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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Wed, 06/19/2019 - 13:07
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Newly available in electronic format

I started writing a memoire in 1998, but on a long train journey in Germany (Stuttgart to Essen), accompanied by my wonderful wife Mimi, a thought came that it might be much more interesting to write about how the Indian diplomatic system works – or does not really work. That became my first book, Inside Diplomacy (1999). Diplomacy at the Cutting Edge, first published in 2015, is that delayed memoire.

The 14-chapter story begins with my career-end experience, a final assignment as ambassador to Germany (1992-95), a kind of summing up of all that I had learnt in a 35-year Foreign Service career. From the second chapter onwards it follows a chronological sequence, joining the IFS, first assignment in Hong Kong (1961-63) to learn Chinese, the first real job as a second secretary in the Indian Embassy (1963-65) at Beijing, and so on. Chapter 8 narrates my 13-month experience on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s staff (1981-82). The penultimate chapter narrates a personal story of reform in the Ministry of Exernal Affairs. The final chapter, ‘My Learning’ synthesises the experience of 20 years of teaching, through eight conclusions that are narrated through the experience of Indian and other diplomats. I hope you enjoy the book.

 

Book Details
Paperback, 399 pages ISBN 978-81-7049-511-6
Year, Publisher
2016, Manas Publications
Author
Kishan S. Rana
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Newly available in electronic format I started writing a memoire in 1998, but on a long train journey in Germany (Stuttgart to Essen), accompanied by my wonderful wife Mimi, a thought came that it might be much more interesting to write about how ...
Author: Kishan S. Rana

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Profile picture for user Mina Mudric
Submitted by Mina Mudric on Tue, 03/27/2012 - 20:40
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‘There is so much work still to be done. There are so many unraveling threads. There is so much still to create. There is much need to better use the Internet for development.’ - Sheba Mohammid from Trinidad and Tobago

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Year
2011-01-01T00:00:00
Author
Sheba Mohammid
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‘There is so much work still to be done. There are so many unraveling threads. There is so much still to create. There is much need to better use the Internet for development.’ - Sheba Mohammid from Trinidad and Tobago

Source: 
Emerging Leaders in Internet governance
 Sheba Mohammid, 2011
 
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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Fri, 01/27/2012 - 11:11
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In this paper, Drazen Pehar analyses the argumentation made by George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley in his seminal paper  on ‘Metaphor and War’, in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. He also analyses a reading by psycho-historian Lloyd deMause, whose theory differs from Lakoff’s. Throughout his analysis, Pehar describes the role of rhetoric in diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts, and its several functions, and concludes that the methods of preventive diplomacy depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible.

Long Text

Analysis of the rhetoric that leaders use to explain, justify, and pre-program their foreign policies seems to offer a sound basis for diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts. There are two reasons for believing that this is the case. First, rhetoric, together with historical memories, cultural practices etc., belongs to the set of spiritual and psychological causes of war. Rhetoric usually precedes armed conflicts and hints at the important issues over which the upcoming war will eventually be fought. Thus, through leaders’ rhetoric, one can witness a not yet fully materialized "war of minds". This may then, ideally speaking, prompt one to try to remove the spiritual incentive to fight a war; to cool down the "war of minds" before it turns into a "war of arms". Second, the rhetoric that leaders use is, as a matter of principle, extremely rich in imaginative projections, in fanciful descriptions of the international affairs of leaders’ concern. The rhetoric is therefore always half a dream, and half a reality, which, from the perspective of critical and rational argumentation, makes it fragile and relatively easy to debate. More than one plausible rhetorical device has the potential of explaining away complexities of the international system, and the "king’s" one may not be the best one. Leaders’ rhetoric thus being principally fragile, debatable, and open to alternative readings, one again has a chance to prevent wars from erupting simply by showing the fragility of a leader’s narrative and of the metaphors he or she chooses.

Such a tool for conflict prevention was tried during the public debate in the U.S. before the U.S.-led operation "Desert Storm" against Iraq was launched. A leading linguist and cognitive scientist, George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley, wrote a seminal paper "Metaphor and War", in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. Lakoff hoped to incite a public debate which would forestall the U.S. preparations to launch a war against Saddam, and he hoped his grassroots, Internet mediated diplomacy might save "tens of thousands of innocent lives".

Lakoff’s idea was simply to show how the system of rhetorical schemes, the metaphorical system Bush applied in advance of the Gulf war, kept important aspects of international realities hidden, and did so in a very harmful way. Lakoff focused on several metaphors, but it will suffice to present the two most important ones: the metaphor of "Saddam as Hitler", and the metaphor of "Kuwait as innocent victim of a villain’s aggression and rape". Bush, in comparing Saddam with Adolf Hitler, was, according to Lakoff, wrong on several counts. The predicament of the U.S. in 1991, after Iraq’s excursion into Kuwait, did not resemble the predicament of the western powers at the Munich conference with Hitler. Iraq, for instance, was not comparable to Germany in the late 1940s. Besides that, there was no reason for anybody to believe in 1991 that Saddam was an irrational villain, like Hitler was, ready to take the riskiest action and to declare war against the entire world of liberal democracies. Lakoff thus rightly states that "the Hitler analogy also assumes that Saddam is a villainous madman. The analogy presupposes a Hitler myth, in which Hitler too was an irrational demon, rather than a rational self-serving brutal politician. In the myth, Munich was a mistake and Hitler could have been stopped early on had England entered the war then. Military historians disagree as to whether the myth is true. Be that as it may, the analogy does not hold. Whether or not Saddam is Hitler, Iraq isn’t Germany. It has 17 million people, not 70 million. It is economically weak, not strong. It simply is not a threat to the world. Saddam is certainly immoral, ruthless, and brutal, but there is no evidence that he is anything but rational."

According to Lakoff, it was also incorrect for Bush to draw a comparison between "Kuwait" and an "innocent victim of a rape". Kuwait was an oppressive monarchy, resented by most Arab countries because of its discriminatory policy against the cheap labour it imported. Kuwait further committed a serious injustice against Iraq after the war between Iraq and Iran, by having refused to assist the war-exhausted economy of Iraq, which fought the war against Iran partly for the benefit of Kuwait itself. And finally, Kuwait launched a de facto economic war against Iraq by, as Lakoff points out, "overproducing its oil-quota to hold oil prices down" and thus lowering Iraq’s chance to fight its post-war poverty.

Lakoff concluded his analysis with two important messages. First, the rhetoric Bush used to prepare the U.S. for a major war was fundamentally wrong since it presented America as a purely selfless hero, while America was a self-interested state eager, perhaps too eager, to protect the oil-pipelines on which its economy to some extent depends. According to Lakoff, the U.S. should not fight a war lacking clear rationale and an unambiguous enemy, following the rhetoric of a misleading leader. Second, he called upon the Internet browser community to spread his message for what seemed to be a very humanitarian purpose: to renounce the possibility of war and to try alternative means to find an overall solution benefiting Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S. along with other western democracies. Lakoff’s "Metaphor and War" was thus a critical analysis of a leader’s rhetoric combined with an attempt to serve as an unofficial diplomat trying to prevent a conflict by putting into use the most democratic medium of today’s communication to familiarize the public with his sophisticated expertise. Unfortunately, it did not work and America is still at war with "the dictator". I will not try to explain why an attempt to prevent a conflict through a sophisticated analysis of a leader’s rhetoric failed: it may have failed for an infinite number of reasons. But I believe that Lakoff’s attempt is worth probing more extensively, since it may tell us something important about many things we, as diplomats, humanitarian officers, members of an international team for crisis management, or public and elite opinion analysts, are deeply ignorant about.

PREVENTION THROUGH RATIONAL ARGUMENTATION

The first thing we can recognize in Lakoff’s piece is his affiliation with the tradition of the Enlightenment. He at least implicitly believes that one is in a position to reach the population in a purely rational state of mind, and that the bad things happening in politics are due to the inclination of leaders to mislead and misinform people. In "Metaphor and War" Lakoff quite explicitly said that the Gulf War would serve the interests of only one particular establishment, the military-industrial one, and that Bush was simply trying to sell the interests of that particular establishment to the American people under the guise of "vital national interest". Bush thus offered a theory modelling the relations between a number of countries and made the rest of the country over which he presided re-shape its political preferences, i.e. desires, in accordance with the model. Had Bush not used the means of the above rhetoric to provide the U.S. action against Iraq with a deeper, or superior, meaning, American people would not have started considering Saddam their mortal enemy. In other words, Lakoff holds that the stream of causes leading from rhetoric through human mind to eruption of full-scale war, is approximately as in the chart below:

/RHETORIC/ leads to /EXPLANATORY MODELS/ leads to /BELIEFS ABOUT THE OUTSIDE WORLD/ leads to /DESIRE TO CHANGE THE WORLD/ leads to /BELIEFS ABOUT THE ACTIONS LIKELY TO CHANGE THE WORLD/ leads to /DECISION TO WAGE A WAR UPON LEGITIMAZION OF THE DECISION/.

Notice here that Lakoff believes that the primary role of rhetoric is to provide knowledge about foreign affairs and to explain the mechanisms responsible for certain events. Notice further that Lakoff believes that the cognitive part of our brains has priority over the volitional, or emotional part of our brains, and that our beliefs give shape to our preferences and not vice-versa. Lakoff’s theory stipulates that the offer of alternative, metaphor-cleansing pieces of real knowledge should tear the war-causing desires apart and wake one up from the bizarre dreams in which "Saddam is Hitler", while "Kuwait is a small, unprotected and innocent country raped by the devil". Finally, notice that, along the lines Lakoff proposes, preventive diplomacy, based on deconstruction of leaders’ rhetoric, should not lead to controversy at all but that once one presents both inductively and deductively valid arguments against the leaders’ rhetoric, the temptation to wage a war should simply disappear. It is certainly under the conditions of a democratic environment and in the spirit of equality and tolerance that such an open presentation of arguments is likely to take place and deliver positive results. But do our minds really behave in the way Lakoff believes? Do we really focus primarily on the cognitive, information-processing aspect of metaphors? Do our minds really first form an image of their environment, upon which they then shape, construct, or reconstruct their preferences, their volitional parts? If we compare our minds with a colourful cuisine, does the descriptive dimension of our rhetoric really play the role of chief cook?

I am raising these questions because rhetoric performs several functions. It first, but not foremost, serves to create an image of whatever it refers to. If I compare Saddam with Hitler then my image of Saddam differs from the image I would have, had I compared Saddam with Martin Luther King. But rhetoric also serves to raise emotions. If I compare today’s Bosnia with the triangle between China, U.S., and U.S.S.R from the early 1970s, my emotions concerning Bosnia would differ from the emotions I would have had I compared Bosnia with a patient dying in a coma. And, last but not least, rhetoric serves an outstandingly important function of defining and redefining one’s identity. I say very different things about the identity of the people of a nation when I say that they always behave like an elephant in china shop, on the one hand, and when I say that they are only a "shooting star", on the other. The paradigms that nations adopt to forge or promote their own identity are always expressed through a number of historical analogies, and thus inevitably contain a rhetorical ingredient.

Rhetoric performs several functions, and this implies that several parts of the mind feel a need for rhetoric, and are equally operative in its creation. This further means that the origins of the rhetoric that leaders use to explain and prepare their foreign policies are multiple, and that what seemed to be a sound theory explaining the chain of causation of armed conflict, the theory George Lakoff proposed, may now encounter some complications. Lakoff also proposed a method of conflict prevention one could call "prevention through argumentation". It almost needs no mentioning that the method itself could now run into troubles. Why?

Imagine an individual with a strong in-built self-image or identity, who is getting involved in a situation he or she understands only partially. The basic question the individual will usually raise is not "What else do I need to learn to fully understand this situation?" but rather, "What can I do to reconfirm my identity under conditions not fully transparent to me?" The individual will probably try to adapt understanding of the conditions to his or her self-image, and not other way around, because, speaking psychologically, it is more dangerous to question one’s identity than to question one’s understanding of conditions which are not fully compatible with all relevant evidence. When one is forced to choose between leaving the self-image intact while the understanding of the environment remains incomplete, on the one hand, and deepening the understanding to fit relevant evidence, which would cast doubt on one’s sense of identity, on the other, the individual is likely to choose the former. Otherwise he or she would have to suffer for a while, and to develop a new definition of his or her identity, which is a challenge few people are ready to accept.

Applied to Lakoff’s critique of the rhetoric Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf, the above psychological pattern would imply the following explanation. America has a strong sense of identity, and like other states, it chose a particular historical moment of its extreme assertiveness to serve as its role-model, as the core of its self-image. That moment, that role-model meeting the need for identity, is the America which won the Second World War. Now, whenever a crisis occurs in international affairs, American leaders start with the assumption that the crisis is similar to the crisis preceding World War Two, because America’s self-image leads them to choose the narrative and the rhetoric most suitable to the country’s inner sense of identity. They therefore project the imagery of the past Word War Two experience into new crises and new challenges almost automatically, and cannot really change this process. The sense of identity cannot be challenged easily, and if America sees itself as a "selfless hero leading a coalition of the free world against dictators and rapists of this world", it will read empirical evidence accordingly, and, if necessary, neglect data not fitting the imagery of the Second World War. With regard to Lakoff’s critique of the rhetoric President Bush used, a proponent of the theory of identity would say that it does not really matter whether Saddam is both an irrational and ruthless dictator, or just a ruthless dictator. America reacts to either ruthless or irrational leaders with the determination of the great World War Two victor, and will do anything to punish the leader who severely violates the principles of international law, as it did with Hitler. The rhetoric that Bush used to justify the Gulf War was thus not rhetoric he simply picked from a menu. He was actually not in a position to deliberate and choose the means for persuading the American people. He was just somewhat semi-consciously aware of the key layer of the American self-image, which implied that Saddam must be Hitler while Kuwait must be a victim of a brutal war machine. Bush’s pre-Gulf War rhetoric came not from the cognitive, information processing part of his brain. It came from a deeper layer, from an inner sense of identity, from a drive to take an action for the sake of the actor’s identity, from the need to confirm the self-image, the self-definition.

For that reason, Lakoff’s interpretation of the chain of causation connecting leaders’ rhetoric with eruption of war may be too simplified, too neat. A host of inner, mental processes compete for the role of the key cause of lethal aggression, and consequently, a number of alternative interpretations of the etiology of the Gulf War and the rhetoric that led to it have been offered. The famous psycho-historian, Lloyd deMause, proposed a reading of the Gulf War which is similar to the above theory of identity, which, as we see, significantly differs from Lakoff’s theory.

PREVENTION THROUGH RE-CHANELLING

DeMause believes that the decision to launch a war against Saddam was not motivated by considerations of political utility. According to him, it was launched to help America act out some of its 1990 and 1991 frustrations. In deMause’s opinion, prior to the war with Iraq America had an intense need for inner, mental order, which one may compare with the sense of identity as described above. As anyone who needs to experience catharsis to recover a sense of inner identity also needs a symbolic stage on which to pull the basic role together, America needed such a symbolic stage too. DeMause argues, for reasons I will discuss below, that the stage America set to pull itself together was a stage with three characters: Terrifying Parent, Hurt Child, and Good Parent. Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait offered America the first two characters, while Bush, in making the decision to wage war against Saddam, assigned to America the role of the third character. Thus, the war was inevitable. Good Parent had to punish Terrifying Parent to save Hurt Child. The rhetoric that was used to explain the policy towards Iraq was, according to deMause, a symptom rather than a cause of the Gulf War. It was, in actual fact, an expression of the fantasies that America had to cultivate for a while to restore its inner core. With that we come to deMause’s explanation of the etiology of armed conflicts and the role that rhetoric plays in that etiology.

DeMause presented his theory of armed conflicts and the rhetoric that leaders use to prepare a nation for war in his paper "Historical Group-Fantasies". He first notes that a high percentage of the figures, metaphors, similes, and symbols that leaders use in advance of a war group around the image of a "body trying to set itself free", as well as around the image of a "mother-child relationship". In other words, he notices that the official discourse servicing war propaganda frequently refers to the "need to protect mother", the "need for mother to protect her children", a "state of pregnancy", a "birth-giving". One needs here to recall idiomatic expressions such as "the nation fought for survival", "the nation fought out its right to live", or the "birth of nation". Based on this observation, as well as on a number of additional ones, deMause draws the conclusion that before war actually breaks out a group-fantasy catches the minds of the people, who then simply have to experience the group-shock of war to live through the fantasy. DeMause believes that the group-fantasy is the fantasy of rebirth and that people put their lives at risk in times of war for one single purpose: to re-experience or re-enact the trauma of birth. This explains why the rhetoric is rich in the aforementioned imagery. He thus, in an elegant way, answers the question as to why people decide to wage war despite the fact that war brings more losses than gains. He says that people simply see in war something that war is not, and that one can understand this very easily by looking deeper into the rhetoric that precedes armed conflicts. The Gulf War was about a Hurt Child who needed protection from a Terrifying Parent, as we saw. It was not about soldiers, oil, and sovereignty. But notice here to what an extent deMause’s theory differs from Lakoff’s theory.

DeMause believes that war, or serious inter-group enmity, is a must-be. He further believes that the key cause of war is a group-fantasy, the fantasy of rebirth, something many people of similar background share. The trauma of birth is not restricted to a particular establishment. It concerns almost everyone, and it shapes almost everyone’s identity. The trauma recurs time and again. Both incidence and abundance of wars, together with their eye-catching irrationality, prove that the cognitive part of our brains does not partake in their making. The rhetoric explaining, preparing, and inciting wars is not a conceptual tool for understanding international relations. The rhetoric is literal truth. It is a creation, not a description of the world. This means that for those who in 1933 said that their mother "Germany" needed to expand to embrace all her children, and to ultimately give birth to one gigantic nation, the land referred to had the meaning of a real mother experiencing real birth pangs. The rhetoric comes from our deepest memories, the memories of birth, and it does not follow the rhythm of our rational thoughts. Finally, its charm is overwhelming and irresistible. Since I presented a chart illustrating Lakoff’s theory, I will do the same for deMause’s theory.

/BIRTH/ leads to /TRAUMA OF BIRTH/ + /INCIDENT, DISAGREEMENT, AND THE LIKE, BETWEEN GROUPS/ leads to /RHETORIC OF STRANGULATION—A NEED TO RELEASE THE CHILD—PROJECTION OF THE BIRTH IMAGERY/ leads to /FANTASY OF REBIRTH/ leads to /CHILD’S LIFE AT RISK/ leads to /WAR/.

It may sound strange, but deMause does not believe that wars are quite inevitable. I deliberately exaggerated when I said that, according to deMause, war is a "must-be". DeMause himself holds that conflicts may be prevented. But his vision of preventive diplomacy differs from our official concept of prevention like heaven differs from hell, and, as one can easily predict, conflict prevention, in deMause’s view, is not something that foreign ministries or diplomats should be doing. DeMause believes that there are actually three ways to prevent conflicts. The three represent what I like to call "prevention through re-channelling", which, of course, significantly differs from Lakoff’s "prevention through rational argumentation", which certainly is something that foreign ministries and official diplomats are able, and more than welcome, to do. "Prevention through re-channelling" basically takes three forms: first, a leader may understand that his people have started to approach a very dangerous state of mind, the state of obsessive need to re-experience the trauma of birth. He may then offer his own sacrifice. He may enact the drama of birth himself, using himself as a scapegoat for the "hungry" masses. He may offer himself as a screen onto which his people will then project their inner drama of rebirth. DeMause holds that this is exactly what Nixon did through the Watergate affair. Second, a leader may simply simulate an action which will meet the need of the people to re-enact the trauma of birth. The leader should, according to deMause, use the opportunity of increased international tension to allow the people to let off steam by pretending he is ready to launch a war but really launching a very limited quasi-aggressive action. The leader thus plays the role of a movie director, who, by taking only a half-complete, risky but not harmful or lethal action, satisfies the public’s need to see and feel "blood and suffering". DeMause claims that Dwight Eisenhower was a mastermind of this type of "prevention through re-channelling". For instance, the actions Eisenhower took in late 1954 during the period of increased friction in relations between America and China was an example of the second means of conflict prevention. The third, and final, way deMause suggests to try decreasing the number of conflicts taking place in this world is through appropriate child-rearing. If one brings up a child in a safe environment, and is sensitive to the child’s need to re-experience the trauma of birth, then the likelihood that people raised thus will need to act out the trauma through political means or lethal conflicts will decline. I like to call the third type of conflict prevention "prevention through the most timely re-channelling".

