HEIKE MICHELSEN: My name's Heike Michelsen. I'm director of programming in the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. And I'd like to welcome all of you. And I'd particularly like to welcome our distinguished speaker today, Mr. Douglas Rutzen.
Since its founding, the Mario Einaudi Center helped to stimulate and to coordinate Cornell's work in and about the world. The Center plays an important role in Cornell's mission to produce citizens and leaders of tomorrow. And along with the specialized programs that we're housing at the Einaudi Center in Uris Hall and across campus, the Center provides a forum for a broad dialogue that cuts across the different disciplines and serves to internationalize the university's research, teaching, and outreach agenda.
The Foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers series is part of the Einaudi Center's focus on foreign policy, which emerged from the understanding that the Center, really, at Cornell has to contribute to the important topics and debates of our time. As part of this foreign policy forum, we have formed a faculty network of over 40 faculty members from across the campus, we have started a current events seminar that is offered for undergraduate students.
We provided start-up funding for ongoing and new activities on foreign policy studies, brought expertise to campus as part of the series, but also as part of a debate series, to address important topics. And we also welcome this year our first two post-doctoral fellowships on global affairs. That started last fall.
This all is only possible with significant support that we received. And we're particularly grateful for the support from the San Giacomo Charitable Foundation, Judy Bicks, and the Bartels family. The foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers Series brings significant expertise to campus.
Since we started it in 2006, we had over 30 speakers that spoke as part of this series. And you can find actually the names of the previous speakers on the back of the program that you have in your hands. Today's the last event for this year as part of the Speakers Series. But, however, there is one more advantage that I would like to mention, which we organize in the coming week, which is next Monday on May 5th.
The Einaudi Center, together with the Latin American Studies program, is organizing a workshop on violence and security in Latin America. And we hope to welcome many of you there. If you ever want to know more about our events, just look at our website or even better, sign up for one of our mailing lists, and you get them automatically in your inbox.
At this point in time, I would like to call upon Stewart Schwab, who is the Allan Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School, who will introduce our distinguished speaker of today. Dean Schwab has been a member of the Cornell Law School since 1983 and is considered a leading scholar in economic analysis of law and employment law. Please join me in welcoming Dean Schwab.
STEWART SCHWAB: Thank you. And it's a pleasure and my privilege to introduce our guest speaker today on really an important topic, Douglas Rutzen. Douglas Rutzen is the President and CEO of the ICNL, International Center for Not-for-profit Law, who works in over 100 countries to provide the legal framework for civil society, public participation, and philanthropy.
Under his leadership, the ICNL just two years ago received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institution. This is the institutional equivalent to the Genius Award for individuals. So if an institution can be a genius, this institution is it under Mr. Rutzen's leadership.
Mr. Rutzen's also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches International Civil Society Law and indeed teaches out of his own textbook that he has published on the subject. He co-chairs the State Department's Global Philanthropy Working Group, coauthored a very influential report defending civil society that has gotten the treatment from such luminaries as the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Vaclav Havel. Mr. Rutzen first began working on this issue in the mid-1980s, where he served as a consultant to the Helen Keller International in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. And I'm told he got that job through the Cornell tradition's summer job network, and Susan Murphy's nodding as if this is indeed true.
So you never know where these summer internships will lead but very often to great things. In addition to that start there, Mr. Rutzen has had just a number of exciting and important positions-- legal advisor to the Czechoslovak Parliament upon that country's transition to democracy and I suppose that country's transition into two separate countries, Czech and Slovakia, as well. He's an associate at Coudert Brothers, the well-known law firm, where he worked on international law and antitrust law.
He served for 15 years as co-counsel in the first case against Libya for the bombing of the Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Going back on his resume, we pause here in 1987, graduate of Cornell University. He did slip away from us at the law school and got his JD at Yale Law School, as well as studies in Worcester College, Oxford University. Please join me in welcoming Douglas Rutzen.
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: Dean Schwab, it's a true honor to be introduced by you. You've done so much for the law school, for Cornell University. And it's a privilege that you took time out of your busy schedule to come here today. I also thank the United Center for bringing me here, making this visit possible. And of course, I must recognize Susan Murphy.
Susan was part of the reason I came to Cornell back in 1983, as well as Jean Strantz, who-- actually, I was given a fellowship back in 1983, '84 named after her husband, a very exceptional gentleman named Robert Strantz. And it's a true honor but also a bit of a burden to make this presentation in front of you. But it's a privilege to see you all and to welcome you all.
A man in a black suit, his tie still taut around his neck, his jacket is still buttoned. His uniform betrays his profession. Does anybody know what job this fellow has? A lawyer-- a lawyer in Pakistan. It's a remarkable image of dissent.
In his right hand, we see a tear gas canister that he's hurling back at police. When one imagines motions of protest and dissent, perhaps we'll have images of others, such as Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, monks, or masses. But rarely do we think of lawyers as being on the front lines in this contest over civic space.
But this is exactly what we are currently witnessing around the world, as the Financial Times roared, "at war with the law--" at war with the law. Now, sometimes in Washington we hear that the antidote to authoritarianism is the passage of legislation. But as we all know far too well, the law can either be a shield protecting human rights or a sword to undercut them. Witness, for example, the Nuremberg laws, or the laws that upheld the apartheid regime in South Africa.
But around the world we see a very troubling phenomenon arising. Witness, for example, this debate between President Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin of China. Bill Clinton had asked about the Tiananmen Square protesters. And we see President Jiang Zemin responding, "as for the 2008 dissidents, any lawbreaking activities must be dealt with according to law." I think this is true in any country of the rule of law.
What we're witnessing is this subtle conversion from the rule of law into the rule by law. Jiang Zemin continued, "the National People's Congress of China has adopted more than 320 laws and acts constantly strengthening the legal protection of democracy, fundamental freedom, and rights." When I was an undergrad at Cornell I heard a comment. It was a statement from Cicero, the more laws, the less justice. I never understood that comment until I read this quote from Jiang Zemin.
What I'm going to do over the next few minutes is address three specific issues. First we'll look at this use of the rule by law to restrict the freedom of association. Second, we'll look at peaceful protest and the freedom of assembly. And I'll then conclude by talking a bit about the responses that we're seeing around the world.
So let's start with the freedom of association. In some regimes, it has been simply impossible to establish a group. It could be a student association, environmental group, a group that provides health care education or culture. In certain systems, it may seem alien to us in the United States, they are simply banned. They're criminalized.
In fact, under Gaddafi's Libya, the death penalty was imposed if you formed an unregistered group that wasn't blessed by Gaddafi. When his son proposed a new law on civil society organizations, as they're occasionally called, these associations that we all belong to, Gaddafi responded, we don't need it. Libya is civil enough.
Other countries adopt a slightly more sophisticated approach to restricting the freedom of association. Take, for example, Turkmenistan. It's a remarkable country. The days of the week are named after Turkmenbashi. You know it's not very democratic when you have the right to name the days of the week after you and your family members. And putting that in practice in our field, in order to form a national level association in Turkmenistan, you need to be able to compile 500 people.
So look around this room and imagine if you needed six or seven or eight times this number of people to form any kind of organization or association. It's therefore no surprise there are virtually no organizations in the country of Turkmenistan. Moving to another country, Eritrea-- if you want to provide food, medicine, humanitarian assistance to your neighbors in one of the poorest countries in Africa, you need to be able to put up $1 million. That is 16,000 times average per capita GDP in that country-- simply impossible for people to be able to provide humanitarian assistance, medicine, food, or so forth in their countries.
Let's take it down one notch and look at other kinds of restrictions that are maybe a little more reasonable but still restricting freedom of association. Look at Bahrain. There's a rule there that you can't form an association if there's no need for your services or if there's another organization already in the field.
How does that play out? The government will help sponsor the formation of, for example, a human rights group. When an independent group seeks to register, they say, we're sorry. We already got one of those. And they enforce this provision. Because if you then operate an organization without registration, which is the civil law equivalent of incorporation-- so you form a group without registering or incorporating-- they throw you in jail.
Or in Croatia, foundations can be denied incorporation or registration if the government decides they are obviously lacking seriousness. Nobody really knows what that means. It's a constraint, however. And most recently, we're seeing that there are certain marginalized communities that are being excluded from their ability to form associations.
Under international law, everyone enjoys the freedom of association. But governments are seeking to exclude certain kinds of individuals. Just this year, Nigeria passed a so-called anti-gay law. And it says that if you belong to a quote unquote, "gay club," you'll be thrown in jail.
Let's say you're able to overcome these barriers to entry, the ability to form a civil society organization or an association. What are some of the constraints we see in terms of operating these groups? Just as a couple of examples, under Mubarak's Egypt, there was a group, the Egyptian Association Against Torture. They were telling the government the police don't have the right to torture people who they are holding.
The government denied their ability to incorporate or register, saying that under the law, you're not allowed to engage in political activity. And torture and accusations that we engage in it are political. The group was banned.
In Uganda, there's a provision that says that if you want to engage with anybody outside the capital city of Kampala, you need to give the government seven days advance notice. The purpose of this provision? To restrict the ability of people to get constituencies for reform in various parts of the country.
Or in Belarus-- a very nice provision-- it's illegal to provide dishonest information, as the government determines, against the country. As a result, when the UN asks for reports on the human rights record of Belarus, it's virtually impossible to find anyone in Belarus to do that, for fear that they will violate this criminal provision. We're also seeing a number of restrictions that arise under the justification of counter-terrorism. Sometimes it's clearly just an attempt to restrict dissent.
We see in Russia, for example, they have a bill that's trying to address anti-terrorism and anti-extremism. And look at these broad grounds that they can use to restrict the ability of people to run an organization. You can't, for example, engage in ruffian-like acts. We have an office in Russia. Nobody knows what that means. But that's perhaps the point, isn't it?
But it's not just countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia that are using counter-terrorism as an excuse to restrict civic space. This is Walter Wolfgang, a British citizen Holocaust survivor. And in Britain, he was invited to a meeting with Jack Straw.
He was the foreign minister when Britain joined the coalition that invaded Iraq. And Jack Straw was talking about all the justifications that Britain used for the invasion of Iraq. And following the British tradition of heckling, Walter Wolfgang shouted, nonsense! And he was then removed under the counter-terrorism laws of the UK because they are so broad.
You may also have heard about how Britain used its counter-terrorism laws against Iceland. You see, in Iceland, the bank interest rates were higher than in the UK. So a number of British citizens put their money in Icelandic banks, and then the banks failed.
Well, under the British counter-terrorism law, threats to national economy are a basis for invoking the counter-terrorism laws. So Britain threatened to use its counter-terrorism laws against the country of Iceland, unless Iceland agreed to reimburse British depositors for their failed bank accounts. And even in the United States-- this is, I think, a fairly remarkable headline because the date is 2008. Nelson Mandela was on the US terrorism list after he left the presidency of South Africa.
It's a little bit like Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never leave. And it literally took an act of Congress, Howard Berman's act of Congress, to get Nelson Mandela removed from the terrorism list because of his previous affiliation with a terrorist organization, the African National Congress.
So we've talked a little bit about barriers to entry, the formation restrictions, restrictions on the ability to operate organizations. And what we're also finding is that the resources for organizations are also being restricted around the world. Just a couple of examples-- in Ethiopia, they've recently passed a law that says that you can't receive more than 10% of your funding from the US or from any other outside source if you want to promote women's rights, children's rights, the rights of the disabled, even peace or reconciliation. It's a way to ensure that groups are focused only on service delivery but never challenging the government.
Many of you will also be familiar with the so-called "foreign agents" law in Russia. The law there says that if you receive any money from a foreign source, even $1, and you also seek to change governmental policy, you must list yourself as a foreign agent on all your publications, your public correspondence, and in a public register. There doesn't even need to be a connection between the dollars that the organization received and their advocacy activity. That doesn't matter. You simply have to receive any foreign funding and engage in any form of advocacy.
In Russian, the word for foreign agent is the same word as foreign spy. So as a result, virtually no one is able to receive foreign funding in Russia if they seek to engage in advocacy. And that's enforced through criminal sanctions.
You'll also likely know about the number of international NGO representatives, as well as local activists, who were thrown in jail in Egypt because they didn't get the government's approval to disperse any kind of international grants. Finally, looking at the life cycle, the issue of determination of organizations-- we've started with formation, operation, resources, termination. This is a grainy image, but I show it anyway. I got it out of a Nicaraguan newspaper.
There was a group that had-- a women's group that had challenged the government of Nicaragua. And then these policemen arrived. Can you see what's on the policeman's shoulder? It's a sledgehammer. I think it's a perfect metaphor for what we see, the sledgehammer approach to closing down organizations and civic space.
Now, on the other end of the extreme is what we call the Al Capone approach to law enforcement. Now, many of you will know he was an alleged mobster who killed people and so on and so forth. But the government could never get him for that. Does anybody know why Al Capone went to jail? Please?
SPEAKER 4: Tax evasion.
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: Tax evasion, which is exactly the approach that we're seeing governments using around the world-- here, a Chinese lawyer being held for tax evasion. Similarly, a Belorussian activist in jail as we speak-- the charge? Tax evasion. So what we've started with is outlining these constraints on freedom of association.
What about these forms of protest-- they're not necessarily organizations or institutions, but demonstrations, and so forth. That falls under the freedom of assembly. It's a real hot issue these days. Just consider a few recent pictures.
This is a photograph this year from Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; and Cairo. What we're seeing around the world is that citizens are converting streets and squares into that traditional Greek definition of an agora, a meeting place, an assembly. And in response, an increasing number of governments are coming down with agoraphobia, fear of the square.
In particularly acute cases of agoraphobia, the government simply destroys the square. Bahrain-- protest movements, people gathering in the main square. It's called Pearl Square. Government gets nervous. So what do you do? You destroy the square. You run roads through it.
In other countries, governments erect these physical barriers to civic space. The government in Egypt is now erecting 10-foot iron gates to restrict access to Tahrir Square. We talked about Uganda earlier-- restrictions in terms of the law. Maybe people are getting a little antsy there.
What is Uganda doing? They've now banned access to Constitution Square, the only public square in Kampala. And they put barbed wire up so that no one can get in to the square. And if people do dare to enter civic space, they're often, by force, expelled.
Now, supplementing these physical barriers to civic space, we're seeing the rise of legal barriers. There's a fight in the Ukrainian Parliament. What's it over? Anti-protest laws and other restrictions that the Yanukovych government enacted in January 2014. It imposed prison sentences if you blocked a government building.
The Ukrainians are clever protesters. They also used cars to try to block streets. So the government said, if you drive in a column of five or more cars, we have a right to seize your cars.
The reaction to these anti-protest laws was increased protest and the fall of Yanukovych. We're reminded time and time again that governments that don't listen to their people hear from them in the streets.
