The Official Blog of the

Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Increased Korean Tensions: Time for Concerted Nongovernmental Efforts

In Asia, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 1, 2017 at 9:35 AM

By René Wadlow

An escalation of verbal exchanges between the Presidents of the USA and North Korea, missile flights over Japan, United States (U. S.) war planes close to the sea frontier of North Korea – one can hardly think of additional ways that governments can increase tensions short of an armed attack which probably all governments want to avoid. But there are always dangers of events slipping out of control. The Security Council of the United Nations (UN) has voted to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea. However, to date, sanctions have diminished the socio-economic conditions of the majority without modifying government policy.

For the moment, we look in vain for enlightened governmental leadership. The appeals for calm by the Chinese authorities have not been followed by specific proposals for actions to decrease tensions.

kor01_400_01

The one positive sign which may help to change the political atmosphere both for governmental negotiations and for Track II (nongovernmental) discussions is the large number of States which have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 20 September, the first day that the Treaty was open for signature. Signature is the first step in the process of ratification. As a light in the darkness, the Holy See (the Vatican) both signed and ratified the Treaty at the same time. Guyana and Thailand also signed and ratified the Treaty, the three first ratifications of the 50 needed for the Treaty to come into force.

The Vatican leads by moral example; its Swiss Guard army is only lightly armed. The Holy See, although a State, is a bridge to the world of nongovernmental organizations (NGO). The torch of action must now be taken up by a wider range of organizations than those, which had been in the lead for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The strength of “one-issue” NGOs is that its message is clear. This was seen in the earlier efforts to ban a single category of weapons: land mines, chemical weapons, cluster munitions and the long-running efforts on nuclear weapons.

Some of us have long worked on the abolition of nuclear weapons. I recall as a university student in the early 1950s, I would cross Albert Einstein who liked to walk from his office to his home. I would say “Good evening, Professor Einstein”, and he would reply “Good evening, young man”. I knew that he had developed some theories, which I did not understand but that were somehow related to atomic energy. I was happy that we were both against atomic bombs under the slogan “One World or None!”.

Kim_Jong_Un_Makes_Statement_(2017)

The current Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not grow from the usual arms control negotiations, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or the chemical weapons ban, both of which were negotiated in Geneva, both over a 10-year period. The Nuclear Weapons ban was largely negotiated elsewhere, Vienna and New York, in the humanitarian law tradition of banning weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, such as the ban on napalm after its wide use in the Vietnam War. The contribution of both “ban-the-bomb” groups and the humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross was great in reaching the successful outcome.

Thus, today, there is a need for a coming together of nongovernmental organizations who are primarily focused on the resolution of armed conflicts such as the International Crisis Group, International Alert, and the Association of World Citizens (AWC) with those groups concerned with the abolition of nuclear weapons. The current Korean tensions are based on the development of nuclear weapons and missile systems and the pressures and threats to prevent their development.

One proposal which seems to me to be a common ground on which many could cooperate has been called a “double-freeze” – a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear-weapon and missile programs with a reciprocal freeze on the yearly U. S.-South Korea war exercises and a progressive reduction of U. S. troops stationed in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia, especially Japan.

Ban the bomb.jpg

There are also proposals for economic cooperation, greater meetings among separated family members, and cultural exchanges. However, given the heat of the current saber rattling, the “double-freeze” proposal seems to be the one that addresses most directly the security situation. We need to build on this common ground.

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

Advertisements

Korean Tensions: Confidence-building Measures Needed

In Asia, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on August 15, 2017 at 9:00 AM

By René Wadlow

In a May 12, 2017 article “Korea: Back from the Brink, Small Steps Forward” I hoped that the May 9 election of Moon Jae-in as President of the Republic of Korea may have applied the brakes to a dangerous increase in tensions between the two Korean States, the USA, China, Japan and Russia. I thought that “there may be a possibility of small steps that build confidence between the two Koreas and that do not overly worry the USA and China who watch events closely and who may do more than watch … It is unlikely that any progress will be made in the foreseeable future concerning denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula or unification. Small steps are probably the ‘order of the day’. However, Track II – informal discussions which are not negotiations but a clarification of possible common interests and areas of joint action – can be helpful.”

