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Hugo Grotius: The Law of States

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 13, 2021 at 7:50 PM

By René Wadlow

Hugo Grotius (April 10, 1583 – August 28, 1645) whose birth anniversary we mark on April 10 played a crucial role in the development of the Law of States, in particular through two books written in Latin Mare Librium (Liberty of the Seas) 1609 and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (Law in War and Peace) 1625) Grotius is a key figure in the transition between the older feudal period and the important role of city-states and the development of a state system.

Grotius showed his intellectual talents early in life and was considered a youthful genius. At 17, in 1601, he published Adamus Exul (The Exile of Adam). In the drama, Satan is sharply critical of God’s grand design and is jealous of Adam being prepared to share in it having done nothing to bringing it about. Grotius’s Eve is a lovely, loving and enchanting partner, but is bored and ready for an apple. John Milton who met Grotius in Paris and read Adamus Exul there used many of the same themes in his Paradise Lost.

Hugo Grotius was Protestant and also wrote on religious subjects. However, he was caught up in intra-Protestant theological disputes in what is today Holland. Due to these theological tensions, he lived most of his life in Paris – 1621 to 1644 – where he served as the Ambassador of the Court of Sweden, a Protestant country. He was well thought of by the French King, Louis XIll, and Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind the King.

As the feudal period was ending, laws had to be formulated so that relations among states were not to be based only on material strength. Just as Hugo Grotius was writing at a time of a historic shift from the structures of the feudal period to the creation of states, so today there is a shift from international law in which the focus is on law concerning states to an emphasis on law with the focus on the individual citizen. Just as feudal structures and city-states did not disappear, so today, states are still present but there is a shift in focus. Today, we have an increase in multistate entities such as the European Union, the African Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the one hand and multinational corporations and individuals on the other.

The shift to the law of the person grew from the lawlessness of states during the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights created a new focus, and it was followed by the two International Covenants on Human Rights and then the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The system of monitoring, investigation and reporting set up by the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies are important avenues to focus upon individuals. As then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the center of everything we do.” The UN’s influence is derived not from power but from the values it represents, its role in helping to set and sustain global norms, its ability to stimulate global concern and action, and the trust inspired by its ability to improve the lives of people.

UN efforts to extend international law to the practice of transnational corporations have not acquired the momentum that the focus on the rights and obligations of individuals has done. However, there is a growing emphasis on what is increasingly called “civil society”. The civil society that has emerged and evolved around the UN spans a wide range of interests, expertise and competencies. While there are UN structures for dealing with non-governmental organizations which are granted consultative status, there is no equivalent structure for dealing with transnational corporations although some have real influence on the policies of governments and the lives of people.

Today, there is a need to increase the rule of law within the world society. We need individuals with the vision and dedication of Hugo Grotius.

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

U. Thant (1909-1974): Member of the Human Race

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on April 13, 2021 at 7:22 PM

By René Wadlow

I am always conscious of the fact that I am a member of the human race. This consciousness prompts me to work for the great human synthesis which is the implicit goal of the World Organization I had the privilege of serving … Thus I am making a plea for a dual allegiance. This implies an open acceptance of belonging to the human race as well as to our local community and nation … I believe that the mark of the truly educated person facing the 21st century is that he feels himself to be a World Citizen.
U. Thant in View from the UN (New York: Doubleday, 1979)

At a time when the face of Burmese leadership is that of the current military dictator General Min Aung Hlaing, best known for his campaign against the Rohingya, it is useful to recall another style of Burmese leadership, that of U. Thant, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.

U. Thant was the third UN Secretary-General. This gentle Burmese Buddhist was regarded as unremarkable which was exactly what the major powers, led by the USA. and the USSR, wanted after the lightning bolt of the second Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold.

The Secretary-General is accorded a central role – by the UN Charter, by history, and by the trust placed in him by Member States. With no enforcement capacity, the Secretary-General is armed only with the tools of his own making. States would generally prefer a good housekeeper who does not initiate, innovate, or otherwise threaten their equilibrium of the status quo. But U. Thant’s self-effacing nature belied his moral courage and inner strength. Those who voted for him were later to find themselves surprised.

The fullest statement of U. Thant’s beliefs and practices is his talk on “The Role of Religious Convictions” at the Third International Teach-in at Toronto, Canada in 1967. The teach-in was part of an effort at conflict resolution in the 1963-1975 USA-led Vietnam war. The USA had worked so that the war in Vietnam would be discussed as little as possible at the UN and especially that the UN would take no action. This left U. Thant highly frustrated. As a Burmese, he knew Indochina well, and as UN Secretary-General, he believed that the UN should be a leader in conflict resolution efforts worldwide. As the UN was unable to act officially, he gave support, both moral and intellectual, to religious efforts to mediate the Vietnam conflict. Thus, his statement to the Toronto teach-in stressed his Buddhist roots as some of the Vietnamese Buddhists were very active in conflict resolution efforts.

As a Buddhist, I was trained to be tolerant of everything except intolerance. I was brought up not only to develop the spirit of tolerance but also to cherish moral and spiritual qualities, especially modesty, humility, compassion and most important, to attain a certain degree of emotional equilibrium. I was taught to control my emotions through a process of concentration and meditation. Of course, being human, and not yet having reached the stage of arhat (enlightened being) I cannot completely “control” my emotions.

Among the teaching of the Buddha are four features of meditation, the primary purpose of which is the attainment of moral and spiritual excellence: metta (goodwill or kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekka (equanimity or equilibrium).

