Q: Is not an index too crude a measure of the
infinitely complex situations in which states find themselves?
A: The Index will be just that - an indicator.
Each and every human situation is the result of an innumerable
set of factors, resulting in each unique situation. Hence the
difficulty of arguing each case of human rights abuse on an ad
hoc basis, and hence also the advantage of applying a unitary
measuring rule to all states. Performance measurement is rightly
applied to schools, hospitals and many other institutions. Is
there any reason that measurements may not be applied to governments
themselves, especially in their core duty of protecting the security
of the vulnerable?
Q: Governments which have no regard for human
rights will object and water down the proposals.
A: This is to be expected, but it is the job of
democratic nations patiently to negotiate to persuade them that
this is in everybody's best interests. It will take many years
of diplomatic work, but the alternatives are simply not acceptable.
In particular, now that Responsibility to Protect has been taken
on board at the UN, the Index is the logical next step.
Q: The world is far too complicated for this kind
of suggestion. It would take a global consensus to ease the ills
of oppression and inhumanity, tyrants and exploitation.
A: The journey of 10,000 [miles] starts with a
single step. (Lao Tzu). Global consensus is easier around simple
ideas than around complex ones. As Bob Geldorf said, "Nothing
is simpler than death, Mrs Thatcher".
Q: We will eventually need some kind of non-biased
world court where people can be heard, their complaints examined,
the culprits contained and punished in order to stop the oppression
of various peoples and its resultant terrorism.
A: Agreed. The Index of Governance can supplement
Q: Such an index would be biased towards the rich
and powerful countries because they'd have the means to complain
the loudest about not being as near the top as they'd like to
A: The same could be said of any measure taken
in the UN; it also applies to the International Criminal Court.
Nothing is perfect.
Q: But several factors beyond politicians' control
impact here, such as stage of economic, cultural and political
development. So you'd have to introduce some method of allowances
for these factors, or otherwise it would be terribly unfair to
A: The Observer Index addresses this cultural/development
factor by adding a weighting derived from the Human Development
index. Many of us feel that torture is torture and is not acceptable
in any circumstances. The capacity to inflict torture comes from
our primate genes, is universal, not cultural, and the law must
oppose it. Period. No excuses. But despite our absolutist leanings
in this regard, we are realist enough to accept some kind of weighting
in order to get something rather than nothing. Politics is the
art of the possible.
Q: A problem with sanctions is that a big country
may be able to laugh them off.
A: Yes, sanctions are not going to bring about
regime change in a matter of weeks. But the proposals here will
be an irritant, a constant reminder to (say) Bush that if he closes
Camp Delta his State Department officials will be able to get
a visa to visit Europe, or that his ambassador to the UN will
have one whole vote instead of a paltry 0.7 of a vote.
Q: Even tiny Cuba seems to be getting along quite
tolerably in the face of sanctions, with much better standards
of health, education etc.
A: Sanctions have increased self reliance and
the localised economy in the case of Cuba, because I believe that
although they have some political prisoners (the Cubans say for
good reason, but I really do not know enough about the case),
Cuba is not really a failing state AFAIK. Real failing states
tend to want the items on the sanctions list.
Q: This is a very worthy line of thinking, but
needs a lot of working out and may not be a sufficient answer
on its own.
Q: What's wrong with George Monbiot's suggestion
of giving each country a "democratisation" ranking?
Democratic Audit or another similar organisation (provided that
it could be kept independent) would develop the means to assess
different systems of government and assign a ranking based on
how transparent and democratic they were.
A: Yes, that is a possibility. The reasonthat
we go for Human Rights is that torture and political imprisonment
are far easier to measure than an ill-defined concept like democracy.
So ill-defined is it that countries like the UK and USA are pleased
to call themselves democracies when they are in fact nothing but
monetocracies with dodgy elections every few years. See http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/Democracy.htm
Q; Wily governments will find ways around the
A: This is a recipe for doing nothing at all,
ever. However, the beauty of the Index' focus on human rights
is that a substantial part of the data will come from relatives
Q: There is no point in this as the USA (or China,
or the WTO) will stamp on it
A; This again is a recipe for doing nothing at
all, ever. However, if we take a long view, the obstructive governments
will give way to more reasonable governments, while events may
convince politicians everywhere that the world would be a better
place without dictators.
Q: Most of us have probably dreamt of imposing
sanctions against the Washington regime among others, but how?
A: We could start by having a really effective
boycott of a top US company, starting with the StopEsso campaign
world wide, and while we are pushing them off their perch, we
select another top American company and tell them "You're
next when we have finished with Esso". But I digress. And
I said it was a dream.