Rule Makers (And Breakers) of International Relations: The Lack of Ethics in Global Biggies

Interdependence, cooperation and an emphasis on the ‘collective’ are defining features of the present-day international relations. Over 190 sovereign countries regularly collaborate in order to put up a strong front against global menaces such as terrorism, climate change, trafficking, and the likes. The need for platforms ensuring efficient and smooth collaborations has led the world to establish several inter-state governmental bodies. The United Nations Organisation, established immediately after the culmination of the Second World War (1939-1945), is the best possible example of an international forum that has nearly all the sovereign countries of the world as members.

Countries have also formed numerous other regional and functional organisations like the G20, EU, BRICS, SCO, ASEAN, OPEC, to name a few. These organs facilitate resolution of regional conflicts, outlining of common interests and threats, collective decision making, the methods of implementing commonly accepted rules, etc. Amidst these, another underlining characteristic common to all these organs is as George Orwell states, “All members are equal, but some members are more equal than others”. Some biggies undoubtedly possess way more power than the other members, sometimes even greater than the power of the collective itself. Few members have a privileged status in the organisation, generally owing to their financial competence.

The political and social is derived from the economic, and what becomes an obvious consequence is an indomitable influence of these members in the decisions of the organisation. What is worse is that these powers support the formation of rules, codes of conduct and ethics to be abided by, and then blatantly breach these norms as per convenience. The decision to shift the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, violating the UN Security Council’s resolution that Jerusalem is to be the shared capital of Israel and Palestine, led to deaths of several protestors in Israel. USA’s opportunistic withdrawals from the UNESCO, from Climate Accords, and to mention the most recent, from the UN Human Rights Council, have from time to time reinstated USA’s high-handedness in international affairs. Its decision to impose high import tariffs breached trade norms of the WTO, for which US itself was the flag-bearer at a time when the world was getting globalised. When these actions were condemned by co-members, USA threatened by announcing it’s plans of slashing down it’s funding to the UN Annual Budget.

Another instance can be cited in USA’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. US’s failure in honouring a multilateral deal, unanimously endorsed by the UNSC, despite the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly assuring Iran’s compliance with the deal, once again demonstrates the little regard USA has had for the UN norms and resolutions. While the US government seeks to justify these moves by attaching them to a blanket ‘America First’ policy adopted lately, the reality is that USA itself is to be blamed for having willingly been a philanthropist earlier in order to attain its hegemonic position in the world. When a global power like USA acts unaccountably, the brunt is faced by developing countries, such as that which India is facing in its oil dealings with Iran.

This tendency is not unique to USA alone. Crimea’s annexation by Russia in 2014 was a breach of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security, and a blatant violation of international law. China has not been behind, with its aggressive behaviour and excessive territorial claims in the South China Sea, way beyond the area encompassed by its nine-dash-line claim. These cases are merely the tip of the iceberg, to say the least. When so many international law violations can be listed from the post 1991 era, the list of violations during the Cold War can certainly be called unfathomable.

These global biggies that talk so boldly of peace, security, cooperation and mutual respect, are the same ones who have caused the pitiable plight of several countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, to name some. Entire masses have been lost to poverty, crime and terrorism; entire countries devastated. Yet, they proudly fund missions against terrorism today. To have their own way in every matter has been a habit that can no longer be allowed to continue. But curbing their moves is only barely possible for the rest of the countries that are so heavily dependent on them in some way or the other.

The world is suffering because some countries are on a blind quest for self-centered supremacy. The unfortunate part is that the world can only wait for the realisation to come to them from within. But will it ever?

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