But it's not just restrictive countries. Here's a march in Spain-- march last month against their anti-protest bill. Originally in Spain they had a proposal that they would fine you over $800,000 if you participated in unauthorized protest. Now it's about $40,000, still violations of international law. And the Spaniards are protesting. And if you look at the current space, the agora of today, it's often the internet-- Twitter, YouTube. And we're seeing that governments are also seeking to restrict access to the digital agora.
Now, in some countries they're trying to get really creative to avoid going to jail. So here's a fellow in Russia who said, well, the law only applies to individuals. I think what I'm going to do is put up these dolls that'll call for clean and fair elections and no corruption and things like that. And he set up this doll protest. And as the headline indicates, he was then arrested.
Burundi last month just banned jogging groups. We're talking about assemblies, people gathering together for a common purpose. In Burundi, there's such severe agoraphobia, that as the government's spokesman said, marches or jogging in the streets is prohibited if it's done en masse. But if somebody wants to do sports individually, that's OK. The rest of the article talked about this fear that people might run together, talk about things, and maybe stir unrest. So in Burundi jogging clubs are now illegal.
Now, some of you might say, but this has always happened. If you think of the trial of Socrates, which we read about in Plato's Apology, which really is a corruption of the Greek word apologia, which means defense of Socrates, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for his provocative statements in the Athenian agora. So yes, this has been happening a long time.
But in the post-World War II architecture of human rights, it seemed as though there was a movement towards greater freedom and respect for human rights, and that changed. And we can almost give you the day that that changed. And it was in November 2004-- November 22, 2004, to be precise.
That was the date that the Ukrainians first went to the streets and had what was then called the Orange Revolution. And until that time, governments basically ignored these associations, these civil society groups. They didn't understand then. They didn't think they were particularly relevant, and then they can go on ignoring them.
But then when people took to the streets in Kiev on November 22, 2004, it got the attention of these governments. So while people are on the streets of Kiev, we have Lukashenko, leader of Belarus, saying there's not going to be any Rose Revolution-- that something happened in Georgia-- Orange Revolution, or even banana revolution in his country. And he'd take measures to ensure that didn't happen.
While people are on the streets of Kiev, we have Zimbabwe's Parliament passing a law to restrict NGOs. While people are on the streets of Kiev, we have Chavez of Venezuela traveling to the Kremlin for emergency meetings with Putin. Note the date, November 26th, four days after the protests.
So what changed in November was the fact that we'd had these ad-hoc isolated instances of restraint. Sure, there were restrictions in Belarus or in Venezuela or in Zimbabwe. But suddenly, people were getting together, and they were sharing notes.
So my organization, which works in over 100 countries, would sometimes get laws from one country, where they would change the name of the country in the title of the law but forget to change the name of the country in the body of the law. They were literally copy-pasting restrictions from country to country. And that's led to a tremendous upsurge in the number of restrictions that we're seeing around the world.
During the question-and-answer period, I'd be pleased to provide other factors. But trying to provide some data here-- since 2012, we have found 67 laws that have either been enacted or considered that would restrict the freedom of association and assembly versus 17 that would enable additional civic space. In terms of the thematic nature of these laws, we have assembly restrictions-- makes sense after the Orange Revolution I talked about, the Arab Awakening, people going to the streets-- foreign funding, I talked about that with the foreign agents laws, and then these lifecycle or formation issues that I talked about at the beginning.
But there's also a little bit of a risk. I have a young daughter. And we went to her grandfather's house. And there was a rabbit that was running across the yard. And my daughter Nina ran at the rabbit, and the rabbit froze.
I didn't understand that. Why was the rabbit letting my daughter get so close? And her grandfather said, well, the natural predator of the rabbit is the fox. And the fox has really bad eyesight. It can only see movement.
So the rabbit's instinct is to freeze because then it's invisible. And there's a little bit of a risk in our field that we, too, only see movement. We only focus on the countries that are going backwards.
But if you consider not only those that have had restrictive initiatives in the last two years but that have been stably restrictive for a number of years, over 70 countries have laws that fundamentally violate key aspects of the freedom of association and assembly under international law. So there's a lot to be done. But what is to be done?
A few ideas and a few things that have been done-- first, the UN has now recognized the importance of this issue. In 2010, they appointed a UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Maina Kiai from Kenya. It's a very important position because this is a new area of law. The norms are just being developed these days, these months, these years. As a result, the UN has a person-independent expert who is helping to develop these norms. And we're working very quickly with them on that.
We're also trying to move beyond the traditional argument of human rights. Maina Kiai is appointed technically by the Human Rights Council. If you look at, for example, investment treaties, a number of countries have entered into agreements to reduce the free flow of capital across national borders when it's going into the for-profit economy.
Well, it turns out that many of these agreements also cover flows of philanthropy, funding that would be given to nonprofit organizations. In fact, we see that nonprofits are often an economic engine in many countries. And we're trying to introduce not only human rights arguments, but also issues around economic growth, or some of you will know about the UN Development Agenda and trying to show the importance of civil society as a partner in the development of countries around the world.