Track II efforts have not been on a scale to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, and the saber rattling of governments has done nothing to reduce tensions. “Fire and fury like the world has never seen” is probably not the vocabulary that leads to negotiations. Nor is an editorial in the Chinese government English-language newspaper Global Times which quotes a spokesperson saying, “If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korea Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so”.

1028111184_d35cc51c6b_b

It is hard to know how seriously to take the saber rattling, but the sound is loud enough and the sabers are sharp enough that calmer spirits need to propose confidence-building measures. The Association of World Citizens had proposed to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon to have a U.N.-led conference to transform the Korean War Armistice of 1953 into a Korean Peace Treaty. Such a Peace Treaty would confirm the international legitimacy of the two Korean States while not preventing at a later date a con-federation or other form of re-unification. Such a conference and Peace Treaty could play an important role in reducing regional tensions. However, such a conference would require a good deal of negotiations as all conditions would have to be agreed upon in advance. Diplomatic conferences “bless” efforts made before in private. A successful diplomatic conference rarely starts from zero.

Another avenue of confidence-building measures is what the University of Illinois psychology professor Charles Osgood called GRIT – Graduated Reciprocation in Tension Reduction. He recommended an incremental series of conciliatory unilateral initiatives. They should be varied in nature, announced ahead of time without bargaining and continued only in response to comparable actions from the other party – a sort of “arms race in reverse”. Unilateral initiatives should, whenever possible, take advantage of mutual self-interest, mutual self-restraints and opportunities for cooperative enterprise.

As Osgood wrote, “The real problem is not the unavailability of actions that meet the criterion of mutual self-interest, but rather the psychological block against seeing them that way. The operation of psycho-logic on both sides makes it difficult for us to see anything that is good for them as being anything other than bad for ourselves. This is the familiar ‘if they are for it, we must be against it’ mechanism”. (1)

7587227518_2d72888f5c_b

Osgood directed his proposals for dealing with tension reduction so as to ease fear, foster more circumspect decisions in which many alternatives are considered, and modify the perceptual biases that fan the flames of distrust and suspicion. The most favorable feature of the GRIT approaches that it offers a means whereby one party can take the initiative in international relations rather than constantly reacting to the acts of others.

Such GRIT efforts were carried out concerning Korea in the early 1990s between Presidents George H. W. Bush and Kim Il-sung but rarely since. Currently, the governments of Russia and China have proposed a GRIT-type proposal of a “double freeze” – a temporary freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in return for a sharp reduction of US military presence in South Korea.

A “double freeze” may be too large a shift at this stage. In my article, I had proposed such steps as increased family contacts, cultural exchanges, increased food aid to the Democratic People’s Republic, a lessening of economic sanctions and an increase in trade.

There is a need to halt the automatic reaction to every provocation, and to “test the waters” for a reduction of tensions. Real negotiations may take some time to put into place, but GRIT-type unilateral measures are a possibility worth trying.

******************************************

Note

(1) Charles E. Osgood, An Alternative to War or Surrender (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1962).

******************************************

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

Rapid Ratification Needed of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on July 19, 2017 at 10:53 AM

RAPID RATIFICATION NEEDED OF THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
By René Wadlow

On July 7, 2017, at the United Nations in New York, a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was voted by 122 Member States, one Member State, the Netherlands, voted against, and one Member State, Singapore, abstained. The People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was the only nuclear-weapon State to take part in the Treaty Conference and to vote in favor of its adoption. The other nuclear-weapon States did not participate in the drafting of the Treaty.

Immediately after the positive vote, the delegations of the USA, the United Kingdom, and France issued a joint press statement saying that “This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment… This treaty offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that made nuclear deterrence necessary.”

Article I of the Treaty sets out its basic intention: to prohibit all activities involving nuclear weapons including to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons and to use, threaten to use, transfer, station, install or deploy these weapons.

