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The World, Its Protection, Its Citizens

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 30, 2015 at 12:13 PM

THE WORLD, ITS PROTECTION, ITS CITIZENS

By René Wadlow

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --
On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I would like to send you our best wishes for 2016.

May it be a year that brings peace and harmony closer to our world. Progress in the world is based on the emergence of ideas, their acceptance, their transformation into ideals, and then into programs of action.

2015 has seen within the United Nations (UN) system two major frameworks of ideas and suggested plans of action. The first was the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and the second was the Paris COP 21 goals and treaty to deal with climate change.  These guidelines require close cooperation among national governments, the UN and other multilateral government institutions such as the European Union, and the wide range of non-governmental organizations including business and agriculture associations.  We need to move from fragmented efforts to strong partnerships.

However, these positive goals need to be seen against the background of current armed conflicts and violent extremism often rooted in a deadly mix of exclusion and marginalization, mismanagement of natural resources, oppression and the alienation arising from a lack of jobs and opportunities. The World is in need of protection, both of people and Nature.  As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of responsibility to participate fully in the emerging world society where disputes among States are settled within the framework of world law and through negotiations in good faith so that common interests may be found and developed.

As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of compassion for Nature, and thus we unite to safeguard the delicate balance of the natural environment and to develop the world’s resources for the common good.

Today, we all face a choice between those forces that would drive us apart, forces and attitudes such as racism, narrow nationalism and the aggressive pursuit of self-interest on the one hand, and on the other hand, those forces which promote an emerging world society that is equitable and harmonious. I am sure that you also will choose to work for wholeness, harmony and creativity.

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

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International Day of Migrants: Need for a UN-led World Conference on Migration and Refugee Flows

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 18, 2015 at 9:52 AM

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MIGRANTS: NEED FOR A UN-LED WORLD CONFERENCE ON MIGRATION AND REFUGEE FLOWS

By René Wadlow

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December 18 was set by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to call attention to the role of migrants in the world society. The date was chosen to mark the creation of the UN-negotiated International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The aim of the Convention was to insure that migrants and their families would continue to be covered by the human rights standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenants, and other human rights treaties. In practice, migrants are often “between two chairs” − no longer of concern to the State they have left and not yet covered by the human rights laws of the State to which they have gone.

Ratifications of the Convention have been slow with a good number of governments making reservations that generally weaken the impact of the Convention. In 2004, a commission of independent experts was set up to study the reports to the UN of governments on the application of the Convention − a commission that is part of the Human Rights Treaty Body System. Reports from each government party to the Convention are to be filed once every four years. However, the discussions within the Migration Treaty Body and its subsequent report attract the attention of only a small number of people. However, the discussion deals with the report of only one government at a time while migration is always a multi-State issue and can have worldwide implications.

Moreover, many States consider that earlier International Labor Organization conventions deal adequately with migrant rights and see no need to sign a new convention.

Citizens of the world have stressed that the global aspects of migration flows have an impact on all countries. The changing nature of the world’s economies modify migration patterns, and there is a need to plan for migration as the result of possible environmental-climate changes.

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The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become a high profile political issue. Many migrants come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union (EU) have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

EU officials have met frequently to discuss how to deal with the migrant-refugee flow, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. At a popular level, there have been expressions of fear of migrants, of possible terrorists among them, and a rejection of their cultures. These popular currents, often increased by right-wing political parties make decisions all the more difficult to take. An exaggerated sense of threat fuels anti-immigration sentiments and creases a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.

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Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is calling for a UN-led world conference on migration and refugee issues, following earlier UN world conferences on the environment, food, housing, women, population, youth, human rights and other world issues. The pattern of such UN-led world conferences usually follows a common pattern: encouragement of research and data collection by UN agencies, national governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academic institutions. Then regional meetings are held to study the regional dimensions of the issue. The regional conferences are followed by the world conference of government representatives with the participation of NGO delegates of organizations which hold consultative status. Usually there is also a parallel NGO conference with a wider range of NGOs present, especially those active at the local or national level. From such a world conference a plan of action is set to influence action by UN agencies, national governments, and NGOs.

Only a UN-led conference with adequate research and prior discussions can meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. A UN-led world conference on migration can highlight possible trends and especially start to build networks of cooperation to meet this world challenge.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

The Genocide Convention: An Unused But Not Forgotten Standard of World Law

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 9, 2015 at 7:58 PM

THE GENOCIDE CONVENTION: AN UNUSED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN STANDARD OF WORLD LAW

By René Wadlow

On the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, it is imperative to identify a relevant existing body – such as the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – to strengthen in order to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”

December 9 is the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, signed at the UN General Assembly held in 1948 in Paris. The Genocide Convention was signed the day before the proclamation on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two texts were much influenced by the Second World War. The crimes of Nazi Germany were uppermost in the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention in order to deal with a new aspect of international law and the laws of war. The cry was “Never again!”

The protection of civilians from deliberate mass murder was already in The Hague and Geneva Conventions of international humanitarian law. However, genocide is different from mass murder. Genocide is the most extreme consequences of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill) [1].

Genocide in the sense of a desire to eliminate a people has nearly always a metaphysical aspect as well as deep-seated racism. This was clear in the Nazi desire to eliminate Jews, first by forced emigration from Europe and, when emigration was not possible, by physical destruction.

The genocide of the Jewish people in Europe during World War II, carried out in such infamous places as the Auschwitz concentration camp pictured above, was the leading cause for the drafting and adoption of the UN Genocide Convention. The following day, the UN General Assembly also adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The genocide of the Jewish people in Europe during World War II, carried out in such infamous places as the Auschwitz concentration camp pictured above, was the leading cause for the drafting and adoption of the UN Genocide Convention. The following day, the UN General Assembly also adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We see a desire to destroy totally certain tribes in the Darfur conflict in Sudan that did not exist in the much longer and more deadly North-South Sudan Civil War (1956-1972, 1982-2005). Darfur tribes are usually defined by “blood lines” — marriage and thus procreation is limited to a certain population, either within the tribe or with certain other groups with which marriage relations have been created over a period of time. Thus children born of rape — considered ‘Janjaweed babies ‘— after the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias— are left to die or are abandoned. The raped women are often banished or ostracized. By attacking both the aged, holders of traditional knowledge, and the young of child-bearing age, the aim of the destruction of the continuity of a tribal group is clear.

We find the same pattern in some of the fighting in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo where not only are women raped but their sexual organs are destroyed so that they will not be able to reproduce.

As then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at UNESCO in 1998,

“Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War − the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time − this decade even − has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide − the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins − is now a word of our time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

Mr. Nicodène Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

In a telegram sent from Paris in December 1948, Raphael Lemkin asked Ms. William Dick Sporberg, a member of the United States Committee for a United Nations (UN) Genocide Convention, to organize a cable campaign to persuade the United States Mission to the UN to support the adoption of the convention. Until the very last minute, no efforts were to be spared if the Genocide Convention was to come to existence and make the hopes of a whole generation traumatized by wide-scale extermination come true. (C) Google Cultural Institute/Center for Jewish History

In a telegram sent from Paris in December 1948, Raphael Lemkin asked Ms. William Dick Sporberg, a member of the United States Committee for a United Nations (UN) Genocide Convention, to organize a cable campaign to persuade the United States Mission to the UN to support the adoption of the convention. Until the very last minute, no efforts were to be spared if the Genocide Convention was to come to existence and make the hopes of a whole generation traumatized by wide-scale extermination come true. (C) Google Cultural Institute/Center for Jewish History

Article VIII of the Genocide Conventions provides that “Any Contracting Party may call upon the Competent Organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the UN as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III”. Unfortunately no State has ever done so.

Thus we need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially-directed massacres of civilians of whatever number cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement − whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors − including political movements − to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State because they belong to certain racial, ethnic or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religion, ethnic and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the radio Mille Collines perhaps the premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the UN to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from non-governmental organizations, the UN Secretary-General has named an individual adviser on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one adviser among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The CERD created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service CERD. Through its urgent procedures mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens (AWC) and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

Notes

  1. Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944)
  2. For good overviews see: Walliman and Dobkowski (Eds) Genocide and the Modern Age (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), F. Chalk, K. Jonassohn. The History and Sociology of Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), G. J. Andreopoulos (Ed) Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), Samantha Power A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002), John Tirman, The Death of Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), William Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Crossing Cultural and Linguistic Boundaries: International Volunteer Day

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 5, 2015 at 5:45 PM

CROSSING CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC BOUNDARIES: INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY
By René Wadlow

Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expectations of material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose.
-Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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December 5 was selected as the International Volunteer Day by a 1985 UN General Assembly resolution. This year, December 5 comes as government representatives and volunteers of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are meeting in Paris to develop a new international climate agreement, COP 21. The NGO representatives are fewer in number than originally planned due to the November 13 shootings in Paris and thus tightened security conditions. However, those that are present are doubly active as world media attention is focused on the conference and its outcome.

In practice, as with all major UN conferences, negotiations among governments have been going on for two years with a good deal of input from NGO representatives. At the Paris stage, there is a preliminary “Final Document and Action Plan” of some 30 pages with a good number of square brackets around words or sentences on which there is no agreement. Negotiations concern making the document shorter so that the main ideas will stand out better and to remove square brackets. If a suitable word is not found, often the whole sentence will be dropped.

Both government representatives and NGOs are discussing post-Paris action and coalition building. There is also a concerted effort to bring the business community, especially transnational corporations into the action. While the UN system has a structure of consultative status for NGOs through the Economic and Social Council, the world of business is largely not represented. Only the International Labor Organization with its headquarters in Geneva has a three-party membership: governments, trade unions and business associations from each of the member States. The business world is not really a “voluntary association” in the sense of NGOs. Material reward is an important element in business.

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COP 21 is a prime example of the need for cooperative action at the local, national and world level. As has been often said, the climate does not recognize national frontiers. The relations among ecologically-sound development, security, conflict resolution and respect for human rights have now assumed a more dynamic form than at any other time since the creation of the United Nations in 1945. To meet these strong challenges, NGOs, academic institutions, business and professional associations and the media must work together cooperatively. International Volunteer Day can serve as a time of reflection on capacity building and improved networking.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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