The Ethical Oil campaign makes Canadians look ethically challenged

The Ethical Oil campaign makes Canadians look ethically challenged. The Mark got it exactly right when it ran the headline: “The Truthiness of Ethical Oil.” Truthiness, as defined by comedian Stephen Colbert, means “things that a person claims to know intuitively or ‘from the gut’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.” We need a mature public debate about climate change in this country. The rhetoric of ethical oil is designed to thwart any such debate.

In a beautiful paper entitled “Moral Complexity: The Fatal Attraction of Truthiness and the Importance of Mature Moral Functioning”, social psychologist Darcia Narvaez argues that “Mature moral functioning is evident in action that balances intuition and deliberation with individual capacities for habituated empathic concern, moral imagination and moral metacognition and with collective capacities for moral dialogue and moral institutions, offering tools for moral innovation.” We need these skills more than ever in an era of climate change, resource depletion, loss of species diversity and habitat, and unsustainable growth.

The “ethical oil” debate is manifestly designed to dumbfound the moral intuitions of the naïve, deflect meaningful deliberation, silence those who actually have something to say, and polarize debate on climate change. The advocates of ethical oil could not be happier with the angry reaction of Saudi Arabia to their Karl Rove-style commercials. The use of women’s rights as a wedge in the debate on energy and the environment would be laughable were the lessons of recent history not so clear: we are unwise to think that such blatant manipulation of the public can be ignored. Truthiness is on the rise.

See: Narvaez, D. (2010). “Moral complexity: The fatal attraction of truthiness and the importance of mature moral functioning.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(2), 163-181.

First posted at CIC: Rapid Response.

“Temo que Humala termine como Obama”

The following is an interview in La Republica, Peru, 18 September 2011.

El canadiense Maxwell Cameron es uno de los principales estudiosos norteamericanos de la política latinoamericana y, en particular, de la peruana (lo que significa que casi nunca se aburre). En esta entrevista, expresa su convencimiento de que Ollanta Humala se ha alejado del camino chavista pero, a la vez, advierte que si no emprende reformas de fondo las altas expectativas que ha despertado su gobierno podrían hacer que decepcione a muchos.

Por Óscar Miranda

Maxwell Cameron recuerda que su interés por América Latina nació de niño, cuando a su pequeño pueblo en Nueva Brunswick, en el atlántico canadiense, llegaron refugiados chilenos y argentinos, que huían de las dictaduras de Pinochet y Videla, y lo encandilaron con historias sobre persecuciones y luchas por la libertad. Lo primero que hizo cuando acabó el colegio fue viajar por México, Centroamérica y casi todo el cono sur. Luego decidió hacer de nuestra región su objeto de estudio. En la Universidad de Columbia Británica un profesor le sugirió investigar los movimientos sindicales peruanos. Fue así que llegó a nuestro país, en los ochentas, a analizar nuestra violencia, nuestras elecciones y nuestras crisis, apasionadamente.

En el 2000, Cameron asesoró a la Misión de Alto Nivel que envió la OEA en las postrimerías del fujimorismo, y al año siguiente colaboró en la elaboración de la Carta Democrática Interamericana. En los últimos años coordinó un conjunto de investigaciones sobre el estado de la democracia en seis países andinos (Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile y Perú), labor que dio como fruto el libro Democracia en la región andina, publicado en noviembre por el IEP. Hace unos días volvió a Lima, invitado a la cumbre de ex presidentes latinoamericanos que organizó Alejandro Toledo. Domingo aprovechó esta visita para entrevistarlo.

–¿Qué impresión tiene de las primeras semanas del gobierno de Ollanta Humala?

–Mi impresión es bastante positiva. Ha tenido una transición ordenada y las primeras medidas han sido positivas, tanto el tema de las regalías a la minería como el de la consulta previa.

–¿Le sorprende su 70% de aprobación?

–Sí y no. Es evidente que no fue la primera elección de la mayoría de los peruanos. Salió elegido en gran parte porque la gente tenía más desconfianza en Keiko Fujimori, pero también es verdad que en el proceso electoral hubo mucha satanización de él. Hasta ahora ha mostrado un comportamiento bastante pragmático. Lo hemos visto en la cumbre de los ex presidentes (el domingo) y después en la Cancillería (el lunes), y su discurso ha sido bien fundado, claro y bastante positivo.

–¿A qué se refiere al decir que su conducta es pragmática? ¿No tiene ideología?

–En el 2006 fue exageradamente criticado por su relación con Hugo Chávez, y ese era un momento en el que Venezuela tenía mucho protagonismo. En este momento, Chávez ha perdido mucha influencia y, más bien, Brasil se ha vuelto un modelo más atractivo. Humala ha tenido la inteligencia de presentarse como un Lula antes que como un Chávez. Se ha presentado más pragmático y creo que va a gobernar respetando el mandato constitucional.

–¿No hay una posibilidad de que tome, de nuevo, el camino de Chávez?

–No hay ninguna razón para pensar eso. Él no va a seguir esa receta. Sería un gran error político. Es demasiado inteligente para hacerlo. Por eso dije en la reunión de ex presidentes –y creo que eso provocó algo de consternación– que me parecía bien que haya jurado por la Constitución de 1979.

–¿Por qué le parece bien?

–Porque no creo que vaya a seguir la receta bolivariana de convocar una Asamblea Constituyente ni (que vaya) a hacer cambios radicales. Y es perfectamente válido hablar de cambios constitucionales, siempre que estos cambios sean respetuosos del pluralismo, del legalismo y se hagan mediante procesos abiertos, deliberantes. No me sorprendería que se puedan plantear algunos cambios políticos. Pero que (Humala) lo haga de una manera radical como en Venezuela, Bolivia o Ecuador lo dudo seriamente.

–No hacer esos cambios podría causarle problemas con los sectores que votaron por él precisamente esperando ello.

–Creo que algunos sectores pueden estar decepcionados de él. El gran miedo que yo tengo es que pueda terminar como Obama: que inspire muchas esperanzas y que termine haciendo poco. Por eso es importante enfocarse en cambios pragmáticos que se puedan llevar a cabo. E iniciar este proceso de consulta previa me parece la mejor política para iniciar un proceso de cambio.
–En el gabinete hay gente que viene de la izquierda, como la ministra de la Mujer, y gente con una visión de derecha, como el ministro de Economía. ¿Qué dice eso sobre este gobierno?

–Es el primer gabinete y habrá que ver cuánto dura. Seguramente habrá peleas internas pero por ahora parece un gabinete plural, que inspira bastante confianza. Es un buen gabinete; hay que darle la oportunidad de que trabaje.

–Tener a gente de izquierda y de derecha pretende dar un mensaje.

–Claro.

–¿Cuál cree que es ese mensaje?

–Bueno, el del cambio responsable.

–¿También se puede interpretar que este es un gobierno pragmático al que no le interesan las ideologías?

–Yo creo que sí. Humala es pragmático, definitivamente. Es pragmático y enigmático. Es difícil ubicarlo ideológicamente. Pero si aceptamos el concepto de que quiere gobernar al estilo de Lula, lo que vimos con Lula al inicio de su gobierno fue un intento de tranquilizar a los inversionistas, que estaban preocupados, para luego mostrarse capaz de gobernar eficazmente. Y Brasil ha crecido y ha mantenido su estabilidad macroeconómica y, al mismo tiempo, ha hecho un esfuerzo muy grande para reducir la pobreza. Humala tendrá que hacer lo mismo.

Un país impredecible

–Sus colegas politólogos se equivocaron totalmente. Nadie previó que Humala ganaría las elecciones.

–Bueno, el Perú es un país muy difícil para hacer predicciones. Yo he dejado de intentar predecir lo que pasa. Acá puede pasar cualquier cosa y nada es lo que parece, así que hay que ser bastante agudo para entender lo que está pasando.

–¿Conoce otro país con ese nivel de volatilidad electoral?

