Should we hold bad leaders internationally accountable?
Badly managed countries inflict damage on their neighbors. We can’t hold countries accountable for callous disregard for their own people and land, but we can file complaints as soon as the faulty policies cross borders.
One such consequence is mass-migration. As you can read from this article migration is increasing. The people doing the migrating aren’t really responsible. By and large migrating people are so desperate that effectively starting out in another country with barely the clothes on your back is a better alternative than not. I can’t find moral arguments to blame people who do that, but I still want to not suffer the negative consequences of mass-migration. I do not want to live in my country being flooded by desperate people. In an ideal world I want people to not be desperate, but if people are ending up desperate I want them to not come to where I live.
Since we can’t and shouldn’t penalize the truly desperate, we must look at other means to de-incentivize mass migration. The next step to force badly managed countries to make sure their desperate refugees don’t go around bother other countries is to somehow penalize these countries.
Rich countries can (and should) be penalized for exporting bad consequences of flawed policies. If a particular country dumps toxic waste down river and another country downstream experienced the negative consequences of a dirty river, then there is a clear accountability risk. Likewise, if a country manages its business badly, and people decide to migrate out to other countries to find better opportunities, and that migration causes unambigious problems, then there is a case of attributable mismanagement.
Most countries that produce a significant amount of desperate migrants are poor. We can not penalize these countries by having some rich nation country imposing fines. If for instance some middle american has such awful conditions that routinely its people travel to the United States, then the US can not effectively penalize these same middle american countries with fines or retalliatory policies. Fining will aggravate economic conditions in the desperatized country, in effect adding to the problem.
There is however another option.
We can hold bad leaders internationally accountable for exported negative consequences of any kind. If an African country is managed so ghastly that it produces a constant torrent of emigrees, the leaders of those countries can be argued to be morally culpable. If instead a war caused these migrants, the parties in the conflict must be held accountable on a per migrant rate.
Yes, that means the United States, having arguable triggered particularly severe migrant streams, might be subject to a claim. Since the US is a very affluent country, such a claim would be a monetary claim for singlehandedly triggering problems on account of arguably bad policies. The cost of waging war should reflect the cost of the consequences of waging war (humanitarian efforts, cleaning up the mess, if you break it you pay for it).
Migration is set to become steadily worse, and most of the migration of the future is set to be triggered by corruption, bad land management, social disparity and the effects of climate change. Imagine a modest flooding pushing out a few million Bangladeshi and trigger a mass migration of truly desperate people. These people ideally are facilitated a decent life in their country of origin, and clearly the world community should lend a hand to make that happen.
But proven bad policies of politicians should come with consequences. I am thinking about corruption, racism, religious persecution, incompetence, self-serving policies, extremism but there may be a host of other reasons for bad choices. If a politician can be held accountable, then the international community needs the legal instruments to go a after a politician, be able to find truth, and present that truth in an international court of law. These politicians may have assets in other countries and an international court should be able to bill the guilty for their flawed choices.
The end result is wellbeing of people. All to often countries have unsustainably high birth rates. It is no secret that I personally prefer sharply reduced birth rates world wide. I want people to live happy, prosperous lives and for me already large populations with high birth rates is a recipe for widespread misery.
And that brings me to the final (and potentially inflammatory) statement on this topic – if mass migration of people is triggered by unsustainably high birth rates, and bad economic conditions then particular countries should come to a national debate on the consequences of these choices. If lack of opportunity and overpopulation and unsustainably high birth rates produce an outward exodus of migrants, then the country must be forced to reflect on its lousy policies. The rest of the world can not end up a dumping ground for desperate people – and in that case the international community must have access to legal tools to penalize offending countries and its decission-makers. Send these countries the bill for every migrant that ends up bothering other countries. If the countries can’t afford the bill, send out an arrest warrant to the politicians who made the bad choices (in the past or present) and throw them in jail.