Academic journal article Global Governance

International Administration of War-Torn Societies

Academic journal article Global Governance

International Administration of War-Torn Societies

Article excerpt

There is nothing wholly new under the sun. Examples of international administration can be found in the early and mid-twentieth century--and even the late nineteenth, if one counts the infamous International African Association used by the King of the Belgians to legitimize his personal landgrab in the Congo. But those were exceptions, in an age when empire was generally not afraid to speak its name. Nonsovereign territories usually fell under the control of a single imperial power. That model was on the whole simpler and more efficient than the creation of an ad hoc multinational bureaucracy, and this was implicitly recognized in the system of mandates introduced by the League of Nations and later inherited by the UN under the name of trusteeship. One member state assumed control of, and responsibility for, the destiny of the territory concerned and was (notionally at least) accountable for its management to the rest of the international community.

By the late twentieth century, however, imperialism had been more or less universally abandoned, at least in its overt form. The populations of former UN trust territories had all achieved independence, either becoming sovereign states in their own right or (as in the case of Togoland and Northern Cameroons) opting to unite with neighboring ones. Palau was the last to achieve independence. The Trusteeship Council, defined by the UN Charter as one of the "principal organs" of the UN, has withered to a kind of vermiform appendix, holding only token meetings to acknowledge that it has no business to transact. Its splendid chamber at UN headquarters in New York, situated between those of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Security Council, has become, in effect, no more than an extra conference room, available for miscellaneous meetings to which it seems appropriate to give a touch of solemnity or magnificence not available in the basement.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, the last decade of the twentieth century witnessed what one might call a lapse of sovereignty in various territories, which brought them willy-nilly onto the international agenda; and there are reasons to think that this phenomenon will continue, perhaps even expand, in the twenty-first.

The term international administration may not always be the most accurate description of what happened, but there were clearly some elements of that in Namibia, in the late 1980s, and more in Cambodia, in the early 1990s, where the UN mission was actually called, perhaps misleadingly, a "transitional administration." The same title was used more precisely, later in the decade, for the arrangements in Eastern Slavonia. Meanwhile, there was the anomalous case of the three "northern governorates" in Iraq, which from 1991 onward became a kind of unadmitted international protectorate. No less anomalous, although much more explicitly defined, has been, since the Dayton accords of 1995, the constitutional order in Bosnia and Herzegovina--nominally a fully sovereign member state of the UN, yet one in which an internationally appointed high representative (of what or of whom the accords failed to specify) has power to overrule the decisions of locally elected officials and legislators.

Next came Kosovo, still legally part of Serbia but ruled since 1999 by a composite and complex international administration--this time the term is clearly apt--of which the civilian parts are under UN authority while the military arm, though authorized by the UN Security Council, is organized by NATO. And even while those arrangements were being put in place, the UN found itself entrusted with full authority, including control of the military, in East Timor. The crucial difference is, of course, that in the latter case the ultimate destination of independence was clear from the start and was reached in 2002 with the proclamation of the sovereign state of Timor-Leste, while in the former case international administration is likely to be prolonged, if not perpetuated, by the inability of the international community to decide whether the Kosovar population should remain citizens of Serbia or be allowed to establish a fully independent state of their own. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.