Rights and Duties on its Way Out?
The second resolution ever voted in by the World Assembly faces yet another repeal attempt
Written by Maowi; Edited by PhDre and Seva
Over the years since its passage, GA#2 "Rights And Duties Of WA States" has withstood several efforts to repeal it and replace it with a brand new document. The latest such proposal is now on the General Assembly voting floor where, at the time of writing, it holds a majority of the vote. But why is GA#2 so controversial, and how has it survived this long?
As March turned to April almost fifteen years ago, NationStates woke up to an unexpected surprise: the United Nations, predecessor to the World Assembly (WA), had vanished and been replaced with the body we know today. Over the next couple of days it became clear that this was not a simple April Fools prank but rather an April Fools no-prank, on account of a cease and desist letter sent by the actual United Nations to NationStates creator Max Barry. So, as the WA's founding resolution puts it, the in-game United Nations "spectacularly imploded in a colossal fireball of extra-dimensional inanity," leaving behind a total vacuum in international law and giving authors and voters a chance to start afresh.
GA#2 has had an important influence on the way the WA is seen to function as an in-character roleplay body. In substance, it is identical to Historical Resolution #49 by the same author (game moderator Frisbeeteria) who clearly based the proposal on the actual United Nations' own 1949 Draft Declaration on the Rights and Duties of States. Plagiarism, whether of material of real-life or NationStates origin, is not permitted in WA proposals and there have been claims that the author's role as a game moderator allowed the proposal to be unfairly put to vote. Nevertheless, the resolution passed; its most important provisions in terms of the impact on subsequent General Assembly law can be found in the third and final section of the resolution:
Article 9 § Every WA Member State has the duty to carry out in good faith its obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law, including this World Assembly, and it may not invoke provisions in its constitution or its laws as an excuse for failure to perform this duty.
Article 10 § Whilst WA Member States may engage in wars, the World Assembly as a body maintains neutrality in matters of civil and international strife. As such, the WA will not engage in commanding, organising, ratifying, denouncing, or otherwise participating in armed conflicts, police actions, or military activities under the WA banner.
Article 9 has particular implications on the arguments that can be made against a proposal or in a repeal. The established precedent in the General Assembly is that repeals can legally portray the target resolution according to any colourable interpretation of it, regardless of whether other valid interpretations exist that would solve the issues pointed out in the repeal. However, the "good faith" provision in GA#2 allows more room for authors to have flexibility in their language without worrying that member states could take advantage of it for adverse ends (for example, requiring that something must be done sufficiently regularly to achieve a certain aim, instead of specifying the exact regularity with which it must be repeated). Meanwhile, Article 10 prevents the WA from forming its own army or police force. Support for this measure is generally mixed; some have argued that it limits the WA's ability to enforce certain resolutions and bring transgressors of international law to justice.
Another controversial aspect of GA#2 is its take on warfare in the NationStates canon. Article 5 states: "War in the World of NationStates is defined as a consensual act between two or more NationStates. WA Member States may, at their discretion, intercede against declarations of war on behalf of NationStates who wish to avoid war." Since the General Assembly mostly operates on the assumption that member states interact with each other in much the same way as real-world nations, there are many examples of incompatibilities cropping up due to the fact that you simply cannot force another NationStates player to engage with your roleplay actions – another instance of this is the lack of actual consequences for roleplayed non-compliance with WA law. Due to the author's attempt to work the nature of roleplay into this definition, the resulting article is not particularly meaningful and certainly does not reflect our intuition of what war actually is.
The proposal at vote points out three key flaws in GA#2: the strangeness of the treatment of war; the ban on a WA police force, which impedes the body's ability "to protect its own facilities, operations, and personnel;" and the fact that some of its clauses impose requirements on the way WA states interact with non-member states, which creates an imbalance in these relations. If the vote fails to swing the other way before minor update this Thursday, GA#2 will finally be scrapped, leaving space to implement a new version of "Rights and Duties". However, the Europeian Information for Voters (IFV) about the resolution recommends a vote against the repeal; this is not out of opposition to the concept of repealing GA#2 but because of concerns about its replacement.
One draft primed for submission should the repeal pass is Kenmoria's "Rights, Lefts, Duties, and Freedoms of WA States". This proposal chooses to avoid addressing the issue of member states' military actions or the use of force by the WA itself; instead, it outlines the basic freedoms and requirements of WA nations in a similar way to GA#2. Other than minor but useful cleaning up of the language compared to the older resolution, a notable difference is the strengthening of the good-faith compliance requirement. The replacement draft reads:
Each member nation must, to the absolute best of its ability, in complete good faith, and without any preventable delay, fully comply with all extant legislation of the General Assembly.
In particular, the addition of the phrases "to the absolute best of its ability [...] and without any preventable delay" represents a significant step up in the stringency of the mandate and may also eliminate the need for similar clauses in each new resolution – many authors have been including such language in their proposals to avoid unwanted leeway for governments to drag their feet.
The Europeian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) spoke to the repeal’s author, Lord Dominator, to gauge their opinions on the options for replacing GA#2. "To my personal preference, I don’t actually mind having a big brouhaha after the repeal is completed" they stated, but they broadly support Kenmoria’s replacement "in all major points." Regarding the issue of military actions by the WA, Lord Dominator said "[a]t this point in time I no longer have any particular preference for what happens [...] so long as I have sufficient room to give the security forces (in the defensive sense) of WA operations a nuclear deterrent."
If GA#2 goes, as appears increasingly likely, its military aspect is unlikely to stay out of the WA canon long and drafts to address the issue are already being floated on the forum. "Proscription on WA Military Force" by Excidium Planetis has the same blanket ban as GA#2 on the formation of a WA military force with the exception of an added clause to allow WA police to operate "exclusively on World Assembly property," rectifying the flaw highlighted in the repeal. Wrapper has a similar draft but elaborates further on the issue, requiring the WA to maintain military neutrality and encouraging member states "to attempt to negotiate peaceful resolutions to international incidents prior to blowing their enemies into tiny bits." By contrast, Magecastle Embassy Building A5's draft "World Assembly Police and Military Force Act" seeks to allow the WA to use military force for the enforcement of resolutions or as retribution for non-compliance. Furthermore, the General Assembly's most prolific author Imperium Anglorum recently posted a repeal draft aimed at any resolution that prevents the WA from "organising military and police operations," in case one such draft proposal wins over a majority on the voting floor. With three viable drafts and an insta-repeal in the works at this time, this area of legislation may become the subject of much debate; it remains to be seen which camp will prevail. If the voters end up deciding that the WA should be able to form a military, opportunities may even open up for authors to outline the circumstances in which the WA can use its military power to enforce resolutions or bring transgressors to trial.
Former Minister of World Assembly Affairs Greater Cesnica (GC), who wrote Europeia's IFV on the repeal, elaborated on the concerns about replacing GA#2. "I believe that Kenmoria should be waiting further for feedback on their draft," he told the EBC. As such, he believes the repeal should be held until the replacement is ready to go. GC also thinks there are specific issues that still need to be addressed in the current replacement draft. "I have concerns with the lack of anything pertaining to warfare as it applies to member nations and how it interacts with their interactions with one another;" in addition, "the usage of the terms "arbitrary, capricious, and unnecessary" should be defined more clearly" in article 4.
Meanwhile, voting on the repeal continues. Most major delegates have cast their vote, but there is still room for the tally to grow on either side – and the WA has definitely shown it can produce unexpected upsets. For the moment, though, it is looking like the General Assembly will be ushering out 2022 with one of its most important repeals ever.