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That Cooler Heads May Prevail

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on February 22, 2019 at 1:19 AM

By René Wadlow

When the drums of war start beating, can cooler heads prevail and negotiations in good faith start? Vijay Mehta has written a useful overview of efforts to create a Department of Peace within governments so that there would be an institutionalized official voice proposing other avenues than war. (1)

Such proposals are not new. In 1943, Alexander Wiley, a liberal Republican senator had proposed to President Franklin Roosevelt that he establish a cabinet-level post of Secretary of Peace as there was already a Secretary of War. The Secretary of War has now been renamed Secretary of Defense, but the function has not radically changed.

A Secretary of Peace in Wiley’s vision would be charged with preempting conflicts before they exploded into violence and proposing peaceful resolutions. In the USA after the end of the Second World War, in a “never again” atmosphere, other members of Congress suggested the creation of such a Department of Peace. However, such a vision was never transformed into a reality.

As the Cold War took up ever more energy and funds, a compromise was reached in 1984 at the time that Ronald Reagan was President. The United States (U. S.) Institute of Peace was created and has produced some useful publications and does some conflict resolution training for diplomats and mediators. However, the leadership of the Institute of Peace has not played a visible role in foreign policy formation. One must look elsewhere for cooler voices to cover the beat of the war drums.

The headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D. C.

There is currently a test in real time as the situation in Venezuela grows more complex. There are real possibilities of armed violence, ranging from armed violence within the country to the creation of armed militias operating from Colombia and Brazil as the Contras had in the Nicaragua case, to an old-fashioned intervention by U. S. troops. All these “cards are on the table”. There is no Secretary of Peace officially in the U. S. Government (nor in that of Venezuela either) The influence of national security advisors to the U. S. President has grown, and they have the advantage of frequent personal contact.

Latin America has often been considered as a U. S. “zone of influence”. Unlike current situations in the Middle East which are of direct concern to European States, Latin America has never been a priority of European countries with the exception of Soviet-Cuban relations. Spain has a cultural and economic interest in Latin America but does not try to influence U. S. policy toward individual States. The current U. S. administration seems largely indifferent to the views of the United Nations (U. N.). On the Venezuela crisis the U. N. Secretary-General has called for calm and restraint but has made no specific proposals.

In the U. S. there are a good number of “Think Tanks” devoted to policy making as well as university departments and programs with a geographic – area studies – orientation. As I am not a specialist on Latin America (most of my academic focus has been Africa and the Middle East), I do not know which have strong policy impact. I have seen relatively few public statements coming from academic Latin American specialists, though there is probably outreach to representatives in Congress.

Thus, we must watch the policy-making process closely. Obviously, my hope is that the cooler minds will win out and compromises made, such as holding new elections with international election monitors. This is a test in real time of Vijay Mehta’s aim How Not to Go to War.

Note:
(1) Vijay Mehta. How Not to Go to War: Establishing Departments for Peace and Peace Centres Worldwide (Oxford: New Internationalist Publications, 2019)

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

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Reprisals on Human Rights Defenders: Need for NGO Action

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, World Law on February 5, 2019 at 11:28 PM

By René Wadlow

On January 23, 2019, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, in a statement listed States which had carried out reprisals or intimidation including killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests against individuals cooperating with the UN on human rights issues. He said,

“The world owes it to these brave people standing up for human rights, who have responded to requests to provide information and to engage with the United Nations to ensure their rights to participate is respected. Punishing individuals for cooperating with the United Nations is a shameful practice that everyone must do more to stamp out.” He went on to add “Governments frequently charged human rights activists with terrorism or blamed them for cooperating with foreign entities or damaging the state’s reputation of security.”

The UN human rights bodies and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have established a number of mechanisms for gathering information on the status of human rights in certain countries or about certain issues. In practice, most of this information is complaints on the violation of human rights. In some cases, the information comes from the local branch of an international nongovernmental organization and also from a national human rights organization. In other cases, it comes from a victim or the family of a victim. Information may also come from journalists, religious groups, or visitors to a country who are willing to carry a message out of the country.

Many human rights defenders are people working in isolated, remote areas far from the international networks of protection. These unsung defenders become a vulnerable target in areas where impunity prevails, and assailants operate with virtual no fear of having to account for their crimes. Nevertheless, international appeals with accuracy of information and speed of reaction can be helpful which the Association of World Citizens (AWC) knows from direct experience.

With the often cited “War on Terrorism”, there is a disturbing trend to use national security reasons and counterterrorism strategies by States as a justification for blocking access by communities and civil society groups to UN human rights staff. Women cooperating with the UN have reported threats of rape and being subject to on-line smear campaigns.

The information is collected at the UN High Commissioner’s Office in Geneva and is evaluated to see if the information fits into a pattern of continuing human rights violations or if it is an individual event. In some cases, the same information is also given to well-known human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The AWC receives a certain amount of information which is usually passed on orally to the UN Secretariat in Geneva without the names of the contacts. Like journalists, one must protest one’s sources. On the other hand, the AWC cannot prove the information. Thus, in its public statements, this association only raises broad country situations such as the national minorities and the Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma). However, in private letters to the UN Ambassadors in Geneva and New York, we raise specific cases, often of what is increasingly called “human rights defenders”.

I present the States listed by broad geographic region rather than all together in alphabetical order as they are in the UN statement as other States in each region may also have human rights violation issues, often inter-related to the State named. Thus, the list of States is only those which the UN is aware that there have been reprisals against individuals who have given information to the UN units. We will close with some observations on what NGOs can do to limit such reprisals.

Middle East & North Africa

Bahrain
Egypt
Israel
Saudi Arabia
Morocco

Africa

Cameroon
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Mali
Rwanda
South Sudan

Asia

China
India
Maldives
Myanmar
Philippines
Thailand
Turkey

Latin America

Colombia
Cuba
Guatemala
Guyana
Honduras
Trinidad and Tobago
Venezuela

Europe

Hungary
Russian Federation

Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan
Turkmenistan

The impact and increasingly higher profile of human rights informants has left them more and more exposed to a high risk of harassment, repression, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial executions. Governments are not the only actors. Depending on the country, there can be gangs, militias, paramilitary and other nongovernmental groups who also menace people thought to be giving information to the UN or to international human rights organizations.

The publication by the UN of its list is done with the hope that governments themselves will take positive action to protect. In some countries, internal security services or police-related “death squads” may act without the knowledge of the highest authorities of the State. In other States, there is little repression that does not come on orders of the higher authorities. There is a need for representatives of NGOs and also the media to be alert, especially for violations in States which are not otherwise in the news. Active networking remains crucial.

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

Migration in a Globalized World Economy

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 21, 2018 at 12:12 AM

By René Wadlow

The present era of globalization of the economy is not new, but as a term and also as an organizing concept for policy making, it dates from 1991 and the formal end of the Soviet zone of influence which had some of the structures of an alternative trading system.

Earlier, dating from the 1970s the term used was “interdependence”. The emphasis was on economic relations but there was also some emphasis on cultural and political factors. In a July 1975 speech, United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who had an academic background and kept himself informed of theoretical trends said “All of us – allies and rivals, new nations and old nations, the rich and the poor – constitute one world community. The interdependence on our planet is becoming the central fact of our diplomacy… The reality is that the world economy is a single global system of trade and monetary relations on which hinges the development of all our economies. An economic system thrives if all who take part in it thrive.”

Interdependence was to help build a world society based on equality, justice, and mutual benefit. As Secretary Kissinger said the need was “to transform the concept of world community from a slogan into an attitude.”

Interdependence was to be articulated into policies leading to disarmament, peaceful change, improved welfare especially for the poorest and respect for human rights. However, in practice the continuing USA-USSR tensions, questions of access to oil especially in the Middle East and the difficulties of establishing rules and controls for the world trade system kept “interdependence” as a slogan and not as a framework for policies and decisions of major governments.