A true Buddhist practices his metta (kindness) to all, without distinction – just as the sun shines on all, or the rain falls on all, without distinction. Metta embraces all being impartially and spontaneously, expecting nothing in return, not even appreciation. Metta is impersonal love or goodwill, the opposite of sensuous caring or a burning sensual fire that can turn into wrath, hatred, or revenge when not requited.

Karuna, the quality of compassion, is deeply rooted in the Buddhist concept of suffering. Human life is one of suffering, hence it is the duty of a good Buddhist to mitigate the suffering of others.

Mudita (sympathetic joy) can best be defined as one’s expression of sympathy with other people’s joy. The happiness of others generates happiness in the mind of a good Buddhist. The person who cultivates altruistic joy radiates it over everyone in his surroundings.

Upekka (equanimity) connotes the acquisition of a balance of mind whether in triumph or tragedy. This balance is achieved only as a result of deep insight into the nature of things, and primarily by contemplation and meditation. If one understands how unstable and impermanent all worldly conditions are, one learns to bear lightly the greatest misfortune or the greatest reward. To achieve upekka, one has to meditate. Buddhist meditation aims at cleansing the mind of impurities, such as ill will, hatred, and restlessness; it aims at cultivating such qualities as concentration, awareness, intelligence, confidence, and tranquility, leading finally to the attainment of the highest wisdom.

The highest wisdom is in little evidence on the part of the Burmese military these days. There is a real danger that military violence will provoke violence in return. Mediation efforts in the spirit outlined by U. Thant are urgently needed.

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

24 mars : La vérité est un Droit Humain

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Human Rights, Latin America, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Spirituality, Track II, United Nations on March 26, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Trente-cinq ans déjà, en janvier dernier, que le chanteur français Daniel Balavoine trouvait la mort tragiquement lors du Paris-Dakar où il était présent non comme coureur, mais, fidèle à ses convictions telles qu’il les exprimait dans ses chansons, pour une opération humanitaire qu’il avait mise en place et voulait voir aboutir – littéralement, il l’aura payé de sa vie.

Dans ses chansons, Balavoine évoquait souvent les Droits Humains, le sous-développement, les atteintes à l’environnement et, bien sûr, le racisme, comme dans son dernier succès de son vivant, L’Aziza. A sa manière, il était un Citoyen du Monde au sens où le conçoit l’Association of World Citizens (AWC). Dans son album de 1983 intitulé Loin des yeux de l’Occident, il chantait le sort des femmes dans le Tiers Monde, comme l’on appelait alors le monde en développement, les écrivains emprisonnés par les dictatures militaires d’Amérique latine et, dans cette même région du monde, les Mères de la Place de Mai en Argentine. Depuis 1977, deuxième année de la dictature militaire dans le pays, ces mères de «disparus forcés» manifestent face au siège du gouvernement en demandant la vérité sur le sort des leurs. La junte au pouvoir les avait surnommées les «folles de la Place de Mai» pour les discréditer ; elle n’a ainsi fait que rendre leur cause mondialement célèbre.

Dans Revolución, dernière piste de Loin des yeux de l’Occident qui a pour titre le dernier vers de cette même chanson, Balavoine chantait ainsi d’elles :

«Comme on porte une couronne,

Elles ont la peur sur leur visage ruisselant,

Espérant la maldonne,

Elles frappent leur poitrine en défilant,

Pieusement questionnent :

‘Est-ce que disparus veut dire vivants ?’

Faut-il qu’elles pardonnent

Pour croire que leurs morts ne sont qu’absents ?»

Et c’est bien là toute la question, au-delà même des atteintes aux Droits Humains – la question de la vérité sur les sévices commis, cette vérité que l’on refuse aux proches des victimes et qui, dans notre monde d’aujourd’hui, est pourtant considérée en elle-même comme un Droit Humain à part entière.

Monseigneur Romero : le plomb d’une balle pour le plomb du silence

Chaque année, dans le langage technique et bureaucratique, comme l’ONU et les autres organisations intergouvernementales bien intentionnées mais lourdes à manier en ont le secret, le 24 mars est la «Journée internationale pour le droit à la vérité en ce qui concerne les violations flagrantes des droits de l’homme et pour la dignité des victimes», même s’il suffit d’en retenir quatre mots, les plus «essentiels» comme le dit ce monde de pandémie – droit à la vérité.

Si Balavoine chantait les disparitions forcées, violation des Droits Humains qui invisibilise par excellence le martyre infligé aux victimes et permet comme nulle autre le mensonge, y compris en sa forme la plus cruelle et cynique qu’est le silence, le droit à la vérité concerne tout type d’atteinte aux Droits Humains, qu’elle soit perpétrée derrière les épais murs d’un bâtiment gouvernemental ou sous les yeux de qui voit soudain un proche connaître le pire. Et bien sûr, de la même manière que Chamfort parlait au dix-huitième siècle d’une France où «on laisse en repos ceux qui mettent le feu, et on persécute ceux qui sonnent le tocsin», dans un pays qui attente au droit, quiconque le dénonce devient soi-même une victime de choix.

