Thursday, 21 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 19) [Post 84]

Consider a group of people living on a peninsula named Crimea. The majority of Crimean people are Orthodox Christian but there is a large majority of Muslims (there are some other minor religions represented as well). Although the territory is small in size, it is highly rich in natural resources. However, it is assumed here they do not possess the means for its exploration and exploitation and hence depend on third parties to do it. They do not have any means to defend the peninsula. At the centre of the Black Sea, Crimea faces directly Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, Rumania, and Bulgaria. Finally, the sovereignty of the peninsula is currently claimed by the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Ukraine is a medium size sovereign State with a medium size population, mainly Orthodox Christian. This country is situated linked to Crimea by land and it is also rich in natural resources. Ukrainians have their own means of defence.

Russia one of the largest sovereign States in the world in terms of territorial size, but not densely populated (although the population is larger in relation to those of Crimea and Ukraine). Russians are mainly Orthodox Christian with other several religious minorities. The territory is rich in natural resources. The Crimean people have very limited means to defend their territory. Geographically, they are located in the continent adjacent to Russia and Ukraine, so mainland Russia and Ukraine share with Crimea part of the continental shelf.

Crimea is strategically important for both Russia and Ukraine because of its location on the Black Sea, and hence the most advantaged in that respect (difference in Crimea’s advantage). However, it is the least advantaged in terms of territorial and population size, and defence. Crimea is key in Ukraine’s plans for energy independence and gas diversification strategy. The peninsula is important for Russia in many aspects such as natural resources and geopolitical location (for example, as a base for Russian navy).

Russia is the most advantaged in terms of wealth and defence (differences in Russia’s favour), the least advantaged in terms of geopolitical location, and in particular less advantaged than Ukraine in relation to their geographical proximity to Crimea.

Ukraine is the most advantaged in terms of geographical proximity to Crimea (difference in Ukraine’s favour), but less advantaged than Russia in terms of wealth and defence.


Before reviewing how the egalitarian shared sovereignty may work in this situation, let us see briefly how the principle of equality and the difference principle result when applied sensu stricto in this case.

If we applied equality strictly, they would all receive equal benefits and contribute equally towards the burdens. How would Ukraine fulfil its duty to defend Crimea? How would Crimean people defend themselves? The same could be said about natural resources because although Crimea, Russia, and Ukraine would receive the same share in terms of ownership, Crimean people would not have the means to exploit them. Several other implications could be drawn but we have already made a point. It is both unreasonable and unfair to expect three parties with different comparative situations in many different areas to contribute in an equal manner or to receive an equal return.

Nevertheless, to apply the difference principle in the same form may have similar consequences. Let us assume that overall Ukraine is the least advantaged in terms of natural resources, so they will receive a larger share. Crimea is less advantaged than Russia and Ukraine in terms of defence, so Russia will provide the means to defend the third territory. But Ukriane is less advantaged than Russia in terms of wealth, the natural resources in its territory are not part of the agreement so they are not under discussion, and they do not have means to defend the third territory to the same extent Russia does. Would they have to receive a larger share of the benefits resultant from the exploitation of natural resources in Crimea with means provided by Russia? Indeed, this seems unacceptable.


Jorge Emilio Núñez
Twitter: @London1701
21st June 2018

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 18) [Post 83]

The egalitarian shared sovereignty solves sovereignty conflicts because it simply acknowledges the facts, because: a) that sovereignty conflicts and sovereignty are complex issues; b) that complexity is given by these issues being constituted by activities and goods that imply both benefits and burdens; and c) that the claiming agents are most probably in very different comparative situations in many senses.

We do not have the problem of defining equality because we are not referring to the parties but to the target, the third territory. All the parties receive equal shares of sovereignty since these shares are ideal (they only represent their right to equal benefits and the obligation to equal contributions and only in what is referred to the third territory).

Thereby, if they can make equal contributions, they will receive equal benefits. We do not even think of their relative situations as members of the international society. They are equal or not in as much as it is referred to the target, the third territory.

Coincidentally, if they cannot fulfil their obligations to the same extent, their returns will be affected. It is when the qualitative differences come into play. And they are referred to the situation of each of the parties in relation to a specific good in what matters only to the third territory.

