Ensuring liberty through the unlimited flow of Information

Introduction

Liberty can be defined by the rights it guarantees. These rights are Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Education, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Movement, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Thought. Liberty depends on these rights and in order to ensure liberty, these rights must be secured in turn. The Balmun 2013 Political Committee will concern itself with protecting, ensuring, and securing the unlimited flow of information and the Freedom of Speech.

Defining Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech is a basic fundamental human right protected by the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights Clause 19. This states “Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed by the General Assembly in 1948. It stands as the central reference and authoritative source on human rights conflicts. Recorded in international law it is binding.

Legal Restrictions

The universal right of freedom of speech first in its absolute denotation grants the right of every single human being to say what they want to say regardless of any restrictions. However, the literal definition does not apply in this aspect. Freedom of Speech, also known as Freedom of Expression is limited to speech that does not infringe harm or injure the rights of other fellow humans. Libel, Slander, Sedition, obscenity, copyright violation and the revelation of information that is classified are practical cases in which the freedom of speech and expression does not apply and the infringement of free speech on those cases may be criminally prosecuted. The limitations of free speech can further be extrapolated by using a popular metaphor “ shouting fire in a crowded theater”. Taking the literal meaning, this is obviously prohibited. Shouting fire in a crowed theater when there is none can cause panic. People might get hurt. Limitations follow the harm or offense principle. When these apply free speech does not fully apply. These limitations are common in most countries and in 2009 the United Nations passed a resolution that addressed this problem. The UN free speech code states "the exercise of the right of freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities". When Free Speech or the unlimited flow of information is blocked or censored on grounds unrelated to and unjustified by the harm or offense principal then we must concern ourselves with it. The harm or offense principals however, are a very vaguely defined and so as the United Nations we must draw clear lines as to where and when they apply. 

Defining the unlimited flow of information

The unlimited flow of information closely ties in to Freedom of Speech. In the United Nations definition of freedom of speech the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers is a crucial part. This aspect guarantees the right not only to voice opinions, but also to listen to them. All information should be accessible to those willing to access it. 

Defining Censorship

Censorship is the restriction of information on the grounds of political, moral, and other reasons. It is often contrary to the rights of liberty stated in the introduction. Many countries have legislation preventing censorship to a certain degree, however a vast majority of countries that recognize free speech implement censorship at some level. As an example, Germany does not allow for the denial of the Holocaust and said denial is punishable. It is the responsibility of the UN to restrict censorship only at the appropriate level.

Liberty, Freedom of Speech, and Democracy

It is common knowledge that democracy often advocates freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of information. However, the connection does not only go one way. Democracy is only as strong as the people are. For the people of a country to make the right decisions they have to be informed. Freedom of Speech enables the people to form a plethora of varying opinions. Without communication, and even with restriction of communication the people will be unable to form the opinions they want to, and democracy will not reflect the views of the people. It is proven that through free discussion and a communicative effort, all based on the Freedom of Speech, better political decisions can be made. If everybody is allowed to voice their opinion, gradually the most valid propositions will come forward and the best ideas will prevail. 

Blasphemy laws

In the past years member states have asked the UN to introduce a new set of laws limiting free speech on the grounds of blasphemy. Many countries, primarily Muslim, have blasphemy laws in place. Blasphemy is any insult to a religious deity or any other holy figure. This request did not pass seeing as blasphemy laws in said requesting countries are often used to persecute religious minorities and are very much open to interpretation.

