2016; Denis Kennedy, Selling the Distant Other: Humanitarianism and Imagery: ethical dilemmas of humanitarian action, Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, 28 February 2009).
Enabling the suffering and death of billions? With such priorities, do such agencies (and their audiences) have any capacity to stand back and reflect on the implications of their current actions for future generations? Or is such standing back framed as totally irresponsible negligence in failing to respond to those in immediate need? Which humanitarian agencies care for the children's children, and for the children's children's children? The question is pertinent to the probable deaths of millions, if not billions, in the light of the rapid depletion of resources and the capacity to deliver them, as indicated above.
More problematic still, is the indifference of humanitarian agencies to the unconstrained growth in population, now condemning millions in the future to a tragic death. In that sense they are engaged in committing a crime against humanity -- the ultimate crime, given the numbers involved. Should they be "put to the question" in some way?
At the core of the unconstrained growth in population would appear to be the assumption that, in exercising a human right, an individual has a right to expect that society will honour that right at whatever the cost. Society is then entirely to blame for failing to honous that right and for the suffering and death which may result -- not the individual, by definition. Does the individual have the right to blackmail society -- and the future -- in this way?
With their claimed commitment to humanitarian values, are the religions -- through their active opposition to any such constraint -- effectively in process of signing death warrants for future generations, as argued separately (Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007). The argument there is developed in the following sections:
Seventh generation sustainability? If humanitarian agencies are in process of committing what religions could choose to define as a deadly sin, how is this to be related to the biblical argument common to Christianity and Judaism that the sins of the fathers shall be visited onto their children -- and specifically -- unto the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9)?
This sense of responsibility over time has been extensively cultivated by indigenous peoples, most ironically in the country most formally opposed to recognition of the need for any constraint on population growth. It takes the form of the Seventh Generation Principle that the decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future (Linda Clarkson, Vern Morrissette and Gabriel Regallet, Our Responsibility to The Seventh Generation Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg, 1992).
Frequently stated in the form: In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine" is claimed to derive from The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law. The first recorded concepts of the Seventh Generation Principle date back to The Great Law of Iroquois Confederacy, now claimed to have influenced the elaboration of the US Constitution. A Seventh Generation Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been proposed to put ecologically sensitive areas under government control. The biblical quote above is variously reframed as "unto the seventh generation" -- to the point of being overused as a "green" marketing ploy,
Seven generation sustainability has been explored as a strategy enabling the current generation of humans to live and work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future (Kathleen Allen, Seventh Generation Thinking: a replacement for SWOT, Leading from the Roots, 8 March 2018). The understanding has inspired initiatives such as the Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment
Criminal negligence with respect to future generations? The contrast of the provisions of the Global Compact for Migration with those of "seven generation sustainability" is only too evident in temporal terms. The GCM takes no account of time and of the generations to come -- and the manner in which they are engendered in ever greater numbers through the negligence of strategic planners of today. In terms of the time horizon cultivated as realistic, the GCM could be said to be trapped in a "first generation sustainability principle". With respect to Canon Law, deliberaely enabling the birth of multitudes condemned to die in the future can be caricatured as analogous to cannon fodder (Capital Punishment of Canon Fodder: death penalty contradictions in the declaration of the Pope, 2018).
The strategic claim of the GCM in aiming to leverage the potential of migration for the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals is as cynical as the phrase which follows, as well as the impact this achievement will have on migration in the future.
If the GCM is enabling complicity in the ultimate crme against humanity, how might that strategy be appropriately challenged? As noted above, all involved would claim no responsibility whatsoever for the fatal consequences of their actions for future generations. Neither the International Court of Justiee nor the International Criminal Court would consider future crimes to be within their jurisdiction. The issue of future crimes against humanity might have been raised within the Russell-Sartre Tribunal. Those perpetrating that strategy would however claim immunity, notably in the absence of evidence -- despite the probability that billions may die.
Crimes against future generations
What (in)action at this time will be deemed as criminal by the future? How does the present reframe actions in the past as effectively criminal -- especially according to the norms of the present?
Although "future crimes" can be set aside as a speculative legal abstaction, the concept has been explored with respect to the future of cybercrime in a widely cited work by Marc Goodman (Future Crimes: everything is connected, everyone is vulnerable and what we can do about it, 2015). The author has since founded the Future Crimes Institute.
Those currently enabling technologies the future may deem to be criminal are no more susceptible to indictment now than they will be in the future. There is no sense of responsibility for the use to which innovation may be put in the future, as separately explored (From Patent Rights to Patent Responsibilities: obligations incumbent on owners and licensors of intellectual property, 2007). The urgency of this question has been evoked in a special issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists with an introductory editorial strsssing:
Advances in newer "disruptive technologies" -- cyberweapons, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, and advanced robotics, among others -- represent potential threats to the future of human civilization and are therefore also part of the Bulletin's purview. In fact, extraordinarily fast-paced advance across the full breadth of the world's scientific and technological enterprise constitutes a defining characteristic of the 21st century. In this issue of the Bulletin, leading experts explore how these quickly changing technologies increasingly intersect with one another and, as they do, pose new types of global threats. Those threats are in some cases now so likely to manifest themselves that, as experts from the Council on Strategic Risks argue, nations around the world have a "responsibility to prepare" for them. (John Mecklin, The New Threat Matrix, 22 Oct 2018)
A more general exploration has been made by Thomas Frey (60 future crimes that don’t exist today, 5 June 2017). Governments are now recognized as acting "proactively" on the probability of criminal action in the future (Hina Shamsi, The Government Is Blacklisting People Based on Predictions of Future Crimes, ACLU, 8 October 2018).
Potentially more relevant to the above argument is the exploration of the World Future Council (Crimes against Future Generations, 11 February 2013). These crimes are understood as:
Actions which are so terrible that they put the very survival of life at risk or threaten the way of life of communities should be prohibited and prosecuted. When individuals act despite knowing the severe consequences of their acts or conduct on the long-term health, safety, or means of survival of human populations, they are committing what we call a crime against future generations....
Crimes against future generations would not be future crimes, nor crimes committed in the future. Rather, they would apply to acts or conduct undertaken in the present which seriously harm the natural environment, human populations, species or ecosystems in the present and which have consequences for the long-term. Just as crimes against humanity are not crimes which are directly committed against humanity, crimes against future generations would also not be directly committed against future generations. The term “humanity” in crimes against humanity indicates that this crime concerns offences which are of concern to all of humanity, and that the gravity is such that when they are committed, all of humanity is injured and aggrieved. Crimes against future generations are similar, and arise where there is a connection, in terms of knowledge and causation, between the underlying offence and damage in the long-term....
The development of the concept and a definition of crimes against future generations for the International Criminal Court were commissioned to Sébastien Jodoin, Lead Counsel with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, CISDL. This process included expert workshops, consultations and meetings organised by the World Future Council and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law with leading international judges and lawyers from 2007 to 2010. The resulting definition of crimes against future generations under international law builds upon a number of principles and developments in international law and policy on sustainable development, environment, human rights and international crime.
Reflective of some of these investigations, a compilation by Sébastien Jodoin and Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger has been published (Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation, 2015).
Far less evident is the capacity to indict humanitarian agencies for initiatives negligent of the mega-deaths which their strategies are enabling -- now to be sanctioned by the deliberate support of the Global Compact for Migration. A possible legal argument might be based on the principles of "duty to rescue" and "withholding aid to those in need" -- as these may relate to the concept of moral hazard (International Peace Institute, Safeguarding the Space for Principled Humanitarian Action in Counterterrorism Contexts, 23 May 2018; Daniel A. Chapman and Brian Lickel, Climate Change and Disasters: how framing affects justifications for giving or withholding aid to disaster victims, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7, 2016, 1; Anthony Bem, La non assistance à personne en danger et l'omission de porter secours à personne en péril, 24 novembre 2012).
This approach has the disadvantage that those who will suffer in large numbers are as yet unborn -- of generations hence -- and therefore have as yet no existence before the law. That argument can potentially be countered by the rights claimed for those in the controverial debate regarding contraception -- namely with respect to those who might be conceived if their contraception was not prevented.
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