Making Global Ethics More Global

Oct 3, 2023 54 min watch

For ethics to be truly global, voices from all around the world need to be part of the international affairs discourse. And as these discussions still often begin in Western publishing houses and take shape in Global North classrooms, the academic world must make sure Global South perspectives are welcomed. 

Ahead of Global Ethics Day 2023, scholars from the Global South and North will come together to discuss the barriers to knowledge production in the academic world and how to bring new voices into the classroom, library, and bookstore. What are the structures and systems that need to be re-examined or broken? What does a more diverse and inclusive approach to knowledge production look like?

For more on this issue, please check out Joy Gordon and Anthony Lang's essay "Making Global Ethics More Global" which appeared in January 2023 as an Online Exclusive for Ethics & International Affairs.

ANTHONY LANG: Hi there, everyone. I want to start by welcoming you all, wherever you are and at whatever time it is, to our event that is hosted by Ethics & International Affairs, the journal of Carnegie Council. My name is Tony Lang. I am a professor in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Let me say a couple of things just to introduce the panel, which was brought together based on some themes and an essay that one of our panelists, Joy Gordon, and I wrote that appeared as an online exclusive in Ethics & International Affairs in January 2023.

This panel, “Making Ethics More Global,” has been organized in part as well in celebration of the tenth annual Global Ethics Day, which is going to take place on October 18. Over the last ten years, thousands of organizations and individuals from over a hundred countries have participated in this annual moment to empower ethics, and we would encourage everyone watching to join this year’s Global Ethics Day celebrations.

Before I introduce our terrific group of panelists here, let me say something briefly about the point of this panel. For ethics to be truly global voices from around the world need to be part of the conversation, and as these conversations still often begin in Western publishing houses and take place in Global North classrooms, the academic world still must be sure that Global South perspectives are heard, welcomed, and celebrated. Some questions could be: What are some structures and systems that need to be reexamined or broken? What does a more diverse and inclusive approach to knowledge production look like?

Carnegie Council and the journal itself have sought to encourage this in their own way over the years. I will do a little show-and-tell here. I have in front of me the very first edition of Ethics & International Affairs. It looks very different than what it looks like today. There was an article by the Kenyan scholar and activist Ali Mazrui, written in 1987, in which he pointed out how superpower ethics—at the time those were the United States and the Soviet Union—has not really benefited countries such as their own, to put it mildly. He put it in a much milder way; we may be putting it more strongly today. This was an early effort I think by the Council to bring a Global South voice to bear on the conversation.

Now, of course it was about superpower ethics, so that suggests that the Council was only getting there—1987 was a different time than 2023—but it was moving itself in the right direction, and this panel hopefully is a great example of how the Council and all of us are trying to move ourselves to think more critically about what ethics is and where it comes from. That is what the origin of this is.

I will do less speaking and more moderating, so let me briefly introduce our panelists.

First, Dr. May Darwich is an associate professor in international relations (IR) of the Middle East at the University of Birmingham, and she is the author of Threats and Alliances in the Middle East: Saudi and Syrian Policies in a Turbulent Region. Her research attempts to bring Middle East cases to debates within international relations theory, and she has a wide range of other publications touching on some similar issues.

Dr. Joy Gordon is a professor of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, and her work focuses on human rights and economic rights, particularly economic sanctions. She is the author of Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions and, along with me, authored the short piece I mentioned, “Making Global Ethics More Global,” and as well is an editor with me of a book series that is seeking to promote voices from the Global South.

Dr. Raul Salgado is a research professor at The Latin American Faculty of Social Science (FLACSO) in Ecuador. He has worked as an advisor at the city council in Bonn and the National Assembly in Ecuador. His research focuses on foreign policy and diplomacy with an emphasis on Latin American and the role of small states in regional and global institutions.

What I did in advance was send to each panelist a brief question to get their thinking moving. It is not something I want to have anybody confined to, but I will remind our panelists of the question that I sent to them, and each panelist will take five to seven minutes just to lay out some thoughts on this wider issue of making global ethics more global, maybe through this particular question that I have phrased for them.

First, to May: How would international relations be changed with greater incorporation of Middle East perspectives? May, over to you.

MAY DARWICH: Thank you, Tony, very much, and thank you for having me.

My contribution is going to be mainly focused on the Middle East. In the few minutes that I have I would like to reflect a little bit on where the region stands in the discipline at the moment, what can we do, and what are the challenges for that to happen.

To start, the IR discipline is conventionally known as an American social science, and that is somewhat reflected in where we publish, where the money is going to, who has more power in knowledge production, and so on.

Recently, in the last couple of decades, there has been more attention to a reflective sort of thinking around these issues that somewhat the IR discipline does not really reflect the whole of humanity but only reflects the interests, the views, and also the assumptions built on the history of a certain part of the world. Therefore, many scholars started thinking: Okay, how can we include voices from other parts of the world? How can we take into account the differences in regions and the differences across different countries? Therefore, there were rising debates on global IR on how to make IR more global and how to make IR somewhat more reflective of real issues around the globe.

The Middle East is one of the least-represented regions in the IR discipline and also one of the least-represented regions in the global IR debate, so even though there have been advances to look at IR from the Latin American, Asian, and African perspectives, the Middle East seems behind on these kinds of efforts. This is a little puzzling considering how the Middle East is full of international relations puzzles but also historically provided a pool for cases to test many of the the things that IR theories that we are using and teaching and also have come to shape the debates in the IR discipline.

In a way this is all very puzzling, and many Middle Eastern scholars are more and more interested in engaging in dialogues of how the Middle East can be better represented in debates, in publishing, in journals, but also in teaching. So it is not just about the research; it is also about the teaching that we do. Therefore, I have a few points of how the Middle East can enrich the IR discipline.

The main way the Middle East has been used and can be still used as a way to be incorporated in the discipline is by providing a host of case studies which are very different from the case studies that are used in the West. These case studies provide a challenging task in the theoretical constructs in the discipline.

Many of the theories that have been developed still need testing and still need to show validity beyond the original cases, and somewhat the Middle East is really full of puzzling cases. Even in current events and the richness of—I do not want to say war and conflict because that should not be something positive—but the richness and the rapidity of change in the region as well provides an excellent pool of cases for many IR scholars to consider having a different perspective on their theories or even in their teaching. Unfortunately, much of the teaching is focused on the American sort of thinking on the same assumptions, reproducing more or less the same cases, reproducing the U.S. view of the world, rather than the view of other regions. Including some of these cases from a different perspective can also enrich IR theory in different ways.

Another way that also could be considered by scholars is looking at the Middle East as an area where theory could be developed. Again, the Middle East is very late and behind other regions in this, so we see many IR theories that have been homegrown emerging from different regions, emerging from Latin America and Asia, like we talk about Chinese IR, we talk about European IR, and we talk about Latin American IR.

The Middle East, unfortunately, is a case where we still do not have homegrown theorizing. There are several attempts at creating or developing a perspective on how theory could be developed from the region, but unfortunately this has not really led to concrete theories. It is more of an approach, more of a different way of saying things. There are examples like the Beirut school of security studies and the example of the Islamic paradigm in IR, which are again not necessarily theories in the conventional way we look at theories, but they have provided some different thinking about the international IR from the region.

In a way, what we are still looking at is how the region can provide the opportunity for developing theory, for producing knowledge in a different way, producing knowledge from a different perspective. Unfortunately, this is not very easy because knowledge production requires resources, institutions, and obviously incentives, how scholars are incentivized to work on these issues, and these conditions are lacking in the Middle East, which makes things even more challenging.

Finally—and this is something that I would like to highlight—including and enriching IR theory through Middle East cases does not really require that much effort. As academics and as researchers, every time we decide on a research question, every time we are designing a course to teach, we do have some sort of a responsibility and we also have some latitude in how to include different perspectives.

Often we do not reflect enough on the main assumptions that we keep reproducing in our teaching and our research. Also, including different perspectives as well as different kinds of scholars who have different backgrounds is one way of enriching the IR discipline because every scholar comes from a social, economic, and political background that definitely affects the way they are socialized in the IR discipline and in how they see the world around them, but also shapes their choices of what they consider relevant and significant as research questions and as topics to study and to teach.

In this very brief contribution I would like to say that there are many things we could do to include different perspectives in the IR discipline, and obviously that will enrich the discipline in many ways. Otherwise. IR is risking to run as an ideology or as a narrative that is focused only on a certain part of the world and does not reflect the reality, aspirations, and hopes of a large number of people around the world.

Thank you.

ANTHONY LANG: Thank you so much, May. That was terrific, a great way to start us off.

Let me now turn to Joy and the question I had posed to Joy, which is: What would the field of economic sanctions—something that you are an expert on—look like if Global South issues and authors had greater visibility and impact?

JOY GORDON: Thank you so much, Tony.

The implementation of sanctions regimes has generally been done by the UN Security Council and by states in the Global North—the United States, European Union, Canada, and Australia, along with a few Asian nations such as South Korea and Japan. I am talking about the last 25 to 30 years. There are a few exceptions, such as the African Union and recently China and Russia, which have been actively engaged in the imposition of unilateral sanctions, but for the most part unilateral sanctions are imposed by wealthy Western nations against countries in the Global South or, when they are imposed by the UN Security Council, they are highly shaped by the Permanent Members.

At the same time, in the last 30 years the academic field of economic sanctions has for the most part been shaped by scholars in the West, predominantly political scientists in the United States, Europe, Canada, and a few other countries. I do not want to say that, for example, all sanctions scholars from the United States hold the same views, but the academic literature produced by scholars from these countries has for years been dominated by a certain set of questions:

  • How can sanctions achieve greater compliance by the targeted State or individual?
  • How can sanctions enforcement be more effective?
  • How can third parties be prevented from permitting sanctions-busting opportunities for the target State?
  • How can banks and other private actors be made to take on the enforcement of sanctions?

There are, of course, critiques coming out of these countries and this set of scholars who maintain, for example, that:

  • The likelihood of sanctions actually achieving the compliance of the target state is at best one-third of the time and arguably is much lower, closer to only 5 percent of the time;
  • Sanctions can significantly worsen the situation of the civilian populations as, when they are imposed on autocrats, sanctions are likely to trigger increased state repression and reduce the space for civil society and the media; and
  • Recently there has also been growing discussion of the humanitarian impact of sanctions.

It has always seemed to me that the sanctions field is, so to speak, “missing its other half.” Of course the issues of compliance and enforcement are primary from the perspective of the sanctioner, but from the perspective of sanctioned countries—and, for that matter, whole regions within the Global South—the issues may look quite different. Their issues are not compliance or enforcement but rather legality, legitimacy, and accountability.

Cuba, for example, introduces an annual resolution at the UN General Assembly maintaining that the United States’ unilateral measures against Cuba are in violation of international law. Each year the overwhelming majority of the UN Member States joins Cuba in this view. Last year the vote was 185 to 2, the 2 being the United States and Israel. We can say that there is at the least a plausible claim that these measures are in violation of international law.

In the case of the UN Security Council measures against Iraq in the 1990s, it was clear that the human cost was enormous, with sanctions causing or contributing significantly to widespread malnutrition, epidemics of water-borne diseases, and the collapse of healthcare and education. This was because the Security Council measures were so broad as to be indiscriminate and disproportionate, in violation of international humanitarian law.

The same can be said of the current Security Council measures against North Korea, which target its major industries, its access to fuel, international banking, shipping, and to essential imports. In this case, while the Security Council concern is that North Korea continues to pursue its nuclear program, the other side of the equation has to do with the fact that the sanctions in turn have crippled North Korea’s entire economy, its infrastructure, and its agricultural production, with a particular impact on food security particularly in regard to those who are most vulnerable.

So, within the scholarship of economic sanctions there are diverse viewpoints and active debates, but they overwhelmingly reflect the concerns of the Western countries that predominantly impose sanctions, issues such as compliance and enforcement. When we expand the range of our vision to encompass scholars and states that have experienced sanctions or are in the regions that are most often the targets of sanctions, then we see different debates and different issues, particularly the questions of legality, legitimacy, and accountability. In my view, a global ethics of sanctions must expand its scope to include these perspectives.

ANTHONY LANG: Excellent. Thank you so much, Joy, again really building upon your expertise and now trying to draw in some new insights. Thanks so much.

Let me lastly turn to Raul. I know, Raul, you have been working on issues around the rule of law. The question I posed to you is: What do you see as some of the most significant and emerging rule-of-law issues in Latin America?

RAUL SALGADO: Thank you very much, Tony and Joy, for inviting me to the panel, and of course thank you also to Carnegie Council for the opportunity to discuss this here.

There are many issues actually which I have found in the literature but also in the daily reflection about this topic in Latin America. From the variety of issues regarding the rule of law in Latin America I will highlight and talk about three main issues that are the most significant from my point of view so far.