–Hay otros países volátiles, como Ecuador y Venezuela. Son aquellos donde, como en el Perú, ha colapsado el sistema de partidos, donde las instituciones representativas están en crisis y donde muchas veces surgen los candidatos llamados outsiders, que no pertenecen a partidos establecidos y que a veces son antisistema. Entonces, Perú no es el único país de volatilidad electoral en la región… Lo que a muchos extranjeros les sorprende es cómo muchísima gente toma la decisión de a quiénes va a elegir en las últimas semanas, días u horas de la campaña.

–¿Por qué cree que ocurre eso?

–Gran parte (de la razón) es por la ausencia de un sistema de partidos políticos. Hace años escribí con (el politólogo) Steven Levitsky un artículo llamado “¿Democracia sin partidos?”. Y nuestro argumento fue que la democracia es impensable sin partidos. Tienen que existir. Y donde no hay partidos muchas veces las legislaturas pueden ser mercados de compra y venta de influencias. Y eso desprestigia mucho a las instituciones.

–Pero en el Perú tenemos democracia a pesar de casi no tener partidos.

–Sí, la democracia ha sobrevivido, y en la anterior elección (2006) ganó el único partido sólido, que ahora al final de su gobierno se ha visto muy debilitado. El mismo Humala planteó, en su discurso del domingo, la necesidad de fortalecer las instituciones y de fortalecer los partidos para que estos dejen de ser solo reflejos de liderazgos personales.

–Es curioso que Humala plantee eso, tomando en cuenta que a su partido lo dirige él junto a su esposa.

–Así es. Él es uno de los líderes que no tienen sostén de un partido sólido. Por eso creo que se debe fortalecer el sistema de partidos en el Perú. Por ejemplo, con una reforma del sistema electoral, con una labor más coordinada entre el Jurado Nacional de Elecciones y la ONPE, y que se aplique la ley de partidos que los obliga a tener ordenado su financiamiento.

Debating the Democratic Charter on its 10th Anniversary

On September 11, 2011, Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru (2001-2006) held the “6th summit of ex-presidents” in Lima, which included Vicente Fox, Carlos Mesa, Nicolas Artido, Antonio Saca, Ernesto Samper, Fernando de la Rua, Hipolito Mejia, Martin Torrijos, Gustavo Noboa, Rodrigo Borja, Jaime Paz Zamora, Cesar Gaviria, Jose Aznar, and the Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza. President Ollanta Humala opened the meeting and one of his first comments was about the need to democratize the summit with more ex-presidents. I think that may have been a subtle hint that the group needs to be a little more diverse. Lula sent a letter, but it would have been nice to have had Bachelet both for gender and ideological balance. Since Latin America has been swept by a red-tide, it is inevitable that a meeting of ex-presidents tends to tilt to the right. But then so did the audience.

Ollanta Humala gave a decent speech. He argued that democracy means that the voices of all must be channeled through the political process, without opinions being fragmented or excluded. He talked about how there are democratic deliberations in communities throughout the land, but whereas some groups have the power to translate their views into law, others can only influence politics through mobilization. I said Peru’s republic has always excluded the indigenous, the cholos, the slaves. Indeed, democracy did not come with the republic and independence. He also called for parties that are not identified with individual personalities and criticized the tendency to caudillismo in Peru, which I thought was rather interesting given his own personality-driven approach to politics. Finally, Humala spoke of the importance of creating a Peru in which people can live in communities where there is clean potable water, their kids can go to school, and people can enjoy a decent life.

From my perspective, the worst presentation by the ex-presidents was made by Aznar. He seemed to want to take Humala’s speech as somehow implying that all Peru needs is a more efficient state. There are no alternative models, only markets and democracy, and there cannot be two or more Latin Americas any more than there can be two Germanys.

Insulza argued for better monitoring of compliance with the Democratic Charter. Recognizing that states don’t like monitoring, he suggests that rather than a democracy rapporteur, there should be a peer review process. He argued for an increase in the capacity of the OAS to review situations in which democracy is at risk. Preventive action requires that the government in question requests OAS involvement. This hinders the capacity of the Secretary General. He said we should not reopen the democratic charter. Just look at ideological division of region, if you open the Charter it will all fall apart. But there is room for additional resolutions to strengthen it. We need, for example, a better definition to “serious ruptures.” These are not defined, but it is clear that in Quebec in 2001 the chiefs of state understood this to mean more than coups. It means intervention in other powers of the state – the dissolution of another branch – or massive fraud. Another example would be when states close all or most of the media. If these things are defined on a case-by-case they become politicized. Above all, unity of the region should be maintained.

Gaviria’s point was that the Democratic Charter has the same status as the OAS founding Charter. There are mechanisms to implement it. If countries don’t use them, that is because they don’t want to. If they want to act, they can; the Charter empowers them. That said, he felt that the power of the Secretary General should be reinforced.

Fox made a weird case for decriminalization of drugs. He said drugs should not be the last prohibition. We’ve legalized abortion, and gay marriage, but not drugs. Say, what?

Carlos Mesa noted that Latin America has a history of executives attacking legislatures and vice versa, but noted that it is hard for judges to destabilize democracy. Yet who defends the judiciary? If judges want an audience in OAS, the executive will be the first to block them.

Noboa harangued us about Correa concluded with the prediction that all forms of 21st Century Socialism are but steps toward totalitarianism. I was more impressed by Borja’s criticism of Correa: that he uses the rhetoric of socialism but has done little to implement socialist reforms. Instead, he has spent most of his time building up presidential powers.

My own intervention can be found in the previous post. Rather than reading the speech, however, I improvised a bit and threw in a few lines to pick up on previous interventions. In particular, I tried to reinforce Humala’s message about the importance of recognizing that there is no single model of democracy and that democracy means not just respecting a given democratic model but also the right to choose the form of government that the public wants. I suggested he did the right thing by swearing himself in on the 1979 rather than 1993 constitution, because it is valid to talk about the kind of constitution one wants. That was the point that generated the most controversy. That, and the suggestion the OAS should apologize to Chile for holding its General Assembly in Santiago in 1976 in the height of the military dictatorship. That is the other anniversary of this day: the coup in Chile was 38 years ago.

Here is the final declaration of the ex-presidents. “Constituir, en el marco del Centro Global para el Desarrollo y la Democracia, y como aporte de la Sociedad Civil, un mecanismo de observación y monitoreo de los avances y promoción de los principios establecidos en la Carta Democrática Interamericana de su aplicación y de alerta temprana en los casos de alteración de la institucionalidad democrática en los países de la Región, con la finalidad de coadyuvar a los esfuerzos que en ese mismo sentido realizan las organizaciones regionales y subregionales. El mecanismo tendrá una Secretaría Técnica encargada del desarrollo de mecanismos e indicadores que permitan la evaluación y el monitoreo. Con base a las recomendaciones de la Secretaría Técnica los Ex Presidentes se reunirán para deliberar y, en su caso, actuar en consecuencia.”

Sounds good. The challenge will be, as it is with the Charter itself, how to execute this mandate.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Evolution of Democracy in Latin America: Strengths, Weaknesses and Recommendations

The following comments were prepared for presentation in the “VI Cumbre de Ex-Presidentes: Institucionalidad Democrática e Inclusión Social,” organized by the Centro Global para el Desarrollo y la Democracia, Hotel Country Club, San Isidro, Lima, September 11, 2011.

Executive Summary

The Strengths of the Charter are that it:
– defined democracy as a right;
– encompassed more subtle threats;
– made democracy a condition of OAS membership.
The Weaknesses of the Charter are that it:
– did not recognize multidimensionality of democracy;
– was vague on what counts as an interruption/alternation of the democratic order;
– has very weak enforcement mechanisms.
Recommendations for improvements include:
– clarification of the meaning of interruption/alternation of the democratic order;
– creation of a democracy traffic light;
– establishment of a democracy inspector.

Introduction: The Strengths of the Charter

The Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted by the members of the Organization of American States on September 11, 2001, represented three major steps forward with respect to the defense and promotion of democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

First, it established representative democracy as a right, and it defined the elements of democracy broadly to include “free and fair elections,” a “pluralistic system of political parties,” and the “separation of powers and the independence of the branches of government.” The Charter also recognized the “right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decision relating to their own development” as a condition for the “full and effective exercise of democracy.” Despite references to participation, however, and notwithstanding objections by Venezuela, democracy was defined as a representative regime.

Second, the Charter broadened the understanding of threats to a democracy to encompass the more subtle challenges that had confronted Peru and other Latin American countries in the 1990s. For this reason, the Charter refers to “situations” that may affect “the democratic political institutional process or the legitimate exercise of power” (Article 18). Under Alberto Fujimori, for example, Peru had experienced democratic backsliding without recourse to the kind of conventional military coup that policy makers had in mind when they wrote of “sudden or irregular” interruptions of democracy in Resolution 1080 in 1991.

Third, the Charter reworked the compromise between non-intervention and democracy that was already implicit in the 1948 OAS Charter. This meant not only that the entire Hemisphere accepted democracy as the basis of membership in the OAS, but also that the most powerful states in the system, including the US, could not sponsor or accept non-democratic regimes within the OAS. It is worth recalling that the 1976 OAS General Assembly was held in Chile at the height of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The Problems with the Charter

From the outset, the Charter had three problems.

First, the meaning of democracy grew more contested after the Charter was signed in 2001, especially after a wave of left-wing governments emerged in the context of crises of representative democracy. Since that time, Latin America has undergone considerable democratic experimentation. Most governments (across the ideological spectrum) continued to regard free and fair elections as the cornerstone of electoral democracy, but many failed to uphold basic constitutional rules. In particular, judicial independence has often been undermined. A number of governments have promoted direct participation in an effort to make democracy more meaningful, but often in ways that did not reinforce representative institutions. Since democracy is a multidimensional concept, it is possible for progress along one dimension to be accompanied by backsliding along another. The consensus around the key elements of representative democracy in 2001 gave way in the face of a more diverse array of models of democracy.

Second, the meaning of an “unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime” (Article 20) was left undefined. Despite efforts—both by scholars and policymakers—to specify what this language means, confusion often arose over when countries were not in compliance with the Charter. Even more crucially, the ambiguous phrase was followed by a key qualifier: the interruption or alteration of democracy would only enable the OAS to act if it “seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” That, obviously, would be a matter for political judgment. Yet the last decade has seen the growth of tensions within the OAS with respect to the how to exercise such political judgment.

Third, the Charter had very weak enforcement mechanisms. As a political document, it depended on the will of the member states, and they typically did not like to criticize each other. Moreover, the Secretary General needs permission to send a mission to investigate abuses of democracy (see Article 18). But, of course, the abuses of democracy are most likely to occur due to the behavior of the governments and leaders in question. Another way of putting this is to say that the Charter has a bias in favor of the executive: legislatures and courts have no standing in the OAS, and hence no formal role to initiate the enforcement provisions of the Charter.

Recommendations to Reinforce the Charter

In order to more fully realize the Charter’s potential as an instrument for flexible and preventive diplomacy, it needs to be reinforced. These changes would not necessarily require formal amendments to the Charter. They could take the form of codicils or complementary efforts in at least three general directions.

While recognizing the diversity of democratic regimes, it is necessary to establish the minimum features beyond which no country can be considered democratic. This also involves more clarity on what counts as a coup, and what must be done when a constitutional order has non-democratic features. As a point of departure, the 8 points outlined by former US President Jimmy Carter in his 2005 speech to the OAS might be formally adopted on a voluntary basis as a codicil to the Charter.

Mr. Carter’s 8 points include: “1. Violation of the integrity of central institutions, including constitutional checks and balances providing for the separation of powers.

2. Holding of elections that do not meet minimal international standards. 

3. Failure to hold periodic elections or to respect electoral outcomes.

4. Systematic violation of basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, or respect for minority rights.

5. Unconstitutional termination of the tenure in office of any legally elected official.

6. Arbitrary or illegal, removal or interference in the appointment or deliberations of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies.

