What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Restoring Trust

For three years during the Carter Administration, I served at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York as the US Alternate Representative to the Trusteeship Council (while also being responsible for all issues related to Latin America). The TC was a legacy from the post-WW II situation in which many colonies of former imperial powers that had changed hands between the Western powers and the Axis powers, including those that had carried over from the League of Nations Mandate system, were placed under the oversight of the United Nations, with individual countries, mostly previous colonial powers, becoming "administering authorities." As such, it was considered one of the "principal organs" of the UN system, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the International Court of Justice (World Court). It occupied one of the principal chambers of the United Nations (pictured above), a room totally decorated and donated by the government of Denmark. Given the commitment toward self-determination of peoples that was written into the UN Charter, the role of the TC was very important and accompanied the entire process of decolonialization, including both Trust Territories and ordinary colonies, that took place from the early 1960s to the early 1990s.
By 1978, however, the only remaining Trust Territory was Micronesia, formally called the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), some 2,000 small islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean most of which had been fought for island by island by the United States in defeating Japan. A special representative with the rank of ambassador negotiated with the Micronesians over a new status arrangement that would end the Trusteeship, and we at the UNTC worked to prepare the way for the end of the Trusteeship, but carrying out annual meetings and promoting adoption of the Micronesian's own constitutions which would give them self-governing status and allow them to become independent or "associated states" while maintaining US military basing rights on the islands.
Although at the time, we were concerned the Soviet Union, with its veto power in the Security Council would try to prevent the end of the UN Trusteeship in Micronesia, we laid the foundation for the ultimate independence of the three Micronesian nations to emerge and by 1991 (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau) themselves become members of the United Nations. By that time the USSR had ended and Russia did not object to the arrangements. The role of the TC had been totally fulfilled. Instead of eliminating the Trusteeship Council, its functions were suspended and every two years a President and Vice President is elected by its current members.
In the early 1990s some of the policy advisers to President Bill Clinton suggested that the TC be transformed into an organ responsible for overseeing "Failed States." That stirred some debate, but was never carried forward. Since then this idea has occasionally been revisited. Meanwhile, without specifically designating a particular UN organ to carry out the administration of failed states, a de facto system of trusteeship began to emerge in the UN system. The new name for this system under international law has been labeled "international territorial administration." From Kosovo to East Timor, the UN has taken responsibility for parts of other states that have broken away from their "mother countries" or required international administration under conditions of conflict and needed to be assisted by the UN. (a couple of excellent recent books by international legal scholars have been written: See Carsten Stahn, The Law and Practice of International Territorial Administration: Versailles to Iraq and Beyond, Cambridge University Press, 2008; Ralph Wilde, International Territorial Administration: How Trusteeship and the Civilizing Mission Never Went Away, Oxford University Press, 2008).
The United States can no longer unilaterally occupy other countries or territories as it did in Iraq, and only later establish some kind of "coalition of the willing" to try to legitimize its action. Only actions that are sanctioned by the United Nations or an appropriate regional organization will be considered as legitimate, and the UN Trusteeship system in particular offers the kinds of oversight by the UN and an ability of peoples under trusteeship to come to the UN to voice their concerns or grievances against an "administering power." It is possible for the UN itself to act as an administering power under the system. This is likely to be the way in which future trusteeships will be managed. Although it can be said that a de facto trusteeship system exists now, it would be much better if these situation be brought under a formal system with guarantees that the international community is responsible for the restoration of free and independent countries. It would serve as a kind of ER for sick states. We sorely need that in the world today as part of a broader system of Global Governance. And it would not be a bad situation for the deliberations over these failed, failing or fragile states to take place within the dignity and grace of the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

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