So we have international norm development. We can talk more about that later. Second, we have international diplomacy. There's a group called the Community of Democracies, over 100 democratic nations that have gathered together to promote democratic practices around the world. And they formed a working group on enabling civic space. And it's really reached the highest levels of government.
It may be surprising to you, but President Obama decided that he would organize one-side events at this year's UN General Assembly. The topic? Civil society space, this topic, and this is the Deputy UN Secretary General.
Now, sometimes you can't actually change the law. The restrictions are going to be too severe. Civil society is under siege. 17 countries have also created something called the lifeline initiative, which is to help organizations when they're arrested. It provides legal defense. It might actually help to bring people out of the country and so forth.
But you're starting to see this multilateral initiative to help support civil society. And then we're also finding the integration of nonprofit organizations into the structures of these groups. We sit, for example, in this lifeline initiative and the Community of Democracies.
But we can't rely on governments alone. And that's why civil society has also stepped up in terms of the development of norms. During the introduction, you heard about this report called Defending Civil Society. It was endorsed by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu, and others. And it was civil society's attempt to articulate the freedoms and rights that attach to nonprofit organizations.
It also was very important because it arose during the Bush era, where there was almost this allergy to support for civil society. And it was important that civil society demonstrate that solidarity with nonprofit organizations encompasses, for example, the free Tibet movement, the anti-apartheid movement. And that's a longer time horizon than who's in power at the moment. And then finally, the issue of supporting local capacity and partners and experts, the people who are on the front lines.
My organization's a really crazy game-- the International Center for Not-for-profit Law. Nobody can remember it. I was asked over the weekend, should we change it? And I think the answer's no. And part of the reason for that is that we can go in as technical experts.
We're working in 100 countries. Next month, we're organizing a big conference in China. We're working in Burma. We're working in Egypt. We're working around the world. And you're able to find that governments are not a monolith, that it's actually possible to engage at a technical level with virtually every government. And we can talk about that more.
The issue of education-- as you know, it's not something that's typically taught at many law schools or even at many universities. When I first started teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the question first arose, what is this civil side? What are you talking about? Well, over time, we were able to introduce this into more and more universities. And now over 50 universities around the world are teaching this subject, to create that analytic basis for reform.
But it's also important to go beyond the universities and to engage with the public. Because in a lot of countries, the public doesn't understand what civil society and the freedom of association, the freedom of assembly are all about. So we're working on a number of initiatives to do that.
There's a great initiative by our Afghan lawyer, who said that in Afghanistan people really like quiz shows. So what we did is we worked with universities. And we had students from all the different universities come to an auditorium like this. And it was televised. And what we did is we pulled people out of the audience from different universities, and they were asked questions about the freedom of association, women's rights, human rights, and so forth. And it had an amazing impact on the country because people were watching to see whether somebody from their university would be called up on stage and how they would do. And it's a way of trying to connect with people. And then finally the issue of monitoring impact-- sounds technical.
But I got this, again, from my Cornell education. I was studying with a guy named Robin Williams, not the actor, the sociologist, much more important to our world-- amazing guy. And Robin Williams introduced me to something called the Hawthorne effect. It was about a group that went into the Hawthorne Factory in New York City in the 1950s. And they were charged with determining whether the lighting in a room affected worker productivity.
So they turned the lighting up in the factory, and the workers were more productive. They turned the lighting down in the factory, and the workers were more productive. They then reverted to the same lighting that they had when they walked in, and the workers were more productive.
So they scrapped the whole paper on whether lighting has any impact on worker productivity and wrote a paper instead on the impact of knowing you're being watched or being monitored. And so what we're doing in a number of countries that are passing these restrictive laws is they play the democratic game and say, you know, this is nothing about civil society. It won't have a negative impact. So what we'll say is, great. Let us monitor that for you. And what we see is that another tool at our disposal is monitoring impact.
So in conclusion, I want to thank again the distinguished colleagues who've joined us, the United Center, Dean Schwab, and Cornwall Law School for hosting me today. I think it's really an amazing time in which we live. It's amazing because I think the cornerstone concepts of civil society, and indeed the fundamental relationship between citizens and the state, are being developed, debated, and in some sense, contested. We see that in Kiev. We see that in Caracas. We see that in Bangkok. We see it around the world.
But history has given us not only a burden, but really a benefit, a benefit because we are not destined to inherit that history. Rather we all have an opportunity to make history, to shape it. And as I think of my courageous colleagues around the world who are on the front lines in this contest over civic space, some of whom work for civil society, some of whom work for government or for academia, what we share in common is this value, where people are able to work together to make the world a better place. And I have to say I got my start on that here at Cornell.
So it's a particular privilege for me to look at this room, think of the colleagues here, and to have not pessimism about what we see in this contest over civic space, but rather optimism. Optimism, that working together, the arc of history, paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of the moral universe will, in fact, bend towards democracy, dignity, and human rights. So thank you again, and I look forward to your questions.
Questions-- what do you got? Please?
SPEAKER 5: What's been the response of other audiences outside Cornell here [INAUDIBLE], in what countries? How have people responded?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: It's a very nice question. It's, how have audiences responded outside of the United States? We do this fairly often. I was just in Brazil. I came directly, in fact, from Brazil, where we organized TED talks on exactly this topic. Many of you may be familiar with the TED Talks that are online. And what we found is that there is tremendous receptivity to engagement on this issue because people don't know a lot about it.
We haven't thought a lot about it as societies, the issues of freedom of association and assembly, this notion of civic space and the right of the individual to be able to gather with other individuals to pursue common interests. And what we're also finding is that there are a lot of hotly contested issues in this space. It's not black and white on this. And what are the limits that one might impose in that
So we're actually finding tremendous interest, tremendous demand for engagement on precisely these kinds of issues. So thank you. Thank you for raising it. Please?
SPEAKER 6: I'd be interested in your comments on what's happening here in the United States through the process of criminalizing dissent.
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: So there are a number of issues. It's interesting we have focused-- and you'll see I wrote an article for Foreign Policy, where I talk about restrictions in the United States as well. We've looked at, for example, peaceful assembly restrictions in my presentation in Spain and elsewhere. But it's actually fairly remarkable if you look at US law and how it applies to peaceful assembly.
When I was teaching my class at Georgetown during the Occupy protest movement, one of my students told me that her friend had been arrested in New York for wearing a bandanna-- for wearing a bandanna. And it turns out that in New York state, it's illegal to wear a mask unless you're going to a masquerade party. Sounds a little crazy. It's from the 1800s.
Why is that the law? Well, it turns out that there were some white farmers that would dressed up as Native Americans, and they would rob other white farmers in the 1800s. So as a protective measure, the General Assembly passes a law saying, don't wear masks unless you're going to a masquerade party. Some clever lawyer in New York found that provision and applied it against people wearing bandannas in the Occupy protests.
Similarly, there was a congressional inquiry about people protesting in the capitol. Why? And I have the letter. It literally says because they killed newly planted grass, and Congress called for an investigation, police action, to remove the Occupy protesters. It's also illegal, for example, to lie down during a protest. You can't have one more than 24 hours.
At my class at Georgetown, I actually had students that year evaluate the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt under US law to see if any of that would have been legal. And the answer was no. None of that would have been legal.
So it's important, of course, that we turn the mirror on ourselves. And we need to ensure that our own laws are compliant with not only international law, but good practices when it comes to protecting dissents. Because otherwise when we engage in that international diplomacy that I mentioned, we'll be accused of hypocrisy and will undermine our effectiveness.
Now, one of the values of working for an organization like I do versus the government is that we're really free to act on principle. So when the US government passes a law that's really restrictive, we can criticize the US government, and we do. In fact, one of the most restrictive laws you'll see relating to the freedom of association was the one that the US government put in place in Iraq when they had the Coalition Provisional Authority. And we called them out on it.
The Iraqi government then brought us in to come up with a new law, which they've subsequently enacted, to protect civic space in that country. And it's one that's quite compliant with international law. So it's an excellent point, which is that in the US we do have issues as well. It's also true in Europe, other places. And we need to ensure that we're compliant with international law instead of just trying to export these notions elsewhere. So thank you. Please?
SPEAKER 7: You had mentioned that possible to engage on a technical level with most countries. Can you talk a little bit about that?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: So what we have found is that there are a cadre of professionals who are interested in learning. You see that in any country in any government. And oftentimes these people will be charged within their ministry in writing a law, but they didn't study this in law school. Very few people do.
They don't really understand the concepts. And they will invite us in to help share with them comparative expertise and international law, what's worked well, what hasn't in other countries, what are the international norms. So it might be surprising that my last trip to China was actually funded by the Chinese government. And I was asked to give the keynote and closing address by the Chinese government.
Now, they're funny sometimes. Sometimes they might close the door and say, look, we know what your agenda might be. Maybe it's religious freedom or other kinds of things, which actually isn't for us. And they said, we're sensitive to that, but we can still engage with you. We're confident enough that we can engage with you and exchange views, even though we might not accept everything that you say.
My colleague just came back from Turkmenistan, a country that I mentioned. And they too are reaching out to us for technical assistance on how to engage. Now, part of it is because of the crazy name we have, the International Center from Not-for-profit Law, where they say, it's kind of technical. And in fact, a colleague once told me that if we were the International Center for Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights, we'd never be to work in these countries.
But we designed ourselves to really be technical-- almost everybody works for us is a lawyer-- and also international. So most everybody who works for us comes from the countries and regions in which they work. So that also gives us the ability to engage, where it's less threatening to governments. And that's the way that we typically try to do that. So thank you. In the back? Yeah, go ahead.