7. Interference by non-elected officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of elected officials.

8. Systematic use of public office to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal activities of members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society.”

Making assessments with respect to whether member states are in compliance with the Charter along the lines of Carter’s 8 points should be based on solid empirical evidence. The Inter-American system lacks robust monitoring and reporting on the state of democracy. Such reporting should be arms-length from both the OAS and member states, and should result in publicly accessible, peer-reviewed research. At the same time, the empirical research needs to be presented in a format that is useful for policymakers.

An effort to develop a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on the state of democracy in the Andean region was undertaken by a group of scholars under the aegis of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia, the Andean Commission of Jurists, International IDEA, and the Carter Center. Together, these groups created the Andean Democracy Research Network and commissioned a series of studies on the state of democracy in the Andean region. Over 20 scholars were involved from six countries. These studies adopted a common methodological template which examined not only the electoral and constitutional features of democracy, but also the issues of citizenship and participation that have become central to the debates on the quality of democracy over the past decade.

Monitoring would be most useful if it were to highlight those situations in which a member state is at risk of serious impairment of democracy. A “democracy traffic light” could usefully identify the political regimes in which such risks exist. Member states in good standing would be given a green light. There is one country in the Western Hemisphere that is unequivocally non-democratic, and which would be given a red light (Cuba). But there are a number of other regimes that have both democratic and authoritarian features. If the authoritarian features are sufficiently strong this may indicate the impossibility of holding elections that can be considered to be free and fair by the international community. Such regimes exist in a zone of indeterminacy between democracy and authoritarianism, and would be given a yellow light.

A yellow light would indicate the need for collective deliberations by OAS member states. Ideally, this would trigger the Chapter IV provisions of the Charter. Since this does not occur due to the Charter’s “Catch-22,” alternative institutional mechanisms are needed. For example, the Inter-American system could create a “democracy inspector.” The work of the democracy inspector would be similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Honduras. A less ambitious version of the same idea would be a peer review mechanism. This might begin with the development of a compendium of best practices in democratic governance, an idea proposed by the Canadian government in the most recent General Assembly of the OAS.

Conclusion

The Democratic Charter is a work in progress. It represents an advance over previous instruments and has the potential to be use in proactive and preventive ways to reinforce democracy in the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, it is a flawed document that has a number of loopholes and vague provisions that need to be tightened and more sharply defined. Much of this can be done without amending the Charter, but it demands leadership with vision and energy, both inside and outside the OAS.

Is Conservative Foreign Policy Different from Liberal Foreign Policy?

Differences between Liberal and Conservative foreign policies are easily summarized but their sources are deep and complex. Liberals believe in rules, multilateralism, soft power, peacekeeping missions, humanitarian intervention, and the United Nations. Conservatives see the world as a dangerous place, where hard power rules. In such a world it is imperative for a country like Canada to stay inside the security perimeter of the United States.

More important than the policy differences, however, are the differences in the underlying frames used by liberals and conservatives (here I use lower case “l” and “c” to designate the ideologies not the parties). An emerging body of evidence—much of which is nicely summarized in Berkeley linguist George Lakoff’s recent book The Political Mind—suggests that liberals and conservatives think differently. Whereas liberals emphasize caring, fairness and reciprocity, conservatives focus more on loyalty, authority, and obedience. That is why the Conservative government wants to restore the moniker “royal” to the name of the Canadian forces. It also explains why the Conservative government has systematically eliminated terms like “gender equality” and “indigenous rights” from the foreign policy lexicon. Such terms evoke inconvenient cognitive frames.

Message discipline also reassures Conservative supporters, who are typically intolerant of ambiguity, that their leader states his intentions clearly and delivers. A major danger inherent in framing policy options in terms of authority and obedience, however, is that science and evidence take a back seat to the shared beliefs of the leader and his followers. The best example of this is the failure to take climate change seriously.

See other views in the CIC Rapid Response site.