The Official Blog of the

Archive for 2019|Yearly archive page

Libya: Will the UN Appeal for a Halt to the March on Tripoli Be Heard?

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2019 at 9:51 PM

By René Wadlow

With the administrative-political situation in Libya badly stalemated and a meeting for negotiations to be held April 14-16 unlikely to make progress, on Thursday, April 4, 2019, General Khalifa Haftar, one of the key players in the drama decided to start a “March on Tripoli” and to take overall power by force.

Most of the significant buildings in Libyan cities were built by Italians during the Fascist period, when Libya was an Italian colony. Thus, General Haftar has patterned himself on Mussolini’s 1922 “March on Rome”. In 1922, the diplomats of most States looked away when Mussolini marched or the diplomats took it as a domestic affair.

In 2019, the “March on Tripoli” has drawn more international attention and concern. The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, met with Haftar a few hours before the March began. Guterres was in Libya to facilitate the April 14-16 meeting on which his Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, has been working for some time in the hope of drawing a road map for long-delayed elections. On Friday, April 5, the UN Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting. The Security Council called for a halt to the March on Tripoli and the de-escalation of the growing armed conflict.

The Security Council recognized the real possibilities of broader armed conflict and its consequences on the civilian population. In the recent past, the Libyan armed factions have violated the laws of war and have a sad record of abuses against civilians.

We will now have to see if Khalifa Haftar is more open to international appeals than was Benito Mussolini. My impression is that the goal of holding overall power is stronger than the respect of international law. However, even a successful “March on Tripoli” will not create the conditions for an administration of a culturally and geographically-diverse country. New and appropriate constitutional structures must be developed.

There cannot be a return to the earlier Italian colonial structures, nor to the forms of government at independence developed by King Idris al Sanussi which depended largely on his role as a religious leader using religious orders, nor the complicated pattern of “direct democracy” developed by Muammar al-Qadhafi. The Association of World Citizens has proposed the possibility of con-federal structures.

The post 2011 Libyan society faces large and complex issues. Resolving the institutional, economic and political issues is urgent and cannot be settled by elections alone. There are three distinct regions which must have some degree of autonomy: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica both bordering the Mediterranean and Fezzan in the southern Sahara. Within each of the three regions there are differing and often rival tribal societies which are in practice more kinship lines than organized tribes. (1) There are differing economic interests and there are differing ideologies ranging from “Arab Socialism” to the Islamist ideology of the Islamic State which has spread from its Syrian-Iraqi base.

The situation is critical, and the next few days may be crucial for the future of the country.

Note

1) See J. Davis. Libyan Politics, Tribes and Revolution (London: I. B. Tauris, 1987)

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

Advertisements

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2019 at 9:47 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has drawn attention to the positive aspects of migration. However, there are also negative aspects so that we are also concerned with migration that is not safe such as trafficking in persons. A UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women at the start of its current two-week session in New York highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the biggest human rights crises today. The vast majority of victims trafficked are for sexual exploitation, while others are exploited for forced labor and forced marriage.

One aspect of migration issues is the issue of the trans-frontier trafficking in persons. Awareness has been growing, but effective remedies are slow and uncoordinated. Effective remedies are often not accessible to victims of trafficking owing to gaps between setting international standards, enacting national laws and then implementation in a humane way.

The international standards have been set out in the “United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” and its “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.” The Convention and the Protocol standards are strengthened by the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.” The worldwide standards have been reaffirmed by regional legal frameworks such as the “Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.”

Despite clear international and regional standards, there is poor implementation, limited government resources and infrastructure dedicated to the issue, a tendency to criminalize victims and restrictive immigration policies in many countries.

Trafficking in persons is often linked to networks trafficking in drugs and arms. Some gangs are involved in all three; in other cases, agreements are made to specialize and not expand into the specialty of other criminal networks.

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As ¼ of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. Therefore, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

The second category are people leaving their country for economic reasons − sometimes called “economic refugees.” Migration for better jobs and a higher standard of living has a long history. Poverty, ethnic and racial discrimination, and gender-based discrimination are all factors in people seeking to change countries. With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries and with a popular “backlash” against migrants in some countries, would-be migrants turn to “passers” − individuals or groups that try to take migrants into a country, avoiding legal controls.

A third category − or a subcategory of economic migration − is the sex trade, usually of women but also children. As a Human Rights Watch study of the Japanese “sex-entertainment” businesses notes, “There are an estimated 150,000 non-Japanese women employed in the Japanese sex industry, primarily from other Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. These women are typically employed in the lower rungs of the industry either in ‘dating’ snack bars or in low-end brothels, in which customers pay for short periods of eight or fifteen minutes. Abuses are common as job brokers and employers take advantage of foreign women’s vulnerability as undocumented migrants: they cannot seek recourse from the police or other law enforcement authorities without risking deportation and potential prosecution, and they are isolated by language barriers, a lack of community, and a lack of familiarity with their surroundings.” We find similar patterns in many countries.

The scourge of trafficking in persons will continue to grow unless strong counter measures are taken. Basically, police and governments worldwide do not place a high priority on the fight against trafficking unless illegal migration becomes a media issue. Thus, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens. There are four aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other three aspects depend on the efforts of the NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which children and women are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of the country and among marginalized populations. Socio-economic and educational development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is the development of housing and of women’s shelters to ensure that persons who have been able to leave exploitive situations have temporary housing and other necessary services.

The fourth aspect is psychological healing. Very often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trades have a disrupted or violent family and have a poor idea of their self-worth. This is also often true of refugees from armed conflict. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimension to the person through teaching meditation and yoga. There are needs for creating adult education facilities so that people may continue a broken education cycle.

There are NGOs who are already working along these lines. Their efforts need to be encouraged and expanded.

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

Navroz: Turkish Troops in Afrin: Renewal and Complexity

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on March 22, 2019 at 11:45 PM

By René Wadlow

May the soul flourish;

May youth be as the new-grown grain.

Navroz, usually celebrated on March 21 in Iran and Central Asia, is the “New Day”, the end of the old year with its hardships and deceptions and the start of the New Year to be filled with hope and optimism. With each periodical festival, the participants find the same sacred time – the same that had been manifested in the festival of the previous year or the festival of a century earlier. It is a day for spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation and is usually a time for reciting devotional poetry, presenting food with symbolic meaning to guests, and visits among family and close friends.

Navroz, which coincides with the Spring Equinox, is related to myths focused on the sun and thus symbolizes the connections of humans to Nature. In some of the myths, Navroz is considered as symbolizing the first day of creation − thus a time when all can be newly created. It is a day between times − old time has died; new time will start the day after Navroz. In this one-day period without time, all is possible. The seeds are planted for a new birth. Among some who celebrate Navroz, real seeds are planted, usually in seven pots with symbolic meanings of virtues. Their growth is an indication of how these virtues will manifest themselves in the coming year. Among those influenced by Islam and Christianity, Navroz is the day when God will raise the dead for the final judgment and the start of eternal life.

Navroz has an ancient Persian origin, related to Abura Mazda, the high god who was symbolized by the sun and manifested by fire. Navroz is also related to the opposite of fire, that is, water. However, water can also be considered not as opposite but as complementary, and thus fire-water can become symbols of harmony. Fire – as light, as an agent of purification, as a manifestation of the basic energy of life − played a large role in Zoroastrian thought and in the teachings of Zarathoustra. Thus, we find fire as a central symbol and incorporated into rituals among the Parsis in India, originally of Iranian origin.

From what is today Iran, Zoroastrian beliefs and ritual spread along the “Silk Road” through Central Asia to China, and in the other direction to the Arab world. As much of this area later came under the influence of Islam, elements of Navroz were given Islamic meanings to the extent that some today consider Navroz an “Islamic holiday”. Navroz is also celebrated among the Alawites in Syria, the Baha’i, the Yezidis, and the Kurds, each group adapting Navroz to its spiritual framework.

In Turkey, for many years, Navroz was officially banned as being too related to the Kurds and thus to Kurdish demands for autonomy or an independent Kurdistan. I recall a number of years ago being invited to participate in a non-violent Kurdish protest in Turkey on Navroz to protest the ban. I declined as the idea of going from Geneva to be put in a Turkish jail was not on top of my list of priorities. Fortunately, for the last few years, the ban has been lifted.