The term “globalization” has progressively replaced that of “interdependence” The concept of globalization continues the interdependence focus on global economic linkages but adds an emphasis on the organization of social life on a global scale and the growth of a global consciousness. Global consciousness is the essential starting point of world citizenship. Globalization is a socio-economic process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural patterns recede and in which people become increasingly away that these geographic constraints are receding.

The rapid pace of globalization requires that research and practice keep up with the speed of changes in order to reduce unnecessary risks and to provide legitimacy and confidence in the world system. However, within the world society – as within national societies – there are many different interests. At the world level, there are not yet the web of consensus-building techniques found in public and private institutions at the national level.

There were recently two intergovernmental conferences being held at the same time which indicated the possibilities and the difficulties of reaching agreement among most of the States of th World: COP 24 held in Katowice, Poland devoted to issues of climate change and the conference on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, held in Marrakech, Morocco.

The COP 24 had the advantage of building on the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and on the serious scientific research carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Katowice conference was to develop a common system of rules, reporting and measurement for the Paris Climate Accord. This “rule book” was largely accomplished. A sub-theme was to show that the international spirit which had led to the Paris Agreement was still alive and well despite criticism and a lack of visible progress.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is the first of its kind, although there are earlier agreements on the status of refugees. In many countries, there has been sharp debates on immigration policy – often with more heat than light. Some States have already indicated that they will not sign the Compact even though it has been repeatedly pointed out that the Compact is not a treaty and thus not legally binding. The Compact sets out aspirations and strengthens some of the processes already in practice. The representatives of some States which signed indicated that they will be “selective” in the processes which they will put into practice.

Blue: Will adopt the Compact, Red: Will not adopt the Compact, Yellow: Considering not adopting, Gray: Undetermined

There was an agreement to hold a review conference in 2022. There is a growing tendency in inter-governmental treaties to set a review conference every four or five years to analyze implementation and the changing political and economic situation.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has been stressing for some years the importance of migration issues. Migration is likely to increase as climate changes have their impact. Thus, the AWC calls upon Nongovernmental Organizations to focus cooperatively and strongly on migration and the standards of the Global Compact.

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

Khalil Gibran: The Foundations of Love

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Poetry, The Search for Peace on December 18, 2018 at 7:26 AM

By René Wadlow

Life without love is like a tree without blossom and fruit. And love without beauty is like flowers without scent and fruits without seed… For Love is the only flower that grows and blossoms without the aid of seasons… Love is a rose, its heart opens at dawn.”

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) the Lebanese poet, whose birth anniversary we mark on January 6, in many ways represents the deeper spirit of Lebanon though he lived most of his life outside the country: in Paris as an art student and in the USA where he started to write directly in English. His best known book The Prophet was written directly in English.

In “My Birthday”, written in Paris on January 6, 1908 Gibran wrote “Thus have I walked round the sun twenty and five times. And I know not how many times the moon has encircled me. Yet I have not unveiled the secrets of life, neither have I known the hidden things of darkness… Much have I loved in these five and twenty years. And much that I have loved is hateful to people, and much that I have hated is by them admired… I have loved freedom, and my love has grown with the growth of my knowledge of the bondage of people to falsehood and deceit… Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.”

In a vision that was correct, he added in the 1908 birthday essay “And today, today I stand in remembrance as a tired wayfarer who stands mid-way on the ascending road.” He died in 1931 at the age of 48. (1)

For Gibran, Love and Beauty are the foundations of existence. As he wrote in an essay which gave the title to the book “A Tear and a Smile” Then my heart drew near to wisdom, the daughter of Love and Beauty, saying ‘Give me wisdom that I may carry it to humankind’. She answered ‘Say that happiness begins in the holy of holies of the spirit and comes not from without.

A Tear and a Smile sums up well Gibran’s attitude toward life which is always made up of contrasts: light and dark, knowledge and doubt.

How beautiful is life, beloved.
Tis like the heart of a poet,
Full of light and spirit,
How harsh is life, beloved
Tis like an evildoer’s heart
Full of guilt and fear.

In “The Hymn of Man”, nearly a credo of his views, he stresses the ‘both/and’ of contrasts:

I have hearkened to the teachings of Confucius and listened to the wisdom of Brahma, and sat beside the Buddha beneath the tree of knowledge. Behold me now contending with ignorance and unbelieving.

I have borne the harshness of insatiable conquerors, and felt the oppression of tyrants and the bondage of the powerful. Yet I am strong to do the battle with the days.

I was,
And I am.
So shall I be to the end of Time.
For I am without end.

(1) Quotations are from Khalil Gibran A Tear and A Smile. Translated from the Arabic by H.M. Nahmad (London: William Heinemann, 1930)

Painting: Age of Women by Khalil Gibran

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

We, Disabled People, the Global Uncontacted Tribe

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Disabled people, Human Development, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, United Nations on December 3, 2018 at 8:09 AM

By Bernard J. Henry

What is an “uncontacted tribe”? Come on, you’ve heard of them. These are native communities living in their traditional forest or island habitat, following their millennia-old, nature-based lifestyle and refusing contact with the outside world. Since Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right candidate for the presidency of Brazil, won the election on October 28, the future of Brazilian uncontacted tribes lies in the balance as Bolsonaro pledged during his campaign to have all these tribes wiped out.

One would assume that an uncontacted tribe is logically a people living in one single place, not a group scattered throughout the world, thus being more appropriately called an “uncontacted diaspora”, although the expression wouldn’t make much sense. If that’s what you think, then, think again.

This world of ours is indeed home to a global uncontacted tribe. The tribe has a name – disabled people. And I happen to be one of them. You may be glad that you’re not.

The Real Wretched of the Earth

If you have the firm belief that you could never live with a single one of your rights being violated or not properly implemented, then, indeed, be glad you’re not of our own. Disabled people, currently one billion people making up 15 per cent of the world’s population,are the largest minority in the world and, indignantly enough, the category of human beings whose rights are the most blatantly ignored and violated.

Poverty hits us hard, as, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries and studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment in OECD member states. Among the world’s poorest people, says the World Bank, 20 percent have some form of disability and their communities view them as the most disadvantaged.

Disability doesn’t even spare women and children. A 2004 survey in Orissa, India, found that virtually all the women and girls with disabilities were beaten at home, 25 per cent of women with intellectual disabilities had been raped and 6 per cent of women with disabilities had been forcibly sterilized. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that 30 per cent of street youths are in some way disabled. Mortality for disabled children may be as high as 80 per cent in countries where underage mortality has, overall, decreased below 20 per cent, says the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, adding that, in some cases, it seems as if children are being “weeded out”. Due to malnutrition, diseases, child labor and other causes, disabled children in developing countries are projected to increase over the next thirty years.

When not faced with ignorance, as the OECD says an average 19 per cent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 per cent among the better educated, we must cope with the consequences of armed conflict and violence. The WHO estimates that, for every child killed in warfare, three are injured and left with a permanent form of disability. In some countries, up to a quarter of disabilities result from injuries and violence.

While local uncontacted tribes strive to keep away from “civilization”, we, the global uncontacted tribe, try to fit in but get pushed back by everyone, everywhere. Being a global tribe, the issues we face can rightly be called global issues. But seldom are found global solutions, let alone sought to begin with.

A Global People with No Global Rights

It wasn’t until 2006 that a billion inhabitants of planet Earth saw their rights formally enshrined in a binding treaty – the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed on March 30, 2007. The Convention came into force on May 3, 2008 and, to date, 177 countries are States Parties. A specifically-dedicated United Nations (UN) agency, UN Enable, is tasked to ensure that the Convention is respected and enforced throughout the world. And even obtaining that didn’t come easy.

In 2004, the U. S. Administration, then led by President George W. Bush and at odds with much of the world over the Iraq war, opposed the Convention with all its might and argued that national laws within individual countries would always be better than a world treaty. Save that only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws, whose background varies heavily from country to country and makes it impossible to have a common global pattern of law emerge from domestic legislation.

In the U. S., disabled people were part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, which landed them laws granting formal rights binding on federal, state, and local government and courts. By contrast, in France, disabled people started to gain specific rights after World War I, when so many veterans returned from the battlefield with injuries for life, needing either specific welfare pensions or assistance in finding a job. In the latter case, French disabled people had to wait until 1975 for a broader law, which was itself succeeded only in 2005 by a more thorough law, in both instances thanks to the determination of one man – Jacques Chirac, who was Prime Minister in 1975 and President in 2005, and whose daughter Laurence, who died in 2016, was gravely disabled. France is a State Party to the Convention, while the U. S. is only a signatory.

The Convention does not allow UN Enable to recognize and register persons as disabled people in the absence of a national framework, in the style of UNHCR which registers refugees in those countries without a national asylum agency. A shameful instance of national sovereignty without the limitations that would guarantee the greater good for everyone. Making us, disabled people, even more of a global uncontacted tribe.

We Are World Citizens – Sometimes World Leaders, Too

Are we doomed to remain forever global outcasts, a global uncontacted tribe as no one wants to contact us, at least without being judgmental and paternalistic toward us? Can we ever fit into society? To borrow a quote from Mark Twain, some of us “did not know it was impossible, so they did it”. And their names may just astound you.

Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist. John Nash, the American mathematician, whose life inspired the movie A Beautiful Mind. Vincent Van Gogh. Ludwig van Beethoven. Frida Kahlo. Tom Cruise. Robin Williams. Stevie Wonder. Ladyhawke, the New Zealand singer and musician who became world famous in 2008 with her worldwide hit Paris is Burning. To name but a few.

Others still made it to top government posts. Joaquin Balaguer, former President of the Dominican Republic. Wolfgang Schaüble, several times a Federal Minister and now Speaker of Germany’s Federal Assembly (Bundestag). Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In the United States, Robert Dole, a longtime Senator from Kansas and the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, as well as his recently-deceased fellow Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona – and, most importantly, two former Presidents, both Democrats, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, no less.

The latter won four presidential elections, got his country out of a major economic and social crisis, won World War II and created the United Nations – having done all that from a wheelchair. For an uncontacted tribe, we may not be deemed a completely useless portion of the world’s population.

Don’t Look at Our Name – Look at Our Selves

Even the name “disabled people”, coined by the non-disabled to refer to us, seems to have become more than this world can bear. Some are now using the name “differently abled”, at the very risk of stressing how different we are while we need to be recognized for our specificities but also for our similarities to the so-called “able” people. What’s in a name? Too much.

Disabled people need to be considered for what they are – people forced to live with a disability that requires special attention from society, while each of them retains his or her own self, skills and, unlike what our name suggests, abilities.

December 3 was proclaimed International Day of Disabled Persons in 1992, through UN General Assembly Resolution 47/3. Every year, the same question is asked of the people of the world: Why are you so afraid of the global uncontacted tribe? What makes you think they cannot be but a burden to society? Wouldn’t it be better for both you and them if you would only choose a more inclusive lifestyle that creates equal opportunities, regardless of (dis)ability?

And the world continues to wonder. It sees the global uncontacted tribe. It talks to us. But it uses a language we cannot understand, for its words cannot convey our own thoughts. And uncontacted we remain.

If you really want to contact us, just start by realizing that what you call “disability” originates in your own minds. We, the global uncontacted tribe, hold fortunes in knowledge and experience, different from yours. Please let us help you make this world a better place.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Nadia Murad: A Yazidi Voice Against Slavery

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 24, 2018 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Nadia Murad, now a United Nations (U. N.) Goodwill Ambassador on Trafficking of Persons, is the co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014, when she was 21, she and her neighbors in a predominantly Yazidi village in the Simjar mountainous area of Iraq were attacked by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These forces were following a pattern of targeted killings, forced conversions to Islam, abductions, trafficking of women, sexual abuse and slavery. In Murad’s village, most of the older men were killed, the younger men taken to be soldiers in the ISIS forces, and the women taken into slavery, primarily as sex slaves, in Mosul, the city which served as the headquarters of ISIS.

There were some 500,000 Yazidi in Iraq though Iraqi demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds who had been Yazidis but had converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds in Turkey but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. Many of the Yazidi are ethnic Kurds and the government of Saddam Hussein was opposed to them not so much for their religious beliefs but because some Yazidi played important roles in the Kurdish community seen as largely opposed to his government.

Nadia Murad

 

After a time in Mosul, Murad, with the help of a compassionate Muslim family, was able to escape Mosul and make her way to the Iraqi Kurdistan area where many Yazidis from the Sinjar area had already arrived. Once there she joined a newly created association of Yazidi women who had organized to defend their rights and so that the voices of women could be heard. A few of these women were able to be resettled in Western Europe. Nadia Murad was able to live in Germany where she became the spokesperson for Yazidi women and other women who had met a similar fate. In December 2015, she addressed the U. N. Security Council and became the public face both for the Yazidi women and for an even larger number of women victims of the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The structure of the Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian, a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces, that of light and good, and that of darkness and evil, are in constant battle. Man is called upon to help light overcome darkness. However, the strict dual thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet, Mani of Ctesiplon in the third century CE. Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through trade: Buddhism and Hinduism from India, Jewish and Christian thought, Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece, as well as many smaller traditional and “animist” beliefs. He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework, though giving it a more Taoist (yin/yang) character. Mani had traveled in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul by individual effort through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought.

Yazidi_Girl_tradicional_clothes

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework, the Yazidi added the presence of angels who are to help humans in their constant battle for light and good. The main angel is Melek Tavis, the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam, angels that one does not know could well be demons, so the Yazidi are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers” (1).

While it is dangerous to fall into a good/evil analysis of world politics, there is little to see of “good” in the ISIS actions. Thus, Nadia Murad can be seen as a bringer of light into a dark time.

 

Note
(1) A Yazidi website has been set up by Iraqis living in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. The website is uneven but of interest as self-presentation: http://www.yeziditruth.org (“Yazidi” is sometimes written “Yezidi”)

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

World Food Day: A Holistic World Food Policy is Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations on October 16, 2018 at 8:15 PM

By René Wadlow

Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.

Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (1954)

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) aims by 2030 to “Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and non-farm resources.”

There is a consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with worldwide growing food needs. These measures must be taken in a holistic and coordinated way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer to the national level with new government policies to the world level with better coordinated activities through the United Nations (UN) System.

A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. Food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention to the role which the UN system must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

FAO.png

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) did encourage governments to develop national food security policies, but the lack of policies at the world level has led to the increasing control of agricultural processes by a small number of private firms driven by the desire to make money.  Thus today, three firms — Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta — control about half of the commercial seed market worldwide.  Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held.

There needs to be detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of commodity prices. There has been a merger of the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade to become the CME Group Market which deals in some 25 agricultural commodities. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages of 2008 are now looking for ways to get money back. For the moment, there is no international regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains. The word needs a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

There is likewise a need for a serious analysis of the growing practice of buying or renting potential farm land, especially in Africa and South America, by foreign countries, especially China and the Arab Gulf states. While putting new land under cultivation is not a bad policy, we need to look at the impact of this policy on local farmers as well as on world food prices.

Cultivated land

There is a need to keep in mind local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labor and to land-holding patterns.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that an integrated, holistic approach is needed. World Citizens stress that solutions to poverty, hunger and climate change crisis require an agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping balance the carbon cycle. Such an integrated approach is a fundamental aspect of the world citizen approach to a solid world food policy.

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

The Death Penalty and Human Dignity

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Uncategorized, United Nations, United States, World Law on October 10, 2018 at 7:36 PM

By René Wadlow

October 10 is the International Day Against the Death Penalty. Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty due to the rather obvious recognition that putting a person to death is not justice. Moreover, on practical grounds, the death penalty has little impact on the rate of crime in a country. A number of States have a death penalty for those involved in the drug trade. To the extent that the drug trade can be estimated statistically, the death penalty has no measurable impact on the trade − a trade usually linked to economic or geopolitical factors.

October 10 can also be a day to oppose all organized killings by State agents. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, usually carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have State-sponsored “death squads” − persons affiliated to the police or to intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” − unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision. A shot in the back of the head is faster. The number of “targeted killings” has grown. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed and so death is supposed but not proved, as has been the case of students protesting in Mexico. United States assassinations with drones has also been highlighted both in the United Nations human rights bodies and domestically. However, the drone “strikes” continue, and there is very little legislative opposition.

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A good deal of recent concern has been expressed on the death sentence in Saudi Arabia by crucifixion. There is perhaps some chance of a change of penalty due to more historically-minded Saudis. The most widely known person crucified is Jesus. As the Roman court records have been lost, we have only the account written by his friends who stressed that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was condemned. His crucifixion has taken on cosmic dimensions. “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” The Saudis try to avoid some of the Jesus parallel by beheading the person before putting the rest of the body on the cross, but the image of the crucified as innocent is wide spread.

October 10 is an occasion for us to stress the importance of human dignity. Our efforts against executions need to be addressed both to governments and to those state-like nongovernmental armed groups such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps in developing a just world society.

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

Kofi Annan (1938-2018): A way forward for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on August 21, 2018 at 8:34 PM

By René Wadlow

 

“Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflicts. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, a culture of peace.”

Kofi Annan.

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The homage which World Citizens can give to the memory of Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), is to carry on his efforts for worldwide security and the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations with the presence of skilled mediators. As he wrote, “We must seek new common ground for our collective efforts.” World Citizens believe that UN Member States owe an obligation to each other to make good faith efforts to reach agreements consistent with the highest principles of world law. The UN was conceived to do more than to clear away the rubble of conflicts that it was unable to prevent.

Kofi Annan saw that the concept of a global society is growing piece by piece shaped by new possibilities of communication, transport, trade and finance. An effort must be made to find the aspirations of people to hold what they have in common and to express these world citizen values in ways that many can recognize and accept.

The relations between security, conflict resolution and respect for human rights have now assumed a more dynamic form than at any other time since the creation of the UN. Thus, there is a need for concerted attention and action of States and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).

Kofi Annan was always sensitive to the role that NGOs could play in building a culture of peace. In 1997, he said that the UN should be “a bridge between civil society and governments.” He stressed that the role of NGOs was becoming increasingly important. The UN’s peacekeeping mandate had changed in that armed conflicts are increasingly taking place within rather than between States. Thus, peacekeeping efforts can involve electoral assistance, humanitarian aid, administrative support, and the protection of human rights.

There are at least three areas in which NGOs can cooperate effectively with the UN:

1) Fact-finding and early warning. In preventive diplomacy, NGOs, because of their familiarity with local situations are well placed to play a part in early warning by drawing the attention of governments to budding and emerging conflicts. Yet more must be done to coordinate activities to stop violence before it spreads. Coalition building can have a multiplier effect on the ability to understand the complexities of conflict before violence happens. Consultative mechanisms should be developed to enable NGOs to provide early warning information and to receive information from the UN.

2) Lines of communication. Diplomacy to keep channels of communication open between opponents is a difficult yet necessary task. Often one side will break contact which is then difficult to reestablish. Given its importance, better ways must be developed to communicate and, if desired, to pass on communications from one side to another.

3) Training. There is a need to utilize the mobilizing power of NGOs both in terms of people (networking) and resources, especially money. There is a need to develop networks among university-based specialists, NGOs and the conflicting parties themselves.

Kofi Annan was a model of calm networking and keeping lines of communication open.

We need to continue in his spirit.

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

Freedom From Fear: Still an Unmet Goal

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on July 27, 2018 at 6:13 PM

By René Wadlow

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945) in his January 6, 1941 State of the Union address to Congress presented the “Four Freedoms”, much of the world was at war: German troops were advancing in Europe as were the Japanese armies in China. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) said then, “I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world – assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discords in nations that are still at peace … And the assailants are still on the march, threatening other nations, great and small.” Territorial conquest and resistance against occupation was the focus of attention of much of the world’s population.

The United States was not yet at war and defined its position as neutral. Many Americans hoped to be able to stay out of the war, having been disillusioned by the continuation of “power politics” in Europe and Asia after the end of the First World War despite the creation of the League of Nations.

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In 1941, FDR was in the process of changing his own focus of attention from a “New Deal” President primarily concerned with the domestic consequences of the world-wide economic depression to becoming a world leader articulating liberal values for all the world’s population, and playing a major role in the founding of the United Nations (UN). Thus, in his presentation to Congress, he stressed world themes and called upon people to lift their eyes above the current aggression and control of land to focus upon the broader themes of a positive way of life.

The “Four Freedoms” presented to Congress were the essential need and right of every citizen of the world. As FDR put it “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

  • The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.
  • The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.
  • The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understanding which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants –everywhere in the world.
  • The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.
    That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation”

Earlier in the address, FDR had outlined some of the steps needed to build the socio-economic framework for freedom from want:

  • Equality of opportunity;
  • Jobs;
  • Security;
  • The ending of special privilege for the few;
  • The employment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

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Many of those who would lead the struggle against colonialism in Asia and Africa heard in the Four Freedoms “everywhere in the world” the moral basis of their fight for equality and freedom. The address also inspired those in Latin America who felt the domination of United States economic power and who knew that political independence was only part of the story.

FDR held forth the possibility that the Four Freedoms would be attainable “in our own time and generation”. Thus, FDR calls us – especially those of us who were alive if not always politically active in 1941 – to analyze where we are today.

Freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion were relatively easy to incorporate into articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a Declaration which owes much to Eleanor Roosevelt, the first Chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights during its drafting stage (1946-1948).

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Today, the UN Human Rights Council has Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and freedom of conscience which, each year, studies accusations of violations. They enter into discussions with governments so that government practice meets international standards. There are effective nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which monitor the situation and who provide detailed information to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Likewise, there are problems concerning government limitations on freedom of expression and concern with the degree of concentration of power in a few private world communication empires, but no government today openly questions the right to freedom of expression.

Freedom from want has been difficult to translate into reality, although in the speeches of government, NGO and business representatives, there is wide agreement that poverty is a bad thing. Nevertheless, a haunting fear for many in the world – probably about one third of the world’s population – is daily survival: finding food, clean water, reasonable shelter, adequate protection against illness. Much of the work of the UN and its Specialized Agencies as well as numerous NGOs is devoted to the effort to provide “freedom from want”. Yet more needs to be done if we are to shoulder the responsibility of ridding the world of the constant fear of want.

Freedom from fear has been even more difficult to translate into daily reality, in part because fear has an individual character linked to self-alienation and its accompanying anxiety.

In FDR’s original presentation freedom from fear was directly linked to disarmament and measures against aggression. Unfortunately, there has been little “disarmament dividend” since the end of the Cold War in 1990 symbolized by the signing in November 1990 of the “Charter of Paris on the New Europe”. While there is no longer a reason to fear a war between the USA and Russia which could have led to a nuclear exchange, world politics is still largely determined by the nuclear-weapon States: the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. Military budgets remain high – that of the USA reaches amounts that are difficult to justify even if one believes that arms provide “security”.

There are many armed conflicts within a State. Trans-frontier arms trade remains high and increasingly involves private as well as government buyers and sellers. The tasks which FDR set out for us in 1941 are still with us. The UN, national governments and NGOs all have a role to play in establishing the Four Freedoms at the heart of daily life. Thus, we must direct our thoughts along the lines of cooperation and creativeness.

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

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