Bqe-recherche avancée

Fr. Préemptif (droit de préemption), préventif

Esp. Preventivo (ataque)

→ Rogue state, preventive war

After the “New World Order” introduced by George Bush Senior after the 1rst Gulf war in 1991, a second “New World Order” was imposed by the American NSS (National Security Strategy) in 2002, which introduced a number of new concepts such as pre-emption, as opposed to preventive action, and the promotion/export of democracy. It became a full strategy in the international security policies under his son George W. Bush, when consultancy think tanks directed it at terrorism after 9/11. Later on, the strategy was also applied to natural disasters and demonstrations – as for instance in 2010 at the G20 summit in Toronto. In this sense, the strategy was extended to some perceived threats such as chaotic demonstrations, equated to natural disasters or terrorism. A more recent case is the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, where violent protests occurred within a domestic context, but had actually been built up transnationally against decision-makers assumed to be responsible for world problems and expected to solve them. At the crossroad of international issues, “summits thus represent the ultimate platform of resistance” (Woznicki 2017).

Any preventive action, whether diplomatic or military, has to identify and respond to brewing conflicts in order to prevent the outbreak of violence. It requires attention to “early warning” in order to detect situations (protests, demonstrations, riots…) that might lead to violent conflict, and may take different forms, such as verbal protests and denunciations, sanctions, active monitoring and verification agreements, peacekeeping operations, providing good offices, and other forms of third-party mediation (UN, OSCE). In other terms, a state need not wait for the actual attack before using force, so that most theorists and international lawyers will regard pre-emption as a species of self-defense, provided that the enemy attack is truly imminent.

The logic of deterrence appeared when Stalin and Mao were building their first atom bombs, which caused some Americ can officials to urge pre-emptive strikes to stop them. Happily, the logic of deterrence ensured that a nnuclear war was avoided, but the pre-emptive concept reappeared with the US re-assessment of nuclear strategy after the four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on September 11, 2001. The attacks, also referred to as 9/11, killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage and $3 trillion in total costs. In contrast with preventive action, pre-emption validates striking first - not in a crisis, as was done by Israel with plausible, if not entirely convincing, justification in the 1967 war, when Arab troops were massing on its borders after dismissing the UN war-preventing presence, but on the basis of shadowy intentions, alleged potential links to terrorist groups, supposed plans and projects to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and anticipations of possible future dangers. It is a doctrine without limits, without accountability to the UN or international law, without any dependence on a collective judgment of responsible governments and, what is worse, without any convincing demonstration of practical necessity (Falk 2003).

In international law, the permissibility of pre-emptive war has not proven controversial, and it is assumed that pre-emption against imminent threats can be assimilated to self-defence. Richard Falk and David Krieger (2002) noted that “While the United States engages in such hypocrisy, it is attempting to use UN resolutions improperly to justify an illegal pre-emptive war against Iraq. Resolution 687, which welcomed the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty and set forth peace terms after the Gulf War, says nothing about the conditions under which additional force could be used against Iraq”. By contrast, a preventive war aims to forestall a military threat that is distant rather than imminent. Like humanitarian intervention, preventive war fits awkwardly into the U.N. Charter system, because both involve first strikes. Although proponents justify preventive war as a form of self-defence, it looks more like a war of aggression, for posing a distant threat, unlike posing an imminent threat, is hard to assimilate to the category of armed attack. In other words, as noted by Zedner (2005, 523), “… is prepunishment justifiable? If it were certain beyond reasonable doubt that a person was about to commit an offence, would we be justified in imprisoning her?”.

Going back to Egypt’s military build-up in 1967, Walzer (1977) maintained that even if it was so ominous that Israel was justified in launching a pre-emptive strike, “... the existing doctrine does not hold that any state other than Israel would have been justified in obliterating Nasser’s air force to prevent an attack against Israel”.

With a rogue state, some analysts say the distinction between preventive war and pre-emptive war is more controversial, because the imminence is redefined in probabilistic rather than temporal terms. A recent reference is related to tensions caused by a North Korean warning of “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” by President Kim Jong-un in April 2017, which caused Russia to move troops and equipment to North Korea border amid fears of a military clash between Pyongyang and the United States over the North’s nuclear program. On 13 April 2017, NBC News had cited intelligence officials as saying the US could carry out a pre-emptive conventional strike if it got intelligence that the North Koreans were about to test, but that was strongly denied by Pentagon officials. Korea; the justification for a pre-emptive strike would be to prevent an imminent nuclear attack on America or one of its allies.On 15 May 2017, North Korea successfully launched a new type of nuclear-capable missile, which fell in the Sea of Japan east of Vladivostok, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the US mainland and Pacific holdings.

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 1977
Richard Falk and David Krieger, “Subverting the UN”, The Nation, November 4, 2002
Robert Falk, The Iraq Crisis and International Law, June 2003
Lucia Zedner, “Securing Liberty in the Face of Terror: Reflections from Criminal Justice”, Journal of law and society, 4, December 2005
Krystian Woznicki “Violence from the future: on the logics of the G20 state of emergency”, OpenDemocracy, 28 July 2017

Fr. Arrestation extra-territoriale

→ Enemy combatants, torture, intelligence, surveillance

Extraordinary rendition is the forced transfer of a person from one country to another for arbitrary detention and interrogation under torture. ” The Extraordinary Rendition Program was set up by the US Administration years before the 9/11 attacks took place. First understood as the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners, it was codified by the Clinton administration and hugely expanded under the George W. Bush presidency.

The program is described as a global terror state apparatus as part of a general policy based on “furtive exception”, having broken free from the traditional rules and constraints of territoriality and sovereignty. Under military order No 1 issued by President Bush in November 2001, the president gave himself the right, in defiance of national and international law, to detain indefinitely any non-US citizen anywhere in the world.

Rendition implies the abduction and covert transport of the detainee from foreign countries for interrogation in the US without judicial oversight. Victims are also sent to countries where torture is routinely practiced on detainees. Terrorism suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have often been abducted by hooded or masked American agents, then forced onto a Gulfstream V jet, which has clearance to land at U.S. military bases.

After September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency illegally detained thousands of people, among whom at least a hundred and thirty-six terrorism suspects and moved them to secret locations around the world for interrogation and often torture, the most notorious example being the men at Guantánamo. In Iraq, of the roughly 12,000 detained after the US invasion, some appeared on lists, others vanished because of chaos and incompetence. Others died under interrogation. These figures include the dozen or so high-profile al-Qaida detainees captured since the war in Afghanistan.

Congressman Edward Markey introduced a bill in June 2004 to make extraordinary rendition illegal in US law, after George Tenet, then director of the CIA, admitted to the rendition of 70 people in the year after 9/11, describing them all as terrorists.

Some indication of the scale of the network of detention centres was gleaned from a report by Human Rights First in 2008, formerly the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights. In Afghanistan, it said, in addition to the Bagram and Kandahar bases, the US acknowledged 20 other centres. In Iraq, there were three official centres, including Abu Ghraib, and an additional nine US military facilities. In Pakistan, a prison at Kohat, near the Afghan border, was under US control. In Jordan, the al-Jafr prison in the southern desert was used as a CIA detention centre. Human Rights First suspects that prisoners were held on US military ships and in bases such as Diego Garcia. Other prisoners have been « rendered » to Egypt and, as in the Arar case, to Syria, both countries in which torture is well established.

Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers of detainees also involved European states within a world-wide network, a “spider’s web” spun out in secret and without any democratic legitimacy, a system which was utterly incompatible with the fundamental principles upheld by member states of the Council of Europe. (Mayer 2005). It included CIA black sites in military or naval installations, and resorted to renditions under which terrorist suspects are flown between States on civilian aircraft, outside of the scope of any legal protections, often to be handed over to States who customarily resort to degrading treatment and torture.

In 2014 and 2015, the American Center for Constitutional Right (CCR) joined a criminal complaint filed in Germany by the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) against former CIA head George Tenet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of the former Bush Administration, in response to a Senate torture report. The ECCHR complaint is part of a long history of CCR’s efforts to prosecute those who designed, implemented, and carried out torture in international venues, under the human rights principle of universal jurisdiction. CCR’s Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative is the latest among efforts to fight for the right to due process, filing countless cases related to immigration sweeps, ghost detentions, extraordinary rendition, and every other illegal program devised by the US administration.

In 2009, the US government dropped the term “enemy combatant” to refer to detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, which George Bush's administration had adopted for prisoners held outside traditional legal frameworks. However, the term is still used in other contexts, as in a statement for the Senate armed services committee in 2016 by Gen Joseph Votel, Obama’s choice to oversee the anti-Isis war at US Central Command and a veteran leader of the elite special operations forces that conduct capture raids. He raised the issue about the detainment of new detainees captured from the Islamic State.

Other countries practice extralegal detentions, like Israel or China. In 1960, Adolf Eichmann was abducted from Buenos Aires to stand trial for war crimes in Israel. In 2015, hundreds of Chinese critics, human-rights lawyers and activists were detained, or simply kidnapped, according to Human Rights Watch. Chinese leaders characterized those detainees as informers or undercover agents and therefore considered as a threat to the Chinese state. The implied tenet is also that universal human rights are explicitly rejected. This position is also observed in the international field, where China promotes realism as the most beneficial behaviour to what is largely seen as an anarchy state, in which a realist policy amounts to a zero-sum game to maximize its own state interests.

Center for Constitutional Rights, New York City

Johan Steyn, “Guantanamo bay: the legal black hole”, British Institute of International and Comparative Law and Herbert Smith, Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall, 25 November 2003

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Strasbourg

Jane Mayer, “Outsourcing Torture. The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program”, New Yorker, February 14, 2005

Haider Rizvi, "Rumsfeld Charged with Torture in French Court", One World, October 29, 2007. Reprinted in Common Dreams.

Richard B. Zabel and James J. Benjamin, Jr., In Pursuit of Justice Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts. A White Paper, Human Rights First, Washington, May 2008.

China Events of 2015, Human Rights Watch.

Zihang Liu, “How the Chinese view International Law”, International Policy Digest, 29 August 2016

World Report 2016, Human Rights Watch.

Isabelle Hilton, “The 800lb gorilla in American foreign policy”, The Guardian, Wednesday July 28, 2004


Fr. Responsabilité de protéger

-> Humanitarian intervention, law, human rights

The idea of protecting jus ad bellum criterion rather than the jus in bello criterion, because the former concerns the conditions justifying the resort to war. In that sense, the contemporary concept departs from previous eras, for example the medieval epoch, characterized by conceptions of divine rights, the institutionalized practices of crusade and the idea of “just war”, whereas the we are confronted today with the rise and institutionalization of human rights as an international norm along with the emergence of a new practice of humanitarian wars. However, the moral criterion has not necessarily disappeared from current justifications, which are theorized either as an ethical principle designed to aid unprotected communities and supported by public opinion, or a Realpolitik justification for military intervention as a political objective.

The Security Council resolution 688 condemning Iraqi repression and casting the refugee flows as a threat to international peace and security was a peculiar instance of intervention, in this case to protect the two million Kurds of Iraq. The intervention was a coalition led by the US (‘Operation Provide Comfort’) and carried out unilaterally without Council authorization, but relied on previous resolutions and on international humanitarian law for justification and was not opposed by Russia and China. It was supplemented with an assistance programme carried out by several UN agencies.

Resolution 688 was consequently a significant shift in international law, with human rights and broader humanitarian issues becoming prominent in the Council’s decision-making, stating that internal repression can lead to a threat against international peace and security. For this reason, it remained controversial as human rights issues were hitherto internal matters of States: several countries including India and China voiced their reservations clearly. However, the UN increasingly resorted to humanitarian criteria, and governments and heads of states from 150 countries, meeting as the UN General Assembly, unanimously accepted in 2005 not only that sovereign states have a very explicit responsibility to protect their own people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, but when they manifestly fail in that responsibility – as a result of either incapacity or ill-will – the responsibility falls upon the wider international community to take whatever action is appropriate, including in the last resort, and if the Security Council agrees, military action. So understood, this concept is a softer formulation of the previous concept of right, as stated in the Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in 2004, A More Secure World, which argued that “[t]here is a growing recognition that the issue is not the ‘right to intervene’ of any State, but the ‘responsibility to protect’ of every State’’ (UN, 2004, 56). In 2005, the UN Secretary-General voiced a similar opinion, saying that “...we must ‘move towards embracing and acting on the ‘‘responsibility to protect’’’ (Annan, 2005, 35).

James Pattison, “Outsourcing the responsibility to protect: humanitarian intervention and private military and security companies”, International Theory, March 2010, 1-31
Michael P. Noonan, “The Question of Humanitarian Intervention: A Conference Report”, FPRI Wire, June 2001
Richard Falk, “Civil Society Perspectives on Humanitarian Intervention”, Journal of Civil Society, June 2008, 3-14
Tal Dingott Alkopher, “The Role of Rights in the Social Construction of Wars: From the Crusades to Humanitarian Intervention”, Millennium - Journal of International Studies, 1/2007
Zeynep Erhan, “Humanitarian Intervention”, Strategic Outlook, November 2012
Ramesh Thakur, “The Responsibility to Protect at 15”, International Affairs, 2/2016, 415-434
Gareth Evans, “The Limits of State Sovereignty: The Responsibility to Protect in the 21st Century”, International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) , Colombo, 29 July 2007
Gareth Evans, “Gone? The Responsibility to Protect: An Idea Whose Time Has Come ... and Gone?”, International Relations, Vol 22(3), 2008, 283-298
Gareth Evans & Mohamed Sahnoun, La responsabilitéde protéger. Rapport de la Commission internationale de l’intervention et de la souveraineté des États (CIISE), décembre 2001
Gareth Evans, “The Limits of State Sovereignty: The Responsibility to Protect in the 21st Century”, Eighth Neelam Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture, International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), Colombo, 29 July 2007
Kofi Annan, Speech at the UN World Summit, October 2005


Protection for non-governmental organisations on hazardous duties


by Mario Bettati*

Professor at the University of Paris 2.