To give an example, if a party A cannot defend the third territory because it does not have any means of defence, then it cannot contribute (so its return will be lessened). As we have two pre-requisites and a targeted agreement, the other two parties B and C will have to assist party A in as much as their assistance is needed to let party A have a similar contribution in regards to that specific good or activity (in the example, parties B and C will assist in the development of the means of defence of party A, but only in as much as it is necessary for the defence of the third territory).

Indeed, the egalitarian shared sovereignty provides for the legitimacy of initial differences in the benefits and burdens of the parties in a way that the equality principle does not. So when we reach the ultimate egalitarian shared sovereignty goal of equilibrium amongst the parties, there will be no problem in knowing what ‘equal shares’ require since these will be similar shares of each of the goods relevant to sovereignty (output) amongst three agents with similar level of use of their respective shares (input). I use the term ‘similar’ rather than ‘identical’ when I refer to the final shares since there will be obviously some elements that because of factual restrictions or limitations cannot be equally or identically used, or at least not to the same extent in the literal meaning of these expression such as geographical proximity.


Conclusion: Crimea, the Egalitarian Shared Sovereignty, and Utopia

Following the previous paragraphs, the next post will introduce a hypothetical situation in order to show how the egalitarian shared sovereignty works in the context of the Crimean sovereignty dispute. The aim of this example is to demonstrate how by acknowledging certain features and by applying the criteria mentioned before, a shared sovereignty model can work, at least in theory. Note that the following paragraphs will use an oversimplified view with reference to some key points usually controversial in any sovereignty conflict and that therefore are present in the Crimean case.


Jorge Emilio Núñez
Twitter: @London1701
20th June 2018

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 17) [Post 82]

Yesterday, the post referred to the arrangements amongst Crimea, Russia and Ukraine that could result in a peaceful and permanent solution: the egalitarian shared sovereignty. However, the post finished with a remedy that still needed some guarantees to secure it cannot be used as a subterfuge for domination or imposition by the strongest party.


The egalitarian shared sovereignty includes a proviso

If we added a proviso in order to make sure that the party with greater ability and therefore greater initial participation rights would have the obligation to bring the other two parties towards equilibrium, the proposal becomes reasonable. That is because it ensures the most efficient current distribution of rights and obligations but also ensures the party that currently benefits most has an obligation to bring the other two parties up to a position where they can contribute equally, that is, it has the burden to assist the other two parties to acquire the ability to contribute equally to that particular objective/area/activity of sovereignty over the third territory.
Therein, the party with the greater ability in whatever area would agree to this because there is no other way of having the cooperation of the other two, and the other two parties would agree because this arrangement requires they receive something immediately and will eventually gain the ability to have an equal share, and they would otherwise get nothing.

It is true that the obligation is potentially onerous: what justifies the ascription of that obligation to the better off party? For example, if A is the stronger, and B and C are the weaker parties, is A obligated to raise the standards of B’s and C’s economies so that they can afford to invest in the exploitation of natural resources; or is it enough that A gives B and C a specific sum equivalent only to what B and C need to exploit resources on terms equal with A? If A gives that sum to B and C, are they obliged to spend it on exploitation, or can they spend it on something else and so forfeit any future claim to be assisted with the exploitation of natural resources? Why cannot B and C simply issue leases to commercial companies to exploit the resources on their behalf; why do they have to rely on help from A? What does the obligation imply in relation to unalterable inequalities, such as one state’s being geographically closer to the third territory than the other?

The way in which the parties fulfil the final agreement or how the parties use the outcomes of the exploitation of their shares have to do with either practical matters that depend on each real scenario or with decisions pertaining internal sovereignty and therefore are out of the scope of this article. Similarly, to think of every possible factual difference amongst the parties such as geographical proximity would be out of the scope of an academic writing of similar nature, in particular when this is only a theoretical exercise.

In what matters the justification for the obligation owed by the more advantaged claimant, two clarifications must be made.
Firstly, I do not claim that any obligation is prima facie owed amongst the parties. I believe the most advantaged party would accept the agreement or better said, it would be unreasonable for this party to argue it is not fair to accept it. Whether the most advantaged party actually accepts the arrangement or not is a different matter.
Secondly, it is reasonable to believe that if the three parties in the original position agree on:
a) equal standing;
b) making the nature and degree of participation dependent on efficiency; and therefore
c) at first the party with more ‘input’ will receive more ‘output’; the more advantaged claimant—whoever that turns out to be—will accept to have an obligation to bring about equilibrium in the shares since, in the absence of that equilibrium, the more advantaged claimant would or could dominate the other claimants so there would be hardly a good reason for the other two parties to accept any other arrangement that somehow did not contain a degree of equilibrium.
That is because anything less than shares in equilibrium would potentially imply a smaller share in comparison to those of the other parties. Therein, the bigger the share, the riskier the case for any of the parties to have more control on a particular issue pertaining sovereignty or the sovereignty of the third territory as a whole.
This is directly linked to the idea of non-domination since the possible monopoly of power with regards to a particular issue pertaining sovereignty or the sovereignty of the third territory as a whole could degenerate into arbitrary power by the decisions being made mainly by the strongest party or in benefit only of the strongest party. In consequence, the freedom of the least advantaged parties with regards the choices they could make with their shares and the originally agreed equal standing could potentially be reduced to the ‘rubber-stamping’ of the decisions made by the strongest claimant. Therein, it is reasonable to believe that the representatives of the parties would find the equilibrium proviso a fair solution to safeguard the interests of the three populations involved.

This way of approaching sovereignty conflicts like the ones discussed in this blog I will call egalitarian shared sovereignty.


Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701
19th June 2018

Monday, 18 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 16) [Post 81]

The “egalitarian shared sovereignty”

The question at issue now is to decide, by respecting these two pre-requisites, how to share sovereignty. So, the issue is what would constitute a reasonable allocation of sovereignty over the third territory amongst sovereign States A and B and the third territory C as equal claimants—i.e. Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea, whose equality of claim is in no way affected by whatever other situation they already have; and that allocation has a target: the third territory (Crimea) and all that it implies in terms of rights and obligations. By acknowledging the circumstances in sovereignty conflicts, that is, different agents and an ample concept such as sovereignty, and the way in which the original position has been set up, a revised principle may offer comparable advantages that may make it a reasonable option.

Firstly, we must remind us of the fact that the representatives of the three parties are behind the veil of ignorance as characterised before in this paper. Hence, they are deprived of knowledge in regard to which party they represent. So, it is reasonable for them and likely to agree that each party has a right to participate in each aspect of sovereignty, regardless of their particular circumstances, i.e. their development or ability, because no one would want to be left out. In other words, they would agree that ideally they would have ‘equal’ shares of sovereignty over the third territory, which means that the three claimants would have equal standing or status. Therein, all three parties would have a right to participate and the decision making process in each case would be subject to egalitarian consensus: all the three parties should be granted an equal input into the decision making process. They all have the opportunity to present, and amend proposals in relation to every aspect of the sovereignty of the third territory.

A second point has to do with factual circumstances. The representatives would acknowledge that it would be hard to see how after lifting the veil of ignorance all the three parties had the same relative situations such as economic development, defence system, means for exploitation of natural resources, law, and so on. So it is reasonable to think that the representatives would agree that the degree of each party’s participation would vary according to each party’s ability to contribute. We also said in the previous paragraph that it is also reasonable to suppose that each party would as well have an interest in each aspect of sovereignty. Therefore, and bearing in mind these two circumstances—equal right to participate and different ability to contribute—it is reasonable to maintain that each party would have an interest in each aspect of sovereignty being handled in the most efficient manner.

A third point would be to determine the level of input and output of each party with regard to each objective/area/activity related to the sovereignty over the third territory. In principle, the representatives may think of distributing what benefits or rights each party would enjoy depending on the level of contribution that the party makes. Indeed, they acknowledge that some parties will be able to make a bigger or larger input than others. However, an immediate problem arises.

The representatives would realise that by making the output dependant on the level of each party’s input this could result in a subterfuge for domination. That is to say, the better off party contributing more towards one or more areas and therefore securing a larger stake while the other two parties were unable to make the same level of contribution that would be translated in an ad eternum share of benefits.

Tomorrow the post will refer to a proviso to avoid this kind of potential form of domination or imposition.

Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

18th June 2018

Sunday, 17 June 2018

ASAP/JN event: Global Justice and Crisis. CALL FOR PAPERS. Manchester, Saturday 6th October 2018

This conference will bring together academics, non-governmental organizations and activists to present, explore, and discuss ways in which we may address worldwide current issues by means of global justice. The conference takes place at a key moment for global justice. Contemporary events such as the rise of Islamic State and state failure/potential dismemberment from the caucus regions to the Middle East, the ongoing Israel-Palestine difference, the Ukrainian Crisis and Russia’s foray into Crimea, the socio-political crisis in Venezuela, the European Union facing Brexit are a few examples of domestic, regional and international multi-layered crisis . The aim of the conference is to provide a forum for debate over some key issues (poverty, access, dispute resolution and terrorism) ranging between particular case studies to their  global impact, and including analysis of political, sociological, legal, policy, and everyday conceptualizations. The conference will provide a forum to analyze developments, and seek to discern underlying social, legal and political processes to address them.

The conference papers will have the following objectives:
  1. To produce a lexical, syntactic, and semantic description of the language being used by different disciplines when using the terms such as “poverty”, “access”, “dispute”, “conflict”, “sovereignty”, “terrorism” and variation between speakers and groups of speakers—i.e. that of politicians, academics, and public in general.
  2. To evaluate whether we need to redefine “conflict” to reflect the complexity of current conflicts and the difficulty of fitting them into existing categorizations (inter-state, intra-state, domestic, regional, global).
  3. Conflict is usually viewed entirely in negative terms. To reflect on how conflict may be a positive mechanism for social change and what can be learnt/taken from situations of conflict to be applied in other contexts.
The conference papers will have test the following hypotheses:
  1. Politicians, academics, and public in general will display different linguistic features when referring to “poverty”, “access”, “dispute”, “conflict”, “sovereignty”, “terrorism” depending on country of origin and historical involvement in the conflict as well as personal and/or national agenda.
  2. Conflicts are defined by legal science, political science, international relations and many other sciences but also by non-rational factors such as emotion and passion.
  3. By neutralizing non-rational factors that cause bias in assessing conflicts, these conflicts may be resolved through a joint approach.
Key areas of discussion include:
  • Poverty
  • Access (to health, education, justice)
  • Dispute resolution
  • Terrorism

It is intended that papers from the conference will be collected for publication.

We look for contributions that will deepen and broaden understanding of how conflict may me a positive force for change (key areas: poverty, access, dispute resolution and terrorism).
We hope to attract contributions from different disciplinary approaches and backgrounds, including those outside of the mainstream of theories of global justice.
If you would like to participate, please email an abstract (no more than 500 words long and written in English) to Dr Jorge E. Núñ before Friday 31st August 2018.

General Enquiries: Dr Jorge E. Núñez

Friday, 15 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 15) [Post 80]

Preliminary requirements for a fair distribution

To recapitulate, we introduced a brief history in relation to the dispute over Crimea, different views from academics, media, politicians and people at large in Crimea, Russia and Ukraine, legal implications, and other elements. The last posts introduced the “colourable claim” in order to show why the historical, legal or moral arguments may legitimize the right to claim sovereignty.
Assuming Crimea, Russia and Ukraine decide to move from the status quo and go into negotiations about the sovereignty over Crimea, and assuming the parties agree that none of them will resign to their claims, in what follows we are going to consider how the negotiations may produce a peaceful solution beneficial to all. 
Sovereignty implies many aspects of many different levels. Not only is this translated in benefits but also burdens. The solution reached must be one that, apart from being intuitively appealing in the negotiations under the status quo, can be applied when the status quo is lifted in such a way that the three populations want to respect the agreement reached. Then, the solution must be somehow beneficial to the three agents, must recognize to an extent their claims and the result is not detrimental to any of the agents.
Thereby, and in order to succeed in choosing a principle to be applied for the allocation of sovereignty we must bear in mind some circumstances:
  • The claiming parties will be in very different situations in many areas.

  • The least advantaged party may be but does not need to be the population in Crimea.

  • Sovereignty conflicts and sovereignty itself are complex: they imply both benefits and burdens in many different areas.

 In order to address the issue of complexity we must first make clear how the parties will not use any agreement reached for their benefit only, that is, the agreement must not be a subterfuge for any form of domination from one or more claiming parties in relation to the other(s). This is particularly important in territorial disputes like the one over Crimea in which there is a party considerably “stronger” than the other two.
Therefore, it is plausible to think the representatives will have a cautious view in regards to the outcome. So, it is reasonable that the representatives in the negotiations may want some safeguards in order to secure their respective populations against any form of domination once the status quo is lifted.
Bearing in mind the previous discussions, it is reasonable for the representatives in the original position to agree on three basic points in order to share sovereignty before deciding how to do it (Núñez 2017):

  1. First, it is prohibited to interfere with the internal or external affairs of any of the other agents.
  2. Secondly, each agent will respect the liberties of the three populations; so no agreement reached can be interpreted in a way that curtails the basic non-political liberties of any of these populations. This point means that none of the agents is allowed to interfere in any way with the basic non-political liberties of the inhabitants of any of the other parties.
  3. Thirdly, the agents will conduct their mutual relations in light of the principles recognized by the law of peoples.

With these three pre-requisites agreed in the negotiations, once the status quo is lifted the negotiators secure that the agreement is not a subterfuge for domination of any kind, that the individuals of each population safeguard their basic non-political liberties, and that the three agents are free and autonomous from each other—i.e. in the case of Crimea that does not mean independence, hence the use of the word “autonomous.”

Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

15th June 2018

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 14) [Post 79]

The dispute over Crimea presents a conflict of interests. I mean by that the following:

“[t]here is an identity of interests since social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own efforts. There is conflict of interests since persons are not indifferent as to how the greater benefits produced by their collaboration are distributed, for in order to pursue their ends they each prefer a larger to a lesser share […].”

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Revised Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Russians and Ukrainians have both common and conflicting interests. Although each claiming party is formed by many different individuals with different interests, each of these claiming parties has as a collective group a common interest for the purpose of this series: EXCLUSIVE sovereignty over the disputed territory (Crimea). Thus, this same element (the disputed territory) is the centre of this particular conflict of interest.
If things were different, we would see Crimeans, Russians and Ukrainians living in peace on their land. It is a fact the region is volatile because of the dispute. We do not need to assume or demonstrate this. It is self-evident. I am going to assume both Russia and Ukraine finally want to achieve a PEACEFUL and PERMANENT solution to dispute over Crimea. I am going to assume Russia does not recognise sovereignty (de jure and de facto) over Crimea. I am too going to assume Ukraine does not recognise sovereignty (de jure and de facto) over Crimea either. I include these assumptions intentionally in order to avoid tangential criticism. 
With this picture in mind, we would need to determine:

  1. Who can take part in the negotiations?
  2. What do we do with PEOPLE living in Crimea?
  3. Which party has sovereignty over the disputed TERRITORY?
  4. What kind of arrangements do we need in terms of GOVERNMENT and LAW for the disputed territories?

It is crucial to answer question 1 first, before we move into the actual negotiations (questions 2, 3, and 4). That is because this dispute has local, regional and international issues at stake. As a direct consequence, people may think of Crimeans, Russians and Ukrainians being the only parties concerned about (and interested in) a solution. This is over-simplistic (and over-optimistic, even naïve). There are many powers alien to the dispute with a variety of interests. Moreover, they are more interested in keeping the dispute on a status quo (ongoing) basis than achieving a solution because this situation offers them a better return, a higher payoff (for example, arm trafficking, terrorism, prestige).

The next post will assess these questions having in mind the concept of “colourable claim” previously introduced with this series. After we answer question 1, the attention will shift to population, territory, government and law (questions 2, 3, and 4). I am going to assume Russia and Ukraine conducted negotiations and decided to settle the difference by means of the Egalitarian Shared Sovereignty.

Jorge Emilio Núñez
Twitter: @London1701
14th June 2018