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Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime

posted by Thaddeus B. Herman

On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, the Center for Global Studies held its second event in a year-long series dedicated to the globalization of knowledge. Around 20 individuals attended to hear Dr. Yulia Zabyelina, Assistant Professor at John Jay college of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, speak about Transnational Organized Crime. Zabyelina’s scholarship relates to ‘crimes of the powerful’ – defined as crimes committed at the upper levels of government where it is difficult for individuals to be prosecuted or held responsible.

Zabyelina opened the event by asking the question “How does legal immunity provide an opportunity for serious misconduct to its holders?” This question relates to the topic of research she is currently undertaking in preparation for a new book. In her research, Zabyelina focuses on misconduct by representatives of the state, specifically diplomatic representatives.

Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) is different than organized crime. Organized crime elicits services that are in response to public demand, are often associated with the desire to have monopoly control in a particular area, and use a pattern of violence and/or corruption through methods of extortion, loan sharking, gambling, bootlegging, or prostitution, among others. TOC, on the other hand, is defined by the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) as an offence that has been:

  • Committed in more than one State;
  • Committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State;
  • Committed in one State but involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State; or
  • Committed in one State but has substantial effects in another State.

Conventional forms of TOC have included drug or human trafficking, migrant smuggling, or firearms trafficking. Whereas new and emerging forms include natural resource trafficking, counterfeit goods trafficking, cultural property trafficking, and cybercrime.

In her presentation, Zabyelina pointed out that typical theories dealing with crimes focus on causes such as poverty or lack of general opportunity because of life’s circumstances. TOC, on the other hand, is committed by smart, capable individuals who engage in sophisticated operations. This “elite deviance” is perpetrated by those who commit crimes despite having high educational and financial means. While Zabyelina pointed out there is literature on corporate crime and corruption, she intends for her research to fill an important gap in knowledge on elite deviance through TOC. Elite deviants are those who, according to the Criminaloid theory posited by Cesare Lombroso in 1876, project a respectable, upright façade in an attempt to conceal a criminal personality, enjoy the respect of society, and – because of their established connections with the government – are less likely to meet with opposition.

Zabyelina’s research is focusing on those individuals who have legal immunity that exempts them from search, arrest, and civil or criminal prosecution. Often, legal immunity also includes privileges such as exception from fiscal obligations. Individuals who may receive immunity are usually Heads of State, diplomatic corps, international civil servants, peacekeepers, MPs, or judges. The legal sources for diplomatic immunity vary from international conventions, such as the Vienna Convention of 1961 or the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of 1947, to local domestic laws and constitutions of various States. Diplomatic agents are of particular interest to Zabyelina and were defined by her as “a public official who acts as an intermediary between a foreign nation (the receiving state) and the nation which employed and accredited the diplomat agent (the sending State)”. Diplomatic agents of various types make up a diplomatic corps and may hold titles as ambassadors, envoys, ministers plenipotentiary, chargé d’affaires, consuls and vice-consuls, or administrative and technical staff of diplomatic missions.

A typology of offenses by a diplomatic corps was offered by Zabyelina as one fruit of her research. This typology included four types of abuse:

  1. State-authority crime: crime committed on behalf of state institutions
  2. Diplomats as victims: crime without the diplomatic agent’s conscious involvement or knowledge
  3. Diplomats as co-conspirators: diplomats who have deliberately exploited legal immunity to profit from criminal activity
  4. Diplomats as principle offenders: diplomats who have abused diplomatic entitlements for profit as the principal perpetrator of a criminal act.

She provided several case studies to illustrate this abuse. Zabyelina pointed out that the North Korean government has been involved in state-sponsored criminal activity in order to help fund the regime, which is an example of the first type of abuse. As an example of the second type of abuse, Zabyelina highlighted an event that took place in 2012 which saw a shipment of drugs to the United Nations headquarters from Mexico in what appeared to be an imitation of a diplomatic pouch – which traditionally have not been subject to search. As no diplomat was found to be responsible for the crime, this act was perceived as an example of diplomats as victims of crimes. An example of the last type of crime comes from an event where an Ethiopian diplomat was arrested at Heathrow Airport for attempting to smuggle 123 pounds of cannabis through security. When detained, she attempted to use diplomatic immunity as a way to escape consequences of her actions. Her activity resulted in a prison sentence of 33 months.

The presentation ended with an open question followed by discussion with a lively interaction between the audience and presenter. An attendee asked how Zabyelina finds source material from states – especially when it is related to deviant behavior committed by their own diplomats. Zabyelina identified five areas from where she gathers her information:

  1. Mass media and journalism
  2. Court files
  3. Her colleague’s connection to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services – where her college has interns working to help collect information
  4. Reports or investigations undertaken by international organizations
  5. Interviews with diplomats, members of the chambers of commerce, employees of the New York Police Department, and members of the US State Department

Overall it was an event which elaborated upon a very interesting aspect of global knowledge production.  For more information on the topic,  please look at the library guide – Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime.