This article was published in Transnational Associations, 51, 3, 1999, 118-131. All rights reserved.

Well aware of the growing security problems that non-governmental organisations have to face when undertaking humanitarian and other tasks, the UIA has decided to proceed with a study of protection that such organisations require when undertaking hazardous duties, by means of a specific evaluation of the situation as perceived by “on the spot” persons concerned themselves. A questionnaire was prepared for this purpose under our own scientific management, with participation by our team from the University of Paris 2 and in cooperation with the working group from the Union of International Associations.

Amongst those non-governmental organisations that replied[1], some indicated that their activities were not such as to entail “hazardous duties”. They were not therefore faced with the problems covered by the questionnaire and, for the same reason, were unable to provide the information requested. Others, such as a leading humanitarian bodies, objected that they did not regard themselves as non-governmental organisations and, while it was true that they had had to encounter serious security problems, they did not wish to answer our questions.   Those who agreed to answer them in detail sometimes appended documents to their return indicating their status, main activities and/or a brief history of their tasks.

Having regard to the objectives pursued, which determined the structure of the questionnaire, it was inevitable that each non-governmental organisation should have to make a number of choices when answering each type of question. The results, on passing through a data processing procedure, therefore displayed proportions in terms of quantities and values that varied absolutely in relation to the open question put and to the distribution of the number of replies, itself varying according to subject. The analysis set out below follows the order of the questions and uses the headings printed in the questionnaire.


I.         Your scope of work

The questionnaire asks the non-governmental organisations questioned to spell out their work sector within the area in which they operated.

A.        Your area of work

As far as the operational speciality of the non-governmental organisations studied is concerned, the replies show a clear emphasis on development aid. This finding is increased if those of the replies that were classified as “other” are added; they included agriculture, reconstruction, economic reform, mine clearance and the environment. The heading “Human Rights” could also be usefully extended, since certain organisations included the work they do amongst refugees, immigrants and displaced persons and journalists in the “Others” category. This redistribution would not alter the initial classification, which places particular emphasis on development and human rights as soon as the “Others” sectors, which would be extensively reduced by a redistribution, are left to one side. Activities in defence of human rights are placed in second position - subject to the offsetting mentioned above - amongst the non-governmental organisations preoccupied with a lack of security. This is confirmed by the recent resolution of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, which was due to be adopted by the General Assembly, on protection for the protectors of the fundamental rights of the individual.

One notes that the organisations stating that medical activities are included are altogether the least numerous, which waters down the effect of the high profile they enjoy in the public mind, where they are believed to be more exposed because more than most they are in the front line in conflict areas.

B.        Your field of work

The results obtained by sampling with regard to the location of non-governmental organisations’ activities and therefore implicitly the location of risks - since the associations who replied are those that are beset by the problems of protecting their members or their property - came as no surprise.

In fact, it is not in the countries of Western Europe or in North America that destitution, the defence of human rights and famine relief are the most pressing topics, even though the work done there is far from negligible. It is, therefore, hardly surprising to see that a high proportion of work is done in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Twice as much work is done in relation to any other area in Africa alone.


II.        Type of incidents that have affected YOUR association since 1990

Under this heading, the associations questioned were asked to distinguish between incidents obstructing the proper conduct of duties, where the effect was simply to delay them, to defer them or to complicate their execution, from acts of violence directed against property or persons that had the same effect but with far more serious consequences for individuals and equipment as far as the harmful effects of actions were concerned.

A.        Actions obstructing the proper discharge of duties

These varied in nature. From prevention of access to victims to administrative obstacles to access, with obstruction to the delivery of goods and supplies and restrictions on movement in between.

a)         Barred access to victims

While at humanitarian level, the nature of conflicts has changed and rebel movements are more likely than government forces to cause obstruction, it is clear that in other fields of activity, especially in development aid or in defence of human rights, government authorities remain the principal interlocutors. It is therefore not really surprising that they are the principal source of difficulties of access.

b)         Administrative obstacles to victim access


Non-governmental organisations have become a source of profit to a large number of protagonists, especially - but not only - in developing countries. The wealth - sometimes ostentatious - of their resources, the distribution that they undertake, and the stocks that they have amassed for this purpose are often a source of temptation for the public or private agencies who have a smidgen of power and who use it to draw some material advantage by taking samples. This explains why the obstacles most frequently mentioned are extensive delays at a checkpoint and requests for payment. The latter demand is most commonly made together with the former. These are the two most frequent obstacles.

But the administrative obstacles are not always dictated by avarice. It also happens that associations come up against refusals to provide visas or delays at the frontier for political or bureaucratic reasons. Delays are relatively less frequent than they used to be, but refusal of a visa is still a considerable problem.

The United Nations has on numerous occasions since the early nineties demanded freedom of access to humanitarian aid for victims in connection with the various internal conflicts in which the UN has been concerned. We know, for example, that the Security Council adopted 114 resolutions on these lines between 1990 and October 1998. The wordings of the resolutions vary but their content is the same as that found in Resolution 1193 of 28 August 1998 concerning Afghanistan where it “… requires of all Afghan factions, especially the Taliban, to do everything possible to guarantee the safety and freedom of circulation of personnel of the United Nations and other international and humanitarian organisations” …[2]

c)         Obstacles to the delivery of goods and supplies


It is obvious from the outset that the main factors preventing the delivery of goods and supplies are administrative formalities. They are all the more feared by the associations where their field of work requires them to take urgent action.

Secondly, a finding which supports that which we have set out in the pie chart above, is that “taxation”, i.e. a request for payment or sampling from lorry loads, is also one of the major bug-bears complicating associations’ actions on the ground.

d)         Restrictions on freedom of movement

These restrictions are not a prime concern. They are spread fairly uniformly amongst the various categories of obstacle, with a low point where the withholding of residence permits is concerned, which ultimately is less widespread than the other difficulties. The important position occupied by threats or assaults will be noted. They stress, should it be necessary, the breadth of risks run by the organisations and their personnel. Finally, a third source of restrictions is the establishing of forbidden areas which, as we know, may be imposed as often by national and local authorities as factions controlling a region.

B)        Violence directed against property

A distinction can be drawn between violence against convoys and violence against premises.

a)         Against convoys

A distinction must be made between looting strictly speaking and armed attack against vehicles, while listing the main categories of loss sustained.

1.         Looting

The persons responsible for looting are divided uniformly amongst public authorities, insurgent movements, and ordinary criminals. This means that the public authorities represent only one third of the sources of insecurity, which makes it far more difficult for the United Nations to impose injunctions on them, since, the weaker or more delinquent a country’s government, the harder it is for its public authorities to control insurgents or ordinary criminals.

2.         Attacks against the association’s vehicles

We know that non-governmental organisations for the most part use land vehicles, which explains why there have been no attacks on shipping. There have been only two against helicopters and two against aircraft. This difference and the rest of the results call for no comment.

3.         Type of losses sustained by convoys

The distribution of losses in relation to the degree of harm done similarly provides information which is self-explanatory. The substantial proportion of total destruction (28%) compared with partial destruction (43%) is noteworthy.

b)         Against premises

Three series of questions were put in the questionnaire, the first concerning those responsible for looting, the second concerning attacks on the association’s installations, and the third concerning the type of damage sustained.

1.         Looting

The results here are appreciably different from those concerning persons responsible for tax on convoys. The public authorities’ share in them is very much smaller (19% as against 34%). That of insurgents altogether higher (50% as against 36%).

2.         Attacks against the association’s installations

The points of the survey reveal a predominance of attacks against dwellings and offices. Having regard to the wide variety of activities undertaken by the non-governmental organisations questioned, it is going too far to say that the attackers’ objectives were altogether more political than self-seeking or inspired by gain. But it is by no means impossible, either, that the target was selected both as a centre of decision-making and representing the association concerned, and as a source of profit linked to the presence of expensive equipment (data processing, office automation and communication).

3.         Type of loss sustained

The replies provide the same pointers as those concerning damage sustained by convoys, within 2% or 3% almost. This is perfectly understandable insofar as vulnerability is much the same, whether the goods are stationary or mobile.

C.        Violence directed against persons

The questionnaire asked the associations consulted to provide information on arrests, detention and kidnapping, physical attack, and the reasons for death and injury.

a)         Arrest - detention - kidnapping

Replies concerning identification of persons responsible for arrests, detentions and kidnapping are out of line with those received concerning convoys and premises. Ordinary criminals are twice as less likely to undertake these actions against persons, government authorities and insurgents being held equally responsible, at 43% and 45% respectively. This is easily explained by the methods, the purposes and the consequences of these kidnappings, which are more within the capability of organisations of a political nature, equipped with human and institutional resources but endowed with a minimum of structural power.

b)         Physical injury

Physical injury is naturally the most serious risk, and that giving rise to the deepest worries regarding security on the ground.

The proportions as between the five categories adopted are all the more alarming since murder, which is placed in second position after degrading treatment, is quite common and, together with the latter, is the main purpose of attacks.

The search for solutions on the part of non-governmental organisations echoes that of the inter-governmental organisations, namely the United Nations[3] or the European Union. The United Nations’ findings can be transposed to non-governmental organisations. “The erosion of respect for humanitarian values has led to an increase in the number of civilian victims; it has intensified the need for protection and aid for refugees and other persons affected by a conflict; it has complicated the provision of humanitarian assistance and aggravated the risks facing aid workers.”

c)         Causes of death or injury

Dominated by fire from automatic weapons and accidents, the causes of death and injury seem to follow an almost equal distribution amongst aggressors and the victims with regard to the physical assault sustained. Such a conclusion would be hasty and incorrect. In fact, although the share of accidents could indisputably be reduced by better preparation and better training of non-governmental organisations’ staff deployed in the field (and we know that nearly all of them work on setting up and imparting preventive and precautionary measures[4]), one should add to shooting from automatic weapons bombardment, anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and “miscellaneous weapons” a common factor of which is that they are used or deployed by one and the same category of protagonists: the combatants.


III.      Your assessment of protection at the present state of international law

The associations seem to expect a great deal from international law since, obviously, the survey reveals a broadly shared desire to see the legal rules promulgated by the Community of States modified so as to strengthen protection.

A)        Do you feel satisfied with your present status as a non-governmental organisation with regard to security?


Practically half of the associations that replied (48%) considered their status to be unsatisfactory with regard to security. This is relatively important and appears to indicate that the question requires some thought both at UIA and governmental and inter-governmental levels.

This is more especially so since only 42% of them feel that their status is satisfactory and 10% have no view. This observation is strengthened by the replies to the following question, put in the questionnaire.

B.        Should an improvement in the rules of international law be aimed at: …

In effect, a large proportion of replies shows that it is in fact with regard to the international status of non-governmental organisations that requests for legal reform are most frequently heard. Within their status, it is hardly surprising to see the list of concerns headed by protection for the individual, followed by protection of property and lastly that of transport.

Pending solutions in international legislation that could effectively be implemented, empirical solutions are likely to remain the chief contemplatable measures for a long time to come. Their nature remains to be decided. Some could be consensual; others could rely on various kinds of force.

C.        Have you arrived at understandings, an agreement or arrangements with local authorities with a view to protection?


The first, pragmatic method has consisted fairly frequently of negotiating with the authorities on the spot and finding some accommodation, rapprochement or conciliation.

D.        Have you had recourse to private security-men for protection purposes?

The general principle is against this. Private humanitarian organisations reject any cooperation with the armed forces of any party whatever. A lawyer specialising in humanitarian law reiterated in May-June 1992: “Were it to associate itself with one of the armed forces opposing or covered by it, the CICR would lose all credibility in its role as a neutral intermediary and any opportunity of fulfilling this role.”[5] The situation, as we know, has been quite different in practice. Nearly one-third of the non-governmental organisations that replied (16% sometimes + 30% yes) confirmed they have had recourse to protection by private security-men. One must remember that in circles close to the UNO Secretary-General, there have been worries as to the effects produced by such a practice (large payments made by the humanitarian agency to armed bands who, moreover, had been holding the local population to ransom for some time; destruction of the last shreds of the social fabric through armed men making individual demands much greater than those of the country’s national or regional rulers; indirect financing of the arms market, etc.). It therefore seems difficult to regard such a practice as desirable, the more so since sampling shows that a large majority (71%) of the associations questioned undertaking hazardous duties have never contemplated this step.

E.        In what areas do you consider it necessary for the international community to take the initiative to improve protection for non-governmental organisations and that for its own members?


Fully in line with the replies to the previous questions, it is clear that the associations want to see action from the international community towards improving the status of their personnel.

It remains to be seen as the group’s work continues what types of immunity or privilege should be introduced and within what limits steps that are acceptable to all parties to conflicts and crisis situations causing insecurity to the operators of these organisations could be envisaged.

F.        In what areas do you consider it necessary for the international community to take initiatives towards improving protection for your association’s property?


One of the options under question “F” should logically have been placed under question “E”. In fact, following an input error, F4 “Integrity of the person” appears under the heading of protection of property and not protection of persons. However, this slip has no effect on the result of the questionnaire. The replies clearly show that, as can only be expected, the organisations questioned attach their priorities to a desire both for integrity of the person and for the protection of property.



The worries expressed by the associations in their replies to the questionnaire - like those which for years have exercised the CICR, whose work in this connection is important - should not be ignored by the inter-governmental organisations who are now adopting a far more systematic attitude than in the past to questions of protection and security.

