It is finally happening. After 13 years of negotiations and delays, the UN General Assembly will vote this month on the proposal for a universal moratorium on the death penalty. A large majority of the UN adopted the proposal on Nov. 15, despite attempts by some member states to obstruct, amend or bury it. Fortunately, in the end, the opponents were forced to fight a will stronger than their own: the will of those who -- after the abolition of slavery and torture -- want to mark another turning point for civilization.
But will this month's vote be a mere formality? Experience teaches us to be prudent. I have not opened my bottle of Spumante yet.
To be honest, I am not sure that all of the world's governments have accepted the inevitable, or that even the most inflexible will now agree to the moratorium. But I continue to have faith that the assembly will know, as always, how to meet this challenge.
We are all aware that even if the vote succeeds, the UN resolution will not be binding, and that establishing and enforcing a moratorium is only a necessary mid-way step toward full abolition.
I believe the UN should push for an immediate de facto suspension, without waiting for the debates to begin on legal reforms in the respective countries.
I hope that this approach will allow a wide consensus in the assembly, and that any last minute change of heart will fail.
One big lesson I learned during the struggle to create the International Criminal Court (ICC), and now during the battle for a moratorium on the death penalty, is that it is often better to aim for a realistic result rather than a perfect one.
Before the international community established the ICC, there were two ad hoc tribunals -- one for the former Yugoslavia and one for Rwanda.? Their work paved the way for the ICC.
Some EU countries wanted to push for complete abolition of the death penalty right away. I understand their position. I would have wanted the same thing myself. But had we followed that route, we would most likely have failed.
There is an important lesson in this for the EU at a time when it is seeking to become a global actor: we must reach an internal consensus while always bearing in mind what the external ramifications of our decision might be. On the moratorium, we remained pragmatic and built a strong European foreign policy. And it was an advantage in the UN negotiations to have a common Europeans position and to have spoken with a single voice.
A second lesson that I learned is also useful for the EU, which finds itself in a world in which new powers are emerging and where all actors from Manila to Algiers, from Doha to Libreville, must deal with the challenges of globalization and interdependence on a daily basis. That lesson is that Europe has more friends than it has enemies in the world.
These friends deserve respect and attention. If Italy and the EU had not understood the need to work with non-European countries, and make them feel that they were responsible and fully-fledged protagonists, the efforts to establish the ICC and be so close to declare a universal moratorium on the death penalty would have failed.
I know that this is not exactly a new lesson, but it is what I have in mind when I think of efficient multilateralism. Not only does it work, but, above all, in some cases, it is the only way of moving forward.
Finally, a third lesson -- relevant to the fight against the death penalty and, indeed, to winning any political battle -- is perseverance, which I think is a mix of pig-headedness and the ability to maintain one's position. Without perseverance, there can be no progress.
All this is a success, not only for anti-death penalty radicals, for the "Hands off Cain" association, Italy and for the EU and its friends in the world. It is much more: it is a success for all those who believe that it is still possible to improve our world -- and ultimately the human condition -- every day.
Emma Bonino is Italian minister for Europe and international trade and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
Copyright: Project Syndicate/ECFR
The second wave of COVID-19 in Taiwan is cause for increasing concern. For four consecutive days, starting on Monday, the government has announced new confirmed cases, including several members of a tour group who visited Turkey. Among 23 new cases that the Central Epidemic Command Center announced on Wednesday, four were members of that tour group. As of Thursday, only two individuals in the entire tour group have tested negative for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, has expressed concern over this cluster of infections. As of Thursday, Turkey and Egypt had reported only
Swirling within the cybersphere’s vast ocean of reports, statistics and graphs about the international coronavirus pandemic, there is a short sentence out there in the worldwide web, which the Chinese government doesn’t want people to notice. It is on the Johns Hopkins University website “https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html” which houses the popular “live map” of Wuhan coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) data from individual countries. That sentence reads: “The map’s names of locations correspond with the official designations used by the US State Department, including for Taiwan.” Most readers may think this merely is an unremarkable footnote, akin to other source data on the site. But
On March 6, China announced through Hong Kong’s Chinese-language Ming Pao that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) would visit Wuhan “soon.” On the same day, US-based Chinese-language IPK Media published an article by Chinese tycoon Ren Zhiqiang (任志強), with the headline: “An official call to arms against Xi: The clown who insists on wearing the emperor’s new clothes.” Will the truth about the struggles inside the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak finally be revealed? Ren’s article is reminiscent of Tang Dynasty poet Luo Binwang’s (駱賓王) “An official call to arms against Empress Wu Zetian (武則天)
While countries worldwide are fighting the havoc caused by the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, Beijing is busy playing games to suppress Taiwan’s visibility on the international stage as the nation has gained attention for its superb campaign to protect its citizens from the virus. At the onset of the pandemic in late December last year, pundits predicted that Taiwan would be the second large red zone following China. By the middle of last month, those predictions were utterly debunked. At the time, Taiwan registered fewer than 40 cases and the nation has since expeditiously geared up the production and supply of