 

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The Meaning of Global/Globalizing Knowledge

Thaddeus B. Herman – Rapporteur

On Wednesday, September 26, over 30 individuals came together to participate in a discussion on global knowledge and its production. This event was hosted by the Center for Global Studies and was the first in a series of events exploring different aspects of globalization and knowledge. The discussion was led by a panel of four prominent Illinois scholars including Nicholas Burbules – Gutgsell Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; Andrew Orta – Professor of Anthropology; Assata Zerai – Professor of Sociology and Associate Chancellor for Diversity; and Steve Witt – Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Head of the International and Area Studies Library.

Witt opened up the discussion with a speech on access to academic knowledge and how it is being generated. He showed data that supported his claim that many “global” collections of knowledge really only include a very small portion of the globe and are not representative of truly global knowledge bases. Knowledge production – or at least the knowledge generated that has impact in academic organizations – largely takes place in a few countries, the majority of which are located in regions commonly referred to as the “west”.

 

Figure 1: Source: US Congressional Research Service. (2018, June 27). Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet. Note the definition of “rest of the world”.

Burbules spoke second with a presentation titled “An epistemic crisis”, focusing on many issues around journal publishing. He indicated it is simply not possible to read every new article published in one’s field of study. In fact, more than 80% of all published papers are never cited and those that are cited are often not actually read. He also spoke of the influence of impact factors – the frequency with which articles in a journal have been cited in a particular year – and how this can lead to discrimination against local journals – which may be more relevant to a local population. Research institutions also pressure academics to publish in journals considered to have high impact factors. Of course, this system can be gamed and Burbules included examples of editors of journals who encourage those who submit to cite authors from their own journal in order to increase their impact factor.

Another issue highlighted was the lack of incentive to publish studies which reproduce and reinforce previous studies. Replicability is a cornerstone of the scientific method since a study performed under the same conditions should produce the same results. In fact, when meta-studies have attempted to reproduce results in many areas, a surprising number of results cannot be reproduced – even after increasing sample sizes. So we must ask ourselves the question, how much work of low quality is slipping through and being published?

Andrew Orta spoke on the globalized nature of Catholicism and Capitalism and how they have both been buffeted by local cultural forces. He briefly explored the concept that Catholicism responded to local practices of worship, and adapted to appear more palatable to a local audience. Interesting parallels were drawn between this process, and the process of incorporating global cultural trends into MBA programs around the world. The educational context of the MBA has changed from a “flat” model which saw a fairly standard set of curriculum taught throughout the world to models which are based on various cultural practices found throughout the regions in which the MBA program is established.

The final speaker of the day was Assata Zerai whose talk centered on access and digital inequality. Zerai pointed out that there are excluded voices from multiple fields of study and African research – particularly African research undertaken by women – is not included in western databases that collect research and provide access through search mechanisms. Scholarship that is readily available about Africa is largely generated by western scholars who are often disconnected from actual African perspectives. She argued that there is a direct correlation between the success of people-centered governance structures and women’s access to information and communication technologies (ICT). By not incorporating scholarship undertaken by women on the African continent, we are hindering the promotion of intellectual diversity.

Zerai is undertaking a project to build a database of the works of female African scholars to help make this body of research available to a wider audience and disrupt the conventional division of labor in the social sciences in which African scholars provide the empirical evidence while the heavy lifting of theorizing is left to their western counterparts. The hope is that this effort will amplify the voices of women scholars in African countries.

Following the presentations there was a rich dialogue between members of the audience and the panel members which ended with a dilemma. Can we create systems of knowledge to highlight voices that have been traditionally excluded from processes of knowledge generation and distribution? The speakers acknowledged that there is hope that a way may be found and we can move forward.

 

For more background information and reading please visit the library guide found at https://guides.library.illinois.edu/cgsbrownbag92618 .

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Land Mines and Explosive Remnants of War: A Global Burden

Created by Benjamin D. Hennig, Creative Commons conditions (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Saturday, April 4th was International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Global Currents would like to take this opportunity to talk about the history of land mines and current issues and efforts surrounding mines and explosive hazards.

When wars end, often the death and destruction lingers for decades in the form of unexploded land mines and other types of explosives. The people living in affected areas must deal with the effects of these remnants of war, which still kill or injure around 11 people each day around the world, despite massive worldwide efforts since 1997 to eliminate them.  In addition to death and injury, the cost of medical care, resulting unemployment, and loss of usable land have detrimental effects on communities as well.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, was adopted by the UN in 1997, and currently has 162 signatories. 35 United Nations States are not-party to the treaty, including the United States, Russia, and China. Terms of the treaty for signatories includes destruction of land mine stockpiles (except for a small number for training purposes), clearing of all land mine areas within the country within ten years of signing, and assistance to persons affected by land mines. The Ottawa Treaty does not include any provisions for cluster munitions, however, which can pose many of the same civilian risks as land mines.  The Convention on Cluster Munitions , as a result, was adopted in 2008 and is currently signed by 116 countries. This convention is similar to the Ottawa Treaty in its obligations – destruction of stockpiles, clearing of areas, and assistance to victims.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is the branch of the United Nations dedicated to addressing the problem of land mines and explosive hazards. The organization works in 40 countries and three territories on different aspects of mine action, depending on the area’s need. NGOs such as the The Marshal Legacy Institute, The Halo Trust, and the Landmine Relief Fund, cover a range of actions from demining efforts to public awareness to assistance for victims.

Despite the existence of these treaties and campaigns, land mines and cluster munitions remain a huge problem in many areas.  The International Campaign to Ban Land Mines produced the following major results on land mines and cluster munitions for 2013:

  • A global total of 3,308 casualties from land mines worldwide was reported, occurring in 52 states, 32 of which are state parties to the Ottawa Treaty. This number is a 24% decline from 2012’s 4,324.
  • In 2013, Syria had the highest number of cluster munition casualties for any nation, with around 1,000 casualties, 97% of which were civilians.
  • Casualties from cluster munition remnants occurred in nine states and one other area in 2013, including four state parties (Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, and Lebanon), five non-signatories (Cambodia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam), and Western Sahara.
  • Currently, only 11 states are identified as potential producers of antipersonnel land mines: China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.
    • The United States was removed from this list because of a 2014 policy announcement that promised an end to the production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines.
  • “Sixteen countries continue to produce cluster munitions or reserve the right to produce in the future, but only three of these states are known to have used the weapon: Israel, Russia, and the United States.”

The latest reports show that progress is being made in eliminating the threat of land mines and cluster munitions to civilians, but policy and practice need to continue to move towards what ICBLM calls the “international norm against use – where use anywhere by anyone is considered abhorrent.” But integrally important to the effort to reduce the threat of these deadly devices is the raising of awareness around the globe. That is the goal of events such as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, because the more people that see and are appalled by the statistics, the stronger the pressure will be on governments worldwide to fix the problem.

To find out more about land mine action, please consult the resources below!

Web Resources

UN Libraries Research Guide – Mine Action

The Collaborative ORDnance data repository (CORD) enables web-based search of landmine and other unexploded ordnance data to assist humanitarian demining and ordnance disposal operations.

Landmine & Cluster Monitor – Country Profiles

Cluster Munition Coalition

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

ARCAND, J., RODELLA-BOITREAUD, A., & RIEGER, M. (2015). The Impact of Land Mines on Child Health: Evidence from Angola. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 63(2), 249-279.

Kirk, R. W. (2014). In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs. Journal Of The History Of The Behavioral Sciences, 50(1), 1-36.

Perez, J., Shortt, N., & Morton, J. (2012). Latin American Compliance with the Mine Ban Convention. International Journal Of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6(11), 89-100.

WILLIAMS J. STOP USING LAND MINES AND CLUSTER MUNITIONS. Foreign Policy [serial online]. January 2013;(198):1.

Books (Available at UIUC Libraries)

Borrie, John. (2009). Unacceptable harm: a history of how the treaty to ban cluster munitions was won. New York : United Nations.

Bryden, Alan. (2013). International law, politics and inhumane weapons: the effectiveness of global landmine regimesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Tyner, James A.. (2010).  Military legacies: a world made by warNew York : Routledge.

Williams, Jody, Goose, Stephen D.Wareham, Mary. (Eds.) (2008). Banning landmines :disarmament, citizen diplomacy, and human securityLanham : Rowman & Littlefield.

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International Relations Spotlight: United States and Iran

1024px-Barack_Obama_on_the_telephone_with_Hassan_Rouhani

President Obama speaks with Iranian President Rouhani

In late November, negotiations between the group of world powers known as P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) and Iran regarding limitations to Iran’s nuclear capabilities failed to produce an agreement by the deadline of November 24th. As a result, the interim agreement known as the “Joint Plan of Action” was extended until July of 2015.  This means that talks will continue in the coming months to attempt to reach a more final solution, but Iran will be held to the terms of the interim deal in the meantime.

So, what exactly would this nuclear deal contain, and how would its completion affect relations between Iran and the United States? Let’s start by breaking down a very brief history of U.S.-Iran relations over the past several decades. (For a more in-depth timeline, check out this one from the New York Times.)