The first is the security, but security not in terms of international security, because the relationship between the states more or less is stable, but what I actually mean here is the security in terms of the basic security of human beings within the countries, feeling free of the danger of being assaulted, robbed, or even killed. This is one of the major rule-of-law issues in the Latin American countries, a region with thousands of deaths of people as a result of crimes per year. Latin America actually hosts various cities considered as the most dangerous on the planet, particularly in the big metropolitan cities of Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.

Also, across the region the trust in the role of the police to protect the integrity of humans as well as their private property is really low, and that leads to the second issue that I wanted to talk about, the corruption in terms of misuse of power by governmental officials and civil servants for their own benefit or in terms of bribery at the different levels of government, starting at the ministerial level. In the context of the public perceptions of concessions within all of the minor ministries you can find many cases where you can see transnational and international corporations bribing high governmental officials who pay poor or no attention to the human rights, indigenous rights, or environmental rights.

This kind of behavior can also be found at the lower institutional levels—at the level of police, military, judiciary—and this has a direct relation with the civil and criminal justice system, which is one of the major issues also with the rule of law in Latin America. I am talking in terms of being able to access our courts for impartial justice. The corruption and insecurity are so high it is a high problem for society. The poor and weaker people find it really difficult to access impartial justice.

These issues are also related to the poor and the weak judiciary system. They are poor in the sense of lacking investment in infrastructure, in education, and in professionalism* of the judges and weak in the sense of lacking sufficient personnel to apply the law, in turn lacking credibility and support by the society.

Of course these issues also have to do with the final point that I want to highlight. Actually, I think events like the one today are necessary to have discussion more often because academic research and debates about the meaning of a strong and stable rule of law not only for democracy but also for the well-being of humans is really poor in Latin America. The majority of investigations have been carried out by European academics and North American academics, and Canadian academics. There are some reflections on the rule of law, particularly rights in the different areas of the discipline, but most of the time these are done within law or within politics, but very seldom within the context of international relations.

In general, there is belief in the rule of law and the basic values of democracy within the region, but somehow there is a perception of every time getting weaker is trust in the values of democracy. The concept is that it is possible to see that people are turning to elect extremist and populist politicians who further weaken democracy. This is really a concern because what we are actually looking for is trying to reinforce and strengthen the values of democracy and the rule of law in the region.

ANTHONY LANG: Great. Thank you so much, Raul. You raised so many interesting and important questions that I am hoping we can get back to.

I have a couple of follow-up questions for each panelist.

Let me start with May. Thank you, May. I know your scholarship has focused on international relations theory, and one of the things you did was to nicely suggest a couple of schools of thought that are arising out of the Middle East, the Beirut school and Islamic school. Of course, IR theory can be more explanatory and positivist than ethical.

You mentioned the Islamic school, and I am curious. Could you maybe say a little bit about whether that approach brings a consciously ethical perspective to bear on international relations? I am not an expert on that and I do not know how much you know about it, but maybe you could speak to that briefly and tell us a little bit about how that school connects up ethics and global politics in some way.

MAY DARWICH: Thank you, Tony, very much.

One of the main problems of that school is that it has not been sufficiently developed in terms of having particular assumptions or having particular theories, but the overarching voice coming from that school is that somewhat the Islamic history of the region is crucial to understanding its international relation but also it is crucial to understanding how states have interactions with the outside world, so they still have that division between Muslim and non-Muslim spheres.

It is also looking at several other concepts which have been developed within the Islamic philosophy historically and trying to bring these concepts to life; so, instead of thinking about the state, there is more thinking about rulers, spheres of power, and civilizations, and how these kind of concepts are still alive. So the nation-state is not the most important lens to understand international relations in the region. So, in a way, the school is coming from a different starting point, which is looking at the history of the region, looking at the history of Islam and some of its philosophy, to understand how it can inform some of the dynamics that we see in the region at the moment.

As to the ethical aspect of it, again I do not think it is that developed to address these particular questions, but it does somewhat advocate the inequality that exists in our current world and how Islam more or less advocates for a different perspective on justice, equality, and different issues that more or less are discussed within the ethical sorts of issues that we are discussing today.

In a way, the Islamic school is taking a different position on some of these issues and is also trying to bring a different perspective coming from the history of the region. Again, whether it is going to evolve into a more ethical perspective on IR or not is a little bit early to decide. It is also very early to judge whether this approach is going to develop into a theoretical construct that would have validity beyond its initial thoughts or not.

Obviously, it has so many problems and it has so many criticisms, but it is nevertheless, whether we like it or not, just a different attempt at looking at international relations.

ANTHONY LANG: Yes. Great. Thank you so much. It is interesting to hear about how the history is a fundamental part of that emerging theoretic tradition. But certainly, as you mention, justice is such an important normative principle within Islam, which is something that I think in international affairs we often forget. We emphasize peace over justice too often, and I think that is an interesting way in which that voice could bring the centrality of justice to some of our ways of thinking about IR. That is very interesting. And, as you said, it is an emerging school, so it is maybe not fully developed yet, but we will keep an eye on it. That is terrific.

Let me shift over to Joy. At one point in your remarks toward the end you had mentioned the centrality of legitimacy, legality, and accountability. You also framed things through international law, which of course is crucial. Can you tell us a little bit those concepts, how does the wider international legal framework for you relate to bringing more Global South voices into the debates around sanctions?

JOY GORDON: Thank you, Tony.

Again, the dominant issues we see are compliance and enforcement, the things that are of most concern for those imposing sanctions. For those who are the target of them or those who are affected by them directly or indirectly certainly among the issues that are rising to the fore is legality, and that is particularly significant in the case of unilateral coercive measures.

There are some circumstances under which unilateral economic sanctions are permissible—countermeasures, coercion, and so on—but I think it is quite interesting to look at the work of Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, to see that there are really substantial concerns about whether and when unilateral coercive measures are legal.

I am thinking in particular of regime change. Some sanctions are imposed for the purpose of regime change. That connotation seems to run counter to Article 2 of the UN Charter and just the primacy of sovereignty that is so well established under international law.

And then, I think if we also look at international humanitarian law (IHL), we see both for UN Security Council measures and unilateral measures this recurring issue of being indiscriminate and disproportionate. As we all know from just war doctrine and IHL, measures cannot be imposed that indiscriminately affect a civilian population or vulnerable populations and that cannot disproportionately affect those who are not combatants.

I think what we see really in the pattern over and over again for the last 20 years, certainly during the Iraq sanctions but also even in the ostensible period of targeted sanctions, are sanctions that are really geared toward systems—so undermining all imports, all exports, access to all banking, access to fuel, and access to insurance, which then affects all shipping, and so on—so that we really then see measures that are by their nature going to be both indiscriminate and disproportionate.

For example, if you undermine a country’s access to fuel, which is the case in many cases right now, that is going to affect all of a country’s infrastructure and in particular its capacity for electricity and gasoline. If you do not have sufficient electricity, that affects water treatment and industrial production. If you do not have gasoline, that affects food distribution and city buses. All of these then in turn have a consequence on employment, and on and on and on.

I think that what needs to happen is a much more extensive discussion of looking at the lens of international humanitarian law in terms of legal issues and also the legal question of when if ever unilateral coercive measures geared toward regime change can be considered legal.

ANTHONY LANG: Great. Thanks so much, Joy. Again, with your expertise on this topic it is very helpful to hear your insights on this.

We are getting some questions in the chat, but let me first pose one follow-up to Raul who, as with all of you, raised some terrific questions.

Raul, one of the things you had mentioned was about rights, and particularly you mentioned in passing indigenous rights and human rights more broadly. Some claim that human rights are an imposition on the rest of the world coming from a particular Northern perspective. Can you give us your thoughts? Of course, Indigenous rights are a collective right, something that has evolved in more recent years through the human rights discourse and scholarship. Can you tell us a little bit about how you in your position, from where you sit, view human rights? Is it an imposition? Is it something that we all should have access to? Tell me a little bit what your thoughts are. I know it is a big question, but what do you think?

RAUL SALGADO: Thank you very much, Tony, for that question.

I have been thinking about this issue. I think there are some elemental rights which are universal rights where every culture actually comes together—like the right of access to drinking water and to food which actually enable the humans to survive—that are seen as human rights for everybody in all cultures as universal.

But there are collective rights which are based in cultural elements as well, like in South America the Andean culture goes back to their ancestors and to their belief of how society should organize politically. These are different kinds of rights, but they are rights that are very important for them because they enable them to organize themselves with their own identity.

