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Xi Jinping, Citizen of the World, and the Making of a Global Policy

In Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, World Law on March 5, 2017 at 12:09 PM

XI JINPING, CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, AND THE MAKING OF A GLOBAL POLICY

By René Wadlow

A recent issue of Newsweek hailed the President of China, Xi Jinping, as a citizen of the world and highlighted his January 17, 2017 speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as setting forth a new global policy. At a time when the President of the United States is putting his “America First” policy into practice, and the President of the Russian Federation is striving to make Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church “great again”, it is China that is providing great power leadership toward a cosmopolitan, humanistic, world society.

At Davos, Xi Jinping stressed that globalization had produced “powerful global growth and facilitated movement of goods and capital, advances in science, technology and civilization and interaction among people.” He noted the China-led creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. He ended by saying that “the people of all countries expect nothing less (than to make globalization work) and this is our unshrinkable responsibility as leaders of our times.”

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It is true that globalization – the world as an open market – has worked well for China’s export-led economy and for its foreign infrastructure development efforts – the One Belt-One Road project of rail, roads and sea ports. However, Xi Jinping also mentioned civilization and interaction among people as one of the outcomes of globalization, perhaps thinking of the large number of student exchanges and the impact of Chinese culture through the increasing number of Confucius Institutes throughout the world.

Xi Jinping stressed the need for ecologically-sound development and meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Conference – the protection of Nature being high on the list of world citizen priorities.

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China retains a preoccupying record of human rights violations, as does its northeastern neighbor Russia. Now that extreme right populism has prevailed at the polls in Britain and the United States, and as France is entering a dangerous electoral period with a genuine extreme right risk too, human rights are set to become an ever greater matter of concern in terms of global leadership, regardless of the proven merits in other fields of any given individual country. President Xi Jinping should implement immediate, significant policy changes and bring his country in line with United Nations standards at last.

It is certain that in addition to setting a broadly positive global policy, there are real internal challenges to meeting the world citizen values of equality and respect for the dignity of each person.

As fellow citizens of the world, we are heartened by the advances of the rule of world law, of equality between women and men, by efforts of solidarity to overcome poverty and hunger. We look to Chinese leadership to strengthen the forces which advance a cosmopolitan, humanist world society based on wholeness, harmony and creativity.

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

UN Human Rights Protection: Small Steps, But No Turning Back

In Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 7, 2014 at 10:11 PM

UN HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION: SMALL STEPS, BUT NO TURNING BACK

By René Wadlow

 

The effectiveness of United Nations (UN) action to promote human rights and prevent massive violations grows by small steps. However, the steps, once taken, serve as precedents and can be cited in future cases. Once the steps taken, it is difficult to refuse such action later.

Such small steps can be seen in the contrasting response to two situations:

1) The current situation in Iraq and Syria, in particular the areas held by the Islamic State (IS) and

2) The massacres and refugee flow from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in 1971.

I will contrast briefly the Special Session on Iraq held on September 1, 2014 in Geneva of the Human Rights Council with efforts at the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in August 1971 when I was among the representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which had signed a joint appeal to the Sub-Commission for action in East Pakistan.

The September 1 Special Session stands out for two precedents which can be important:

1) The affirmation that non-State actors are bound to respect UN human rights standards;

2) The speedy creation of a UN Committee of Inquiry by using members of the UN human rights secretariat.

The massive violations of human rights in those parts of Iraq and Syria held by the IS is the first time that a major UN human rights body, the Human Rights Council or the earlier Commission on Human Rights, deals with an area not under the control of a State.

The diplomats working on a Special Session decided to focus only on Iraq. If Syria had been included, the actions of the Syrian government would have had to be considered as well.

Holding non-State actors responsible for violations of UN human rights norms is an important precedent and can have wide implications. The Declaration of the Eliminations of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 25, 1981 sets the standard − a standard repeatedly being violated by the forces of the IS.

Likewise, the speedy creation of a Committee of Inquiry is a major advance. The Human Rights Council in the past, following a practice of the earlier Commission on Human Rights, has created “Commissions of Inquiry” also called “Fact-finding Missions.” Currently there are four such Commissions at work:

1) Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

2) The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,

3) The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka,

4) The Commission of Inquiry on Gaza.

It was under Navanethem Pillay, who was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to September 2014, that all of the existing four UN Commissions of Inquiry were created. The world has the former High Commissioner to thank for such valuable efforts in defense of human rights.

It was under Navanethem Pillay, who was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to September 2014, that all of the existing four UN Commissions of Inquiry were created. The world has the former High Commissioner to thank for such valuable efforts in defense of human rights.

Each commission has three, sometimes four, members each from a different geographic zone. The members have usually had experience in UN activities, and the chair is usually someone who has a reputation beyond his UN efforts.

Since the commissions are usually not welcomed by the government of the country to be studies, the fact-finding is done by interviewing exiles and refugees. NGOs, scholars as well as governments can also provide information in writing. The commission reports rarely contain information that is not already available from specialized NGOs, journalists, and increasingly the Internet. However, the commission reports give an official coloring to the information, and some UN follow up action can be based on the reports.

It takes a good deal of time to put these commissions together as there must be regional balance, increasingly gender balance, as well as a balance of expertise. Moreover, the people approached to be a commission member are often busy and have other professional duties. It can sometimes take a month or more to put together a commission. In light of the pressing need presented by the situation in Iraq, it was decided that the members of the fact-finding group for Iraq would be members of the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights so that they can get to work immediately.

For the UN, this is a major step forward and must have led to a good deal of discussion before the proposal was presented in the resolution. As it is, India and China objected publicly in official statements just before the final resolution was accepted. Both States maintained that using Secretariat members went beyond the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner. They were worried by the increasing investigative role of the Office which should be limited only to helping develop national capacity building. Iraq today, Kashmir and Tibet tomorrow. The Indians and the Chinese are probably not the only governments worried, but they were the only States which spoke on the issue, Objecting strongly but saying they would not block consensus on the resolution.

In contrast to these steps: I had followed as closely as possible, from Geneva, the events in East Pakistan, having at one stage helped a representative of the Bangladesh opposition to speak to relevant diplomats in Geneva. Later, he became the Ambassador of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, and for a year was president of the Commission on Human Rights.

In December 1970, the Awami League led by Sheik Mujib Rahman won a majority of seats in the national assembly. The government of Pakistan refused to convene the national assembly, since it would result in shifting political power from West to East Pakistan. For three months, the government and the Awami League tried to negotiate a political settlement. On March 25, 1971, the government discontinued negotiations and unleashed the Pakistan army against the civilian population of East Pakistan. Hindus, members and sympathizers of the Awami League, students and faculty of the universities and women were especially singled out.

These atrocities continued until the Indian army which had been drawn into the conflict, in part by the large number of refugees that had fled to India, took control of Dacca on December 1, 1971.

When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, the predominantly Muslim-inhabited parts of the former colony became a separate country called Pakistan. Originally a Dominion within the British Empire, Pakistan eventually established a republic of its own in 1956. In March 1971 the province of East Pakistan launched a war of independence, waged by an armed force called the Mukti Bahini, also called the Bengali Liberation Army, and the Indian military which came to the aid of the rebels. Eventually, in December 1971 Pakistani troops were defeated and East Pakistan became a sovereign nation with the name of Bangladesh.

When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, the predominantly Muslim-inhabited parts of the former colony became a separate country called Pakistan. Originally a Dominion within the British Empire, Pakistan eventually established a republic of its own in 1956.
In March 1971 the province of East Pakistan launched a war of independence, waged by an armed force called the Mukti Bahini, also called the Bengali Liberation Army, and the Indian military which came to the aid of the rebels. Eventually, in December 1971 Pakistani troops were defeated and East Pakistan became a sovereign nation with the name of Bangladesh.

The UN Security Council was unwilling or unable to deal with the human rights situations in East Pakistan. The U. S. government strongly supported the Pakistan army while the Soviet Union supported India. For NGO representatives our hopes rested on the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities which was to meet in Geneva from August 2 to 20, 1971. At the time, the Commission on Human Rights and the bulk of the human rights secretariat was still in New York. However, the Sub-Commission would meet in Geneva once a year, usually in July or August.

The Sub-Commission members were not diplomatic representatives of governments as was the Commission on Human Rights. Rather they were “independent experts”. The saying among NGOs was that some were more independent than others, and some were more expert than others. Most were professors of law in their countries − thus the August dates when universities were on vacation. It was easier to have informal relations with Sub-Commission members than with diplomats, and NGO representatives could get advice on the best avenues of action.

NGOs had two formal avenues of action. We could present written statements that were distributed as official documents, and we could make oral statements, usually 10 minutes in which to develop ideas and to call attention to additional elements in the written statement. Written statements could be that of a single NGO or, often to give more weight, there could be a “joint statement”. On the East Pakistan situation, with the violence being covered by the world media, it was decided to have a joint statement. The statement called upon the Sub-Commission “to examine all available information regarding allegations of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in East Pakistan and to recommend measures which might be taken to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of East Pakistan”. Twenty-two NGOs with representatives in Geneva signed the joint statement, and John Salzberg, a representative of the International Commission of Jurists, made an oral statement presenting the written joint statement.

Government representatives were always present in the room and had the right to make statements (and also to try to influence the independent experts behind the scene). Najmul Saguib Khan, the independent expert from Pakistan contended that the Sub-Commission could not consider East Pakistan since the UN role in human rights “did not extend to questions arising out of situations affecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and that attention to such situations would encourage those seeking the dismemberment of Member States.” The Indian diplomat, N.P. Jain, replied highlighting the influx of eight million refugees into India.

"On 13 June 1971, an article in the UK's Sunday Times exposed the brutality of Pakistan's suppression of the Bangladeshi uprising. It forced the reporter's family into hiding and changed history. (...) Written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, and printed in the UK's Sunday Times, it exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army's brutal campaign to suppress its breakaway eastern province in 1971. (...) There is little doubt that Mascarenhas' reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role." (C) BBC News

“On 13 June 1971, an article in the UK’s Sunday Times exposed the brutality of Pakistan’s suppression of the Bangladeshi uprising. It forced the reporter’s family into hiding and changed history. (…)
Written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, and printed in the UK’s Sunday Times, it exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign to suppress its breakaway eastern province in 1971. (…)
There is little doubt that Mascarenhas’ reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role.”
(C) BBC News

The Sub-Commission members took the “diplomatic way out” and said nothing. In drafting the report of the session, one member, Adamu Mohammed from Nigeria proposed deleting any reference to the discussion on East Pakistan. He held that the Sub-Commission had listened to, but had not considered the statements made by the representative of the International Commission of Jurists, the Sub-Commission member from Pakistan and the observer of India.

The NGO representatives were saddened by the lack of action but not totally surprised. No other UN human rights body took action, and the massacres stopped only after the ‘lightning war’ of India defeated the Pakistan army and occupied the country until a Bangladesh government could be set up.

There remains real danger that the situation in Iraq and Syria will continue through military means, but at least progress has been made within the UN in calling attention to conflicts within a State and holding all parties responsible for maintaining the standards of human rights.

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

Lettre au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères de la République française

In Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on July 30, 2014 at 9:07 PM

awc-un-geneva-logo

ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS

ASSOCIATION DES CITOYENS DU MONDE

 

The External Relations Desk

 

 

Monsieur Laurent FABIUS

Ministre des Affaires Etrangères de la République française

Ministère des Affaires Etrangères

37 Quai d’Orsay

75700 PARIS

 

 

Le 25 juillet 2014

 

 

Monsieur le Ministre,

En tant qu’Organisation Non-Gouvernementale dotée du Statut Consultatif auprès de l’ONU et active à ce titre au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme, l’Association of World Citizens (ci-après, AWC) tient à vous exprimer sa plus vive préoccupation quant aux positions adoptées par la République française au sujet des actuels événements violents et tragiques au Proche-Orient.

Depuis que l’Etat d’Israël a lancé, à travers la Force de Défense israélienne (ci-après, Tsahal), une opération dénommée « Gardiens de nos Frères », en réaction à l’enlèvement et l’assassinat, non élucidés à ce jour, de trois jeunes Israéliens originaires des colonies le 12 juin dernier, complétée par une autre opération de Tsahal portant pour sa part le nom de « Bordure de protection », celle-ci en réponse aux tirs de roquettes depuis la Bande de Gaza, votre pays exprime des positions favorables au seul Etat d’Israël, cependant que la population civile palestinienne de Gaza en semble oubliée.

Autant l’AWC ne peut que partager la méfiance des autorités françaises quant aux manières de faire avérées et intentions probables du Mouvement de la Résistance islamique (ci-après, Hamas), lequel contrôle la Bande de Gaza depuis sept ans, autant, pour une organisation telle que la nôtre qui a toujours dénoncé les atteintes aux Droits de l’Homme et appelé au respect de la dignité humaine sans considération de frontières, pas même de celles séparant l’Etat hébreu du Hamas ou de l’Autorité palestinienne, cette position de la part de la France est purement et simplement incompréhensible.

En particulier, nous ne pouvons pas nous expliquer que la France ait choisi, lors du vote du 22 écoulé au Conseil des Droits de l’Homme d’une résolution sur le respect du droit international dans les Territoires palestiniens occupés, de s’abstenir. Sachant quelle est l’histoire de la France au Proche-Orient, notamment à quel point votre pays s’est souvent distingué comme un interlocuteur hors pair entre les uns et les autres des belligérants, nous y voyons une occasion manquée d’aider à affirmer le principe de justice internationale et de favoriser un retour à la recherche de la paix.

Ensuite, l’AWC ne peut qu’attirer votre attention sur le rôle que joue inéluctablement la France dans le bombardement de zones civiles dans la Bande de Gaza, de par son statut de cinquième exportateur mondial d’armement à l’Etat d’Israël.

Selon le Quinzième Rapport de l’Union européenne sur les Autorisations d’Exportation d’Armes, pour la seule année 2012, votre pays a délivré des autorisations d’exportations à Tel Aviv pour plus de 200 millions d’euros.

A ce jour, plus de cinq cents Palestiniens ont été tués dans des attaques par les forces israéliennes, la grande majorité d’entre eux étant des civils, dont des femmes et des enfants. Du côté de l’Etat d’Israël, deux civils ont été tués ainsi que dix-huit membres de Tsahal.

L’AWC entend vous rappeler, à cet égard, la déclaration de Madame Navi PILLAY, Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, rappelant aux parties en conflit à Gaza l’obligation qui leur est faite de se conformer aux principes de distinction, de proportionnalité et de précaution des attaques afin d’éviter les dommages civils, les exhortant au surabondant à mener des enquêtes promptes, indépendantes et sérieuses sur les allégations de violation du droit international.

A cette fin, il incombe à chaque pays du monde, plus particulièrement encore aux Membres Permanents du Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU, de prendre en compte toutes les souffrances causées par ce conflit et de manière juste, non l’une plutôt que l’autre, ainsi que de tarir à la source la possibilité pour l’une ou l’autre des deux parties de faire perdurer le conflit, bien entendu en termes d’armement.

Seul l’avènement d’un système viable de droit mondial peut fournir le cadre travail propre à la création d’une société mondiale qui soit tout à la fois juste et pacifique. En tant que Citoyens du Monde, nous travaillons au renforcement du droit mondial ainsi que de son acceptation, de son fonctionnement ainsi que d’un système d’observation et de sanctions ô combien nécessaire en pareil cas.

C’est pourquoi nous sommes certains que votre Gouvernement ne manquera pas d’entreprendre tous les efforts afin,

D’une part,

– de condamner publiquement et fermement les attaques menées par Israël à l’encontre des Palestiniens tout autant qu’il condamne, à juste titre, les tirs de roquettes sur Israël en provenance de la Bande de Gaza,

– de soutenir dans les faits, malgré le vote français au Conseil des Droits de l’Homme, la création par les Nations Unies d’une mission d’enquête internationale qui soit chargée de faire la lumière sur les violations du droit international humanitaire et du droit international des Droits de l’Homme commises par les différentes parties depuis le 12 juin 2014,

D’autre part,

– de suspendre immédiatement toutes les livraisons de matériel militaire à l’Etat d’Israël et toute autorisation d’exportation délivrée en ce sens,

– d’œuvrer au Conseil de Sécurité pour un embargo général sur les armes à destination d’Israël, du Hamas et des groupes armés palestiniens, avec obligation préalable à toute fin à celui-ci de voir éliminé tout risque substantiel de voir ces armes utilisées pour commettre ou faciliter des violations graves du droit international humanitaire et du droit international des Droits de l’Homme.

Nous vous remercions par avance de mettre ainsi la France en conformité avec les normes internationales de Droits de l’Homme telles que définies par l’ONU, et ce faisant de rendre à votre pays le statut particulier que lui a depuis toujours conféré l’histoire dans la défense de ces droits au Proche et Moyen-Orient.

Nous vous prions de croire, Monsieur le Ministre, en l’assurance de notre haute considération.

 

Prof. René Wadlow

Président

 

Bernard Henry

Officier des Relations Extérieures

 

Cherifa Maaoui

Officier de Liaison

Afrique du Nord & Moyen-Orient

 

Noura Addad, Avocat

Officier juridique

Attack on Gaza: Letter to the President of the UN Security Council

In Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on July 15, 2014 at 7:24 PM

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS

THE EXTERNAL RELATIONS DESK

 

July 14, 2014

 

H. E. Mr. Eugène-Richard Gasana

Ambassador, Permanent Representative

of the Republic of Rwanda

to the United Nations

President of the United Nations Security Council

 

Excellency:

The Association of World Citizens (AWC), a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), has been concerned with the status of Gaza as well as the broader Israel-Palestine context.

The current manifestations of violence are part of a recurrent cycle of violence and counter-violence with which You are familiar.

The AWC believes that there must be a sharp break in this pattern of violence by creating institutions of security, development, and cooperation. Such a break requires more than the ceasefire proposed by the Security Council. The Association believes that longer-lasting measures must be undertaken that will allow new patterns of understanding and cooperation to be established.

In an earlier United Nations (UN) discussion of Gaza tensions, the AWC had proposed in a written statement to the Human Rights Council, “Human Rights in Gaza: Need for a Special Focus and Specific Policy Recommendations” (A/HRC/S-12/NGO-1, October 14, 2009; see attached copy) that a Gaza Development Authority be created – a transnational economic effort that would bring together the skills, knowledge and finance from Gaza, Israel, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, and Egypt to create conditions which would facilitate the entry of other partners.

Our proposal was obviously inspired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of the “New Deal” in the USA. The TVA was a path-making measure to overcome the deep economic depression of the 1930s in the USA and the difficulties of cooperative action across state frontiers in the federal structure of the USA.

Today, the deep divisions in the Israel-Palestine area require more than economic measures – although economy and raising the standards of living remain important elements. Today, there should be a structure that provides security as well as economic advancement.

Therefore, the AWC would like to propose the creation of an International Temporary Transition Administration for Gaza that would promote security, stabilization, economic development, and institution building. Such a Transitional Administration would be limited in time from the start, perhaps five years.

Unlike the earlier UN Trusteeship agreements which followed upon the League of Nations mandate pattern, the Gaza Transitional Authority would welcome civil society cooperation from outside the area.

Such a Transitional Administration cannot be imposed. We believe that the Members of the Security Council can raise the possibility publicly, request a UN Secretariat study on what such a Transitional Administration would require, and encourage’ discussion among those most directly involved.

As Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European Common Market, had said, “Men take great decisions only when crisis stares them in the face.” We believe that the current violence is such a time of crisis. Our hope is that the Members of the Security Council are prepared to take great decisions.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest consideration.

 

Prof. René Wadlow

President

 

Bernard Henry

External Relations Officer

 

Iraq: What does one do with the broken pieces?

In Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM

IRAQ: WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH THE BROKEN PIECES?

By René Wadlow

 

There is the legendary sign in shops selling china and porcelain “Do not touch; If you break it, you buy it”. The same sign should have been hung at the entry to Baghdad rather than portraits of Saddam Hussein. With Iraq in armed confusion as sectors of the country change side, and the Iraqi government seems incapable of an adequate response other than to call for military help, as concerned world citizens we must ask ourselves “What can we do?”

The forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have broken down a wall on the frontier between Iraq and Syria as a symbol of abolishing national frontiers to be replaced by a community of the Islamic faithful − the umma. In some ways, we are back to the early days of the post-World War One period when France and England tried to re-structure that part of the Ottoman Empire that is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Turkey and an ill-defined Kurdistan.

 

In March 2003 an international "coalition" led by the United States attacked Iraq in violation of international law and overthrew the country's dictator, Saddam Hussein. The problem is that, having acted without prior permission from the Security Council, the "coalition" was never able to garner support from the international community and build a real, stable democracy in Iraq. As a result, a significant part of the country is now in the hands of radical Islamist fighters.

In March 2003 an international “coalition” led by the United States attacked Iraq in violation of international law and overthrew the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein. The problem is that, having acted without prior permission from the Security Council, the “coalition” was never able to garner support from the international community and build a real, stable democracy in Iraq. As a result, a significant part of the country is now in the hands of radical Islamist fighters.

 

During 1915, Sir Mark Sykes, a Tory Member of Parliament and a specialist on  Turkish affairs and Francois Georges-Picot, a French political figure with strong links to colonial factions in the French Senate negotiated how to re-structure the Ottoman Empire to the benefit of England and France. Although these were considered “secret negotiations” Sykes reported to Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, and Picot had joined the French Foreign Ministry as war service. However, both operated largely as “free agents”. Today Sykes and Picot are recalled for no other achievement than their talent in dividing. The agreement between them was signed in January 1916 but kept in a draw until the war was over. In April 1920 at San Remo, France and England made the divisions official.

History has moved on, but dividing and re-structuring remains the order of the day. The political structures of Israel-Palestine as one state, two states, or one state and occupied territories have confronted the best of mediators − and less talented mediators as well. With the war in Syria continuing, there have been suggestions to divide − or federate − the state into three parts: an Alawite-Shi’ite area, a Sunni area, and a Kurdish area. The same divisions had been suggested for Iraq earlier and are again being discussed in the light of the ISIS advances: a Shi’ite area in the south, Kurds in the north − already largely independent − and Sunnis in the Middle. Lebanon, although not a federal state, is largely structured on sectarian-geographic divisions.

 

In 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement carved the Middle East into two "spheres of influence", one British, the other French, plus two zones of direct control by either of the colonial powers.

In 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement carved the Middle East into two “spheres of influence”, one British, the other French, plus two zones of direct control by either of the colonial powers.

 

Constitution-making under duress is not the best way of doing things. Forced federalism presents even more difficulties than creating a federal state when people are not fighting each other. We have seen the difficulties of proposing federal structures for Ukraine, federalism seen by some as a prelude to the disintegration of the state. The difficulties in the wider Middle East are even greater, as we have three states directly involved: Iraq, Syria, Turkey with a well-organized and armed Kurdish community in Iraq and parts of Syria.

The Kurds had expected that a Kurdistan would be recognized after World War One. The issue was raised at a conference to set Middle East frontiers held in June 1923 in Lausanne. The failure of the Kurds to achieve their goal for independence and the forced inclusion of their mountainous homeland within the then newly created states of Iraq, Syria and Turkey caused resentment and unrest. All the Kurds received in 1923 was a pledge to respect minority rights. By 1924, the Turkish government had banned all Kurdish schools, organizations, publications, and religious Sufi brotherhoods. In 1925, there was the first of the Kurdish revolts in Turkey, which, on-and-off, continue to today.

 

The flag of the Kurdish people, a people without a nation, a people without a land, to whom the promises of history ring hollow today more than they ever have. (C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

The flag of the Kurdish people, a people without a nation, a people without a land, to whom the promises of history ring hollow today more than they ever have. (C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

 

As outsiders but as specialists in federal forms of government, is there anything which we can do to be helpful? Maps are deceptive, and what is drawn as Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish area in Iraq and Syria have, in fact, mixed populations. Nor are religious-sectarian divisions the only lines of fracture.

Nevertheless, discussions among Syrians, Iraqis, Turks, Iranians and outside specialists on forms of government may be of greater use than sending Special Forces as ‘intelligence’ specialists. Such discussions will not be easy to organize or to facilitate but in a period of constitutional disorder and flux, such efforts are necessary.

 

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

M.K. Gandhi: “The Free Spirit: One and manifold”

In Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, The Search for Peace on January 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM

M. K. GANDHI: “THE FREE SPIRIT: ONE AND MANIFOLD”

By René Wadlow

I do daily perceive that while every thing around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change, a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and re-creates.  That informing power or spirit is God. I see it as purely benevolent, for I can see in the midst of death, life persists.  In the midst of untruth, truth persists.  In the midst of darkness, light persists.  Hence I gather that God is life, God is light, God is love. God is the supreme good.”

Mahatma Gandhi

On the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, January 30, we still try to find peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.  Mahatma Gandhi was a man of dialogue and compromise.  A British-trained lawyer, he always knew the limits of the law and when not to push too far or ask for more than what could be seen as reasonable to the authorities in South Africa or British-controlled India even if the authorities were not willing to accept the demands at the time.

Yet what does one do when opponents refuse dialogue and when events move so fast that no compromise seems possible?  These questions are crucial as difficult negotiations on the armed conflict in Syria have started in Switzerland — first one day in the calm of the resort Montreux on Lake Geneva with some 40 states present, some directly involved, others to give moral support to the UN-led negotiations. The negotiations then moved to the UN’s Palais des Nations in Geneva and, no doubt, to restaurants for small groups.

To make matters more complex, some key actors are not officially there, though they are not very hidden in the shadows: Iran has a large mission to the UN in Geneva; the Kurds from Syria-Iraq-Turkey- and Iran have a permanently strong presence in Geneva and gather from outside when events merit; there is a large community of people from Lebanon — some bankers but also, no doubt, representative from Hezbollah as well.  The foothills of the Alps above Montreux have long been the home of international arms merchants — though the arms are stocked elsewhere. If they were unable to make sales on the sideline of the Montreux meeting, they can afford to drive to Geneva to see what factions may want to buy arms which they cannot receive supplied by governments.

Among the dangerous aspects of the armed conflict in Syria is the extent to which all factions use images of the “eternal enemy” — Arabs and Iranians, Kurds and Arab, Christian, Alawit and Muslim, Sunni and Shia.  These enemy images make compromise all the more difficult.  It is sad to see the writing of history deformed, intellectual short cuts taken, the media used to strengthen prejudice rather than to inform.

Thus for the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination, carried out by a narrow Hindu to cut short Gandhi’s efforts at Hindu-Muslim reconciliation in the middle of the Partition Riots, it is useful to recall the appeal of Romain Rolland, biographer of Tolstoy, Gandhi, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, who Gandhi visited on his journey to Europe.  In 1919, shortly after the end of the First World War which had divided the intellectual community, Romain Rolland wrote to a wide range of intellectuals to raise the Arch of the Free Spirit.

When asked once by his fellow Hindus to allow retaliatory action against India's Muslims after sectarian violence struck the Hindu community, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma, had this to say about revenge: "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."

When asked once by his fellow Hindus to allow retaliatory action against India’s Muslims after sectarian violence had struck the Hindu community, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma, had this to say about revenge: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

“To the pestilence which is corroding in body and spirit, thinkers and artists have added an incalculable amount of poisoned hate; they have searched in the arsenal of their knowledge, their memory and their imagination for old and new reasons, historical, scientific, logical and poetic reasons, for hating; they have laboured to destroy love and understanding. And in so doing they have disfigured, dishonoured, debased and degraded Thought, whose ambassadors they were. They have made it an instrument of passions and (perhaps without knowing it) of the egotistic interests of a social or political clan, of a state, of a country or a class…

“Let us extricate the spirit from these humiliating alliances, this secret slavery!… We serve Truth alone, which is free, with no frontiers, with no limits, with no prejudices of race or caste.  Of course, we shall not dissociate ourselves from the interests of Humanity!  We shall work for it, but for it as a whole. We do not recognise nations.  We recognise the People — one and universal — the People who suffer, who struggle, who fall and rise again and who ever march forward on the rough road, drenched with their sweat and their blood — the People comprising all men, all equally our brothers.  And it is in order to make them, like ourselves, aware of this fraternity, that we raise above their blind battles the Arch of Alliance, of the Free Spirit, one and manifold, eternal.”[i]

* * *

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.


[i] Quoted from Rolland and Tagore (Calcutta: Visva-Bharati, 1945, pp 20-24)

Nelson Mandela and the Struggle for Universal Human Rights

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, World Law on December 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM

NELSON MANDELA AND THE STRUGGLE FOR UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS

By René Wadlow

 

It is appropriate that a major part of the commemoration for Nelson Mandela should fall on December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mandela was both a major actor in developing human rights in South Africa and a symbol of the worldwide struggle for the respect of human rights.  Pressure from human rights groups worldwide played an important part in his release from prison in 1990 as well as bringing an end to the deeply entrenched system of apartheid that enforced racial segregation in every aspect of South African life.

The efforts on the part of the Afrikaner-led National Party Government to enforce apartheid and to prevent opposition had led to many violations of human rights in South Africa: limits on press and expression, on the freedom of association, and the right to fair trial. Therefore, the dismantling of the apartheid system was a necessary pre-requisite for the establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Nelson Mandela led the efforts to end apartheid, a victory without the blood bath that so many had predicted and feared. He led on the path of constructive reconciliation and an inclusive society.

There is still much to do to develop equality of opportunity in South African society.  Years of discrimination, of lack of education and training, of lack of access to resources leave deep structural divides.  However, much has been undertaken, and South Africa has the potential to be an economic and political leader in Africa.

Nelson Mandela is an example of courage and conviction to secure human rights, both in his own country and worldwide, an example of the long and continuing efforts needed for human freedom.

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

 

5583290-la-sante-de-nelson-mandela-s-ameliore-selon-la-presidence

The UN and the Disappearing State of the Central African Republic

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on November 22, 2013 at 10:36 AM

THE UN AND THE DISAPPEARING STATE OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

By René Wadlow

In a November 19, 2013 statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, warned that communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) was spiraling out of control and backed the possibility of an armed UN peacekeeping force to complement the civilian UN staff, the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).

The UN faces a double task in the CAR. There is the immediate problem of violence among tribal-based militias in the absence of a national army or central government security forces. The militias basically pit the north of the country against the south. In addition, there are other militias from the Democratic Republic of the Congo which use the CAR as a “safe haven” and live off the land by looting villages. There are also segments of the Lord’s Resistance Army, largely from the Acholi tribes of northern Uganda who also use the CAR as a safe area looting as they move about.

In the absence of a standing UN peacekeeping force, UN peacekeepers would have to be redeployed from the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area also torn apart by fighting among different militias and an incompetent Congolese national army. Although the UN forces have been in the Congo for a number of years, it is only in the last couple of months that they have had a mandate to be active in a military way and have started to make an impact on the security situation. By deploying UN troops away from the Congo, there is a danger that the security progress made will fade away.

The longer range task of the UN, the peacebuilding effort, is to create a national administration which provides services beyond the capital city, Bangui. This is the aim of the BINUCA, but its work is largely impossible in the light of the ongoing violence. The challenge is “State-building” which was not done during the colonial period by France.

The area covered by the current State had no pre-colonial common history, but was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa when it could have been as easily part of the Belgium Congo or added to Uganda as part of British East Africa.

Oubangui-Chari as it was then known was the poor cousin of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) whose administrative center was Brazzaville, Congo, with Gabon as the natural resource base. The Cameroon, although legally a League of Nations Mandate, was basically part of AEF. Oubangui-Chari was used as an “exile post” for African civil servants considered “trouble makers”. French colonial administrators also considered Oubangui-Chari as a posting in exile, a place to get away from as soon as possible. Schools were few, and secondary school students were sent away to Brazzaville.

There was only one political figure of standing who emerged from Oubangui-Chari, Barthelemy Boganda (1910-1959). He was the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in 1938. After the Second World War, he was elected to serve in the French Parliament as a member of the Catholic-influenced MRP Party, although he was stripped of his priesthood for going into politics and also for marrying his legislative assistant.

Boganda advocated keeping the AEF together as a federation of independent States knowing that Oubangui-Chari was the poorest of the AEF States and most in need of help from its neighbours. Unfortunately, he was killed in a plane crash on the eve of independence, and with him disappeared all enlightened leadership.

However, his stature in the political life of Oubangui-Chari was such that political power passed on to two cousins, David Dacko, first President of the independent Central African Republic and then Jean-Bedel Bokassa in 1965 who changed the name of the country to Central African Empire and ruled (or misruled) as Bokassa 1er. His dreams of being a new Napoleon was ended in 1979 by a French military intervention after Bokassa had too visibly killed young school children who were protesting.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa aka Bokassa the First, the man who would be emperor – even if it meant reigning over scorched earth.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa aka Bokassa the First, the man who would be emperor – even if it meant reigning over scorched earth.

Since Bokassa, all pretext of a unified administration has disappeared. General Kolingba, Ange-Felix Patassé, followed by Francois Bozizé were considered “Head of State”, but the State had no visible administration. Bozizé was overthrown in March 2013 by Michel Djotodia and his Seleka (alliance in the Sango language) militia. The Alliance has now been dissolved by Djotodia but replaced by nothing. A fact-finding mission sent by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “both the forces of the former government of President Bozizé and the non-State armed group Seleka committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the conflict”.

Creating order from disorder is a difficult task, especially as the pre-colonial tribal structures no longer function. There were very few inter-tribal mechanisms to settle disputes in any case. The State-building process merits close attention. Somalia remains a good example of the difficulties. The UN faces real challenges in the Central African Republic and requires help from national governments and NGOs.

Politically, Africa has always been a continent of many dramas. Hopefully, if the international community finally decides to take quick, decisive action at last, the Central African Republic will not be just another name on the list.

Politically, Africa has always been a continent of many dramas. Hopefully, if the international community finally decides to take quick, decisive action, the Central African Republic will not be just another name on the list.

René Wadlow is the President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Does the Non-Aligned Movement Still Matter?

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Asia, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Middle East & North Africa, United Nations, World Law on August 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM

DOES THE NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT STILL MATTER?

by René Wadlow

With Iran taking over the three-year term of the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (N.A.M.) at the end of August 2012, the question arises: Does the Non-Aligned Movement still matters in world politics and how will Iran use the presidency?

At the time of its founding at the Bandung Conference in April 1955, the major world powers were aligned in Soviet- and United States-led blocs. The war in Korea had recently ended in an armistice with the same frontiers as at the start but could have been the forerunner of a world war. The French war in Indochina had ended with independence of the three Indochina states, but a new independence conflict had just started in Algeria. Basically Bandung marked the end of formal colonialism. As Sir John Kotelawala, Premier of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), said at the end of the conference “Bandung will be a name to reverberate in history and earn the gratitude and blessings of ages to come.”

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India delivering the closing speech at the Bandung Conference that created the Non-Aligned Movement.

For fear that the new Non-Aligned movement might supplement or weaken the United Nations (UN), no implementary organization was set up. Later, the pattern of three-year rotating presidency was developed, but without a permanent secretariat. The country holding the presidency offers its own diplomats and civil servants to carry on Non-Aligned tasks. The outgoing presidency — Egypt — was so taken up with its own political changes that it virtually played no role on behalf of the N.A.M. Will Iran be able to do more than use the prestige of the Movement to defend its own interests?

In time, the Non-Aligned Movement grew up to become a major player in international relations, providing the Third World with a voice of its own on the world stage.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will become the N.A.M. representative for its 118 members. His first presentation will be to the UN General Assembly in September. His talk should be analyzed closely to see if his presentation goes beyond the usual Iranian positions to be more inclusive of the interests of the N.A.M. members. A large conference at the end of August in Tehran will be the formal start of Iran’s presidency. Some Iranian leaders have called for the creation of a permanent secretariat. Thus it will be important to note what structural reforms are made within the N.A.M.

While in 1955, the idea of a “third camp” was a possibility — a wedge of sanity and restraint between the two atomic giants —, now there are real conflicts of interest among the N.A.M. members — the conflict in Syria being a prime example, along with differing territorial claims within the South China Sea among China and its neighbors.

The direct threats issued against the State of Israel by Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, albeit in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own warmongering rhetoric against Iran, raises serious questions as to what Ahmadinejad can be expected to make of his presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Iran itself is at the center of an international storm, and it is not clear if its diplomats and political leaders will have the energy to deal with the host of current conflicts among N.A.M. states as well as making proposition concerning the important economic, financial and ecological issues that the world faces. Moreover, the N.A.M. states are members of regional, intergovernmental organizations and therefore look less to N.A.M. leadership to structure economic and cultural cooperation.

Yet the N.A.M. does provide a structure for states and a large percentage of the people of the world. N.A.M. leadership has had an erratic relation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — sometimes encouraging their participation in meetings and programs and at other times ignoring them completely. Without a permanent secretariat, the N.A.M. has not developed the sort of consultative status that the UN has with NGOs. The Indian government at one stage had encouraged NGO-related activities within the N.A.M. Given the challenges facing the Iranian presidency of the N.A.M. it would be useful for NGOs to propose a more structured and formal relation with the N.A.M. especially if a permanent secretariat is created.

René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.

A New Mali Federation?

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 21, 2012 at 9:55 PM

A NEW MALI FEDERATION?

By René Wadlow

 

Since the fall of northern Mali to the forces of the Tuareg at the end of March 2012, the situation has grown in complexity. The group of young officers, more or less led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, had taken control of the government buildings of the Central Government in Bamako on March 23, but they had little idea of what else to do.

There was an immediate counter-reaction on the part of Western States such as France and the USA who provide most of the financial and technical assistance to Mali. Both France and the USA cut their aid to Mali—a country currently facing a severe drought and food shortages.  Likewise, the 15 states of the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) called for a speedy return to the civilian government. Captain Sanogo saw the “handwriting on the wall” and agreed to turn over the government to the President of the National Assembly who is the constitutional replacement when the President is absent.

In the meantime, the country is divided into two roughly equal areas—a north with the Tuareg holding the two major cities of Timbuktu and Gao, and the more populated south whose population provides most of the civil service, the army and the agricultural wealth of the country.

The Tuareg along with various armed groups probably from Mauritania, south Algeria and fighters who had been recruited for Libya are divided on what strategy to follow. There are two broad options. The largest group, Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) wants an independent state of northern Mali (and probably part of the Tuareg-inhabited Niger) to be called Azawad. The second faction, called Ansar Dine, is smaller but is more heavily armed and contains the bulk of armed foreigners. Their stated aim is to take control of all of Mali and to install Islamic law.

Tuareg rebels near the Sahara desert

Both options have difficulties. Northern Mali as an independent state of Azawad has no natural resources, a small population and few educated people to administer a state or to develop any economy beyond that of camel nomadism. In addition, most African states are opposed to carving up existing states or changing frontiers—a Pandora’s box as many states could be redrawn on ethnic lines and frontiers changed. Thus “territorial integrity” is an article of faith.

Ansar Dine’s option of an Islamist Mali is also difficult to realize. The Bambara and the Malinké are the largest groups in the country and hold economic, military, and political power. Ideologically, they are opposed to the Islamic vision of Ansar Dine, being more Sufi-influenced with a large measure of traditional African beliefs and practices mixed in.(1) Thus the possibility of Ansar Dine gaining support in the south of Mali is slight.  However, they may be able with force of arms to impose their views on Timbuktu and Gao but not on the northern countryside.  The Tuareg are not Islamist by tradition.  Yet in the two cities, the Ansar Dine may be able to force women to cover their hair, prevent the sale of wine and cut the hands of robbers—these three practices being the extent of their knowledge of Islamic law.

Faced with the difficulties of having a northern Malian state—Azawad—accepted by the power-holders of Mali and the neighboring states, there have been some discussions among Tuareg leaders and a former Malian government leader in Nouahchott, Mauritania. There have been no official statements coming from these talks, in part because both north and south Mali are in administrative disorder.  No one knows how much authority the persons involved have.  For the moment, it is probably at best “Track II” diplomacy, trying to see what are the aspirations, the limits of the acceptable, and the degree of the willingness to compromise. In the past France and Algeria have mediated disputes between the Tuareg and the central government of Mali. There have been past agreements on autonomy for the Tuareg.  However, these agreements have rarely held and more centralized government was slowly restored. I believe that this is due more to the incapacity of the Tuareg to provide trained people to run a decentralized administration than ill will or a desire of control on the part of the central government.

Yet, in the past, a “declaration of independence” for northern Mali was never proclaimed. Now that a powerful segment has declared the independence of Azawad, can they go “backward” and accept greater autonomy within a unified Mali?

Echoes from the current Nouachott talks have spoken of a “Federation of Mali”. The name has already been used. The Mali Federation with Senegal was achieved briefly on the eve of independence and lasted for 506 days from April 1, 1959 until August 19, 1960 when it fell apart during the conflict between the President of Senegal, L. S. Senghor and his Prime Minister Mamadou Dia, largely over the division of authority between the two posts.

Because of the way these events occurred, Mali was deprived of its principle outlet to the sea —Dakar, for three years.  Attempts to revive federalism between Mali, Guinea, and Ghana, two other states which had also chosen an anti-colonial “socialist” policy, proved futile.(2) Mali, which had been known as Soudan during the French colonial period, took the name Mali on the suggestion of President Senghor of Senegal from the 14th century empire which covered much of what is today Senegal, Mali and part of Niger.(3)

Can a new Mali Federation of the two sections of the current Mali work better than the earlier Federation of Mali?  With good will and imagination, federalist structures should be able to be worked out. Yet there are times when good will and imagination are in short supply.

 

Rene Wadlow is the President and Chief Representative to the United Nations, Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Notes:

1) See the classic study: Germaine Dieterlen, Essai sur le religion Bambara (Paris,:Presses Universitaires de France,1951)

2) See: Ruth Schachter Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-speaking West Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964)

William J. Foltz, From French West Africa to the Mali Federation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)

3) Raymond Mauny, Tableau géographique de l’Ouest africain au Moyen Age (Dakar: IFAN, 1961)

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