Monseigneur Óscar Romero

C’est en mémoire de l’une de ces victimes, qui avait osé élever la voix sur les atrocités dont il avait été témoin, que la Journée internationale a été proclamée. Il se nommait Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, il était Archevêque catholique romain de San Salvador, capitale du Salvador où la guerre civile opposait depuis peu le gouvernement conservateur et une guérilla marxiste. Lui aussi conservateur au départ, Monseigneur Romero reçoit un choc avec l’assassinat en 1977 d’un prêtre jésuite de son diocèse par un escadron de la mort pro-gouvernemental. Il devient alors un ardent défenseur des Droits Humains, notamment de ceux des paysans. Devenu un farouche dénonciateur des exactions de l’armée et des paramilitaires, il est abattu d’un coup de fusil en pleine poitrine le 24 mars 1980 alors qu’il dit sa messe dans un hôpital.

Le Salvador, autre pays dont avait parlé Balavoine dans Dieu que l’amour est triste, où il le rebaptisait le «San Salvador». Et autre exemple de la guerre aux Droits Humains que menaient à travers l’Amérique latine, du Guatemala jusqu’à la Terre de Feu, des dictatures civiles ou militaires auxquelles tout était bon pour réprimer la moindre opposition, cette guerre qui, en 1982, allait avoir pour victime collatérale à des milliers de kilomètres par-delà l’Atlantique, au Palais des Nations de Genève, Theo van Boven, chassé de la direction du Centre des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme pour avoir lui aussi élevé la voix trop fort, même si lui, au moins, y survécut et en témoigne encore à ce jour.

Le mensonge, première atteinte aux Droits Humains

Bien entendu, le temps a passé. Trente-cinq ans depuis le décès tragique de Daniel Balavoine. Plus de quarante ans depuis l’assassinat de Monseigneur Romero et bientôt tout autant depuis l’éviction de Theo van Boven. Mais le temps et l’évolution des atteintes aux Droits Humains n’ont fait, surtout depuis la Conférence de Vienne en 1993, que renforcer la victime, réelle ou potentielle, dans sa position centrale dès qu’il est question de défendre les Droits Humains ou, comme ici donc, de diffuser l’information sur les violations.

Theo van Boven

Ce qui est vrai pour les «folles de la Place de Mai», comme les appelaient avec mépris les «hommes des casernes» de Buenos Aires, est vrai pour toute autre situation où des droits sont violés et le secret est invoqué pour en cacher l’existence, ou la réalité au profit d’une version plus commode. Il n’est pas un type de violation des Droits Humains où le droit à la vérité ne s’avère crucial, même ce qui paraît évident pouvant receler une réalité plus occulte.

Qui a tué Lokman Slim au Liban ? Qui donne l’ordre de harceler Nidžara Ahmetašević, militante bosnienne de l’aide aux migrants à la frontière entre Croatie et Bosnie-Herzégovine ? Pourquoi Mohamed Gasmi, Défenseur des Droits Humains en Algérie, est-il poursuivi au pénal par son gouvernement sous les accusations calomnieuses, désormais devenues typiques des régimes autoritaires et des démocraties illibérales à travers le monde, d’avoir «eu des contacts avec des agents étrangers ennemis du pays» et «d’avoir comploté pour commettre des actes terroristes en sol national» ? Autant de questions auxquelles l’AWC s’est employée depuis le début de cette année à recueillir des réponses, autant que possible. Parce que le mensonge, à commencer par le silence qui en est la forme la plus venimeuse, est la première et la pire des atteintes aux Droits Humains.

Le droit à la vérité sur les atteintes aux Droits Humains n’est donc pas un pur vœu moral, pas plus qu’il ne doit demeurer un vœu pieux. Il est un véritable droit, dont la revendication n’est pas morale ou spirituelle mais bel et bien juridique, et au sens large du terme, politique. A défendre toujours, contre le mensonge et le silence des violateurs et contre les fausses vérités des tenants du complotisme et du confusionnisme sur Internet et ailleurs de par le monde.

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

Pourparlers de paix en Afghanistan : Les femmes qui devraient être reines

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 8, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

«Quand vous êtes blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, et que les femmes arrivent pour découper ce qu’il reste de vous, dépêchez-vous de rouler jusqu’à votre carabine, de vous faire sauter la cervelle et d’aller vers votre dieu comme un soldat», disait Rudyard Kipling, l’écrivain britannique dont le culte de la virilité, notamment militaire, transpire à travers son œuvre. En témoigne son poème «If», «Si …», traduit en français par André Maurois dans Les silences du colonel Bramble et parfois désigné par son vers final, «Tu seras un homme, mon fils».

Le même Kipling qui nous racontait, dans The Man Who Would Be King, en français L’homme qui voulut être roi, la fable de deux Anglais qui se jurent de découvrir le pays perdu du Kafiristan, niché quelque part entre Afghanistan et Pakistan, alors colonies britanniques. Ils y parviennent et, lors d’un affrontement avec des indigènes, un hasard fait que l’un des deux, Daniel Dravot, est subitement pris pour un dieu. Conduit à la capitale de ce pays rendu au culte d’Alexandre le Grand, il est proclamé fils du conquérant et couronné roi. Mais lorsqu’il épouse une jeune fille pour fonder sa dynastie, celle-ci le démasque. Dravot exécuté en public, son comparse supplicié puis libéré rentre en Inde en emportant sa tête encore ornée de la couronne.

L’histoire est fictive, mais le Kafiristan existe. Aujourd’hui le Nouristan, il est une province orientale de la République islamique d’Afghanistan, un pays où, loin des aventures viriles que rêvait Kipling, des femmes mènent une lutte quotidienne – une lutte pour la paix.

Vingt ans d’une paix introuvable

Depuis l’invasion soviétique de 1980, suivie de huit ans de combats entre régime communiste soutenu par Moscou et Mojahedin, combattants de la résistance – parmi lesquels se trouvait un groupe alors soutenu par les Etats-Unis, dénommé Al-Qaïda et commandé par un Saoudien du nom d’Osama bin Laden – le pays n’a jamais connu que la guerre, dont était sorti en 1996 l’ «Émirat islamique d’Afghanistan», créé par la milice islamiste des Talibans qui avait fait du même Osama bin Laden l’un de ses ministres, bien à l’abri pour lancer ses attaques terroristes contre son ancien allié américain le 11 septembre 2001. L’intervention militaire internationale qui avait ensuite mis fin à la folie meurtrière des Talibans n’a jamais engendré une paix durable.

Comme le chante Pierre Perret, “Quand la femme est grillagée, Toutes les femmes sont outragées.” (C) USAID

En presque vingt ans, plusieurs initiatives ont été lancées sous les présidences successives de Hamid Karzai et Ashraf Ghani, mais l’obstination des Talibans a mis à néant tous les efforts. Après un traité signé en 2016 avec un autre mouvement islamiste armé, le Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, des pourparlers de paix avec les Talibans se sont enfin ouverts en septembre dernier à Doha, la capitale du Qatar. Mais les discussions piétinent. Malgré des propos lénifiants, les Talibans démontrent encore et toujours la même haine d’une partie bien ciblée de la population, contre laquelle ils avaient déchaîné du temps de leur «émirat» toute leur répression – les femmes.

Les puissances étrangères engagées en Afghanistan n’ont pas oublié les cinq années de ce que les Talibans voulaient le régime islamique «le plus rigide au monde», ni les femmes cloîtrées chez elles, autorisées à sortir seulement sous la burqa et, lorsqu’accusées d’adultère, lapidées. Pas de paix au prix d’un retour à cette époque, insiste-t-on à Doha. Parfait. Mais s’il n’est pas question d’une paix aux dépens des droits des femmes, pourquoi alors maintenir les Afghanes en dehors des pourparlers ?

Les droits des femmes, nerf de la guerre

Réduites au silence sous les Talibans, devenues comme fantômes sous leurs burqas, les femmes ont su depuis 2001 profiter de leur liberté retrouvée. Certes voilées en public comme leurs sœurs iraniennes, dans cette République islamique d’Afghanistan dont le nom rappelle celui du voisin de l’ouest, les Afghanes n’en ont pas moins su faire entrer le vent dans leurs voiles.

Comme le rappelle Amnesty International, elles sont avocates, médecins, magistrates, enseignantes, ingénieures, athlètes, militantes, politiciennes, journalistes, bureaucrates, entrepreneuses, policières, soldates. Et ce sont aujourd’hui 3 300 000 petites Afghanes qui sont scolarisées, se préparant à marcher dans les pas de leurs aînées.

Et pourtant. La tentation existe pour Kaboul, du jour au lendemain, de décider que la paix avec l’irréductible ennemi taliban vaut bien de brûler les (re)conquêtes de ses citoyennes. Elles le savent. Farahnaz Forotan, journaliste de vingt-huit ans contrainte à l’exil car figurant sur une liste de personnes à abattre des Talibans, le sait mieux que toute autre. Pour dire le refus des Afghanes de voir leurs droits transformés en monnaie d’échange, elle a lancé la campagne MyRedLine (Ma ligne rouge) désignant la ligne à ne pas franchir à Doha.

Farahnaz Forotan

Dans l’État afghan, la paix s’écrit au masculin. Un Ministre d’État à la Paix a été nommé au sein du Gouvernement, auquel s’ajoute un Haut Conseil de la Réconciliation nationale dirigé par Abdullah Abdullah, ancien Ministre des Affaires Étrangères et candidat malheureux à la présidentielle de 2014. Pour l’équipe Ghani, la paix est une urgence, et qui dit urgence dit sacrifices. Les droits des femmes étant le nerf de la guerre, pour une paix qu’il faut obtenir à tout prix, le premier sacrifice sera de les brûler, craignent-elles légitimement de leurs propres autorités. Des mêmes hommes qui, salués voilà vingt ans comme les vainqueurs des Talibans, sont désormais prêts à de lourdes pertes à leur profit.

Et elles ont raison, car il est déjà un droit que le Gouvernement afghan leur a retiré en vue des pourparlers de paix – tout simplement, celui d’y participer. Impardonnable erreur.

Elles sauront faire la paix

Se croire habilité à toutes les concessions à l’ennemi parce que, l’ayant déjà vaincu une fois, l’on n’a pas réussi à le vaincre une seconde fois et qu’une paix doit être conclue d’urgence, un maréchal français l’avait déjà tenté, et depuis, son nom reste associé à la Shoah, même si, aujourd’hui comme hier, d’aucuns au sommet de l’Etat prônent une «patience malvenue», comme le chante Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne, envers le souvenir de l’inacceptable.

Si les hommes à la tête de l’Afghanistan sont prêts à emprunter ce même chemin, il leur faudra se souvenir que, pendant qu’entre leurs mains parlaient les armes, les femmes ont su mener leur propre lutte contre les Talibans, mais sans tuer ni blesser quiconque, luttant non pour le pouvoir mais pour le bien de toutes et tous, à commencer par les victimes les plus démunies des conflits armés, toujours et partout – les enfants.

Ainsi d’Ayesha Aziz, enseignante et directrice d’école, membre du Hezb-e Islami identique aux Talibans dans les idées mais qui, historiquement plus pragmatique, a conclu la paix avec le Gouvernement afghan. Avec Ayesha Aziz parmi les membres de sa délégation.

Ayesha Aziz (C) USIP

Déployant des talents de négociation et de diplomatie que d’autres s’interdisent de voir du seul fait qu’elle est une femme, elle a réussi à obtenir des Talibans l’ouverture d’écoles pour filles, des écoles qu’elle finance par le biais d’une entreprise de raffinement de pierres semi-précieuses qu’elle a créée et où elle engage des femmes par centaines. S’appuyant sur «le respect, l’humour et l’Islam», Ayesha Aziz obtient des résultats spectaculaires auprès de l’implacable milice islamiste.

Pour elle, la paix doit passer par le dialogue entre les femmes, celles du camp Ghani et les Talibanes, ainsi que par les zones rurales plutôt que par le sommet de l’État.

Très bien, pourrait-on dire, mais tout cela reste au niveau national et la paix se construit également avec des partenaires internationaux ; malgré tout son mérite, Ayesha Aziz ne semble pas taillée pour avoir affaire à eux. Si l’on pense ainsi, qu’à cela ne tienne. Palwasha Kakar, elle, sait parler hors de l’Afghanistan la langue que les décideurs doivent entendre.

Palwasha Kakar, lors de son témoignage devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis (C) USIP

Responsable principale du Programme Religion et Sociétés inclusives à l’United States Institute of Peace (USIP) de Washington, Palwasha Kakar a consacré plus de onze ans de sa vie à l’inclusion des femmes, l’engagement pour la paix des dignitaires religieux, la gouvernance et l’éducation dans son Afghanistan natal. A l’USIP, elle applique une approche comparative sur les femmes, la religion et la construction de la paix au Pakistan, en Libye, en Syrie, en Irak et au Myanmar. Son inspiration, elle la tient de ses sœurs afghanes qui, utilisant le cadre religieux, ont su négocier avec les Talibans pour des cessez-le-feu locaux, des libérations d’otages et des écoles pour filles.

Appelée à témoigner en 2019 devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis, témoignage capital au vu de la présence de deux mille cinq cents soldats américains en Afghanistan, Palwasha Kakar a rappelé que les femmes étaient essentielles au succès et à la durabilité de tout processus de paix, des pourparlers jusqu’à la mise en œuvre des accords, et qu’elles exigeaient une paix protégeant leurs acquis depuis 2001.

Pour les élus américains qui aimeraient trop Kipling, ce fut le temps d’un autre rappel. «A travers l’histoire de l’Afghanistan, les femmes ont toujours fait partie des processus de paix couronnés de succès. Même si l’on accorde toute la gloire à [l’empereur] Ahmed Shah Durrani pour avoir créé l’État d’Afghanistan moderne en 1747, c’est la contribution de Nazo Ana [poétesse et écrivaine] à l’unification des tribus qui se combattaient jusqu’alors pour ensuite affronter les Perses en 1709 qui fut la cheville ouvrière de la fondation de l’État afghan, ce qui lui a valu le titre de ‘Mère de la Nation afghane’. Quand les Talibans furent chassés du pouvoir en 2001 par les troupes américaines et leurs alliés, les femmes ont pris toute leur part au succès de l’accord politique du processus de Bonn et à la rédaction de la constitution qui a donné dix-huit ans de gouvernement démocratique stable, alors même que se poursuivaient les attaques des Talibans qui n’avaient pas été inclus dans le processus de Bonn».

Jadis, sans une femme, pas d’Afghanistan. Aujourd’hui, sans les femmes, pas d’Afghanistan libre. Demain, sans les femmes, un Afghanistan en paix est inconcevable.

La paix des femmes, seul espoir de survie

Professionnelles, citoyennes, militantes – mais indignes de donner la paix à leur pays.  A croire que les gouvernants afghans ont trop lu Kipling. Veulent-ils, à leur tour, être rois ? On le croirait pour peu, tant ils semblent craindre que, ceints de la couronne comme le fut Daniel Dravot de celle du Kafiristan, une femme censée les embrasser, mais refusant de se soumettre, ne les morde au sang et prouve que les faux dieux sont des mortels sans droit divin de régner.

Michael Caine (centre) et Sean Connery (droite) dans le film de John Huston L’Homme qui voulut être roi, d’après l’ouvrage de Rudyard Kipling, en 1975

Sans doute les femmes d’Afghanistan ne rêvent-elles pas d’être reines, laissant la futilité de ces fantasmes aux hommes pour se préoccuper de la vraie vie et de l’avenir. Mais lorsqu’il s’agit de rechercher la paix, juste et durable, impossible de ne pas penser qu’elles devraient être reines, autant que leurs compatriotes masculins se veulent rois, et pouvoir brandir leur sceptre face aux Talibans à Doha.

Blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, selon Kipling, il ne vous restait plus pour échapper à des femmes venues vous charcuter qu’à vous brûler la cervelle en un chevaleresque suicide. Sous les assauts des Talibans, c’est tout le peuple afghan qui git, blessé et abandonné, sur ses plaines rougies de sang. Voyant les femmes accourir pour le soigner et le relever, s’il leur prend la main, il saisit son ultime chance de survie. S’il choisit d’agripper son arme et se tirer une balle en refusant la paix des femmes, il voue son avenir à l’enfer.

