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Jun 302014
 

Transworld Paper No. 34

by Pierangelo Isernia and Linda Basile

The Transworld Elites Survey explores how American and European elites perceive transatlantic relations and the policies that should be pursued to address the main global challenges across four policy domains, namely: international security, global economy, global environment and climate change, as well as human rights and democracy promotion. The present report offers a preliminary analysis of the survey and its main findings, as well as a comparison with previous data on the same topic relating to elite and mass public opinion, where available. The report is structured as follows: the first part presents the main research goals and the theoretical framework of the project. The second part discusses the fieldwork report and an overview of the target sample, as well as the methodology adopted. The third part offers a detailed analysis of the variables included in the dataset, as well as an executive summary of the main findings.

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Jun 112014
 

Transworld Paper No. 30

by Kristina Puzarina, Jana Pötzschke and Hans Rattinger

This paper provides a comparative analysis of mass and elite orientations towards human rights and democracy promotion in the United States, the European Union, and Turkey. In particular, it focuses on importance, general attitudes, relevant actors as well as policies and instruments within this political area. Survey data from 2000 to 2012 show that people on both sides of the Atlantic share similar views on what constitutes a good democracy. They equally highlight the value of its electoral institutions, social welfare and prospering economy, while uniformly denouncing the importance of civic military control and religious interpretation of the legislature. Contrarily, the role of the main stakeholder seems to be a somewhat conflicting arena for the transatlantic community. In the US, more people trust national governments rather than the UN to decide on human rights. At the same time Europeans see both the EU and the UN as playing an important role in assisting other nations. When it comes to democracy promotion, both Europeans and Americans highly approve election monitoring, initiatives for civil society development and, to certain degree, economic and political sanctions. Whereas military involvement stands out as the least supported initiative for these publics.

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Jun 182013
 

Transworld Op-Ed

by Nathalie Tocci
Deputy Director, IAI
June 14, 2013

Taken at face value, democracy and human rights ought to represent the lynchpin of transatlantic resilience. Europe and North America have always been bound by a complex set of economic and security interests. But while the convergence of material interests has physiologically ebbed and flowed in response to developments within and beyond the proverbial West, ideational convergence has always been the solid turf upon which the transatlantic home has stood. The transatlantic partnership has always hinged on the notion of an identity-based community premised on a mutual commitment to liberal democracy, individual human rights and free market capitalism. This powerful constellation of norms and identities, alongside mutual material interests, a deeply intertwined history and societal interconnections has underpinned the longevity of the transatlantic community.

In view of this, democracy and human rights promotion ought to have been the prime area of foreign policy convergence across the Atlantic. While security, economic, environmental, energy or migration policies are driven by changing configurations of interests which often, but not always, converge across the Atlantic, in the democracy and human rights domain strong ideational convergence would suggest that Europe and the United States would be naturally inclined to work together beyond their respective borders.

There was a time in which this was the case. Most starkly in the 1990s, the European Union and the United States rubbed shoulders when promoting Western norms of liberal democracy and supply-side economics through EU and NATO enlargements in the Balkans and Eastern Europe and the imposition of the Washington consensus on developing and transition economies. Democracy and human rights was the area in which a shared normative vision and respective comparative advantages in the means to pursue it fed the discourse on Western global hegemony edging towards an imminent ‘end of history’.

With the turn of the century, that normative convergence seemed to crack. The US and Europe remained committed to democracy and human rights. Both converged on a revision of the divisive norm of humanitarian intervention into the more nuanced global debate on the responsibility to protect. But their interpretations of democracy and human rights, and, above all, their understanding as to whether and how they should be promoted appeared to be dramatically and irreconcilably different. Europeans deplored what they viewed as American readiness to “bomb countries into democracies”, while Americans scoffed at European lameness in tackling head-on human rights abusers beyond its pacified borders. As the mantra went in those years: Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus.

With the second George W. Bush administration, the two consecutive Barack Obama administrations and with decisively more mercurial European governments in Paris and London, the lost transatlantic convergence on the democracy and human rights domain was re-found. The Arab uprisings and the anti-authoritarian drive that has marked them offered the perfect storm to put transatlantic ideational convergence to the test.

Two years into those uprisings and we are still waiting. America and Europe have seen eye-to-eye on the Middle East. Through greater European activism – notably French and British – and America’s “leadership from behind” the transatlantic partners have worked together militarily in Libya and Mali and are seeking – unsuccessfully to date – a political solution to the civil war in Syria. But when it comes to the hard core of democracy and human rights promotion policies, the United States and Europe have pursued autistically separate paths.

In truth, one has to admit that European and American democracy promotion policies, strictly speaking, have never enjoyed close coordination. The bureaucratic logics of these policies are such that specific programmes and projects are normally pursued on a bilateral basis with the recipient country in question. Whereas the EU and the US have always been the most committed norm-exporters, neither have their goals and instruments always dovetailed – with the EU adopting a more top-down and institutional approach whilst the US a more bottom-up and political approach – nor have the two coordinated their policies in a host of areas, from the Balkans and the Caucasus to North Africa and the Middle East.

Yet when faced with such a potent alignment of the stars – shared transatlantic interests, goals and policy means coupled with a formidable transformative wave to confront together in the Middle East – one can legitimately ask “if not now, then never?”

Indeed, the transatlantic community, still firmly embedded in a shared commitment to liberal democracy and human rights, seems destined to travel along separate and often non-communicating planes when it comes to the promotion of these values in the wider world. Uncoordinated American and European policies are unlikely to work at loggerheads with one another, less still to generate transatlantic divergence and disagreement. But in view of the momentous change underway in the Middle East and elsewhere, they are likely to punch well below what their transatlantic weight would warrant.

 

May 162013
 

Transworld Op-Ed

by Ranabir Samaddar
Director, Calcutta Research Group
May 14, 2013

The anxiety about sustainability first came to the fore after the Second World War, when the euphoria of the victory of liberalism over fascism was mixed with the concern that the world would not be able to withstand another such event of mass slaughter and hitherto unimaginable destruction of resources. The concern was acute because two of the most devastating incidents in the war had been caused by the liberal powers themselves: the Anglo-American bombing of Dresden and the dropping of the atom bomb by the US over two cities of Japan. Then the anxiety increased as for the next three decades the Cold War and nuclear rivalry saw an immense arms build-up with weapons capable of destroying the Earth several times over.

Along with this, there was also concern about what came to be known as “gigantism” – the reckless adulation of grand size (big cars, big avenues, big houses, big institutions, big dams, big projects, big technologies) – and the consequent massive deployment of resources towards achieving and maintaining size. Sustainability thus became associated with the search for small constellations. As the saying goes, small is beautiful. In this context, discussions about sustainability began revolving around issues like environmental protection and food security. The rhetoric was built on the language of rights. The current stalemate in reaching a consensus on the extent to which environmental issues can be addressed in terms of individual rights suggests that the language of rights cannot take us far and that we must supplement – or at least reinforce – the rights question with the language of justice.

In the debate on sustainability, the economy is the area where the hide-and-seek game between the pursuit of interests and the invocation of the social goes on most starkly. Our Nineteenth Century history of industrialisation speaks only of the conquest of nature, industrial revolution and growth, but not of massive food crises in most of the world beginning with the Irish Famine and the death of millions in countries such as Brazil, Egypt, India, Burma, Thailand and China. This was the age of the discovery of the market, whose “hidden hand” balanced and settled everything. Thus the market, along with a Malthusian logic, which was at the core of the governmental ethos of that time, led the industrialising economies to think of how to sustain industrialisation. This was at the cost of the destruction of other economies, as revealed by the history of the El Nino famines and the connected issues of climate change, droughts, famines, and deaths. This history is an indirect admission of the fact that environmental sustainability is more a question of justice than an issue of science, a matter of ethical choice rather than one of taking the scientific path.

The ethical choice must qualify any inherent claim to be scientific, whether by drug manufacturing companies, pesticide producing firms, or junk food sellers. We are witnesses to a seemingly endless empire of commodification that impacts on our life’s capacity to continue. In this context, the environment, which is an endowment – or the highest form of commons, such as air, water, language, culture, and so on – is turned into a resource. Hence, the debate on the resource crunch, the resource crisis, and resource wars.

What is the way out of this closed condition? We have to first note that while economics is still groping in terms of its own disciplinary framework to cope with the challenge of sustainability, law has started laying some of the groundwork to make sustainability cut across disciplinary and professional boundaries. In several countries, such as India, there have been public discourses and movements on issues relating to natural resource exploitation, inequitable growth, regional imbalances, demographic pressures, community knowledge, and the harness of technology, which are leading to legal decisions through court judgements, and in some cases enactments such as India’s Biodiversity Act of 2002. Pollution has been among the biggest issues in recent times, and the resistance of indigenous communities to the destruction of forests and grasslands has led to decisions regarding resource regulation. Legal centralisation cannot pave the way to sustainability, while legal pluralism and diversification can respond better to the aim of preserving the commons. But while law is admittedly a major instrument in the quest for sustainability, we still lack a rich jurisprudence with implementing teeth. The power of the commercial interests is enormous.

Given the fact then that appropriate law is still in the making, and economics as discipline is least attuned to the dynamics of sustainability, as a primary step we can at least plead for the acceptance of four principles relating to environmental justice:

(a) First, we must critically investigate the historical conditions of sustainability, which point to the possibilities and limits of our governance policies regarding environmental sustainability.

(b) We must study responsibility in terms of ethics – that is to say, responsibility for the future, not in the sense of dictating what the future will be, but of happily co-existing with the future and its possibilities.

(c) This brings in the issue of dialogue, because responsibility means commitment to the existence of the other: other ways of life, other generations, other species, other resources, others’ claim to life as well.

(d) Finally, the radical reorientation we are speaking of is possible only when we put the issue of sustainability in the framework of justice, which would mean reconciling claims, recognising past abuses, determining standards of fairness, and guaranteeing against the recurrence of injustices.