21st century: the future and genocide

Unlike the 20th century, I don’t believe the era we are living in today will be a century of genocide as many of the major issues today are increasingly global in scope; the international community will need to work as one to combat natural threats to humanity, including climate change. However, although I don’t believe that genocide is something we must simply live with in our militarized, nationalist world, I believe the global community will only uncertainly be able to effectively stop genocide, if it is the case.

Climate change has been one of the most alarming threats coming into the new century, with news coming out nearly every day regarding the impact of climate change on the natural environment, including risks to coral reefs, water supply, and agriculture. In the near future, it’s likely that refugees will come from a broader scope of background than was seen in the 1900’s, when many people were relocated because of discrimination and other such issues. This new scope may include the side effects of climate change–for instance, those living near the equator may find that even a half degree rise in climate may prove intolerable in sustaining their current lifestyle. It is likely that legal bodies, such as the U.N., will revisit international law regarding refugees, including the 1933 Refugee Convention that gave way to groundbreaking thought in regards to refugees. Though the regulations outlined in the Convention provided refugees with securities such as the reassurance of the right to non-refoulement to refugees, it did not grant neutralization or many political rights. The 1951 Refugee Convention addressed many of the issues in the first convention and was followed by further improvements in the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, especially broadening support for refugees from different parts of the world (the 1933 convention was tailored specifically towards Armenians and Russians). Today, the major point that the international community should focus on improving is how to address the treatment of refugees with the vast expansion of technology. With tech-facilitated globalization, the status of people all over the world is increasingly made relevant to each and every one with access to resources like the Internet. Hence, the condition of refugees is also made wider known. Could international law possibly take a turn in the future to incorporate refugees within the “sharing economy” of today, that is exemplified by many tech companies like Uber and Airbnb. What if the same sorts of resource partitioning are used towards refugees? While this may be difficult, perhaps, to include in international law in this sense, within a domestic sense, apps like Yerdle, an application which began signing users in late 2014 and which provides a means for users to exchange goods, could be used to aid refugees. In fact, over 8,000 companies currently provide shared experiences, ranging from 321Lend to Project Expedition. Going back to climate change, people living in areas severely affected by alterations in climate could potentially use resource sharing apps and other technologies to make more financially and environmentally economic decisions.

Still, while technology may be a solution to global issues, the international community still must learn to cope with individual countries that are in need of support–in need of a means to prevent war and prevent genocide. The 2003 Sudanese Genocide marked the first major holocaust of the 21st century, yet only a year into the genocide did the media of the conflict become widespread. While the U.S. declared the ethnic conflict between the Black African farmers and the Janjaweed a genocide in 2004, no other permanent member of the U.N. followed suit. The international attention brought to Sudan through media, it was not enough to end the conflict soon enough (with peacekeeping talks and initiatives ongoing from 2004 through 2007 and on). The reactivity of the global society failed to quickly terminate regional strife.

On a similar note, Nagorno-Karabakh–the contested landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan that has experienced violent conflict since 1991–is undergoing similar circumstances with the Azeri forces firing on civilian settlements and violating ceasefire agreements most recently on 24 April 2016. While the U.S. and E.U. have tried to assuage the conflicts in the regions, several headlines in the media write of their failures in the area. With 30,000 lives lost and 1 million residents seeking refuge after the first round of the war, the international community needs to learn to be successfully proactive in the situation. Otherwise, it’s not unlikely that the situation will digress into a state like 2003 Sudan. Although the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could be seen less of as a genocide and more of as a war for Artsakh liberation (Artsakh is another term used for the contested, ethnically Armenian area), the two situations are vastly alike in the progression of conflict and the response elicited internationally. The response to the Sudanese genocide was very much reactive and ultimately did not end tensions until years after its start; the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is now eliciting a more proactive (at least attempting) response to the issue though the original conflict 25 years ago hardly received much attention. Perhaps if the international community demonstrated higher levels of activism back then, the tensions in the region would be better assuaged.

I still do not believe this century, though still young, will be one of genocide, but I do think that we must learn to better our responses to ongoing and possible conflicts. For instance, a major point of issue on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the lack of  cooperation between Washington and Moscow regarding the issue. In fact, following Vice President Biden’s attempts to negotiate peace the day before violence erupted, Putin has been acting alone through active diplomacy in the situation, unmatched by President Obama. Thus, while the U.S. remains fairly quiet on the conflict, Russia has been working eagerly to assert control in the area and, even, to reconstruct its international appearance post its recent situation in Ukraine. If globally we cannot even put aside politics and unite as one to fight against violence, how successful will we be in preventing and ending atrocities like genocide? It’s very possible, in my opinion, to allay rising occurrences of war and genocide, but how effective will each attempt be? The answer is uncertain at this point.

Looking towards other situations, however, the international community isn’t always as polarized as in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation. The U.N. is often criticized for its failure when it comes to genocide prevention and/or successful intervention (i.e. Sudanese Genocide, Iraq War), but in many ways it has helped fortify international law and regulation. For instance, people are risking their lives today in Syria to collect government documents and hide them in caves in order to undergo ICC trials after tensions subside. This particular action demonstrates the reliability on internationalism to correct current wrongs. Even in terms of proliferations (i.e. nuclear weapons proliferation), the U.N.’s existence is a historically anomalous phenomenon as it provides a platform for world leaders to come together and work out problems before resorting to violence. Moreover, with the rise of social media, citizens around the world are more attuned to problems from Mexico to India to Russia. This hyper-alertness places more pressure on individual nations to cooperate with one another and combat a variety of issues that could increasingly include genocide. Perhaps the attention that is given to these conflicts, even if that attention is brief, could alert the international community on rising genocide-like conditions, such as long-term regional conflict and rising interstate political threats among other genocidal symptoms that we saw with the major holocausts of the past. Without a doubt, the future is embedded within this increasingly communicative system of politics and globalization that only with time will strengthen to better tackle future problems, like refugee issues related to global climate change, which have in part already set roots in present time.


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