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The global conspiracy is friendly! A guide to the GA

Where WA members debate how to improve the world, one resolution at a time.
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Kelssek
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Founded: Mar 19, 2004
Civil Rights Lovefest

The global conspiracy is friendly! A guide to the GA

Postby Kelssek » Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:23 am

The global conspiracy is friendly!
A guide to the General Assembly

Hello there. This is an article explaining the General Assembly I originally wrote on request as an educational piece for The East Pacific regional forums, but others in the Dark Old-Guard Cabal, when asked for peer-review, suggested posting it to a broader audience. So here goes. Although I welcome comments and questions, please do not read into anything I have written here as an expression of an argument or taking a position; my intent was to reflect the uncontroversial, general consensus of how stuff works here.

A bit of an introduction on my credentials: I started with it when I started playing NationStates, back when it was called the United Nations, and well before bothering with other aspects of the game. I've since authored four resolutions, two in the old UN and two in the current WA. It's not a lot, compared to some of the more prolific self-promoters out there, but I take some satisfaction in that they're very significant bits of international law and people don't tend to seriously discuss repealing them (for the record, they're resolution 38, "Convention Against Genocide", and resolution 57, "Refugee Protection").

Generally assembling the world: a bit of history
Way back in the sands of time, when NationStates was simply a promotion gimmick for Max Barry to publicise his book, nations were given the option of joining the International Organisation That Must Not Be Named. It must not be named because this international organisation, several years later, sent Mr. Barry a cease-and-desist letter, from actual lawyers. Since then, it has been known as the World Assembly.

Right now, there are two distinct branches of the WA: the General Assembly, and the Security Council. The General Assembly was originally the entire WA. In 2009, the Security Council was grafted on, the result of what one might delicately describe as "a swirling firestorm of controversy" dredging up all sorts of differences in how different players and different communities "play" the game. Nevertheless, here we will be dealing solely with the functions of the General Assembly.

How the General Assembly affects you
Quite simply, if you are a member of the World Assembly, everything that has been passed by the General Assembly is as good as law in your country. There is no optionality and no way not to comply (as is the case with the real United Nations where countries can simply declare "your laws do not apply to me!"). All member nations are bound by the passed resolutions. So, for instance, you do not have any option to legally permit torture in your nation as long as you are a World Assembly member and resolution 9, "Prevention of Torture", remains on the books. If you'd like torture to be legal, you must leave the World Assembly, or try to get the resolution repealed.

Compliance
That's how World Assembly people would interpret it. In reality, though, roleplaying nations which are purportedly WA members often disregard the WA resolutions altogether. It all depends on what crowd you're playing with; if you tried to call someone on violating the Rights And Duties of WA States or for using landmines (a violation of resolution 40) in the International Incidents forum, you're likely to get laughed at. On the other hand, this is an accusation that might carry some weight in the General Assembly forum itself and probably provoke a bit of debate, or at least someone telling you that you're wrong. However, this isn't really the sort of thing you often see in the General Assembly forums, where "RP" is almost exclusively debate on proposals.

As a matter of game mechanics, non-compliance is simply impossible. Upon a resolution's passage, the "WA gnomes" come into your nation and make it compliant, leaving behind a little telegram as a token of their visit. While there are times when you can select a non-compliant issue option, the general consensus is that the gnomes then come in and make everything compliant again. There is a contradiction here, which is expected to be resolved at about the same time hell freezes over, so one would be best advised to just live with it. Many of the "unwritten rules" have to do with reconciling the gameplay and the roleplay universes with as few tears in the space-time continuum as possible; this is one of those cases.

Some players do roleplay non-compliance of a sort: Omigodtheykilledkenny for example, has a Creative Solutions Agency which seeks out and exploits loopholes in resolutions the nation just doesn't want to comply with. Indeed, there is a certain bit of leeway in every resolution because there is a inevitably room for interpretation. But if you waltz in and declare that some resolution doesn't apply to you because you've redefined "yellow" to mean "green" or that you consider "minutes" to be equal to seven years, all you're likely to do is provoke eye-rolling. You've got to be more subtle than that. For instance, you may not like a resolution that says you must make patent infringement illegal, so you RP that you've passed a law making patent infringement punishable by a fine of one dollar. Of course, some still might have a problem with that, but it's certainly a much more acceptable way to go about "non-compliance". However, as far as we're concerned, flat-out non-compliance with both the letter and spirit of a resolution is utterly impossible. Going back to the previous example, you might make the penalties for patent infringement laughably lenient, but you still must enact and enforce those laughably lenient laws.

I'm an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be
Or, how stuff gets passed, while explaining some basic terminology. Any World Assembly member with two endorsements can make a "proposal". This goes into the big proposal pile which everyone can see and regional delegates can then approve of. These days the proposal pile is quite small, but in the past it often spanned several pages of blatantly illegal proposals from people who hadn't even read the rules, poorly-written bits of high school civics class essays, random political screeds from very opinionated people bashing their fists on the keyboard, and inevitably something titled "The Right to Arm Bears" from someone who must have imagined they were the first to come up with that joke.

If enough regional delegates approve, a proposal reaches "quorum" and goes to the floor where it is voted on by the entire membership. It has now become a "resolution" - if it passes. If it fails, it becomes known as a "failed resolution". See, this WA business isn't that complicated.

Repeals: kill it with fire!
The method of choice to deal with resolutions one does not like, because it is actually the only choice. Passed resolutions cannot be amended, they either stand or get repealed. There are two basic motivations for repeals: either to make way for a replacement, or due to outright opposition to some or all of the resolution. If there's one thing I can say about repeals, it's that when you vote on them you really ought not to trust what the repeal argument says, or how the repeal interprets the resolutions. Always, always go and read the original, and decide for yourself what it says. Blatant lies about the resolution are not supposed to be in repeals, but distortions and strange reinterpretations can and do make it in. And just because something can be interpreted one way, does not mean it must be. Use your judgement and engage critical thinking.

Repeals can do only one thing: repeal a resolution. Repeals do nothing else and imply nothing else, not even necessarily opposition to the resolution being repealed. Repealing my beloved Convention Against Genocide would be a terrible idea, but it does not mean that the World Assembly suddenly believes killing off specific racial groups is awesome. So don't feel bad about repealing something that does lots of nice things but also contains a drastic flaw.

Repeals are tricky because you can never really tell what motives lie behind it; the proposer might genuinely want to improve it. But more likely, the proposer just doesn't agree with it on principle, and promises of a shiner and better replacement are little more than an insubstantial sop to encourage people on the fence to vote for repeal. It takes quite a bit of effort to campaign and pass a resolution, and it's all too easy for someone to draft an attractive-looking replacement and then forget all about it once the repeal was successful.

This may sound really silly, but I've encountered this confusion before so it's worth pointing it out. Clicking "for" on a repeal votes to repeal a resolution. Clicking "against" votes to keep the resolution. If you want to repeal a resolution, please do not click "against" thinking it signifies your opposition to it, and vice versa.

Welcome to the festering snakepit!
How to (mostly) survive the General Assembly forum

Unless otherwise stated or patently obvious, posts in the General Assembly forum are assumed to be the in-character statements of your nation's WA ambassador or other relevant government official. The main activities taking place there are debates over proposals and a sort of collective drafting and vetting process, whereby you put up your proposal and others make suggestions for improvement, argue over its general principles, or declare it illegal and make fun of you. In order to meaningfully participate in the discussions, therefore, it is necessary to have some basic idea of the rules and general conventions as far as proposals go. The stickies in the General Assembly should tell you what you need to know. Also, it is inadvisable to linger near windows where there is a known risk of defenestration.

One thread of particular note is the Strangers' Bar, where the ambassadors let their hair down and order any drink conceivable from the infinitely wise and dry-witted barman, Neville. One of the longest-running RP threads in the entire game, it abides by its own conventions.

The line between IC and OOC in the General Assembly can be blurred somewhat, however, as it is often necessary to debate proposal legality, which requires reference to the proposal rules existing entirely in the OOC world. Often, too, data or facts from the real world are drawn on as evidence or the basis for argument. While it is generally acceptable to, for example, reference real-world incidents or scientific studies, one should not take it too far. By the same token, however, one is unlikely to score any points for producing statistics from your own rear end as an argument (e.g., "well, 98% of my nations' scientists disagree with your statement, and have also concluded that you are a big poopy-head!"). This can be considered a form of wank and is just as poor etiquette as it is in other roleplaying circles.

What not to do
Besides the obvious, there are some pitfalls you should avoid in drafting or discussing proposals.

1. This isn't Earth
This means that, for example, proposing greenhouse gas emissions caps isn't likely to get you anywhere because there is no assumption that all of NationStates is located on a single planet which has the same atmospheric characteristics as Earth. Proposals declaring the Moon or Antarctica to be neutral territory will be dead on arrival; someone will pop up to ask "which moon?" or to object because their territory is entirely located on the Moon or Antarctica. And don't even try to ban weapons in outer space or the interstellar empires will come get you. Likewise, setting up an international space station is an endeavour best left to other RP forums.

2. Contentious topics
World Assembly regulars are, by now, sick to death of particular topics such as the death penalty, abortion, legalised drugs, and gun control. They keep coming up again and again, and rarely with anything really new. Not saying don't even try, but probably best avoided; because of how contentious they are, we've agreed to disagree and the general consensus is that they should be more or less left to member nations to decide. That's essentially what the resolutions which have been passed on the subjects of abortion and male circumcision represent: "we're sick to death of this topic coming up so let's just pass something to settle it".

3. Tech-wanking
Don't enforce technology onto other members, particularly future tech. Don't, for example, establish holographic screens in every nation running off cold fusion reactors. There was once a resolution which did something like this: The Global Library (UNR 86), which is mostly remembered now as a classic What Not To Do. It created holographic wristbands for everyone, which must have confused the hell out of the inhabitants of nations being roleplayed in the ancient era. Going the other way, there's no point proposing joint research on hydrogen cars when many nations will simply assert that they're advanced way beyond this ground transportation business.

