For our January 25th meeting, we read two articles. The first article, by Redie Bereketeab was “Self-determination and Secession: A 21st Century Challenge to the Post-colonial State in Africa.” This is a policy proposal which talks about the history of states in Africa and suggests what should be done about secessionist movements.
Bereketeab has a number of suggestions, but one of our chief criticisms was that many of them are not very specific. A lot of the proposals suggest trying to accomplish various things that may be at odds, or trying to be fair and balanced even when it is not clear how this would work.
For example, the fourth proposal is to reduce biased interventions into Africa, because in the past, other countries have helped induce secessionist movements that have resulted in conflict. Interventions should instead be “balanced and magnanimous” in Bereketeab’s words. We wondered whether it’s possible to have balanced intervention at all in a world where every state has its own agenda – if one country undertakes an unbalanced intervention, do other countries need to try to match the intervention with an opposite one? We also wondered whether balancing intervention is the best option. Could there be instances where helping a country secede requires unbalanced intervention in favor of the secession? We talked about the example of Yugoslavia as a warning against undertaking any sort of intervention in these cases, even if it is for noble reasons.
Another proposal Bereketeab makes is that Africa should revive the movement towards a Pan-African movement and eventually a United States of Africa, modeled on the EU, the United States of America, and other alliances. We wondered whether this paints with too broad a brush. Africa is such a diverse continent that there might not be good reason to think that Pan-Africanism is a good way of organizing countries together. Northeast Africa has a lot of countries that might prefer to see themselves aligned with the Middle East, for instance.
A third proposal Bereketeab advances is that we should realize that respect for territorial integrity and respect for the self-determination of people are not opposing goals. We wondered whether this is ever the case. It seems like this would only happen in nation states: states where the residents are almost entirely one people. In multinational states, or when it comes to nations spread across multiple states, it seems difficult to respect territorial integrity and self-determination at the same time. So, unless we think that all states should be nation states, it might be better to keep the two notions of self-determination and territorial integrity at odds, even if this sometimes leads to strife.
The second article we read was “Moral Cosmopolitanism and the Right to Immigration” by Yusuf Yuksekdag. Yuksekdag argues that any ethical policy of immigration needs to take into consideration not just whether it is okay to exclude people from one’s state but also whether it is permissible to let people leave their original state. If, for instance, an immigration policy results in a “brain drain” from poor countries which leaves them without any doctors, nurses, and other important experts, is the country they immigrate to responsible for preventing this? Yuksekdag says the country is: he argues that moral cosmopolitanism, the idea that every human being counts equally, tells us that we can’t ignore the people in the immigrant’s home country when it comes to calculations of whether we should let the immigrant immigrate.
Our discussion of the article touched on a few points. We wondered whether Yuksekdag was too quick to discount remittances as an option: if immigrants send money back to their home country, could this conceivably make up for the “brain drain,” even if the money isn’t always fairly distributed? We also wondered how to implement something like Yuksekdag’s proposal, and we came up with a few options. One would be for receiving states to pay for skilled immigrants that they receive, so that the state losing the professionals would be compensated. Another would be for us to reverse our current policy of favoring educated immigrants – we could instead bias our already limited immigration so as to prefer those with little to no education.
One issue we discussed is whether this is feasible. If America is already somewhat anti-immigrant, wouldn’t focusing on accepting less educated immigrants make it worse? We talked about how experts agree that immigration is a net economic boost to a society, even if the immigrants do not have a lot of education, and we thought back to earlier in America’s history when we had few compunctions about bringing in all sorts of immigrants (like the “tired, [the] poor, [the] huddled masses yearning to breathe free” from the poem on the Statue of Liberty).
- Danny Weltman