The first important event in modern U.S.-Iran relations was the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister. Recently declassified government documents show that the CIA and the UK’s MI6 were behind this coup, with the justification that the Mossadeq was leaning towards a Soviet alliance.  After this coup, the Iranian shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, with support of the United States, was installed as monarch with broad powers. In the time between the 1953 coup and the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the shah was overthrown, the United States and Iran signed several important nuclear agreements.  The 1957 agreement allowed the U.S. to lease enriched uranium to Iran for peaceful uses. In 1968, Iran signed onto the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Finally, in 1975, President Ford published a directive which allowed the United States to share nuclear materials and technology with Iran, even allowing Iran to use an American-built processing plant to extract plutonium.
Iran_nuclear_illustrationGood relations between the two countries came to an end, however, with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, after which Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became the leader of the new Islamic Republic. The U.S. State Department evacuated 1,350 Americans from the country, as Khomeini publicly declared, “I beg God to cut off the the hands of all evil foreigners and their helpers.”  Tensions rose between the two countries as a group of students supported by Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage.  The hostages were held in captivity for almost a year and a half. Finally, on January 20, 1981, the U.S. agreed to unfreeze Iranian assets and property and promised not to interfere militarily or politically with Iran in exchange for the release of the hostages.

For the next three decades, relations between the U.S. and Iran remained bumpy at best. Beginning in the mid-1980’s, the U.S. became involved in what is known as the “Tanker War,” the portion of the Iraq-Iran War that took place in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. became involved in the struggle to protect oil shipments through the area, and between 1987-1988, U.S. attacks resulted in the destruction of much of Iran’s navy as well as some Iranian oil platforms. During one of the skirmishes in the region, the U.S. naval vessel Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian passenger plane, killing all 290 passengers. Throughout the Gulf War and into the late 1990’s, there seemed to be no inclination on the part of either country’s leaders towards diplomacy.

In 1997, reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected Iranian president, bringing in more than 70% of the votes.  Khatami reached out to the United States in an interview with CNN, calling for a “dialogue with the world.” However, no contact was made between U.S. and Iranian leaders during Khatami’s presidency. In 2002, the U.S. learned about a covert Iranian nuclear program, which led to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and eventually a temporary agreement for Iran to stop all uranium production.  However, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative known for his strong anti-western rhetoric, was elected Iranian president in 2005, nuclear negotiations stalled and Iran continued its nuclear enrichment activities. Ahmadinejad’s presidency brought tumultuous times within Iran and with Iran-U.S. relations.

Hassan_Rouhani_in_Bishkek

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

In 2013, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, made a phone call to President Obama while at a UN forum in New York.  This phone call was the first direct conversation between leaders of the two countries in over 30 years.  The leaders both later expressed via social media that the two countries were ready to reach a deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program.  This led to the “Joint Plan of Action,” the short term nuclear agreement that is now in effect.

All of the P5+1 powers, the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council are in agreement that Iran should not be allowed to develop the capabilities for nuclear weapons.1 These international actors also believe that Iran was, in the recent past, actively working to develop these capabilities, which mainly hinge upon enriched uranium and ballistic missile production,2 and that’s the basic push behind the nuclear agreement. Iran denies these accusations, however, even claiming that the IAEA forged documents that prove that the country’s nuclear program has “possible military dimensions.”  These tensions are surely affecting the negotiations toward a nuclear agreement, but the completion of this agreement would be an important step in smoothing the turbulent relations that the United States and Iran have shared over the past 70 years.

Check out the sources below to learn more about this topic!

Web Resources

BBC News: US and Iran – A Brief Guide

US and Iran meet in bid to reach nuclear deal – Al Jazeera

Timeline of US/Iran Relations

Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Attacking Iran’s Nuclear Project. (2012). World Affairs, 175(1), 25-38.

Ezeozue, C. (2013). THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS. Journal Of Global Intelligence & Policy, 6(10), 114-123.

GOLDMAN, Z. K., & RAPP-HOOPER, M. (2013). Conceptualizing Containment: The Iranian Threat and the Future of Gulf Security. Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), 128(4).

Hildreth, Steven A. (2012). Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs. CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service.

Porter, Gareth. (2014). How U.S. Intelligence Got Iran Wrong. Middle East Policy, 21(3), 95-103.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Cordesman, Anthony H., Gold, Bryan. Coughlin-Schulte, Chloe. (2014). Iran: sanctions, energy, arms control, and regime change : a report of the CSISWashington, D.C. : Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Hobbs, Christopher,Moran, Matthew. (2014). Exploring regional responses to a nuclear Iran: nuclear dominoesBasingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Krause, Joachim. (Eds.) (2012). Iran’s nuclear programme: strategic implicationsLondon : Routledge.

Maleki, Abbas.Tirman, John. (2014). U.S.-Iran Misperceptions: A Dialogue. London : Bloomsbury Publishing

Price-Smith, Andrew T.. (Eds.) (2015). Rising threats, enduring challenges: readings in U.S. foreign policyNew York : Oxford University Press.

 

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