However, the work has been done relatively piecemeal or scattered in conjunction with the activities pursued by the UN or the European Union in another sector, connected sometimes with non-governmental organisations undertaking hazardous duties and sometimes in connection with security for their own staff.   Some, but not all, of their comments can be transposed to the questions under consideration by the IAU. In fact, a report by the Secretary-General on Security of Personnel of the Organisation has been submitted at the United Nations to the Commission on Human Rights in connection with item 8 on the agenda concerning human rights for all persons subjected to some form of detention or imprisonment.[6] We have in fact seen above (pages 61-62) that detention may be imposed by insurgents as well as government authorities. This report confirms the relevance of the recommendations made by Mrs Bautista, the Special Rapporteur of the sub-committee fighting against discriminatory measures and for the protection of minorities, with regard to United Nations personnel[7]. At European level, ECHO has embarked on a preliminary study to test the water with various non-governmental organisations working with the European Commission on Security of Relief Workers and Humanitarian Space[8]. This document was submitted on 18 May 1998 to the Council of Ministers of the European Union concerned with Development which decided to initiate a discussion on security in consultation with Member States. This document has been the subject of various comments by non-governmental organisations. It would be interesting to pool the conclusions obtained with those resulting from the work of the UN Sub-Committee, several recommendations of which seem to apply equally in the non-governmental or trans-national field. The UIA intends to entrust a working group with the preparation of a draft document that will take account both of the non-governmental organisations’ replies submitted and commented on above and of the various multilateral sources.



On the basis of the results of the questionnaire, the UIA would like to give greater thought to the security of personnel of non-governmental organisations engaged in the field - whether in humanitarian action, the protection and promotion of human rights or development projects - with a view to earmarking points for joint action (between non-governmental organisations and between them and inter-governmental organisations) that could be undertaken to strengthen protection for the organisations themselves and their staffs.

The UIA is launching an appeal to readers to let them know of any interesting work in this connection and to pass on their personal experience or suggestions. The UIA will take contributions received into account when following up on the results of the questionnaire. Besides, the UIA has opened a heading on its Internet site ( where the report published above appears together with contributions of a general nature made by the non-governmental organisations, which will assist with the opinion-taking process embarked upon by the UIA.

Communications can be sent by post, by fax or by e-mail to the address mentioned above.

Chart texts

p. 54

Scope of Work





Human rights

Page 55

Area of Work


Western Europe

Eastern Europe


North America

Latin America


Page 56

Responsibility for preventing access

3. Mafias


2. Rebellious movements


1. Government authorities


Page 57

Administrative Obstacles to Access

Payment requests

Hold-up at a “check-point”

Hold-up at the frontier

Visas refused

Obstacles to delivery of goods and supplies

Access refused to means of transport

Sampling from cargos

Dissuasive foreign exchange practices

High customs duties

Administrative formalities

Page 58

Restrictions on freedom of movement

Setting up of prohibited areas

Threats of assault

Transit bans

Residence bans

Looting from convoys (responsibility)




public authorities



Page 59

Attacks against non-governmental organisation vehicles



Land vehicles


Type of damage sustained

by convoys



Total destruction


Partial destruction


Page 60

Responsibility for looting




public authorities



Attacks on non-governmental organisation installations



Dwellings or offices

Hospitals and dispensaries

Page 61

Type of damage sustained by non-governmental organisation premises

r Total destruction

r Partial destruction

r Deterioration

Responsibility for arrests, detention and kidnapping

Criminal 12%



Public authorities


Page 62

Physical assault





Degrading treatment

Causes of death or injury


from automatic weapons

Artillery fire bombardment

Anti-personnel mines

Anti-tank mines

Various weapons


Page 63

Are you satisfied with your present non-governmental organisation

status with regard to security?


Don’t know


No                                                                                     yes

48%                                                                                   42%

page 64

Should an improvement in the rules of international law be aimed at:

Protection for transport

Protection for property

Protection of persons

Non-governmental organisation status

Conclusion of protection agreements with local authorities

r Yes

r No

r Sometimes

Page 65

Have you made use of private securitymen for protection purposes?

r Yes

r No

r Sometimes

Initiatives desired to improve protection for members of non-governmental organisations

Visa facilities

Foreign exchange facilities

Tax facilities

Administrative facilities

Customs preferences

Personnel status

Page 66

Initiatives desired to improve protection for non-governmental organisations’ property

Foreign exchange facilities

Tax facilities

Integrity of the person

Administrative facilities

Customs preferences

Status for property


*  Professor at the University of Paris 2.

[1] Rather less than 100 replies were received.  Questionnaires were despatched to 440 international associations.  98 replies were received, i.e. 22.27%.

[2] The countries or situations concerned in these 114 resolutions of the Security Council concerning access to victims are Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Burundi, the former Yugoslavia, Georgia, the Gulf States, Gorny Karabakh, Liberia, Mozambique, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tadjikistan, Yemen and Zaire.

[3]  Cf. report by the Secretary-General on protection for humanitarian aid activities for refugees and other persons affected by a conflict, S/1998/883 of 22 September 1998.

[4]  Cf. Security in the Field.  Information for staff members of the UN system, United Nations, New York, 1998, 66pp.

[5]  SANDOZ (Yves) “Droit ou devoir d’ingérence, droit à l’assistance;  de quoi parle-t-on?” Red Cross International Review, No. 795, May-June 1992, p. 231.

[6]  E/CN.4/1998/33 27 February 1998

[7]  E/CN.4 Sub.2/1992/19.

[8]  ECHO working paper, Draft 8.2-19.2.98


Fr. Etat voyou, failli, faible

Sp. Estado canalla, débil, fallido, colapsado

→ Democracy, extraterritorial, failed state, law, terrorism

From the European treaty of Westphalia, the state has been taking its full shape and has spread worldwide over the next three centuries, parallel to the rise of European colonial empires from the 16th to the 19th century. The latter development led in some regions to what Bertrand Badie (1992) called “imported states”, i.e. institutions imposed upon indigenous societies with no adequate state institutions with democratic representation. Many of them have been qualified as “failed states” for those reasons (Mazarr 2014), and some have drifted towards “rogue states”. This term appeared in the political vocabulary in the Reagan era, when the US president referred to Iran, Sudan or other states that seemed to be defying the international order. In 2000, the US State Department dropped the term "rogue state" and replaced it with “state of concern” (sometimes also rendered as “pariah” or “outlaw” state) to refer to seven countries considered to support terrorism (North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Iraq).

According to the American National Security Strategy, 2002 (Pfaff 2002), "states of concern" are “states which brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers, which display no regard for international law and violate international treaties, which are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, etc.; state supporting terrorist activity, developing missiles, desiring to disrupt the international system”. It appears that the interpretation of these terms also includes behaviours associated with the development of chemical and biological weapons, sponsoring or tolerating drug trafficking and terrorism, invading or annexing territories of neighbouring states, or using cybercrime in transnational cyberspace.

An equivalent term was used by the US President Bush after 9/11, ascribing the threats to peace and security to the absence of democracy, identifying as such the “Axis of Evil” (Iran, North Korea and Iraq), although no terrorists came from these states, as well as nondemocratic states of the Middle East, where the lack of democracy was seen as the root cause for the emergence of islamist terrorism. However, international conflicts do not involve state authorities only, since rogue states usually affect their own population and human rights internally.

These facts have justified certain international policy options, such as military intervention, whether through the United Nations or their own initiative (the second Gulf war against Iraq, 2003), as well as mobilizing public opinion through transnational civil society networks.

In the previous decades, member states followed the rules governing the use of force, even though they claimed to act in “preventive” self-defence, self-defence being by definition reactive, which is why the UN authority had never validated such interpretation, even when Israel justified its bombing of an Iraqi nuclear power station in 1981. But during Bill Clinton’s presidency the West adopted the so-called right to go to war (jus ad bellum), generating instability in international relations without establishing any clear new order.

While the first Gulf war was authorised by the UN Security Council unanimously by 35 countries against Iraq (August 1990-February 1991) after the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, the second Gulf war (2003) generated a worldwide public controversies over U.S. unilateralism, representing a democratic challenge to the way the US seeks to conduct world affairs. Another unilateral military intervention is Russia's Invasion of Eastern Ukraine War on November 14 and its annexation of Crimea. The International Criminal Court (ICC) qualified the Ukrainian case as a “crime”' not a “civil war” in its preliminary findings that “there exists a sensible or reasonable justification for a belief that a crime falling within the jurisdiction of the Court ‘has been or is being committed’” within the Crimean and Donbas territories of Ukraine.” On release of the ICC report, Russia announced that it would withdraw from the organization because it "failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal."

In another context, when asked about the mysterious attacks on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel (2018) referred to a third government, because the phrase Engel used was “potential rogue actor, Russia perhaps” (not North Korea or Iran). More generally, a rogue state fails to respect the most essential international laws, organizes or supports attacks, or systematically violates the most basic human rights. If this is so, “a country whose leader has hinted at nuclear war, pulled out of the Paris environmental accords, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal and launched a trade war with allies would qualify. Are we not then living in a “rogue state”?”, as can be read in a letter to the Washington Post’s editor (Chalkley 2018). Prof. Dan Kovalik, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is of the same opinion: “I don’t know what we are accusing Iran of …They do engage on their borders. They do have regional interests that they protect, but I don’t see them as a threat to anyone. They are abiding by the nuclear deal…Trump mentioned the problem with rogue states in the world. In my view, the US is the biggest rogue state on Earth” (RT questionnaire, 20 Sep, 2017).

In the same period, Donald Trump appeared to have attempted to obstruct justice in August 2018 by calling on his Attorney General to put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and campaign director might be implicated. Although Trump’s Press secretary Sarah Sanders later said this was just the president’s opinion, it was interpreted by his critics as an attempt to obstruct justice. This contravenes the rule of law and long-standing practice under which a president appoints an attorney-general but respects the department of justice’s independence. Susan Hennessey, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and former lawyer for the National Security Agency believes the president “has no reference to the Department of Justice as an institution that has to be defended—it’s entirely personal for him” (The Economist, May 19th 2018). Additionally, the American president acted despite Republicans having repeatedly warned him not to do, and Jeff Sessions having recused himself from the inquiry. For these reasons, these and other decisions or declarations by Donald Trump’s clearly run counter to the fundamental principle of the separation of powers in a democratic system.

It should be noted that previously, Mueller had indicted 31 individuals, including 12 Russian intelligence agents, and three former Trump aides have reached plea deals with prosecutors. The Attorney-General also referred a case involving the alleged failure of a Democratic lobbyist and a former Republican congressman to register as foreign agents, to prosecutors in New York.

In some parts of the world, failed states have been considered as products imported by European colonisation, according to Bertrand Badie’s expression. However, a historical perspective would show that even in Europe, rather than a universal polity, the formation of the state should be seen as a historical, conflictive, and evolving institution. So much so that some political scientists refer to “the return of empires” to describe former empires with a nominal state structure but longing for the past (Russia, India, China, Turkey), while former Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser Robert Cooper (2002) pleaded for a type of “return to empire” to face the chaotic situations of failed states, which “should be met with a new type of imperialism compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values”. He calls it “voluntary imperialism” (global economy and global institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, and European enlargement), “postmodern imperialism” (protectorate policies imposed on instable neighbouring countries, as in Bosnia and Kosovo). The EU in particular is presented as a cooperative empire offering rules and norms, liberty and security, and ethnic inclusiveness as opposed to ethnic exclusiveness of nation-states. After all, even though states are considered as the main actors in most IR theories, empires were in that position for more than 5000 years. As Robert Cooper said, “order meant empire. Those within the empire had order, culture and civilisation. Outside it lay barbarians, chaos and disorder.” The “return to empire” emphasized by some analysts may actually be claimed by those states which are characterized by their historical, political and economic legacy. It is also argued by those who advocate the extension of the global influence of the United States in the early 21th century. Further, some developments may weaken the norms of sovereignty enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations (article 2(4) prohibits attacks on “political independence and territorial integrity” and Article 2(7) restricts intervention), such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the new claims of China over some islands in South Eastern Asia.

This corrects the conception of the State as a pillar of international relations, to see in the nation-state, or even the contemporary state, a parenthesis, a « blip » in political history (Burbank and Cooper 2010). Other historians will describe this situation as a return to pre-state entities, premodern polities or neomedievalism, a neologism first popularized by Italian medievalist Umberto Eco in his 1973 essay Dreaming in the Middle Ages. This may be illustrated today, before this author could imagine it, by the Middle Eastern conflicts which, behind the state screen, pit essentially religious ideologies against each other. The increasingly warlike rhetoric of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which asserts its Shiite identity against a Sunni Saudi Arabia, regularly reiterates its will to destroy Israel, which increasingly asserts its "Jewish" identity.

The rogue concept has also been increasingly associated with non-state agents and private networks, some of which extend transnational networks driven by extremist ideologies, while others include individuals and firms such as dealers in nuclear material, arms traders, sanctions-busters, drug dealers, and mafia coalitions. Some companies work openly or discreetly in the interest of rogue states. The French giant company Lafarge was charged with complicity in crimes against humanity and financing terrorists (paying millions to jihadists, including the Islamic State) in Syria. Some others work with unscrupulous States in the field of human rights, like Google, which has been condemned for supporting state censorship following reports that it is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter the Chinese market (The Guardian, 28 June 2018 and 2 August 2018).

Some analysts will say that, with a rogue state, the distinction between preventive war and pre-emptive war is more controversial, because the imminence is redefined in probabilistic rather than temporal terms. Increasing tensions were caused by North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), amid fears of a military clash between this country and the United States over the North’s nuclear program, until sanctions the UN has imposed on North Korea, repeated threats by the US and a summit in Singapore in June 2018 between the North Korean and American presidents apparently caused the former to suspend his nuclear and missile testing and give up his nuclear weapons.

From another standpoint, the US response to the North Korean threat makes the former another rogue state, according to Joseph Stiglitz (2017), insofar as its president constantly attacks the free media as an “enemy of the people”, undermines the foundations of free expression and information by labeling as “fake” anything that challenges his aims and arguments, rejects science as a relevant source of knowledge and withdrew the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.


Badie Bertrand, L’Etat importé. L’occidentalisation de l’ordre politique, Fayard, 1992

Burbank Jane & Cooper Frederick, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference, Princeton UP, 2011

Chalkley Mark, “Is the United States a ‘rogue state’?”, a letter to the Washington Post’ editor about the article “Will Trump, Kim talk human rights?” by Brian Murphy, June 6, 2018 Chomsky Noam, “America: the outlaw state”, Le Monde Diplomatique in English, August 2000

Cooper Robert, “Why we still need empires”, The Observer, April 7, 2002

Engel Eliot L., “Statement on Trump Administration's Failure to Impose New Sanctions on Russia”, Washington DC Office, 01/29/18

Falk Richard and Krieger David, “Subverting the UN”, The Nation, November 4, 2002

Falk Richard, The Iraq Crisis and International Law, June 2003

Kovalik Dan, “US is biggest rogue state but accuses others of what it does 100 times over”, RT questionnaire, 20 Sep, 2017

Mazarr Michael, “George W. Bush, Idealist”, International Affairs, May 2003

Mazarr Michael, “The Once and Future Order. What Comes After Hegemony?”, Foreign AffairsJanuary/February 2017

Nilsson-Wright John, “North Korea Missile Test Exposes How Trump Has Overplayed His Hand”, Chatham House, 5 July 2017

Pfaff William, “From Rogue State to State of Concern”, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, July 4, 2000  

Stiglitz Joseph, “How US became a rogue state”, The Guardian Weekly, 9 June 2017

Walzer Michael, Just and Unjust Wars, 1977

Zedner Lucia, “Securing Liberty in the Face of Terror: Reflections from Criminal Justice”, Journal of law and society, 4, December 2005

Fr. Pouvoir mou ou discret, pouvoir de persuasion, influence morale ou culturelle, prestige

Esp. poder blando, potencia blanda 

→ hard law, hard power, soft law

The term was first coined by Joseph Nye in Bound to Lead: the Changing Nature of American Power (1990). He further developed the concept in Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (2004). While its usefulness as a descriptive theory has not gone unchallenged, soft power has since entered popular political discourse as a way of distinguishing the subtle effects of culture, values and ideas on others' behavior from more direct coercive measures considered as hard power, such as military action or economic incentives. He recently defined it not so much as “other than military force”, but rather “the ability to get what you want through attraction and persuasion rather than threats of coercion or offers of payment.” (2017)

Both are recognized as means to achieve national purposes by affecting the behaviour of other states or actors, so that “Sometimes the same power resources can affect the entire spectrum of behaviour from coercion to attraction.” (Nye 2002, p. 4) However, soft power is seen as an indirect way to induce others to change their position. While hard power can rest on explicit inducements or threats, soft power is exercised by a given state to obtain specific outcomes in world politics from other countries in so far as these follow its policies, admire its values, emulate its example, or aspire to its level of prosperity and openness. In other words, “It co-opts people rather than coerces them.

Joseph Nye (2017) recently elaborated on the issue about Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 US presidential election, then its suspected hacking of French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign servers one day before his election on 7 May 2017. As he said, this “... should surprise no one, given President Vladimir Putin’s (mis)understanding of soft power. Before his re-election in 2012, Putin told a Moscow newspaper that “soft power is a complex of tools and methods to achieve foreign policy goals without the use of force, through information and other means of influence.”

According to Keohane and Nye (1998), power refers to a basic distinction between behavioral power - the ability to obtain outcomes you want - and resource power, or the possession of the resources that are usually associated with the ability to get the outcomes you want. Behavioral power, in turn, can be divided into hard and soft power. Hard power is the ability to get others to do what they otherwise would not do through threat of punishment, sanction or promise of reward. The ability to coerce at low cost has long been a conventional element of power, which becomes central when asymmetrical interdependence favours major powers to the detriment of weaker states, for example when the convertibility of dollars into gold was imposed by the US to increase its influence over the international monetary system. Similarly, Arab states temporarily gained power in 1973 from an oil embargo.

As soft power rests on the appeal of one’s ideas or culture or the ability to set the agenda through standards and institutions that shape the preferences of others, it can be expected to be equally used by non-state actors to influence either states or other non-state actors. The action of NGOs in the field of human rights, the environment, political or ideological behavious is well-known. In the private sector, they can also act against their forprofit counterparts, for example when NGOs expose the behaviour of MNCs through “naming and shaming” campaigns, which may undermine their ecomonic prospects.

Analogous initiatives may also be taken by non-state actors may also resort to violent action and military resources, as illustrated by terrorist networks. Activism of this kind depends on the persuasiveness of political ideologies or religious dogmas that zealot individuals and more frequently groups seek to transmit and impose. While state power is usually considered as legitimate by public perception and is therefore authorized to create international instruments that conciliate competing interests, soft power used by non-state, i.e. civil society actors, may be viewed as illegitimate when pursuing nefarious purposes or resorting to violence or repression to oppose state policies.

 Joseph Nye, Bound to Lead: the Changing Nature of American Power, Harvard University,1990

Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, "Power, Interdependence and the Information Age", in Richard K. Betts (ed.), Conflict After the Cold War, Updated Edition, Columbia University, 1998

Robert Nye, “Hard and soft power in a global information age”, in Mark Leonard (ed.), Re-Ordering the World, London: The Foreign Policy Centre, 2002

Joseph Nye, “Information Warfare versus Soft Power”, ProjectSyndicate, May 9, 2017

Fr. Transition

Sp. Transición

® ecosystem, cosmopolitanism, globalization

The notion of transition first identified what could lead to cultural or civilizational developments, to refer first of all to the last 10,000 years that the International Congress of Geology in 1885 called "Holocene", that is, the "entirely new era" marked by the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to the advent of agriculture. More familiar, the notion of transition brought about by man's disproportionate influence on the ecosystem leads to the blurring of the classic distinction between nature and culture in the anthropocene, due to the central role played by humanity in the geological and ecological evolution of the planet and the now transnational challenges it involves.

A  basic actor of political changes, civil society first appeared timidly in Bodin's writings, between communitarianism and a kind of ill-defined universalism, to refer to a form of societas civilis in the Latin translation that Bodin himself made of his work, with no theoretical content but with reference to a transition from an absolutist sovereign to the observance of obligations and duties of justice that respond to the cosmic harmony desired by God (Ghils 1995).

In modern times, this notion applied to the influence of associations (today often called NGOs) in terms of democratic citizenship as conceived by Tocqueville, or of social institutions as conceived by Gramsci to question state power. In this respect, the civil society concept has experienced a revival, both in the various language phrases and studies that sociologists and political scientists devoted to it, in line with the renewal marked by the upheavals of 1989 and 1990 in Central and Eastern Europe. The hypertrophy of state systems that had reached saturation was brutally undermined by "deep forces" mixing political, national, community, religious and strictly social elements.

More recently, the (re)emergence of a civil society opposed to the authoritarian power of socialist states in Central and Eastern Europe is one of the factors that brought about its revival, as noted by Fedorowicz (1991), and corresponds to the original meaning that Adam Michnik gives to the term, i.e. a political strategy for transforming society based on the action of citizens, although in other regions this movement may just as easily mark a step back, as in Egypt today (Coleman 2013). The representative body that constitutes civil society is traditionally supported by the religious element, so that civil society is also fragmented, but differently from the previous case. The process of destructuring civil society has been carried out, as Gellner (1991) observes, with reference to the observations made previously by Ibn Khaldun, by the affirmation of urban society, politically unified by the colonial and postcolonial state at the expense of the rural, traditional and popular Islam of marabouts and dervishes and of tribal structures, which are politically differentiated. The vitality of faith has been transferred to this "superior" Islam, sober and moralistic, purged of its popular deviations and whose ambition today is to ensure that the political power observes religious law and ensures its respect. This led Gellner to conclude that, unlike post-communist societies thirsty for civil society and which have lost faith in state ideology, the Muslim world had remained committed to its faith, without seeking to empower a shattered civil society.

Used critically by those who note the decline of civic values in capitalist countries as well as in so-called political and institutional transition movements in Russia, China or Africa (Bratton 1992), the notion of transition has expanded to mean, in the context of research related to the notion of anthropocene, as noted in the 2017 call of 15,000 scientists on the state of the planet: "Transitions to sustainability can take different forms, but all require civil society pressure, evidence-based advocacy campaigns, political leadership and a solid understanding of policy instruments, markets and other factors. These are - in no order of urgency or importance - some examples of effective and diversified measures that humanity could take to make the transition to sustainability" (Foucart and Valo 2017).

The anthropocene reached its "phase II" (1945-2015) according to the scientists' names, refers to the "great acceleration" caused by man's control over nature, which has accelerated considerably during this period, so that "... 60% of the services provided by the earth’s ecosystems are already degraded" (Galus 2008). During the 1980s to 2000, humanity gradually became aware of the dangers that human presence poses to the global ecosystem, within the framework of the various international meetings on climate and as a result of the numerous scientific studies on the subject. As in various countries, the term is found in official titles like " The Ministry for the Ecological Transition” (Spanish: Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica) or “ministro da Transição Energética” (Minister of Environment and Energetics Transition) in Portugal.

In view of this state of affairs, environmental and political management implies three possibilities for dealing with phase III of the anthropocene (from 2015 and beyond). The first is avoiding any changes by relying on the resilience of societies, the economy and the environment; the second is to mitigate human influence through better environmental and resource management, the use of appropriate technologies, population control and the rehabilitation of degraded areas to initiate the transition to sustainable development. The whole implies "transition" to a decarbonized economy, social adaptability, openness to technological innovations and effective and coherent management by the public and private sectors; the third, if the first two were doomed to failure, would consist in a more utopian implementation of "climate geo-engineering" through the manipulation of the global environment to counterbalance the influence of the human factor. It is believed that this would involve sequestering carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs, spreading sulphate particles in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels and cool temperatures, etc., which could create a new Ice Age if more carbon dioxide is not added to the atmosphere in an endless predictable spiral.

However, these three options may quickly become obsolete if the inadequacy of the measures taken to date confirms scientists' fear that the earth will cross the threshold beyond which climate change will become irreversible, even if greenhouse gases are finally controlled. The "oven" effect would indeed make a large part of the planet uninhabitable, due to the vicious circle created by the combination of melting ice, warming oceans and dying vegetation (especially forests), leading to temperatures rising to a level not seen in 1.2 million years. The latest reports show that, while 157 of 197 Parties to the Agreement of Paris have set economy-wide emissions reduction targets in their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution or climate pledges), only 58 have done so within national laws or policies; only 16 countries (Algeria, Canada, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, FYR Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Samoa, Singapore and Tonga) of those are consistent with targets set in the NDCs, according to an analysis published on 29 October 2018 by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, both at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the World Resources Institute. Ahead of the COP24 UN climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018, there is such a gap between current pledges for action on climate change and the goals of the Paris Agreement (limiting the increase to 1.5° or even 2° in 2050) that the signatories are actually preparing a global warming of 2.7° to +3.2° as early as 2030, which would unleash a frightening set of consequences, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in October 2018.

In the first two cases, the notion of transition cannot avoid the social and political dimensions of what is described as sustainable, balanced, equitable and just development. In this respect, transition may takes a turn against ecological, technological, hygienic and nutritional transitions, as illustrated by obesity and its psychophysical and socio-economic consequences, which are linked today with food deficiencies, according to nutritionists and epidemiologists, i.e. for the urban poor, and no longer the richest segments of society. This is a global nutritional transition from a traditional diet rich in staple grains, meat foods, vegetables and fruits to one that is too rich in sugars and fats. Diets have not improved with the abundance of cheap food.

The first reactions of civil society are felt, through the multiplication or preparation of legal actions against governments deemed responsible for global warming or insufficient measures to protect future generations, in defence of the principle that "Climate justice is a human right". The IPCC report gives citizens arguments in this direction and opens the notion of transition to the dimension of justice and ethics: its title explicitly states that the objective must be to "eradicate poverty". Indeed, beyond ecosystems, the rights of individuals, quality of life, accessibility to employment and social balance in general will be affected in most sectors: energy, water and food production and distribution, health, public and private transport, migration to cities, industrial transformation.

In this regard, the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposes, in addition to the introduction of a single carbon price in the Union, an EU border tax equalizing the carbon price of imported products to that of those produced in the Union, and a "Fair Transition Fund" that should help regions that are struggling to engage in economic transition. The first proposal should put European producers on an equal footing with their competitors from countries with a lower carbon price than the EU and the second, at the very least, aims to reduce opposition from low-income countries below the EU average whose energy resources are mainly fossil, such as Poland.



Bratton Michael, "Civil Society and Political Transition in Africa: Kenya and Zambia Compared". Paper to the Conference on African Civil Society, Harry S. Truman Institute for International Peace, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, 1992

Cohen Jean L.  and Arato Andrew, Civil Society and Political Theory, MIT, 1992

Coleman Isobel, Egypt: Another Step Backward on Civil Society, Council on Foreign relations, 2013

Foucart Stéphane and Valo Martine, « Quinze mille scientifiques alertent sur l’état de la planète », Le Monde, 13 November 2017

Galus Christiane, « La Terre est entrée dans une nouvelle ère géologique : l'"anthropocène" », Le Monde, 2008

Ghils Paul, « Le concept et les notions de société civile », Equivalences, 1, 1995 and Transnational Associations, 3, 1995

Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, Aligning national and international climate targets, 2018

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Global Warming of 1.5 °C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, 2018

Monastersky Richard, “The human age”, Nature, March 2015

Keating Dave and Simon Frédéric, “EU strikes deal on 32% renewable energy target and palm oil ban after all-night session”,, 14 June 2018

Stern Nicholas, Review on the Economics of Climate Change,  The Office of Climate Change, United Kingdom, 2010

Stiglitz Joseph et Stern Nicholas, Report of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, 2017

UNRISD, “Just Transition(s) to Low-Carbon Development—A Workshop of the Just Transition Research Collaborative”, 17 Aug 2018