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

Ethiopia: Storm Clouds Getting Darker

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Sudan, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 8:20 PM

By René Wadlow

In an earlier article on the armed conflict in Ethiopia “Storm Clouds Gather Over Ethiopia” I agreed with other observers of the situation that one knows when an armed conflict starts but not when it ends. There is always a real danger that violence spreads to other parts of the country and that neighboring States get involved. Now both dangers have taken form in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a federal republic structured on the basis of 10 states or provinces. The provinces have the name of the major ethnic group within that province. However, no province is populated exclusively by one ethnic group. Through history and economic development people have moved to areas beyond their original “homeland”. However, people from a “foreign” ethnic group can be made to feel as “second class citizens”, and there may be violence used against them in times of tensions.

A neighborhood in Tigray

Thus, in the far west of Ethiopia, there is a small province called Benishangul-Gumuz, named after two ethnic groups, the Berta and the Gamuz. However, there are three other ethnic groups which also consider the area as their “homeland”. The area has good farmland and is a major producer of vegetables. Thus, Amhara farmers from the larger neighboring Amhara province have progressively settled in Benishangul-Gumuz. Tensions over land use has grown between the Amhara farmers and the dominant Gumuz. At the same time that the federal government forces were moving into the Tigray province, Gumuz militias attacked the Amhara settlers. The federal government sent in troops to restore order, but troops can not deal with the basic issues of ethnic-based tensions and disputes over land ownership which is often collective rather than individual. Thus, the tensions and violence in Tigray and Benishangul-Gumuz provinces may spread to other provinces as well.

In addition to the dangers of violence spreading to other provinces, there is a real danger that neighboring Sudan will get involved. The Ethiopian federal government’s military action within Tigray province has caused an exodus of some 50,000 persons across the frontier into Sudan. A smaller number have crossed the frontier into South Sudan.

Abdallah Hamdok

The Sudanese government in far-away Khartoum has been preoccupied with restructuring itself after the 30 years of governance by Omar al-Bashir came to an end in April 2019. However, the entry of a large number of refugees from Tigray must have pushed some in the Sudanese government to look at maps to see where all this trouble was going on. They saw that part of the trouble was near the Al-Fashaga triangle, a small area but of rich farmland largely farmed by Ethiopian farmers. However, Al-Fashaga is within the territory of Sudan, set by the British-Egyptian condominium in 1902 and 1907.

The Ethiopian settlers in Al-Fashaga had created self-protection militias without a relation to the Ethiopian central army. However, with the the current Ethiopian army near Al-Fashaga, the Sudanese government is rushing tanks and troops to the area. The acting Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdallah Hamdok, has publicly reaffirmed Sudanese ownership of the area. While it is difficult to have accurate reporting from Al-Fashaga, some nongovernmental organizations working with refugees in Sudan near the frontier have warned of possible fighting and increased tensions. There are real possibilities of the storm clouds getting darker.

Note:

An earlier article on the same subject from Prof. René Wadlow: Storm Clouds Gather Over Ethiopia.

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

Antonio Gramsci: A Cultural Base for Positive Action

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Literature, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:54 PM

By René Wadlow

Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 24, 1937) was an Italian Socialist and then Communist editor who is best known for his notebooks of reflections that he wrote while in prison. (1) Gramsci grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia and saw the poor conditions of the impoverished peasants there. He studied just before the First World War at the University of Turin at a time when industry, especially the Fiat auto company was starting. Gramsci became concerned with the conditions of the new industrial working class. When the First World War started, he was asked to join a new Socialist newspaper that had started in Turin.

Antonio Gramsci

In 1921, in part due to the Russian Revolution, the Italian Communist Party was born. Some of the Socialists, including Gramsci, joined the new party, and Gramsci became an editor of the Communist newspaper. In 1922, he went to Russia as a delegate of the Italian Communist Party to a convention of Communist Parties from different parts of the world.

Also in 1922, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power and quickly began a crackdown on the Communists and other opposition movements. In 1926, after a failed attempt on Mussolini’s life, there was a massive crackdown on Communists. Although he had nothing to do with the effort to kill Mussolini, but as a Communist deputy to the national Parliament, Gramsci was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His health, which had never been strong, deteriorated in prison. On April 27, 1937 he died, aged 46.

While in prison, he wrote his ideas in notebooks which were censored by the prison authorities. Then the notebooks were passed on to family members. Gramsci had to be careful about how he expressed his ideas. The notebooks were published only after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of the Fascist government. Thus, Gramsci was never able to discuss or clarify his views. Nevertheless, his prison writings have been widely read and discussed.

Benito Mussolini

The concept most associated with Gramsci is the idea of “hegemony”. Hegemony is constructed through a complex series of struggles. Hegemony cannot be constructed once and for all since the balance of social forces on which it rests is continually evolving. Class structures related to the mode of production is obviously one area of struggle – the core of the Marxist approach. However, what is new in Gramsci is his emphasis on the cultural, ideological, and moral dimensions of the struggle for hegemony.

For Gramsci, hegemony cannot be economic alone. There must be a cultural battle to transform the popular mentality. He asks, “How it happens that in all periods, there co-exist many systems and currents of philosophical thought and how these currents are born, how they are diffused and why in the process of diffusion they fracture along certain lines and in certain directions.”

Gramsci was particularly interested in the French Revolution and its follow up. Why were the revolutionary ideas not permanently in power but rather were replaced by those of Napoleon, only to return later? Gramsci put an emphasis on what is called today “the civil society” – all the groups and forces not directly related to government: government administration, the military, the police.  There can be a control of the government, but such control: can be replaced if the civil society’s values and zeitgeist (world view) are not modified in depth. There is a slow evolution of mentalities from one value system to another. For progress to be permanent, one needs to influence and then control those institutions – education, culture, religion, folklore – that create the popular zeitgeist. He was unable to return to the USSR to see how Stalin developed the idea of hegemony.

The intellectual contribution of Gramsci has continued in the work of Edward Said on how the West developed its ideas about the Middle East. (2) Likewise, his influence is strong in India in what are called “subaltern studies” – what those people left out of official histories think. As someone noted, “I believe firmly that the history of ideas is the key to the history of deeds.”

Notes

(1) Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes) (New York: Columbia University Press); Antonio Gramsci, Prison Letters (London: Pluto Press, 1996)

(2) See Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994)

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

Pitirim Sorokin: The Renewal of Humanity

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Europe, Literature, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM

By René Wadlow

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 21, was concerned, especially in the period after the Second World War, with the relation between the values and attitudes of the individual and their impact on the wider society. His key study Society, Culture and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics (1947) traced the relations between the development of the personality, the wider cultural values in which the personality was formed, and the structures of the society.

Pitirim Sorokin

The two World Wars convinced him that humanity was in a period of transition, that the guideline of earlier times had broken down and had not yet been replaced by a new set of values and motivations. To bring about real renewal, one had to work at the same time on the individual personality, on cultural values as created by art, literature, education, and on the social framework. One had to work on all three at once, not one after the other as some who hope that inner peace will produce outer peace. In his Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), he stressed the fact that “if we want to raise the moral standards of large populations, we must change correspondingly the mind and behavior of the individuals making up these populations, and their social institutions and their cultures.”

Sorokin was born in a rural area in the north of Russia. Both his parents died when he was young. He had to work in handicraft trades in order to go to the University of St. Petersburg where his intelligence was noted, and he received scholarships to carry out his studies in law and in the then new academic discipline of sociology. After obtaining his doctorate, he was asked to create the first Department of Sociology at the University of St. Petersburg. However, the study of the nature of society was a dangerous undertaking, and he was imprisoned three times by the Tsarist regime.

He was among the social reformers that led to the first phase of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He served as private secretary to Aleksandr Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government and Sorokin was the editor of the government newspaper. When Kerensky was overthrown by Lenin, Sorokin became part of a highly vocal anti-Bolshevik faction, leading to his arrest and condemnation to death in 1923. At the last moment, after a number of his cell mates had been executed, Lenin modified the penalty to exile, and Sorokin left the USSR, never to return. His revolutionary activities are well-described in his autobiography A Long Journey (1963).

Aleksandr Kerensky

He went to the United States and taught at the University of Minnesota (1924-1930) where he carried out important empirical studies on social mobility, especially rural to urban migration. These studies were undertaken at a time when sociology was becoming increasingly recognized as a specific discipline. Sorokin was invited to teach at Harvard University where the Department of Social Ethics was transformed into the Department of Sociology with Sorokin as its head. He continued teaching sociology at Harvard until his retirement in 1955 when the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was created so that he could continue his research and writing.

Of the three pillars that make up society − personality, culture, and social structure − personality may be the easiest to modify. Therefore, he turned his attention to how a loving or altruistic personality could be developed. He noted that in slightly different terms: love, compassion, sympathy, mercy, benevolence, reverence, Eros, Agape and mutual aid − all affirm supreme love as the highest moral value and its imperatives as the universal and perennial moral commandments. He stressed the fact that an ego-transcending altruistic transformation is not possible without a corresponding change in the structure of one’s ego, values and norms of conduct. Such changes have to be brought about by the individual himself, by his own effortful thinking, meditation, volition and self-analysis. He was strongly attracted to yoga which acted on the body, mind, and spirit.

Sorokin believed that love or compassion must be universal if it were to provide a basis for social reconstruction. Partial love, he said, can be worse than indifference. “If unselfish love does not extend over the whole of mankind, if it is confined within one group − a given family, tribe, nation, race, religious denomination, political party, trade union, caste, social class or any part of humanity − in such an in-group altruism tends to generate an out-group antagonism. And the more intense and exclusive the in-group solidarity of its members, the more unavoidable are the clashes between the group and the rest of humanity.

Sorokin was especially interested in the processes by which societies change cultural orientations, particularly the violent societies he knew, the USSR and the USA. As he wrote renewal “demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values and the world at large. All this cannot be achieved without the incessant, strenuous active efforts on the part of every individual.”

Notes

For a biography see: B. V. Johnston, Pitirim A. Sorokin: An Intellectual Biography (University Press of Kansas, 1995)

For an overview of his writings see: Frank Cowell, History, Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to the Historical and Social Philosophy of Pitirim A. Sorokin (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)

For Sorokin’s late work on the role of altruism see: P. A. Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love (Boston, Beacon Press, 1954) A new reprint was published by Templeton Press in 2002

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

For a World Citizen Approach to Protecting Human Rights Defenders

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law 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.

Henry Usborne (January 16, 1909 – March 16, 1996) World Citizen Activist

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 16, 2021 at 6:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Henry Usborne was a British Member of Parliament (MP) elected in the Labour Party landslide in 1945. He was re-elected in 1950. He was an engineer and Birmingham businessman yet a socialist. Born in India, he always had a broad view of world politics. He was concerned that the United Nations (UN) whose Charter had been signed in June 1945 before the use of the atomic bombs had the same weaknesses as the League of Nations. Soon after his election, he spoke in Parliament for the UN to have the authority to enforce its decisions, an authority which the League of Nations lacked. He spoke out for a code of human rights and for an active world bank.

The early years of the UN were colored by the growing tensions between the USA and the USSR – the start of the Cold War. There were deep disagreements over the future of Germany. Non-official contacts between English and Soviets became more difficult. Proposals for international control of atomic energy were refused or not acted upon within the UN.

Thus Usborne, while still favorable to the efforts of the UN. felt that more popular support for a stronger UN was needed. He was influenced by the experience of the 1934 Peace Ballot which had been organized by the British League of Nations Association. Voters in this non-official vote were asked if they were in support of Britain remaining in the League of Nations. Over 11 million votes were cast with some 10 million in favor of remaining in the League. It is likely that those who wanted out did not bother to vote. Nevertheless, the 1934 Peace Ballot showed strong popular support for the League.

Usborne played a key role in 1946 in the creation by world citizens and world federalists from Western Europe and the USA in the creation in a meeting in Luxembourg of the Movement for a World Federal Government. With these new contacts he envisaged a vote in the USA and much of Western Europe to elect delegates to a Peoples’ World Convention which would write a constitution for a stronger world institution. He proposed that there be one delegate per million population of each State participating. He did not envisage that the USSR and its allies would participate, but he hoped that India would as Jawaharlal Nehru had played a key role in developing support for the United Nations. (1)

In October 1947 he went on a speaking tour of the USA. His ideas were widely understood as they followed somewhat the pattern of the United States (U. S.) Constitutional Convention. The delegates had originally been chosen to develop amendments to the existing Articles of Confederation. They set aside their mandate to draft a totally other basis of union among the states which became the U. S. Constitution. Understanding did not necessarily mean support; yet a fairly large number of organizations were willing to consider the idea.

However, in June 1950, war was started in Korea. Usborne and many others were worried that this was the start of the Third World War. Usborne as many other world citizens turned their activities toward the need for a settlement with the USSR and forms of arms control if there was no possibility for disarmament. The idea of the creation of an alternative world institution stronger than the UN was largely set aside. The focus became on strengthening the UN by finding programs in which the USSR and the USA could participate such as some of the early proposals for UN technical assistance programs. (2)

Usborne, as other world citizens, put an emphasis on developing a sense of world citizenship and a loyalty to all of humanity without spelling out the institutional structures such world citizenship should take. At the end of his second term in Parliament, he left party politics but remained an active world citizen always willing to share his convictions.

Notes

(1) See Manu Bhagavan. The Peacemakers: India and the Quest for One World (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2012)

(2) See Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952)

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

Stringfellow Barr: Joining the Human Race

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 16, 2021 at 3:13 PM

By René Wadlow

Stringfellow Barr: January 15, 1897 – February 3, 1982

Stringfellow Barr, whose birth anniversary we mark on January 15, was a historian, largely of the classic Greek and Roman Empire period and an active world citizen. He served as president of the Foundation for World Government from its start in 1948 to its closing in 1958. He was president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, also home of the United States (U. S.) naval academy which turns out sailors. The aim of St. John’s under Stringfellow Barr was to turn out well-read liberals who would have studied a common set of “Great Book” starting with the Greeks such as Plato. The Great Books approach to learning developed community reading circles across the USA, very popular in the 1950s.

Stringfellow Barr had the good luck or a sense of the right timing to publish a short 36-page booklet Let’s Join the Human Race in 1950. (1) In his January 30, 1949 Inaugural Address on becoming President of the USA, Harry Truman set out four policy ideas which he numbered as Point One to Point Four. Point Four was really an afterthought as some mention of foreign policy was needed for balance. Point Four was “a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.”

Harry Truman

While the first three points dealing with domestic policy were quickly forgotten, Point Four caught the interest of many Americans as had the earlier Marshall Plan for Europe. For some Americans Point Four as the idea was called had an anti-Russian coloring. U. S. technology to raise the standard of living of poor countries would prevent them “from going communist”. For others, such as Stringfellow Barr, the effort of raising the standard of living of the poor was a good thing in itself, and it should not be the task of the USA alone.

Barr wrote “The people of the world are alone able to take on what is the main economic problem of every single national group – the problem of rebuilding their common world economy. They can hope to do it only by the massive use of public funds. America cannot do it for them … The nearest thing to a suitable agency that already exists is the United Nations. And the United Nations is the nearest thing that exists only because the people of the world lack a common government.”

Barr called for the United Nations (UN) to create a World Development Authority “calling in all neighbors from the Mighty Neighborhood.” He developed the idea in a full-length book in 1952 Citizens of the World (2). He places the emphasis on hunger which at the time was the public face of underdevelopment. Robert Brittain’s Let There Be Bread and Josué de Castro’s The Geography of Hunger were among the most widely read books by people interested in development at the time.

Today we have a broader view of what development requires, however food and rural development remain critical issues. The efforts of the UN system for development are not integrated into a World Development Authority. There are repeated calls for greater coordination and planning within the UN system. The 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals are an effort to provide an over-all vision, but common action remains difficult.

As Barr pointed out at the time, most of the proposals to improve the UN have focused their attention on the elimination of war, obviously important in the 1950s when war between the USSR and the USA was a real possibility, highlighted by the 1950-1953 Korean War. However, world citizens have tried to look at the total picture of the social, political, and economic life of all the people of the world. Today the focus of citizens of the world is more on the need for world-focused attitudes and policies rather than on new political structures. Yet the vision of Stringfellow Barr remains important as we highlight his birth anniversary.

Notes

1) Stringfellow Barr, Let’s Join the Human Race (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950, 36 pp.)

2) Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952, 285 pp.)

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

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