Ban

The Treaty will be open for signature and thus the start of the process of ratification at the start of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 20, 2017. 50 ratifications are necessary for the Treaty to come into force. September 21 is the World Day for Peace, set by the UN General Assembly in 1981. The theme this year is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) believes that signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be a most appropriate way to mark the Day of Peace and its theme “Together for Peace”. The AWC warmly welcomes the Treaty and expresses its deep appreciation to the UN Secretariat, the delegates of the Member States, and fellow non-governmental organization representatives who have worked to achieve this common goal, an important step toward a world free of the threats posed by nuclear weapons.

World Citizens were among those who called for the abolition of nuclear weapons shortly after their first use on Japan, and many Japanese world citizens have constantly participated in efforts toward their abolition.

Hiroshima_aftermath

On August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. That was the first ever nuclear attack in U. S., Japanese, and world history. Around 250,000 people were killed in that bomb attack alone. (C) U. S. Navy Public Affairs Resources Website

World Citizens have also stressed that the abolition of nuclear weapons is part of a larger effort of disarmament and the peaceful settlement of disputes. At each 5-year review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), World Citizens have stressed that Article VI of the NPT has not been fulfilled by the nuclear-weapon States. Article VI says that “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Unfortunately, the issue of general and complete disarmament and forms of verification and control are no longer topics on the world agenda.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons follows what has been called The Hague Law tradition of the banning of weapons because of their humanitarian consequences, a tradition first stressed in Saint-Petersburg in 1868 and which was at the heart of the two peace conferences of The Hague in 1899 and 1907. This tradition has led to the ban on poison gas by the 1925 Geneva Protocol as well as the more recent bans on chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel land mines, and cluster munitions. A conference of UN Member States was held in Vienna, Austria on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons which brought up-to-date the many reports and studies on the impact of the use of nuclear weapons on humans and Nature. Thus the emphasis of the negotiations on the Treaty concerned more humanitarian consequences rather than arms control issues.

World Citizens have always stressed that the abolition of nuclear weapons and other disarmament measures must be accompanied by efforts to strengthen world institutions that can skillfully address conflicts as early as possible. Acting together, all States and peoples can help to define a dynamic vision and program for achieving global security that is realistic and achievable. Progress toward a cosmopolitan, humanist world society requires the development of effective norms, procedures and institutions.

Thus, the start of a speedy ratification procedure of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on September 21, Day of Peace, would be a sign to the peoples of the world that there is at the world level a vision of this crucial step toward a world of peace and justice.

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

The Empty Chair, but Democratic Vistas Radiate

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, World Law on July 16, 2017 at 10:22 AM

THE EMPTY CHAIR, BUT DEMOCRATIC VISTAS RADIATE

By René Wadlow

Lu Xiaobo

“Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man,

Have former armies fail’d, then we send fresh armies – and fresh again.”

Walt Whitman, ‘Life’

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize laureate died on July 13, 2017 at age 61 after having been jailed for 11 years for being a chief writer of an appeal for democratic and human rights reforms in China. Concern has been expressed for his wife Liu Xia, who has been under heavy surveillance since the arrest of her husband. To honor his memory, we reprint an essay written at the time of the Nobel ceremony.

The chair for Liu Xiaobo was empty at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10, 2010, and there were a few other empty chairs of ambassadors from countries that had been constantly warned by Chinese emissaries that attendance at the ceremony would be considered an unfriendly act. However, the spirits of the armies holding to Democratic Vistas were there. Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas had denounced the depravity of the business classes and the widespread corruption, bribery, falsehood, and mal-administration in municipal, state, and national government. He was worried about the mal-distribution of wealth and the treatment of the working people by employers. Yet Whitman kept alive his ideal of social and political progress and the possibility of higher consciousness. Likewise, Liu Xiaobo and the other authors of Charter 08 are critical of the current trends of Chinese society but are firm in the hope that “all Chinese citizens who share this sense of crisis, responsibility and mission will put aside our differences to seek common ground to promote the great transformation of Chinese society.

On Christmas Day 2009 a court convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and two additional years of deprivation of political rights. The verdict cited as evidence passages from six essays Liu published online between 2005 and 2007 and his role in drafting Charter 08, an online petition for democratic reform issued on December 9, 2008 which has since been co-signed by some 10,000 persons, mostly Chinese in China. This December 2010, Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Prize for Peace, though his presence at the ceremony in Oslo was represented by an empty chair.