Navroz was marked in 2018 in the Syrian Kurdish area of Afrin by the arrival of Turkish troops and their Syrian allies. One of the first acts of the Turkish troops was to pull down and destroy a statue of Kawa, a mythological founder of the Kurdish people. In the myth, Kawa is a blacksmith who melted iron to make swords and liberate the people from an evil ruler who had been helped by spirits.

2018 Navroz was also the end of a seven-year cycle begun in March 2011, the uprising and then war in Syria. Seven years in many traditions is a significant number.

Thus, Navroz as a day outside of time can be a moment of reflection on the armed conflict in Syria, and on our inability as peace makers to facilitate negotiations in good faith. Now, a new cycle of secular time has begun, made even more complex by the arrival of Turkish troops.

The armed conflict in Syria is complex with outside official players: Iran, Russia, USA, Turkey, the United Nations, the Arab League and more shadowy characters: the Islamic State, a host of intelligence agencies, money and fighters from a variety of sources. We find some of the same players in the war in Yemen. There is, however, agreement among all that killing those who disagree is the only realistic policy. It is a very old and wide-spread idea found in most cultures. The techniques of killing have become more sophisticated – drones and car bombs – but the idea has remained the same and is easily understood.

In contrast, ideas of conflict reduction through changes in structure are more complex: broadening the base of the Syrian government by bringing in individuals from groups largely excluded, creating con-federal forms of association among the Kurds without necessarily creating a separate State, creating a cosmopolitan, humanist society which meets the basic needs of all. Moreover, we on the outside can suggest approaches, but the effort will have to be made by local people.

Those who advocate (and carry out) killing have funds and staff which conflict resolution nongovernmental organizations lack. Yet conflict resolution efforts must continue and grow stronger. A new, even more complex cycle of time has started. The old approach of killing those who disagree remains strong. Yet, I believe that there are possibilities of renewal and cooperative action for a more peaceful and just wider Middle East.

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

Rocky Road to World Law: Need for a UN-led Conference on the Reaffirmation of Humanitarian Law

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 22, 2019 at 10:52 PM

By René Wadlow

World law, as World Citizens use the term, is more than current international law. World law has, as its base, universally-recognized international law but also the human rights declarations and standards, the oft-repeated declarations of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as well as the international legal bodies such as the World Court and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The International Criminal Court is the most recent of the world courts, and its Rome Status has not been ratified by all UN Member States, the United States (U. S.) being a significant holdout.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Some States have withdrawn from the ICC and other States do not cooperate with it, such as the Sudan. The ICC can act only after the relevant national courts have acted or when national courts are unable to act (the case of some ‘failed States’) or when there is an unjustified unwillingness of national courts to act when crimes against humanity have been committed.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has repeatedly stressed that humanitarian law (international law in times of war, primarily the Geneva Conventions) are being systematically violated and that there should be a UN-led World Conference for the Re-affirmation of Humanitarian Law.

In the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, there have been repeated violations of humanitarian law by all sides: violations in the treatment of prisoners of war, violation of the prohibition of torture, prohibition of attacking medical facilities and medical personnel. The ICC has undertaken preliminary investigations to collect evidence. Among those who have violated humanitarian law are U. S. troops, and thus evidence should be collected.

Although most evidence could be collected within Afghanistan itself, it would be useful to interview persons who had served in Afghanistan but now have returned to the U. S. and to see written reports no longer stored in Afghanistan. Thus, the ICC plans to send investigators to the U. S. to interview and collect documentation.

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on March 15, 2019 that the U. S. will revoke or deny visas to ICC personnel investigating allegations of torture or other war crimes committed in the conflicts in Afghanistan. Pompeo also announced that the U. S. will consider imposing financial sanctions and restrictions on “persons who take or have taken action to request or further such ICC investigation”. He could have added imprisonment if we recall those who provided evidence of war crimes in Iraq.

Unfortunately, Pompeo sends the wrong message to all other parties that torture, rape, attacks on medical facilities will not be tried. Pompeo helps to undermine further international humanitarian law.

We have to think back to 1947-1948 and the leadership of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt as chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights to recall any U.S. leadership on world law. Unfortunately, law has never been part of U. S. culture. The lone cowboy taking the law into his own hands by shooting it out on a dusty street seen in many films remains the U. S. ideal.

As mentioned, most of the necessary evidence can be found in Afghanistan itself. Bringing anyone from any party to trial for crimes in Afghanistan seems to me unlikely. Nevertheless, as world citizens, we need to keep the standards of world law in mind. These standards should be clear. Thus, our repeated call for a UN-led conference on the re-affirmation of international humanitarian law.

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

Syria: Concerns Raised and Possible Next Steps

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 16, 2019 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

March 15 is widely used as the date on which the conflict in Syria began. March 15, 2011 was the first “Day of Rage” held in a good number of localities to mark opposition to the repression of youth in the southern city of Daraa, where a month earlier young people had painted anti-government graffiti on some of the walls, followed by massive arrests.

I think that it is important for us to look at why organizations that promote nonviolent action and conflict resolution in the US and Western Europe were not able to do more to aid those in Syria who tried to use nonviolence during the first months of 2011. By June 2011, the conflict had largely become one of armed groups against the government forces, but there were at least four months when there were nonviolent efforts before many started to think that a military “solution” was the only way forward. There were some parts of the country where nonviolent actions continued for a longer period.

There had been early on an effort on the part of some Syrians to develop support among nonviolent and conflict resolution groups. As one Syrian activist wrote concerning the ‘Left’ in the US and Europe but would also be true for nonviolent activists “I am afraid that it is too late for the leftists in the West to express any solidarity with the Syrians in their extremely hard struggle. What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria, its society, its regime, its people, its political economy, its contemporary history. Rarely have I found a useful piece of information or a genuinely creative idea in their analyses “(1)

A Syrian opposition rally in Paris
(C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

In December 2011, there was the start of a short-lived Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. In a February 9, 2012 message to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ambassador Nabil el-Araby, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) proposed a renewal of the Arab League Observer Mission with the inclusion of a greater number of non-governmental organization observers and a broadened mandate to go beyond fact-finding and thus to play an active conflict resolution role at the local level in the hope to halt the downward spiral of violence and killing. In response, members from two Arab human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO) were added for the first time. However, opposition to the conditions of the Arab League Observers from Saudi Arabia let to the end of the Observer Mission.

On many occasions since, the AWC has indicated to the United Nations (UN), the Government of Syria and opposition movements the potentially important role of NGOs, both Syrian and international, in facilitating armed conflict resolution measures.

In these years of war, the AWC, along with others, has highlighted six concerns:

1) The widespread violation of humanitarian law (international law in time of war) and thus the need for a UN-led conference for the re-affirmation of humanitarian law.

2) The widespread violations of human rights standards.

3) The deliberate destruction of monuments and sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

4) The use of chemical weapons in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol signed by Syria at the time, as well as in violation of the more recent treaty banning chemical weapons.

5) The situation of the large number of persons displaced within the country as well as the large number of refugees and their conditions in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. In addition, there is the dramatic fate of those trying to reach Europe.

6) The specific conditions of the Kurds and the possibility of the creation of a trans-frontier Kurdistan without dividing the current States of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

These issues have been raised with diplomats and others participating in negotiations in Geneva as well as with the UN-appointed mediators. In addition, there have been articles published and then distributed to NGOs and others of potential influence.

The Syrian situation has grown increasingly complex since 2011 with more death and destruction as well as more actors involved and with a larger number of refugees and displaced persons. Efforts have been made to create an atmosphere in which negotiations in good faith could be carried out. Good faith is, alas, in short supply. Efforts must continue. An anniversary is a reminder of the long road still ahead.

Notes:

(1) Yassin al-Haj Saleh in Robin Yassin-Kassal and Leila Al-Shami, Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War (London: Pluto Press, 2015, p. 210)

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

AWC To OECD: Include Migrants, Refugees and Disabled in All Efforts Toward SDGs

In Human Development, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, World Law on March 11, 2019 at 12:19 AM

By the AWC External Relations Desk

On March 7, AWC Officers Bernard J. Henry (External Relations) and Noura Addad (Legal) participated in the First Roundtable on Cities and Regions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held at the headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

AWC Officers Bernard J. Henry and Noura Addad (C) AWC

During Session III, “Everyone’s business – beyond governments: how do private sector and civil society contribute to a territorial approach to the SDGs?”, Bernard J. Henry had a chance to make a statement on behalf of the AWC, stressing our concerns for migrants and refugees and for disabled people and urging for full inclusion of both categories of people in any effort undertaken in furtherance of the SDGs.

Here is the full text of his address.

I am Bernard J. Henry, I am the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.
We are a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations, thus a civil society organization.
We strive to promote the goals and principles of the United Nations, bring them to the citizen and create a sense of personal responsibility. That goes for everything, from the protection of universal human rights to the promotion of sustainable development for everyone.
While our principles of action are those of activists, our methods are those of consultants, or, in a way, explorers.
This is our first time at the OECD, and we thank you for inviting us.
We would like to follow up on a point that UNESCO and Ms. Thomas (Margo Thomas, Founder and CEO, Women’s Economic Imperative) raised, successively, for we would like to draw attention to the need to ensure that the SDGs in cities and regions mean inclusion for two categories of people in particular, two global categories, who often go neglected if not rejected as a whole:
First, migrants and refugees, second, disabled people.
Hatred of migrants and refugees, in other words racism and xenophobia, are always quick to show up. Hate speech, sometimes held by national government leaders themselves, hardly changes from one part of the world to another. My own grandparents were already hearing such words when they came to France, fleeing Italy, in the 1920s.
Conversely, not every country neglects or rejects disabled people – and I happen to be one of them – for the same reasons. Sometimes, it is just old-fashioned paternalism, and sometimes it comes down to plain hatred of anyone different.
Then, looking at it closer, you find one common root cause to both these types of rejection:
Migrants and refugees, disabled people, both categories are regarded as persons with problems, a burden to society. The solution is easy: Just start regarding them, regarding us all, as assets to society, as an energy that can be injected in every aspect of life, starting with sustainable development.
We will support all efforts undertaken by the OECD and our fellow stakeholders to ensure that the SDGs include, literally include, all categories of people and more specifically those to whom inclusion is the very first need in life.
Thank you.

(C) AWC

Greeted with applause, the External Relations Officer received many positive reactions from other participants after he finished speaking.

The OECD’s own response was equally enthusiastic. “We’re going to keep you involved”, assured Stefano Marta, Coordinator of the Territorial Approach to SDGs.

Since the early days of its existence, this association has taken an active part in the works of the United Nations (UN), not least at the Human Rights Commission, replaced in 2006 by the Human Rights Council.

The AWC now welcomes cooperation with the OECD too, looking forward to bringing an effective, steady contribution to designing, as the OECD motto goes, “Better policies for better lives”.

The Spiritual and Socialist Start of International Women’s Day

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights on March 8, 2019 at 10:53 PM

By René Wadlow

March 8 is the International Day of Women and thus a time to highlight the specific role of women in local, national and world society. International Women’s Day was first proposed by Clara Zetlin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911. Later, she served as a socialist-communist member of the German Parliament during the Weimar Republic which existed from 1920 to 1933 when Hitler came to power. Zetlin went into exile in the Soviet Union shortly after Hitler came to power. She died there several months later in 1933.

Zetkin had lived some years in Paris and was active in women’s movements there. The women were building on the 1889 International Congress for Feminine Works and Institutions held in Paris under the leadership of Ana de Walska.  De Walska was part of the circle of young Russian and Polish intellectuals in Paris around Gerard Encausse (1865-1916), a spiritual writer who wrote under the pen name of Papus and edited a journal, L’Initiation (1). Papus stressed the need for world peace. In 1901 Papus spent time in Russia as a spiritual adviser to Tsar Nicholas II. Papus had warned the Tsar against the growing influence of Rasputin.

Clara Zetkin

This turn-of-the-century spiritual milieu was influenced by Indian and Chinese thought. Translations of fundamental Asian philosophical texts were increasingly known in an educated public. ‘Feminine’ and ‘masculine’ were related to the Chinese terms of Yin and Yang − not opposed but in a harmonic balance.  Men and women alike have within themselves the Yin and Yang psychological characteristics. ‘Feminine’ characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive and relational traits.  ‘Masculine’ traits are rational, assertive and analytical.

Yin and Yang

As individual persons, men and women alike can achieve a state of wholeness, of balance between the Yin and Yang.  However, in practice, ‘masculine’ refers to men and ‘feminine’ to women.  Thus, some feminists identify the male psyche as the prime cause of the subordination of women around the world.  Men are seen as having nearly a genetic coding that leads them to ‘seize’ power, to institutionalize that power through patriarchal societal structures and to buttress that power with masculine values and culture.

Thus, Clara Zetkin saw the need to call attention in a forceful way to the role that women as women play in society and the many blocks which men place in their way.  She made her proposal in 1911 and the idea of the Day was taken up within the Socialist movements.

The harmonious balance of Yin and Yang, present in the early discussions around Ana de Walska and Papus, largely dropped out of the Socialist version of International Women’s Day.  However, with greater attention being given to Chinese philosophical thought, we may see a revival of the theme.

The emerging world society has been slow to address the problem of injustice to women, because it has lacked a consensus on sex-based inequality as an urgent issue of political justice.  The outrages suffered every day by millions of women − domestic violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage, inequality before the law, poverty and lack of dignity require concerted action. Leadership on these issues comes more often from nongovernmental organizations rather than legislative action. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements to create sustainable ways of living in which all categories of people are encouraged to contribute. March 8, 2019 is a reminder of the positive steps taken but also the distance yet to be covered.

Note

1. See the biography by Marie-Sophie André and Christophe Beaufils, Papus (Paris: Berg International, 1995, 354pp.)

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


That Cooler Heads May Prevail

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on February 22, 2019 at 1:19 AM

By René Wadlow

When the drums of war start beating, can cooler heads prevail and negotiations in good faith start? Vijay Mehta has written a useful overview of efforts to create a Department of Peace within governments so that there would be an institutionalized official voice proposing other avenues than war. (1)

Such proposals are not new. In 1943, Alexander Wiley, a liberal Republican senator had proposed to President Franklin Roosevelt that he establish a cabinet-level post of Secretary of Peace as there was already a Secretary of War. The Secretary of War has now been renamed Secretary of Defense, but the function has not radically changed.

A Secretary of Peace in Wiley’s vision would be charged with preempting conflicts before they exploded into violence and proposing peaceful resolutions. In the USA after the end of the Second World War, in a “never again” atmosphere, other members of Congress suggested the creation of such a Department of Peace. However, such a vision was never transformed into a reality.

As the Cold War took up ever more energy and funds, a compromise was reached in 1984 at the time that Ronald Reagan was President. The United States (U. S.) Institute of Peace was created and has produced some useful publications and does some conflict resolution training for diplomats and mediators. However, the leadership of the Institute of Peace has not played a visible role in foreign policy formation. One must look elsewhere for cooler voices to cover the beat of the war drums.

The headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D. C.

There is currently a test in real time as the situation in Venezuela grows more complex. There are real possibilities of armed violence, ranging from armed violence within the country to the creation of armed militias operating from Colombia and Brazil as the Contras had in the Nicaragua case, to an old-fashioned intervention by U. S. troops. All these “cards are on the table”. There is no Secretary of Peace officially in the U. S. Government (nor in that of Venezuela either) The influence of national security advisors to the U. S. President has grown, and they have the advantage of frequent personal contact.

Latin America has often been considered as a U. S. “zone of influence”. Unlike current situations in the Middle East which are of direct concern to European States, Latin America has never been a priority of European countries with the exception of Soviet-Cuban relations. Spain has a cultural and economic interest in Latin America but does not try to influence U. S. policy toward individual States. The current U. S. administration seems largely indifferent to the views of the United Nations (U. N.). On the Venezuela crisis the U. N. Secretary-General has called for calm and restraint but has made no specific proposals.

In the U. S. there are a good number of “Think Tanks” devoted to policy making as well as university departments and programs with a geographic – area studies – orientation. As I am not a specialist on Latin America (most of my academic focus has been Africa and the Middle East), I do not know which have strong policy impact. I have seen relatively few public statements coming from academic Latin American specialists, though there is probably outreach to representatives in Congress.

Thus, we must watch the policy-making process closely. Obviously, my hope is that the cooler minds will win out and compromises made, such as holding new elections with international election monitors. This is a test in real time of Vijay Mehta’s aim How Not to Go to War.

Note:
(1) Vijay Mehta. How Not to Go to War: Establishing Departments for Peace and Peace Centres Worldwide (Oxford: New Internationalist Publications, 2019)

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

Reprisals on Human Rights Defenders: Need for NGO Action

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, World Law on February 5, 2019 at 11:28 PM

By René Wadlow

On January 23, 2019, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, in a statement listed States which had carried out reprisals or intimidation including killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests against individuals cooperating with the UN on human rights issues. He said,

“The world owes it to these brave people standing up for human rights, who have responded to requests to provide information and to engage with the United Nations to ensure their rights to participate is respected. Punishing individuals for cooperating with the United Nations is a shameful practice that everyone must do more to stamp out.” He went on to add “Governments frequently charged human rights activists with terrorism or blamed them for cooperating with foreign entities or damaging the state’s reputation of security.”

The UN human rights bodies and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have established a number of mechanisms for gathering information on the status of human rights in certain countries or about certain issues. In practice, most of this information is complaints on the violation of human rights. In some cases, the information comes from the local branch of an international nongovernmental organization and also from a national human rights organization. In other cases, it comes from a victim or the family of a victim. Information may also come from journalists, religious groups, or visitors to a country who are willing to carry a message out of the country.

Many human rights defenders are people working in isolated, remote areas far from the international networks of protection. These unsung defenders become a vulnerable target in areas where impunity prevails, and assailants operate with virtual no fear of having to account for their crimes. Nevertheless, international appeals with accuracy of information and speed of reaction can be helpful which the Association of World Citizens (AWC) knows from direct experience.

With the often cited “War on Terrorism”, there is a disturbing trend to use national security reasons and counterterrorism strategies by States as a justification for blocking access by communities and civil society groups to UN human rights staff. Women cooperating with the UN have reported threats of rape and being subject to on-line smear campaigns.

The information is collected at the UN High Commissioner’s Office in Geneva and is evaluated to see if the information fits into a pattern of continuing human rights violations or if it is an individual event. In some cases, the same information is also given to well-known human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The AWC receives a certain amount of information which is usually passed on orally to the UN Secretariat in Geneva without the names of the contacts. Like journalists, one must protest one’s sources. On the other hand, the AWC cannot prove the information. Thus, in its public statements, this association only raises broad country situations such as the national minorities and the Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma). However, in private letters to the UN Ambassadors in Geneva and New York, we raise specific cases, often of what is increasingly called “human rights defenders”.

I present the States listed by broad geographic region rather than all together in alphabetical order as they are in the UN statement as other States in each region may also have human rights violation issues, often inter-related to the State named. Thus, the list of States is only those which the UN is aware that there have been reprisals against individuals who have given information to the UN units. We will close with some observations on what NGOs can do to limit such reprisals.

Middle East & North Africa

Bahrain
Egypt
Israel
Saudi Arabia
Morocco

Africa

Cameroon
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Mali
Rwanda
South Sudan

Asia

China
India
Maldives
Myanmar
Philippines
Thailand
Turkey

Latin America

Colombia
Cuba
Guatemala
Guyana
Honduras
Trinidad and Tobago
Venezuela

Europe

Hungary
Russian Federation

Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan
Turkmenistan

The impact and increasingly higher profile of human rights informants has left them more and more exposed to a high risk of harassment, repression, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial executions. Governments are not the only actors. Depending on the country, there can be gangs, militias, paramilitary and other nongovernmental groups who also menace people thought to be giving information to the UN or to international human rights organizations.

The publication by the UN of its list is done with the hope that governments themselves will take positive action to protect. In some countries, internal security services or police-related “death squads” may act without the knowledge of the highest authorities of the State. In other States, there is little repression that does not come on orders of the higher authorities. There is a need for representatives of NGOs and also the media to be alert, especially for violations in States which are not otherwise in the news. Active networking remains crucial.

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

%d bloggers like this: