Migrant exodus is a global problem requiring an international solution - Albuquerque Journal

Migrant exodus is a global problem requiring an international solution

Everywhere one turns, nowadays, masses of human populations are on the move from places racked by war, poverty, corruption, governmental brutality, or outright incompetence across all levels of official structures.

Reports of migrants from Venezuela and Colombia bused to Albuquerque, Philadelphia, New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, Denver, and even Vice President Harris’ home in D.C. targeted by border-state governors as destinations for migrants.

Migrants in rafts braving the Mediterranean to reach Greece, Italy, or Spain from Syria, Afghanistan, or Northern Africa. To say nothing of those from other African nations risking the English Channel to reach the U.K. from France, or fleeing intolerable conditions in places like Somalia to escape in pursuit of a better life in neighboring African countries.

Each person deserves the utmost in humane and respectful treatment. Especially when seeking succor in other nations. But the 40 or so countries that make up the developed world are not capable of taking in entire populations of nations whose governments are either unwilling or unfit to care for their own.

We may wish it were otherwise. Or insist that, unless we act as though it were otherwise, nations not permitted to wrestle with their own challenges will never develop the capacity to raise up their own peoples. Yet the harsh reality is that no nation is able to accommodate unlimited numbers of foreign individuals. Whole populations experiencing intolerable conditions because of their own governments’ wallowing in ideological obsession, graft, ethnic abuse, or sheer incompetence, simply cannot expect unrestricted entry into neighboring states.

There was a time, under both the League of Nations Mandate System (for colonies of former German and Ottoman enemy powers), and the UN’s Trusteeship System (for overseas territories of former Nazi and Japanese enemy powers), when it was recognized that different peoples existed in, as Article 73 of the UN Charter puts it, “varying stages of advancement.” The idea was, as that same article provides, to assist the less-advanced to attain “a full measure of self-governance,” with a key aim being to “further,” not jeopardize, international peace and security. But to even raise for conversation the possibility of some sort of watered-down supervisory system in order to address the incompetence, corruption, or unwillingness of certain governments to stem the outflow of populations, would pose a huge risk of attacks of paternalism and cultural or ethnic chauvinism.

The U.N. Charter precludes meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states. And both the Mandate and Trustee systems were long ago abandoned. It is crystal clear, however, that the Charter still vests the U.N.’s official organs with the authority to potentially take action to address any matter seen as jeopardizing peace and security of the international community.

In light of the U.N.’s permanent member unanimity requirement, success at securing the exercise of that authority is often problematic. Nevertheless, the current uncoordinated patchwork approach by individual countries to the problem of populations on the move is wholly unsatisfactory. Unless all of us are prepared to reflect on solutions that seem radical, unconventional, or even, perhaps, entirely out of fashion, does anyone realistically expect the current situation to dramatically improve?

Is it an inescapable axiom of human nature that we always prefer nibbling at the edges of an issue, to striking at its beating heart?

Rex J. Zedalis is professor of law emeritus and former director (1993-2014), Comparative & International Law Center, University of Tulsa.


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