The Official Blog of the

International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 26, 2021 at 7:40 PM

By René Wadlow

April 24, International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and first observed on April 24, 2019. The resolution establishing the Day is in part a reaction to the “America First, America First” cry of the U. S. President, Donald Trump, but other states are also following narrow nationalistic policies and economic protectionism. The Day stresses the use of multilateral decision-making in achieving the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Yet as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, “Multilateralism is not only a matter of confronting shared threats, it is about seizing common opportunities.”

One hour after Trygve Lie arrived in New York as the first UN Secretary-General in March 1946, the Ambassador of Iran handed him the complaint of his country against the presence of Soviet troops in northern Iran. From that moment on, the UN has lived with constant conflict-resolution tasks to be accomplished. The isolated diplomatic conference of the past, like the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic wars has been replaced by an organization continually at work on all its manifold problems. If the world is to move forward to a true world society, this can be done only through an organization such as the UN which is based on universality, continuity, and comprehensiveness.

Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815

Today’s world society evolved from an earlier international structure based on states and their respective goals, often termed “the national interest”. This older system was based on the idea that there is an inevitable conflict among social groups: the class struggle for the Marxists, the balance of power for the Nationalists. Thus, negotiations among government representatives are a structured way of mitigating conflicts but not a way of moving beyond conflict.

However, in the UN there is a structural tension between national sovereignty and effective international organization. In the measure that an international organization is effective, it is bound to impair the freedom of action of its members, and in the measure that the member states assert their freedom of action, they impair the effectiveness of the international organization. The UN Charter itself testifies to that unresolved tension by stressing on the one hand the “sovereign equality” of all member states and, on the other, assigning to the permanent five members of the Security Council a privileged position.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in session

Nonetheless, what was not foreseen in 1945 when the UN Charter was drafted was the increasing international role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “We the Peoples” in whose name the UN Charter is established, are present in the activities of the UN through NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. NGOs have played a crucial role in awareness-building and in the creation of new programs in the fields of population, refugees and migrants, women and children, human rights, and food. Now, there is a strong emphasis on the consequences of climate change as the issue has moved beyond the reports of climate experts to broad and strong NGO actions.

This increase in the UN related nongovernmental action arises out of the work and ideas of many people active in social movements: spiritual, ecological, human potential, feminist, and human rights. Many individuals saw that their activities had a world dimension, and that the UN and such Specialized Agencies as UNESCO provided avenues for action. Thus, as we mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, we recognize that there is the growth, worldwide, of a new spirit which is inclusive, creative, and thus life-transforming.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

The Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

In Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2021 at 8:24 PM

By René Wadlow

International Mother Earth Day on April 22 each year was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2009. Its aim is to promote living in harmony with Nature and to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations. The concept of living in harmony with Nature was seen by the UN delegates as a way “to improve the ethical basis of the relationship between humankind and our planet.” It is the biosphere to which we belong. It is becoming the common heritage of mankind which we must defend.

The term “Mother Earth” is an expression used in different cultures to symbolize the inseparable bonds between humans and Nature. Pachamama is the term used in the Andean cultures of South America. The Earth and the ecosystem are our home. We need to care for it as a mother is supposed to care for her children and the children to show love and gratitude in return. However, we know from all the folk tales of the evil stepmother as well as the records of psychoanalytic sessions that mother-children relations are not always relations of love, care and gratitude. Thus, to really live in harmony with Nature requires deep shifts in values and attitudes, not just “sustainable development” projects.

The UN began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm. However, the concept of living in harmony with Nature is relatively new as a UN political concept. Yet it is likely to be increasingly a theme for both governmental policy making and individual action.

As Rodney Collin wrote in a letter, “It is extraordinary how the key-word of harmony occurs everywhere now, comes intuitively to everyone’s lips when they wish to express what they hope for. But I feel that we have hardly yet begun to study its real meaning. Harmony is not an emotion, an effect. It is a whole elaborate science, which for some reason has only been fully developed in the realm of sound. Science, psychology and even religion are barely touching it as yet.” (1)

Resolutions in the UN General Assembly can give a sense of direction. They indicate that certain ideas and concepts are ready to be discussed at the level of governments. However, a resolution is not yet a program of action or even a detailed framework for discussion. “Living in harmony with Nature” is at that stage on the world agenda. As Citizens of the World, we strive to develop an integrated program of action.

Note
1) His letters have been assembled after his death by his wife into a book:
Rodney Collin, The Theory of Conscious Harmony (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1958)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Hugo Grotius: The Law of States

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 13, 2021 at 7:50 PM

By René Wadlow

Hugo Grotius (April 10, 1583 – August 28, 1645) whose birth anniversary we mark on April 10 played a crucial role in the development of the Law of States, in particular through two books written in Latin Mare Librium (Liberty of the Seas) 1609 and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (Law in War and Peace) 1625) Grotius is a key figure in the transition between the older feudal period and the important role of city-states and the development of a state system.

Grotius showed his intellectual talents early in life and was considered a youthful genius. At 17, in 1601, he published Adamus Exul (The Exile of Adam). In the drama, Satan is sharply critical of God’s grand design and is jealous of Adam being prepared to share in it having done nothing to bringing it about. Grotius’s Eve is a lovely, loving and enchanting partner, but is bored and ready for an apple. John Milton who met Grotius in Paris and read Adamus Exul there used many of the same themes in his Paradise Lost.

Hugo Grotius was Protestant and also wrote on religious subjects. However, he was caught up in intra-Protestant theological disputes in what is today Holland. Due to these theological tensions, he lived most of his life in Paris – 1621 to 1644 – where he served as the Ambassador of the Court of Sweden, a Protestant country. He was well thought of by the French King, Louis XIll, and Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind the King.

As the feudal period was ending, laws had to be formulated so that relations among states were not to be based only on material strength. Just as Hugo Grotius was writing at a time of a historic shift from the structures of the feudal period to the creation of states, so today there is a shift from international law in which the focus is on law concerning states to an emphasis on law with the focus on the individual citizen. Just as feudal structures and city-states did not disappear, so today, states are still present but there is a shift in focus. Today, we have an increase in multistate entities such as the European Union, the African Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the one hand and multinational corporations and individuals on the other.

The shift to the law of the person grew from the lawlessness of states during the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights created a new focus, and it was followed by the two International Covenants on Human Rights and then the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The system of monitoring, investigation and reporting set up by the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies are important avenues to focus upon individuals. As then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the center of everything we do.” The UN’s influence is derived not from power but from the values it represents, its role in helping to set and sustain global norms, its ability to stimulate global concern and action, and the trust inspired by its ability to improve the lives of people.

UN efforts to extend international law to the practice of transnational corporations have not acquired the momentum that the focus on the rights and obligations of individuals has done. However, there is a growing emphasis on what is increasingly called “civil society”. The civil society that has emerged and evolved around the UN spans a wide range of interests, expertise and competencies. While there are UN structures for dealing with non-governmental organizations which are granted consultative status, there is no equivalent structure for dealing with transnational corporations although some have real influence on the policies of governments and the lives of people.

Today, there is a need to increase the rule of law within the world society. We need individuals with the vision and dedication of Hugo Grotius.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

%d bloggers like this: