Sunday, December 7, 2008

The U.N. Needs Power

One of the major reasons that slavery is able to thrive in the world today is because the governments and police forces of these countries either turn a blind eye, or participate in it to some extent. Recall if you will the police mentioned in Disposable People who acted as slave catchers. In other countries this new form of slavery is an integral part of the economy, or at least integral to the rich business men who the government want to keep happy.
In countries such as Brazil, the slaves are moved off into camps far away where escaping is difficult, and where family or support is nonexistent. Without the strong support of a police force to ensure human rights and keep greedy business in check, anything that can payoff the authorities can operate unmolested. If someone manages to get free but is hunted down by the police, or isn’t given any support and help by the government they will just fall back into the slavery they escaped.
Well why doesn’t the U.S. step in? Send in the army and free them? Well to begin with do we really have the right to invade another sovereign country to enforce anything we want? Do we have the authority? I don’t believe we do. As a sovereign country equal with all other sovereign countries we do not have the authority to make that choice.
At the moment, the only effective way to change things, to remove slavery, and see that basic human rights are observed, is through watchdog organizations. We have to raise awareness and support these watchdog organizations for them to then put pressure one the governments of the counties to make changes. This actually works fairly well, but is slow and ineffective compared to other solutions, was well as not being necessary.
The United Nations is supposed to regulate and enforce international policy and law. The only problem is that they lack any sort of capacity to enforce these laws and policies. The only things they are able to enforce are the things that countries like the U.S. want enforced and then use their military to do so. The U.N. is the answer we are looking for. It has the potential to keep things like modern slavery in check. It is designed to deal with sovereign powers in a way sovereign powers cannot. The U.N. needs a military force. Each country should be required to send a certain amount of troops and equipment to serve in the U.N. military for a certain amount of time.


Courtney Martin said...

I found this post very interesting and also controversial. I definitely agree with you that the U.S. does not have the right to enter into other countries and demolish the things that we see as immoral. If we were to do this, we could be setting an example that would be detrimental for our own country and many others. The doors would be opened for any country to take action against traditions, values, morals etc. that vary from their own. This would not be the way to solve a dispute between cultures. I feel that the U.N. could have the power to help the situation and adjust perspectives to create more understanding. I do not think that a U.N. army would justify the same destruction that could occur to a smaller country. Setting aside the aspects of war (our men, money, equipment etc.) to create a greater power amongst the nations could be counter productive. I feel that although some things such as slavery in different countries may be fixed, it would deteriorate the diversities that make the world so great.

leecbryant said...

I agree with Courtney. The US is not responsible for being the savior of the world. We talked about slavery within the US, which Ai brings up in her post "Legalizing immigration?" How can we solve a problem abroad that we struggle with internally? It seems like we ought to fix our problems and stabilize our country so we are more able to help when it's appropriate. But I too feel that a UN army is not quite the best way to solve the slavery issue. I really don't think war is going to accomplish anything other than more death and destruction. I think the only way to eliminate slavery is to work from within the countries with the problem. Until the governments in places like Brazil and Mauritania are willing to admit slavery is alive and well and a real issue the problem will never go away. No matter how much military force the UN has.

ThomasJ said...

The United Nations would be a good place to start if the world decided to take slavery more seriously. The UN would be able to handle organizing the fight against slavery and its judgment on the matter would be considered fair. Requiring countries who are members of the UN to supply a fixed number of troops based on the size of their military could also help their ability to intervene. However, unless the Charter of the United Nations is mended with the addition of the troops, the Security Council would ultimately decide whether of not the UN should intervene. This structure leaves the decision up to a select group within the UN and it is unclear how the group would react to the proposition of invading member nations to end slavery. France, in particular (Kevin Bales gave information accusing the country of having a slave problem), would have an interesting and possibly negative reaction to this proposal. It would best for the UN to consider the validity of a state’s “sovereignty.” States proven to have slavery should not be considered sovereign states. If slavery controls the government, the government does not have supreme power of the state. If member states of the UN consider an idea like this one and perhaps gain the ability to eliminate the status of a sovereign state, then they will also gain the justification to intervene.

Anonymous said...

After reading this blog, I was really triggered by the questions of what the U.N has really done to contribute to the abolition of slavery and if they have done anything at all, what made it so ineffective. To my surprise, I found so many interesting facts.
I discovered that December 2nd of every year is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The United Nations established the day in 1949 to recognize ongoing efforts to abolish all forms of slavery throughout the world. Ironically, the reality is that more people living as slaves today than at any time in history with most of the estimated 27 million victims are women and children.
It has been pointed out that enforcement of existing anti-slavery laws is in fact erratic and uneven, even in advanced Western nations. In some areas, police and law enforcement officials are actively involved in the slave trade; even when polices are honest, they may not have sufficient training or experience to recognize instances of modern-day slavery.
Finally, the true reason I think makes it tremendously challenging for any “watchdog organizations” and even the U.N to keep slavery in check is that slavery in the modern-world is to a large extent hidden from view. The enslaved in the 21st Century are made up of people of diverse backgrounds, ethnic identities and income levels. As a result, slavery can exist unnoticed even in advanced post-industrial societies like the United States, Britain and Japan. Of the estimated 27 million people caught up in some form of slavery, the vast majority are actually workers who work as “bonded laborers.” As an example, this system, although illegal, is widely practiced in India. According to a report by Human Rights Watch published in 1999, most bonded workers spend their lives working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago. These people work under slave-like conditions hauling rocks, or working in fields or factories for less than a dollar a day.
It may not, for me, be the case that the U.N needs power because they already had it. It would be more correct to say the U.N has not been able to exercise their power on the right targets or they know the target exist but do not know where to find them, adding in the fact that slavery has been so imbedded in many cultures that the enslaved do not even recognize that they are slaves. Just think of it this way, you are a police with your authority and weapons, go out there to find and save the victims; however, you do not hear any cry or scream and do not know where to find them because your real victims do not even realize that they are victims and totally in bad shape. In our modern world, attempting to abolish slavery is truly a thorny mission, not only do you have to identify your victims and gather enough power to save them but also shout out loud enough so your victims can hear and cry for help.

Ryan Carroll said...

Haha Dan, you probably could have just made that into one of your posts.

I really enjoy your posts Paul, because I think we share the same distaste for the injustices of sovereignty. I read the title, and I just thought, "Paul." We may not have the right to go free the slaves, but we definitely have the ability. The "they are way over there" feeling that sovereignty creates is very disturbing to me. We don't want to interfere with a country's imaginary concept of sovereignty so we just let millions of people die from genocide in Rwanda and the Congo. I have to say that nothing infuriated me more than the UN's lack of force in the movie Hotel Rwanda. They were soldiers, given guns, but not allowed to fire even when attacked. How can the UN truly do anything if this is their actual power and the world knows it?

Anonymous said...

The U.N. is a funny thing because many countries go out of their way to accommodate the U.N. and then other countries choose to just ignore it. The U.N. doesn't seem to wield a great amount of power, yet powerful western countries who may be able to resist it accept it, while it is the third-world countries who decide that since the U.N. has no real power over them, they will just ignore them and do as they please. I guess in some ways that makes ourselves and other nations that follow the U.N. more ethical, as we can find the merits in following an entity that has no power or ability for violence over us. The countries that do not accommodate the U.N. are the same societies who seem to believe might makes right and see no ill in exercising their power and using violence to enslave people. To interact with such an entity, the U.N. must play by their rules it seems. Maybe the U.N. has to step in and flex its own muscles against the oppressors. I'm a huge believer in freedom and allowing other countries, entities and individuals to operate as they desire, however, there gets a point were someone has to step in and set things right that can be in no way justified, like slavery.

Scarlett D'Anna said...

Paul, this post is pulling me in two very opposite directions. First, my abhorrence of human rights violations inclines me to agree with you. If giving the U.N. more power can stop modern slavery or the genocide in Darfur, by all means, give the United Nations their own army and call any slave-owning country fair game. And as Ryan pointed out, it is ridiculous that the U.N. can do so little to stop these sorts of atrocities because of “sovereignty” – a concept our class couldn’t even agree was real, much less effective. And yet… the idea of sovereignty is powerful, and it is a necessary gear in the motor of the modern world. Without this idea, whether real or unreal, the U.N. (or any nation) could potentially invade countries under the pretense of “saving” people, while in reality serving ulterior motives (sound familiar?). Arming the U.N. could worsen this problem just as easily as it could fix it.