The Official Blog of the

Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

For a World Citizen Approach to Protecting Human Rights Defenders

In Middle East & North Africa, Human Rights, Solidarity, Democracy, The Search for Peace, Asia, Africa, United Nations, International Justice, World Law, Being a World Citizen, Europe, Refugees, NGOs, Latin America on January 19, 2021 at 6:28 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

What are, if any, the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis? As far as we, World Citizens, are concerned, the most important one is undoubtedly this: As we have been saying since the early days of our movement, global problems require global solutions.

Beyond the appearance of a mere self-serving statement, this traditional World Citizen slogan finds a new meaning today. Never has it been so visible and proven that national sovereignty can be not only a hurdle to solving global problems, but a full-scale peril to the whole world when abused. While many European nations were quick to react to the virus as a major health crisis right from early 2020, others led by nationalists, namely the USA, the UK and Brazil, adamantly refused to take any action, dismissing the virus as harmless if not non-existent. Just like an individual who is not aware of being sick can pass the disease on others while behaving without precaution, a country that does not act wisely can contribute dramatically to spreading the disease throughout the world. And that is what happened.

No use beating about the bush – that kind of behavior is a violation of human rights, starting with the right to life and the right to health. Even though COVID-19 is first and foremost a medical issue, it also has implications in terms of human rights. There comes a question which has been with us since the beginning of the century: In the absence of a global institution, such as a global police service, in charge of overseeing respect for human rights worldwide, what about the people devoting their lives to performing this duty of public service, these private citizens whom we call Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)? Before COVID-19 ever appeared, many of them were already in danger. While vaccines and medicines are being developed to counter COVID-19, there does not seem to be a cure in sight for the perils HRDs face every day.

Legal, legitimate, but unrecognized

HRDs, people defending human rights, have existed from the early days of human civilization in one form or another. Since 1948 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), followed by a number of treaties and similar declarations, it has obviously been viewed as more legitimate and legal to promote and protect rights which were now internationally recognized. The UDHR itself has made history by evolving from a non-binding resolution of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to an instrument of customary international law, toward which states feel obligated through, as international law puts it, opinio juris. But in a postwar Westphalian world where only states had international legal personality, the people defending the rights enshrined in the UDHR, in other words HRDs, long remained deprived of formal recognition.

It all changed in 1998, when the UN General Assembly celebrated the half-century of existence of the UDHR by presenting it with a companion text, officially called Resolution 53/144 of December 9, 1998 but better known as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – in short, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (DHRD).

Like the UDHR, the DHRD was born “soft law”. But the resemblance stops there. In twenty-two years of existence, the DHRD has been nowhere near accepted by states under opinio juris. Accepting international human rights is one thing, but endorsing the creation, if only morally speaking, of an international category of people authorized to go against the state to promote the same rights, well, that continues to be more than the nation-state can live with. Everywhere in the world, HRDs feel the pain of that denial of recognition.

Human rights under attack means defenders in danger

Traditionally, human rights in the Western sense of the word mean freedom of opinion and expression. These rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries, beyond geographical, cultural, religious, or even political differences. Inevitably, that goes for HRDs defending these rights too. The two “least democratic” countries sitting as Permanent Members on the UN Security Council, Russia and China, also stand out as world leaders in political repression.

During the Cold War, the Eastern bloc would put forward economic and social rights as a counterpoint to the said Western notion. Even though human rights were “reunified” over thirty years ago, economic and social rights remain taboo in various parts of the world. In Thailand and Nicaragua, health workers have been punished for demanding better equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. In the Philippines, city residents who pushed for more adequate shelter in times of lockdown were similarly repressed by their government.

Cultural rights, often alongside indigenous rights, can truly be described as disturbing all forms of governments in countries which used to be colonies of Western powers, from Latin America, most recently in Honduras and Paraguay, to Asia with such examples as Malaysia and Indonesia. In such countries, being an HRD trying to advance the rights of indigenous groups all but equates trying to tear the whole nation apart.

Everywhere in the world, such typical 21st-century pressing issues as LGBT rights and, more than ever since the #MeToo scandal, women’s rights may be popular causes, but taking them up almost systematically means trouble, be it in North African countries like Egypt and Tunisia or in the European nations of Poland and Andorra.

Last but not least, even though one might think the wide consensus on the issue opens doors for action, defending environmental rights is proving no easy task. From Madagascar to Belarus, trying to get your government to live up to its responsibilities is bound to create a most unsafe environment for you.

For those who need and manage to flee, being abroad does not even mean being safe anymore. China has been found to be heavily spying on activists from the Uyghur minority living in foreign countries, and last month the AWC had to send an appeal to the authorities of Canada regarding a Pakistani HRD from the Baloch minority group who was found dead in Toronto, after the local police service said the death was not a criminal act but a fellow Baloch HRD and refugee there expressed serious doubts.

When the DHRD should be providing greater relief and comfort for the performance of human rights work, HRDs continue to be denied any character of public service, leading to acute stigmatization, intimidation, and ultimately repression. As many signs that the nation-state is losing its nerves in trying to defend a Westphalian national sovereignty that COVID-19 has now largely proved is out of date.

Shattering national borders – and human rights, too

One form of human rights abuse that has become particularly salient since the late 2000s, further fueled by Brexit in 2016 and the now-ending Trump presidency since 2017, is the systematic persecution of refugees and migrants – and, more preoccupying still, of those nationals in the countries of arrival trying to lend a hand to the newcomers. In France, President Emmanuel Macron was thought to have been spared from the influence of populist parties backed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia; yet several activists have been prosecuted on these sole grounds, such as Martine Landry of Amnesty International France and Cédric Herrou, both from the Nice area near the Italian border. Eventually, both were cleared by the judiciary. In the USA, migrants’ rights activist Scott Warren was similarly prosecuted – and similarly acquitted. But in both countries and others still, the problem remains unsolved.

No wonder this is happening at all. Even those governments least favorable to the brand of xenophobia “exported” by Moscow since the last decade have become unfathomably sensitive to the issue of migration and asylum, as they too feel threatened by the outside world and flaunt their borders as ramparts, shielding them from some barbaric conduct with which they confuse different customs and religions, thus adopting the very same attitude as those populists they claim to be fighting. That leaves citizens trying to help refugees and migrants singled out as traitors and criminals.

The mass arrival of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the summer of 2015 proved that Europe and, for this purpose, the rest of the world were wrong to assume that crises in other, distant parts of the world could never hit home too violently. In this case, the crisis bore a name – ISIS, the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (the Levant)”. The Iraqi-born terrorist group had conquered a wide swath of land the previous year, seizing territory from both Iraq and Syria along the border, and established on it a “caliphate” that drew scores of individuals from many parts of the world, especially Europe and North Africa. The previous summer had seen its militias persecute the millennia-old Christian minority of Iraq and other religious groups such as the Yezidis. A year before the UN dared called it genocide, the AWC did.

When the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” of the late 1990s in Afghanistan had been recognized by three countries, no one recognized the “Islamic State”, let alone the caliphate. Obviously, recognizing the “caliphate” would have been both a violation of international law and an insult to all of ISIS’s victims back home and abroad. Nonetheless, as the French-American scholar Scott Atran and the specialist Website e-ir.info noted, the “ISIS crisis” proved that the traditional notion of the nation-state was now being violently rejected – violently, and ISIS leaders knew full well how to make good use of it, cleverly rendering their barbaric ways appealing to Westerners and North Africans frustrated at the lack of social and political change back in their home countries.

Questioning the nation-state in such an insane, murderous manner can only be diametrically opposed to the mindset of a World Citizen. Stopping borders from serving as ramparts against foreigners irrationally viewed as enemies, bringing the people of the world together regardless of political nationality, none of this can ever be compatible with the creation of yet another nation-state, albeit de facto, to terrorist ends at home and abroad. Even though the massive afflux of migrants and refugees was certainly no phenomenon the best-prepared state in the world could have successfully dealt with overnight, European nations failed at it miserably. In suspecting and rejecting foreigners for fear of terrorism, they only made it easier to commit terrorist attacks on their soil and endanger their own population, including the Muslim population which automatically becomes a scapegoat every time a jihadi terrorist attack is carried out. Nobody’s human rights were well-served and everybody’s human rights ended up as losers.

Globalizing solidarity with HRDs

There you have it. The harder states, European and others, strive to defend their borders as sacred, God-given privileges, the harder human rights and their defenders get hit and everybody loses.

Consequently, returning to the comparison with COVID-19, a true World Citizen perspective toward protecting HRDs must put forward what has been absent throughout the pandemic, in terms of both public health and patient care – globalization. Not the unfair, inhumane economic globalization we have known since the 1990s, for that one too is responsible for what has happened over the past twelve months. A World Citizen can only seek a globalization of solidarity, bearing in mind that, as French President Emmanuel Macron once put it, “the virus does not have a passport” and travels freely through all human beings who accept, or get forced, to become its living vehicles.

The very same principle should apply to human rights and their defenders. The UDHR is by name universal, as are all human rights. Therefore, why wouldn’t the defense of the same rights be universal by nature? If terrorism can be let to shun national borders in its war on the whole world, then why can’t brave, devoted HRDs enjoy the recognition they deserve, in every country, on every continent, and from every type of government? Why in the world would a terrorist get greater attention than a citizen dedicating their life to championing the dignity of all fellow human beings? If this divided world of ours could possibly find some sort of unity in support of health workers fighting COVID-19, then why not around HRDs, too?

World leaders can no longer look away from the issue. Uniting around one global problem means endorsing the principle of global solutions for everything else. If there is to be a different future for the world, a better future, then trusting and respecting HRDs, supporting and helping them, and ultimately joining their ranks are as many keys that will unlock a brand new era of shared true dignity.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer 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 – 20200911/India & China/Peace/Track II

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, World Law on September 11, 2020 at 11:43 AM

Press Release

Paris, September 11, 2020

*

TENSIONS ON THE INDIA-CHINA BORDER:

WHERE STATE DIPLOMACY HAS FAILED,

CITIZEN DIPLOMACY CAN SUCCEED

*

With tensions growing between India and China on their frontier, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) has proposed nongovernmental discussions between persons involved in conflict-resolution efforts in the two countries – which is called Track II diplomacy.

Track I is the activity of the regular State diplomatic services. In the current India-China tensions, there have been Track I efforts between military commanders on the frontier to reduce dangers of violence by miscalculation.  However, such talks do not deal with fundamental issues nor highlight topics on which negotiations are possible.

The AWC has a good number of contacts in India in academic and conflict resolution circles – much less in China due to the history of the World Citizen movement which has had strong support in India from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru on. The AWC’s Track II appeal has been widely sent to India and received strong encouragement: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/07/03/can-track-ii-efforts-reduce-china-india-frontier-tensions/.

Jammu and Kashmir: A Year of Uncertainty, Regression of the Rule of Law, and Economic Decline

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on August 17, 2020 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

 

On August 5, 2019, the Central Government of India put an end to article 370 of the Indian Constitution which provided autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, an autonomy which dated from shortly after Independence.

Pre-Independence Kashmir was ultimately divided between India and Pakistan with part of Pakistani Kashmir later ceded to China and is called Aksai Chin. The status and divisions of Jammu and Kashmir have been an issue of confrontation between India and Pakistan. (1)

Within Indian Kashmir, there has been continuing unrest and violence due to armed insurgencies, groups working for greater autonomy or independence, and the presence of a large number of Indian troops. (2)

Capture d'écran 2020-08-17 22.36.30.png

Jammu and Kashmir was, for Jawaharlal Nehru, a central element in building a “secular and plural India” although in practice much of the politics in Jammu and Kashmir have focused on majority Muslim interests and minority Hindu concerns.

Jawaharlal_Nehru_1957_crop

Jawaharlal Nehru

Regarding the root causes of militancy, one school of thought maintains that economic negligence contributed to the rise of extremism. Another school believes that the political suppression of the late 1980s forced the young to join extremist groups.

With the August 5, 2019 change of status, Jammu and Kashmir have become separate Indian states. Ladakh is now directly administered from New Delhi. Ladakh is an area of Tibetan culture with a largely Tibetan population. Ladakh has always been uneasy with being ruled by the Muslim majority of Jammu and Kashmir.

After August 5, a large number of Kashmiri political figures were arrested. Some were put in prison, others under house arrest. Internet and telephone communications with the rest of India were cut. There have been reliable reports of torture on some of those arrested.

The situation in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh merits watching closely. Tensions among India, Pakistan and China can grow. The erosion of the rule of law is real and can continue to disintegrate. Negotiations in good faith are necessary, but there is no current framework for such negotiations among governments. There may be an avenue for Track II – nongovernmental negotiations – such as those proposed by the Association of World Citizens. We need to be alert as to these possibilities.

Notes
1) See Dennis Kux. India-Pakistan Negotiations. Is Past still Prologue?
(Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2006)
Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966)
2) See Wajahat Habibullah, My Kashmir: Conflict and the Prospects for Enduring Peace (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2008)
Widmalm Stein, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective: Democracy and Violent Separation in India (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Howard B. Schaffen, The Limits of Influence: America’s Role in Kashmir (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2009)

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

Taiwan, Etat non-membre de l’ONU, se dote d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains en suivant les règles des Nations Unies

In Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on August 2, 2020 at 9:26 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme ayant été proclamée par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies, faut-il être citoyen d’un Etat membre de l’ONU pour s’en réclamer ?

Absurde, comme question ? Elle ne l’était pas tant lorsque la Déclaration fut adoptée, en 1948, dans le monde de l’après-Seconde Guerre Mondiale où le colonialisme existait encore et des centaines de millions d’êtres humains vivaient encore sous l’autorité d’un pays européen qui avait un jour pris leur terre par la force.

René Cassin et les rédacteurs de la Déclaration savaient ce qu’ils voulaient. Le Préambule précise que les Droits de l’Homme, aujourd’hui Droits Humains, doivent être respectés «tant parmi les populations des Etats Membres eux-mêmes que parmi celles des territoires placés sous leur juridiction». L’Article 2.2 se veut tout aussi explicite en affirmant qu’ «il ne sera fait aucune distinction fondée sur le statut politique, juridique ou international du pays ou du territoire dont une personne est ressortissante, que ce pays ou territoire soit indépendant, sous tutelle, non autonome ou soumis à une limitation quelconque de souveraineté».

Tout être humain était donc titulaire des droits énoncés par la Déclaration, la colonisation n’y devant apporter aucune différence. Mais pour ne citer qu’elles, les réponses de la France et de la Grande-Bretagne aux velléités d’indépendance allaient bientôt démontrer une réalité tout autre, en particulier pendant la guerre d’Algérie.

Au début du vingt-et-unième siècle, la terre était entièrement composée d’Etats membres de l’ONU. Parmi les Etats mondialement reconnus, seule la Suisse ne l’était pas, ayant toutefois fini par rejoindre les Nations Unies en 2002. A ce jour, seuls trois Etats reconnus à travers le monde ne sont pas membres de l’ONU – l’Etat de Palestine, cependant membre de l’UNESCO, le Saint-Siège, Etat que dirige le Pape au sein de la Cité du Vatican à Rome, et Taiwan, ou plutôt, selon son nom officiel, la République de Chine.

En fait, pour l’Organisation mondiale, Taiwan n’est même pas un Etat. En 1949, à l’issue de la guerre civile opposant le Gouvernement chinois aux troupes communistes, l’île devient le seul territoire restant à l’Etat chinois reconnu et qui, à l’ONU, le reste bien qu’ayant perdu la Chine continentale. Ce n’est qu’en 1971 que les Nations Unies reconnaissent le régime de Beijing et retirent sa reconnaissance à Taiwan. Depuis cette époque, Taiwan se considère comme une province de la République de Chine, qu’elle estime être l’Etat légitime chinois en lieu et place de celui représenté au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU dont la Chine populaire est l’un des cinq Membres permanents.

Inexistante aux yeux des Nations Unies, Taiwan y a donc perdu tout droit – mais aussi tout devoir, notamment envers les normes internationales de Droits Humains. Pour autant, les Taïwanais sont loin d’avoir cessé d’y croire et viennent même de remporter une considérable victoire.

Des principes universels – mais qui ne lient pas Taiwan

A Taiwan, la situation est tendue, tant du fait de la Chine populaire qu’à l’intérieur même des frontières. Aux menaces de Beijing qui, s’employant à réprimer la révolte contre le projet de loi ultrasécuritaire à Hong Kong, annonce à Taiwan qu’elle est la prochaine sur laquelle viendra s’abattre sa force armée, viennent s’ajouter les poursuites judiciaires et fiscales contre le groupe spirituel Tai Ji Men, en cours depuis les années 1990 et qui ont fait descendre Taipei dans la rue.

Tout se prête à une crispation tant externe qu’interne des dirigeants, et dans de telles conditions, autant dire qu’espérer en une avancée sociale ou sociétale majeure relève au mieux du vœu pieux. Or, le «vœu pieux» vient précisément de devenir réalité.

Le 1er août, la République de Chine s’est dotée d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains, placée sous l’autorité administrative du Yuan de Contrôle qui œuvre à l’observation du bon fonctionnement des institutions au sein de l’exécutif. Selon la Présidente taïwanaise, Tsai Ing-wen, souvent citée en exemple pour sa gestion de la COVID-19 avec plusieurs de ses homologues féminines comme Jacinda Ardern ou Angela Merkel, la Commission aura pour tâche de rendre les lois nationales plus conformes aux normes internationales de Droits Humains. Et à l’appui de sa revendication, la cheffe de l’Etat taïwanais choisit une référence frappante.

Tsai_Ing-wen_20170613

Tsai Ing-wen, Présidente de la République de Chine

Lors de la cérémonie de création de la Commission, Tsai Ing-wen a invoqué les Principes de Paris, créés par une résolution de la Commission des Droits de l’Homme de l’ONU, ancêtre du Conseil du même nom, en 1992 puis validés par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies l’année suivante, également l’année de la Conférence de Vienne sur les Droits Humains qui créa en la matière le poste de Haut Commissaire.

Instaurant le concept d’Institution nationale des Droits Humains (INDH), rôle que remplit en France, par exemple, la Commission nationale consultative des Droits de l’Homme créée en 1947, les Principes de Paris fixent des buts fondamentaux à accomplir pour toute INDH : protéger les Droits Humains, notamment en recevant des plaintes et en enquêtant en vue de résoudre l’affaire, en œuvrant à titre de médiateur dans des litiges et en observant les activités liées aux Droits Humains dans la société, mais aussi assurer la promotion des Droits Humains à travers l’éducation, l’information du public dans les médias réguliers et à travers des publications propres, ainsi que la formation, la création des aptitudes et, in fine, le conseil et l’assistance au gouvernement national.

Mais attention. N’est pas une INDH qui veut. Afin d’être reconnue comme telle, puis autorisée à rejoindre l’Alliance mondiale des Institutions nationales des Droits Humains (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, GANHRI), une INDH doit remplir, toujours selon les Principes de Paris, six critères incontournables :

– Disposer d’un mandat large se fondant sur les normes universelles de Droits Humains,

– Disposer d’une autonomie réelle de fonctionnement envers le Gouvernement,

– Disposer d’une indépendance garantie par son statut ou son acte constitutif,

– Assurer en son sein le pluralisme,

– Bénéficier de ressources financières suffisantes pour accomplir sa tâche, et

– Bénéficier de pouvoirs d’enquête effectifs pour obtenir des résultats probants.

Il est facile pour un gouvernement, surtout sentant la pression internationale, de créer une INDH de complaisance. Mais il sera moins facile pour celle-ci d’être reconnue par ses paires. Au demeurant, la Chine populaire reconnue par l’ONU n’a pas créé à ce jour d’INDH …

Non membre de l’ONU, Taiwan n’est en théorie pas tenue par les normes internationales auxquelles se réfère la Présidente Tsai. Autant dire que le choix est risqué. S’il est risqué, c’est parce qu’il est courageux. Et s’il est courageux, c’est parce qu’il est subjectif.

Taiwan sait quels risques elle veut prendre

Entre 1949, année de la scission du peuple chinois sur le plan politique, et 1975, date de son décès, Tchang Kai-chek, ancien général puis dictateur de type fasciste en Chine continentale, aura dirigé Taiwan d’une main de fer face à Mao Zedong, patron de la Chine populaire, à laquelle il imposera un règne tyrannique ponctué par une sanglante «révolution culturelle» et qui ne survivra que quelques mois à son adversaire taïwanais.

774px-Chiang_Kai-shek(蔣中正)

Tchang Kaï-chek

Jusqu’alors démocratie de façade, Taiwan en devient progressivement une plus réelle et, dans les années 1980, l’Etat insulaire émerge comme l’une des grandes puissances économiques de l’Asie, formant avec la Corée du Sud, la cité-Etat de Singapour et Hong Kong, alors toujours colonie britannique, les «Quatre Dragons».

Pour la Chine populaire, la fin de la Guerre Froide n’est pas symbole de liberté, le Printemps de Beijing et les manifestants de la Place Tienanmen étant réprimés dans le sang en juin 1989. La décennie voit le pouvoir central poursuivre et accentuer ses manœuvres d’intimidation contre les minorités ethniques et religieuses, Bouddhistes au Tibet et Ouighours musulmans au Xinjiang. Quant à Taiwan, sa position unique de non-Etat membre de l’ONU apparaît plus que jamais problématique, au sein d’un nouvel ordre mondial introuvable et pour lequel l’interminable exclusion de l’Etat insulaire fait figure d’épine dans le pied.

C’est aussi l’époque où, sous le leadership de Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan parachève sa démocratisation et entame une vaste campagne diplomatique mondiale pour trouver de nouveaux alliés. L’un des effets les moins connus de cette campagne est que, lorsque le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies est appelé en 1999 à renouveler le mandat de l’UNPREDEP, force déployée à titre préventif en Macédoine – aujourd’hui République de Macédoine du Nord –, Beijing met son veto en raison de la reconnaissance accordée par l’ancienne république yougoslave à Taiwan, une opération de l’OTAN devant prendre la relève.

444px-Mao_Zedong_1959

Mao Zedong

Ayant suivi depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale un parcours politique semblable à celui, en Europe, de l’Espagne et du Portugal, avec un régime de type fasciste disparaissant avec son créateur dans les années 1970 et une démocratisation qui va de pair avec une envolée économique, entre un modèle communiste disparu presque partout ailleurs dans le monde et celui de la démocratie de libre marché, certes imparfait mais non moins plébiscité à travers la planète, Taiwan a choisi. Entre un Etat qui se donne droit de vie et de mort sur ses citoyens, la dernière forme en étant celle de Ouighours parqués dans des camps et de femmes stérilisées de force qui confèrent à cette campagne tous les traits d’un génocide, et un Etat qui se dote d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains en dépit même de convulsions internes et d’une menace militaire externe plus criante que jamais, Taiwan sait quels risques elle veut prendre.

Organisations intergouvernementales : un modèle à revoir ?

Une organisation comme l’AWC n’est pas là pour soutenir une idéologie politique précise, que ce soit le communisme, le capitalisme ou aucune autre. Nous ne sommes pas là non plus pour prendre parti pour un Etat contre un autre, notre but étant le règlement pacifique des différends entre nations.

Mais les contextes politiques permettant ou non le respect des Droits Humains sont une réalité. Deux Etats se veulent la Chine, l’un à Beijing, l’autre à Taipei. A présent, l’un d’eux possède une Commission nationale des Droits Humains. Et ce n’est pas celui qui, juridiquement parlant, est tenu par les Principes de Paris.

Lee_Teng-hui_2004_cropped

Lee Teng-hui

Douglas Mattern, Président-fondateur de l’AWC, décrivait notre association comme étant «engagée corps et âme» auprès de l’ONU. Elle l’est, mais envers l’esprit de l’Organisation mondiale, la lettre de ses textes, et non envers la moindre de ses décisions politiques. En l’occurrence, l’exclusion totale de Taiwan du système onusien, déjà battue en brèche par la COVID-19 qui remet à l’ordre du jour la question de l’admission de Taiwan à l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé où elle a perdu son statut d’observateur au moment de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Tsai Ing-wen, apparaît plus incompréhensible encore avec l’accession à un mécanisme onusien de Droits Humains de la République de Chine quand la République populaire de Chine, Membre permanente du Conseil de Sécurité, s’affiche de plus en plus fièrement indifférente à ses devoirs les plus élémentaires.

L’expérience taïwanaise qui vient de s’ouvrir devra être observée avec la plus grande attention. S’il vient à être démontré qu’une institution de fondement onusien peut se développer avec succès sur un territoire et dans un Etat extérieurs à l’ONU, et on les sait bien peu nombreux, alors une révision du modèle des organisations intergouvernementales du vingtième siècle s’imposera, avec pour point de départ, du plus ironiquement, une leçon de cohérence donnée à l’une d’entre elles par un Etat-nation. 

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

South China Sea Delimitation Disputes: Good Faith Negotiations Needed

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Environmental protection, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 28, 2020 at 11:42 AM

By René Wadlow

 

There are several maritime delimitation disputes that are currently dangerous and require good-faith negotiations to prevent increased tensions. World Citizens had played an important role in the Law of the Sea Conference (UNCLOS) negotiations and in the creation of the International Seabed Authority and its Tribunal on maritime deliberation issues. (1)

There are currently two major geographic areas in which there are maritime delimitation issues: the Arctic and the China Seas. The China Seas tensions are the most politically sensitive. Territorial sea disputes can be heated up by governments and cooled off at will when other political issues require attention elsewhere. Currently, we are in a “heating up” stage between China and Japan, China, and the USA, and to a lesser degree between China and Vietnam, China and Taiwan, and China and the Philippines. The broader China-U.S.A. tensions also color the South China Sea issues.

There are both economic and geo-strategic aspects to these tensions, and both need to be addressed if good faith negotiations are to lead to cooperation for the benefit of all. (2)

Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

Progress in maritime geology and predictions of metal shortages in the decade ahead have made seabed mining a concern of governments such as China, Japan, and South Korea. Minerals such as copper, gold, and many other industrial minerals as well as oil-natural gas are thought to be available through sea mining in this Pacific area.

The strategic-geopolitical aspects are less clear but they focus on the Chinese Navy creating permanent islands around what had been only rock formations of land that was visible only part of the year. There is a drive for influence in the area among China, Japan, the USA, and to a lesser extent, India. The drive has no doubt to do with the vision each State has of its leadership role, its growing or declining position, its ability to limit the influence and access of other States, and its “core interests.” Such political speculations are “immaterial” but can easily lead to mistaken calculations and consequent actions.

Factions in both Japan and China are playing a “nationalist card” concerning the maritime delimitations disputes, no doubt for reasons which go beyond the specific aspects of the disputes. Although the Chinese “nationalist” focus is directed toward Japan, there is a vision among some Chinese that the USA is the cause of the continuing problems with Taiwan and Japan.

south-china-sea-stone-park-blue-sea

Therefore, it is important that “non-nationalist” voices be heard, stressing cooperation for mutual benefit. The Association of World Citizens is among such voices, stressing that the settlement of maritime delimitation disputes through adjudication by the World Court is the ideal approach. For World Citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea is of special significance. The greater part of the oceans is considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership. Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

Although most maritime delimitations are, in fact, achieved without recourse to adjudication and settled by bilateral negotiations, submitting a dispute to the World Court can better ensure that the results of the delimitation process conform to the rules of international law. We need to start a strong mobilization of voices calling for good-faith negotiations and for a vision of cooperation among the States of the China Seas.

NOTES:

1) See the writings of the Louis B. Sohn, in particular his course at the Hague Court legal summer school “Settlement of Disputes Relating to the Interpretation and Application of Treaties”, Recueil des cours, Vol. 150. 1976 II, pp. 205-294. For a useful approach to the delimitations issues see A. O. Adede, The System for Settlement of Disputes Under the UNCLOS (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987)

2) Delimitation disputes are not new but reappear when politically useful for some reason. For a good overview of the history with maps of the disputed areas see Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia, Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991).

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

Can Track II Efforts Reduce China-India Frontier Tensions?

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on July 3, 2020 at 7:52 AM

By René Wadlow

 

In a June 24, 2020 message to the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Mr. Vladimir Novov, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) expressed its active concern with the June 15 death of Indian and Chinese military in the Galwan River Valley in Ladakh on the India-China frontier and the possibility that the tensions will increase. While there have been brief discussions among Indian and Chinese authorities to prevent escalation, there have been no real negotiations. Negotiation is a basic political decision-making process, to facilitate compromise without loss of essential objectives.

33465091301_7d4f34b432_o

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on June 25 that since early May, the Chinese have been amassing a large contingent of troops and arms along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Also, within India, there has been a good deal of media attention, highly critical of China, given to the events. In addition, there have been calls for a boycott of Chinese goods, and some Chinese products have been removed from Indian shops. Both Indian and Chinese spokespersons have made references to the 1962 war during which some 2,000 persons were killed.

The AWC believes that there is a need for prompt measures as the India-China tensions add to existing tensions between the USA and China as well as boundary issues with Asian States in the South China Sea.

There may be a role for “Track II” nongovernmental efforts and exchanges. Track I is official government to government diplomacy among instructed representative of States, usually diplomats from the Foreign Ministry. However, governments have a range of officials on whom to call: intelligence agencies, the military, and “friends of the President” – trusted individuals within the executive entourage.

Nathu_La_-_Indo_China_Border

Track II efforts are organized through nongovernmental organizations and sometimes by academic institutions. Such efforts can entail informal, behind the scene communications that take place in the absence of formal communication channels. The term “Track II” was coined by the U. S. diplomat Joseph Montville in The Arrow and the Olive Branch: A Case for Track II Diplomacy.

Track II efforts have grown as there is increasing recognition that there is a tragic disjunction between the United Nations tension-reduction mandate and its ability to intervene in conflicts when called upon. As Adam Curle, experienced in Quaker mediation efforts has written “In general governments achieve their results because they have power to influence events, including the ability to reward or to punish. Paradoxically, the strength of civilian peacemakers resides specifically in their lack of power. They are neither feared nor courted for what they can do. Instead, they are trusted and so may sometimes be enabled to play a part in peacemaking denied to most official diplomats.”

Those involved in Track II efforts must, nevertheless, have ready access to governmental decision-makers and Track I diplomats. As the World Citizen and Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding in a little verse writes,

“When Track One will not do,
We have to travel on Track Two
But for results to be abiding,
The Tracks must meet upon some siding”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the China-India frontier tensions, both sides must be convinced that there is a considerable sentiment for peace among their own supporters. In this conflict, which could slip into greater violence, there is an understandable tendency to look for short term answers. Yet there is also a need for some involved in Track II efforts to have an over-all integrated perspective for both short as well as long-term transformation. Thus, there needs to be a “pool” of people with experience, skills and the ability to move fast when the need or the opportunity is there?

We are sure that there are groups in India and China which can rise to meet this challenge.

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

World Interfaith Harmony Week: Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Spirituality on February 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on October 20, 2010, by Resolution A/RES/65/PV.34 designated the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence, wished to highlight the importance that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue can play in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly Resolution recognized “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As the then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote “At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous problems — security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic — enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.”

Citizens of the World have called for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles and suffering which is certainly necessary if we are to help resolve the many armed conflicts, World Citizens have suggested that the focus should be on cooperation, coexistence and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. Harmony leads to gentleness, patience, kindness and thus to inner peace and outward to relations based on respect.

Harmony is a universal common value. In harmony we can find true belief that transcends all cultures and religions. The meaning of life is to seek harmony within our inner self. Humans are born with a spiritual soul that develops to seek self-fulfillment. Our soul has a conscience that elevates us. As our soul grows to maturity, we achieve our own harmony.

However, harmony is not only a personal goal of inner peace but a guideline for political, social and world affairs. At this moment in history, our action should enhance peace, reduce conflict and activate a harmony culture. The 21st century is the beginning of a Harmony Renaissance. Our world mission is to be ready for humanity’s next creative wave to lead us to a higher level of common accomplishment. The World Harmony Renaissance should bring the whole world into action for this new millennium of peace and prosperity with unfettered collective energy.

Chinese culture can play an important role in the creation of this harmonious culture. In an earlier period in Chinese thought there was an important conscious effort to create a Harmony Renaissance. This was during the Sung dynasty (960-1279) which reunited China after a period of division and confusion. This was a period of interest in science — “the extension of knowledge through the investigation of things”. It was a period when there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework currents of thought that existed in China but often as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Taoism and religious Taoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch — the Study of the Tao — an effort later called by Western scholars as “Neo-Confucianism”.

Confucius

Chou Tun-yi (1017-1073), often better known as the Master of Lien-his, was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang, each becoming the source of the other.

Thus today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of the countries of the world both in policy and practice was upon competition, conflict and individual enrichment, there is a need for an emphasis on harmony, cooperation, mutual respect, and working for the welfare of the community with a respect for Nature. When one aspect, either Yin or Yang, becomes too dominant, then there needs to be a re-equilibrium.

Obviously, it takes time for a harmonious society at home and a harmonious world abroad to be put into place. The re-equilibrium of the energies of Yin and Yang do not take place overnight. Nor is this re-equilibrium only the task of the Chinese. The cultivation of harmony must become the operational goal for many. As Mencius (372-289 BCE) a follower of Confucius said, “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.”

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to open new paths. As world citizens we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. We hold that peace can be achieved through opening our hearts and minds to a broader perspective. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind and love the world with a global heart.

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

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 28, 2019 at 12:40 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 23, 2019, 39 people, 8 women and 31 men, were found dead in a refrigerated trailer truck coming from Belgium in the last leg of its journey. The truck was at a parking lot in Essex, near London, England. The identity of the persons is still in the process of being investigated. They may be Vietnamese having traveled through China, or Chinese. The victims draw sad attention to the process of trafficking in persons.

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

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

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

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

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

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As 25% of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. As a result, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiroshima Anniversary Day: Developing a Nuclear-weapon Abolition Strategy

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States, World Law on August 6, 2019 at 8:16 PM

By René Wadlow

“Just prior to the May 2010 Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) said, “Everyone recognizes the catastrophic danger of nuclear weapons. Just as clearly, we know the threat will last as long as these weapons exist. The Earth’s very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament. And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation … Momentum is building around the world. Governments and civil society groups, often at odds, have begun working in the common cause. All this work reflects the priorities of our member states, shaped in turn by public opinion. Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now.”

Thus, governments and civil society groups, often at odds on other questions, might be able to set out a strategy for progress toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. There has always been an ebb and flow of popular interest in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world, and currently, there seems to be a rising tide of activity. Men who did little to curb nuclear weapons when they were in power are now saying that something should be done: ‘The only sure way to prevent nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war is to rid the world of nuclear weapons.’ Since peace-making depends on coalition building, we cannot belittle these new-found friends.

There have always been at least two major aspects of nuclear issues — the one is to prevent the proliferation to new states, the other is to reduce the number of warheads among the existing nuclear-weapon states.

A strategy which has influenced popular action on nuclear weapons has been whether to place an emphasis on the goal of total abolition or on partial steps such as the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Those working for partial measures have always said that abolition was the ultimate aim, but in practice, the partial measures always became the focus of action. I recall that when I was in college, I used to walk to relax and would meet from time to time Albert Einstein walking from his office to his nearby home. I would say ‘Good Evening, Prof Einstein, and he would reply ‘Good Evening, Young Man’. Although I had no idea then or now what his theories were about, I knew that they had something to do with atoms, and he had come out early for nuclear control. ‘One World or None’ was the slogan of the late 1940s. Einstein’s final appeal shortly before his death was the Russell-Einstein Manifesto (1955) with its call to think “not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings”.

When I used to see Einstein, I was already active on the partial measures of the time — an end to testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. I had followed the lead of Senator Estes Kefauver who was the first United States (U. S.) political leader to attack actively nuclear testing. As Kefauver had taken on the link between politics and organized crime, he could take on also the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission which was deaf to all calls to prevent nuclear fallout from entering the food chain. It took till 1963 to get the tests to move below ground, but the mid-1950s nuclear testing campaign was the entry point of my generation into nuclear issues.

Senator Estes Kefauver

I tend still to stress limited steps within the framework of regional settlements of disputes. There seems to me to be three opportunities to press ahead:

1.

The first and easiest because it involves only two states without major conflict issues is a reduction in the number of nuclear warheads of the USA and Russia — the number of 1,000 each seems to be on the table. It is still too many and strategic thinking in the two countries is not very clear what they are for, but this is a case where ‘fewer is better’, so let us push for this sharp reduction while we try to see what role the USA and Russia can usefully play in the world society, as well as reducing tensions between them.

2.

The second opportunity is for a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East. The elimination of Israeli nuclear weapons and no nuclear-weapon development in Iran would help reduce Middle East tensions. Mohammed El Baradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been calling for this Middle East nuclear weapon free zone for some time. However, there will have to be strong popular pressure for such a zone as neither the Israeli nor the Iranian government seems to be moving fast in the direction.

3.

The third opportunity for non-governmental suggestions is to participate in the preparations for the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Review conferences held every five years have been the most favorable to Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) of the arms control negotiations. I had chaired the NGOs attending the 1975 and 1980 reviews and with the help of Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico, the NGOs had the ability to distribute proposals and to interact fully, though not to address the conference. Our proposals were widely discussed and even presented by one government as its own. At the 1980 review when no government text could be agreed upon, the NGO draft, largely written by Homer Jack, an active world citizen, was seriously discussed at a midnight meeting of the Conference Bureau, but wording was not the real issue. After the 1985 Review, which nearly went down in flames thanks to charges and outer-charges between Iraq and Iran, at that time in war, I gave up, having repeated too often the Preamble and Article VI. which hold out the promise of a disarmed world under effective international control and stresses that “in accordance with the Charter, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

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

%d bloggers like this: