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Saber Rattling With Nuclear Weapons

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, World Law on September 27, 2022 at 7:21 AM

By René Wadlow

On September 21, the United Nations (UN)-designated Day of Peace, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, said in an address to the nation,

“I am addressing you – all citizens of our country, people of different generations, ages and ethnicities, the people of our great Motherland, all who are united by the great historical Russia, soldiers, officers and volunteers who are fighting on the frontline and doing their combat duty, our brothers and sisters in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Kherson and Zaporazhye regions and other areas that have been liberated from the neo-Nazi regime.”

He set out the dangers facing the Federation,

“The goal of that part of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country. They are saying openly now that in 1991 they managed to split up the Soviet Union and now is the time to do the same to Russia, which must be divided into numerous regions that would be at deadly feud with each other … Washington, London and Brussels are openly encouraging Kiev to move hostilities to our territory. They openly say that Russia must be defeated on the battlefield by any means, and subsequently deprived of political, economic, cultural and any other sovereignty and ransacked.”

To meet these challenges, he ordered a “partial mobilization in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories.” Sergey Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, set out the details in a public statement just after Putin’s address. The mobilization will call up men below the age of 65 who have had military service. There are some 300,000 people in this category.

The nuclear saber rattling followed. Putin went on,

“I am referring to the statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons against Russia … In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly use all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

He ended by saying, “The citizens of Russia can rest assured that the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom will be defended – I repeat – by all the systems available to us.”

What makes the current situation more ambiguous and dangerous is that Vladimir Putin announced and confirmed by Sergey Shoigu that from September 23 to 27, 2022, there would be referendums in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and in the areas under Russian control in the Kherson and Zaporazhye regions on joining the Russian Federation. People who are refugees in Russia from these areas will also be able to vote. A vote favorable to joining Russia is not in doubt. Thus, any future military operations by Ukraine forces in these areas could be considered by Russia as an attack on Russian territory.

It is impossible to know to what extent the nuclear weapon saber rattling is serious and goes beyond a justification for the mobilization of former military – not a popular policy. The situation calls for active efforts to decrease tensions on the part of the UN, national governments, and Nongovernmental Organizations. The next weeks may be crucial.

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

Frantz Fanon: The New Humanism

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace on July 20, 2022 at 9:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) whose birth anniversary we mark on July 20, was a French psychologist, writer, and participant in the Algerian struggle for independence (1954-1962). He was born in Martinique, then a French colony which now has the status of a Department of France. The bulk of the population are of African descent, having been brought to the West Indies as slaves. Although the basic culture is French, some in Martinique are interested in African culture, and as in Haiti, there are survivals of African religions, often incorporated into Roman Catholic rites.

In 1940, as France was being occupied by the German forces and a right-wing nationalist government was being created in the resort city of Vichy, sailors favorable to the Vichy government took over the island and created a narrow-nationalist, racist rule. Fanon, then 17, escaped to the nearby British colony of Dominica, and from there joined the Free French Forces led by General De Gaulle. Fanon fought in North Africa and then in the liberation of France.

Once the war over, he received a scholarship to undertake medical and then psychiatry training in Lyon. His doctoral thesis on racism as he had experienced it in the military and then during his medical studies was published in French in 1952 and is translated into English as Black Skin, White Masks.

In 1953, he was named to lead the Psychiatry Department of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria shortly before the November 1954 start of the war for independence in Algeria. He treated both Algerian victims of torture as well as French soldiers traumatized by having to carry out torture. He considered the struggle for independence as a just cause, and so in 1956 he resigned his position and left for Tunisia where the leadership of the independence movement was located. As a good writer, having already published his thesis followed by a good number of articles in intellectual journals, he was made the editor of the Algerian independence newspaper. There were a number of efforts by the French security services to kill him or to blow up the car in which he was riding. Although wounded a number of times, he survived.

In 1959, the British colony of the Gold Coast was granted independence and took the name of Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a pan-African, having participated in a number of pan-African congresses starting in the 1930s. He viewed the independence of the Gold Coast as the first step toward the liberation of all colonies in Africa, to be followed by the creation of African unity in some sort of federation. Ghana attracted a good number of activists of anti-colonial movements. Fanon was sent to Ghana to be the Algerian Independence Movement (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) ambassador to Ghana and as the contact person toward other independence movements.

From his anti-colonial activity, he wrote his best-known study of colonialism, the mental health problems it caused, and the need for catharsis Les damnés de la terre, translated into English as The Wretched of the Earth. The title comes from the first line of the widely sung revolutionary song L’Internationale. For French readers, there was no need to write the first word of the song which is “Arise” as in “Arise, you Wretched of the Earth” (“Debout, les damnés de la terre”). The meaning of the book in English would have been clearer had it been called Arise, Wretched of the Earth.

Fanon was very ill with leukemia, and Les damnés de la terre was written by dictation to his French-born wife that he had married during his medical studies. He received in the hospital the first copies of his book three days before his death. He had been taken for treatment to a leading hospital just outside Washington, DC by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The role of the CIA in support of, or just infiltrating for information, the Algerian independence movement is still not fully clear. Frantz Fanon was buried in a town in Algeria then held by the independence forces. The 1962 peace agreement with France granting independence followed shortly after his death. Fanon is recalled warmly in Algeria for his part in the independence struggle.

The final four pages of Les damnés de la terre are a vital appeal for a new humanism and for a cosmopolitan world society based on the dignity of each person. For Fanon, there is a need to overcome both resignation and oppression and to begin a new history of humanity.

Note

Two useful biographies of Fanon in English are David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York: Viking Press, 1970), and Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon. A Critical Study (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973)

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

The Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Greater Awareness Building Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 19, 2022 at 3:41 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has proclaimed June 19 of each year to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence and to honor the victims and the survivors of sexual violence around the world. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on June 19, 2008 of Security Council Resolution 1820 in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an impediment to peacebuilding.

For the UN, “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls, and boys, linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for purposes of sexual violence or exploitation.

Dr. Nkosazuna Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson, African Union Commission speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, June 12, 2014. (C) Foreign and Commonwealth Office

There has been a slow growth of awareness-building trying to push UN Agencies to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health services taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities. A big step forward was the creation of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The post is currently held since April 2017 by Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten. She recently said “We see it too often in all corners of the globe from Ukraine to Tigray in northern Ethiopia to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced and least-condemned crime.”

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) first raised the issue in the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001 citing the judgement of the International Court for Former Yugoslavia which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing the accused to trial. The tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

The AWC again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing the findings of Meredeth Turslen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1998), “There are numerous types of rape. Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The prohibition of sexual violence in times of conflict is now part of international humanitarian law. However, there are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is a role for greater promotional activities through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observance of internationally recognized norms. The second weakness is enforcement. We are still at the awareness-building stage. Strong awareness-building is needed.

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

Lifting the Odessa Blockade

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations on June 6, 2022 at 3:19 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) urges action to lift the blockade on Odessa and other Black Sea ports so that grain and other food resources can resume to flow. Ukraine has a vast agricultural base producing 46 percent of the world’s sunflower exports and 10 percent of the world’s wheat exports. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s food export market. Odessa has a large grain terminal in which vast quantities of food exports are now stuck. It is not physically possible to transport large quantities of grain by rail and road.

Odessa’s port, peaceful and flourishing, before the Russian invasion. (C) Raymond Zoller

In part due to this blockade, food prices for grain have risen some 20 percent, hitting especially the poor. In some parts of Africa, due to climate conditions and armed conflict, there are near famine conditions. New food supplies are urgent.

A Ukrainian family evacuated from Mariupol. (C) Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Russian authorities have said that they were ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food, but only in return for the lifting of U. S. and Western European sanctions. However, the Western sanctions have a multitude of sources. The lifting of the Odessa blockade and renewed grain shipments must be treated as a single issue, although it is obviously colored by the whole armed conflict.

