October 19, 2012

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia pays homage to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly that took place in September 2012 by publishing a number of articles written by Estonian diplomats at the UN and dedicated to the United Nations and Estonia’s role in it. In addition, this issue contains a review of Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections, an essay on China’s changing role in the world and a pair of essays (one of which is a book review) on economic policy and, in particular, the fate of social democracy from the perspective of the United States and Europe.

This issue of Diplomaatia pays homage to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly that took place in September 2012 by publishing a number of articles written by Estonian diplomats at the UN and dedicated to the United Nations and Estonia’s role in it. In addition, this issue contains a review of Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections, an essay on China’s changing role in the world and a pair of essays (one of which is a book review) on economic policy and, in particular, the fate of social democracy from the perspective of the United States and Europe.

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia pays homage to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly that took place in September 2012 by publishing a number of articles written by Estonian diplomats at the UN and dedicated to the United Nations and Estonia’s role in it. In addition, this issue contains a review of Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections, an essay on China’s changing role in the world and a pair of essays (one of which is a book review) on economic policy and, in particular, the fate of social democracy from the perspective of the United States and Europe.
The opening article of the issue by Estonia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Margus Kolga explains the role of the UN and Estonia’s position in the organisation. Kolga claims that as the world changes, the role of the UN also becomes more complicated and multifaceted. He gives credit to the organisation for achieving its main goal in spite of its many obvious shortcomings – it has indeed prevented the onset of another world war, even though there are plenty of local conflicts still going on in various parts of the world. Kolga argues that for a small state like Estonia, participation in international organisations is of crucial significance.
Estonia’s representative at the United Nations in Geneva Jüri Seilenthal writes more specifically about the UN Human Rights Council and Estonia’s pursuit to become its member for a three-year period from 2013 to 2015. He points out that the protection of human rights has always been important for Estonia as part of the key values shared by the nation and that membership in the UNHRC offers a high-level forum for the promotion of these values at the global level. In spite of the deliberately misplaced critique sometimes directed at it, Estonia is well prepared for its role in the Council – indeed, better prepared than many current member states.
In her essay ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, Liis Lipre-Järma, a diplomat at the Estonian mission at the UN in New York, describes the principle introduced at the UN in 2005 for the protection of citizens from grave human rights violations, including those perpetrated by their own governments. The previous notion of ‘humanitarian intervention’ has been replaced by a more precise ‘responsibility to protect’ which implies, among other things, a changing attitude towards state sovereignty – sovereignty no longer provides a reason to protect a state’s right to violate the rights of its own citizens.
Juku-Kalle Raid, a member of the Estonian Parliament, assesses Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections which he monitored as an OECD observer. According to Raid, there was a sense of disappointment on both sides – President Saakashvili’s party members were disappointed because of their defeat, while some of Ivanishvili’s supporters appeared to have lost a proper justification for staging large-scale protests. Raid estimates that the winning alliance, which consists of six different parties, will have a hard time building a coalition, but he acknowledges that ‘normal’ politics has finally reached the Caucasus.
Aap Neljas, a civil servant at the Estonian MFA, analyses the role of China in today’s world. He describes the growth of China as an economic, political and military power and raises the much-debated question whether or not the rise of China means, or is bound to bring about, the decline and fall of the Western world. Neljas’s central conclusion is that continents and cultures need to increase their mutual cooperation, so that this could be prevented in our civilisation – meaning all the existing civilisations in the world.
Finally, this Diplomaatia offers two articles on social policy in the United States and in Europe by young Estonian intellectuals, one of whom perceives European-style social democracy critically as an ideological and economic failure which was one of the major reasons for the current crisis, and the other agrees with economist Joseph Stiglitz, whose book he reviews, on the point that the world needs more social democracy.
Mikael Laidre, a civil servant and historian, criticises social democracy as an ideology that suppresses private initiative and creates an unwarranted sense of entitlement which constitutes a major reason for the ongoing economic and political crisis. He also points out that ‘socialism’ on the left and ‘national socialism’ on the right share common ideological roots. On the other hand, Gustav Kalm, a graduate student at Columbia University, reviews Joseph Stiglitz’s recent book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, and supports its author’s argument that too much economic inequality becomes economically costly and endangers democracy as such by giving money an excessive role in politics.

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