Pelosi.jpg

In 2010, U. S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, standing before a portrait of Liu Xiaobo.

Liu Xiaobo’s case highlights one of the most crucial challenges facing the emerging Chinese civil society: the limits of freedom of expression. Liu Xiaobo not only offers his criticism of the regime but puts forth proposals to deal with crucial questions facing both the government and society, such as his essays on the future of Tibet.

Liu Xiaobo also reflects on the history of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled and urges the Chinese people to awaken from a supplicant mentality shaped by a historical system continued to the present that has infantilized them. As he wrote, “After the collapse of the Qing dynasty and especially after the CPC came to power, even though our countrymen no longer kowtow physically like the people of old, they kneel in their souls even more than the ancients … Can it be that Chinese people will never really grow up, that their character is forever deformed and week, and that they are only fit to, as if predestined by the stars, pray for and accept imperial mercy on themselves?”

His essays, since he returned to China from a visiting professorship at Columbia University in New York City in May 1989 to participate in the 1989 Democracy Movement, have infuriated the Chinese authorities with his hard, polemical style — “Driven by profit-making above all else, almost no officials are uncorrupted, not a single penny is clean, not a single word is honest … Degenerate imperial autocratic tradition, decadent money-worship, and the moribund communist dictatorship have combined to evolve into the worst sort of predatory capitalism.”

Liu Xiaobo stresses that China’s course toward a new, free society depends on bottom up reform based on self-consciousness among the people, and self-initiated, persistent and continuously expanding non-violent resistance based on moral values. He underlines the importance of New Age values that “Humans exist not only physically, but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense, the core of which is the dignity of being human. Our high regard for dignity is the natural source of our sense of justice.”

He sets out clearly the spirit and methods of non-violent resistance in the current Chinese context. “The greatness of non-violent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. The victim, with a love that is humble and dignified takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to the rules of reason, peace, and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of ‘replacing one tyranny with another’. Regardless of how great the freedom-denying power of a regime and its institutions is, every individual should still fight to the best of his/her ability to live as a free person and make every effort to live an honest life with dignity …”

“The non-violent rights-defense movement does not aim to seize political power, but is committed to building a humane society where one can live with dignity…The non-violent rights-defense movement need not pursue a grand goal of complete transformation. Instead it is committed to putting freedom into practice in everyday life through initiation of ideas, expression of opinions and rights-defense actions, and particularly through the continuous accumulation of each and every rights-defense case, to accrue moral and justice resources, organizational resources, and maneuvering experience in the civic sector. When the civic forces are not yet strong enough to change the macro-political environment at large, they can at least rely on personal conscience and small-group cooperation to change the small micro-political environment within their reach.”

Liu Xiaobo thus joins those champions of nonviolent action such as Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama who have been recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize. The spirit of the New Age is rising in the East and is manifesting itself in non-violent action to accelerate human dignity— a trend to watch closely and to encourage.

*************************************

Note:

The text of the six essays cited in the trial for “inciting subversion of state power” and a translation into English is in the N°1, 2010 issue of China Rights Forum published by Human Rights in China: www.hrichina.org.

 **************************************

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

Korea: Back From the Brink, Small Steps Forward

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on May 13, 2017 at 9:12 AM

KOREA: BACK FROM THE BRINK, SMALL STEPS FORWARD

By René Wadlow

The election on May 9, 2017 of Moon Jae-in as president of the Republic of Korea may have applied the brakes to a dangerous increase in tensions between the two Koreas, the USA, China, Japan, and Russia. Moon Jae-in, 64 years old, formerly a human rights lawyer, has long been a political figure, having come in second in the 2012 presidential elections just behind Ms. Park Geun-hye, recently ousted on corruption changes, thus provoking early elections. There are 10 or so candidates in the elections for president, the person receiving the highest percentage of votes is elected. Thus the 41% of the votes for Moon Jae-in is a strong victory, due in part to his popularity among young voters and also a reaction to the levels of corruption in the administration of his two predecessors, Park and Lee Myung-Bak.