There are diplomatic efforts underway led by the African Union and the United Nations. It is urgent that speedy progress be made. Nongovernmental organizations may be able to play a creative role as many NGOs are already involved in ecologically-sound development projects in areas under agricultural and food stress. The AWC, concerned with the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith, appeals for creative diplomatic measures so that the blockade is ended as soon as possible.

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

Horace Alexander: Unofficial Diplomacy and Mediation

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 6, 2022 at 3:12 PM

By René Wadlow

At this time of increased tensions and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, it is useful to recall the positive possibilities of unofficial diplomacy. Unofficial diplomats recognize that the suspicions of government officials are a major hurdle to overcome and that they must emphasize their impartiality and independence from governments. Preparing the way for official policy changes or for improved interstate relations is a slow-building evolutionary process. Personal contacts across borders hold the potential for influencing the knowledge and attitudes of those involved as well as the ability to gain information.

Horace Alexander (1889-1989), the British Quaker and friend of Mahatma Gandhi, is a good example of the unofficial diplomat and mediator. Horace Alexander was born in an English Quaker family. His father was a lawyer deeply involved in peace efforts and in opposing the opium trade active between India and China. Horace Alexander was a Cambridge University graduate who went on to teach international relations at Woodbroke, an adult education center run by Quakers. Alexander was very active in efforts to support the League of Nations.

In 1926 and 1927 there was increased agitation and repression in India as the Indian National Congress became increasingly active. Thus in 1928 Horace Alexander was sent to India by the British Quakers to see if relations between the Vice Roy Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi could be improved. Alexander saw the spiritual dimension of Gandhi but also his political impact and suggested to the British government that Gandhi be invited to the Roundtable on Indian politics which was to be held in London in 1931.

Alexander developed close relations with Gandhi and divided his time between India and England. He was active in relief work during the famine in Bengal in 1943-1944 and was active with the Indian National Congress during the negotiations which led to independence in 1947, but he sensed the birth pangs of the creation of the two states of India and Pakistan and the terrible days of partition when fighting between religious communities took a deadly toll in human life and spirit.

While he was with Gandhi in India, seeing the growing divide between Hindus and Muslims, he created the Fellowship of Friends of Truth. As he wrote “The basis and goal of the Fellowship of Truth will be a common striving toward fuller knowledge of the Truth that is God. Members will commit themselves to learn with and from one another of the things that are eternal, through common acts of quiet worship and meditation and through other forms of communion with God and man.” Horace Alexander lived his later years in the United States and died at the age of 100.

Unofficial diplomacy rarely creates a breakthrough as situations can be completely blocked and even minimal proposals are unacceptable at the time. However, small steps can be useful if taken in the right direction. Unofficial Diplomacy, which is increasingly called Track II diplomacy, is growing in importance and merits support.

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

Kenneth Waltz: The Passing of the Second Generation of the Realists

In Conflict Resolution, The former Soviet Union, United States on May 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

By René Wadlow

The death of Professor Kenneth Waltz on May 12, 2013 in New York City at the age of 88 marks the start of the passing of the second generation of the realist school in the study of international relations. The first generation was a trio marked by the politics of Europe between the two world wars: E. H. Carr (1), Frederick L. Schuman (2) and Hans Morgenthau (3). The second generation, also a trio, is marked by the start of the Cold War and a bi-polar balance-of-power: Kenneth Waltz (4), Henry Kissinger (5), and Stanley Hoffmann (6).

Waltz was often referred to as a “neorealist” to distinguish him from the writers of the first generation, especially from Hans Morgenthau, but the difference was more a question of age and formative experience than a real difference of approach, although Waltz was critical of Morgenthau’s ‘Germanic’ emphasis on ‘the will to power’ which motivates everyone but especially those in control of state policy.