4. We're not all human
You shouldn't write proposals assuming all the universe is made up of humans. This is why you often seen resolutions and proposals referring to "sapient rights" or "sapient beings". The word "people" is generally okay. Beyond the matter of word choice, don't assume that inhabitants of NationStates are humans, and avoid referencing specific ages (saying member nations should reduce the voting age to 16, for example). Many proposals attempting to regulate abortion are tripped up by this; they start going on about trimesters and foetuses and ambassadors will ask just how that applies to their species, which hatches from eggs.

Keepin' it real: the Reasonable Nation Principle
Basically, this means that while resolutions must be universally applicable, there is no need to accommodate or entertain objections based on highly unrealistic and/or unreasonable scenarios. Also known as the DemonLordEnigma Rule, after a player notorious for roleplaying highly unusual circumstances within their nation to argue against any given proposal, usually having to do with how future-tech and vast her interstellar empire was. In my personal experience, someone tried to argue against my resolution "International Emergency Number" by inventing a telephone system for their country which only became more ridiculously convoluted as the debate went on; it was clearly being deliberately made up to make the proposal inapplicable to it. Doing this is extremely poor etiquette. I also once had a very testy argument over a proposal regulating time travel, of which I won't say more than that it's best to assume the laws of physics as we know them apply.

The corollary to this principle is that if you do roleplay as a rather unreasonable nation, and even if you don't, it is up to you to find ways to comply with at least the spirit of all passed resolutions, or at least refrain from complaining that Restrictions on Child Labour do not apply to you because your species has no children and exists in 14 dimensions simultaneously, and you also don't need food or water (this sort of thing, incidentally, is quite blatant RP-wank among other things). The Gnomes are clever creatures, and make you comply anyway. You get to figure out how, but you don't get to godmode your way out of it.

Another related unwritten rule: if something exists in real life, it is safe to assume it exists in NationStates. While nations are located on many different planets, for instance, it is a safe assumption that greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change on at least some of them. While there are many different species about, it is a safe assumption that sexually-transmitted diseases are problems somewhere, and that there's cancer which could do with some curing. By the same token, think very carefully before flat out stating that a problem that any given proposal seeks to solve does not exist.

Now, square this with the demand that you should make allowance for the (very reasonable!) fact that nations here are populated by merfolk, elves, and sapient bears, and you might begin to think a lot of people are just a few cards short of a full deck. But you ain't seen nothing yet...

National sovereignty
Your laws do not apply to me, neener neener neener

Now we get into some contentious territory as far the the World Assembly is concerned. But first, a primer on the real world, since its existence there is why we even are talking about it here in the first place.

The whole idea of sovereignty has existed in the real world for about 350 years; it is a concept which, we are taught, originates in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Sovereignty means exclusive power (or according to Max Weber, "the monopoly on the legitimate use of force") within a given territory, and is the basis of modern diplomatic relations. It also means that all states are considered to have equal legal standing; while there is a big difference in power between the United States and, say, Kiribati, in the realm of international law, they are equals. No state can dictate to another state what it can or cannot do or what laws it can or cannot pass, within its own territory. It can vociferously disapprove, of course, but to take direct, uninvited action to affect another state's internal matters would be considered a violation of that state's sovereignty - and even a de facto act of war. Sovereignty has also come to be tied up and equated with national self-determination to some degree, especially given the rise of modern nation-states and the decline of imperialism (considering Algerians to have sovereign rights not to be ruled by France if they didn't want to, for example).

In NationStates, however, sovereignty is given up when a nation becomes a member of the World Assembly, because members must comply with all resolutions and the all-powerful Compliance Gnomes ensure this. In theory and in fact, your fellow World Assembly members can, by passing a resolution by majority vote, force things on you. Actual examples, as of this time, include things like legal same-sex marriages and legal abortions, and bans on torturing people and using landmines. Where are the limits to this? Aha. this is one of the biggest, ongoing, raging debates in the General Assembly. Two warring camps have evolved at present: "international federalists" (IntFeds) who argue that all national sovereignty is ceded to the WA and the General Assembly can pass resolutions on anything it damn well pleases, and "national sovereigntists" (NatSov) who tend to resist any resolution substantially restricting state powers, and often also seek to pass resolutions which "block" further legislation on a given issue. The resolution "WA General Fund" can be described as an example of what are known as blockers in that one of it main purposes is explicitly setting aside an area to be under national jurisdiction - meaning the World Assembly cannot pass anything further on the subject without repealing that resolution first.

”Nation” and “state” (you can skip this but it may be useful if you find my usage of those words in this part confusing in any way)

The words "nation" and "state" are often used interchangeably and generally mean the same thing: a collective political entity. In the term "national sovereignty", thus, it would be more accurate to say we are talking about state sovereignty. Yet, as the word "nation-state" implies, the exact meanings differ in some important ways.

The "state" refers to all the institutions that underlie the running of a country: things like the constitution, the school board, Parliament, the judiciary, the healthcare system, or the armed forces . A police officer is an agent of the state, a school board or health authority oversees the running of a particular aspect of a state, we use notes and coins as cash which is issued by the state; and the constitution is the basic law that specifies how politicians can come to hold power in the state and what they can do with it. Quite curiously for the rest of us, Americans often use the word "government" to mean the same thing, but the "state" exists regardless of the government of the day. The analogy is of a car; the state is like a car with a driver (the government) which changes occasionally, and sometimes the driver has it reupholstered or attaches plastic testicles to the back, but the car remains basically the same even when turned over to a different driver. Sometimes the car gets driven off a cliff and written off, or flipped over and burned by an angry mob. This is called anarchy and while the car is being fixed or a new one is built, pirates might often roam the territorial waters hijacking oil tankers.

A "nation" refers to a group of people who buy into a common identity. It could be based on any number of things like language, history, ethnicity, or way of life. Not all nations have states, and not all states are nation-states. For instance, probably in a bid to defuse separatism and score political points, the Canadian Parliament decided in 2006 to recognise the Québécois as a "nation within a united Canada", and many of the aboriginals have long been referred to as the First Nations: "Musqueam First Nation", "Cree First Nation", "First Nations people", etc. In Europe, some Basques will declare allegiance to the Basque nation over that of France or Spain, the states of which they are probably citizens. And of course, just try puzzling out just what it all means in the United Kingdom with its "home nations", and just when you can declare yourself to be Welsh, English, Scottish, Manx, or something in between.


Do not touch
Generally speaking, member nations jealously guard their sovereignty over things issues such as criminal justice, education system, immigration policy, and economic policy (to an extent). Dictating to nations what sentences they should impose for armed robbery, or that they should or shouldn't apply the death penalty, or what their rate of sales tax should be, is likely to be a non-starter. In general, unless you wish to provoke another episode in the NatSov/IntFed saga, it is best to avoid proposals chiefly dealing with such areas of national government policy.

"Micromanaging"
There used to be a specific rule regarding proposals "not worth the Assembly's time". While it is not on the books anymore, in general there is an expectation that any proposal is going to be dealing with issues of an international scope. Therefore, while there isn't a particular rule about proposing parking be banned within 10 metres of a fire hydrant, expect flat-out opposition to making a proposal to this effect.

It is not enough by itself to object to a proposal by just tossing out the word "national sovereignty". Almost by definition, all WA resolutions compromise national sovereignty in some way since it really is other state telling your state what it should or should not do. It's also in the rules that every resolution must do something and cannot be entirely optional. At the same time, just because members of the WA have in fact agreed to comply with whatever resolutions are passed is not itself a reason to pass any and every regulation a majority can agree on. The main issue, as I see it, is just when the good achieved justifies infringing national sovereignty; there have to be good reasons and the infringement minimised where possible.

Finding the balance is going to be an ongoing struggle, especially because of the visible rift between "NatSov" and "IntFed" and the unfortunate tendency of people with opposing views to yell at each other. There is also another tendency for people who squarely are in those camps to want to categorise others into that dichotomy and then launch into generalised invective about how all the “NatSovers” or “IntFeds” want to kick puppies and drown kittens: if this happens to you, do not be unduly alarmed. In truth, the power to decide this balance ultimately rests with the masses of the General Assembly.

Individual rights and state sovereignty
This is a significant issue in the real world, as well. The colossal failures of the international political order during the Rwandan Genocide led to the concept of the Responsibility To Protect, the idea that states were obligated to act against war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity within their borders, i.e., that they have certain responsibilities to their people, and that a state's claim to sovereignty was forfeit if they allowed such things to occur or worse, were actively engaged in perpetrating them. This is a relatively new idea in global politics and it is by no means uncontroversial, but it is quite a powerful norm and recently has been invoked to justify foreign intervention in Libya - landing military units in support of a rebellion against the existing government is a violation of sovereignty if ever there was one, but the intervening states justified it on the grounds that the government of Libya was attacking its own people and thus violating this principle.

However, even before the Responsibility To Protect, there was a certain recognition that national sovereignty was not absolute, and that individuals had rights states should not violate. This an assumption that is in play when, for instance, Western politicians object to political imprisonment of dissidents in other countries. Many constitutions, especially in the Western world, restrict the ability of their own states in this regard, such as French Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, the American Bill of Rights, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Inevitably, these developments in politics have carried over to the political simulation game of NationStates. The key difference is that restrictions of state sovereignty actually are enforceable and enforced, unlike in the real world. It's another dimension to the whole national sovereignty debate in the World Assembly, and probably reflects the real-life opinions of the players involved, too. This is probably the reason why it is a highly contentious issue for many WA forum regulars. Broadly most people, here as in the real world, seem to agree that some aspects of state sovereignty do not hold and that states do not have the "sovereignty" to abuse the basic rights of their citizens. Yet just how far we should go without also impacting on national self-determination and for nations to decide what is right to govern themselves - which is what sovereignty also is - remains a hotly debated topic.

Conclusion
With bonus “gameplayer” stereotypes!