SPEAKER 8: You bring this tension up and opposition between the government of a civil society on the one hand, then overzealous or at times even, portentously zealous counter-terrorism efforts on the behalf of our government. I was wondering if any of your engagement with governments trying to build civil society around the world ever engages on sort of conceptualizations of counter-terrorism involving sort of discussions of whether or not these repressive measure actually are more likely to sort of increase this kind dissent, perhaps violence then rather than running in the other direction? Or is that sort of beyond the scope of your work?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: It's a wonderful question, counter-terrorism and its relationship to civil society. We're going to get to give another shout out to Cornell. Because when I was here, it was late 1980s, and terrorism was a big threat at that time. And I remember going to the College of Arts and Sciences saying, I want to study this. But there was no class on it. And as a result, they enabled me through the College Scholar Program to actually have a major.
I made a mistake. I'm not really so smart. I called it terrorism, and I later added the word counter-- made it a little better, counter-terrorism. But I was able to begin to study this issue. And my thesis was on counter-terrorism.
We begin to see that there's actually a convergence of interest between good counter-terrorism policy and human rights in so many different ways, including ease of registration or incorporation. If you made it really difficult for groups to form, maybe require 500 members or 1 million people, people still want to form those jogging clubs or those parent-teacher associations. Or they're going to get together and talk about politics.
But you're not going to know anything about them because it's going to be underground. So what we've been doing is engaging with the counter-terrorism experts, with Interpol, and others to try to identify those areas of commonality between good counter-terrorism policy and human rights policy. But here's the rub. Here's the problem. The problem that we've found is that by the nature of certain agencies within government, their sole mandate is to eradicate terror, to address the terrorism threat.
They don't get any promotion or credit for having a sophisticated approach that also addresses issues of civil society and civic space. And sometimes it's been proved quite difficult to get the counter-terrorism people into the table to talk about these issues. But it's something that's ongoing. And it's a great question, one that we've been working a lot on. So thank you for that. Other questions? Please.
SPEAKER 9: It seems like US support of other countries often, of course, gets politicized and [INAUDIBLE] politics. And I'm thinking especially of this occasion Ukraine, where Russia used [INAUDIBLE] US support to Ukraine as another reason to doubt US intentions in the area. So how do you think [INAUDIBLE] how can US organizations [INAUDIBLE]?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: So the question that's been posed relates to whether there's, in essence, a political taint when the US is funding organizations in places like Kiev or in Ukraine writ large? Now, to a certain extent, this is a red herring. What we hear from Putin is there's foreign interference in the domestic political affairs of Ukraine because maybe there's a group that's funding civil society in Ukraine.
But what we're finding in Ukraine is that Putin is using tanks and military force. That's certainly foreign interference in domestic political affairs. But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond that. At one stage, we were talking to the Russians about their restrictions on funding of civil society. And they were complaining about US funding. It's a violation of their sovereignty. And then I was reading the Washington Post, and there was a report that the Russian government was protesting because they had some issues relating to their US lobbyist that they had hired to represent Russian interests. And it got me thinking that actually the Russians are much better at this than we are.
We actually can't get regime change. If we wanted to, we couldn't do it, right? And funding simple society usually has very little impact on the macro political environment of any country in which we work. What the Russians do instead of funding civil society, they hire high-priced Washington lobbyists to influence US domestic affairs, so foreign money being used. And that's perfectly permissible.
So part of what we're trying to do here is recognize that there's this globalization of engagement around these issues. How does an organization respond to this? Part of it is by multinationalizing our funding base-- we get money from a number of different countries, a number of different entities-- but also by standing true to principle and recognizing that these kinds of things are protected under international law. And the right does not reside in the donor.
It's not the right of Americans to fund Ukrainians. But the way that we try to cast it-- the right resides in the beneficiary, that Ukrainian organization that needs money to maybe help run the orphanage because the gas supply's been cut off by the Russians. In similar fashion, if Cornell University were to be offered a grant by the Swedish government or some other government and imagine we had the same kind of rule, where the US government could reject that grant, we wouldn't say it's Swedish rights that were infringed. We would say Cornell has a right to go and complain about these actions.
So part of what we're trying to do is recast the debate. It's not about foreign funding. It's actually about the right to receive. In the back.
SPEAKER 10: You made a few comments on defending civil society and peaceful protests. They are a continuum with, say, nonviolence or civil disobedience. If intentions are to be nonviolent, but at some point in the continuum, is that not going to be disruptive to civil society?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: Lets me see if I got the question correct. And if not, you'll let me know. The issue relates to the continuum between nonviolent assemblies and perhaps violence that might erupt in demonstrations and so forth. Now, under international law, what that term is the right to peaceful assembly, which means nonviolent assemblies. So that's where the right resides. Now--
SPEAKER 10: [INAUDIBLE]
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: Please.
SPEAKER 10: Yeah, I think Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, the Arab Spring-- I think those intentions were nonviolent. But by extension, along the continuum, they were disruptive to civil society, probably more because of the reaction and the response from the government, and yet very effective.
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: Yes. And under international law, those kind of nonviolent movements will be disruptive. That's their purpose is to disrupt. And they are fully protected under international law. Where the challenge arises is what happens if there's a little bit of violence?
