By Grifynn Clay, BEF Participant 2017

While many may be focused on the recent plunge of the U.S. Stock Market, the latest Brexit talks, or Angela Merkel’s attempts to form a coalition, the city of Cape Town, South Africa, is just weeks away from experiencing an extreme water shortage. The second largest city in South Africa, with a population of nearly 4 million, could move to controlling distribution of water as soon as April 6th as reserve supplies hit extreme lows [1]. While increases in water scarcity have required greater adoption of conservation strategy, in South Africa it may have been too little too late. Other governments who face water scarcity should take note.

If current patterns of water usage and climate change continue scarcity is set to increase. This resource uncertainty may place many regions at a greater risk of instability. Current examples of water related conflict can already be seen in war torn Yemen and Syria. Factors that led to Syria’s 2011 civil war were likely amplified by drought and water shortages that occurred as a result of mismanagement of already scarce resources. While not solely responsible, agricultural failures linked to a multi-seasonal drought, between 2006 and 2009, contributed to the internal migration of nearly 1.5 million Syrians from rural to urban areas [2]. This displacement, coupled with the reality that few opportunities were found in cities to those who migrated, likely increased tensions leading up to the current conflict in Syria. Palestine and Israel, set to be some of the most water stressed countries by 2040, will likely see their conflicts exacerbated as access to water dwindles [3].

NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly warns that food and water shortages in the Middle East and Northern Africa have the potential to spell trouble for the global community in the form of mass migrations and violent conflict [4]. As these regions fail to develop policies, or cease to have the capacity, to preserve resources needed to support life it will become a global strategic imperative to see that action is taken in order to prevent instability. Mass migrations, like the ones recently seen into Europe, may become more common as individuals seek locations with more opportunities and access to water.

Several significant steps that will be taken to combat reduction of resources are tied into the commitments laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Action taken to reduce climate change will assist in lowering future water stress in many regions. However, as the Agreement’s main focus is not water conservation, it is not certain that it will make a significant impact in reducing future scarcity. Water stress is more likely to be driven by increased demand from growing populations and economic activity than it is by climate change [5]. Even if the Climate Agreement’s commitments were met, a growing global population, increasing urbanization, and an inability to adjust agricultural and conservation policies spells trouble for the future of water security.

Countries familiar to water scarcity are not the only ones set to experience challenges in the near future. Several of the world’s top economies, including the U.S., China, India, Italy, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are set to see high or extremely high water scarcity by 2040 if policies are not adjusted [3]. To add more concern, some leading experts on the economic impacts of climate change warn that average global incomes are set to decline roughly 23% by 2100 if the existing pattern of global warming continues [4]. This reduction of economic opportunity coupled with diminished resources will likely cause greater movements of people from the most affected regions. This migration may resemble the most recent migrant and refuge crisis seen in Europe, with countries struggling to cope with the influx of individuals from disturbed regions. In order to prevent future crises governments need to begin reevaluating their policies surrounding water conservation and resource management in order to head off water driven conflict. What is happening in Cape Town should be a warning not only to countries that are already water stressed, but to major economies as well. Failure to adjust global water policy and conservation strategy will spell trouble around the globe.

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

[1] City of Cape Town. (2018). Day Zero. From http://coct.co/water-dashboard/

[2] Suter, M. (2017, September 12). Running Out of Water: Conflict and Water Scarcity in Yemen and Syria. From  http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/running-out-of-water-conflict-and-water-scarcity-in-yemen-and-syria

[3] Maddocks, A., Young, R.S., & Reig, P. (2015, August 26). Ranking the World’s Most Water Stressed Countries in 2040. From http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/08/ranking-world%E2%80%99s-most-water-stressed-countries-2040

[4] NATO. (2017, May 22). Lawmakers from NATO allies warn on risks from Middle East water shortages, climate change. From https://www.nato-pa.int/news/lawmakers-nato-allies-warn-risks-middle-east-water-shortages-climate-change

[5] Dwortzan, M. (2016, October 4). Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk. From http://news.mit.edu/2016/even-if-paris-climate-agreement-implemented-food-and-water-supplies-at-risk-1004

The International Criminal Court as a challenged Institution

By Fridolin Firsching, FAC Chair at BEF 2016, 2017

This year the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrates its 20th birthday. It’s time to draw a conclusion from 20 years of permanent international judiciary.

