Mohamed ElBaradei - Dubai opening ceremony presentation
The Nobel Peace Laureate, Egyptian Presidential candidate and seasoned diplomat – having served three terms as Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency – addressed the IBA’s first conference hosted in the Middle East in its 64-year history. He spoke of his hope for the international rule of law in light of the Arab Spring.
You can see that I get intimidated speaking to 5,000 lawyers! Mr Akira Kawamura, President of the IBA, it’s a great honour and privilege for me to speak at the first IBA meeting in the Arab world and the timing could not be more perfect. The Arab world is going, as we have said, through the Arab Spring, a major change. That issue is the one I would like to speak to you about today. I’d like to speak about the rule of law in creating the kind of society we would like to live in: a society based on freedom and justice; a society where every human being enjoys freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want. I’d like to speak to you about the role of lawyers as social engineers in developing that kind of society, that kind of world we all are eager to see and leave for our children and our grandchildren.
Ironically, we live in an increasingly globalised world. If you look at the financial imbalance – energy shortage, climate change, arms control, violence, communicable diseases – these are all issues that no one country alone can solve on its own, no matter how powerful it is. Yet our governance mechanism is lagging behind. Whether you look at the Security Council and the United Nations, the G8, the G20, the EU, regional organisations etc, there is a dichotomy between how much we are being globalised and how much the mechanism, the governance mechanism, we have created is lagging behind our ability to move in science, technology, humanity – and that’s one of the issues I’d like to touch on before I move to our region, the Middle East.
The fact that we don’t have the kind of mechanism to govern on the basis of fairness, equity, justice, has led us to a world where you have three billion people – half humanity – that live on less than $2.5 a day. We have one billion people who go to bed hungry every night. We have spending of $1.5 trillion on armaments last year, while we spent $120bn on financial development assistance. So we spent 12 times more on armaments than on development aid and we spent $8bn on 16 peacekeeping operations run by the UN. In other words, we spent 200 times more on armaments than we spent on peacekeeping all over the world.
In Congo, five million people lost their lives in the last ten years. One million people lost their lives in Rwanda in 1994. In Iraq, over one million people lost their life against illegal, illegitimate war, and we haven’t even counted the number of innocent Iraqi civilians who lost their lives. So was the case in Darfur. In Libya, in Syria and Yemen, innocent civilians continue to lose their lives in vain.
The rule of law goes beyond corporate law, as Peter Maynard mentioned, and is key to governance, peace and stability. If the principles underlining the rule of law – fairness, equity, justice – are not sustained everywhere, the roof, in my view, will fall on our heads in this increasingly globalised world.
A particular region, the Middle East, is going through a radical change in governance. In many countries in that region, lack of good governance is a general characteristic. Lack of good governance means absence of the rule of law, corruption, lack of political participation and often repression and, in quite a few countries, poverty, a lack of basic needs for many people, an absence of economic opportunity, an obscene gap between the rich and the poor.
This environment naturally leads to loss of hope, marginalisation, radicalisation, violence and civil war. While in some countries this has taken place, luckily, through peaceful uprising – like in Egypt and Tunisia – in others it was through violence and bloodshed, as we have seen in Libya. Yet in others – Syria and Yemen, for example – violence is still raging while the international community is wringing its hands while many innocent civilians are again losing their lives.
Despite having one of the oldest regional organisations – the Arab League – there is a high degree of distrust and lack of co-operation among the Arab countries (only 13 per cent of imports from other countries in the region compared to over 25 per cent in inter-regional commerce in developing Asian countries).
Aside from oil exports, lack of economic development is a major issue in lack of governance here. 400 million people export – that’s the Arab world – export about the same amount of goods as Switzerland with less than eight million people, if we take, of course, oil aside. There is also clearly an economic disparity. Saudi Arabia, for example, with an economy of $440 billion is more than 14 times that of Yemen and we continue to see 750 million people in Somalia being exposed to and dying from famine.
‘‘I’d like to speak about the rule of law in creating the kind of society we would like to live in: a society based on freedom and justice; a society where every human being enjoys freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want.'
The situation is exacerbated, in my view, by a feeling of many Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East, not only of lack of good governance at home, but a feeling of unfair treatment and double standards by the outside world. A major regional conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict, has been going on since 1945 and is getting from bad to worse, with a sense of injustice and humiliation on the part of the Arab and Muslim world.
9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Darfur – in addition to the worsening situation between the Palestinians and Israel and continuing support for ruthless dictators – naturally created an environment of distrust between the predominant Arab and Muslim Middle East and the West. This is not as people talk about ‘clash of civilisation’, it’s clearly a conflict over down-to-earth political conflicts and economic interest.
A conflict is palpable between Iran, the Gulf States and other countries in the region, based on different ideologies, compounded by increasing distrust between different Islamic sects. Religious and sectarian tension, sometimes coupled with violence, is to be found in many of the Middle Eastern countries: Christians and Muslims in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon; Shiite and Sunnis in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon; Kurds and Arabs or Turks in Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Clearly, the current situation is still very fluid. The region is going through, as I mentioned, what is referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. The key for us is to make sure that it is not going to turn into a tsunami and continue to be an Arab Spring. Different processes of change are taking place in Egypt and Tunisia and one is about to start in Libya. In others – Syria and Yemen – the outcome is still unclear and violence continues.
In my view, the outcome in Egypt, where I come from, could be crucial as a role model for change and for creating a modern and moderate state based on democracy and social justice. So far, the uprising has been peaceful in nature, with heavy engagement by the youth – the catalyst for the future – and increasing reliance on social media that gets people together and makes them much more interactive as one human family. If successful, the Egypt change, revolution, could be a locomotive for change in the region through peaceful evolution and not explosion.
There are lots of challenges for change: the interaction between religion and the legal structure; the law of order or the absence of the law of order; the economic downturn that has resulted from the revolution; the dismantlement of the old structure; a weak civil society; unrealistic economic and social expectations; retribution and due process. These are some of the issues we are still facing in Egypt and I’m sure Tunisia is facing the same, and Libya will be facing the same.
So how should we go about all of this? In my view, the role of the international community is very important. Clearly, the change has to come from within, by the people and for the people, but the international community in such a globalised world has a crucial role to advise on managing change: economic development; democracy and social justice; robust assistance for social and economic development. The role of legal services and legal assistance in areas of human rights and governance is crucial. Tension clearly exists between universal legal norms and a state sovereignty; it’s still an issue that we continue to face everywhere and, as we all know, the concept of sovereignty is undergoing quite a lot of change, with the emphasis now not on the state sovereignty but on human security.
Luckily, there’s a lot of attractive investment opportunities in the region, whether in tourism, industry services, communication, infrastructure; once stability is in place. You can see that here in Dubai. In a stable environment, you know, the sky is the limit but failure to manage change could lead to a major setback in the region. We should not have any doubt about that. We need to address regional conflicts, engage in serious dialogue, based on respect and universal values, to build trust.
The Palestinian conflict has to come to an end. The Syrian situation has to be settled. Yemen has to be emancipated and get the kind of political and economic systems they deserve. We need to help the Somalis from dying out of hunger, which is shameful for every one of us. Afghanistan has to come to a cohesive society. The conflict between Iran and the West has to be settled and we need again to find a way where we can live together – even with different ideologies, with different values, with different religions – because we’re still one and the same human family. We definitely need a better co-operation here in the region and integration between countries of the Middle East, as well as with the rest of the world.
This is, in my view, a unique opportunity to finally establish a Middle East at peace with itself and with the world. This is a geopolitical and economic necessity in our increasingly interconnected world. We have no other option. Change in every aspect of our life is inevitable and there is no going back. The key challenge is to ensure that it is orderly and peaceful. Dialogue and meaningful engagement remains our best and only hope but, above all, we need a change of mind-set. We need to understand that we are one human family, that every one of us is each other’s brother and sister.