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Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875 – September 4, 1965): Reverence for Life

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 14, 2021 at 10:51 PM

By René Wadlow

The human race must be converted to a fresh mental attitude, if it is not to suffer extinction… A new renaissance, much greater than that in which we emerged from the Middle Ages, is absolutely essential. Are we going to draw from the spirit enough strength to create new conditions and turn our faces once again to civilization, or are we going to draw our inspiration from our surroundings and go down with them to ruin? — Albert Schweitzer

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné. Alsatian wine would be served at lunch, and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks. In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some 500 yards down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration. As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

I was interviewing Gabonese staying at the hospital on what they thought of schools, of schoolteachers, of their hopes for their children. When Schweitzer was not busy writing, I would go sit with him and discuss. Since many of the people who came from Europe or the USA to visit him would always say “Yes, Doctor, I agree”, he had relatively little time for them. But since I would say, “But no, you also have to take this into account…” he was stimulated and we had long talks. On his basic position of reverence for life, I was in agreement, and I have always appreciated the time spent on the river’s edge.

As Norman Cousins has noted,

“the main point about Schweitzer is that he helped make it possible for twentieth-century man to unblock his moral vision. There is a tendency in a relativistic age for man to pursue all sides of a question as an end in itself, finding relief and even refuge in the difficulty of defining good and evil. The result is a clogging of the moral sense, a certain feeling of self-consciousness or even discomfort when questions with ethical content are raised. Schweitzer furnished the nourishing evidence that nothing is more natural in life than a moral response, which exists independently of precise definition, its use leading not to exhaustion but to new energy.”

The moral response for Schweitzer was “reverence for life”. Schweitzer had come to Lambaréné in April 1913, already well known for his theological reflections on the eschatological background of Jesus’ thought as well as his study of Bach. As an Alsatian he was concerned with the lack of mutual understanding, the endless succession of hatred and fear, between France and Germany that led to war a year later.

Since Alsace was part of Germany at the time, Schweitzer was considered an enemy alien in the French colony of Gabon. When war broke out he was first restricted to the missionary station where he had started his hospital and later was deported and interned in France. He returned to Gabon after the First World War, even more convinced of the need to infuse thought with a strong ethical impulse. His reflections in The Decay and Restoration of Civilization trace in a fundamental way the decay. He saw clearly that

“the future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaningless and hopelessness which characterizes the thoughts and convictions of men today, and reaching a state of fresh hope and fresh determination.”

He was looking for a basic principle that would provide the basis of the needed renewal. That principle arose from a mystical experience. He recounts how he was going down river to Ngomo, a missionary station with a small clinic. In those days, there were steamboats on the Ogowé, and seated on the deck, he had been trying to write all day. After a while, he stopped writing and only watched the equatorial forest as the boat moved slowly on. Then the words “reverence for life” came into his mind, and his reflections had found their core: life must be both affirmed and revered. Ethics, by its very nature, is linked to the affirmation of the good. Schweitzer saw that he was

“life which wants to live, surrounded by life which wants to live. Being will-to-life, I feel the obligation to respect all will-to-life about me as equal to my own. The fundamental idea of good is thus that it consists in preserving life, in favoring it, in wanting to bring it to its highest value, and evil consists in destroying life, doing it injury, hindering its development.”

Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben, — reverence for life — was the key concept for Schweitzer — all life longs for fullness and development as a person does for himself. However, the will to live is not static; there is a inner energy which pushes on to a higher state — a will to self-realization. Basically, this energy can be called spiritual. As Dr. Schweitzer wrote

“One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history.” The use of Schweitzer’s principle of Reverence for Life can have a profound impact on how humans treat the environment. Reverence for Life rejects the notion that humans can use the environment for its own purposes without any consideration of its consequences for other living things. It accepts the view that there is a reciprocal relationship among living things. Each species is linked to many others.”

Aldo Leopold in his early statement of a deep ecology ethic, A Sand County Almanac, makes the same point:

“All ethics so far evolved rest on a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts…The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soil, water, plants, and animals, or collectively, the land.”

War and the potential of the use of nuclear weapons is the obvious opposite of reverence for life. Thus, in the mid-1950s, when the political focus was on the testing in the atmosphere of nuclear weapons, Schweitzer came out strongly for an abolition of nuclear tests. Some had warned him that such a position could decrease his support among those who admired his medical work in Africa but who wanted to support continued nuclear tests. However, for Schweitzer, an ethic which is not presented publicly is no ethic at all. His statements on the nuclear weapons issue are collected in his Peace or atomic war? (1958). The statements had an impact with many, touched by the ethical appeal when they had not been moved to action by political reasoning. These protests led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which bans tests in the atmosphere — an important first step.

Schweitzer was confident that an ethic impulse was in all people and would manifest itself if given the proper opportunity.

“Just as the rivers are much less numerous than underground streams, so the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what men and women carry in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. Mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted and bringing the underground waters to the surface.”

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

Maurice Béjart: Starting Off the Year with a Dance

In Africa, Arts, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Europe, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 1, 2021 at 3:09 PM

By René Wadlow

January 1 is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, an innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences. He was a World Citizen of culture and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture. His death on November 22, 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation. One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future. Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis du Sénégal, with a French mother and a Senegalese father. Senegal, and especially Leopold Sedar Senghor, pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger. Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

Gaston Berger

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years. Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle. Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière. Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theater-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opera de Paris and then with the well-known choreographer Roland Petit. Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration. He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia. The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment. The teaching and movements of G. I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character. Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart. The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follower of Gurdjieff. Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

Maurice Béjart

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne. While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes. He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures. An inspiration for World Citizens to follow.

Maurice Béjart’s dancers performing Pierre Henry’s Messe pour le Temps présent at the Avignon festival in 1967. © Jean-Louis Boissier

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

PRESS RELEASE – 20200914/Migrants and Refugees/Human Rights

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Press release, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 14, 2020 at 7:49 AM

Press Release

September 14, 2020

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THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS PROPOSES

INCREASED GOVERNMENTAL AND NONGOVERNMENTAL ACTION

FOR AN ENLIGHTENED POLICY

TOWARD MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

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Recent events have highlighted the need for a dynamic and enlightened policy toward migrants and refugees. The refugee camp in Moria, on Lesbos Island, Greece, which burned to the ground on September 9, 2020, hosted over 13,000 refugees and migrants, most from Afghanistan with others from Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and an increasing number from West Africa. Among them were thousands of defenseless women and children, victims of war, violence and later from xenophobia, islamophobia and racism. Prior to the fire, the refugees were already living in poor conditions, in small tents on wet ground without clean drinking water or medical care.

Since the fire, most of the refugees in Moria, including newborn babies, have been sleeping in the streets while xenophobic locals harass them and armed policemen, known for their far-right sympathies, threaten them.

A second drama of refugees and migrants is being acted out in the French Department of Pas-de-Calais, as refugees try to reach England before December 31, 2020, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, thus ending the existing accords on refugees and migrants. Many have paid large sums of money for the possibility to reach England, often in unsafe makeshift boats.

The Association of World Citizens, along with other humanitarian organizations, has worked actively for world law concerning migrants and refugees – policies which need to be strengthened and, above all, applied respecting the dignity of each person: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/06/20/world-refugee-day/

PRESS RELEASE – 20200909/Sudan/Human Rights

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Press release, Solidarity, Sudan, World Law on September 8, 2020 at 11:06 AM

PRESS RELEASE

Paris, September 9, 2020

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HALA KHALID ABUGROUN, A LAWYER

AND WOMAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER UNDER THREAT:

TIME FOR SUDAN TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES AT LAST

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In an Appeal to the authorities of the transitional government of Sudan, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) highlighted the present situation of Ms Hala Khalid Abugroun, Attorney at Law, a Woman Human Rights Defender. Attorney Abugroun is a member of the “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative which wishes to set out strong guidelines for the society in transition. Attorney Abugroun and colleagues have been harassed and threatened by members of the still powerful National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

The AWC stresses that the United Nations (UN) is the main instrument for the community of States to guide life in common, according to standards which all have accepted in agreeing to the UN Charter and according also to the provisions of world law. Among these provisions are the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 53/144 and the Resolution on Protecting Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on March 15, 2013.

The AWC understands that the Sudan is in a transition process toward a more law-based society. A historic decision has already been made to separate religion and state, ending an improper political use of private belief to repressive ends which spanned some three decades. This is the right time to make the right choices in terms of international human rights commitments too.

Therefore, the AWC urges the Sudanese Government to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Such a move would help Sudan to develop measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all persons.

There also has to be an immediate, thorough, and impartial investigation into the threats against and harassment of Attorney Hala Khalid Abugroun with a view to bringing those responsible to justice consistently with international standards.

Mali: More Instability in an Unstable Region

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM

By René Wadlow

The August 18, 2020 coup by Malian military leaders brought an end to the unstable government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known by his initials IBK. He had come to power on March 22, 2012 in another military coup which had ended the administration of President Amadou Trouré. This 2012 coup highlighted the weakness of the government structures and the narrow geographic base of the administration’s power. This realization led to a revolt in the north of the country led by two rival Tuareg groups as well as Islamist militias of non-Tuareg fighters coming from other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria. Mali was effectively divided into two roughly equal half, each half about the size of France.

French troops were sent from France in January 2013 to prevent an expansion of the territory held by the Tuareg and the Islamists, but were not able to develop a stable administration.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali had been poorly administered since its independence in 1960. Economic development had been guided by political and ethnic considerations. During the French colonial period, from the 1890s to 1960, the French administration was based in Dakar, Senegal, a port on the Atlantic with secondary schools, a university, and an educated middle class. Mali was considered an “outpost” (called French Sudan at the time) and largely governed by the French military more interested in keeping order than in development.

IBK’s administration was widely criticized by much of the population for its incompetence, favoritism, and corruption especially by family members such as his son Karim Keita. Islamist groups remained powerful in parts of the north and central Mali. The whole Sahel area, in particular the frontier area of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso still has powerful and violent Islamist militias. This instability is an increasing menace to the coastal countries of Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Over the past year, discontent with IBK has led to a loose coalition of opposition groups known by the title M5 – RFP, of which the conservative Islamic imam Mahmoud Dicko is a leading figure.

French soldiers deployed in Mali

For the moment, the Mali military leaders have formed the Comité national pour le salut du peuple (The National Committee for the Salvation of the People). It is led by Col. Assimi Gaita, a special forces leader. The Committee has said that it is forming a military-civil transitional government that will lead to elections in nine months.

The challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel area are great, in large measure linked to the lack of socio-economic development, economic stagnation, and poor administration. The situation is made worse by the consequences of global warming and persistent drought. The military are not trained to be development workers. A broad cooperative effort of all sectors of the population is needed. Will the military be able to develop such a broadly-based cooperative effort? Mali and the Sahel merit close attention.

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

L’ONU n’a plus le droit aux rendez-vous manqués en matière de racisme

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 21, 2020 at 10:56 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

Il fallait s’y attendre. Après la mort de l’Afro-Américain George Floyd à Minneapolis (Minnesota) le 25 mai, étouffé par le policier Derek Chauvin et ses collègues auxquels il criait du peu de voix qu’ils lui laissaient « I can’t breathe », « Je ne peux pas respirer », et avec la vague mondiale d’indignation que le drame a soulevée quant au racisme et aux violences policières, l’Afrique s’est élevée d’une seule voix à l’ONU.

Le 12 juin, les cinquante-quatre pays du Groupe africain de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies ont appelé le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme à un « débat urgent sur les violations actuelles des droits de l’homme d’inspiration raciale, le racisme systémique, la brutalité policière contre les personnes d’ascendance africaine et la violence contre les manifestations pacifiques ».

Avec les cinquante-quatre pays africains, c’étaient plus de six cents organisations non-gouvernementales, dont l’Association of World Citizens (AWC), qui appelaient le Conseil à se saisir de la question. Et le 15 juin, la demande a été acceptée sans qu’aucun des quarante-sept Etats qui composent le Conseil ne s’y soit opposé. Le débat demandé a donc eu lieu, sur fond de dénonciation d’un « racisme systémique » par Michelle Bachelet, Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, mais aussi d’indignation des cadres onusiens originaires d’Afrique contre leur propre institution qu’ils jugent trop passive.