International Recognition

The ICC was founded as a court of last resort that can investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Beyond that the ICC helps promote international peace and security by deterring future would-be perpetrators. Drawing from the legacy of the Nuremberg Trials, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the ICC is the first permanent international jurisdiction that is not geographically limited to a certain case.

However, the ICC depends heavily on the cooperation of states. While the ICC constitutes an international jurisdiction for international crimes, a world police organization does not exist. Consequently, the ICC relies heavily on the willingness of states to detain suspects and transfer them to the ICC. Therefore, support of the strongest states is of crucial importance to ensure fairness and universality of the application of its legal principles. However, stern opposition to the ICC is coming from the United States, Russia and China who have either withdrawn from the Rome Statute or haven’t signed it in the first place. The simple explanation is that national decision-makers have decided that it is not in the interest of their government to adhere to the rulings of the court. Ratifying the Rome Statute would mean that American citizens could be persecuted in front of an international criminal court for their involvement in war zones: a prospect that would be difficult to sell to the American electorate. A UN Security Council resolution is required for the ICC to be involved in a case within a non-member state. Since the US, Russia and China retain veto-power in the Security Council they would not allow an investigation that could harm their citizens.

Main Involvements

In addition, the principle of complementarity is stating that courts at the national level should deal with cases of serious violations first and foremost. The ICC is only complementary to national jurisdictions. Consequentially, this has led to the situation that the ICC is most involved in the absence of a functioning national judiciary. The vast majority of the 25 cases within the last 20 years have dealt with incidents on the African continent. Therefore, the ICC was accused by members of the African Union of undermining their sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans, to the point that the African Union considered a mass withdrawal from the ICC.[1]

However, scholars have analyzed that the evidence does not support the claim that the ICC is racist or anti-African[2]. The court has a strict framework for the type of cases it has jurisdiction over and a formalized process to evaluate which cases it will pursue. Multiple layers of accountability and protection are installed to prevent the office of the prosecutor from abusing its power. The unfortunate reality is that Africa has been in the focus of the ICC not because of racial reasons but because Africa is the area of the world most in need of intervention and judicial accountability. In addition, Africa is the area least able to prevent atrocities being committed with impunity because of the lack of appropriate judicial systems in many cases.

On the contrary, the ICC contributes to conflict prevention in Africa by expressing global norms of international law, challenging the culture of impunity in some countries, contributing to general deterrence, speedily intervening in some violent conflicts, and establishing some records of atrocities by identifying who did what.[3] Therefore, the ICC should be seen as an asset to African institution building. While the ICC is often times an uncomfortable partner for African governments, for the people of Africa it is a great asset for the fight against impunity.

Future Priorities

In conclusion, the ICC faces great challenges. Within the context of diverging interests between great powers, African states, and the rule of international law, the ICC has to be careful not to be crushed by political pressures. A joint break-off of African Union states would be a disaster to the organization and would leave the ICC without much legitimacy or purpose. First and foremost, the ICC is an institution to protect people from war crimes. It is an achievement in itself that the ICC is progressively establishing that genocide, rape, and torture are not merely a natural byproduct of war and devastation but instead crimes against humanity that will not remain unpunished. The record of atrocities will not be forgotten. Even if that means that the ICC needs to sustain its position against state interests.

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

[1] See BBC (2017): African Union backs mass withdrawal from ICC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38826073

[2] Austin, W. C. & Thieme, W. (2016). Is the International Criminal Court Anti-African? Peace Review, 28(3), 342-350.

[3] Malu, L.N., 2017. Walking a tightrope: the International Criminal Court and conflict prevention in Africa. African Security Review, 26(1), pp.26–40.