Humanity – did we forget?


Almost 80 years ago for the very first time the world faced the largest migration crisis in history. This phenomenon was directly attributed to organized armed conflict.

Although the Interwar period brought some improvements to international legal systems with the establishment of the League of Nations Court of International Justice in 1920’s, disputes among states continued.  The Court of International Justice put forth an effort to settle these disputes, created a vision of the Natural universal law for humanity to seek to prevent a further strife between nations. However, no effective mechanism was created or respected to prevent aggression or desire of revenge.

The world was trying to negotiate through the political and ideological conflicts, where each respective ideology sought to overwhelm or exterminate the other. This hunger of power exercised by a few men under the guise of national interest fundamentally placed their respective populations, their ideology and their national interest in peril, if not complete and total inhalation of the other.

In fact, World War II showed that leader’s power cannot be greater than the states, as it led to geopolitical shifts. The political dynamics at the time had direct and material impact on the scales of economy.  In part, this fueled population displacement at the time raising the European Refugee count to over 60 million.

By that time the definition of Jus Cogen, so called peremptory norm which could be seen as continuation of the Natural law which prohibits wars of aggression, genocides, slavery and any kind of derogation did not have its position in the hierarchy of International Law. Yet the Cold War was in its inception that brought radical change, since different representatives of more than 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter in the fall of 1945. This time also brought unity and understanding that world leaders had to take responsibility and act for the sanctity of humanity.

To prevent bigger losses than that suffered in WWII on account of soldiers and civilians lives, the International Refugee Law as a tool to solve the migration crisis and protect people guaranteeing safety was created. It also helped to create an understanding of human values that should reflect nation’s customs. And that is not only how the new era of international relations began, but also the doors for the debate on ethics of reciprocity was opened. The Interwar vision of universalism of Natural Law with all the morals and fundamental principles of human rights finally were embodied in the 1969 Vienna Convention and its treaties.

However, how one could prevent that suppressed anger does not release the desire of one’s will to exercise its power again, so that history does not repeat itself?

Today we live in an era of where the world’s madness caused by unsuccessful counter terrorism with the radical Islamist groups in the forefront to date has resulted in a spectrum of adverse impact.  According the global peace index, the violence during 2014 cost 13.4 per cent decline of world GDP. The ongoing domestic and international conflicts caused increase in certain nation’s military capabilities not leaving space for an idea of deterrence and significant prevention for the containment of violence in 2015 either.

We enter 2016 with great depression of human values in the face of the biggest migration influxes into Europe.  The policies that legislatures are trying to implement through the restrictions which are as an actual opposition to principles and values on which Europe was built and what the fathers of Europe like Shuman, Monnet had an ambition to exercise after WWII. Currently the U.S. presidential elections continuous to underscore divisity and Europe securitizing migration or implementing ad hoc decisions with the rise of nationalistic Parties. Entire nations face the routine in which radicals place themselves above the fundamental laws and the leaders of the world make little to now statements of concern of the issue. Seems that world‘s spring of violence, hate and moral decline with the loss of virtues just continues to unfold.

The International Refugee Convention (IRC) and its protocols were created in a different environment. It is said, that the IRC even supersedes international human rights law.  The IRC was adopted over 60 years ago and yet it provides protection to millions of migrants or so called refugees today. However, the circumstances of the crisis that we face, the drafters of the Convention could not have predicted. Could not have predicted that seven decades after the Convention’s enforcement world will face something as horrible if not more than the holocaust? But can we really measure vulnerability in here? Is it the new 21st century phenomenon or the subjective knowledge or the impact of globalization, or where media manufactures reality so that entire world population feels that what Huntington called “the Clash of Civilizations“, is coming or is it merely the clash of ignorance?

Where does the blame lie for where we find humanity today? How can the law adapt to the needs and concerns of a current crisis? Which are right doors where one’s need to opens in search of possible solutions to improve the legal system? Which are the issues of migration that lay in parts of each respective country’s governments? Is it that national governments shroud their interests in agreements to improve military capabilities where greediness of politicians prevails? Or is it complacency and a lack of sanctionability that precludes compliance to the law?

National leaders failed to have a political will to undertake correct measures and decisions that are fundamentally having a negative material impact on the global human society. Hence, the blame lies everywhere, not only with our national leaders but inherently within ourselves for failing to elect credible leaders. The creation of the new bureaucratic institutions are not necessary. It is necessary to make applicable current legal standards.

Collision of competing political interests and unfounded emotional fears, moral degradation, empirically unproved fears leaves no place for prudent decision making.  Hence, the Human Rights Conventions and all the legal systems do not have the privilege of enforcement since overriding financial interests spend billions for weapons and bombs – fueled by the fear factor promoted by self- interests of certain special groups.

And yes, the drafters of the Convention could not have predicted that politicians would fail to apply International Refugee laws correctly or willingly.  That the arrogance of nationalism would rise again in the face of dehumanization – AGAIN. This ego-centric policy will only cause imminent danger to humanity as a whole and repeat history of a new world war – just this time more devastating, more horrifying and more destructive – foremost in the cost of human lives.


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Rimantė Steponavičiūtė

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