There is an underlying tension in the World Assembly, and it concerns the fact that two very different groups of players are in it. While people who purely hang around in the General Assembly debating proposals and having absolute shit-fests about national sovereignty and whatnot often toss out sentences like "well if you don't like it, you can always quit the WA", which is quite true for most ordinary RPers, for another very large group of people, this isn't really an option. This other group of people chiefly make up the extensive off-site communities, usually built around regions, and are known variously as "gameplayers", "region players", "invadergamers", "defenders", "raiders", etc. (although this is not to suggest that all these terms refer to the same thing, because the last two are subsets of the broader "gameplay" community)

The General Assembly debate club and the regional forums gangs are like conjoined twins who completely ignore each others' existence. Despite the potential for underlying tensions, this situation actually went along quite happily until 2009, when the introduction of Commend/Condemn resolutions brought the matter and anti-matter together and lead to a rather public, explosive clash. Using the conjoined twins analogy it was a bit like one of the twins suddenly going in for breast implants and the other twin going "whuh?!?", resulting in them being separated a little bit so the silicone from one twin wouldn't get into the other twin's system too much. The analogy well and truly breaks down at this point, but in any case, that's kind of the story of how there came to be a General Assembly and a Security Council.

Gameplayers, and especially defenders and raiders, do not really have "don't be in the WA" as an option because World Assembly membership is necessary in order to endorse people, and control of regional delegacy is an important part of that aspect of the game. There is thus a tendency towards what General Assembly regulars would consider as knee-jerk national-sovereigntism.

The gameplayer is a voice not often heard in the General Assembly, whether due to apathy, because they find it intimidating, or perhaps a combination of both. Even though they aren't generally that concerned with what passes and what does not, from an roleplaying point of view they are still bound by those General Assembly resolutions. Perhaps more tangibly from their perspective, their nation stats are also affected. Fortunately, since those matters seem generally a sideshow for most gameplayers, there isn't a whole lot of resentment going on - at least, not that I can tell.

However, they do have the ability to decide what passes and what does not, both in their individual votes as WA member nations, and in how they tell their delegate to vote: in many regions, the delegate's vote is determined by a vote within the region. And because the number of votes a delegate has is determined by his number of endorsements, active members of large regions command disproportionate voting power. As a member of a very large "feeder" region, when a resolution comes up to vote that I feel strongly about, often the first thing I do after registering my personal displeasure is start lobbying my region-mates to try and sway my delegate's 200-300 votes. At time of writing, the delegates of the feeder regions (regions where new nations are automatically assigned to, plus Lazarus and The Rejected Realms) command over 1,400 votes, enough to determine the outcome of any close vote. Gameplayers thus have a lot of latent power in a General Assembly they hardly participate in; historically, however, only Gatesville comes to mind as an attempt to use this power.

But, dear reader, no matter which clique you belong to I hope this has somewhat demystified the proceedings in the place that occasionally spits out something for you to vote on. And if nothing else, perhaps the next time you do examine the resolution up for vote you will spare a thought for the painstaking process of drafting, debate, and defenestration that has (probably) gone into it.
Last edited by Kelssek on Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Charlotte Ryberg
The Muse of the Westcountry
 
Posts: 15007
Founded: Mar 14, 2007
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Charlotte Ryberg » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:24 am

I simply don't go by the game stats at all, as highlighted in one of my threads (the population was already one of the issues for realism). For us, non-compliance really means non-compliance, full stop. ;)

- Ms. S. Harper.

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Southern Patriots
Senator
 
Posts: 4624
Founded: Apr 19, 2004
New York Times Democracy

Postby Southern Patriots » Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:39 am

We concur with Ms Harper. And even the game mechanics and telegrams can be avoided, so it would appear the gnomes are not all-powerful. People should stop taking the "compliance" of issues so seriously and instead recognize that if a nation says they're non-compliant, it generally seems to be grounds for a good RP over why.

Remember Rhodesia.

On Robert Mugabe:
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:He was a former schoolteacher.

I do hope it wasn't in economics.

Panzerjaeger wrote:Why would Cleopatra have cornrows? She is from Egypt not the goddamn Bronx.

Ceannairceach wrote:
Archnar wrote:The Russian Revolution showed a revolution could occure in a quick bloadless and painless process (Nobody was seriously injured or killed).

I doth protest in the name of the Russian Imperial family!
(WIP)

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Bears Armed
GA Secretariat
 
Posts: 17654
Founded: Jun 01, 2006
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Bears Armed » Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:46 am

That's a very comprehensive article, and seems to cover the subject pretty well.

Only...
No mention of 'WA puppets', and the various reasons why nations might choose to use these?


Southern Patriots wrote:We concur with Ms Harper. And even the game mechanics and telegrams can be avoided, so it would appear the gnomes are not all-powerful. People should stop taking the "compliance" of issues so seriously and instead recognize that if a nation says they're non-compliant, it generally seems to be grounds for a good RP over why.

Accepting blatant non-compliance as legitimate, and effectively therefore making compliance totally optional, would make trying to get proposals actually passed as resolutions -- instead of just posting them in the forum for people to see -- rather pointless: After all, if it is only the nations that like a particular proposal that are going to follow its terms then they can could easily choose to do so anyway without any need for a vote...
Last edited by Bears Armed on Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
The Confederated Clans of the Free Bears of Bears Armed
(includes The Ursine NorthLands) Demonym = Bear[s]; adjective = ‘Urrsish’.
Our population is approximately 20 million. We do have a national government, although its role is strictly limited. Economy = thriving. Those aren't "biker gangs", they're our traditional cross-Clan 'Warrior Societies'... and are generally respected, not feared.
Author of some GA Resolutions, via Bears Armed Mission; subject of an SC resolution.
Factbook. We have more than 70 MAPS. Visitors' Guide.
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Author of issues #429, 712, 729, 934, 1120, 1152.

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Southern Patriots
Senator
 
Posts: 4624
Founded: Apr 19, 2004
New York Times Democracy

Postby Southern Patriots » Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:53 am

Bears Armed wrote:Accepting blatant non-compliance as legitimate, and effectively therefore making compliance totally optional, would make trying to get proposals actually passed as resolutions -- instead of just posting them in the forum for people to see -- rather pointless: After all, if it is only the nations that like a particular proposal that are going to follow its terms then they can could easily choose to do so anyway without any need for a vote...

Passing resolutions in a game with a massive roleplaying board and expecting complete compliance is pointless itself. It exists a great chance for fun RPing over these resolutions, trying to get compliant, etc. Sometimes I think people forget that this is a game and the passing of a resolution shouldn't be the end-all be-all of nations playing in the World Assembly.

Remember Rhodesia.

On Robert Mugabe:
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:He was a former schoolteacher.

I do hope it wasn't in economics.

Panzerjaeger wrote:Why would Cleopatra have cornrows? She is from Egypt not the goddamn Bronx.

Ceannairceach wrote:
Archnar wrote:The Russian Revolution showed a revolution could occure in a quick bloadless and painless process (Nobody was seriously injured or killed).

I doth protest in the name of the Russian Imperial family!
(WIP)

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Omigodtheykilledkenny
Negotiator
 
Posts: 5602
Founded: Mar 14, 2005
Capitalizt

Postby Omigodtheykilledkenny » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:56 am

Actually, the guide is in line with historical conventions regarding UN/WA compliance. On the whole, nations are expected to exercise good faith in complying with all passed resolutions. Events of noncompliance are supposed to be extremely rare, and only done for the fun of RP, not so players can Godmode and claim that they are impervious to any legislation they don't like. It sort of defeats the entire purpose of the UN/WA game if the resolutions we ceaselessly argue over -- and construct clever scenarios for circumventing without defying, like loophole-hawking and puppetwank -- meant nothing.

Kelssek, if you'd fancy some constructive feedback, I can provide more in detail later. :)
Last edited by Omigodtheykilledkenny on Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
Omigodtheykilledkenny FAQ | "The Biggest Sovereigntist IN THE WORLD" - Chester Pearson

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Snefaldia
Diplomat
 
Posts: 768
Founded: Dec 05, 2006
Father Knows Best State

Postby Snefaldia » Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:17 pm

This is an excellent article, Kelssek! Great work!

And to remind you as Kenny said elsewhere- DLE was a she, not a he. :)
Welcome to Snefaldia!

Ideological Bulwark #68

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Glen-Rhodes
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 8983
Founded: Jun 25, 2008
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Glen-Rhodes » Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:28 pm

I wrote this last night, but my internet connection crapped out.



This is actually a really good beginner's guide to the World Assembly.. Er-- "General Assembly." I actually only have to critiques and one suggestion! (This might actually be a record for me when it comes to people trying to write definitive guides to the WA.)

The first is a minor discrepancy in the compliance section. Early in it, you explain that players have and do roleplay non-compliance. It reads fairly neutral on the whole "Is roleplayed non-compliance legitimate?" debate. But then in the last few sentences, you say that "flat-out non-compliance" is impossible. Generally, this guide does stay pretty neutral on the divisive debates, but not entirely, which brings me to my next point!

I feel that you've given international federalism short shrift. Describing it as an ideology that believes "all national sovereignty is ceded to the WA and the General Assembly can pass resolutions on anything it damn well pleases" is overly simplistic and partly wrong. IntFeds haven't done anywhere near as well a job as NatSovers in explaining their ideology, but I had hoped we came far enough to shed this kind of view of us!

While I don't speak for all people who might call themselves IntFeds, nor am I the original IntFed or even representative of the original IntFeds, I apparently am some kind of IntFed Guru. My short-and-sweet description of international federalism would be this:

Theoretically, member states surrender all sovereignty upon joining the World Assembly. The organization can, in theory, do whatever it pleases and force member states to do things they otherwise wouldn't want to do. It can regulate your street sign colors, mandate that you never chop down apple trees, or force you to have rainbow-colored currency. This, however, is something international federalists believe is simple fact based upon the technical framework of the organization itself.

While the World Assembly theoretically has the authority to do whatever it pleases, international federalists do draw their lines in the sand. Many recognize small-n national sovereignty, even if simply because it's the status quo. Most international federalists will oppose the World Assembly venturing into purely domestic areas. (But they will recognize that the World Assembly does have the authority to do it, anyways.) So, international federalists aren't really all that different from capital-N National Sovereignty proponents.

If there is one description that can aptly describe the difference between IntFeds and NatSovers, it's probably this: IntFeds will more often than not err on the side of global governance, whereas NatSovers will more often than not err on the side of nations deciding things for themselves. The dichotomy between the two pseudo-political parties is not as well-defined as it's portrayed to be.


I guess that isn't really short-and-sweet, but it's a lot shorter than things I've written about the subject before! There are a lot boring threads about it, if people really want to delve deep into our strangely organic political ideologies.

Anyways, the suggestion I have is to explain exactly what Gatesville did, and why a lot of long-time WA regulars dislike "Gatesvillean" ideologies. The guide should probably correct an increasingly common mistake in assuming that National Sovereignty means anti-World Assembly.

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Darenjo
Minister
 
Posts: 2178
Founded: Mar 31, 2010
Ex-Nation

Postby Darenjo » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:10 pm

OOC: I think this is an extremely helpful guide!

One suggestion: I'd explain the concept of insta-repeals. It's not totally needed, but it's good info to know.
Dr. Park Si-Jung, Ambassador to the World Assembly for The People's Democracy of Darenjo

Proud Member of Eastern Islands of Dharma!

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NEW New Periodspace
Secretary
 
Posts: 36
Founded: Jun 23, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby NEW New Periodspace » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:15 pm

Kelssek wrote:The global conspiracy is friendly!
A guide to the General Assembly

Hello there. This is an article explaining the General Assembly I originally wrote on request as an educational piece for The East Pacific regional forums, but others in the Dark Old-Guard Cabal, when asked for peer-review, suggested posting it to a broader audience. So here goes. Although I welcome comments and questions, please do not read into anything I have written here as an expression of an argument or taking a position; my intent was to reflect the uncontroversial, general consensus of how stuff works here.

A bit of an introduction on my credentials: I started with it when I started playing NationStates, back when it was called the United Nations, and well before bothering with other aspects of the game. I've since authored four resolutions, two in the old UN and two in the current WA. It's not a lot, compared to some of the more prolific self-promoters out there, but I take some satisfaction in that they're very significant bits of international law and people don't tend to seriously discuss repealing them (for the record, they're resolution 38, "Convention Against Genocide", and resolution 57, "Refugee Protection").

Generally assembling the world: a bit of history
Way back in the sands of time, when NationStates was simply a promotion gimmick for Max Barry to publicise his book, nations were given the option of joining the International Organisation That Must Not Be Named. It must not be named because this international organisation, several years later, sent Mr. Barry a cease-and-desist letter, from actual lawyers. Since then, it has been known as the World Assembly.

Right now, there are two distinct branches of the WA: the General Assembly, and the Security Council. The General Assembly was originally the entire WA. In 2009, the Security Council was grafted on, the result of what one might delicately describe as "a swirling firestorm of controversy" dredging up all sorts of differences in how different players and different communities "play" the game. Nevertheless, here we will be dealing solely with the functions of the General Assembly.

How the General Assembly affects you
Quite simply, if you are a member of the World Assembly, everything that has been passed by the General Assembly is as good as law in your country. There is no optionality and no way not to comply (as is the case with the real United Nations where countries can simply declare "your laws do not apply to me!"). All member nations are bound by the passed resolutions. So, for instance, you do not have any option to legally permit torture in your nation as long as you are a World Assembly member and resolution 9, "Prevention of Torture", remains on the books. If you'd like torture to be legal, you must leave the World Assembly, or try to get the resolution repealed.

Compliance
That's how World Assembly people would interpret it. In reality, though, roleplaying nations which are purportedly WA members often disregard the WA resolutions altogether. It all depends on what crowd you're playing with; if you tried to call someone on violating the Rights And Duties of WA States or for using landmines (a violation of resolution 40) in the International Incidents forum, you're likely to get laughed at. On the other hand, this is an accusation that might carry some weight in the General Assembly forum itself and probably provoke a bit of debate, or at least someone telling you that you're wrong. However, this isn't really the sort of thing you often see in the General Assembly forums, where "RP" is almost exclusively debate on proposals.

As a matter of game mechanics, non-compliance is simply impossible. Upon a resolution's passage, the "WA gnomes" come into your nation and make it compliant, leaving behind a little telegram as a token of their visit. While there are times when you can select a non-compliant issue option, the general consensus is that the gnomes then come in and make everything compliant again. There is a contradiction here, which is expected to be resolved at about the same time hell freezes over, so one would be best advised to just live with it. Many of the "unwritten rules" have to do with reconciling the gameplay and the roleplay universes with as few tears in the space-time continuum as possible; this is one of those cases.

Some players do roleplay non-compliance of a sort: Omigodtheykilledkenny for example, has a Creative Solutions Agency which seeks out and exploits loopholes in resolutions the nation just doesn't want to comply with. Indeed, there is a certain bit of leeway in every resolution because there is a inevitably room for interpretation. But if you waltz in and declare that some resolution doesn't apply to you because you've redefined "yellow" to mean "green" or that you consider "minutes" to be equal to seven years, all you're likely to do is provoke eye-rolling. You've got to be more subtle than that. For instance, you may not like a resolution that says you must make patent infringement illegal, so you RP that you've passed a law making patent infringement punishable by a fine of one dollar. Of course, some still might have a problem with that, but it's certainly a much more acceptable way to go about "non-compliance". However, as far as we're concerned, flat-out non-compliance with both the letter and spirit of a resolution is utterly impossible. Going back to the previous example, you might make the penalties for patent infringement laughably lenient, but you still must enact and enforce those laughably lenient laws.

I'm an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be
Or, how stuff gets passed, while explaining some basic terminology. Any World Assembly member with two endorsements can make a "proposal". This goes into the big proposal pile which everyone can see and regional delegates can then approve of. These days the proposal pile is quite small, but in the past it often spanned several pages of blatantly illegal proposals from people who hadn't even read the rules, poorly-written bits of high school civics class essays, random political screeds from very opinionated people bashing their fists on the keyboard, and inevitably something titled "The Right to Arm Bears" from someone who must have imagined they were the first to come up with that joke.

If enough regional delegates approve, a proposal reaches "quorum" and goes to the floor where it is voted on by the entire membership. It has now become a "resolution" - if it passes. If it fails, it becomes known as a "failed resolution". See, this WA business isn't that complicated.

Repeals: kill it with fire!
The method of choice to deal with resolutions one does not like, because it is actually the only choice. Passed resolutions cannot be amended, they either stand or get repealed. There are two basic motivations for repeals: either to make way for a replacement, or due to outright opposition to some or all of the resolution. If there's one thing I can say about repeals, it's that when you vote on them you really ought not to trust what the repeal argument says, or how the repeal interprets the resolutions. Always, always go and read the original, and decide for yourself what it says. Blatant lies about the resolution are not supposed to be in repeals, but distortions and strange reinterpretations can and do make it in. And just because something can be interpreted one way, does not mean it must be. Use your judgement and engage critical thinking.

Repeals can do only one thing: repeal a resolution. Repeals do nothing else and imply nothing else, not even necessarily opposition to the resolution being repealed. Repealing my beloved Convention Against Genocide would be a terrible idea, but it does not mean that the World Assembly suddenly believes killing off specific racial groups is awesome. So don't feel bad about repealing something that does lots of nice things but also contains a drastic flaw.

Repeals are tricky because you can never really tell what motives lie behind it; the proposer might genuinely want to improve it. But more likely, the proposer just doesn't agree with it on principle, and promises of a shiner and better replacement are little more than an insubstantial sop to encourage people on the fence to vote for repeal. It takes quite a bit of effort to campaign and pass a resolution, and it's all too easy for someone to draft an attractive-looking replacement and then forget all about it once the repeal was successful.

This may sound really silly, but I've encountered this confusion before so it's worth pointing it out. Clicking "for" on a repeal votes to repeal a resolution. Clicking "against" votes to keep the resolution. If you want to repeal a resolution, please do not click "against" thinking it signifies your opposition to it, and vice versa.

Welcome to the festering snakepit!
How to (mostly) survive the General Assembly forum

Unless otherwise stated or patently obvious, posts in the General Assembly forum are assumed to be the in-character statements of your nation's WA ambassador or other relevant government official. The main activities taking place there are debates over proposals and a sort of collective drafting and vetting process, whereby you put up your proposal and others make suggestions for improvement, argue over its general principles, or declare it illegal and make fun of you. In order to meaningfully participate in the discussions, therefore, it is necessary to have some basic idea of the rules and general conventions as far as proposals go. The stickies in the General Assembly should tell you what you need to know. Also, it is inadvisable to linger near windows where there is a known risk of defenestration.

One thread of particular note is the Strangers' Bar, where the ambassadors let their hair down and order any drink conceivable from the infinitely wise and dry-witted barman, Neville. One of the longest-running RP threads in the entire game, it abides by its own conventions.

The line between IC and OOC in the General Assembly can be blurred somewhat, however, as it is often necessary to debate proposal legality, which requires reference to the proposal rules existing entirely in the OOC world. Often, too, data or facts from the real world are drawn on as evidence or the basis for argument. While it is generally acceptable to, for example, reference real-world incidents or scientific studies, one should not take it too far. By the same token, however, one is unlikely to score any points for producing statistics from your own rear end as an argument (e.g., "well, 98% of my nations' scientists disagree with your statement, and have also concluded that you are a big poopy-head!"). This can be considered a form of wank and is just as poor etiquette as it is in other roleplaying circles.

What not to do
Besides the obvious, there are some pitfalls you should avoid in drafting or discussing proposals.

1. This isn't Earth
This means that, for example, proposing greenhouse gas emissions caps isn't likely to get you anywhere because there is no assumption that all of NationStates is located on a single planet which has the same atmospheric characteristics as Earth. Proposals declaring the Moon or Antarctica to be neutral territory will be dead on arrival; someone will pop up to ask "which moon?" or to object because their territory is entirely located on the Moon or Antarctica. And don't even try to ban weapons in outer space or the interstellar empires will come get you. Likewise, setting up an international space station is an endeavour best left to other RP forums.

2. Contentious topics
World Assembly regulars are, by now, sick to death of particular topics such as the death penalty, abortion, legalised drugs, and gun control. They keep coming up again and again, and rarely with anything really new. Not saying don't even try, but probably best avoided; because of how contentious they are, we've agreed to disagree and the general consensus is that they should be more or less left to member nations to decide. That's essentially what the resolutions which have been passed on the subjects of abortion and male circumcision represent: "we're sick to death of this topic coming up so let's just pass something to settle it".

3. Tech-wanking
Don't enforce technology onto other members, particularly future tech. Don't, for example, establish holographic screens in every nation running off cold fusion reactors. There was once a resolution which did something like this: The Global Library (UNR 86), which is mostly remembered now as a classic What Not To Do. It created holographic wristbands for everyone, which must have confused the hell out of the inhabitants of nations being roleplayed in the ancient era. Going the other way, there's no point proposing joint research on hydrogen cars when many nations will simply assert that they're advanced way beyond this ground transportation business.

4. We're not all human
You shouldn't write proposals assuming all the universe is made up of humans. This is why you often seen resolutions and proposals referring to "sapient rights" or "sapient beings". The word "people" is generally okay. Beyond the matter of word choice, don't assume that inhabitants of NationStates are humans, and avoid referencing specific ages (saying member nations should reduce the voting age to 16, for example). Many proposals attempting to regulate abortion are tripped up by this; they start going on about trimesters and foetuses and ambassadors will ask just how that applies to their species, which hatches from eggs.

Keepin' it real: the Reasonable Nation Principle
Basically, this means that while resolutions must be universally applicable, there is no need to accommodate or entertain objections based on highly unrealistic and/or unreasonable scenarios. Also known as the DemonLordEnigma Rule, after a player notorious for roleplaying highly unusual circumstances within their nation to argue against any given proposal, usually having to do with how future-tech and vast her interstellar empire was. In my personal experience, someone tried to argue against my resolution "International Emergency Number" by inventing a telephone system for their country which only became more ridiculously convoluted as the debate went on; it was clearly being deliberately made up to make the proposal inapplicable to it. Doing this is extremely poor etiquette. I also once had a very testy argument over a proposal regulating time travel, of which I won't say more than that it's best to assume the laws of physics as we know them apply.

The corollary to this principle is that if you do roleplay as a rather unreasonable nation, and even if you don't, it is up to you to find ways to comply with at least the spirit of all passed resolutions, or at least refrain from complaining that Restrictions on Child Labour do not apply to you because your species has no children and exists in 14 dimensions simultaneously, and you also don't need food or water (this sort of thing, incidentally, is quite blatant RP-wank among other things). The Gnomes are clever creatures, and make you comply anyway. You get to figure out how, but you don't get to godmode your way out of it.

Another related unwritten rule: if something exists in real life, it is safe to assume it exists in NationStates. While nations are located on many different planets, for instance, it is a safe assumption that greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change on at least some of them. While there are many different species about, it is a safe assumption that sexually-transmitted diseases are problems somewhere, and that there's cancer which could do with some curing. By the same token, think very carefully before flat out stating that a problem that any given proposal seeks to solve does not exist.

Now, square this with the demand that you should make allowance for the (very reasonable!) fact that nations here are populated by merfolk, elves, and sapient bears, and you might begin to think a lot of people are just a few cards short of a full deck. But you ain't seen nothing yet...

National sovereignty
Your laws do not apply to me, neener neener neener

Now we get into some contentious territory as far the the World Assembly is concerned. But first, a primer on the real world, since its existence there is why we even are talking about it here in the first place.

The whole idea of sovereignty has existed in the real world for about 350 years; it is a concept which, we are taught, originates in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Sovereignty means exclusive power (or according to Max Weber, "the monopoly on the legitimate use of force") within a given territory, and is the basis of modern diplomatic relations. It also means that all states are considered to have equal legal standing; while there is a big difference in power between the United States and, say, Kiribati, in the realm of international law, they are equals. No state can dictate to another state what it can or cannot do or what laws it can or cannot pass, within its own territory. It can vociferously disapprove, of course, but to take direct, uninvited action to affect another state's internal matters would be considered a violation of that state's sovereignty - and even a de facto act of war. Sovereignty has also come to be tied up and equated with national self-determination to some degree, especially given the rise of modern nation-states and the decline of imperialism (considering Algerians to have sovereign rights not to be ruled by France if they didn't want to, for example).

In NationStates, however, sovereignty is given up when a nation becomes a member of the World Assembly, because members must comply with all resolutions and the all-powerful Compliance Gnomes ensure this. In theory and in fact, your fellow World Assembly members can, by passing a resolution by majority vote, force things on you. Actual examples, as of this time, include things like legal same-sex marriages and legal abortions, and bans on torturing people and using landmines. Where are the limits to this? Aha. this is one of the biggest, ongoing, raging debates in the General Assembly. Two warring camps have evolved at present: "international federalists" (IntFeds) who argue that all national sovereignty is ceded to the WA and the General Assembly can pass resolutions on anything it damn well pleases, and "national sovereigntists" (NatSov) who tend to resist any resolution substantially restricting state powers, and often also seek to pass resolutions which "block" further legislation on a given issue. The resolution "WA General Fund" can be described as an example of what are known as blockers in that one of it main purposes is explicitly setting aside an area to be under national jurisdiction - meaning the World Assembly cannot pass anything further on the subject without repealing that resolution first.

”Nation” and “state” (you can skip this but it may be useful if you find my usage of those words in this part confusing in any way)

The words "nation" and "state" are often used interchangeably and generally mean the same thing: a collective political entity. In the term "national sovereignty", thus, it would be more accurate to say we are talking about state sovereignty. Yet, as the word "nation-state" implies, the exact meanings differ in some important ways.

The "state" refers to all the institutions that underlie the running of a country: things like the constitution, the school board, Parliament, the judiciary, the healthcare system, or the armed forces . A police officer is an agent of the state, a school board or health authority oversees the running of a particular aspect of a state, we use notes and coins as cash which is issued by the state; and the constitution is the basic law that specifies how politicians can come to hold power in the state and what they can do with it. Quite curiously for the rest of us, Americans often use the word "government" to mean the same thing, but the "state" exists regardless of the government of the day. The analogy is of a car; the state is like a car with a driver (the government) which changes occasionally, and sometimes the driver has it reupholstered or attaches plastic testicles to the back, but the car remains basically the same even when turned over to a different driver. Sometimes the car gets driven off a cliff and written off, or flipped over and burned by an angry mob. This is called anarchy and while the car is being fixed or a new one is built, pirates might often roam the territorial waters hijacking oil tankers.

A "nation" refers to a group of people who buy into a common identity. It could be based on any number of things like language, history, ethnicity, or way of life. Not all nations have states, and not all states are nation-states. For instance, probably in a bid to defuse separatism and score political points, the Canadian Parliament decided in 2006 to recognise the Québécois as a "nation within a united Canada", and many of the aboriginals have long been referred to as the First Nations: "Musqueam First Nation", "Cree First Nation", "First Nations people", etc. In Europe, some Basques will declare allegiance to the Basque nation over that of France or Spain, the states of which they are probably citizens. And of course, just try puzzling out just what it all means in the United Kingdom with its "home nations", and just when you can declare yourself to be Welsh, English, Scottish, Manx, or something in between.


Do not touch
Generally speaking, member nations jealously guard their sovereignty over things issues such as criminal justice, education system, immigration policy, and economic policy (to an extent). Dictating to nations what sentences they should impose for armed robbery, or that they should or shouldn't apply the death penalty, or what their rate of sales tax should be, is likely to be a non-starter. In general, unless you wish to provoke another episode in the NatSov/IntFed saga, it is best to avoid proposals chiefly dealing with such areas of national government policy.

"Micromanaging"
There used to be a specific rule regarding proposals "not worth the Assembly's time". While it is not on the books anymore, in general there is an expectation that any proposal is going to be dealing with issues of an international scope. Therefore, while there isn't a particular rule about proposing parking be banned within 10 metres of a fire hydrant, expect flat-out opposition to making a proposal to this effect.

It is not enough by itself to object to a proposal by just tossing out the word "national sovereignty". Almost by definition, all WA resolutions compromise national sovereignty in some way since it really is other state telling your state what it should or should not do. It's also in the rules that every resolution must do something and cannot be entirely optional. At the same time, just because members of the WA have in fact agreed to comply with whatever resolutions are passed is not itself a reason to pass any and every regulation a majority can agree on. The main issue, as I see it, is just when the good achieved justifies infringing national sovereignty; there have to be good reasons and the infringement minimised where possible.

Finding the balance is going to be an ongoing struggle, especially because of the visible rift between "NatSov" and "IntFed" and the unfortunate tendency of people with opposing views to yell at each other. There is also another tendency for people who squarely are in those camps to want to categorise others into that dichotomy and then launch into generalised invective about how all the “NatSovers” or “IntFeds” want to kick puppies and drown kittens: if this happens to you, do not be unduly alarmed. In truth, the power to decide this balance ultimately rests with the masses of the General Assembly.

Individual rights and state sovereignty
This is a significant issue in the real world, as well. The colossal failures of the international political order during the Rwandan Genocide led to the concept of the Responsibility To Protect, the idea that states were obligated to act against war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity within their borders, i.e., that they have certain responsibilities to their people, and that a state's claim to sovereignty was forfeit if they allowed such things to occur or worse, were actively engaged in perpetrating them. This is a relatively new idea in global politics and it is by no means uncontroversial, but it is quite a powerful norm and recently has been invoked to justify foreign intervention in Libya - landing military units in support of a rebellion against the existing government is a violation of sovereignty if ever there was one, but the intervening states justified it on the grounds that the government of Libya was attacking its own people and thus violating this principle.

However, even before the Responsibility To Protect, there was a certain recognition that national sovereignty was not absolute, and that individuals had rights states should not violate. This an assumption that is in play when, for instance, Western politicians object to political imprisonment of dissidents in other countries. Many constitutions, especially in the Western world, restrict the ability of their own states in this regard, such as French Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, the American Bill of Rights, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Inevitably, these developments in politics have carried over to the political simulation game of NationStates. The key difference is that restrictions of state sovereignty actually are enforceable and enforced, unlike in the real world. It's another dimension to the whole national sovereignty debate in the World Assembly, and probably reflects the real-life opinions of the players involved, too. This is probably the reason why it is a highly contentious issue for many WA forum regulars. Broadly most people, here as in the real world, seem to agree that some aspects of state sovereignty do not hold and that states do not have the "sovereignty" to abuse the basic rights of their citizens. Yet just how far we should go without also impacting on national self-determination and for nations to decide what is right to govern themselves - which is what sovereignty also is - remains a hotly debated topic.

Conclusion
With bonus “gameplayer” stereotypes!

There is an underlying tension in the World Assembly, and it concerns the fact that two very different groups of players are in it. While people who purely hang around in the General Assembly debating proposals and having absolute shit-fests about national sovereignty and whatnot often toss out sentences like "well if you don't like it, you can always quit the WA", which is quite true for most ordinary RPers, for another very large group of people, this isn't really an option. This other group of people chiefly make up the extensive off-site communities, usually built around regions, and are known variously as "gameplayers", "region players", "invadergamers", "defenders", "raiders", etc. (although this is not to suggest that all these terms refer to the same thing, because the last two are subsets of the broader "gameplay" community)

The General Assembly debate club and the regional forums gangs are like conjoined twins who completely ignore each others' existence. Despite the potential for underlying tensions, this situation actually went along quite happily until 2009, when the introduction of Commend/Condemn resolutions brought the matter and anti-matter together and lead to a rather public, explosive clash. Using the conjoined twins analogy it was a bit like one of the twins suddenly going in for breast implants and the other twin going "whuh?!?", resulting in them being separated a little bit so the silicone from one twin wouldn't get into the other twin's system too much. The analogy well and truly breaks down at this point, but in any case, that's kind of the story of how there came to be a General Assembly and a Security Council.

Gameplayers, and especially defenders and raiders, do not really have "don't be in the WA" as an option because World Assembly membership is necessary in order to endorse people, and control of regional delegacy is an important part of that aspect of the game. There is thus a tendency towards what General Assembly regulars would consider as knee-jerk national-sovereigntism.

The gameplayer is a voice not often heard in the General Assembly, whether due to apathy, because they find it intimidating, or perhaps a combination of both. Even though they aren't generally that concerned with what passes and what does not, from an roleplaying point of view they are still bound by those General Assembly resolutions. Perhaps more tangibly from their perspective, their nation stats are also affected. Fortunately, since those matters seem generally a sideshow for most gameplayers, there isn't a whole lot of resentment going on - at least, not that I can tell.

However, they do have the ability to decide what passes and what does not, both in their individual votes as WA member nations, and in how they tell their delegate to vote: in many regions, the delegate's vote is determined by a vote within the region. And because the number of votes a delegate has is determined by his number of endorsements, active members of large regions command disproportionate voting power. As a member of a very large "feeder" region, when a resolution comes up to vote that I feel strongly about, often the first thing I do after registering my personal displeasure is start lobbying my region-mates to try and sway my delegate's 200-300 votes. At time of writing, the delegates of the feeder regions (regions where new nations are automatically assigned to, plus Lazarus and The Rejected Realms) command over 1,400 votes, enough to determine the outcome of any close vote. Gameplayers thus have a lot of latent power in a General Assembly they hardly participate in; historically, however, only Gatesville comes to mind as an attempt to use this power.

But, dear reader, no matter which clique you belong to I hope this has somewhat demystified the proceedings in the place that occasionally spits out something for you to vote on. And if nothing else, perhaps the next time you do examine the resolution up for vote you will spare a thought for the painstaking process of drafting, debate, and defenestration that has (probably) gone into it.

Thanks! This is really useful.
Last edited by Sedgistan on Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: If you're going to quote a massive post, please spoiler it.

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Mallorea and Riva
Game Moderator
 
Posts: 9236
Founded: Sep 29, 2010
Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Mallorea and Riva » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:16 pm

NEW New Periodspace wrote:
Kelssek wrote:The global conspiracy is friendly!
A guide to the General Assembly

Hello there. This is an article explaining the General Assembly I originally wrote on request as an educational piece for The East Pacific regional forums, but others in the Dark Old-Guard Cabal, when asked for peer-review, suggested posting it to a broader audience. So here goes. Although I welcome comments and questions, please do not read into anything I have written here as an expression of an argument or taking a position; my intent was to reflect the uncontroversial, general consensus of how stuff works here.

A bit of an introduction on my credentials: I started with it when I started playing NationStates, back when it was called the United Nations, and well before bothering with other aspects of the game. I've since authored four resolutions, two in the old UN and two in the current WA. It's not a lot, compared to some of the more prolific self-promoters out there, but I take some satisfaction in that they're very significant bits of international law and people don't tend to seriously discuss repealing them (for the record, they're resolution 38, "Convention Against Genocide", and resolution 57, "Refugee Protection").

Generally assembling the world: a bit of history
Way back in the sands of time, when NationStates was simply a promotion gimmick for Max Barry to publicise his book, nations were given the option of joining the International Organisation That Must Not Be Named. It must not be named because this international organisation, several years later, sent Mr. Barry a cease-and-desist letter, from actual lawyers. Since then, it has been known as the World Assembly.

Right now, there are two distinct branches of the WA: the General Assembly, and the Security Council. The General Assembly was originally the entire WA. In 2009, the Security Council was grafted on, the result of what one might delicately describe as "a swirling firestorm of controversy" dredging up all sorts of differences in how different players and different communities "play" the game. Nevertheless, here we will be dealing solely with the functions of the General Assembly.

How the General Assembly affects you
Quite simply, if you are a member of the World Assembly, everything that has been passed by the General Assembly is as good as law in your country. There is no optionality and no way not to comply (as is the case with the real United Nations where countries can simply declare "your laws do not apply to me!"). All member nations are bound by the passed resolutions. So, for instance, you do not have any option to legally permit torture in your nation as long as you are a World Assembly member and resolution 9, "Prevention of Torture", remains on the books. If you'd like torture to be legal, you must leave the World Assembly, or try to get the resolution repealed.

Compliance
That's how World Assembly people would interpret it. In reality, though, roleplaying nations which are purportedly WA members often disregard the WA resolutions altogether. It all depends on what crowd you're playing with; if you tried to call someone on violating the Rights And Duties of WA States or for using landmines (a violation of resolution 40) in the International Incidents forum, you're likely to get laughed at. On the other hand, this is an accusation that might carry some weight in the General Assembly forum itself and probably provoke a bit of debate, or at least someone telling you that you're wrong. However, this isn't really the sort of thing you often see in the General Assembly forums, where "RP" is almost exclusively debate on proposals.

As a matter of game mechanics, non-compliance is simply impossible. Upon a resolution's passage, the "WA gnomes" come into your nation and make it compliant, leaving behind a little telegram as a token of their visit. While there are times when you can select a non-compliant issue option, the general consensus is that the gnomes then come in and make everything compliant again. There is a contradiction here, which is expected to be resolved at about the same time hell freezes over, so one would be best advised to just live with it. Many of the "unwritten rules" have to do with reconciling the gameplay and the roleplay universes with as few tears in the space-time continuum as possible; this is one of those cases.

Some players do roleplay non-compliance of a sort: Omigodtheykilledkenny for example, has a Creative Solutions Agency which seeks out and exploits loopholes in resolutions the nation just doesn't want to comply with. Indeed, there is a certain bit of leeway in every resolution because there is a inevitably room for interpretation. But if you waltz in and declare that some resolution doesn't apply to you because you've redefined "yellow" to mean "green" or that you consider "minutes" to be equal to seven years, all you're likely to do is provoke eye-rolling. You've got to be more subtle than that. For instance, you may not like a resolution that says you must make patent infringement illegal, so you RP that you've passed a law making patent infringement punishable by a fine of one dollar. Of course, some still might have a problem with that, but it's certainly a much more acceptable way to go about "non-compliance". However, as far as we're concerned, flat-out non-compliance with both the letter and spirit of a resolution is utterly impossible. Going back to the previous example, you might make the penalties for patent infringement laughably lenient, but you still must enact and enforce those laughably lenient laws.

I'm an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be
Or, how stuff gets passed, while explaining some basic terminology. Any World Assembly member with two endorsements can make a "proposal". This goes into the big proposal pile which everyone can see and regional delegates can then approve of. These days the proposal pile is quite small, but in the past it often spanned several pages of blatantly illegal proposals from people who hadn't even read the rules, poorly-written bits of high school civics class essays, random political screeds from very opinionated people bashing their fists on the keyboard, and inevitably something titled "The Right to Arm Bears" from someone who must have imagined they were the first to come up with that joke.

If enough regional delegates approve, a proposal reaches "quorum" and goes to the floor where it is voted on by the entire membership. It has now become a "resolution" - if it passes. If it fails, it becomes known as a "failed resolution". See, this WA business isn't that complicated.

Repeals: kill it with fire!
The method of choice to deal with resolutions one does not like, because it is actually the only choice. Passed resolutions cannot be amended, they either stand or get repealed. There are two basic motivations for repeals: either to make way for a replacement, or due to outright opposition to some or all of the resolution. If there's one thing I can say about repeals, it's that when you vote on them you really ought not to trust what the repeal argument says, or how the repeal interprets the resolutions. Always, always go and read the original, and decide for yourself what it says. Blatant lies about the resolution are not supposed to be in repeals, but distortions and strange reinterpretations can and do make it in. And just because something can be interpreted one way, does not mean it must be. Use your judgement and engage critical thinking.

Repeals can do only one thing: repeal a resolution. Repeals do nothing else and imply nothing else, not even necessarily opposition to the resolution being repealed. Repealing my beloved Convention Against Genocide would be a terrible idea, but it does not mean that the World Assembly suddenly believes killing off specific racial groups is awesome. So don't feel bad about repealing something that does lots of nice things but also contains a drastic flaw.

Repeals are tricky because you can never really tell what motives lie behind it; the proposer might genuinely want to improve it. But more likely, the proposer just doesn't agree with it on principle, and promises of a shiner and better replacement are little more than an insubstantial sop to encourage people on the fence to vote for repeal. It takes quite a bit of effort to campaign and pass a resolution, and it's all too easy for someone to draft an attractive-looking replacement and then forget all about it once the repeal was successful.

This may sound really silly, but I've encountered this confusion before so it's worth pointing it out. Clicking "for" on a repeal votes to repeal a resolution. Clicking "against" votes to keep the resolution. If you want to repeal a resolution, please do not click "against" thinking it signifies your opposition to it, and vice versa.

Welcome to the festering snakepit!
How to (mostly) survive the General Assembly forum

Unless otherwise stated or patently obvious, posts in the General Assembly forum are assumed to be the in-character statements of your nation's WA ambassador or other relevant government official. The main activities taking place there are debates over proposals and a sort of collective drafting and vetting process, whereby you put up your proposal and others make suggestions for improvement, argue over its general principles, or declare it illegal and make fun of you. In order to meaningfully participate in the discussions, therefore, it is necessary to have some basic idea of the rules and general conventions as far as proposals go. The stickies in the General Assembly should tell you what you need to know. Also, it is inadvisable to linger near windows where there is a known risk of defenestration.

One thread of particular note is the Strangers' Bar, where the ambassadors let their hair down and order any drink conceivable from the infinitely wise and dry-witted barman, Neville. One of the longest-running RP threads in the entire game, it abides by its own conventions.

The line between IC and OOC in the General Assembly can be blurred somewhat, however, as it is often necessary to debate proposal legality, which requires reference to the proposal rules existing entirely in the OOC world. Often, too, data or facts from the real world are drawn on as evidence or the basis for argument. While it is generally acceptable to, for example, reference real-world incidents or scientific studies, one should not take it too far. By the same token, however, one is unlikely to score any points for producing statistics from your own rear end as an argument (e.g., "well, 98% of my nations' scientists disagree with your statement, and have also concluded that you are a big poopy-head!"). This can be considered a form of wank and is just as poor etiquette as it is in other roleplaying circles.

What not to do
Besides the obvious, there are some pitfalls you should avoid in drafting or discussing proposals.

1. This isn't Earth
This means that, for example, proposing greenhouse gas emissions caps isn't likely to get you anywhere because there is no assumption that all of NationStates is located on a single planet which has the same atmospheric characteristics as Earth. Proposals declaring the Moon or Antarctica to be neutral territory will be dead on arrival; someone will pop up to ask "which moon?" or to object because their territory is entirely located on the Moon or Antarctica. And don't even try to ban weapons in outer space or the interstellar empires will come get you. Likewise, setting up an international space station is an endeavour best left to other RP forums.

2. Contentious topics
World Assembly regulars are, by now, sick to death of particular topics such as the death penalty, abortion, legalised drugs, and gun control. They keep coming up again and again, and rarely with anything really new. Not saying don't even try, but probably best avoided; because of how contentious they are, we've agreed to disagree and the general consensus is that they should be more or less left to member nations to decide. That's essentially what the resolutions which have been passed on the subjects of abortion and male circumcision represent: "we're sick to death of this topic coming up so let's just pass something to settle it".

3. Tech-wanking
Don't enforce technology onto other members, particularly future tech. Don't, for example, establish holographic screens in every nation running off cold fusion reactors. There was once a resolution which did something like this: The Global Library (UNR 86), which is mostly remembered now as a classic What Not To Do. It created holographic wristbands for everyone, which must have confused the hell out of the inhabitants of nations being roleplayed in the ancient era. Going the other way, there's no point proposing joint research on hydrogen cars when many nations will simply assert that they're advanced way beyond this ground transportation business.

4. We're not all human
You shouldn't write proposals assuming all the universe is made up of humans. This is why you often seen resolutions and proposals referring to "sapient rights" or "sapient beings". The word "people" is generally okay. Beyond the matter of word choice, don't assume that inhabitants of NationStates are humans, and avoid referencing specific ages (saying member nations should reduce the voting age to 16, for example). Many proposals attempting to regulate abortion are tripped up by this; they start going on about trimesters and foetuses and ambassadors will ask just how that applies to their species, which hatches from eggs.

Keepin' it real: the Reasonable Nation Principle
Basically, this means that while resolutions must be universally applicable, there is no need to accommodate or entertain objections based on highly unrealistic and/or unreasonable scenarios. Also known as the DemonLordEnigma Rule, after a player notorious for roleplaying highly unusual circumstances within their nation to argue against any given proposal, usually having to do with how future-tech and vast her interstellar empire was. In my personal experience, someone tried to argue against my resolution "International Emergency Number" by inventing a telephone system for their country which only became more ridiculously convoluted as the debate went on; it was clearly being deliberately made up to make the proposal inapplicable to it. Doing this is extremely poor etiquette. I also once had a very testy argument over a proposal regulating time travel, of which I won't say more than that it's best to assume the laws of physics as we know them apply.

The corollary to this principle is that if you do roleplay as a rather unreasonable nation, and even if you don't, it is up to you to find ways to comply with at least the spirit of all passed resolutions, or at least refrain from complaining that Restrictions on Child Labour do not apply to you because your species has no children and exists in 14 dimensions simultaneously, and you also don't need food or water (this sort of thing, incidentally, is quite blatant RP-wank among other things). The Gnomes are clever creatures, and make you comply anyway. You get to figure out how, but you don't get to godmode your way out of it.

Another related unwritten rule: if something exists in real life, it is safe to assume it exists in NationStates. While nations are located on many different planets, for instance, it is a safe assumption that greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change on at least some of them. While there are many different species about, it is a safe assumption that sexually-transmitted diseases are problems somewhere, and that there's cancer which could do with some curing. By the same token, think very carefully before flat out stating that a problem that any given proposal seeks to solve does not exist.

Now, square this with the demand that you should make allowance for the (very reasonable!) fact that nations here are populated by merfolk, elves, and sapient bears, and you might begin to think a lot of people are just a few cards short of a full deck. But you ain't seen nothing yet...

National sovereignty
Your laws do not apply to me, neener neener neener

Now we get into some contentious territory as far the the World Assembly is concerned. But first, a primer on the real world, since its existence there is why we even are talking about it here in the first place.

The whole idea of sovereignty has existed in the real world for about 350 years; it is a concept which, we are taught, originates in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Sovereignty means exclusive power (or according to Max Weber, "the monopoly on the legitimate use of force") within a given territory, and is the basis of modern diplomatic relations. It also means that all states are considered to have equal legal standing; while there is a big difference in power between the United States and, say, Kiribati, in the realm of international law, they are equals. No state can dictate to another state what it can or cannot do or what laws it can or cannot pass, within its own territory. It can vociferously disapprove, of course, but to take direct, uninvited action to affect another state's internal matters would be considered a violation of that state's sovereignty - and even a de facto act of war. Sovereignty has also come to be tied up and equated with national self-determination to some degree, especially given the rise of modern nation-states and the decline of imperialism (considering Algerians to have sovereign rights not to be ruled by France if they didn't want to, for example).

In NationStates, however, sovereignty is given up when a nation becomes a member of the World Assembly, because members must comply with all resolutions and the all-powerful Compliance Gnomes ensure this. In theory and in fact, your fellow World Assembly members can, by passing a resolution by majority vote, force things on you. Actual examples, as of this time, include things like legal same-sex marriages and legal abortions, and bans on torturing people and using landmines. Where are the limits to this? Aha. this is one of the biggest, ongoing, raging debates in the General Assembly. Two warring camps have evolved at present: "international federalists" (IntFeds) who argue that all national sovereignty is ceded to the WA and the General Assembly can pass resolutions on anything it damn well pleases, and "national sovereigntists" (NatSov) who tend to resist any resolution substantially restricting state powers, and often also seek to pass resolutions which "block" further legislation on a given issue. The resolution "WA General Fund" can be described as an example of what are known as blockers in that one of it main purposes is explicitly setting aside an area to be under national jurisdiction - meaning the World Assembly cannot pass anything further on the subject without repealing that resolution first.

”Nation” and “state” (you can skip this but it may be useful if you find my usage of those words in this part confusing in any way)

The words "nation" and "state" are often used interchangeably and generally mean the same thing: a collective political entity. In the term "national sovereignty", thus, it would be more accurate to say we are talking about state sovereignty. Yet, as the word "nation-state" implies, the exact meanings differ in some important ways.

The "state" refers to all the institutions that underlie the running of a country: things like the constitution, the school board, Parliament, the judiciary, the healthcare system, or the armed forces . A police officer is an agent of the state, a school board or health authority oversees the running of a particular aspect of a state, we use notes and coins as cash which is issued by the state; and the constitution is the basic law that specifies how politicians can come to hold power in the state and what they can do with it. Quite curiously for the rest of us, Americans often use the word "government" to mean the same thing, but the "state" exists regardless of the government of the day. The analogy is of a car; the state is like a car with a driver (the government) which changes occasionally, and sometimes the driver has it reupholstered or attaches plastic testicles to the back, but the car remains basically the same even when turned over to a different driver. Sometimes the car gets driven off a cliff and written off, or flipped over and burned by an angry mob. This is called anarchy and while the car is being fixed or a new one is built, pirates might often roam the territorial waters hijacking oil tankers.

A "nation" refers to a group of people who buy into a common identity. It could be based on any number of things like language, history, ethnicity, or way of life. Not all nations have states, and not all states are nation-states. For instance, probably in a bid to defuse separatism and score political points, the Canadian Parliament decided in 2006 to recognise the Québécois as a "nation within a united Canada", and many of the aboriginals have long been referred to as the First Nations: "Musqueam First Nation", "Cree First Nation", "First Nations people", etc. In Europe, some Basques will declare allegiance to the Basque nation over that of France or Spain, the states of which they are probably citizens. And of course, just try puzzling out just what it all means in the United Kingdom with its "home nations", and just when you can declare yourself to be Welsh, English, Scottish, Manx, or something in between.


Do not touch
Generally speaking, member nations jealously guard their sovereignty over things issues such as criminal justice, education system, immigration policy, and economic policy (to an extent). Dictating to nations what sentences they should impose for armed robbery, or that they should or shouldn't apply the death penalty, or what their rate of sales tax should be, is likely to be a non-starter. In general, unless you wish to provoke another episode in the NatSov/IntFed saga, it is best to avoid proposals chiefly dealing with such areas of national government policy.

"Micromanaging"
There used to be a specific rule regarding proposals "not worth the Assembly's time". While it is not on the books anymore, in general there is an expectation that any proposal is going to be dealing with issues of an international scope. Therefore, while there isn't a particular rule about proposing parking be banned within 10 metres of a fire hydrant, expect flat-out opposition to making a proposal to this effect.

It is not enough by itself to object to a proposal by just tossing out the word "national sovereignty". Almost by definition, all WA resolutions compromise national sovereignty in some way since it really is other state telling your state what it should or should not do. It's also in the rules that every resolution must do something and cannot be entirely optional. At the same time, just because members of the WA have in fact agreed to comply with whatever resolutions are passed is not itself a reason to pass any and every regulation a majority can agree on. The main issue, as I see it, is just when the good achieved justifies infringing national sovereignty; there have to be good reasons and the infringement minimised where possible.

Finding the balance is going to be an ongoing struggle, especially because of the visible rift between "NatSov" and "IntFed" and the unfortunate tendency of people with opposing views to yell at each other. There is also another tendency for people who squarely are in those camps to want to categorise others into that dichotomy and then launch into generalised invective about how all the “NatSovers” or “IntFeds” want to kick puppies and drown kittens: if this happens to you, do not be unduly alarmed. In truth, the power to decide this balance ultimately rests with the masses of the General Assembly.

Individual rights and state sovereignty
This is a significant issue in the real world, as well. The colossal failures of the international political order during the Rwandan Genocide led to the concept of the Responsibility To Protect, the idea that states were obligated to act against war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity within their borders, i.e., that they have certain responsibilities to their people, and that a state's claim to sovereignty was forfeit if they allowed such things to occur or worse, were actively engaged in perpetrating them. This is a relatively new idea in global politics and it is by no means uncontroversial, but it is quite a powerful norm and recently has been invoked to justify foreign intervention in Libya - landing military units in support of a rebellion against the existing government is a violation of sovereignty if ever there was one, but the intervening states justified it on the grounds that the government of Libya was attacking its own people and thus violating this principle.

However, even before the Responsibility To Protect, there was a certain recognition that national sovereignty was not absolute, and that individuals had rights states should not violate. This an assumption that is in play when, for instance, Western politicians object to political imprisonment of dissidents in other countries. Many constitutions, especially in the Western world, restrict the ability of their own states in this regard, such as French Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, the American Bill of Rights, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Inevitably, these developments in politics have carried over to the political simulation game of NationStates. The key difference is that restrictions of state sovereignty actually are enforceable and enforced, unlike in the real world. It's another dimension to the whole national sovereignty debate in the World Assembly, and probably reflects the real-life opinions of the players involved, too. This is probably the reason why it is a highly contentious issue for many WA forum regulars. Broadly most people, here as in the real world, seem to agree that some aspects of state sovereignty do not hold and that states do not have the "sovereignty" to abuse the basic rights of their citizens. Yet just how far we should go without also impacting on national self-determination and for nations to decide what is right to govern themselves - which is what sovereignty also is - remains a hotly debated topic.

Conclusion
With bonus “gameplayer” stereotypes!

There is an underlying tension in the World Assembly, and it concerns the fact that two very different groups of players are in it. While people who purely hang around in the General Assembly debating proposals and having absolute shit-fests about national sovereignty and whatnot often toss out sentences like "well if you don't like it, you can always quit the WA", which is quite true for most ordinary RPers, for another very large group of people, this isn't really an option. This other group of people chiefly make up the extensive off-site communities, usually built around regions, and are known variously as "gameplayers", "region players", "invadergamers", "defenders", "raiders", etc. (although this is not to suggest that all these terms refer to the same thing, because the last two are subsets of the broader "gameplay" community)

The General Assembly debate club and the regional forums gangs are like conjoined twins who completely ignore each others' existence. Despite the potential for underlying tensions, this situation actually went along quite happily until 2009, when the introduction of Commend/Condemn resolutions brought the matter and anti-matter together and lead to a rather public, explosive clash. Using the conjoined twins analogy it was a bit like one of the twins suddenly going in for breast implants and the other twin going "whuh?!?", resulting in them being separated a little bit so the silicone from one twin wouldn't get into the other twin's system too much. The analogy well and truly breaks down at this point, but in any case, that's kind of the story of how there came to be a General Assembly and a Security Council.

Gameplayers, and especially defenders and raiders, do not really have "don't be in the WA" as an option because World Assembly membership is necessary in order to endorse people, and control of regional delegacy is an important part of that aspect of the game. There is thus a tendency towards what General Assembly regulars would consider as knee-jerk national-sovereigntism.

The gameplayer is a voice not often heard in the General Assembly, whether due to apathy, because they find it intimidating, or perhaps a combination of both. Even though they aren't generally that concerned with what passes and what does not, from an roleplaying point of view they are still bound by those General Assembly resolutions. Perhaps more tangibly from their perspective, their nation stats are also affected. Fortunately, since those matters seem generally a sideshow for most gameplayers, there isn't a whole lot of resentment going on - at least, not that I can tell.

However, they do have the ability to decide what passes and what does not, both in their individual votes as WA member nations, and in how they tell their delegate to vote: in many regions, the delegate's vote is determined by a vote within the region. And because the number of votes a delegate has is determined by his number of endorsements, active members of large regions command disproportionate voting power. As a member of a very large "feeder" region, when a resolution comes up to vote that I feel strongly about, often the first thing I do after registering my personal displeasure is start lobbying my region-mates to try and sway my delegate's 200-300 votes. At time of writing, the delegates of the feeder regions (regions where new nations are automatically assigned to, plus Lazarus and The Rejected Realms) command over 1,400 votes, enough to determine the outcome of any close vote. Gameplayers thus have a lot of latent power in a General Assembly they hardly participate in; historically, however, only Gatesville comes to mind as an attempt to use this power.

But, dear reader, no matter which clique you belong to I hope this has somewhat demystified the proceedings in the place that occasionally spits out something for you to vote on. And if nothing else, perhaps the next time you do examine the resolution up for vote you will spare a thought for the painstaking process of drafting, debate, and defenestration that has (probably) gone into it.

Thanks! This is really useful.

Spoilers are your friend. Good guide!
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Omigodtheykilledkenny
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Posts: 5602
Founded: Mar 14, 2005
Capitalizt

Postby Omigodtheykilledkenny » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:57 pm

Darenjo wrote:OOC: I think this is an extremely helpful guide!

One suggestion: I'd explain the concept of insta-repeals. It's not totally needed, but it's good info to know.

Try mousey's Repeals FAQ. Very helpful info-sheet as well, and probably should be attached to this guide. :)
Omigodtheykilledkenny FAQ | "The Biggest Sovereigntist IN THE WORLD" - Chester Pearson

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Zoingo
Diplomat
 
Posts: 653
Founded: May 20, 2007
Ex-Nation

Postby Zoingo » Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:47 pm

Pretty much wraps up in a nice little bow the inter workings of The Insitutiton Which Shall Not Be Named and the modern day General Assembly. The presentment of the two main ideological debates on how the General Assembly's power should be used is also quite insightful.
Diplomacy is for people who wish escape RL; General is for people who have too much time in RL; The WA is for people who want to be bureaucrats in RL; The Archives is for people wanting to look back at how others spent time in their RL; and Technical is for people who already cannot find enough to complain about in RL anyway.

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Charlotte Ryberg
The Muse of the Westcountry
 
Posts: 15007
Founded: Mar 14, 2007
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Charlotte Ryberg » Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:22 am

Omigodtheykilledkenny wrote:Actually, the guide is in line with historical conventions regarding UN/WA compliance. On the whole, nations are expected to exercise good faith in complying with all passed resolutions. Events of noncompliance are supposed to be extremely rare, and only done for the fun of RP, not so players can Godmode and claim that they are impervious to any legislation they don't like. It sort of defeats the entire purpose of the UN/WA game if the resolutions we ceaselessly argue over -- and construct clever scenarios for circumventing without defying, like loophole-hawking and puppetwank -- meant nothing.

Kelssek, if you'd fancy some constructive feedback, I can provide more in detail later. :)

I guess we could do with a guide to non-compliance, unless there is one already done up. Regardless, in the wake of the Social Assistance, Miona has upped its defiance a lot. No more is the dependency for Creative Solutions Agency, just pure violations (helped by using NSwiki and F&NI to build up our country profile and current affairs from scratch).

- Ms. S. Harper.
Last edited by Charlotte Ryberg on Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Darenjo
Minister
 
Posts: 2178
Founded: Mar 31, 2010
Ex-Nation

Postby Darenjo » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:21 am

Charlotte Ryberg wrote:
Omigodtheykilledkenny wrote:Actually, the guide is in line with historical conventions regarding UN/WA compliance. On the whole, nations are expected to exercise good faith in complying with all passed resolutions. Events of noncompliance are supposed to be extremely rare, and only done for the fun of RP, not so players can Godmode and claim that they are impervious to any legislation they don't like. It sort of defeats the entire purpose of the UN/WA game if the resolutions we ceaselessly argue over -- and construct clever scenarios for circumventing without defying, like loophole-hawking and puppetwank -- meant nothing.

Kelssek, if you'd fancy some constructive feedback, I can provide more in detail later. :)

I guess we could do with a guide to non-compliance, unless there is one already done up. Regardless, in the wake of the Social Assistance, Miona has upped its defiance a lot. No more is the dependency for Creative Solutions Agency, just pure violations (helped by using NSwiki and F&NI to build up our country profile and current affairs from scratch).

- Ms. S. Harper.


While Darenjo tries to avoid direct violations, it does happen - i.e. we refuse to comply with RoAA due to our decision to not include "abstinence education" in our public schools.
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Merfurian
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 449
Founded: Jan 25, 2012
Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby Merfurian » Sat May 05, 2012 9:43 am

One thing you have missed is how to actually roleplay a nation's ambassadorship to the GA. My fingers are on the tired side to do lots of typing tonight, so if you want I'll prepare such a guide over the next few days.
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Frisbeeteria
Senior Game Moderator
 
Posts: 23206
Founded: Dec 16, 2003
Anarchy

Postby Frisbeeteria » Sat May 05, 2012 10:34 am

Merfurian wrote:One thing you have missed is how to actually roleplay a nation's ambassadorship to the GA

You realize that this thread is nearly a year old, right? And that Kelssek has posted in the GA since August of last year (and rarely elsewhere, too). This is pretty much gravedigging, so iLock.

Merfurian wrote:if you want I'll prepare such a guide over the next few days.

I don't think we need to codify that into any sort of quasi-official guide.


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