Notice here to what extent deMause’s conflict prevention measures differ from all the wise things one learns in schools of diplomacy, international relations and law. Just imagine the consternation a junior diplomat would cause by proposing to his minister to propose to a head of state to initiate a mini-Watergate to calm the innate need of his people to re-experience the trauma of birth, which would definitely save "tens of thousands of lives", etc. Or imagine a diplomat deciding to resign from the ministry in order to rear a child in ways more sensitive to the child’s experience of birth in order to aid in the prevention of future conflicts. Sounds silly, but if one believes that re-channelling is a better way to cope with the lethal and aggressive parts of our nature, then the ways of classical, formal diplomacy are definitely far less promising than those deMause proposes.

DeMause is not the only theoretician who believes that rhetoric originates from deep and irrational layers. David Campbell, for instance, holds that the rhetoric of danger and of the alien is inherent to our making of foreign policy, and that without a rhetoric to describe the existence of a threatening other, neither states nor their foreign policy element would have an identity. There is no identity without an enemy. Campbell thus believes that rhetoric comes from a need for identity, that it is based on quasi-perception of a threat, and that without the sense of threat states would not have anything to do internationally. He writes that "the constant articulation of danger through foreign policy is thus not a threat to a state’s identity or existence; it is its condition of possibility". Campbell in actual fact time and again voices his belief that the foreign policy element of the modern state is comparable to the role the church used to play in the age of pre-modernity. Like the church, which "relied heavily on discourses of danger to establish its authority", modern states rely on rhetoric and "evangelism of fear", to secure and maintain their identity, and finally, to maintain their authority through promising their "followers" salvation, immortality, and a role worth fighting for. Campbell’s theory is very similar to deMause’s, and can be summarized along the following lines.

Leaders’ rhetoric comes from the deepest layers of our selves. It forms and maintains our political identity as it meets our most basic need to have all things threatening to us sharply defined and kept separate from ourselves. The concept of preventive diplomacy through "re-channelling" would be a clear implication of the tenets of Campbell’s theory. Campbell himself would probably say that rational argumentation would do no harm to the discourses and the rhetoric of danger, and that one should find better ways to meet our needs for identity, protection, and salvation, in ways less harmful and less threatening to others.

THE VEIL OF OUR IGNORANCE

There seems little doubt that leaders’ rhetoric plays some role in the etiology of armed conflict. There also seems little doubt that analysis and deconstruction of leaders’ rhetoric offer an attractive method to prevent a "war of words" from sliding into a "war of arms". However, our key problem lies in the fact that we do not yet know where rhetoric and metaphors come from. What parts of our minds are responsible for the generation of metaphors in the context of international politics? Is it the part which strives for objective knowledge, for objective theories that retain their validity in all imaginable contexts of our action? Or is it the part which cares for maintenance of our self-image, our inner sense of identity? Or is it perhaps a deeper part, more irrational than the first two, the memories of pre-natal stages, of our birth-fantasies?

There is another possibility. It is quite possible that the locus of origins of both rhetoric and metaphors changes from case to case, depending on complexity and severity of conditions. But we do not know this either. We may start with the assumption that some metaphors reflect our biological design (type A), some reflect our historical experience (type B), while others reflect our daily practices (type C). For instance, if I said "Malta is my mother", then the metaphor would reflect my biological design and have a deMausean flavour. If, on the other hand, I said "Kissinger is Prince Metternich reborn", then the metaphor would reflect our historical experience and have the flavour of an identity theory, so to speak. And finally, if I said "today’s Bosnia resembles a victim of a traffic accident in which all drivers violated a number of traffic-regulations", then the metaphor would reflect my daily, practical experience and would have the flavour of the theory of rational argumentation. Now, the psychological theories in which we believe would predict that the more complex the conditions in which mental imagery and metaphors occur, the more likely our minds to regress. Thus, rhetoric of type A is most likely to occur under the most complex conditions, rhetoric of type B is most likely to occur under conditions of average complexity, and rhetoric of type C is most likely to occur under the least complex conditions. But, first, the complexity concerned is complexity relative to the mind which perceives it. Unfortunately, we are not yet in possession of a measure of that kind of complexity, although the sciences of complexity seem to accumulate more and more extremely interesting findings along the borderlines of math, physics, and molecular biology. Second, even if we come into possession of such a measure, no one will be able to isolate perception of complexity from arbitrary and randomly fluctuating factors. Leaders will probably continue enjoying the privilege to use rhetoric of type A even under the least complex conditions of international politics, contrary to what the aforementioned theory predicts. Will they ever stop dramatizing non-dramatic events, a natural inclination because drama gives them an opportunity to portray their role as more important than it actually is? Will they ever learn that the line dividing drama from hostility is a thin one? We may only guess. Are they, and are we ourselves, capable of learning that? We do not know that either.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that as statecraft itself is highly dependent on the image of human nature it considers credible, the methods of preventive diplomacy debated here depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible. Since we remain ignorant about the origins of rhetoric, about conditions of its appearance as well as about its effects, the measures of appropriate rhetoric-based conflict prevention remain unclear too. The issue as to whether one should conduct classical prevention through rational argumentation, as Lakoff proposes, or prevention through re-channelling, as deMause proposes, thus remains unresolved. Would it be better to opt for face-to-face prevention, with its immediate, short-term, and individually directed effects? Or to opt for prevention oriented towards the culture of an entire group, which, with its indirect, long-term, and slowly accumulating effects, can hardly be subsumed under the concept of preventive diplomacy as run by professional servicemen of foreign ministries? There also remains the third and safest way. Ignorant as we are, perhaps we should use both ways until we find which of the two, and under what conditions, is better.

Year
2002-01-01T00:00:00
Author
Drazen Pehar
Year
Resource type
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In this paper, Drazen Pehar analyses the argumentation made by George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley in his seminal paper  on ‘Metaphor and War’, in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. He also analyses a reading by psycho-historian Lloyd deMause, whose theory differs from Lakoff’s. Throughout his analysis, Pehar describes the role of rhetoric in diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts, and its several functions, and concludes that the methods of preventive diplomacy depend heavily on the theory of leaders’ rhetoric one considers credible.

Source: 
Knowledge and Diplomacy. Ed by J. Kurbalija (2002)
 Drazen Pehar, 2002

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Submitted by Mina Mudric on Thu, 01/26/2012 - 23:44
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In this paper, John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper talk about knowledge as a vital resource, and the necessity of building competencies and establishing new skills. Analysing the theories by Ernst B. Haas in When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation, the authors trace the development of knowledge-oriented activities in the private sector, and its implications for organisations in the public and international domain.

Long Text

The emerging concept of "learning economies" (i.e. those where the ability to learn is critical to the success of individuals, firms, regions, and national economies) has sharpened the focus on knowledge as a vital strategic resource. Building competencies and establishing new skills—and not merely getting access to information—has thus become a fundamental activity for both macro- and micro-economies.

Traditionally, commercial organisations have instinctively protected their sources of competitive advantage and have used patent rights to insure their innovative actions. However, in the wake of the information revolution has come a new appraisal of the function of global knowledge as a corporate asset—hence the emergence of "knowledge management" as a key strategic function. What an organisation knows about itself, its market, its products, its technologies and its people is unique and has high value in the competitive mix. Forced by the need to survive, organisations have recourse to international fields of operation in order to expand, and thereby to increase their knowledge pool by multiples of factors. It is knowledge which helps them succeed in this broader competitive field.

But this knowledge must be "managed" as any other asset, and the function must be integrated with all other functions since much knowledge is generated by operations themselves—thus the adage of "learning-by-doing" comes to life in a very significant way. What is also very interesting is that the factors of knowledge management seem to be equally relevant to both private and public sector organisations alike, national and international. All organisations are today obliged to extend their realms of influence globally, and their opportunity to succeed internationally is heavily dependent on their acumen with knowledge.

This paper aims to bridge the link between the private and public sectors in knowledge management for effective organisational change, by tracing current developments in the private sector and the public international domain.

KNOWLEDGE: THE RESOURCE

Knowledge is not a homogenous resource, but a range of levels of capacity, including a prolific memory of facts, the ability to relate pieces of information, the creativity to develop theory, the skill to produce artifacts, and the social skills to identify and develop useful and sustainable relationships, among others.

The following categories of knowledge have been identified:1

  •     knowing what, knowing why and knowing how;
  •     formal and informal knowledge within the organisation and external to it;
  •     codified and tacit knowledge (and being able to identify the difference);
  •     knowledge embedded in systems, tools and technologies;
  •     knowledge embedded in organisational culture and routines; and
  •     hierarchies of knowledge.

Private sector organisations are increasingly involved in the following knowledge-related activities in order to strengthen their competitive advantage:

  •     monitoring of worldwide databases and other information sources;
  •     tracking developments in new knowledge through R&D activity;
  •     cross-fertilisation and fusion of knowledge from different disciplines and sectors;
  •     assessment of product performance in the field and the evaluation of competitor activity, among others.

All these knowledge-related activities are the responsibility of the Knowledge Manager/ Corporate Knowledge Officer, who today operates in an environment of "Innovate or Perish".

The knowledge resource - intellectual capital

The resource available to the Knowledge Manager and that which drives the learning/knowledge-based organisation is its Intellectual Capital; that which is today protected by Intellectual Property Right (IPR), just as in the past patents and copyright have been protected. To measure and evaluate intellectual capital (not yet an accounting item, although goodwill, for instance, is computed for corporate valuation purposes), it is helpful to the reader to review and point out some areas for such estimation:

  •     intangible assets, not limited to but including goodwill;
  •     intellectual property assets; e.g. patents, manufacturing rights, proprietary rights, research results, market research information;
  •     human capital (the cumulative experience and know-how/tacit knowledge [assets that can walk out of the door tomorrow!]);
  •     infrastructural capital; e.g. technology, processes, recipes, preparations, systems;
  •     customer/market capital; e.g. brands, customer loyalty, licences.

Knowledge management in learning organisations

Driving the learning economies are the learning organisations (public and private), their success typified by the following organisational philosophy:

  •     learning organisations consider human resource development as central to organisational strategy;
  •     their organisational culture empowers individuals to learn continuously as a means to expressing their full potential;
  •     their jobs are designed as total learning experiences; and
  •     they extend this culture to include customers, suppliers and key stakeholders.

Learning organisations have the key goal of continuous organisational transformation. This is not achieved solely within, but by extending the perimeter to include collaborative entities—organisations can no longer afford to be islands of privileged information. Examples of such collaboration can be seen in relationship marketing, franchising, and niche joint ventures.

This fundamental shift to knowledge-oriented activities currently underway in the private sector has major implications for organisations in the public and international domain. The strategic use of knowledge is no less important for international organisations, charged with important global responsibilities. The impact of the globalising learning economy is affecting the way that these organisations operate, driving them to stimulate their learning processes through greater focus on knowledge-related activities. In recent years, international organisations have come increasingly under attack for their poor performance in terms of fulfilling their mission, managing their resources and responding effectively to change.2 In this article, we are mainly concerned with this latter aspect, i.e. knowledge management in international organisations and their responsiveness to change.

 

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS: RESPONDING TO CHANGE

As noted by Ernst B. Haas in his book entitled When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation, international organisations have a very mixed track record in terms of whether they have evolved as learners or adapters. Haas’s key criteria for determining the extent of learning and knowledge generation taking place within an international organisation is the level of "change in the definition of the problem to be solved by a given organisation."3 Thus, the World Bank, which was set up in 1945 to re-build Europe, re-oriented its mission in 1955 to the emerging challenge of promoting industrial growth in developing countries, and by 1975 to the elimination of poverty. "Today, the World Bank has shifted much of its emphasis to the intangibles of knowledge, institutions, and culture in an attempt to forge a more comprehensive New Development framework"4 for its work. The World Bank is thus an example of an international organisation which did not revise its mission over time simply by adding new tasks to old ones, but generated internal learning processes allowing it to re-define a completely new set of problems based on new knowledge made available. As Haas notes, the definition of new priorities "came about as a result of a systematic pattern of subsuming new means under new ends, legitimated by a new theory of economic development." 5

Haas thus identifies three models of organisational change based on:

1. Adaptatation—he distinguishes between two types of adaptation:

  1.     "incremental growth" where the organisation takes on new tasks without changing the decision-making processes; and
  2.     "turbulent nongrowth" where the organisation undergoes major changes in decision-making, and the consensus on ends and means collapses.

2. Learning—which Haas terms "managed interdependence", where the organisation’s aims are redefined through "knowledge-mediated decision-making dynamics". The organisation’s behaviour changes, as original implicit theories underlying the programmes and strategies are examined and their original values questioned.

Haas’s comparative analysis of the historical profiles of change of key inter-governmental organisations highlights the fact that while these organisations share a number of characteristics in common, they have evolved along different paths, based on the extent to which internal processes of knowledge generation and learning could flourish. Thus, while inter-governmental organisations share certain constraints, e.g. heterogeneous membership, inequalities of power among their member states and so on, they differ in terms of the setting (level of ideological consensus, representation of the states, etc.), power (revenue base, monitoring of compliance etc.); and behaviour (voting and budgeting procedures, and leadership). These three factors—setting, power and behaviour—determine whether an organisation evolves as a learner or an adapter. Decisions in organisations depend on knowledge, or more appropriately, consensual knowledge, "the sum both of technical information and of theories about it that command sufficient agreement among interested actors at a given time to serve as a guide for public policy."6 In learning organisations, knowledge is consensual or becoming more consensual, whereas in organisations undergoing decline the reverse trends are in place. According to Haas, other factors distinguishing learning organisations, are:

  1.     political goals—the ability to justify expanding and interconnecting goals;
  2.     decision-making style: pragmatic and analytical rather than eclectic; and
  3.     issue linkage: the ability to link issues in a fragmented manner whilst aiming for substantive linkage.

At the core of the distinction between learning and adapting organisations is the extent to which these organisations indulge in policy learning, based on a pragmatic and open-minded evaluation of past successes and failures. "When facing disappointment with the outcomes of earlier actions, actors rarely question the theory of causation that led them to the initial choices." 7

Among the prime examples of organisational learning are the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In contrast, intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations and UNESCO are cited as examples of unsuccessful organisational learning.

Figure 1: Historical Profiles of Change in International Organisations8

  At founding Years after founding

Organisation

Learning present

Nested problems

10

20

30

40

50

World Health Org.

yes

no

1

1

3

3

-

World Bank

yes

yes

1

3

3

3

-

UNEP

yes

yes

3

-

-

-

-

IMF

yes

yes

1

1

2

3

-

OECD

no

no

3

3

2

-

-

Commonwealth

no

no

1

0

0

1

-

United Nations

yes

no

1*

1

2

4

-

UNESCO

yes

no

2

2

2

4*

-

Note: 0 = no change; 1 = incremental growth; 2 = turbulent nongrowth; 3 = managed interdependence; 4 = decline

* Attempted managed interdependence, but failed.

 

 

Haas notes that "UNESCO’s entire history has been one of turbulent nongrowth because the organisation has never had a cohesive dominant ideology, or a commitment to an identifiable nested problem set."9 This has been backed up in a report by the Moillis Group, made up of former senior staff of UNESCO, entitled UNESCO Faces the 21st Century. The report identifies two critical elements for effective management which UNESCO lacks, "a culture of innovation, permitting failure not to be regarded as a fault but as a normal risk inherent in undertaking action; even an organisation learns from making mistakes. The other is an internal system of communication."10

 

On a more positive note, there is evidence that in recent years intergovernmental organisations are beginning to recognise the vital importance of knowledge and learning. The World Bank is seeking to establish itself as a "Knowledge Bank, not just a bank for infrastructure finance. We now see economic development as less like the construction business and more like education in the broad and comprehensive sense that covers knowledge, institutions and culture...The shift in focus was motivated in part by the experience of the most successful countries...the accumulation of capital could explain only a fraction of the increases in per capita income in the countries in East Asia. Their miraculous growth is largely attributed to closing the knowledge gap."11

Similar knowledge-related efforts are being promoted by the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC) and the Commonwealth Partnership on Technology Management (CPTM). The CSC, on the basis of a 1998 review of activities carried out to date, reached the conclusion that its mission should be more knowledge-oriented and user-driven, i.e. its priorities should not be set in London but be more oriented to meeting the needs of the member countries. The CSC has thus launched an initiative to promote itself as an innovative, proactive organisation, leveraging science and technology (S&T) capability in the public and private sectors through networking of knowledge and finance, based on information and communication technologies (ICT). At the core of this initiative is the establishment of a Commonwealth Knowledge Network, an Internet-based initiative to unleash the knowledge repositories of member countries and build on the networking capacity of the CSC.

An interesting example of a knowledge-oriented international organisation which has been designed specifically to benefit from private sector best practice and knowledge is the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management Limited (CPTM). CPTM, an independent government/private sector partnership, was set up in 1995 as a not-for-profit company, to provide advisory services to Commonwealth countries on technology management as a tool for macroeconomic development. CPTM functions as a networking organisation drawing on the expertise of its members, given voluntarily—a system of "co-operative resourcing". CPTM Ltd. "was formed principally to act as a catalyst and a clearing house for co-operative efforts between member governments, the private sector members and the growing body of CPTM Networkers—senior professional managers in everything from basic research, technology integration, and environmental management, to macro-economic planning, venture capital and marketing."12 CPTM’s main mission is to enhance national capabilities for wealth creation through the sound management of technology and public/private sector partnerships.

These examples of innovating, learning organisations point the way ahead for international organisations aiming to manage the challenge of the globalising learning economy. Not only do international organisations have to emulate best practice in knowledge management in the private sector; the indications are that they will have to move increasingly closer to the private sector, by establishing smart public-private sector partnerships to tap strategic knowledge and learning in the private sector.

Notes

1 Adapted from Paul Quintas, "Why Knowledge Management? Why Now?" (Presentation for Open University Business School, Management of Knowledge and Innovation Research Unit, 1999).

2 G. M. Gallarotti, "The Limits of International Organisation: Systemic Failure in the Management of International Relations," International Organisation 45(2) (Spring 1991): 183-220.

3 Ernst B. Haas, When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 3.

4 J. Stiglitz, "The World Bank Group: A World Free of Poverty, Public Policy for a Knowledge Economy (Remarks at the Department of Trade and Industry and Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, 1999).

5 Haas, When Knowledge is Power, 4

6 Ibid., 74.

7 Ibid., 72.

8 Ibid., 156-158.

9 Ibid., 152.

10 Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members, UNESCO Faces the 21st Century: An Invitation to Dialogue (Paris: Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members, 1995).

11 J. Stiglitz, "The World Bank Group: A World Free of Poverty, Public Policy for a Knowledge Economy" (Remarks at the Department of Trade and Industry and Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, 1999).

12 Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management, Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management: The New Initiative on Public/Private Sector Partnerships for the Commonwealth (London: Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management, 1995).

 

References

Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members. UNESCO Faces the 21st Century: An Invitation to Dialogue. Paris: Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members, 1995.

Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management. Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management: The New Initiative on Public/Private Sector Partnerships for the Commonwealth. London: Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management, 1995.

Commonwealth Science Council. Knowledge Networking for Development: Science and Technology for the Millennium. London: Commonwealth Science Council, 1999.

Gallarotti, G.M. "The Limits of International Organization: Systemic Failure in the Management of International Relations." International Organization 45(2) (Spring, 1991): 183-220.

Haas, Ernst B. When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Quintas, Paul. "Why Knowledge Management? Why now?" Presentation for Management of Knowledge and Innovation Research Unit, Open University Business School, 1999.

Stiglitz, J. "The World Bank Group: A World Free of Poverty, Public Policy for a Knowledge Economy." Remarks at the Department of Trade and Industry and Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, 1999.

Year
2002-01-01T00:00:00
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John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper
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In this paper, John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper talk about knowledge as a vital resource, and the necessity of building competencies and establishing new skills. Analysing the theories by Ernst B. Haas in When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organisation, the authors trace the development of knowledge-oriented activities in the private sector, and its implications for organisations in the public and international domain.

Source: 
Knowledge and Diplomacy. Ed by J. Kurbalija (2002)
 John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper, 2002

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In this chapter, John Pace decribes the three-phase evolution of knowledge management in the human rights program of the United Nations. The realisation that knowledge management is a necessity came during the third phase. The author also describes the complex system of monitoring bodies and ad hoc mechanisms, and the developments that took place following four decisions taken in the mid-eighties.

Long Text

Knowledge management in the United Nations human rights program is a relatively recent phenomenon. It may be said to be symptomatic of the evolution of human rights activities over the years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This evolution may be classified into three distinct phases. The first phase was the phase when the United Nations system was busy setting standards. The second phase is that when the system was seeking ways and means of obtaining the implementation of the standards, and the third phase is that when the system started to look at the ways in which it could apply its experience towards creating conditions that would enable governments to prevent negative situations of human rights from further deteriorating or from developing. The first phase takes us till roughly around the second half of the seventies, the second phase would take us to somewhere around the mid-eighties, and the third phase brings us to today.

In the first phase the characteristic of the flow of information was more or less outward: we had a core or nuclear idea which needed to be shared and developed into international standards of human rights. These standards would be universal standards and would apply to all persons. This first phase took about 25 years, and consisted very much of the process of defining where the sum total of the national values met around a common denominator, which was reflected in the standards of the Universal Declaration. So, this was a period of reflection, consultation, negotiation and formulation, and was dedicated to the immediate process of setting of standards. But it really never touched people; it really never touched the individual.

In the second phase we started to get close to realities. It was the time when we were first authorised by the Commission on Human Rights and later by the General Assembly to gather information; to go to countries to meet individuals. We were able to inform ourselves directly of realities in human rights situations and we started to bring that back and apply it to testing the standards that had been developed over the previous years. Of course, the situations that we tested were the very denial of the situations that were envisaged by those standards. So the gap was immediately apparent; seemingly impossible to bridge. This was the time when it was fashionable to call human rights situations, situations that were anything but human rights situations since, in fact, they were situations of violations of human rights. So we went around in a number of countries, all impossible human rights situations. This period taught us a lot in terms of the gap that we had to bridge between those realities and those standards and also it taught us the need to reflect on ways in which this gap could be bridged.

The second phase was interesting also because at this time we experienced a dramatic increase in information emanating from local groups, non-governmental organisations, both international and local. They were not all the most objective of sources, but the quality of the information was generally authentic, and in any event most useful in re-constructing the factual situation when direct access was denied us. To some governments, these were subversive or opposition groups, and hostile sources. We did not really let the terminology affect our work, because for all we knew, both sides were right. What interested us at this phase was trying to record and to get an idea of the experiences that were actually being made by people on the ground, and the reasons for those experiences.

This led us to the third phase, where we started to apply this knowledge that we were deriving from the information we were collecting, in order to try to find ways and means of addressing or redressing these phenomena. It should be understood that what was happening was an all around evolution and not an invention of the international bureaucracy. It was the international political consensus, if you like, the intergovernmental common denominator that was enabling us to move from the earlier stages of discussing theory to the testing of these standards against realities.

It is at this third phase, with the procedures that had developed over the years, that knowledge management became a necessity. These procedures all depend on the receipt and application of information. Since they had been developed over a number of years and through different processes, it was necessary to provide a common pool where this mass of information generated by these procedures could be located in order to facilitate its use.

What are these tools and where are these information sources? At the core is the human rights programme of activities and at the core of these activities are those necessitated by the six main international conventions. Of these conventions, we have the two covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The fact that there are two covenants—as distinct from one Universal Declaration is, of course, the result of an aberration that took place in the fifties, the division—artificial division—of civil and political rights from economic, social and cultural rights, a division that never reflected realities.

In addition to these two covenants, we have four conventions: the Convention on Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The two covenants and the other four conventions each have their own treaty monitoring body, consisting of a group of experts elected by the States Parties. These treaty bodies review information contained in reports presented by States Parties and other sources; they are intended to conduct their work through dialogue with representatives of States submitting reports and in certain cases, with inter-governmental bodies and non-governmental organisations. They meet at regular intervals throughout the year and from time to time issue General Comments or make Observations intended to aid with the interpretation of provisions of the international instrument in question.

In addition, there are extra-conventional procedures, which are heavily dependent on information since they are fact-finding in nature. Today there are something like 50 such procedures, also known as ad-hoc mechanisms, that consist of Special Rapporteurs or Working Groups, some dealing with situations in specific countries, and others looking into certain phenomena. These have thematic mandates, so they look into such allegations as those of disappearances and arbitrary detentions, etc. They are intended to buttress the conventional implementation that I have just described.

The third procedure developed over the years, and most recently, is that of technical cooperation, under which the United Nations provides assistance to governments directly through the human rights programme, and less directly, through the rest of the United Nations system, to create conditions, build institutions, and strengthen institutions within their society for addressing potential negative human rights situations. Technical cooperation is, like the other procedures, heavily reliant on information and analysis.

It is relevant to mention here the developments that led to change in the support of these three principal procedures. These developments may be summarised by referring to four decisions, all of which were taken in the mid-eighties.

The first is the decision of 1986 to adopt the Declaration on the Right to Development—you would have heard a lot about it and some of you who are more familiar with human rights will wonder why on earth I am mentioning this one. Then there was, in 1987, the decision to set up a Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation, which permitted the possibility of applying extra-budgetary resources to institution building. In 1988 came the decision which authorised for the first time the undertaking of human rights education and training. This decision enabled us to develop the tools by which we could deliver the technical cooperation support. The fourth decision was in 1989, to convene the World Conference on Human Rights that took place in 1993, the second World Conference on Human Rights that had taken place in the history of the UN.

The reason for the convocation of a World Conference was the need for agreement on the priorities to be set in the search for the realisation of international human rights norms. The international community, having finished with the formal Conventions, having more or less saturated the potential for extra-conventional mechanisms, having tried technical cooperation, found the need to see where the international system was going; and during the three years of my life between 1990 and 1993 when I had the doubtful honour of coordinating the World Conference, we saw emerging around various regions this energy, as it were, to do something about human rights standards. In Asia, for example, the regional meeting in preparing for the World Conference in 1993 was the first meeting ever of the Asian Governments around a human rights agenda. The African regional meeting spun off some of the richest non-governmental organisations in human rights that we had not seen before. The same may be said with regard to the Americas; the regional meeting in Costa-Rica.

The preparation of the World Conference was a process which took the shape of a pyramid, consisting not just of intergovernmental meetings, not mere statements and declarations, but which took place through a very hard fought blow by blow process around the world in various manifestations. By 1993, when the World Conference adopted its Declaration and Programme of Action, it had in it a number of elements that enabled us to turn to a wider, more meaningful implementation of human rights standards. This was essentially inspired by the fact that by that time the knowledge of the realities was such around the table that nobody anymore could deny that these issues could be seen as something that they were not. So you had a situation where, for instance, an inter-governmental body like the Commission on Human Rights took up issues which a few years earlier were unheard of. When I started as Secretary of the Commission on Human Rights in 1978, it was my duty to advise the Chairman to stop a speaker, to cut the microphone for any speaker who mentioned a country by name. Today, virtually any human rights situation, any situation that has a human rights aspect to it, one way or the other is taken up in the same body: it is not solved, but it is addressed and the governments concerned respond on the merits. Even though some issues may not lead to decisions of substance because of procedural preferences they are on the table and they are addressed in substance.

The World Conference produced a clear priority for democracy, development and human rights. Governments gave themselves an agenda—whereby they could now address human rights in a much wider, a much more total context. What was missing was the institution and that was taken care of a few months later when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was set up, in December 1993. This created the vehicle which would clear the way for this process to realise itself.

As soon as this institution was set up, it became necessary to re-structure the secretariat to enable it to support the High Commissioner’s mandate in addition to carrying out its earlier functions. It was possible for us to start examining that information and that knowledge that we had acquired over the preceding years with a view to applying it in a constructive and forward looking manner.

In order to do that we devised this tool called "Huricane", which stands for Human Rights Computerised Analysis Environment. Huricane was set up in order to enable us to marshal the information that we had been accumulating over the years; to set up a system for receiving information in order to create a common pool to serve all the activities of the human rights program. Moreover, it is intended to serve as a tool for monitoring the status of realisation of the right to development.

Huricane consists of eight databases serving as baskets for storing information. These eight databases, once Huricane is complete, will be interrogated by a search engine that we are developing, that would enable us to re-construct the picture in regard to the situation of civil, cultural, economic, political or social rights. This would enable us to assist governments in their efforts to create the conditions to enable them to meet their international human rights obligations.

(The order of the rights—alphabetical—that I have just used is, in itself, significant, since it underlines the integral nature of the five groups of rights. It is worth mentioning here, by way of parenthesis, that the resolution establishing the High Commissioner for Human Rights was the first in several decades that used this order. In the last decades it has become accepted to refer to human rights in two distinct groups: civil and political rights on one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. The significance in the use of the alphabetical order is in the fact that this was symptomatic of the change of culture of human rights that was taking place—the return to the "integrated" approach to human rights.)

Huricane is made up of two types of information. One is the information that exists on the public media, such as the World Wide Web and the other public sources, and the other one is the information on our Intranet, the internal web where we store our own information. The idea was to try to bring the information more or less on the same manageable level. So we had to identify the common attributes, such as the human rights subject, the mandate or legislative authority, and the country concerned. In order to obtain a first list of relevant subjects, we examined the work of the Commission on Human Rights over the preceding 20 years and drew up from the work of the Commission what we felt were the key-subjects that the Commission had taken up over that period. Hence you will find a wide range of subjects like asylum, internally displaced persons, fair trial, right to food, etc.

Having done that, we then identified its components. Component number one was our Treaty Body system. It should be kept in mind at all times that the raison d'être of the United Nations human rights programme is the international legal regime of the International Bill of Human Rights. Governments ratify conventions and undertake obligations under which they have to report, and it is our duty to make sure that we make this process fair and feasible for governments. Now, during the early years, when the treaties were still in their post-adoption stages, the focus was on ratification by governments. There was therefore a need to provide governments with the knowledge and means to meet the obligations that they undertake when they ratify an international human rights treaty. Thus, this first database in Huricane contains all the information relating to the status of these treaties, such as details on each of the ratifications, including reservations, reporting status, and so forth. The full text documents are then included whenever they make reservations etc.

The next database contains the second component. This is made up of documents prepared for the so-called charter-based bodies, viz. the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly. This one is designed in three languages and it has the possibility to incorporate internal documents such as reports that we get from our field offices (there are 22 such offices), reports from evaluation missions, and other such internal reports.

The third component is our digital registry. This contains incoming mail and copies, or evidence of the follow-up that is given to this mail. This is done by scanning in the hard-copy mail, which enables it to be accessible to everyone on his or her screen. So far this covers mail coming in through the mail-room. Correspondence coming in through fax lines will be integrated through the installation of a central electronic fax server that will receive messages and direct them into the registry system. This will also have the advantage of avoiding the diffusion of multiple copies of hard copy of the fax traffic. It ensures monitoring of correspondence for follow up and continuity. It also makes it possible to follow correspondence attributed to others; these views are organised by the date of the registry, by registry number (the date and number are entered electronically), by the date that it was sent, by sender, by country or by mandate (subject).

The fourth component is the News/Statements Database where we have selected certain news sources which are relevant to the subjects making up the menu that I referred to earlier. The other components are:

  • Communications Database. This is the database where individual complaints received under the established procedures are stored. These are confidential procedures that governments have devised either in the Commission on Human Rights, or in a human rights treaty.
  • External Sources Database. This is a bibliographical source which we use in order to make sure that we also have outside material that is, in some cases, also retained in full text.
  • Thematic Mandates Database. This database contains the material that comes in from the so-called Athematic mandates. These are procedures established by the Commission on Human Rights to look in to allegations of violations of certain rights, and include allegations of enforced and involuntary disappearance, arbitrary detention, summary or arbitrary execution.

The sum total of information stored in these databases embraces human rights standards across the board. The multiple database search engine makes it is possible to draw up a profile that enables a reconstruction of the sum total of the human rights picture.

The search engine enables two types of searches, one by country or human rights subject and the other one permits full text retrieval.

Now you see, in fact, what we are doing is simply organising and applying the experience that we had made over the years. I will wind up with one example. In developing our tools for training—we were only authorised to do so as of 1988—we had to start with those sectors of society that were more likely, by virtue of their office, to be in contact with larger groups of people. So we started with the Administration of Justice sector, and specifically, law enforcement. In this group, we also had to address the human rights training of the armed forces. This was in 1994. This represented a formidable task, knowing full well how difficult the military culture, the armed forces culture, had been for us traditionally to assimilate to the respect for human rights. Thus, in order to overcome this barrier, the first thing we did was to look at the experiences that had accumulated over the preceding twenty years, which would show what we considered as negative situations of human rights resulting from or attributable to, in one form or another, armed forces behaviour. Having done so, we brought together twenty or so military persons, of various ranks and backgrounds, for a week to Geneva and we shared these experiences with them. From these discussions there emerged three types of situations where military behaviour was directly related to human rights situations, and which could form the basis of a human rights training program for armed forces personnel. The first was the situation illustrated by the Chile case. Chile was a very good case history because you had a government that was taken over by the military and substituting the government structure. You had generals who were government department ministers. This was hypothesis number one. Hypothesis number two was when the armed forces were called in to perform what were normally considered as police duties, like crowd control, where, being trained as soldiers, they applied their training and caused loss of life and limb. And the third sector was the behaviour of armed forces in peace-keeping operations, where, even though the colour of the cap had changed, the training had not—and therefore the resulting behaviour was still not very different from what it would have been during normal service, at least in some instances.

This exercise consisted of—no more and no less—simply sharing with them what we knew from the preceding twenty years. And they did not like that, since their military training and culture was intended to prepare them for loftier goals. Since that time we started working on developing a module for training. What had seemed impossible became very likely, simply by the application of facts; letting the facts speak for themselves.

This is the philosophy behind Huricane. Its purpose is no other except to enable governments to ascertain for themselves the relationship between a given situation and the international standards to which they have adhered, not in an accusatory or punitive sense, but in the sense of prevention, of enabling the creation of conditions to address and redress negative situations of human rights.

Year
2002-01-01T00:00:00
Author
John Pace
Year
Resource type
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In this chapter, John Pace decribes the three-phase evolution of knowledge management in the human rights program of the United Nations. The realisation that knowledge management is a necessity came during the third phase. The author also describes the complex system of monitoring bodies and ad hoc mechanisms, and the developments that took place following four decisions taken in the mid-eighties.

Source: 
Knowledge and Diplomacy. Ed by J. Kurbalija (2002)
 John Pace, 2002

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