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Qu’on le veuille ou non, un seul monde et le droit à la migration

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on December 28, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Deux ans déjà, deux ans d’une guerre mondiale qui semble interminable, une Troisième Guerre Mondiale non entre deux ou plusieurs alliances d’Etats souverains, ou contre un envahisseur extraterrestre comme dans certains films ou séries de science-fiction, mais contre un virus – un coronavirus, le SARS-CoV-2 responsable de la COronaVIrus Disease of 2019 ou Covid-19. Après la souche originelle dite de Wuhan, le monde a découvert les variants, d’abord affublés de gentilés (anglais, sud-africain, indien) puis renommés selon l’alphabet grec : Alpha, Beta, Delta …  Et maintenant Omicron.

La lutte progresse mais la pandémie sait contre-attaquer, comme avec Omicron. Hélas, l’inégalité vaccinale entre pays et régions du monde, couplée aux décisions scientifiquement absurdes de certains gouvernements, se fait pour le virus une alliée inespérée.

L’histoire nous l’enseigne, lorsqu’une crise mondiale éclate et se prolonge, ce n’est pas après qu’elle a pris fin qu’il faut envisager l’avenir, mais pendant même qu’elle se produit, et faire de ses projets son but réel de guerre. L’histoire nous l’enseigne, oui, et l’an prochain verra le quatre-vingtième anniversaire des Nations Unies, non pas de l’organisation internationale créée en 1945 à San Francisco – également berceau de l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) – mais de l’alliance militaire des pays combattant l’Allemagne nazie, l’Italie fasciste et le Japon. Une alliance militaire qui avait retenu les leçons de l’échec de la Société des Nations et compris, à l’avenant, qu’un combat armé ne vaut rien s’il n’est porteur d’un projet politique pour un monde en paix, donc, un monde plus uni.

Un monde plus uni …  Que certains partis politiques ici ou là le veuillent ou non, c’est ce que produira inéluctablement cette pandémie, après une épreuve dont aucun continent sur terre n’aura été épargné. Et même si cela dérange ces partis xénophobes de divers pays et continents, là encore, ce monde ne pourra plus regarder de la même manière le sujet dont ils ont fait leur fonds de commerce pendant le demi-siècle écoulé – la migration.

La forteresse WENA

Si c’est littéralement le monde entier qui est touché, tout comme par la Covid-19, par le virus de la xénophobie qu’aucun vaccin ne vient enrayer, le centre mondial de l’épidémie est bien la WENA (Western Europe and North America, Europe occidentale et Amérique du Nord). Depuis le début du siècle, avec des entrées au gouvernement en Autriche et en Italie notamment, ainsi qu’une présence au second tour de l’élection présidentielle en France et un résultat électoral sans précédent aux Pays-Bas, l’extrême droite xénophobe n’a cessé de croître en WENA, jusqu’à fusionner au Canada avec la droite traditionnelle incarnée par le Parti conservateur. Mais, après des reflux ici et là, l’année 2015 est venue lui ouvrir grand les portes jusqu’alors closes du pouvoir.

Après ce que d’aucuns appelaient la «crise migratoire» de l’été, lorsque migrants et réfugiés avaient eu l’impudence de venir déranger la baignade et la bronzette des Européens en accostant sur la rive sud de la Méditerranée, un exode vite réduit par certains à une attaque envers l’Occident de Daesh, le soi-disant «État islamique en Irak et en Syrie» qui avait déjà en janvier fait couler le sang à Paris, la Grande-Bretagne suivit sans mal l’année suivante un UKIP déchaîné contre des hordes d’envahisseurs vers le vote du Brexit. A des milliers de kilomètres de là, loin des rivages du désespoir, un Donald Trump donné perdant d’avance remporta contre toute attente la Maison Blanche en évoquant, entre autres, un mur géant le long de la frontière mexicaine censé bloquer toute immigration clandestine. En 2017, bien que largement vaincue en fin de compte, l’extrême droite française atteignit une nouvelle fois les marches de l’Élysée. En 2018, les électeurs italiens consacrèrent Matteo Salvini. Il ne suffisait plus d’une «forteresse Europe», le temps était venu d’une «forteresse WENA», à bâtir du plus ironiquement sur des plans fournis par Moscou, où le pouvoir inspire et parfois finance les partis d’extrême droite comme de gauche radicale, antagonistes mais unanimes pour saper la démocratie libérale.

Ile de Lesbos (Grèce), 11 octobre 2015 (C) Antonio Masiello

Ils savent ce qui leur fait peur, les tenants de la forteresse WENA. Ils le désignent par deux mots – le grand remplacement, celui d’une population européenne blanche et chrétienne qui n’existe que dans leur imaginaire par des hordes d’Arabes et d’Africains musulmans. Leur imaginaire où trône Le Camp des Saints, roman publié en 1973 par Jean Raspail et qui, en écho à l’antisémitisme délirant des Turner Diaries adulés par les suprémacistes blancs des Etats-Unis, décrit la chute de l’Occident blanc devant une invasion venue des pays du Sud. Loin d’avoir été oublié avec le temps, Le Camp des Saints inspire encore aujourd’hui l’extrême droite française ainsi que des proches de Donald Trump.

Personne au sud ne prône un «grand remplacement», concept qui n’existe donc qu’en WENA. Et pour cause, il ne pouvait venir d’ailleurs. S’il est une région au monde dont les pays ont, dans le passé, débarqué de force sur des rivages lointains, usé de la force pour imposer leur présence puis, in fine, leurs institutions, leur religion et leur culture, ce sont bien ceux de la WENA à travers le colonialisme, imités plus tard, tragique ironie, par l’URSS «anticolonialiste» sous couvert de soutien idéologique et pour les pires effets, dont deux en Afghanistan ayant pour noms les Talibans et Al-Qaïda.

Il n’y a qu’eux qui y pensent, eux pour qui la relation avec l’autre n’est que haine ou mépris, et pour certains, violence et guerre où l’on ne peut être que vainqueur ou vaincu. Dans leur immense majorité, celles et ceux qui, au sud, veulent gagner la WENA y recherchent tout au contraire son mode de vie, ses opportunités de travail et de construction d’une vie nouvelle, ses libertés que leur refusent les gouvernements de leurs pays d’origine, se servant la plupart du temps de la culture traditionnelle locale comme d’un alibi et nourrissant ainsi les fantasmes des xénophobes en WENA, trop contents de prendre en tenaille des migrants et réfugiés déjà pourchassés par leurs propres gouvernants.

Nigel Farage, chef du parti UKIP, agitant le spectre de la migration pour amener les Britanniques à voter pour le Brexit en 2016 (C) @epkaufm (Twitter), licensed under Public Domain

La WENA a peur. Elle a peur de tous ces gens qui voient en elle un exemple pour leurs propres dirigeants, peur de toutes ces victimes qui l’appellent à agir pour leur permettre de vivre en paix chez eux ou, si elle s’y refuse, à les admettre au moins sur son territoire. Elle a peur aussi de ses propres enfants, ceux dont les parents sont eux-mêmes venus d’ailleurs ou dont les ancêtres plus lointains y ont été amenés de force, notamment comme esclaves. Elle a peur des Black Lives Matter et autres mouvements exigeant la justice pour qui, né ou élevé dans la WENA, s’y voit rejeté car porteur de cet ailleurs qui la tétanise.

Ses dirigeants ont peur, et ceux qui voudraient l’être aussi. Délogé de la présidence américaine, Donald Trump ne désarme pas. En France, terre de l’adoption de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme en 1948, l’extrême droite se dédouble en deux partis rivalisant de peur et de haine d’autrui, tandis que le parti héritier de celui du Général de Gaulle parle arrêt de l’immigration et sortie de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme, même la gauche se laissant tenter par la facilité xénophobe en s’en prenant par exemple aux transferts d’argent de travailleurs migrants vers leurs familles au pays.

Mise à mal par l’exemple russe de la démocratie illibérale de pure façade et celui de l’autoritarisme de marché donné par la Chine, la WENA n’est plus, elle le sait, maîtresse du monde. Devenir la forteresse WENA ne résoudra pourtant, pour elle, aucun problème. Fantasmer n’est pas empêcher les difficultés, encore moins les surmonter mais bien les rendre hors de contrôle. A travers le monde entier, migration et recherche d’asile génèrent des drames sans lien avec les peurs irraisonnées des opinions occidentales. La WENA peut bien rêver d’isolement, mais tout comme ceux que crée la Covid-19, les drames de la migration ont aboli les frontières et uni le monde – pour le pire.

Le monde uni en fait refuse de l’être en droit

Déjà tourmentée par ses cauchemars de « grand remplacement » et les capitulations de ses démocrates supposés devant les vrais populistes, la WENA tente l’impossible en s’obstinant à séparer strictement les migrants, en quête d’une vie meilleure, et les réfugiés, qui fuient une persécution potentiellement mortelle. Il est pourtant de moins en moins possible de chercher une vie meilleure sans fuir aussi une certaine forme d’oppression, même en filigrane, là où un réfugié peut certes avoir dû laisser derrière lui une vie confortable mais à laquelle a mis fin une soudaine et brutale menace. Et le mouvement des demandeurs d’asile s’exerce toujours bien davantage vers la WENA qu’à partir d’elle …   Mais qui érige la peur en système s’en soucie bien peu. Tant pis pour les tragédies qui en sortent et tant pis pour le mauvais exemple ainsi envoyé au reste du monde, qui ne le reçoit que trop clairement.

Toute cette année, l’AWC n’a pu que le constater en intervenant sur des situations où les frontières des Etats ne s’ouvrent que pour laisser entrer l’oppression venue d’ailleurs. Entre la Pologne, Etat membre de l’Union européenne (UE), et le Belarus sous la tyrannie d’Aleksandr Loukachenko, des migrants et réfugiés venus du Moyen-Orient sont bloqués hors du monde, utilisés par Minsk tels des pions contre l’UE et refoulés par Varsovie qui craint un afflux si elle laisse entrer un petit groupe de personnes. A l’intérieur de l’UE même, le Danemark où l’extrême droite inquiète un gouvernement social-démocrate restreint encore ses lois sur l’asile et ordonne aux réfugiés de Syrie de rentrer chez eux, comme si la fin des combats actifs dans certaines régions du pays rendait plus sûr, et meilleur, le régime tyrannique de Bachar el-Assad. Et c’est à toute l’UE que se pose, comme au monde entier, la question de l’accueil des réfugiés d’Afghanistan depuis le retour au pouvoir le 15 août dernier de la milice islamiste des Talibans, dont la première cible est depuis un quart de siècle toujours la même – les femmes, premières à devoir fuir et premières à chercher asile.

Manifestation de soutien aux réfugiés à Berlin le 31 août 2014 (C) Montecruz Foto

Cherchant toujours plus à fermer ses frontières à qui veut y entrer, la WENA n’a en revanche aucun état d’âme à les ouvrir grand pour en faire sortir l’inspiration du refus de l’autre. Et ça marche.

En Amérique latine où se produit la deuxième plus grave crise de demandeurs d’asile au monde, celle du Venezuela où quiconque le peut fuit la dictature de Nicolas Maduro soutenue par Moscou, le Pérou qui accueille le plus grand nombre d’exilés vénézuéliens refuse aux enfants son statut de «Migration Humanitaire», plongeant donc des mineurs déjà déracinés dans une invivable inexistence officielle. En Égypte, où déjà sévit une répression intense, des réfugiés de conflits africains comme celui de l’Érythrée se voient, en dépit de l’évidence même, déboutés de leurs demandes d’asile et placés dans l’expectative d’un rapatriement forcé à tout moment. En Russie, une réfugiée d’Ouzbékistan privée d’un jour à l’autre de son statut après avoir dénoncé les manquements de Moscou à ses obligations en la matière a fini sa course en détention dans un aéroport, «hors du monde», comme emmurée «dans la prison des frontières», selon la Complainte du Partisan, l’autre chant de la Résistance française pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

Qu’attendre d’autre d’un monde qui s’entête à ne pas comprendre que, bien que composé d’États souverains, il est désormais uni dans l’épreuve et doit donc le devenir aussi pour la vaincre ? Un monde uni de fait qui refuse de l’être de droit, ce n’est pas nouveau dans l’histoire et on en sait les conséquences. En 1914, c’est un monde où l’Europe faisait la loi mais où une forme de mondialisation, économique et technologique, existait déjà qui est entré en guerre, car sa politique était restée peu ou prou celle du Congrès de Vienne, là où les nations ayant vaincu l’Empire français de Napoléon Ier avaient décidé entre elles du sort des autres. Pour certains la Grande Guerre, pour d’autres «la der des der», le conflit mondial sorti d’un ordre international périmé allait certes engendrer la première organisation politique internationale de l’histoire, la Société des Nations, mais cette dernière allait s’avérer elle aussi en retard sur son temps, incapable d’arrêter les ambitions italiennes en Éthiopie puis celles plus dévastatrices et meurtrières encore d’Adolf Hitler et du Troisième Reich allemand. Ce n’est qu’en combattant le fléau d’un temps en son temps, en créant contre Hitler une alliance militaire prenant le nom de Nations Unies, que le monde libre allait réussir à vaincre le Reich génocidaire et créer une nouvelle organisation, celle que nous connaissons encore aujourd’hui – l’Organisation des Nations Unies.

Voir le passé avec l’œil du présent, l’historien le dira, il faut se l’interdire. Mais l’inverse n’est pas plus souhaitable, et de 1914, l’historien pourra le dire encore. Que conclure alors d’un monde qui, en proie à une pandémie qui a déchiré les frontières, s’y enferme comme en des murailles et se le voit enseigner par la région même qui, depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, symbolisait la liberté ?

(C) U.S. National Archives & DVDs

Qu’on le veuille ou non

Un monde sans frontières est aussi peu probable qu’un «grand remplacement» en WENA, peu probable et, pour nous, une fausse bonne idée. L’AWC défend depuis le départ une Citoyenneté Mondiale accessible à toutes et tous, acceptable par toutes et tous, fondée sur un principe simple mais qui semble si difficile à accepter : étant toutes et tous natifs et habitants de la planète Terre, il est du devoir de chacun(e) de la protéger ainsi que son peuple, notre peuple, l’humanité, et accepter cet état d’esprit est entrer dans une Citoyenneté Mondiale qui s’exerce en supplément de la citoyenneté nationale, non à la place, d’autant qu’il n’existe au niveau planétaire aucune structure reconnue par les États qui permette une telle substitution. Même la citoyenneté de l’UE n’est acquise que par la citoyenneté nationale de l’un de ses États membres, se vouloir citoyen(ne) de l’Union de manière directe et exclusive étant impossible.

Pour autant, et l’histoire ne va pas dans une direction autre, qu’est-ce qui oblige les frontières à s’ériger en remparts, a fortiori contre un ennemi inexistant et chimérique ? Au nom de quoi les États souverains devraient-ils être des citadelles ? Et surtout, comment exercer dans de telles conditions la moindre Citoyenneté Mondiale alors que le sort de toute la planète et toute l’humanité nous le commande ? C’est ce que l’AWC a toujours défendu et, aujourd’hui, ce que l’on pouvait refuser comme n’étant qu’un simple axiome de notre part est devenu, plus que jamais, un fait prouvé. Même si un autre enseignement de la Covid-19 est, hélas, que les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants.

Négateurs du virus, promoteurs de thérapies inefficaces, d’aucuns auront rejeté l’évidence nue face au SARS-CoV-2. Chefs d’État ou de gouvernement, qu’ils se nomment Trump, Johnson ou Bolsonaro, ils auront tous fini par rencontrer ce virus qu’ils niaient ou minimisaient, finissant ainsi par prouver au contraire son existence et le besoin absolu de s’en protéger. D’autres poursuivent aujourd’hui le travail de sape de ces derniers, parfois en y laissant leur vie. Les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants, mais Lénine le savait, «les faits sont têtus».

Ces politiques migratoires et ces injustices qui nous ont amenés à intervenir, nous ne les avons pas inventées. L’AWC n’a pas le temps, encore moins le goût, de fabriquer des problèmes, trop occupée qu’elle est à tenter de résoudre ceux dont elle vient à avoir connaissance. Une vision des frontières, de l’étranger et de la migration qui n’est plus adaptée à son temps, c’est un problème, majeur, que nous ne résoudrons jamais seuls et qui demande une implication littéralement universelle. D’autant qu’il n’est pas sans rencontrer l’autre problème majeur du moment, le coronavirus. Si ce n’est par la coupable méfiance vis-à-vis de traitements venus de l’extérieur et/ou par la tout aussi coupable négligence alimentant l’inégalité vaccinale entre nations, plusieurs fois dénoncée de concert par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé et le Fonds monétaire international, comment expliquer l’apparition des variants Delta puis Omicron respectivement en Inde puis en Afrique du Sud ? On empêchera des êtres humains de quitter leur pays, on les empêchera d’entrer dans celui qu’ils espèrent atteindre, mais des gardes-frontières n’arrêtent pas un virus. Les frontières non plus, et voir en elles une solution soit à la migration tant redoutée soit à la Covid-19, c’est rendre impossible tant une migration ordonnée et humaine que la fin de la pandémie.

Un seul monde, ce n’est plus un slogan, c’est maintenant un fait. Que la WENA vous nomme un migrant si vous y venez ou si vous allez et venez en dehors d’elle (le terme «réfugié» n’ayant plus rien d’automatique, même devant un danger avéré), ou un expatrié si vous en venez et la quittez, vous serez toujours soumis aux lois nationales sur la migration et c’est là, partout, un domaine régalien, privilège absolu de l’État. Mais si ces lois sont adoptées et/ou appliquées les yeux grands fermés à la marche du monde, votre sort ne regardera bientôt plus seulement votre État de provenance et/ou d’arrivée. Pas plus que votre nationalité ne fera quelque différence si vous êtes positif à la Covid-19, où que vous soyez. Les deux questions seront mondiales.

Le droit absolu à la migration, sans demander l’avis de l’État d’arrivée, n’existera probablement jamais. Pour autant, le droit à la migration, celui d’être accueilli dignement, d’être ainsi traité même si l’on doit ensuite repartir et, certes, de n’être en aucun cas traité en migrant lorsque l’on est demandeur d’asile, peut et doit être un droit absolu, pour d’élémentaires raisons d’humanité dont même une catastrophe planétaire claire et présente n’autorise pas l’oubli.

Qu’on le veuille ou non, il n’existe plus qu’un seul monde. S’il prend au sérieux les malades de la Covid-19, alors il n’a pas d’excuse pour ne pas prendre au sérieux les migrants. Au moment où la deuxième année de la pandémie s’achève, s’il est déjà temps de prendre une bonne résolution, alors, que ce soit celle d’y parvenir enfin. Et immuniser les consciences contre nos coupables indifférences.

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

Ethiopia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on November 30, 2021 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. The Imburi have been crying out over the increasing dangers of the conflict in Ethiopia which began on November 3, 2020. However, during the past year, the conflict has spread to other parts of Ethiopia and has impacted neighboring countries.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border where refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa, already fragile, is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment, all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations (UN), by the African Union or individual states such as the USA have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. Many of the former officials of the Tigray Province have fled to other countries. Thus, it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken.

Isolated Children in Tigray (C) Rod Waddington

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has sent representatives to Ethiopia to collect information on human rights violations related to the conflict in Tigray. With great difficulty some information on massive human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law has been collected. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has spoken out on these violations involving mass killings, rapes, and the abduction of civilians when presenting the report on November 3, 2021 in Geneva. However, she stressed the difficulties of collecting information and the impossibility to visit certain areas where massive violations were said to have taken place. Amnesty International has also tried to collect information by telephone since its representatives were not allowed to enter the country.

On November 2, 2021, a state of emergency covering all of Ethiopia was declared by the federal government. Arrests of Tigrayans living in the capital Addis Ababa followed. Travel within the country is limited and heavily controlled by the police and the military. There is talk of a wide-spread roundup of Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa and other large cities and placing them in camps. There is an increase in local self-defense groups as fear grips the country.

There are few signs of compromise or a willingness to deal with the deep consequences of the armed conflict. There might be some possibilities for nongovernmental, Track II type efforts to see where some progress might be made. The Association of World Citizens, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian State had made a first appeal for a ceasefire and negotiations in good faith shortly after fighting had started in early November 2020. However, for the moment, possibilities for mediation either by governments or nongovernmental organizations have not been acted upon. A situation which needs to be follow carefully.

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

A Korean War Peace Treaty Proposal

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 19, 2021 at 8:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) warmly welcomes the statement to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 21, 2021 by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. “Today, I once again urge the community of nations to mobilize its strengths for the end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula. When the parties involved in the Korean War stand together and proclaim an end to the war, I believe we can make irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era to complete peace.”

On March 14, 2013, the AWC had sent a message to the then UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-moon, urging a UN-sponsored Korean-sponsored Korean Peace Settlement Conference now that all the States which participated in the 1950-1953 Korean War were UN member states. The 60th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice would be an appropriate occasion.

Such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference could build a framework for a broader, comprehensive approach to Northeast Asia security. The AWC stressed the need for strong diplomatic measures by concerned States such as China, Russia, the USA, and Japan. The World Citizens highlighted that in the past, there had been a series of dangerous but ultimately resolvable crisis concerning the two Korean States. However, there are always dangers of miscalculations and unnecessary escalation of threats.

The AWC noted in its message that there had been a number of Track II, nongovernmental efforts, on Korean issues and that the voices of civil society are legitimate and should be heard.

Today, the conditions for such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference seem more favorable than in 2013. The opportunities should be actively explored.

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

Women as Peacemakers

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 31, 2021 at 5:25 PM

By René Wadlow

Seeing with eyes that are gender aware, women tend to make connections between the oppression that is the ostensible cause of conflict (ethnic or national oppression) in the light of another cross-cutting one : that of gender regime. Feminist work tends to represent war as a continuum of violence from the bedroom to the battlefield, traversing our bodies and our sense of self. We glimpse this more readily because as women we have seen that ‘the home’ itself is not the haven it is cracked up to be. Why, if it is a refuge, do so many women have to escape it to ‘refuges’? And we recognize, with Virginia Woolf, that ‘the public and private worlds are inseparably connected: that the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.


Cynthia Cockburn, Negotiating Gender and National Identities

October 31 is the anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peacebuilding, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership. This historic Security Council Resolution 1325 of October 31, 2000 provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support. Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the UN General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

Since 2000, there have been no radical changes as a result of Resolution 1325, but the goal has been articulated and accepted. Now women must learn to take hold of and generate political power if they are to gain an equal role in peace-making. They must be willing to try new avenues and new approaches as symbolized by the actions of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, mobilized women on both sides of the Athenian-Spartan War for a sexual strike in order to force men to end hostilities and avert mutual annihilation. In this, Lysistrata and her co-strikers were forerunners of the American humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs: water, food, shelter, and sexual relations being the foundation (see Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature). Maslow is important for conflict resolution work because he stresses dealing directly with identifiable needs in ways that are clearly understood by all parties and with which they are willing to deal at the same time.

Addressing each person’s underlying needs means that one moves toward solutions that acknowledge and value those needs rather than denying them. To probe below the surface requires redirecting the energy towards asking ‘what are your real needs here? What interests need to be serviced in this situation?’ The answers to such questions significantly alter the agenda and provide a real point of entry into the negotiation process.

It is always difficult to find a point of entry into a conflict. An entry point is a subject on which people are willing to discuss because they sense the importance of the subject and all sides feel that ‘the time is ripe’ to deal with the issue. The art of conflict resolution is highly dependent on the ability to get to the right depth of understanding and intervention into the conflict. All conflicts have many layers. If one starts off too deeply, one can get bogged down in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. However, one can also get thrown off track by focusing on too superficial an issue on which there is relatively quick agreement. When such relatively quick agreement is followed by blockage on more essential questions, there can be a feeling of betrayal.

Since Lysistrata, women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines. However, a gender perspective on peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution entails a conscious and open process of examining how women and men participate in and are affected by conflict differently. It requires ensuring that the perspectives, experiences and needs of both women and men are addressed and met in peacebuilding activities. Today, conflicts reach everywhere. How do these conflicts affect people in the society — women and men, girls and boys, the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the urban and the rural?

There has been a growing awareness that women and children are not just victims of violent conflict and wars − ‘collateral damage’ − but they are chosen targets. Conflicts such as those in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have served to bring the issue of rape and other sexual atrocities as deliberate tools of war to the forefront of international attention. Such violations must be properly documented, the perpetrators brought to justice, and victims provided with criminal and civil redress.

I would stress three elements which seem to me to be the ‘gender’ contribution to conflict transformation efforts:

1) The first is in the domain of analysis, the contribution of the knowledge of gender relations as indicators of power. Uncovering gender differences in a given society will lead to an understanding of power relations in general in that society, and to the illumination of contradictions and injustices inherent in those relations.

2) The second contribution is to make us more fully aware of the role of women in specific conflict situations. Women should not only be seen as victims of war: they are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. Some writers have stressed that there is an essential link between women, motherhood, and nonviolence, arguing that those engaged in mothering work have distinct motives for rejecting war which run in tandem with their ability to resolve conflicts non-violently. Others reject this position of a gender bias toward peace and stress rather that the same continuum of non-violence to violence is found among women as among men. In practice, it is never all women nor all men who are involved in peacemaking efforts. Sometimes, it is only a few, especially at the start of peacemaking efforts. The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.

3) The third contribution of a gender approach with its emphasis on the social construction of roles is to draw our attention to a detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society. Transforming gender relations requires an understanding of the socialization process of boys and girls, of the constraints and motivations which create gender relations. Thus, there is a need to look at patterns of socialization, potential incitements to violence in childhood training patterns, and socially-approved ways of dealing with violence.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed that it is important to have women directly involved in peace-making processes. The strategies women have adapted to get to the negotiating table are testimony to their ingenuity, patience, and determination. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements. The path may yet be long, but the direction is set.

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

The Diplomacy of Women: Norms into Practice Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights on October 23, 2021 at 9:25 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 31, 2002, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 1325 (2000) urging “Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.” Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was the first time that the UN Security Council acknowledged that women play a key role in promoting sustainable peace and stressed the participation of women in peace processes from the prevention of conflict, to negotiations, to postwar reconstruction and reconciliation.

Work for such a resolution in the Security Council had begun at least five years earlier at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women with its Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and especially at the nongovernmental forum which had been held just outside Beijing, where peacemaking was an important theme. It was thought that a resolution by the UN Security Council would have the most impact since the Security Council rarely discussed social issues. There had been numerous resolutions of the UN Economic and Social Council or the UN Commission on Human Rights dealing with the equality and importance of women. However, such resolutions had had limited impact on national governments’ policy or UN agencies. A UN Security Council resolution would get more attention and indicate a link between the security of States — the chief mandate of the Security Council — and what was increasingly called ‘human security’, that is, the security of people.

It was important to find the balance between calling attention to the special needs of women and children in times of conflict and yet not to reinforce the stereotype of women as victims only. Thus, there was a need to stress the important positive role that women play as peacebuilders and their potential role in peace processes and negotiations.

Resolution 1325 is an important building tool for the role of women in peacemaking. The resolution, by itself, has not changed things radically. There are still few women at the table when serious peace negotiations or reconstruction planning is undertaken. In fact, there are relatively few formal peace negotiations to help resolve armed conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya. The UN has provided mediators, but the armed groups are not speaking to each other at least not in public. For the moment, the best that can be done is to help create an atmosphere in which negotiations would be possible. Here women already play an active role, but more needs to be done. Resolution 1325 sets out the guidelines, and now NGOs, governments, and UN agencies can work to transform these guidelines and norms into practice.

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

Current Searches for Appropriate Forms of Government

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law, Yemen on October 8, 2021 at 6:52 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) strives to respond to situations in this turbulent and frequently violent world by making proposals for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and by making proposals for developing appropriate forms of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and trans-frontier cooperation. A current focus is on the situations in Yemen (1) and Somalia. (2)

In March 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, held by a rebel force, the Ansar Allah Movement, commonly called the Houthis. Since that date, the armed conflict has continued, destroying the fragile economy, displacing a large number of persons, creating a humanitarian tragedy. So far, all mediation efforts have failed. The situation becomes more complex each day due in part to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The state of Yemen was the creation of two separate units. One was the southern part originally known as the Aden Colony and the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates under British rule. The northern part of the country had been under Ottoman rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From 1918 until 1962, it was ruled by Imams. In 1962, there was a military coup organized by officers who had been trained in Egypt and were influenced by Nasser’s views on Arab nationalism. The coup was followed by an eight-year-long civil war between the military forces called “republicans” and the forces of the Imam Bader. The republicans won, but the government was weak and unstable.

The south of the country after the British left took the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the two segments of Yemen were united, and the Republic of Yemen was established. However, the euphoria which had existed at the start was short-lived. The people in the south had been promised that their lives would be bettered after unification. Life did not improve, and many in the south felt marginalized. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the south for separation and independence.

When the fighting in Yemen stops, the creation of appropriate forms of government will have to be found. The return to two separate states presents real difficulties as people have moved from their original home areas due to changing economic conditions and to the armed conflict. Yet a single centralized government also seems impossible. As Martin Dent points out, where there is strong identity politics, there must be forms of government that fill the gap between unity and independence. (3) There is a need for Track II efforts to discuss possible structures of government in Yemen.

In Somalia, we have very similar conditions. The two Somali colonial areas, one under the control of Britain and the other under that of Italy were combined into one state in 1961. There had been a period of United Nations (UN) trusteeship after the end of the Second World War when the area of Italian colonial status had ended and before the two colonial territories were united. The political culture of the two territories was different. This impact of the colonial legacy was an element leading to the current situation. In January 1991, the military government of Siyad Barre was overthrown, and now different parts of the country demand independence, in particular Somaliland and Puntland, though their boundary claims overlap.

In addition to regional demands for independence, there is an armed Islamist movement, Al-Shabaab, which poses regional and international security issues which continue. Mediation efforts by the UN have not progressed. Again, Track II efforts may be helpful to find governmental structures able to provide autonomy without dividing the Somalia state into three or more independent states. (4) The Association of World Citizens stresses the need for creative thinking on the structure of a state, on the need for regional cooperation and a willingness to negotiate in good faith.

Notes

(1) Helen Lackner, Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State (London: Saqi Books, 2017, 330 pp.)

(2) Sarah G. Phillips, When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227 pp.)

(3) Martin J. Dent, Identity Politics: Filling the Gap Between Federalism and Independence (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 232 pp.)

(4) Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, 503 pp.)

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

UN-led International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 26, 2021 at 3:22 PM

By René Wadlow

The struggle against the nuclear weapon cult and threats it poses to the international peace, security and development, like all struggles against belief systems which have outlived their times, is going to be long and arduous.

K. Subrahmanyam. Nuclear Proliferation and International Security.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, being celebrated this year for the third time “to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination in order to mobilize international efforts toward achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon free world.”

Achieving global nuclear disarmament − or at least forms of nuclear arms control − is one of the oldest goals of the UN. Nuclear weapon control was the subject of the first resolution of the UN General Assembly and is the heart of Article VI of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” A Review Conference on the Treaty has been held at the UN once every five years since 1975, and the representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have constantly reminded governments of their lack of “good faith”. I chaired the NGO representatives at the 1975 and 1980 Review Conferences, and while our views were listened to with some interest, the Review Conferences have been a reflection of the status of world politics at the time not a momentum for change, as the 2015 Review showed.

There are still some 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, largely in the hands of the USA and the Russian Federation, some on “ready alert”. There are plans to “modernize” nuclear weapons, and there are at least seven other States with nuclear weapons: North Korea, Pakistan, India and China in Asia, Israel in the Middle East and France and the UK in Europe. The instability and tensions of current world politics merit that we look at the ways in which governments and NGOs have tried to deal with the existence of nuclear weapons, their control, and their possible abolition.

There have been four avenues proposed in the decades since 1945: presented, dropped, re-presented, combined with other proposals for political settlements, linked to proposals for general disarmament or focused on nuclear issues alone.

Bernard Baruch

1) The first avenue proposed was the Baruch Plan, named after Bernard Baruch, a financier, often advisors to U. S. Presidents going back to Woodrow Wilson and the First World War. He had been named a U. S. delegate to the UN in charge of atomic issues. At the time, the USA had a monopoly of the scientific knowledge and technology needed to produce the A-Bomb, but the scientists who were advisors to Baruch knew that it was only a matter of time before other States, in particular the USSR, would also have the knowledge and technology. Therefore, it seemed that the best hope of avoiding an arms race with nuclear weapons was to bring all the atomic energy industry under international UN control. The Baruch Plan proposed the creation of all International Atomic Development Agency which would have a monopoly of all activities connected with atomic research and development such as mining, ownership and management of refineries, and the construction of atomic reactors. The Agency staff would be internationally recruited and would be free from interference from national governments.

However, the Baruch Plan was proposed as the Cold War (1945-1990) was starting to heat up and become more structured. In 1949, the U. S. nuclear monopoly was broken by the explosion of the first Soviet bomb, and then in 1950, war started in Korea. The Korean War led to the next stage, the second and third avenues in nuclear arms policy, someone contradictory but proposed at the same time, and in the light of the Korean War experience.

Henry Kissinger

2) Avenue two proposed that limited war could be carried out but with nuclear weapons that were smaller than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and that would not necessarily lead to an all-out war between the USA and the USSR. This avenue is most closely associated with Henry Kissinger and his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. (1) The 1950-1953 Korean War showed that war was a real possibility, due perhaps to political miscalculations, erroneous intelligence, and failure to see how a local situation could have a much broader impact. The Korean War stopped without a victor, leaving a divided Korea, a situation which has gone on until today. The Korean experience augmented by the French-Vietnamese War which ended in 1954 led strategic thinkers to reflect on the nature of limited war. At the same time that Henry Kissinger was writing his book, reflecting largely in similar ways, Robert Osgood of the University of Chicago was teaching a seminar on limited war in which I was one of his students. The seminar led to the widely-read book: Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy. (2)

3) It was in Europe where the opposing NATO-Warsaw Pact forces faced each other most closely, that the third avenue was proposed: nuclear-weapon free zones. In October 1957, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Rapacki, put forward a plan for creating a nuclear-weapon free and neutral zone in central Europe, usually known as the “Rapacki Plan”. The first stage would be the ‘freezing’ of nuclear armaments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the two German States. The second stage would consist of a reduction of conventional armaments and complete denuclearization of the four States.

Adam Rapacki

Although there had been intense discussions within the Warsaw Pact States before the Rapacki proposal was made public, mutual mistrust and suspicion among NATO and Warsaw Pact countries was such that no negotiations were undertaken. The situation was made all the more complicated by the Western refusal to recognize the German Democratic Republic. However, Rapacki had given birth to the innovative idea of negotiated nuclear-weapon free zones coupled with confidence-building measures.

Nuclear-weapon free zones took shape after the 1962 Cuban missiles crisis. Even today, it is difficult to know how close to a war the 1962 nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the USA and the USSR. It was close enough that it worried leaders in Latin America. Led by the Ambassador of Mexico to the UN and later Nobel Laureate, Alfonso Garcia Robles, negotiations for a Latin American nuclear-weapon free zone were started, and in 1967, 21 Latin American States signed the Treaty of Tlatelolco. In Latin America, two of the largest countries, Argentina and Brazil have nuclear power industries and a potential capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, the Treaty provides a confidence-building framework between these two regional powers, although the two States have none of the tensions between them that colored Warsaw Pact-NATO relations.

The Latin American nuclear-weapon free zone has led to other treaties creating nuclear-weapon free zones in the South Pacific, Africa and Central Asia.

4) The fourth avenue and the one most discussed at the UN these days is a convention to ban the possession and use of nuclear weapons on the lines of the conventions to ban chemical weapons, anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions. These bans are based on the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, the inability to distinguish between civilians and military and other violations of the principles of humanitarian law.

A Nuclear Weapons Convention has captured the imagination of many in the disarmament community, initially among NGOs but increasingly within the governments of non-nuclear weapon States and the diplomatic community. The Nuclear Weapons Convention is strongly modeled on the Chemical Weapons Convention. Having followed from the sidelines the decade-long negotiations in Geneva which led to the Chemical Weapons Convention, I see two major differences. First, there had not been the wide discussions of the strategic use of chemical weapons as there had been on the strategic use of nuclear weapons in limited war situations. The second difference which had its impact is that the major chemical companies in Western Europe and the USA did not want to get involved in making chemical weapons. The costs for securing the manufacture of such weapons was greater than what they could charge governments for chemical weapons. Western governments were also reluctant to construct government-owned factories for making chemical weapons, all the more so that there existed a 1925 Geneva Protocol against their use. However, there is still money to be made in the nuclear weapons field.

My own view is that effective nuclear-weapon control will come from a combined regional conflict resolution and nuclear-weapon free zone approach that was first set out in the Rapacki proposals. I believe that the Korean Peninsula holds the most potential for a settlement within a nuclear-weapon free zone. There are proposals for re-starting six-power talks, and there are some Track II-NGO efforts along this line. A Middle East nuclear-weapon free zone coupled with conflict resolution and security provisions would be the most necessary given the current tensions and armed conflicts. The recent agreement with Iran may be a step in this direction. India-Pakistan tensions have gone on so long that both States may know how not to push too hard, but there are always dangers of events slipping out of control.

September 26 serves as a reminder of the avenues proposed for nuclear disarmament, but disarmament diplomacy has stalled too often and inconsistent policies by governments have made the goal of complete elimination seem unreachable in the short term. Nevertheless we, as non-governmental peacebuilders, must continue to work creatively to generate the groundswell of opinion that will create a momentum of political will to move to a world without war and without nuclear weapons.

NOTES

(1) KISSINGER. H. (1957), Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, New York: Harper.

(2) OSGOOD. R. (1957), Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Representative to the United Nations, Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

The AWC Reiterates its Appeal for Immediate Action to End the Fighting and Bring Relief to Populations at Risk in Ethiopia

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Solidarity, Sudan, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 14, 2021 at 8:46 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) now reiterates its Appeal to the parties in the armed conflict in Ethiopia for negotiations in good faith to end the fighting and to deal with the deep consequences of the conflict, especially the widespread hunger. Mark Lowcock, the United Nations (UN) Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has warned that nearly five million of the six million population of the Tigray Province needed food assistance and the number grows as fighting spreads to other regions.

Shortly after fighting began on November 3, 2020, the AWC, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian state, had made a first Appeal for negotiations in good faith, although information on the fighting was very limited. Journalists were prevented from going to Tigray as were most humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). However by February, enough information had been gathered from refugee sources for Amnesty International to present a first report on the extent of human rights violations, with multiple credible and widely corroborated reports of widespread atrocities involving mass killings, rapes and the abduction of civilians.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border and refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa already fragile is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment all efforts for mediation proposed by the UN or the African Union have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. The former officials of Tigray Province have fled and it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken. There may be possibilities for non-governmental initiatives. Hence the reiteration of our AWC Appeal.

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

We Must Protect the Rights of the Hazara Population in Afghanistan

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 2, 2021 at 7:55 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is strongly concerned by possible repression against the Hazara population in Afghanistan, repression of such an extent that it could be considered genocide. While it is still too early to know what the policies and practice of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule (1996-2001) there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara and a number of massacres.

There are some three million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city. The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban as well as by members of the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIS-K), now also an armed presence in Afghanistan.

In the past there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. During the 1891-1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed, and many others put into slavery-like conditions.

To understand fully the concern of the AWC for the Hazara, it is useful to recall Article II of the 1948 Convention against Genocide.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:

* Killing members of the group;
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
* Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part;
* Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
* Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law. The then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in an address at UNESCO on December 8, 1998 “Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word our out time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance but be eternal.”

The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII:

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide […]

Despite factual evidence of mass killings, some with the intent to destroy “in whole or in part”, no Contracting Party has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)

The criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of people killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue. Events need to be watched closely, and nongovernmental organizations must be prepared to take appropriate action.

Note
(1) For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see: William A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)

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

Saber Rattling in the South China Sea

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, NGOs, The Search for Peace, United States, World Law on August 13, 2021 at 7:47 AM

By René Wadlow

Six days of Chinese naval maneuvers started on August 6, 2021 near southeast Hainan province in the South China Sea at the same time as warships of the USA, the United Kingdom, Australian Defense Forces ships and those of the Japan Self-Defense Forces are also training in the area. The South China Sea is fast becoming a theater of brinkmanship.

“We view with concern China’s unlawful claim to the entire South China Sea – directly and negatively impacting all the countries in the region from their livelihood, whether it be with fishing or access to natural resources.” said John Aquilino, commander of the U. S. Indo-Pacific Command at the Aspen Security Forum on August 4. The U. S. Commander added that he was concerned by China’s suppression in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Xinjiang, as well as China’s military actions on the border with India. “These are the things that lead me to believe that our execution of integrated deterrence has to occur now with a sense of urgency.”

The Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Yi quickly replied that “foreign powers” must stop extending “black hands” in the South China Sea and show “four respects – respect for historic truth, international law, the countries of the region and their agreements”.

China’s Global Times published a harsh editorial on the same lines warning to “follow the current international shipping lanes and stay at least 12 nautical miles away from the Chinese islands and reefs … Stopping such intrusive behavior that violates China’s territorial waters is a struggle China is destined to intensify … Under international law, warships, including those of the U. S. and its allies, have been able to pass through the South China Sea unimpeded. But if those ships want to exert geopolitical pressure and build a wall to contain China along those shipping lines, those warships will face a confrontation from China. And the intensity of the confrontation is bound to increase constantly.”

It is probable that the Cold War-like rhetoric in Washington has encouraged China’s siege mentality. While it is unlikely that there will be a deliberate use of violence by any party, there can be miscalculations and misinterpretations of actions. In addition to China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei all make claims to some of the islands in the South China Sea. Slowly but surely, Beijing has been expanding its strategic influence in the South China Sea. The South China Sea islands and surrounding waters are crucial as potential military platforms, plausible points of strategic surveillance, as well as sites of energy reserve.

It is in the interest of the world society that the tensions concerning the delimitations in the South China Sea be reduced. The current tensions could slip out of control.

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

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