Kenneth Waltz

Waltz called himself a “structural realist” — a better term for his emphasis on the behavior of states as determined by the structures of the world society rather than by domestic motivations or the personality of state leaders. Waltz attacks “reductionist theories” which explain the foreign policy behavior of states exclusively in terms of causes at the national level of analysis, for example, Lenin’s theory of imperialism because it explains expansionist behavior in terms of the accumulation dynamics of national capitalism.

Because structures change slowly and impose limits to choice, international relations are characterized by continuity. As he notes in the introduction to his Man, The State, and War, “Social scientists, realizing from their studies how firmly the present is tied to the past and how intimately the parts of a system depend upon each other, are inclined to be conservative in estimating the possibilities of achieving a radically better world.” By ‘social scientists’ he was referring particularly to himself. He was critical of those who were arguing that international relations were undergoing a radical transformation because of the growing interdependence of the international economy or the fear of a nuclear war. He maintained that states operate under severe constraints created by the position of a small number of “Great Powers” and thus a balance-of-power system.

Unlike his second-generation colleagues, Henry Kissinger who became an active political actor and Stanley Hoffmann who wrote extensively on current political events, Waltz was nearly exclusively concerned with working on the theoretical implications of the distribution of power and of the resulting balance-of-power. Waltz was critical of those who saw Soviet policy as motivated by Communist ideology or by the personality of its leaders. Waltz stressed that the requirements of state action are imposed by the circumstances in which all states exist. “A theory of international politics can leave aside variations in the composition of states and in the resources and technology they command because the logic of anarchy does not vary with its content.”

Nevertheless, Waltz held that world institutions and institutionalized methods of altering and adjusting interests are important. He placed an emphasis on the skills of diplomats, their ability to analyse situations and to propose adjustments.

For those like myself whose emphasis is on the emerging world society and a world citizen ideology, Waltz’s approach is a constant reminder of the importance of structures which determine processes, world politics as a “self-sustaining system.” I think that we are moving beyond the realpolitik so often linked to a balance-of-power approach. I believe that he underestimated the role of ideas and ideology in world politics and thus largely failed to see the importance of the growth of a cosmopolitan spirit as expressed by world citizens. Nevertheless, Waltz was an important voice during the Cold War years in which U. S. policy makers too often became the ideological mirrors of the Soviets, stressing the need to expand ‘democracy’ and ‘the free world’ as opposed to the Soviets’ ‘socialism’.

Notes

1) E. H. Carr’s most influential work is The Twenty Years’ Crisis (1939). For a good biography of Carr, his approach and also his later work on the history of the Soviet Union, see Charles Jones, E. H. Carr and International Relations (1998).

2) Frederick L. Schuman, International Politics, first published in 1933, with many later editions, constantly revised to take in current events, especially the start of World War II. For his analysis of the world citizen/world federalist movement see his The Commonwealth of Man.

3) Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, first published in 1948 also was revised to highlight events but the basic analysis remained the same. For a good biography with an emphasis on his early years in Germany and Switzerland before World War II, see Christoph Frei, Hans J. Morgenthau: An Intellectual Biography (2001).

4) Kenneth Waltz’s two major theoretical works, written 20 years apart are Man, The State and War (1959) and Theory of International Politics (1979).

5) Henry Kissinger’s theoretical writings are overshadowed by his political activities which he sets out in White House Years (1979) and Years of Upheaval (1982). For a combination of theory and analysis of then current world events, it would be worth reading the editorials in the 1950s that he wrote in Confluence published by Harvard University. It was as editor of Confluence that we exchanged correspondence. I have always thought that he was a first-rate editor.

6) Stanley Hoffmann’s most theoretical work is The State of War (1965). For his combination of theory and analysis of current policies see Gulliver’s Trouble or The Setting of American Foreign Policy (1968) and Dead Ends: American Foreign Policy in the New Cold War (1983).

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

Renewed Violence in Darfur: An Unstable Sudan

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on May 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

By René Wadlow

April 24, 2022 saw renewed violence in the Darfur Province of Sudan between Arab militias and the indigenous tribes of the area, the Masalit and the Fur. The violence began in 2003 and has caused some 300,000 deaths and some three million displaced. While most of the fighting was when General Omar al-Bashir was President, his overthrow by new military leadership has not fundamentally improved the situation.

Darfur is the western edge of Sudan. Its longest foreign frontier is with Chad, but communication with Libya is easy for camel herders and gunrunners. To the south lies the Central African Republic – a state with a very unstable government, which feels the fallout from the Darfur conflict. Darfur served as a buffer area between the French colony of Chad and the English-held Sudan until 1916 when French-English rivalry was overshadowed by the common enemy, Germany, in World War I. Darfur, which had been loosely part of the Ottoman Empire, was integrated into Sudan with no consultation either with the people of Darfur or with those in Sudan.

(C) Albert González Farran – UNAMID

Thus, Darfur was always the neglected child in Sudan – a child no one had asked to be there. Only after 1945 were some development projects undertaken, but basically Darfur remained an area of pastoralists – some tribes specializing in camels and others in cattle – and settled agriculturalists. Camel and cattle-raising tribes from Chad would move into Darfur and vice-versa. There were frontiers between tribes, but they did not correspond to state boundaries.

In May 2000, intellectuals and government civil servants from Darfur, calling themselves the Seekers of Truth and Justice, wrote The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan. The study ended with specific recommendations for governmental and social action. While the book was widely read, it produced no new initiatives in sharing power or wealth. Some leaders in Darfur had the impression that the government was withdrawing services, especially in health and education. Schools were closed, and the number of children in school decreased.

After the failure of the intellectual efforts of The Black Book, the conviction that only violence was taken seriously started to grow among Darfur leaders. They started thinking about a strategy of a sharp and swift show of violent strength that would force the government to negotiate with Darfur. The insurgency in Darfur began in the Spring of 2003. As Julie Flint and Alex de Waal point out in their useful history of the start of the Darfur war “Darfur’s rebels are an awkward coalition of Fur and Masalet villagers, Zaghawa Bedouins out of patience with Khartoum, a handful of professionals who dared to take on leadership. Few of Darfur’s guerrillas had military experience or discipline before they took up arms. The two main rebel groups are united by deep resentment at the marginalization of Darfur, but are not natural bedfellows and could easily be split apart… In the first months of 2003, these half-formed and inexperienced rebel fronts were catapulted out of obscurity to face challenges for which they were totally unprepared.” (1)

(C) Stuart Price/UN Photo

The government in Khartoum was also unprepared for the Darfur insurgency. The government’s attention, as well as the bulk of the army, was turned toward the civil war in the south of Sudan. The government turned the fight against the Darfur movements to its security agencies – a narrow group of men uninterested in internal politics or external relations. They decided to use the air force to bomb villages and to use foreign troops to do the fighting on the ground. The foreign troops came from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi had created in the early 1980s an “Islamic Legion” and recruited militiamen from Mauritania, Chad, Mali in his efforts to create a union of Libya and Chad – or to annex part of northern Chad. When Gaddafi’s Chadian interests faded at the end of the 1980s, the Islamic Legion soldiers were left to look after themselves and so were ready to work for new paymasters.

The Sudanese security people brought the Islamic Legion soldiers to Darfur, gave them weapons but no pay. They were to pay themselves by taking what they could from the villages they attacked. In addition, prisoners from Darfur’s jails were released on condition of joining the militias. Rape of women and young girls was widely practiced both as a means of terror and as a “reward” for the fighters since they were not paid. These militias became known as the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).

Although the Darfur conflict has largely faded from the media headlines, it continues producing many refugees, internally displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest. The conflicts in Darfur have destroyed many of the older patterns of dispute settlement among groups as well as much of the economic infrastructure. The social texture and trust among groups is likely to be more difficult to rebuild than homes, livestock, and water wells.

The joint African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force has not been able to produce peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep, and while there have been lulls in fighting, there has been no peace to keep. Banditry, criminal activities, and periodic military action continues. It is impossible to know if the current outbreak of armed violence has local causes or if it is a reflection of instability at the central government level. The situation in Darfur remains critical and needs to be watched closely.

Note:

1) Julie Flint and Alex de Wall, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London, Zed Books, 2005)

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

Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE on May 3, 2022 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Recent statements by Russian military authorities such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova. The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attributes and calls itself officially the Moldovan Republic of Dniestr. However, no other state, including the Russian Federation, has recognized it as an independent state. There are, however, some 1,500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria. Transnistria had some 706,000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less. Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad. Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel. The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova and those of the government of Transnistria, but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria. Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II efforts, informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated. The newly elected, in November 2020, President of Moldova, Ms. Maia Sandu, has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova. Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics – the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Presidents Maia Sandu (left) and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (right)

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt. Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria. In addition, there have been recently a number of rocket attacks, possibly by Ukrainian forces, on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting. While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova, the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.

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

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 2, 2022 at 8:24 AM

By René Wadlow

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that “each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of nongovernmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

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

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk: The Way Ahead

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States, World Law on February 9, 2022 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

There are many dimensions to the current tensions on the Ukraine-Donbas-Russia frontiers, both geopolitical and domestic considerations. There are long historic and strategic aspects to the current crisis. Security crises are deeply influenced both by a sense of history and by current perceptions. There have been bilateral discussions between United States (U. S.) and Russian authorities, between Russian and French leaders, between Russian and Chinese leaders, between the Ukrainian leader and a number of others and multilateral discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), within NATO, at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and within the European Union. For the moment, there has been no de-escalation of tensions nor a lowering of troop levels.

Currently, there is only one permanent structure for multilateral negotiations on the Ukraine tensions – the “Normandy Format” which brings together the representatives of Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany primarily to negotiate on the status of the separatist People’s Republics.

The Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 agreed that the areas covered by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would not be separated from Ukraine but would be given a “Special Status” set out in a new Ukrainian Constitution. However, beyond some rather vague discussion on decentralization, the nature of the Special Status has not been agreed upon, and no Ukrainian government administrative measures have been put into place.

In the period since 2015, the socioeconomic situation in the two People’s Republics has gotten worse. Many people have left either for Ukraine or Russia. There are constant violations of the ceasefire agreements which are monitored by observers of the OSCE. Thus, in their December 15, 2021 report, the OSCE monitors noted that between December 10-12, there were 444 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 104 in the Luhansk region. However, the freedom of movement of the OSCE observers is restricted. The number of violations, usually exchanges of small arms fire, is probably higher.

Solving the Donbas aspect of the conflict on the basis of a real and vital autonomy and trans-frontier cooperation should be a top priority for action. The Association of World Citizens has always stressed the importance of developing appropriate forms of government as a crucial aspect of the resolution of armed conflicts. The Association has particularly highlighted the possibilities of con-federalism and the need for transfrontier cooperation. The Association was involved at the start of the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict in August 1992 and the first efforts at negotiations carried out in Geneva with representatives from Abkhazia who were in Geneva and officials from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thus, we know how a cycle of action-reaction can deepen a conflict and how difficult it is to reestablish structures of government once separation has been established.

The need to progress on the structure of Ukraine stands out sharply at this time when there are real possibilities of escalatory risks. There is a need for confidence-building measures reaching out to different layers of society in a cumulative process. Advances on the Special Status would be an important step in the deescalation of tensions. Discussions on the Special Status must be carried out by those living in Ukraine. However, government representatives as well as nongovernmental organizations in Russia, Germany, and France can also contribute actively. The new German Foreign Minister, the ecologist Annalena Baerbach, coming from a federalist-structured State with many local initiatives possible, may bring new visions to these discussions which are increasingly under way.

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

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