We've seen this case where there'll be a protest, and then there might be a couple of people who break windows or engage in violent activity. And the rule there is just like you would do in a group like this. If there was one person who is disruptive, you wouldn't disband the entire group. You would simply extract that individual, and the police are quite good at that, extracting the individual who's engaged in these illegal activities.
But all too often what we see is that the governments are actually even sending in agents provocateur who will go in and smash some windows, carry out some bad acts. And that's what's used as an excuse to close down the window of opportunity for everybody to protest the world. And that's a clear violation. Do you have to treat the individuals within the protest not the protest writ large? Another question, please.
SPEAKER 11: You mentioned that there were 17 laws that referenced the positive end of the spectrum. I was wondering if there were any patterns that emerge as far as the countries' laws that [INAUDIBLE]?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: It's a great question. It's a really diverse range. On the one hand, you have countries that are trying to rejoin the international community. Burma is a good example. So Burma's reached out to us to help in essence decriminalize association of life, enable the country to take advantage of civic energy for its rebuilding. So we have countries like that.
We also have Iraq. And in part, that was a response to the really draconian law that the US put in place, as well as a desire, in fact, to, again, harness civic energy. Some are democracies, and they want to do the right thing. That would be examples of Croatia and Macedonia. And then we have countries that actually are starting to recognize that civic engagement can actually be very, very helpful for the development of civil society.
So it might be surprising to hear that in China there are actually some very positive developments, particularly at the provincial level, where they understand that maybe it's not such a bad idea to get people involved. They're a little more focused on service delivery than advocacy. And by the way, I think it's going to be very interesting to see what happens with those protests around the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, where the Chinese are allowing protests. And we'll see how that plays out.
But for now, what we're seeing is that China is actually providing space in order to achieve some of its governmental objectives. So three broad categories-- one would be those seeking to regain sort of acceptance by the international community. Burma, Libya would be examples. Others would be countries that are sort of firmly democratic trying to do the right thing. And then third, some that are actually fairly sophisticated in their understanding about the power of civic action to promote societal benefit. Those are the three. Anything else?
SPEAKER 12: If someone wants to get a job at ICNL, what kind of law school [INAUDIBLE]? Or what else do they do?
DOUGLAS RUTZEN: So I think my key advice would be that maybe even less important than the classes-- because it's a discrete area of law. And we can teach that. That's not so hard. I would say that it's the other things one would do to take advantage of your university experience-- one, the international opportunities that are provided.
So for us, we look to see have people actually been engaged internationally. It doesn't even matter whether it's on civil society issues or working on any other topic. And it's got to be more than like a week where one goes off and does a fly-by-night visit with jet lag to Spain. It's got to be a real intense experience. And that means a lot. And just to give you one of the examples, when I was at Cornell, I applied for a position with this group Helen Keller International to work in Antigua, Barbados, and Guyana. Sounds great. And I got the job. And years later, they told me the story that the reason they gave me the job is they had tried to work with people who knew a lot about business, but they didn't know much about disabled people, and they failed.
They brought somebody on that knew a lot about disabled people but not a lot about business. They failed. And they made a joke, we should hire somebody who knows absolutely nothing about anything like this guy, me--
--this guy. But he said he's coming with money from Cornell. It doesn't cost us anything. Let's give him a shot. And so I was able to get that international experience. And of all the things I learned, maybe one of the most important was humility because I also knew I didn't know anything.
So I actually traded my Cornell tradition stipend to the people in Antigua, Barbados, and Guyana on the exchange I would take the job if they would take the money, and I could live with them so that I could actually learn from them and with them about these experiences. And I think that that's what enabled me to go on in this career, which is that ability to connect and have these international experiences. So I would say, go international. Do some meaningful things.
Second, whether ICNL or not, I'd really encourage you to think about what do you really care about and pursue it. And don't be constrained by the realities of life. It will channel you into a miserable career when you look back 40 years later and say, why am I still at this law firm? That's not what I wanted to do. And I actually tell my own students at Georgetown, think about the essay you wrote to get you into law school or university.
Did you write that you want to go to Cornell so you can make a lot of money? No. You probably wanted to change the world. You wanted to do something. Now it's your time to live up to it. And you can't live up to it. It's not as hard as it sounds, although society will put tremendous pressure on you to channel you into this conformist notion that you might not want to do. And when I read Malcolm Gladwell's book recently, he had a very interesting section where he talked about a number of the internet pioneers were all of a certain age because that was the era when you could actually develop information technology and computers and so on and so forth. That was the hot issue at the moment.
He said, it's not a mistake. It's not the people. It's the era. So what I urge you to do is think about what are the big picture issues of today. And what do you care about within that broad spectrum of big picture issues of today? And then just go and do it. And you're going to find a lot of support at the university. You'll find a lot of support within the alumni network.
But you've got to be able to take that leap of faith that you can do it. You can do what you set out to do when you came to Cornell. And that's what I would encourage everybody to do.
HEIKE MICHELSEN: This would be a very nice note to end here.
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Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, spoke at Cornell April 29, 2014 as part of the Einaudi Center's ongoing Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. The event was cosponsored by the Cornell Law School.