The_George_Floyd_mural_outside_Cup_Foods_at_Chicago_Ave_and_E_38th_St_in_Minneapolis,_Minnesota

Une fresque en hommage à George Floyd sur un mur de Chicago (Illinois).

Pour l’Organisation mondiale, il s’agit plus que jamais de n’entendre pas seulement la voix de ses Etats membres, mais aussi celle du peuple du monde qui s’exprime en bravant les frontières, parfois même ses dirigeants. La mort de George Floyd et l’affirmation, plus forte que jamais, que « Black Lives Matter », « Les vies noires comptent », imposent une responsabilité historique à l’ONU qui, en matière de racisme, n’a plus droit aux rendez-vous manqués, réels et présents dans son histoire.

Résolution 3379 : quand l’Assemblée générale s’est trompée de colère

Le 10 novembre 1975, l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU adoptait sa Résolution 3379 portant « Élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination raciale ». Malgré ce titre prometteur, le vote de l’Assemblée générale cristallisait en fait les frustrations des Etats Membres quant à deux situations de conflit, jugées les plus graves au monde depuis la fin de la guerre du Vietnam en avril – l’Afrique australe et le Proche-Orient.

A côté de l’Afrique du Sud ou règne l’apartheid, la ségrégation raciale érigée en système par la minorité blanche aux dépens de la population noire autochtone, se tient l’ancêtre de l’actuel Zimbabwe, la Rhodésie, Etat proclamé en 1970 sur une colonie britannique mais non reconnu par la communauté internationale. La Rhodésie n’est pas un Etat d’apartheid proprement dit, mais sa minorité blanche tient la majorité noire sous la chappe brutale d’un paternalisme colonialiste. Deux organisations indépendantistes, la ZANU et la ZAPU, s’y affrontent dans une violente guerre civile et le gouvernement principalement blanc de Ian Smith n’y veut rien entendre.

Apartheid

Dans l’Afrique du Sud de l’apartheid, même sans le dire, une plage réservée aux Blancs était interdite aux Noirs au même titre qu’elle l’était aux chiens.

Au Proche-Orient, la création en 1948 de l’Etat d’Israël s’est faite sans celle d’un Etat palestinien que prévoyait pourtant le plan original de l’ONU. En 1967, lors de la Guerre des Six Jours qui l’oppose aux armées de plusieurs pays arabes, l’Etat hébreu étend son occupation sur plus de territoires que jamais auparavant, prenant le Sinaï à l’Egypte – qui lui sera rendu en 1982 – et le Golan à la Syrie, la Cisjordanie et Jérusalem-Est échappant quant à elles à la Jordanie. Aux yeux du monde, l’idéal sioniste des fondateurs d’Israël signifie désormais principalement l’oppression de la Palestine.

Et les deux Etats parias de leurs régions respectives avaient fini par s’entendre, causant la fureur tant de l’URSS et de ses alliés à travers le monde que du Mouvement des Non-Alignés au sud. Le 14 décembre 1973, dans sa Résolution 3151 G (XXVIII), l’Assemblée générale avait déjà « condamné en particulier l’alliance impie entre le racisme sud africain et le sionisme ». C’est ainsi que deux ans plus tard, la Résolution 3379 enfonçait le clou contre le seul Israël en se concluant sur ces termes : « [L’Assemblée générale] [c]onsidère que le sionisme est une forme de racisme et de discrimination raciale ».

Impossible de ne pas condamner l’occupation israélienne en Palestine, tant elle paraissait incompatible avec le droit international qui, en 1948, avait précisément permis la création de l’Etat d’Israël. Pour autant, assimiler le sionisme au racisme présentait un double écueil. D’abord, s’il se trouvait un jour une possibilité quelconque d’amener Israéliens et Palestiniens au dialogue, comment Israël allait-il jamais accepter de venir à la table des négociations avec un tel anathème international sur son nom ? C’est ce qui amena, après la Première Guerre du Golfe, l’adoption par l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU de la Résolution 46/86 du 16 décembre 1991 par laquelle la Résolution 3379, et avec elle l’assimilation du sionisme au racisme, étaient tout simplement abrogées, ce qui était l’une des conditions d’Israël pour sa participation à la Conférence de Madrid en octobre. Ensuite, plus durablement cette fois, présenter l’affirmation d’un peuple de son droit à fonder son propre Etat comme étant du racisme ne pouvait qu’alimenter le refus, ailleurs à travers le monde, du droit à l’autodétermination déjà mis à mal dans les années 1960 au Katanga et au Biafra, avec à la clé, l’idée que toute autodétermination allait entraîner l’oppression du voisin.

« Les racistes sont des gens qui se trompent de colère », disait Léopold Sédar Senghor. Il n’en fut pire illustration que la Résolution 3379, inefficace contre le racisme et n’ayant servi qu’à permettre à Israël de se poser en victime là où son occupation des Territoires palestiniens n’avait, et n’a jamais eu, rien de défendable.

Un échec complet donc pour l’ONU, mais qui fut réparé lorsque commença le tout premier processus de paix au Proche-Orient qui entraîna, en 1993, les Accords d’Oslo et, l’année suivante, le traité de paix entre Israël et la Jordanie. C’était toutefois moins une guérison qu’une simple rémission. 

Durban 2001 : l’antiracisme otage de l’antisémitisme

Le 2 septembre 2001 s’est ouverte à Durban, en Afrique du Sud, la Conférence mondiale contre le racisme, la discrimination raciale, la xénophobie et l’intolérance, conférence organisée par les Nations Unies. Sans même évoquer la Résolution 3379 en soi, depuis son abrogation en 1991, le monde avait changé. La Guerre Froide était terminée, l’URSS avait disparu, l’apartheid avait pris fin dans une Afrique du Sud rebâtie en démocratie multiraciale par Nelson Mandela auquel succédait désormais son ancien Vice-président Thabo Mbeki.

Au Proche-Orient, Yitzhak Rabin avait été assassiné en 1995, et avec lui étaient morts les Accords d’Oslo réfutés par son opposition de droite, cette même opposition qui dirigeait désormais Israël en la personne d’Ariel Sharon, ancien général, chef de file des faucons et dont le nom restait associé aux massacres de Sabra et Chatila en septembre 1982 au Liban. Aux Etats-Unis, le libéralisme international des années Clinton avait fait place aux néoconservateurs de l’Administration George W. Bush, hostiles à l’ONU là où leurs devanciers démocrates avaient su s’accommoder du Secrétaire général Kofi Annan. Le monde avait changé, mais c’était parfois seulement pour remplacer certains dangers par d’autres. Et le passé n’allait pas tarder à se rappeler au bon souvenir, trop bon pour certains, des participants.

La Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, Mary Robinson, n’était pas parvenue à mener des travaux préparatoires constructifs, et dès le début des discussions, le résultat s’en est fait sentir. Devant la répression israélienne de la Seconde Intifada à partir de fin septembre 2000, l’Etat hébreu déclenche une fois de plus la colère à travers le monde. Un nombre non négligeable d’Etats rêvent de déterrer la Résolution 3379, mais cette fois, sans plus de racisme sud-africain auquel accoler le sionisme, Israël va voir cette colère dégénérer en récusation non plus du sionisme mais, tout simplement, du peuple juif où qu’il vive dans le monde.

Sharon_ageila

A gauche, Ariel Sharon, alors officier supérieur de Tsahal, en 1967. Plus tard Ministre de la Défense puis Premier Ministre, son nom sera associé à de graves crimes contre les Palestiniens commis par Israël.

S’y attendant, l’Administration Bush a lancé des mises en garde avant le début de la conférence. En ouverture, Kofi Annan annonce la couleur – il ne sera pas question de sionisme, pas de redite de 1975. Rien n’y fait. Toute la journée, des Juifs présents à la conférence sont insultés et menacés de violences. Le Protocole des Sages de Sion, faux document né dans la Russie tsariste au début du vingtième siècle pour inspirer la haine des Juifs, est vendu en marge. Et, comble pour une conférence des Nations Unies, même si elles n’y sont bien entendu pour rien, il est distribué aux participants des tracts à l’effigie, et à la gloire, d’Adolf Hitler.

Il n’en faut pas plus pour qu’Etats-Unis et Israël plient bagages dès le lendemain. Si la France et l’Union européenne restent, ce n’est cependant pas sans un avertissement clair – toute poursuite de la stigmatisation antisémite verra également leur départ.

C’est à la peine qu’est adopté un document final, dont ce n’est qu’en un lointain 58ème point qu’il est rappelé que « l’Holocauste ne doit jamais être oublié ». Dans le même temps, un Forum des ONG concomitant adopte une déclaration si violente contre Israël que même des organisations majeures de Droits Humains telles qu’Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch et la Fédération internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme s’en désolidarisent. Le Français Rony Brauman, ancien Président de Médecins Sans Frontières, ardent défenseur de la cause palestinienne, n’avait pu lui aussi que déplorer l’échec consommé de la conférence, prise en otage par des gens qui prétendaient combattre le racisme, y compris, naturellement, le colonialisme israélien, mais n’avaient en réalité pour but que de répandre le poison de l’antisémitisme.

Pour la dignité de chaque être humain

Le racisme est un phénomène universel, qui n’épargne aucun continent, aucune culture, aucune communauté religieuse. De la part de l’ONU, c’est en tant que tel que le peuple du monde s’attend à le voir combattu. Par deux fois, les Etats membres de l’Organisation mondiale l’ont détournée de sa fonction pour plaquer le racisme sur ce qui était, et qui demeure, une atteinte à la paix et la sécurité internationales, nommément l’occupation israélienne en Palestine où, indéniablement, le racisme joue aussi un rôle, mais qui ne peut se résumer à la seule question de la haine raciale comme c’était le cas de l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud ou comme c’est aujourd’hui celui du scandale George Floyd.

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Ici à New York en 2014, le slogan “Black Lives Matter”, qui exprime désormais le droit de tout être humain opprimé en raison de son origine au respect et à la justice.

S’il ne peut ni ne doit exister d’indulgence envers quelque Etat que ce soit, en ce compris l’Etat d’Israël, le racisme sous toutes ses formes, surtout lorsqu’il provient d’agents de l’Etat tels que les policiers, ne peut être circonscrit à la condamnation d’une seule situation dans le monde, aussi grave soit-elle, encore moins donner lieu à l’antisémitisme qui est lui aussi une forme de racisme et l’on ne peut en tout bon sens louer ce que l’on condamne !

Par bonheur, le Groupe africain a su éviter tous les écueils du passé, ayant lancé un appel au débat qui fut accepté sans mal par le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme. Les appels de la Haute Commissaire aux Droits de l’Homme et des hauts fonctionnaires d’origine africaine viennent amplifier un appel que l’ONU doit entendre. Le monde s’est réveillé, il faut en finir avec le racisme, et sur son aptitude à agir, à accueillir les critiques, l’ONU joue sa crédibilité dans cette lutte pour la dignité de chaque être humain qui est le premier des droits.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

World Refugee Day

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on June 20, 2020 at 4:01 PM

By René Wadlow

 

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries, and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May, 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by “courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership, we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written “No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departures and re-settlements. Since 1956, the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs, both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

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Hungarian refugees outside a building at Charleston Air Force Base in 1956.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU), despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community, in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields, has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring. Today, the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning and weak migration policies. The war in Syria has gone on for five years. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills, have given shelter to nearly four million persons, mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches. Fortunately, NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration, but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

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Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station in 2015.

Thus, there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

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

Sudan’s Recovery Crippled by U.S. Sanctions Policy

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Sudan, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on June 15, 2020 at 8:54 PM

By René Wadlow

 

Economic recovery from decades of stagnation and misuse of resources during the 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir is critical for Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government.

Since August 2019, Sudan has been led by a Council made up of six civilians and five members of the military with a cabinet of liberal civilian administrators headed by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations (UN). Elections are scheduled for next year, time for civil society to organize.

Sudan

However, chronic economic problems could lead elements in the armed forces to assert further their influence even without trying to take power. Sudan faces deep economic challenges. There is a backlog of domestic needs. The consequences of the creation of a separate State of South Sudan are still not resolved. The armed conflicts in the Darfur provinces, while not as active as earlier, still exist. Real economic development in Darfur is stopped.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was the first nongovernmental organization to raise the Darfur conflicts in the UN Commission on Human Rights in early 2004. Since then, our Association has striven to have negotiations in good faith to resolve the issues. However, the original opposition alliances have broken down into smaller, tribal-based groups and no real negotiations have been able to be held.

A strong obstacle to Sudan’s economic development is the continued United States (U. S.) economic sanctions which impact trade and investment. The U. S. sanctions policy prevents loans from international institutions such as the World Bank. The U. S. still lists Sudan as a “State sponsor of terrorism”. Sudan in an earlier period did house violent Islamist movements which carried out attacks in other countries such as the attack on the U. S. Embassy in Kenya. However, the violent Islamist groups were not “sponsored” by the government of Sudan.

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Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok of Sudan

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in his address to the UN General Assembly said that these U. S. sanctions “have played havoc on our people causing them untold misery of all types and forms. We, in the transitional government call on the United States of America to take Sudan off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.”

Such a realistic request is a necessary first step toward the creation of a stable Sudan which should be able to play a positive role in an unstable part of the world. The AWC will continue its efforts for a Sudan in which all can play a positive role.

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

Plus que jamais, créer un Etat en paix pour tous en Libye

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 11, 2020 at 8:10 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

Dans la Libye où rien ne semble pouvoir éteindre les braises de la guerre civile, l’appel à un cessez-le-feu et à la poursuite des négociations lancé le 6 juin par le Président égyptien Abdel Fattah al-Sissi en présence du Général Khalifa Haftar a vécu.

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Le Général Khalifa Haftar

Le 4, les troupes du Gouvernement d’accord national (GAN) du Premier Ministre Fayez al-Sarraj, reconnu par l’ONU, reprenaient la ville. Une défaite majeure pour Haftar, longtemps vu comme l’homme fort du pays mais dont les revirements sur les accords conclus et le refus d’en adopter de nouveaux ont mené à sa remise en question, y compris par l’Egypte et la Russie qui lui préféreraient, pour représenter la Cyrénaïque qui recouvre le tiers oriental de la Libye, Aguila Saleh, le Président du Parlement hostile au GAN.

Le 9, les chefs de la diplomatie français, italien et allemand, accompagnés du Haut Représentant de l’Union européenne, appelaient ensemble à reprendre les pourparlers et la recherche d’un cessez-le-feu, prenant en compte les discussions du Caire et demandant dans un communiqué conjoint «instamment, toutes les parties libyennes et internationales à faire cesser de manière effective et immédiate toutes les opérations militaires et à s’engager de façon constructive dans les négociations en format 5+5, sur la base du projet d’accord du 23 février».

Néanmoins, la course à l’influence menée par les diplomaties russe et turque menace d’emblée toute recherche de la paix sur ce seul fondement. Comment, dès lors, envisager une paix prochaine et durable dans la Libye qui, depuis 2011 et la fin du régime Kadhafi, n’a plus d’État que le nom ?

Un Etat qui n’a jamais su s’inventer

Avec le retournement de la situation militaire, les espoirs sont ouverts pour des négociations plus fructueuses et, plus encore, afin d’envisager des formes nouvelles et stables de gouvernement.

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Le Premier Ministre Fayez al-Sarraj

De longue date, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) appelle à la création en Libye de structures gouvernementales nouvelles qui prennent en compte la nature géographique du pays, particulièrement en ce qui concerne la nature tribale de la population.

Après la fin de la colonisation italienne en 1952, la Libye fortement marquée par les combats de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale n’a jamais su se trouver en tant qu’entité étatique, ni la monarchie du roi Idriss Ier, ni la République arabe libyenne proclamée en 1969 par Mouammar Kadhafi et encore moins la Jamahiriya, néologisme signifiant «l’État des masses» et désignant une forme d’Etat minimaliste mise en place en 1977 n’étant parvenues à cimenter le pays.

Depuis la fin du régime Kadhafi en 2011, deux provinces de Libye démontrent cet échec par deux exemples extrêmes.

Un conte de deux Libye – sans grandes espérances

A la frontière sud derrière le Sahara, le Fezzan et ses oasis abritent plus de deux cent mille personnes. La terre de l’ordre soufiste du roi Idriss n’inquiétait guère Tripoli du temps de Kadhafi, qui n’y voyait guère un foyer de contestation. Mais après 2011, le Fezzan s’est trouvé livré au trafic de drogue, d’armes et même d’êtres humains. Il a fallu que ce soit l’ancienne puissance coloniale, l’Italie, qui attire l’attention sur l’anarchie gangrénant le Fezzan – et pour cause, nombre de migrants africains qui gagnent le pays passaient par cet enfer.

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Ibrahim Jadran

A l’est, le Cyrénaïque adossé à l’Egypte a vu se développer dans l’ère post-Kadhafi le règne d’un chef de milice, Ibrahim Jadran. Emprisonné en 2005 avec ses quatre frères pour avoir tenté de fomenter une rébellion armée contre le «guide de la révolution» Kadhafi, il sort avec eux de prison à la faveur de la révolution de 2011. Accédant l’année suivante à la hiérarchie des Gardes de Défense du Pétrole protégeant les infrastructures pétrolières du pays, il se prononce pour un fédéralisme aussi décentralisateur que possible en Libye. L’année suivante, il instaure le Bureau politique de Cyrénaïque et proclame l’autonomie de la province, défiant Tripoli et tentant sans succès de vendre à son seul profit du pétrole à l’étranger. En juin 2018, il fuit la débâcle de sa Force d’autodéfense de la Cyrénaïque, un temps forte de 17 500 hommes devant les troupes de Haftar. Le 12 septembre, le Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU adopte des sanctions individuelles contre Jadran pour ses attaques armées contre les forces du général.

Si les deux provinces offrent ce que Charles Dickens, auteur d’Un conte de deux cités, aurait pu appeler un «conte de deux Libye», il n’existe dans l’une et l’autre aucune place pour Les grandes espérances, autre roman de Dickens, tant le chaos qui mène au banditisme généralisé et l’aventure personnelle d’un seigneur de la guerre se voulant magnat du pétrole sont deux exemples de ce que l’avenir de la Libye ne doit pas être.

La Libye comme l’Europe, «Unie dans la diversité»

L’histoire l’a quelque peu oublié, mais l’Etat libyen de 1952 se nommait le Royaume-Uni de Libye, à l’image de la Grande-Bretagne. Pour autant, tenter d’unir autour d’une figure monarchique un pays aux identités locales, voire «micro-locales» selon l’expression du chercheur français Patrick Haimzadeh, à ce point enracinées et prononcées relevait de l’utopie, sans une forme de gouvernement à l’image, par exemple, du Royaume-Uni contemporain avec un Parlement en Ecosse, une Assemblée du Pays de Galles et une autre en Irlande du Nord en plus du Gouvernement britannique à Londres.

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L’histoire n’était pas prête, sans doute. Elle ne le sera pas davantage si, au cas où le Brexit tournerait mal, les nations composant le Royaume-Uni venaient à se découvrir plus diverses qu’elles ne sont unies et l’une ou plusieurs d’entre elles plébiscitaient leur indépendance.

Aujourd’hui, le seul salut de la Libye réside dans une structure gouvernementale faisant d’elle un pays qui soit à l’image de la devise de l’Union européenne, «Unie dans la diversité». Désunis, les Britanniques ne se tueraient pas. Les Libyens, oui, depuis près de dix ans. Ce qui leur manque, ce n’est pas un homme pour les diriger. C’est de pouvoir se diriger eux-mêmes, être eux-mêmes et apprendre à se ressembler dans la différence.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Maurice Béjart: Starting Off the Year with a Dance

In Africa, Arts, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges on January 3, 2020 at 6:16 PM

By René Wadlow

January 1 is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, an innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences. He was a world citizen and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture. His death on November 22, 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation. One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, Cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future. Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis de Sénégal, with a French mother and a Senegalese father. Sénégal, and especially Leopold Sedar Senghor, pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger. Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

Maurice Béjart

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years. Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle. Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière. Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theater-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opéra de Paris and then with the well-known choreographer Roland Petit. Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration. He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia. The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment. The teaching and movements of G. I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character. Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart. The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follower of Gurdjieff. Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow. A Sufi theme is “opening the heart to the light of love.” Sufi movements, which Béjart adopted, is to develop movements in time with the beating of the heart.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne. While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes. He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures. An inspiration for world citizens to follow.

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

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