The Internet and the unlimited flow of Information

The means of access to information are press, television, radio, and now turning into the most crucial of all, the internet. The internet is of such crucial importance because it is able to hold and distribute so much information to a great variety of people. The internet has the potential to reflect in the exact detail, the unlimited flow of information, that the committee topic addresses. Proof for the capabilities of the internet can be seen in the arab spring. Thousands of citizens communicated and organized protests to overthrow an oppressive government. The internet is, and was the only means of communication, the only instrument, and of the above mentioned list of media, the sole network able to facilitate this. The United States of America has military aircraft equipped to provide internet to entire regions because it too realizes the immense revolutionary potential of the internet. When talking about free speech and information the internet is the most important subject and medium to be debated and discussed. The internet is a global network, its users can access the world wide web and as the very name determines, access information, ideas and opinions from around the world. In many cases political parties do not wish for that sort of openness of opinions, because it might conflict with their ideologies or most importantly to them, challenge their rule and influence.

The Great Firewall of China

The Peoples Republic of China is internationally considered to be the most advanced and total repressor of Internet freedom in the world. Its practices are also known as the great firewall of China, in reference to the ancient Great Wall of China and the governments infamous censorship policies. With a gigantic apparatus of more than thirty thousand employees the Chinese Government engages in the prosecution of alleged defamation of the government, splitting the nation, and dealing with state secrets. According to Amnesty International, China has made the largest number of internet crime related arrests and imprisonments. Among the most frequently blocked sites are those with content advocating free speech and democracy. Additionally websites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked as of 2009.

Conclusion

Liberty is created by free Speech. The freedom of speech is an inalienable human right and the United Nations must fight against any agency restricting it on an unjustifiable basis. Freedom of speech and the unlimited flow of information is the groundwork for a progressive, true, and dynamic democracy and as such it must additionally be encouraged. Censorship stands in the way of liberty through the unlimited flow of information and freedom of speech, however it must be allowed to a certain extent. Blasphemy laws are a form of this censorship that goes too far and they must be prevented. Epitomizing the unlimited flow of information is the internet. Facilitating the global exchange of ideas, its freedom and autonomy must be protected. These measures are a step forward in achieving the universal liberty that the UN is obliged to ensure.

Preventing a further increase of the worldwide crisis and its consequences for the economic relations between the member states

Introduction

The financial crisis that hit the global economy since the summer of 2007 is considered to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In addition to this, it also appeared to be quite unexpected. According to Davis & Karim (2008), “It came as a surprise not only to most financial market participants but also in some degree to the policy community”. It resulted in the threat of total collapse of large financial institutions, downturns in stock markets around the world and the bailout of banks by national governments. In many areas, the housing market also suffered foreclosures and unemployment.

Causes and Effects

IMF has issued a ‘Global Financial Stability Report’ in 2007, that firstly mentioned some risks in different areas; however that there was no “direct threat to financial stability”. It was already aware of the existing problems but did not give much attention to these problems and only noted that the United States should “tighten underwriting standards”. The overall evaluation of the financial stability was positive. The situation was stated to be stable and a further growth in most economies was expected within next several years.

International financial organizations were aware of the problem, which existed in that time. Nevertheless they failed to recognize the actual threat in the data, which was available to them. This has made the crisis even more complex issue to the governments. The failures I the markets made the countries and their economies appear to be unable to cope with the failures.

These causes have affected various countries in different ways: Many financial institutions were forced to recapitalize because of their losses; others have gone under, some of them outright and some by being taken over by other, presumably healthier institutions. Liquidity has virtually disappeared from important markets. Stock markets have plunged. Central banks have provided support on the order of hundreds of billions, intervening not only to support the markets but also to prevent the breakdown of individual institutions. At last, governments in the United States and Europe are stepping in to support financial institutions on a gigantic scale. As yet, it is not clear how far the crisis will go. However, the crisis of 2007 has illustrated how one countries problem can become international und involve many other economies in it.

Costs

Financial crises have direct and indirect costs. The direct costs include losses to asset holders when asset prices fall. They also include losses from financial institution failures. Owners of a failed institution lose their equity, and the institution’s creditors lose funds they have lent. When a failed institution is a bank, losses also fall on uninsured depositors and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Although these direct costs can be large, the greatest costs from financial crises come from their indirect effects. A crisis can set off a chain of events that plunges the whole economy into a recession.

In absolute terms, the numbers involved seem large. As of April 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was predicting aggregate losses of 945 billion dollars overall, 565 billion dollars in US residential real-estate lending and 495 billion dollars from repercussions of the crisis on other securities.

By October 2008, the IMF had raised its loss prediction to 1.4 trillion dollars overall, 750 billion dollars in US residential real-estate lending and 650 billion dollars from repercussions of the crisis on other securities. By September 2007, total reported write-offs of financial institutions are said to have reached 760 billion dollars; global banks alone have written off 580 billion dollars.

In relative terms, the meaning of these numbers is unclear. They seem both, too large and too small, too large relative to the prospective losses from actual defaults of subprime mortgage borrowers and too small to explain the worldwide crisis that we are experiencing.

The losses predicted by the IMF for US residential real-estate lending mainly concern mortgage backed securities. In particular, non-prime mortgage-backed securities account for some 450 out of 565 billion dollars in the April estimate, 500 out of 750 billion in the October estimate. The outstanding volume of these securities is estimated as 1.1 trillion dollars. The estimates of 450 billion or 500 billion dollars of losses on these 1.1 trillion dollars of outstanding securities correspond to average loss rates of 40 - 45 %.

Reaction

Public reaction to these developments has mainly focused on moral hazard of bank managers. Sheer greed, so the assessment goes, led them to invest in mortgage-backed securities, exotic financial instruments that they failed to understand, and to disregard risks when the very term “subprime lending” should have alerted them to the speculative nature of these assets. As the crisis developed, their lack of forthrightness and/or understanding was evidenced by their failure to come clean and write off their losses all at once. They seemed to prefer revealing their losses piecemeal, a few billions one week and another few billions the next.

Role Of International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The IMF is an international organization that was initiated to assist in the reconstruction of the world’s international payment system post-WW II. Countries contribute money to a pool through a quota system from which countries with payment imbalances can borrow funds temporarily. The IMF works to improve its member states and describes itself as “an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world”

A country in severe financial trouble, unable to pay its international bills, poses potential problems for the stability of the international financial system, which the IMF was created to protect. Any member country, whether rich, middle-income, or poor, can turn to the IMF for financing if it has a balance of payments need—that is, if it cannot find sufficient financing on affordable terms in the capital markets to make its international payments and maintain a safe level of reserves.

Conclusion

Global financial crisis of 2007 has brought many deficits to the world’s economy. Its primary causes arose in the United States, where the Sub-prime lending market went out of hand. The lending conditions have been modified, which allowed people with limited income to take mortgages from the banks. As a result, in the course of one year majority of the countries have suffered from the significant drop in the GDP and is still recovering from it. Moreover, the forecasts for the next two to the three years are not positive and promising.

Systems like EU have experienced a disadvantage of having open markets. Strong countries could not recover completely because of the weaker ones, which pulled them down. The Crisis has shown that these systems must be further developing in order to be able to be functioning well in these hard times. International financial institutions and organizations have to come up with new regulations in order to prevent another crisis from happening.

Most urgently it is important to reinstate or establish a set of principles to follow to prevent misguided actions and interventions in the future. Though policy is now in a massive clean-up mode, setting a path to get back to these principles now can be part of the clean-up including:

  • Returning to the set of principles for setting interest rates that worked well during the Great Moderation

  • Basing any future government interventions on a clearly stated diagnosis of the problem and a rationale for the interventions

  • Creating a predictable access framework for providing financial assistance to existing financial institutions

These reforms request a change in the international financial architecture. To keep policy interest rates o track in a globalized economy it would help to introduce the notion of a global inflation target. Policy makers could then discuss global goals for inflation and the impact one central bank might have on global inflation. I contrast to this Central banks and finance ministries develop exceptional access frameworks in each country without a global structure. Similarly setting controls on leveraging at the financial institutions could be done in each county.

Beta