That is a problem when transnationals and multinationals bribe governmental officials and do not care about these principles, which actually enable them to organize themselves and maintain themselves as they think, and that is an ethical principle which has actually not been taken into account.

In that context, talking about cultural diversity, I want actually to highlight what Harry Gould says about talking still in English and not paying attention to other multilinguistic elements.

ANTHONY LANG: This is a question from the chat from Harry Gould, who is a professor at Florida International University and is a longtime friend of the Council. Let me read his question and then let me get your response, Raul, and from the others on the panel.

Harry asks: “I find it quite telling that we are still having this conversation in English. Maybe monolingual English speakers are the ones who need most to be told these things, but it would be nice to move to a condition in which we can have these conversations about being more global multilingually.”

Raul, please, back to you. What is your response to that?

RAUL SALGADO: I was going to highlight that this is an issue that even within academia is a problem. I wanted to highlight that because in the last three or four years we have been asking the International Studies Association (ISA) to have panels in Spanish because not everybody is able to talk in English or understand English.

It is a unilateral problem which we can perhaps try to change in the sense that we enable others to understand through translators in this process because it is necessary to talk and to show diversity because there is a cultural element. I come back to the collective rights, which we can see as being a huge problem in Latin America and South America particularly, and not really taking so much into account the other cultural elements which are there, which particularly are very important for these collectivities.

I think we are in the process of trying to do that, but it cannot be changed immediately. It is necessary to have a dialogue within the North and South; within the collectivities, within the Indigenous peoples, on their principles; and also within the ethics of the transnationals, what they are looking for; and the politicians in the middle, of course.

ANTHONY LANG: Yes. Great. Thank you, Raul.

I know, Joy, you tried in some of your own work to encourage translation into English of scholars from around the world. I don’t know if you want to speak to this question, and I will put it to May as well.

JOY GORDON: I think there are lots of issues having to do with publishing the work of Global South scholars.

Just to put in a little bit of a plug, if I may, Tony and I are the series co-editors for the Palgrave Macmillan’s series Global Ethics, and we have designed that specifically to be a platform for the work of Global South scholars who are in dialogue with Global North and South on issues of concern emanating from the Global South. We invite submissions and proposals for that.

But I think there are lots of issues. One is access to journal databases, which are very expensive and proprietary. We find them in almost all U.S. universities, but in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world they are unaffordable or inaccessible.

We see lots of other issues, for example, about access, which seems like it would be something that would help avoid this problem of proprietary databases. In fact, it has a very asymmetric effect because it is expensive to publish something in the different access than the resources available in the North that make it possible for North scholars to get their work even more broadly read, and then the reverse is not true.

Issues of visas, for example, for the ISA, for the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), and in general conferences held in the United States—I cannot speak to how this works in Europe or Canada. For example, with the LASA for years there has been a problem with Cuban scholars—Cuba has a very robust academic infrastructure—being able to get visas to attend.

So there are just so many impediments of different sorts. I think what is needed on the part of journals—like Ethics & International Affairs, which I think has been so committed to this; something like Palgrave Macmillan, ISA, and others—is a concerted effort to think of all the different issues there are in what inclusion would actually look like of what I would call the other half of the field, whatever the fields are.

ANTHONY LANG: Thanks, Joy.

May, I can say that I taught at The American University in Cairo years and years ago and my Arabic was [Arabic word] (not that great). I would be interested in your perspective. Of course, in the Middle East regions we’ve got Turkish, we’ve got Hebrew, we’ve got Arabic. Can you speak from your perspective to this question of language and how important it is?

MAY DARWICH: I totally agree with Joy about the structural conditions of knowledge production. That definitely inhibits communication in other languages. I can speak, I can teach, and I can write academically in three languages, but I still do everything in English. That is telling something because to get a job, to be able to publish, and there is more focus on high-profile journals, high-impact journals, the whole system is structured in a way to incentivize speaking in English, writing in English, and publishing in English.

But definitely that excludes a large number of scholars and scholarly debates. In the Middle East in particular there is much academic literature that is in Arabic and it hardly gets cited, it hardly gets to be part of the debates within the published work, because it is simply not accessible to American or European scholars. Those who write in Arabic are unable to publish in English, so most of that knowledge is lost in between and is not really communicated. So what we publish in academic journals are mostly the American and Western perspectives on the Middle East, but the regional perspective on the Middle East is not really visible in academic debates because they are simply in a different language.

Let alone the challenges of teaching and speaking to a whole different audience of students from the region, which is not really a small number. We are talking about a large number of students that research can influence. You will find that most of the textbooks are written in English. Most of the textbooks are not translated into Arabic.

There are no resources to translate that kind of knowledge into Arabic, so we have some sort of a complete divide between knowledge production in the West and knowledge production in the Middle East, and there are not even channels for communication.

What makes matters even worse is that there is a huge gap that is increasing in investment in education in the Arab world. That gap that already exists is increasing day by day because authoritarian governments are not interested in investing in education, higher education institutions in the region have their own crises and problems that inhibit any kind of investment, and they have a different sort of infrastructure for academics there. So there is a whole different world. That is the challenge: How do we bring all of this into a global perspective if there is a complete disconnect and lack of communication on every level?

ANTHONY LANG: Thanks, May. That is really insightful.

Unfortunately, we are running out of time. There have been some terrific questions posed in the chat. I am going to quickly mention just a few here:

From Dr. Acharya: “Would you briefly explain the present challenges of global ethics and how far it may contribute to a better world?”

Mixhael Thais has a longer question that I am just going to summarize: “Looking for more creative art-spaced approaches to culture and how might those help us thinking more globally”—a really insightful question.

A question from Stephanie about highlighting the way in which religious traditions—such as Islam, since that is one we mentioned—justice thinking in that culture has shown itself to be sometimes extreme in relationship to other religious traditions and can—inflame conflict I guess is what she is getting to there.

Eugene Muhammad asks a great question: “What ethical orientations might we adopt that will facilitate our transcendence and not just our Western-centered perspectives but our Anthropocentric ethical sensitivities as well”—a crucial question with climate change, deforestation, and animal rights, really very important?

A question from Hana Mubarak: “Is it possible to have a working system of ethical IR when cultural milieus, which are often influenced by religion, vary from region to region?”

So a couple of questions around religion, which we did not address directly but which came up through the mentions that May noted for us.

We have just a couple of minutes left. If there are any of those questions you want to respond to, just take maybe a minute or two. Or if there is any kind of summary point you want to make, again just a minute, because we have to end in two or three minutes.

Let me first go to Raul. Raul, do you have any last thoughts you would like to add?

RAUL SALGADO: I think that some of the questions have been very encouraging, particularly in the sense that we need more conversation, dialogue, translation, and reflection collectively taking into account the varieties of cultures and ethics and their ways of thinking on living. It is very important to continue doing this.



MAY DARWICH: Thank you very much. I am going to look at the question on religion and make just a very brief comment on that because I would need more time to go into details.

Looking at the history, the role of religion in international relations is not just specific to Islam. There were other religions as well in other historical periods that led to injustices, that led to extremist ideas, even authoritarianism and wars. So I think when looking at that particular question we need to look at the role of religion in general and how sacred ideas can have a positive or a negative impact on our debates of ethics. That is how I would look at that question, a little bit differently.

ANTHONY LANG: Great. That is terrific. Thank you, May.


JOY GORDON: I think I would like to emphasize the importance of being very intentional of our field, our journals, our knowledge production, and our institutions, being very intentional about what inclusion requires and making that come about. That may happen by having facilities for greater translation, providing in some fashion having access to the journal databases, but I think mainly thinking that this kind of failure of our field is problematic in two regards.

One is that the field itself is kind of deformed, so I feel like we are missing half of the field.

The other is that as a matter of both collegiality and justice there is an obligation of inclusion.

I think we need to reframe it that way and then think about what are the institutional resources and processes that then must be put in place to implement this commitment.

ANTHONY LANG: Great. Thank you so much, Joy.

Let me end here, although hopefully this is the beginning of a conversation rather than the end of one.

And thank you so much for all the terrific questions we had in the chat, and I am sure there are others out there. I hope you can contact us individually. Please do so.

Let me thank my panelists for their outstanding reflections and insights. Thank you so much.

Before we do sign off, I want to remind everybody that you can access a recording of this event and find out more about Global Ethics Day by visiting

That is it from us. Thanks so much for joining us. We hope you gained some interesting insights from this.

Thank you.

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Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit. The views expressed within this event are those of the panelists and do not necessarily reflect the position of Carnegie Council.

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