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December 19, 2006

The Botswana Government accepts Court judgment but restrictions apply.

The Government of Botswana announced late last week that it accepts the High Court ruling that the San were illegally evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It also announced the restrictions that will apply within the CKGR. What are the restrictions? Is this the end of the story?

There was wide-spread jubilation at the High Court’s decision (by majority judgment) that the San were illegally removed from the CKGR. The Government accepted the Court’s decision and so decided not to pursue an appeal. However, the Government of Botswana continues to see the decision as one concerning the rights of Central Kalahari San to use the land for ‘traditional’ purposes i.e. in pursuit of a semi-nomadic hunter-gather existence. It does not take the Court’s decision as challenging fundamentally the status of the CKGR as State Land nor as altering the status of the area as a game reserve. The San leadership, and many journalists, may have thought that the ruling was about ‘ownership’ rather than ‘access’ but the land remains State Land. San rights are, in the Government’s view, limited and are established only with respect to the maintenance of the San lifestyle under hunter-gathering conditions. It has been the view of the Government of Botswana that a traditional life-style is effectively unsustainable under modern-day circumstances, hence its view on the question of re-settlement.

So whilst it accepts the decision, it has imposed conditions on the return. It may have been internationally embarrassed by the plight to the San and out maneuvered by their international supporters but it has not changed its basic view. Those who filed the lawsuit will be given an automatic right to return. If others wish to return, they will have to apply for permission. Domestic animals (horses, donkeys, cattle and goats) will not be allowed and water use will be limited to what is required for subsistence purposes. Hunting will continue to be regulated as it is in other parts of Botswana. Any domestic structures will be temporary ones only (though this condition may not be as restrictive as it may first appear). Park authorities will be in charge. In other words those who opt to continue to use the Kalahari environment must opt for a fully-traditional life-style. This is one that Government continues to think is untenable under modern-day conditions of contact and exchange. Few San will be willing to return under such (cynical) conditions.

What is likely to happen next? The Government clearly has a reserve management plan (the Court found no evidence that there were any plans to established diamond mining and, anyway, mineral rights are invested in the State throughout Botswana). One possibility is to enter into negotiations with the San on the reserve management plan. It could attempt to see if there is any non-confrontational and less authoritarian way to accommodate the interests of those who wish to pursue a more traditional life-style than is possible within the settlements whilst falling short of a full hunter-gatherer existence. Whether or not it consults will depend on the continued interest of internal and external groups. It could, and indeed should, put more resources immediately into the ‘dispiriting’ settlements to move them towards some form of self-sustaining development. It must do this not only in an effort to redeem its international reputation but also because it must offer a viable and sustainable alternative to the people who are currently living under social and economic stress. On its own terms it must offer a viable life-style alternative. It has the resources to make such settlements attractive places to live. As for the San people and their leadership (and external advisors) there is a need to consider what they have and have not won as a result of the Court’s decision (at least one, otherwise sympathetic, judge was not happy with the leadership qualities exhibited) and to decide from this understanding how to try and shape their future. I imagine that they have no direct local government rights (the CKGR remains State Land) and if they have no such rights they should seek, at the very least, a formal framework for discussing CKGR management issues with the Government otherwise the people that return are likely to be subject to arbitrary decisions by Park authorities. Although they now cannot be ignored, they will need to continue to build wider political links within Botswana in order to secure some control over the conditions on which they have the right to return to the areas concerned. Some of these links will need to be with the Botswana Democratic Party. Such links are necessary but may be difficult to make given the history of external involvement. The issue of the return is not yet over.

December 13, 2006

High Court of Botswana rules in favor of the San.

The longest and most expensive civil case in Botswana’s legal history, that of the rights of specific groups of semi-nomadic San people to continue to live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, has (almost) come to and end. What were the issues and what was the judgment? It must be stressed that I have not yet seen a transcript of the Court's ruling.

If we want to be understood by the wider world, it is difficult to know how to refer to the First People of the Kalahari. If we want to communicate the issues facing forager peoples in a ‘post-forager’ world then there is a certain amount of educational preparation that is required. Most newspapers reporting the High Court’s decision refer to ‘Bushmen’. Many Botswana sources talk about the ‘Basarwa’. ‘Basarwa’ has negative connotations in Botswana where some regard 'Basarwa' with contempt. 'Bushmen’, though familiar to, and evocative for, English speakers, also has problems. In 1996, a meeting of First Peoples in Namibia agreed that the term ‘San’ should be used as a general means of referring to the various groups of First Peoples of Namibia and Botswana. The term is not widely known (and not one that San themselves necessarily stick to) but it is the name that will be used in this web log.

The San are not the only people of the Kalahari in Botswana. Cattle-owning proto-Tswana groups collectively known as the Bakgalagadi could be regarded as the ‘second’ people to arrive in the thirst-land with the main Tswana groups (and others) arriving later in time. Land-use issues and other environmental as well as political issues in the remoter parts of the Kalahari are complex ones even if in comparative terms the human populations are small-scale. There has even been talk of the possibility of diamond mining in the remote Kalahari. There are groups of settled San communities, many long-standing and integrated within the cattle-economy as herders. There are also high levels of unemployment, of alcohol abuse and dependency in the recent (and some would say 'forced') settlements. It seems to be the HIV/AIDS is found in San populations and this raises questions about the supply of services in remote areas.

The issue before the Court was about the rights of semi-nomadic San to continue to make use of traditional hunting grounds in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (State Land). In other words, whether or not the San were illegal expelled. Groups from the CKGR were evicted and resettled at New Xade (by all accounts a depressing place) outside the Game Reserve. The Court was also called upon to rule on whether the Government of Botswana was under a constitutional obligation to supply basic services to a semi-nomadic population within the reserve. The case has become, for a number of reasons, not all justifiable, a test of Botswana’s commitment to the rule of law. Such is the political interest in the outcome that the normal sub judice rule that characterizes discussion in Botswana when an issue is before the Court has been frequently breached.

The civil case has been with the High Court for some time. The stopping and starting of the hearings has been criticized by various groups including the BBC. The Government of Botswana (skillfully out maneuvered in the public relations arena by Survival International) holds that the stoppages were normally at the request of the representatives of the San. The Government of Botswana characterizes the case as one of misplaced romanticism, versus realism—it holds that San in effect do not and cannot live a life of isolation. The Reserve, according to Botswana officials, is a poverty trap which denies to the San the possibilities of full citizenship. It is yet to be seen whether the new settlements outside the reserve are capable of being self-sustaining and something other than poverty traps. Whatever the explanation for the delay— the case was first filed in April 2002— and whatever the pros and cons, judgment has now been given.

The Court ruled, on a majority judgment, given on the 13th December, that those San living in the CKGR had in fact been illegally removed and that they were entitled to return. San attended the announcement in significant numbers, dressed in ways that made some reference to their traditional culture. In fighting the case, the San, with outside help, were making maximum use of their rights as citizens. Such activity in itself changes their objective political circumstances and enhances their right to respect. In itself this ought to encourage further investment in those settlements that have already been created. However, the Court also has yet to rule, as I understand it, on the details of the terms and conditions under which the San may return. There are issues here about the supply of services, including medical services (critical for survival in the light of the HIV/AIDS problem) and game conservation. When the Government started the expulsions it suspended discussions on the reserve management plan. When the details of the terms and conditions become known, a new and agreed management plan is likely to be essential, to enable all interests to be harmonized, by agreement, in some way.

The judgment is a majority judgment. The Botswana Government has the legal right to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The Government will have to decide whether the majority decision gives it the possibility that the ruling will be overturned or whether it can live with the outcomes once the detailed terms and conditions become known. Wisdom suggests accepting the decision (risking another public relations defeat is not one that is to be recommended) and hence working to ensure a politically acceptable management plan that redeems its reputation and reconciles conflicting interests.

December 11, 2006

A farewell speech from Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan recently made the final speech of his term as UN Secretary-General at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence Missouri. Annan has been a lively Secretary-General, interested in the potential of the office for diplomatic purposes and wishing to maintain the principle of multilateral action wherever possible. What did he say? Who was he talking to and why?

Americans often forget that the United Nations is an organization that has it origins in the ideas behind the ‘four-freedoms’ that were part and parcel of the American approach to the Second World War and in the democratic vision for reconstruction after that War. Roosevelt and Churchill worked together to develop that vision. President Truman initiated the drive towards the internationalization of capitalism (and hence to to-day's globalization) and the development of the United Nations and of related international spaces for the discussion of common problems. The 1930s world-wide had been an era of protectionism and of rejection of the market and even of the democratic process. Multilateral principles were fundamental. The Breton Woods agreements and the institutions which emerged (IBRD, IMF and the GATT) as part of the United Nation’s family of institutions were all supported by the Allies as part of the vision for a better world. That Annan chose to give his final speech at Truman’s Presidential Museum and Library is very fitting reminder to people in the United States that the UN has its origins in progressive American thinking. Appropriate global leadership was important then and it remains, in Annan’s eyes, relevant now. Both the chosen place for his speech and its content illustrates what he implicilty sees as its political relevance in the context of foreign policy issues facing the United States. He makes this explicit (gently but clearly) at then end of the speech.

Annan draws five lessons (elaborated and exemplified within the speech) from his experience in office. These are, that:

• ‘the security of every one is linked to that of everyone else’;
• ‘we are also responsible, in some measure, for each other’s welfare’;
• ‘both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law;
• ‘Governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well ads in the domestic one’;
• ‘we can only do all of these things by working together through a multilateral system, and by making the best possible use of the unique instrument bequeathed to us by Harry Truman and his contemporaries, namely the United Nations’.

Annan goes on to develop five principles from his lessons:

‘These five lessons can be summed up as five principles, which I believe are essential for the future conduct of international relations: collective responsibility, global solidarity, the rule of law, mutual accountability, and multilateralism’.

The speech does not really touch on the issue of UN Reform. This is an agenda to be carried out by the new Secretary-General (see the earlier web-log on Ban Ki-Moon and the post of UN Secretary-General) or directly on the record of his years in office (other than with references to activities as the creation of the Millennium Development Goals or to the collective failure in Darfur). Rather it is a call for reflection, a call to remind his audience of the moral and practical significance of the United Nations in the context of the requirements for integrated global living; a call for Americans to reflect of the duties associated with global leadership: ‘… in order to function, the system still cries out for farsighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition, I hope and pray that American leaders of today, and tomorrow will provide it’. Why is he making such an appeal? The UN needs the United States (how can it function without the backngi of the only global super-power) and Annan is clear that the United States needs the UN. This ought to be clear in the context of to-day’s foreign policy concerns but only time will tell how the relationship between the United Nations and the United States will evolve.

December 6, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Challenge

The Iraq Study Group Report, chaired by J.A. Baker III and L.S. Eagleburger has now reported. It holds that there ‘is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq’. How is it organized? What does it say? What are its chances of implementation?

The Iraq Study Group Report is presented in two parts preceded by an (understated) Executive Summary. The first part, ‘Assessment’, makes a survey of the current situation. Section A reviews the current context in a number of key areas: Security, Politics, Economics, International Support and Conclusions. Section B outlines the consequences of ‘Continued Decline’ and Section C sets out the existing choices, ‘Precipitate Withdrawal’; ‘Staying the Course’; ‘More Troops’ and ‘Devolution to Three Regions’. All existing solutions are negatively evaluated as being unlikely to meet any of the long-term goals of United States foreign policy in the region. The significant feature of this whole section is its chillingly clear description of the political problems facing Iraq. The problems are systematically set out and this forms the basis for the changed approach that the Study Group recommends. The second part, ‘The Way Forward— A New Approach’, sets out the recommendations (seventy-nine in all). The ‘Way Forward’ is dived into two sections. Section A is about ‘Building an International Consensus’. Section B is focused on ‘Helping the Iraqis to Help Themselves’. It is Part Two of the Report and its detailed agenda for change that will be given the closest scrutiny.

Key to the new proposals is the need to build a regional consensus based on the idea that whilst there are some short-term benefits that individual countries can gain by keeping the United States bogged down in Iraq, it is in no country’s long-term interest to see chaos increase and spread across regional borders. This means not only working with Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States but with Iran and Syria. A ‘New Diplomatic Offensive’ is called for that would see the formation of an ‘Iraq International Support Group’. This would coordinate regional initiatives towards Iraq in a negotiated way and hence prevent individual country support for sections of the Iraqi population. Significant outsiders such as the European Union would also be drawn in. Incentives and disincentives (some costly others not) would be required to secure the support of Iran and Syria. Israel and the Palestinians would need to be drawn into diplomatic compromises that lead to peace between them.

Key to internal change is encouraging the Iraqi Government to govern especially with respect to national reconciliation, security and all aspects of governance. The Report suggests a set of measures and a time-table that addresses all relevant areas including structural changes for Ministerial responsibility within Iraq (changes to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense). Amnesty towards members of the former regime and others is given special significance in the context of reconciliation. Political realities demand that talks be initiated with ‘those who wield power and not simply those who hold political office’. Consequences for American troop deployment are also addressed. Economic coordination is needed and the appointment of a ‘Senior Advisor for Economic Reconstruction’ is recommended as is the closer involvement of other nations in the drive to secure economic development.

What are the chances of implementation? The Report is professional and non-sensationalist in tone and entirely focused on solutions. It has a systematic and analytical approach the problems and is recommendations are based on wide-ranging consultations. It is nonetheless by implication an indictment of the Administration’s approach to just about every aspect of policy not just towards Iraq but towards the region as a whole. In stressing the need for coordinated diplomatic action on a multilateral basis, it challenges by implication the exclusiveness of much American thinking in recent years. In making an analysis of Iraq’s internal problems and developing an internal agenda for Iraq it faces up to the consequences of the lack of overall planning for the political transition in Iraq that has bedeviled American policy from the outset. In making an analysis of the regional context, it challenges fundamentally the notion of isolating Iran and Syria. In recommending involving Syria and Iran it recognizes the need for incentives (such as returning the Golan Heights) and for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problems. In stressing the need for a bipartisan approach, it reflects the political realities of the new Congress. In identifying the need for coordinated action, it throws up the existing administrative confusion. Whilst some the senior figures around the President have changed, there is still much that the President will have to swallow if the program is to be implemented. It calls for high level external diplomatic action on a multilateral basis and for the Government of Iraq to be held to milestones concerning national reconciliation, security and economic development.

The Report writers are clear that picking and choosing amongst its recommendations is a strategy that is unlikely to work— this is in itself an explicit political challenge to all parties involved as it attempts to limit choice. It is a package of measures that requires a coordinated and consensual approach, matching external diplomatic action with internal action both by the United States and by the Government of Iraq and matching Presidential action with action by Congress. The cost of implementation will be considerable (and these have not been assessed) but it is probably better to face short-term costs than a long-term erosion of American authority. The Report is not a formula for instant success nor will its existence short-circuit the political process but it will focus thought and shape discussion. What all parties, Congress included, need to keep a close eye on is the moral aim of bringing the events in Iraq to ‘a responsible conclusion’.

December 5, 2006

Say it softly, Doha may return.

In late November Pascal Lamy gave a major speech in Montevideo (Uruguay) comparing the problems and prospects of the Doha Round with those of the Uruguay Round launched twenty years ago. The Uruguay round took seven years of negotiations. What did he say? What steps have been taken to re-start the suspended talks? What are other international agents up to with respect to trade issues?

Although he made a major speech in Montevideo, Lamy had already given the go-ahead to international trade diplomats in Geneva to resume multilateral technical discussions with respect to the Doha Round. Bilateral discussions have taken place (e.g. between EC and the United States). The issue that stalled the talks was that of ‘farm subsidies’ and related tariffs. Adjustments in these areas are key to the success of the Round. What has not happened is a full-scale resumption of talks. There are hints that countries have reviewed and may be prepared to change their negotiating strategies but these are not in any sense formal or open. By restarting technical discussions, on the understanding that many countries wish to see a measure of success, the possibility of formal negotiations can be tested out. The negotiating groups have been suspended for some time though. This suspension did not shock politicians into radically changed strategies and if Doha is not to be written off, given political timing issues in the United States, a new move had to be made. Pressure too from meetings such as the APEC Summit has encouraged the low-key restart. Technical discussions held in negotiating groups keep trade officials and ambassadors talking. The Chair of the negotiating group with respect to agriculture (Ambassador Crawford Falconer from New Zealand) is reported as having been particularly active. Confidence is not yet high enough to involve Trade Ministers. Some developing countries are concerned about the overall integrity of the Doha process and package.

Lamy reminded those present at his talk in Uruguay that the Doha Round’s ambitions were to follow-up in issues initiated by the Uruguay Round and not entirely achieved. Lamy mentioned trade in industrial products and trade in services (both of which are important but will not be reported here). He pointed out that the near universal nature of the WTO makes negotiations more complex than experienced during the Uruguay Round when many countries simply did not take part.

To remove distortions in agricultural markets and to promote freer trade in agricultural commodities was, according to Lamy, a way of furthering one of the unfulfilled aims of the Uruguay Round. Uruguay opened up some of the issues and it is for the Doha Round to follow through. The elimination of export subsidies has been agreed (to be eliminated by 2013) but the problem of domestic farm subsides remains. Suspension, Lamy argued, led to ‘quiet diplomacy’ (see Round and Round the Doha Round). He did not say that it led also to increased bilateral talks about trade both by the United States (pushing further free trade agreements on a bilateral basis to make the most of the President’s TPA that lasts until July 2007) and the EC. Timing, given the changes composition of the United States Congress is significant. Many newly-elected members have expressed anti-trade sentiments (though the business community remains convinced of the benefits of globalization and employment in the trade sector is a significant percentage of total employment); the Trade Promotion Authority may not be renewed (progress with respect to the Doha Round by the late Spring could change that prospect) and the Farm Bill needs to be either revised or renewed. Lamy indicated in his speech the need to make significant progress by the northern spring of 2007.

It seems that there is something to be gained from the modest restart. However in the meantime, others have not stood still. If Doha does die, and the WTO fails to carry forward the agenda for multilateral trade liberalization, countries may turn to the formation of significant regional trading arrangements; some of them modeled on the European Union (see the web-log Review of Mark Leonard’s book). APEC has already agreed to put a Free Trade Area of the Asian Pacific on the agenda for next year’s meeting in Sydney (September 2007). Such an arragement would shut-out the United States, at least at the outset. This is not a sudden idea but one that has already been debated within the APEC Business Advisory Council. International trade and international political life does not stand still. Lamy’s shock tactics have only partially worked. He has retrieved the agenda for the WTO by re-starting in this low-key manner. Doha is too important to fail but as he said in his Uruguay speech, ‘political leadership’ is needed and this really means leadership in the United States and the European Union.