HumanSanity, The Liberty Gala administrator, two-time SC resolution author, Prime Minister of the South Pacific, former Chief Executive of Renegade Islands Alliance and WA Delegate of 10000 Islands, and Commended by SC#356.
Aivintis, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of The East Pacific.
Astrobolt, Knight of TITO and WA contributor.
Pallaith: Declarations shouldn’t surprise anyone. People have wanted a way to pass resolutions outside of only messing with region passwords or giving people badges for a long time. An actual resolution on something, stating an opinion, making a statement, instead of using tools to do it. Considering the critics who don’t like offensive liberations, or think that commendations/condemnations have too little or too much weight to recognize everyone the right way, this ought to be a godsend. I think it’s working exactly the way it should, and the way people have wanted. If there’s an issue with it, it’s people struggling to figure out best practices, the proper pattern and acceptable culture for these resolutions. And that doesn’t surprise me either, because this is a new type of resolution and we need to work with them a while to figure out the norms and to get used to what will be a new art form for resolutions. Look at those old SC resolutions, and then consider that years from now, we’ll look back at many of these declarations in much the same way, and marvel at far our writing has come.
Aivintis: My understanding of the declarations feature is that its purpose is to act as an official statement of the WASC on international affairs. Whereas resolutions do something, declarations take a stance on something. This provides a greater degree of flexibility in WASC resolutions. So far, I’m not sure how I feel. It’s new, so it needs some time to fully develop and be defined in the community. This means we see joke resolutions like the Hippopotamus one slip through, and there’s lengthy deliberation on the nature of serious resolutions and whether or not they are necessary, useful, or even worth the WA’s time.
Abacathea: I actually think it's a neat little category. I mean it's toothless in comparison to everything else the WA does but I still find the feature fun. The ability to adopt an official position on topics is interesting and to assert that to the international community is a different mechanic in terms of proposals and their composure. As for how it has panned out, I think players haven't really gotten to grips with it. I tried to write one recently, it hasn't been abandoned but not brought to fruition either, yet, and I got met with a lot of "this is pointless, this doesn't do anything" etc... which I found odd considering if I'm understanding it right, they're not meant to?
Goobergunchia: Declarations aren't really intended to have a singular purpose, but the two big things I'd like to see it used for are to react to current NS events (particularly as C&Cs are generally used as lifetime achievement awards) and set standards for interregional law. Unfortunately there hasn't really been many NS events to react to recently, and right now GP is too fractured to really agree on any standards other than boring "fascism bad" stuff. And of course the other problem is that a lot of players see Declarations as being meaningless, which is just silly -- NS is a sandbox and it's worth trying to get meaning out of features when possible.
HumanSanity: The purpose of the new Declarations feature is (1) to establish norms and international law on specific subjects and (2) provide authoritative documentation of events and history to refer back to at a later time.
So far, I think we're doing OK but the norms are still evolving. Within the bucket of resolutions that define international law, "Advancement of Anti-Fascist Action" or "Recognition of the General Assembly" are exactly the kind of resolutions I expect, as were the ill-fated resolutions on quorum raiding, region destruction, and card heisting. The resolutions within this category that didn't pass I think suffered both from fraught political terrain and a lack of consensus on the writing norms for law-making Declarations. As an example, there was considerable dissensus on whether Convention Against Heisting should contain a "Recommendations" section or just a "Rules" section. Similarly, the formatting of Against Destructive Raiding Practices felt disjointed to me (despite my support in principle for the resolution) and like we were trying to import writing norms from traditional Commends and Condemns to an entirely new genre of resolution.
As it relates to resolutions which document specific practices, I think we're doing quite well. I was actually a fan of Declaration On Crabs Of The Apocalypse and future resolutions like this which take a significant site-wide event and seek to establish an authoritative accounting of its history via the Security Council. Such Declarations could even, in the future, include opinions or more purposeful language in order to characterize events and create specific narrative around international happenings.
One thing which I sincerely hope we will grow out of is the complaint that "declarations do not do anything". It is obviously true that declarations do not do anything, but this does not make them unimportant in terms of symbolism and narrative. Additionally, I believe Declarations simply represent a new frontier for game play as an in-character role playing exercise, and am disappointed (although unsurprised) to see some people so quick to toss aside the value of going through that process by creating international law.
Astrobolt: I think declarations have two main purposes. The first is that declarations act as formal guidelines, or as a set of standards. These sorts of declarations gain legitimacy by passing a WA vote, and thus come the closest to acting as a sort of “international law”, which can inform interactions between players, or even between entire communities. Though there aren’t a whole lot of examples of this on the books, there have been a wide variety of ideas, ranging from dealing with non-compliance in the GA, cards etiquette, and standards against region griefing, showing that there is a lot of potential for declarations written as “law”.
Declarations also allow the NS community, through the Security Council, to express a common position, particularly about topical events. This has the benefit of documenting moments in history that wouldn’t work when placed in a C/C. The resolution “Declaration On Crabs Of The Apocalypse” is a good example of this. Declarations can also be used to bring attention to certain events, such as festivals, GA debates and roleplays which are especially notable for specific communities, and highlight this for the broader player base. In this way, declarations act to shine a light on all the cool things people are doing in this game.
Pallaith: I think we haven’t fully explored how declarations can replace many of the commendations and condemnations that we’re deemed unacceptable. The recent N Day declarations are a perfect example of this. We don’t have to commend regions for performance in events, like the old controversial TVF commendation in 2013, and we don’t have to fret about commending a region that’s only there to be cute (condemn the WA, or those game event exclusive regions). We can use declarations. We don’t have to worry about badges of honor if we truly want to condemn someone or some place without worrying about it being an award, we can use a declaration. If we think commendations or condemnations are toothless or dumbed down, we can emulate them in declarations to recognize people for a handful of things without worrying about padding or stretching out a draft that doesn’t have enough content. We should be doing declarations more often than anything else. They should be commonplace, they should be normalized, flexible, and take many forms. Think how much more special commendations and condemnations would be if they weren’t the only way to recognize people and regions who warrant some recognition. Imagine if we treated declarations as a new tier of C&C that could dive in greater detail on a smaller subset of things, and recognize those things that right now are considered “unworthy”. For those who don’t like offensive liberations, they can appreciate declarations as a way to send a message without resorting to liberations or trying to make a condemnation work. I don’t believe this will stop offensive liberations, but it does create one outlet.
Aivintis: In the future, especially as the WA community figures out what our standards are for the new feature, I expect to see declarations on some ideological topics but also on significant current events. I don’t expect them to be taken as seriously as Commendations or Condemnations, due to the nature of their mechanics, but I think they will be taken more seriously than they are now.
Abacathea: That one is tough honestly, at least given how I personally view the Declaration category. I think it has a finite functionality to it in the sense that there are only a certain amount of things that I can see a member base allowing before they become silly or nonsensical. That is not to say "A Declaration on Hippos" isn't one of the most fantastic things I've seen in a while but there's a certain player base that doesn't normally tolerate humor in the august assembly and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Goobergunchia: I'd like to see it responsive to NS GP goings-on, whatever those may be. I'd also like to see more attempts to establish standards that might be a tad controversial. Right now a big problem with the the latter is that certain big regions are pretty committed to the idea that their might makes right and don't want to be accountable politically to the greater NS world. Lastly, I'd also like to see some non-GP stuff! While most of the explicit RP stuff is better for the GA, there are definitely ways you could make it work in the SC.
HumanSanity: I largely expect we will keep developing in the two broad categories which I have already identified. As international events happen, Declarations can and should reflect upon those events. As an example, if The Embassy raid happened today, I think a Declaration resolution would be an appropriate way to reflect on the harm caused by this operation for many members of the international community. The only test case we have for this is the Declaration On Crabs Of The Apocalypse, and I hope that future event-oriented Declaration authors will be more aggressive in using descriptive language to characterize those events, and expect those efforts will be contested in drafting debates. For resolutions that attempt to create international law, I think we will likely have at least one if not more cards Declarations and then a repeating series of back and forths as it relates to raiding/defending and regional governance resolutions, with efforts to develop new consensuses by incorporating feedback given to previous resolutions. As an aside, I hope to see role players attempt to break into the Declarations category, although I'm certainly not someone to push that.
Astrobolt: I think in the future, we might see a lot more declarations coming from individuals not part of the “Gameplay” sphere, and concerning topics that are underrepresented in the SC. As I mentioned in the previous question, since declarations are able to mention any event, it lends itself to being able to memorialize the actions of any community. Perhaps we may get more declarations announcing a ceasefire has been reached in a particular war roleplay. We might celebrate an interregional festival, or even praise a particularly high-quality GA resolution.
What are some ways that Declarations can be used by defenders to their advantage? What are some ways defenders need to be wary of raiders using the category to their advantage?
Pallaith: I’m not a big R/D player, in fact I don’t really think of myself as one at all. I’m sure others can be more creative about this frontier than I can. This is obviously a largely untapped aspect of the game still. Truthfully, I don’t know yet how R/D can capitalize on declarations, but I have a handful of not fully baked ideas. Maybe spamming queue with declarations to delay a liberation, or the repeal of one. Ditto for C&Cs that one side or the other wants. We’ve already seen people try to make blanket statements about R/D with declarations, but I don’t think that’s terribly effective. Either side can find a way to use the angles I covered above, and in so doing I’m sure they could find advantage for their respective sides.
For instance, defenders can pass resolutions denouncing destruction of regions, the worst effects of invasions, and single out particularly heinous individuals who even many raiders might agree crossed the line. Regular accountability without the badge effect can normalize a culture that is harder on raiding more generally. Defenders can also tout their own much the same way. Repeat resolutions that cover a bit of ground and don’t have to meet high C&C standards can be a boon to PR. Obviously the same can be true of raiders, but I don’t believe that raiding lends itself to normalized regular patting on the back, nor do I believe the general audience will regularly celebrate many raiding activities. The side that makes greater and more regular use of this type of resolution will be setting the standard and the culture for these resolutions as it relates to R/D. It’s a battle of pens, not swords, and the writers who are setting the standard for what declarations are and what they can do will decide how easy or hard it is for either side to get recognition and win rhetorical fights. Declarations can win hearts and minds, not by pontificating about the evils or joys of raiding, but by writing the history of these events and telling smaller stories.
Aivintis: The World Assembly has been historically moralist, mostly as evidenced by how defending is seen as commendable and raiding as condemnable, so I expect this to be somewhat reflected in the declarations, although to a lesser extent. I think raider-aligned regions may use quorum raiding or their WA votes to oppose this, but I don’t think there will be any raiders who think anything like “Declaration On Why Raiding Is Awesome And Defenders Are Stupid” (to exaggerate a bit) will be passable.
One interesting thing that may happen is the use of declarations in a similar manner to Commendations/Condemnations, for example using a declaration against their actions as a badge of honor, but I’m not sure how willing people would be to accept that, since it may be seen as devaluing such declarations as “Advancement of Anti-Fascist Action” which transcend ideological boundaries to be accepted by all sides of the R/D spectrum.
Abacathea: The R/D side of the game is one that I've never really followed with any great interest. I did get involved in it a few years ago as part of the NPA and there was an issued around Liberate Hogwarts I got caught up in but by and large my knowledge of that side of things is limited. I suppose my moral compass votes 'fenda but I don't see how there really is much the defender or raider community will get away with in terms of Declarations given that most communities typically are anti-raider. I think an attempt to sneak something raider endorsing onto the books likely will be met with scorn.
Goobergunchia: The big ones are trying to establish international standards against invading and speaking out against anything particularly destructive or heinous. Unfortunately I feel that invaders (and regions with invader-aligned militaries) have been pretty successful at blocking the former so far -- we could do a better job at combating that.
HumanSanity: I think the ability of Declarations to set narrative is underexplored by both sides at the moment. Thus far, in the realm of raiding and defending Declarations have largely been just about power play, stacking large Delegate votes and vote mobilization infrastructures against one another. While this is interesting to watch, I don't think this is the end point of raiding and defending battles playing out via the Declarations feature. I expect both sides, but especially defenders, to take greater advantage of the more subtle propaganda generating effect that Declarations could have.
Astrobolt: Defenders, along with friends of liberty and regional sovereignty, can try to draft declarations that act as pieces of “law”, which help advance the goal of sovereignty. The attempts to put restrictions on quorum raiding and regional destruction are examples of this.
However, there are less obvious ways these declarations can be used. Firstly, defenders can allow individuals with less experience in SC writing to take a bit more of a lead on writing them — or perhaps coauthor with them. Declarations are advantageous since they lack a rigid structure. They do not require the intense amount of research often needed for C/Cs, and there are often no time constraints, unlike in Liberations, perfect for a new author to get started. This has the benefit of training new talent, who might one day become the leaders of the faction.
Moreover, defenders should promote well written resolutions that are not immediately related to “Gameplay”. Doing so puts a spotlight on, and shows the best of entire different communities, something essential to advancing respect, and even regional sovereignty. After all, if it can be shown that the GA community is actually kind of cool, that the RP community is fun to be in, that the Cards community is valuable, that regional communities are special, then the NS community will gain an appreciation for every subcommunity.
It becomes much harder for raiders to then try and mess with and sabotage these communities, or attack regional communities by raiding them. In this way, declarations promote regional sovereignty, as it allows supporters of liberty to gain a leg up in the messaging battle.
While I won’t comment too much on raiders, I think we should be wary of the usual tricks (“poison pills”, bad faith, etc). However, given the potential of declarations to be used as a tool to support liberty, we might need to watch out for arguments employed by raiders, but also non-raiders acting in good faith, that allege that declarations are worthless since it doesn’t mandate anything. Defenders need to vocally refute this line of thinking, before damage is done to the view of declarations as a whole.