684x384_367073

Moon Jae-in

Moon follows in the tradition of Presidents Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Mu-hyun. Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “Sunshine Policy” of tension reduction with North Korea. Moon had served as a chief administrator for Roh. During the decade of the Kim and Roh administrations from 1998 to 2007, inter-Korean conciliation and cooperation made unprecedented progress. The high point was the 15 June 2000 North-South Joint Declaration signed in Pyongyang by Kim Jong-Il for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Kim Dae-Jung for the Republic of Korea.

The Declaration set out reunification as a chief goal along with economic cooperation and building “mutual confidence by activating cooperation and exchanges in all fields, social, cultural, sports, public health, environmental and so on.” Furthermore “The North and South agreed to hold dialogues between the authorities as soon as possible to implement the above-mentioned agreed points in the near future.”

While there was a second inter-Korean summit between Kim Jong-Il and Roh Moo-hyun again in Pyongyang in October 2007 reaffirming the spirit of the joint declaration of 2000, the road has been downhill since 2000 to the point that the image of a car stopping just at the brink of a cliff is more than a poetic image.

Korea_DMZ.svg

Now, there may be a possibility of small steps that build confidence between the two Koreas and that do not overly worry the USA and China who watch events closely and who may do more than watch. The one program that did follow the 2000 Declaration was a greater possibility for short meetings among family members from North and South, many of whom have been divided since the 1950-1953 War. Such meetings do not undermine either system and have a humanitarian character. Cultural cooperation could also be undertaken since cultural events are of short duration. Cooperation for work in industrial zones has had a very up-and-down history and needs to be restarted almost from nothing today.

The one security issue on which some progress might be made concerns the Law of the Sea and the maritime boundaries of the two States, the sea limits having created tense confrontations between North and South Korean war ships in the past.

Korea_DMZ_sentry

It is unlikely that any progress will be made in the foreseeable future concerning de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula or unification. Small steps are probably the “order of the day”. However, Track II – informal discussions which are not negotiations but a clarification of possible common interests and areas of joint action- can be helpful.

Relations with the external nuclear powers, USA, China, and Russia, will remain difficult, but the “rules of the game” which have held since 1954 may continue if care is taken to strengthen the modalities of crisis management.

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

Kuan Yin: Goddess of Compassion and Harmony

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Solidarity, The Search for Peace on February 19, 2017 at 9:15 AM

KUAN YIN: GODDESS OF COMPASSION AND HARMONY
By René Wadlow

Wise in using skillful means, in every corner of the world, she manifests her countless forms

February 19, in countries influenced by Chinese culture, is a day devoted to honoring Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion, “She who hears the cries of the world and restores harmony.” She is a goddess for the Taoists and a bodhisattva for the Buddhists but she represents the same values of compassion for both faiths. There has been mutual borrowing of symbols and myths between the two groups, as well as an identification with Mary in countries with a Roman Catholic minority such as Vietnam and with Tara among the Tibetans.

From the Taoist tradition, she is associated with running water and lotus pools. Many of her virtues come from Buddhist teachings:
“Wrathful, banish thought of self
Sad, let fall the causes of woe,
Lustful, shed lust’s mental object,
Win all, by simply letting go.”

As in this Chinese verse reflecting her advice, many Buddhist values are phrased negatively: abobha (non-greed), adosa (non-hatred), amoka (non-delusion), less frequently in positive values metta (loving kindness), karuma (compassion), mudita (happiness in the good fortune of others).

543px-guan_yin_100

Yet Kuan Yin is associated with active compassion as a driving force of action, where all, including the least of living things are treated with fairness and consideration and where the broader currents of life move toward harmony and equilibrium.

While most of the myths and ex voto paintings found in temples show Kuan Yin helping individuals in times of stress or danger, there is also a broader, more political-social aspect to her efforts to restore harmony and balance. Today, at a time when humanity is increasingly working together to meet ecological challenges and to overcome ideologically-led strife, the spirit of Kuan Yin presents to us an important call for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles and suffering, the spirit of Kuan Yin suggests that the focus should be on cooperation, and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality, and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. The spirit of Kuan Yin leads to gentleness, patience, kindness, and to inner peace.

We are fortunate to be able to participate in a crucial moment in world history when the law of harmony, that is the law of equilibrium, is being increasingly recognized and understood. Harmony is the key to our ascent to the next higher level of human consciousness: harmony between the intellect and the heart, the mind and the body, male and female, being and doing.

3580833211_ca9e9598fb_b

For the conscious restoration of equilibrium, we must understand the lack of harmony particular to each society and to each segment of the society. It may be a lack of balance in the goals to be reached and the means to reach these goals. It may be a lack of balance between thought and action, or it may be a lack of balance between the role of women and men.

The efforts to restore harmony can often be long for there are structures and institutions which, though lifeless, take a long time to crumble. One needs patience. Yet, there are, at times, unexpected breakthrough and shifts. Thus, one must always be sensitive to the flow of energy currents.

Thus, as we mark February 19 to honor Kuan Yin, we also develop a new spirit of cooperation for the creation of a cosmopolitan, humanist world society. Social harmony is inseparable from the values of respect and understanding, of goodwill, and of gratitude toward one another.

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

Ending Marginalization and Exclusion

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on October 17, 2016 at 9:31 AM

ENDING MARGINALIZATION AND EXCLUSION
By René Wadlow

October 17 was set by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution 47/196 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. October 17 was chosen as the anniversary of a October 17, 1987 meeting in front of the Trocadéro in Paris near where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. The 1987 meeting was called as a reminder that the victims of extreme poverty, hunger and violence do not enjoy the rights that are set out in the Universal Declaration.

In some ways the 1987 meeting is an indication of how long ideas and values take to be institutionalized in the world society. It took nearly 40 years for awareness to grow that there were people who fell outside the development and welfare provisions of governments. It took another four years for that awareness to be enshrined in a General Assembly resolution. Nevertheless, we must be thankful for resolutions which highlight the obvious. We can build upon that awareness and the resolution.

poverty-509601_960_720.jpg

Somewhere along the line of the growing awareness that poverty exists came the realization that the eradication of poverty was not only the concern of governments but also of the poor and marginalized themselves. To use the most commonly-used image: poverty reduction is not only a “top-down” effort (governments toward citizens) but also a “bottom-up” process (of the poor toward the holders of wealth and the governmental decision-makers.) Thus today, there is an awareness that the marginalized sections of society should be involved in the decision-making process which determines the socio-cultural, economic, and political life of the State. This awareness is often termed “popular participation”, “community organizing” and “grass-roots organizations.”

2014_Poverty_rate_chart_Chad_Haiti_Nigeria_Bangladesh_Kenya_Indonesia_India_China_Brazil_based_on_World_Bank_new_2011_PPP_benchmarks.png

As an Asian Committee for People’s Organization states in its manual for organizers Organizing People for Power, “It is the oppressors who, after all, control corporate decision-making, the government apparatus, the media, and the police. Although the people vastly outnumber the oppressors, in their disorganized conditions they lack the power to oppose their enemy. By themselves, the poor farmers, workers or slum dwellers are no match for the oppressors in terms of money or resources … The transfer of power from the hands of the oppressors to those of the oppressed is not easily accomplished at one fell swoop. Part of the difficulty lies in the ‘culture of silence’ that has been inculcated into the people’s consciousness by centuries of domination. By slow degrees, the oppressed have internalized a subservient mentality that is reinforced by their daily experience. They find it difficult to see their liberation in terms of their own strength, and look instead outside themselves to an external force to come and save them. The oppressed cannot imagine that the power they await lies within them, and therefore, they lapse into a state of passivity awaiting liberation from heaven or a messianic leader.”

11019578316_026bae1ae5_b.jpg

However, there are growing efforts by which people are released from their culture of silence and demand a meaningful participation in society through socio-economic projects which enhance their bargaining power. Such approaches involve tensions and conflicts, but conflicts can have a potential for creativity. As a set of notes for workers engaged in rural development and adult education written by the Xavier Institute of Social Service in Ranchi, India states, “Projects should be the result of a process where people have perceived the need for them. This will require a clear-cut vision and manifestation of a just society. Projects can be undertaken as instruments for social transformation, and development programmes must make the conscious effort to translate these projects into useful tools to hasten the establishment of a just society.”

Today, different social conditions, identities, religious beliefs shape our one humanity. We share the responsibility to ensure the dignity of each individual. We need to find creative ways of ending marginalization and exclusion of groups and individuals. October 17 should stand as a time of re-dedication to finding creative paths to this goal.

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

Korea: Challenge and Response

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on October 28, 2015 at 10:39 AM

KOREA: CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE

By René Wadlow

As the professor of economics Milton Friedman wrote “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, and to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”

The current tension around the two Korean States, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), is such a crisis. For the moment, it is not clear that Governments are willing to take the diplomatic measures necessary to reverse the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Thus it is important that non-governmental voices be raised and that their proposals are taken seriously. Nongovernmental organizations can present policy choices that can help to resolve the multidimensional Korean security challenge.

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) has proposed a two-track approach to the current Korean tensions. In a message to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, AWC President René Wadlow stressed that a crisis can also be an opportunity for strong initiatives and action. The UN with historic responsibility for Korea should take the lead in organizing an UN-sponsored Korean Peace Settlement Conference, now that all the States which participated in the 1950-1953 Korean War are members of the UN. The UN-led Korean Peace Settlement Conference should be organized to lead to a North-east Asia Security and Nuclear-weapon Free Zone.

Such a Peace Settlement Conference is of concern not only to Governments but is one in which the voices of civil society are legitimate and should be heard.

From 1950 to 1953 the first major international conflict to have taken place after the end of World War II saw the United Nations join the pro-Western South Korean military in its fight against the Communist North Korea. Neither side really won the war but since the 1953 armistice the Korean Peninsula has been divided in two along the horizontal border represented by the 38th Parallel.

From 1950 to 1953 the first major international conflict to have taken place after the end of World War II saw the United Nations join the pro-Western South Korean military in its fight against the Communist North Korea. Neither side really won the war but since the 1953 armistice the Korean Peninsula has been divided in two along the horizontal border represented by the 38th Parallel.

In the past, there have been a series of dangerous but ultimately resolvable crises concerning the two Korean States. However, there are always dangers of miscalculations and unnecessary escalations of threats. Past crises have led to partial measures of threat reduction.

Partial measures of cooperation between the two Korean States, the Six-Party talks on nuclear issues and a number of Track II-civil society diplomatic efforts have shown the possibilities but also the limits of partial measures.

In the past decade, world attention has been focused on two Korean issues:

1) how to resolve the nuclear weapons-ballistic missiles issues;
2) how to help the DPRK to become food secure and to overcome a sharp inadequacy in food production. The food deficit points to broader structural obstacles, production and supply bottlenecks, and a generalized vulnerability of the economy.

Northeast Asia’s highly sensitive interlocking security issues are of great significance to the future of the region which includes China, Russia, Japan, the two Korean States and by extension the USA.

During the Cold War, Korea was to Asia what Germany was to Europe and Yemen to the Middle East – once a single people now divided along the ideological border of the rival blocs. Unlike Germany and Yemen, though, a quarter of the century after the Cold War has ended, Korea remains firmly divided. In the North, the world’s last Stalinist regime ruled by the Kim family continues to pose a serious threat to the pro-Western, democratic South Korea. (C) AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service & Park Ji-Hwan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

During the Cold War, Korea was to Asia what Germany was to Europe and Yemen to the Middle East – once a single people now divided along the ideological border of the rival blocs. Unlike Germany and Yemen, though, a quarter of the century after the Cold War has ended, Korea remains firmly divided. In the North, the world’s last Stalinist regime ruled by the Kim family continues to pose a serious threat to the pro-Western, democratic South Korea. (C) AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service & Park Ji-Hwan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Changing security perceptions and policies, unresolved conflicts and grievances, and concerns about nuclear and missiles proliferation are all elements that affect the stability of the region as a whole — and which also have global impacts.

In addition to the broadly based UN-led Korean Peace Settlement Conference, the AWC has stressed the need for regional cooperation and confidence-building measures which would improve the daily life of individuals and create the framework for greater future cooperation.

The AWC has highlighted that the Tumen River Development Project (TRADP), now often called the Greater Tuman Initiative (GTI), is probably the best framework for rapid cooperative development. The planning for a Tuman River economic zone at the mouth of the river had been drawn up in the early 1990s by the UN Development Program (UNDP – a vast free – economic zone which would involve parts of Mongolia, China, Russia and the two Korean States as well as Japan as a logical regional development partner. However, development has fallen far short of initial expectations for reasons both internal and external to the participating States.

As Milton Friedman pointed out, ideas can be dormant until a crisis occurs and then new steps must be taken. The AWC believes that the Tuman River economic zone is a real opportunity for cooperation among the States for the benefit of the people of the area.

Citizens of the World call for speedy and creative action to meet the challenge of Korean tensions with a response of cooperation and reconciliation.

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

December 18: International Migrants Day

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on December 17, 2014 at 11:33 PM

DECEMBER 18: INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS DAY
By René Wadlow

 

“Let us make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike. We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

 

In December 2000, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed December 18 as the International Migrants Day. The day was chosen to highlight that on a December 18, the UN had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families. Although migration to and from countries is a worldwide flow of people, only 42 countries, basically Latin American, North and West African, Indonesia and the Philippines, have ratified the Convention. The Convention created a Committee on Migrant Workers which meets in Geneva to review once every four years a report of the Convention members on their application of the Convention. The Convention also created a mechanism by which the Committee could receive individual complaints. Only three States have ratified this individual complaints mechanism: Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay.

Today, there are some 232 million persons who reside and work outside their country of birth. The reasons for migration are diverse − most often economic, but also refugees from armed conflicts and oppression, and increasingly what are called “ecological refugees” − persons who leave their home area due to changing environmental conditions: drought, floods, rising sea levels etc. Global warming may increase the number of these ecological refugees.

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

Although migration is an important issue with a multitude of consequences in both countries of origin and destination, the Committee on Migrant Workers, a group of experts who function in their individual capacity and not as representatives of the State of which they are citizens, has a low profile among what are called “UN Treaty Bodies” – the committees which review the reports of States which have ratified UN human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Since the great majority of States receiving migrants − Western Europe and North America – have not ratified the Convention on Migrant Workers, other ways have to be found within the UN system to look at migration issues. Thus has been created outside the UN system but in close cooperation with the UN, the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the Global Migration Group to address the opportunities and challenges of international migration. Within the UN, there was the recent, October 2013 “High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development”.

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. ( (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

The Governments at the Dialogue unanimously adopted a Declaration (A/68/L.5) calling for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration also emphasized the need to respect the human rights of migrants and to promote international labor standards. The Declaration strongly condemns manifestations of racism and intolerance and stresses the need to improve public perceptions of migrants.

UN conferences and such dialogues or forums serve as a magnet, pulling Governments to agree to higher ideals and standards collectively than they would proclaim individually. This is not only hypocrisy − though there is certainly an element of hypocrisy as Governments have no plans to put these aims into practice. Rather it is a sort of “collective unconscious” of Government representatives who have a vision of an emerging world society based on justice and peace.

 

In 2010 two French singers, Stanislas and Mike Ibrahim, released a song entitled “Tu verras en France” (“You’ll see in France”). In this song, the two young men call for attention to the situation of migrants who leave their home countries hoping to find a better life in France but end up undocumented and living in extreme poverty, constantly having to run from the police if they don’t want to end up in jail or sent back to their country of origin.

 

The role of nongovernmental organizations is to remind constantly Government representatives that it is they who have written the text and voted for it without voicing reservations. Numerous States which ratified the International Convention on Migrant Workers made reservations limiting the application of the Convention on their territory. Thus, the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue was not written by the Association of World Citizens but by Government diplomats.

The Declaration is a strong text and covers most of the important issues, including human mobility as a key factor for sustainable development, the role of women and girls who represent nearly half of all migrants, the need to protect the rights of migrant children and the role of remittances to families.

The Declaration merits to be better known and widely quoted in the on-going discussions and debates on migration policies and practices.

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.

%d bloggers like this: