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Can Track II Efforts Reduce China-India Frontier Tensions?

In Current Events, Solidarity, Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, Asia, United Nations, Cultural Bridges, Being a World Citizen, NGOs, Track II on July 3, 2020 at 7:52 AM

By René Wadlow

 

In a June 24, 2020 message to the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Mr. Vladimir Novov, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) expressed its active concern with the June 15 death of Indian and Chinese military in the Galwan River Valley in Ladakh on the India-China frontier and the possibility that the tensions will increase. While there have been brief discussions among Indian and Chinese authorities to prevent escalation, there have been no real negotiations. Negotiation is a basic political decision-making process, to facilitate compromise without loss of essential objectives.

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The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on June 25 that since early May, the Chinese have been amassing a large contingent of troops and arms along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Also, within India, there has been a good deal of media attention, highly critical of China, given to the events. In addition, there have been calls for a boycott of Chinese goods, and some Chinese products have been removed from Indian shops. Both Indian and Chinese spokespersons have made references to the 1962 war during which some 2,000 persons were killed.

The AWC believes that there is a need for prompt measures as the India-China tensions add to existing tensions between the USA and China as well as boundary issues with Asian States in the South China Sea.

There may be a role for “Track II” nongovernmental efforts and exchanges. Track I is official government to government diplomacy among instructed representative of States, usually diplomats from the Foreign Ministry. However, governments have a range of officials on whom to call: intelligence agencies, the military, and “friends of the President” – trusted individuals within the executive entourage.

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Track II efforts are organized through nongovernmental organizations and sometimes by academic institutions. Such efforts can entail informal, behind the scene communications that take place in the absence of formal communication channels. The term “Track II” was coined by the U. S. diplomat Joseph Montville in The Arrow and the Olive Branch: A Case for Track II Diplomacy.

Track II efforts have grown as there is increasing recognition that there is a tragic disjunction between the United Nations tension-reduction mandate and its ability to intervene in conflicts when called upon. As Adam Curle, experienced in Quaker mediation efforts has written “In general governments achieve their results because they have power to influence events, including the ability to reward or to punish. Paradoxically, the strength of civilian peacemakers resides specifically in their lack of power. They are neither feared nor courted for what they can do. Instead, they are trusted and so may sometimes be enabled to play a part in peacemaking denied to most official diplomats.”

Those involved in Track II efforts must, nevertheless, have ready access to governmental decision-makers and Track I diplomats. As the World Citizen and Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding in a little verse writes,

“When Track One will not do,
We have to travel on Track Two
But for results to be abiding,
The Tracks must meet upon some siding”.

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In the China-India frontier tensions, both sides must be convinced that there is a considerable sentiment for peace among their own supporters. In this conflict, which could slip into greater violence, there is an understandable tendency to look for short term answers. Yet there is also a need for some involved in Track II efforts to have an over-all integrated perspective for both short as well as long-term transformation. Thus, there needs to be a “pool” of people with experience, skills and the ability to move fast when the need or the opportunity is there?

We are sure that there are groups in India and China which can rise to meet this challenge.

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

L’ONU n’a plus le droit aux rendez-vous manqués en matière de racisme

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 21, 2020 at 10:56 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

Il fallait s’y attendre. Après la mort de l’Afro-Américain George Floyd à Minneapolis (Minnesota) le 25 mai, étouffé par le policier Derek Chauvin et ses collègues auxquels il criait du peu de voix qu’ils lui laissaient « I can’t breathe », « Je ne peux pas respirer », et avec la vague mondiale d’indignation que le drame a soulevée quant au racisme et aux violences policières, l’Afrique s’est élevée d’une seule voix à l’ONU.

Le 12 juin, les cinquante-quatre pays du Groupe africain de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies ont appelé le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme à un « débat urgent sur les violations actuelles des droits de l’homme d’inspiration raciale, le racisme systémique, la brutalité policière contre les personnes d’ascendance africaine et la violence contre les manifestations pacifiques ».

Avec les cinquante-quatre pays africains, c’étaient plus de six cents organisations non-gouvernementales, dont l’Association of World Citizens (AWC), qui appelaient le Conseil à se saisir de la question. Et le 15 juin, la demande a été acceptée sans qu’aucun des quarante-sept Etats qui composent le Conseil ne s’y soit opposé. Le débat demandé a donc eu lieu, sur fond de dénonciation d’un « racisme systémique » par Michelle Bachelet, Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, mais aussi d’indignation des cadres onusiens originaires d’Afrique contre leur propre institution qu’ils jugent trop passive.

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Une fresque en hommage à George Floyd sur un mur de Chicago (Illinois).

Pour l’Organisation mondiale, il s’agit plus que jamais de n’entendre pas seulement la voix de ses Etats membres, mais aussi celle du peuple du monde qui s’exprime en bravant les frontières, parfois même ses dirigeants. La mort de George Floyd et l’affirmation, plus forte que jamais, que « Black Lives Matter », « Les vies noires comptent », imposent une responsabilité historique à l’ONU qui, en matière de racisme, n’a plus droit aux rendez-vous manqués, réels et présents dans son histoire.

Résolution 3379 : quand l’Assemblée générale s’est trompée de colère

Le 10 novembre 1975, l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU adoptait sa Résolution 3379 portant « Élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination raciale ». Malgré ce titre prometteur, le vote de l’Assemblée générale cristallisait en fait les frustrations des Etats Membres quant à deux situations de conflit, jugées les plus graves au monde depuis la fin de la guerre du Vietnam en avril – l’Afrique australe et le Proche-Orient.

A côté de l’Afrique du Sud ou règne l’apartheid, la ségrégation raciale érigée en système par la minorité blanche aux dépens de la population noire autochtone, se tient l’ancêtre de l’actuel Zimbabwe, la Rhodésie, Etat proclamé en 1970 sur une colonie britannique mais non reconnu par la communauté internationale. La Rhodésie n’est pas un Etat d’apartheid proprement dit, mais sa minorité blanche tient la majorité noire sous la chappe brutale d’un paternalisme colonialiste. Deux organisations indépendantistes, la ZANU et la ZAPU, s’y affrontent dans une violente guerre civile et le gouvernement principalement blanc de Ian Smith n’y veut rien entendre.

Apartheid

Dans l’Afrique du Sud de l’apartheid, même sans le dire, une plage réservée aux Blancs était interdite aux Noirs au même titre qu’elle l’était aux chiens.

Au Proche-Orient, la création en 1948 de l’Etat d’Israël s’est faite sans celle d’un Etat palestinien que prévoyait pourtant le plan original de l’ONU. En 1967, lors de la Guerre des Six Jours qui l’oppose aux armées de plusieurs pays arabes, l’Etat hébreu étend son occupation sur plus de territoires que jamais auparavant, prenant le Sinaï à l’Egypte – qui lui sera rendu en 1982 – et le Golan à la Syrie, la Cisjordanie et Jérusalem-Est échappant quant à elles à la Jordanie. Aux yeux du monde, l’idéal sioniste des fondateurs d’Israël signifie désormais principalement l’oppression de la Palestine.

Et les deux Etats parias de leurs régions respectives avaient fini par s’entendre, causant la fureur tant de l’URSS et de ses alliés à travers le monde que du Mouvement des Non-Alignés au sud. Le 14 décembre 1973, dans sa Résolution 3151 G (XXVIII), l’Assemblée générale avait déjà « condamné en particulier l’alliance impie entre le racisme sud africain et le sionisme ». C’est ainsi que deux ans plus tard, la Résolution 3379 enfonçait le clou contre le seul Israël en se concluant sur ces termes : « [L’Assemblée générale] [c]onsidère que le sionisme est une forme de racisme et de discrimination raciale ».

Impossible de ne pas condamner l’occupation israélienne en Palestine, tant elle paraissait incompatible avec le droit international qui, en 1948, avait précisément permis la création de l’Etat d’Israël. Pour autant, assimiler le sionisme au racisme présentait un double écueil. D’abord, s’il se trouvait un jour une possibilité quelconque d’amener Israéliens et Palestiniens au dialogue, comment Israël allait-il jamais accepter de venir à la table des négociations avec un tel anathème international sur son nom ? C’est ce qui amena, après la Première Guerre du Golfe, l’adoption par l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU de la Résolution 46/86 du 16 décembre 1991 par laquelle la Résolution 3379, et avec elle l’assimilation du sionisme au racisme, étaient tout simplement abrogées, ce qui était l’une des conditions d’Israël pour sa participation à la Conférence de Madrid en octobre. Ensuite, plus durablement cette fois, présenter l’affirmation d’un peuple de son droit à fonder son propre Etat comme étant du racisme ne pouvait qu’alimenter le refus, ailleurs à travers le monde, du droit à l’autodétermination déjà mis à mal dans les années 1960 au Katanga et au Biafra, avec à la clé, l’idée que toute autodétermination allait entraîner l’oppression du voisin.

« Les racistes sont des gens qui se trompent de colère », disait Léopold Sédar Senghor. Il n’en fut pire illustration que la Résolution 3379, inefficace contre le racisme et n’ayant servi qu’à permettre à Israël de se poser en victime là où son occupation des Territoires palestiniens n’avait, et n’a jamais eu, rien de défendable.

Un échec complet donc pour l’ONU, mais qui fut réparé lorsque commença le tout premier processus de paix au Proche-Orient qui entraîna, en 1993, les Accords d’Oslo et, l’année suivante, le traité de paix entre Israël et la Jordanie. C’était toutefois moins une guérison qu’une simple rémission. 

Durban 2001 : l’antiracisme otage de l’antisémitisme

Le 2 septembre 2001 s’est ouverte à Durban, en Afrique du Sud, la Conférence mondiale contre le racisme, la discrimination raciale, la xénophobie et l’intolérance, conférence organisée par les Nations Unies. Sans même évoquer la Résolution 3379 en soi, depuis son abrogation en 1991, le monde avait changé. La Guerre Froide était terminée, l’URSS avait disparu, l’apartheid avait pris fin dans une Afrique du Sud rebâtie en démocratie multiraciale par Nelson Mandela auquel succédait désormais son ancien Vice-président Thabo Mbeki.

Au Proche-Orient, Yitzhak Rabin avait été assassiné en 1995, et avec lui étaient morts les Accords d’Oslo réfutés par son opposition de droite, cette même opposition qui dirigeait désormais Israël en la personne d’Ariel Sharon, ancien général, chef de file des faucons et dont le nom restait associé aux massacres de Sabra et Chatila en septembre 1982 au Liban. Aux Etats-Unis, le libéralisme international des années Clinton avait fait place aux néoconservateurs de l’Administration George W. Bush, hostiles à l’ONU là où leurs devanciers démocrates avaient su s’accommoder du Secrétaire général Kofi Annan. Le monde avait changé, mais c’était parfois seulement pour remplacer certains dangers par d’autres. Et le passé n’allait pas tarder à se rappeler au bon souvenir, trop bon pour certains, des participants.

La Haute Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme, Mary Robinson, n’était pas parvenue à mener des travaux préparatoires constructifs, et dès le début des discussions, le résultat s’en est fait sentir. Devant la répression israélienne de la Seconde Intifada à partir de fin septembre 2000, l’Etat hébreu déclenche une fois de plus la colère à travers le monde. Un nombre non négligeable d’Etats rêvent de déterrer la Résolution 3379, mais cette fois, sans plus de racisme sud-africain auquel accoler le sionisme, Israël va voir cette colère dégénérer en récusation non plus du sionisme mais, tout simplement, du peuple juif où qu’il vive dans le monde.

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A gauche, Ariel Sharon, alors officier supérieur de Tsahal, en 1967. Plus tard Ministre de la Défense puis Premier Ministre, son nom sera associé à de graves crimes contre les Palestiniens commis par Israël.

S’y attendant, l’Administration Bush a lancé des mises en garde avant le début de la conférence. En ouverture, Kofi Annan annonce la couleur – il ne sera pas question de sionisme, pas de redite de 1975. Rien n’y fait. Toute la journée, des Juifs présents à la conférence sont insultés et menacés de violences. Le Protocole des Sages de Sion, faux document né dans la Russie tsariste au début du vingtième siècle pour inspirer la haine des Juifs, est vendu en marge. Et, comble pour une conférence des Nations Unies, même si elles n’y sont bien entendu pour rien, il est distribué aux participants des tracts à l’effigie, et à la gloire, d’Adolf Hitler.

Il n’en faut pas plus pour qu’Etats-Unis et Israël plient bagages dès le lendemain. Si la France et l’Union européenne restent, ce n’est cependant pas sans un avertissement clair – toute poursuite de la stigmatisation antisémite verra également leur départ.

C’est à la peine qu’est adopté un document final, dont ce n’est qu’en un lointain 58ème point qu’il est rappelé que « l’Holocauste ne doit jamais être oublié ». Dans le même temps, un Forum des ONG concomitant adopte une déclaration si violente contre Israël que même des organisations majeures de Droits Humains telles qu’Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch et la Fédération internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme s’en désolidarisent. Le Français Rony Brauman, ancien Président de Médecins Sans Frontières, ardent défenseur de la cause palestinienne, n’avait pu lui aussi que déplorer l’échec consommé de la conférence, prise en otage par des gens qui prétendaient combattre le racisme, y compris, naturellement, le colonialisme israélien, mais n’avaient en réalité pour but que de répandre le poison de l’antisémitisme.

Pour la dignité de chaque être humain

Le racisme est un phénomène universel, qui n’épargne aucun continent, aucune culture, aucune communauté religieuse. De la part de l’ONU, c’est en tant que tel que le peuple du monde s’attend à le voir combattu. Par deux fois, les Etats membres de l’Organisation mondiale l’ont détournée de sa fonction pour plaquer le racisme sur ce qui était, et qui demeure, une atteinte à la paix et la sécurité internationales, nommément l’occupation israélienne en Palestine où, indéniablement, le racisme joue aussi un rôle, mais qui ne peut se résumer à la seule question de la haine raciale comme c’était le cas de l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud ou comme c’est aujourd’hui celui du scandale George Floyd.

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Ici à New York en 2014, le slogan “Black Lives Matter”, qui exprime désormais le droit de tout être humain opprimé en raison de son origine au respect et à la justice.

S’il ne peut ni ne doit exister d’indulgence envers quelque Etat que ce soit, en ce compris l’Etat d’Israël, le racisme sous toutes ses formes, surtout lorsqu’il provient d’agents de l’Etat tels que les policiers, ne peut être circonscrit à la condamnation d’une seule situation dans le monde, aussi grave soit-elle, encore moins donner lieu à l’antisémitisme qui est lui aussi une forme de racisme et l’on ne peut en tout bon sens louer ce que l’on condamne !

Par bonheur, le Groupe africain a su éviter tous les écueils du passé, ayant lancé un appel au débat qui fut accepté sans mal par le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme. Les appels de la Haute Commissaire aux Droits de l’Homme et des hauts fonctionnaires d’origine africaine viennent amplifier un appel que l’ONU doit entendre. Le monde s’est réveillé, il faut en finir avec le racisme, et sur son aptitude à agir, à accueillir les critiques, l’ONU joue sa crédibilité dans cette lutte pour la dignité de chaque être humain qui est le premier des droits.

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

World Interfaith Harmony Week: Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Spirituality on February 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on October 20, 2010, by Resolution A/RES/65/PV.34 designated the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence, wished to highlight the importance that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue can play in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly Resolution recognized “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As the then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote “At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous problems — security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic — enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.”

Citizens of the World have called for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles and suffering which is certainly necessary if we are to help resolve the many armed conflicts, World Citizens have suggested that the focus should be on cooperation, coexistence and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. Harmony leads to gentleness, patience, kindness and thus to inner peace and outward to relations based on respect.

Harmony is a universal common value. In harmony we can find true belief that transcends all cultures and religions. The meaning of life is to seek harmony within our inner self. Humans are born with a spiritual soul that develops to seek self-fulfillment. Our soul has a conscience that elevates us. As our soul grows to maturity, we achieve our own harmony.

However, harmony is not only a personal goal of inner peace but a guideline for political, social and world affairs. At this moment in history, our action should enhance peace, reduce conflict and activate a harmony culture. The 21st century is the beginning of a Harmony Renaissance. Our world mission is to be ready for humanity’s next creative wave to lead us to a higher level of common accomplishment. The World Harmony Renaissance should bring the whole world into action for this new millennium of peace and prosperity with unfettered collective energy.

Chinese culture can play an important role in the creation of this harmonious culture. In an earlier period in Chinese thought there was an important conscious effort to create a Harmony Renaissance. This was during the Sung dynasty (960-1279) which reunited China after a period of division and confusion. This was a period of interest in science — “the extension of knowledge through the investigation of things”. It was a period when there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework currents of thought that existed in China but often as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Taoism and religious Taoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch — the Study of the Tao — an effort later called by Western scholars as “Neo-Confucianism”.

Confucius

Chou Tun-yi (1017-1073), often better known as the Master of Lien-his, was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang, each becoming the source of the other.

Thus today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of the countries of the world both in policy and practice was upon competition, conflict and individual enrichment, there is a need for an emphasis on harmony, cooperation, mutual respect, and working for the welfare of the community with a respect for Nature. When one aspect, either Yin or Yang, becomes too dominant, then there needs to be a re-equilibrium.

Obviously, it takes time for a harmonious society at home and a harmonious world abroad to be put into place. The re-equilibrium of the energies of Yin and Yang do not take place overnight. Nor is this re-equilibrium only the task of the Chinese. The cultivation of harmony must become the operational goal for many. As Mencius (372-289 BCE) a follower of Confucius said, “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.”

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to open new paths. As world citizens we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. We hold that peace can be achieved through opening our hearts and minds to a broader perspective. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind and love the world with a global heart.

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

Maurice Béjart: Starting Off the Year with a Dance

In Africa, Arts, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges on January 3, 2020 at 6:16 PM

By René Wadlow

January 1 is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, an innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences. He was a world citizen and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture. His death on November 22, 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation. One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, Cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future. Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis de Sénégal, with a French mother and a Senegalese father. Sénégal, and especially Leopold Sedar Senghor, pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger. Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

Maurice Béjart

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years. Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle. Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière. Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theater-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opéra de Paris and then with the well-known choreographer Roland Petit. Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration. He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia. The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment. The teaching and movements of G. I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character. Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart. The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follower of Gurdjieff. Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow. A Sufi theme is “opening the heart to the light of love.” Sufi movements, which Béjart adopted, is to develop movements in time with the beating of the heart.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne. While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes. He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures. An inspiration for world citizens to follow.

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

Harvin Khalaf : Une lumière s’est éteinte, mais la réconciliation reste à faire

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 12:16 PM

Par René Wadlow

Le 12 octobre 2019, Havrin Khalaf, Co-secrétaire générale du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, a été abattue à un barrage routier par la milice Ahrar al-Shargiya soutenue par la Turquie. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie avait été formé en mars 2018 à Raqqa afin de créer «une Syrie démocratique, pluraliste et décentralisée». Le Parti était actif au sein de l’Administration autonome du Nord et de l’Est de la Syrie – région souvent désignée par les Kurdes en tant que Rojava. La région présente une haute diversité, tant de par les groupes qui la peuplent que par les religions qui y sont représentées. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie cherchait donc à bâtir des ponts de compréhension entre Kurdes, Arabes, Turkmènes et tous les autres groupes, ainsi qu’entre Musulmans, Chrétiens et Yézidis. L’espoir était que cet effort pour bâtir des passerelles devienne un exemple pour tout le reste de la Syrie.

Avant même le début des combats en Syrie en 2011, la société syrienne était divisée selon des critères ethniques et religieux. Les hostilités, le déplacement de populations, la montée de l’Etat islamique (Daesh) n’ont fait qu’accroître les divisions ethniques et religieuses. Dans de nombreux cas, la confiance entre les groupes a été brisée, et même la coopération a minima qui se manifestait à travers des liens économiques a volé en éclats. Rebâtir la coopération, et c’était l’un des buts principaux du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, s’avérera difficile. L’incursion des forces turques et de leurs alliés syriens au nord-est de la Syrie va rendre la coopération par-delà les divisions ethniques et religieuses encore plus ardue.

A elle seule, Havrin Khalaf symbolisait cet effort de réconciliation. Elle était également un symbole de la quête pour l’égalité entre femmes et hommes. Femme kurde, elle avait pour Co-secrétaire général du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie un homme arabe. Femme dotée d’une solide éducation – elle avait été diplômée de l’Université d’Alep en 2009 – elle était particulièrement active en matière d’autonomie et de renforcement des femmes. Elle avait souvent officié comme porte-parole auprès de diplomates, journalistes, et travailleurs humanitaires en visite dans la région. Jouissant d’une haute visibilité, elle n’a pu être tuée que de manière délibérée. En même temps qu’elle, le chauffeur de la voiture du Parti à bord de laquelle elle se déplaçait a trouvé la mort.

Le danger est réel de voir de tels assassinats se multiplier avec l’avancée des troupes turques et l’expansion permanente de leur contrôle sur ce qu’ils appellent, non sans ironie, une « zone de sécurité ». Déjà dans un passé récent, l’occupation turque de la région d’Afrin a entraîné des déplacements de population, des pillages, des prises d’otages et des tortures. Il est également à craindre que les territoires du nord-est de la Syrie récemment repassées sous le contrôle du Gouvernement syrien ne soient pas épargnées par les crimes de vengeance, ni par les violations des Droits Humains ou du droit humanitaire international pour des motifs politiques.

Avec le décès de Havrin Khalaf à trente-quatre ans, une lumière vient de s’éteindre. Mais la réconciliation reste à faire. Il faut des voix nouvelles. Nous qui vivons en dehors de la Syrie, nous devons voir ce que nous pouvons faire pour faciliter ce rôle vital de construction de ponts entre les êtres humains.

Le Professeur René Wadlow est Président de l’Association of World Citizens.

Havrin Khalaf: A Light Has Gone Out But The Tasks of Reconciliation Remain

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 10:02 AM

By René Wadlow

On October 12, 2019, Havrin Khalaf, the Co-Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party was shot to death at a roadblock by the Turkish-backed militia, Ahrar al-Shargiya. The Future of Syria Party had been formed in March 2018 in Raqqa with its aim of a “democratic, pluralistic, and decentralized Syria.” The Party was active in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria — an area often referred to by the Kurds as Rojava. The area is highly diverse in both population groups and religions. Thus, the Future Syria Party wanted to build bridges of understanding among Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups as well as among Muslims, Christians and Yezidis. The hope was that this bridge-building effort would become a model for all of Syria.

Even before the fighting began in Syria in 2011, the Syrian society was divided along ethnic and religious lines. The fighting, the displacement of people, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) has increased ethnic and religious divisions. In many cases, trust among groups has been broken, and even minimal cooperation through economic links has been broken. Rebuilding cooperation, a chief aim of the Future Syria Party, will be difficult. The move of Turkish forces and their Syrian allies into northeast Syria will make cooperation across ethnic and religious divides even more difficult.

Havrin Khalaf was a symbol of this reconciliation effort. She was also a symbol of the quest for equality between women and men. As a Kurdish woman she had an Arab man as Co-Secretary-General of the Party. As an educated woman – she received a degree from the University of Aleppo in 2009 – she was particularly active for the empowerment of women. She often served as spokesperson for visiting diplomats, journalists, and aid workers. As a highly visible person, her killing was deliberate. The driver of the Party car she was in was also killed at the same time.

There is a real danger that such killings increase as Turkish troops advance and control an ever-larger part of what the Turks have ironically called “the safe zone.” Earlier Turkish occupation of the Efrin area has led to the displacement of people, looting, hostage-taking and torture. We can also fear that areas in northeast Syria newly under the control of the Syrian Government will not be free from revenge killings and politically-motivated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

With the death of Havrin Khalaf at the age of 34, a light has gone out. The tasks of reconciliation remain. New voices are needed. We outside of Syria must see how best we can facilitate this vital role of bridge-building.

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

Rabindranath Tagore: Grace and Beauty Within Your Soul

In Asia, Cultural Bridges, Poetry, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on May 7, 2019 at 10:56 PM

By René Wadlow

To mark the May 7 birth anniversary of the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) we highlight the song-poems of the Bauls that Tagore structured both as words and music.  Today, much of the Baul music and especially the work of the leading 19th-century folk-poet Lalon Fakir are known through their preservation by Tagore.

Why do you keep looking for the Man of the Heart

in the forests, in solitude?

Turn your attention this time

to the grace and beauty within your soul.

So begins one of the songs of Lalon Shah, also known as Lalon Fakir among the Hindus of Bengal − Shah being a Muslim Sufi title. His date of birth is not recorded, but he died in 1890 as an old man having composed thousands of short songs (often four or eight lines) passed down orally from disciple to disciple.  Only a small number of his songs have survived as such, as many Baul singers add to or modify songs by intuition or in response to current events.  More of Lalon’s songs are known through the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengal’s great poet and social reformer.  Lalon Shah lived in a village on land which belonged to the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore as a young man spent time visiting villages on his family’s estates to understand better village life. Later in 1922, Tagore created a center for rural development and reform Sriniketan alongside an innovative school Santiniketan started in 1901 where Tagore hoped  that “the young and the old, the teacher and the student, sit at the same table to take their daily food and the food of their eternal life.”  Bauls were always welcomed to sing in the courtyard of Santiniketan, and the students spread knowledge of Baul rural culture to more elite and urban Bengali society.

Who are the Bauls?  The Bauls are a class − some would say a sect − of minstrels, wandering singers of mystic songs, though today with the socio-economic changes in Bengal (both West Bengal, India and parts of Bangladesh) many Bauls have settled rural homes and a minority have followed the rural to urban flow of populations.  The Bauls today number around half a  million persons living usually on the edges of larger settlements. Those who continue to follow a Baul way of live  together under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor and are initiated into their function of singer-teacher-mystic through rituals of initiation.

However, the Bauls, other than this original initiation, do not have set rituals, temples or priests.  Those who are active minstrels (many drop out in order to follow more conventional ways of living) have no personal possessions other than a single garment, often saffron in color, a reminder of a period, prior to the 13th century arrival of Islam. The Bauls represent an earlier pre-Islamic Bengali current of thought which later influenced Buddhism in Tibet and has many similarities with the Yin/Yang balance of forces found in Chinese Taoism.

Lalon Shah, by his talent and by the interest in his songs taken by Tagore, is the outstanding representative of Baul teaching. In his songs, he tears down the barriers of caste and creed, the walls that separate humans. As he sang:

            If you circumcise him, he becomes a Muslim,

            Then what is the rule for women?

            I recognize the Brahman by his sacred thread,

            Then how do I recognize a Brahmani?

For Lalon, as with the Baul tradition, the Kingdom of God is within. There are no temples but that of the body of each person.  Life is a continuous interior search in which intuition awakens the Spirit.  Within the body, especially the heart, the Laws of Nature are known. The Baul exercises are partly based on the concept of the Kundalini − a fire within the body which can be activated by the control of breath and dance-like motions.  These exercises awaken the Spirit and become ‘Living Wisdom’ within each person.  Wisdom aims at the good life.  It involves intuition, feelings and conscience.

For the Bauls, what we may call the Divine (for lack of a better concept) is reflected in the beauty of Nature and all created things.  The moon holds a special place. As the Lelon song states:

            By great good luck one may see that moon.

            It has no dark spots.

            In it lies the golden abode of the Unknowable.

            In the world of the moon there is no play of day or night.

Today, the Bauls are looked down upon by the more legalistic Muslims of Bangladesh or thought of only as “folk singers”.  However, their search for the inner person, for the indwelling light has a message for each of us.

*

Notes

For anthropology studies based on field work see:

Jeanne Openshaw, Seeking Bauls of Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

June McDaniel, The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal (University of Chicago Press, 1989)

Edward  Dimroch, The Place of the Hidden Moon  (University of Chicago Press, 1966)

For translations into English of Baul songs and their philosophical context see:

Deben Phattacarya, Songs of the Bards of Bengal (Grove Press, 1989)

Charles Capwell, The Music of the Bauls of Bengal (Kent State University Press, 1986)

*

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

Khalil Gibran: The Foundations of Love

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

By René Wadlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painting: Age of Women by Khalil Gibran

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

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

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

By René Wadlow

 

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

Kofi Annan.

Kofi_Atta_Annan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to continue in his spirit.

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

Dampening the Fuse in the Wider Middle East

In Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on August 21, 2018 at 8:13 PM

By René Wadlow

 

In an article “The Fuse: A Chain of Nations in Conflict” in the Bulletin of Peace Proposals (Number 2, 1980), Alan and Hanna Newcombe compared adjacent States in conflict to a fuse of a bomb which would be a wider or more violent armed conflict.

“The diffusion of war from nation to nation along the chain is facilitated by certain properties of the chain: geographic adjacency, high military preparedness, substantive conflicts between successive neighbors and a chain of two against one alliance which cause each nation to see itself surrounded by enemies.”

There is now a danger of creating such a chain of two against one alliance which would institutionalize the current divides among States in the wider Middle East. Tentatively set for October 12-13, President Trump plans to bring Arab allies to the White House to forge a military alliance against Iran. Officially known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance, it is often called the “Arab NATO” – a Saudi-led effort that includes the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt and Jordan.

Hanna-Newcombe-01

Such a formal military-political alliance could be the match that sets the fuse burning. The wider Middle East is the scene of rapid socioeconomic change and political flux. Factions from this Arab-Islamic heartland are considered prime movers of terrorism, both within the heartland and reaching out to Europe and the USA. Countries from outside the heartland zone of instability, in particular the USA, Russia, and Western Europe consider this zone of Middle East important to their national interests.

Moreover, the Arab-Islamic heartland which includes Israel is by far the largest importer of major conventional weapons and associated military services. Hostility is the order of the day. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” is the first rule of the conflict game.

Efforts by the United Nations (UN) to foster negotiations in good faith in the armed conflicts of Yemen, Syria, and Libya have not been successful. The withdrawal of the USA from the Iran Nuclear Accord has seriously weakened the Accord. Negotiations on Yemen are to start at the UN in Geneva in early September, but there are few signs that the parties in this conflict are willing to compromise. Negotiation among Israelis and Palestinians, at least in public, are at a dead point, and tensions are growing.

Aerial_bombardments_on_Sana'a,_Yemen_from_Saudi_Arabia_without_the_right_aircraft._injustice_-_panoramio

A wider awareness of the fuse effect should lead to a wider vision of the issues. The lack of this wider vision is one of the major weakness of the policy making of States. A wider vision would stress three inter-related aspects:

– the wide geographic area and the impact of extra-regional States;

– the many regional factors that interact: the social structures, the economic production, ethnic loyalties, religious convictions, political power struggles, external influences;

– the longtime dimension which has created the institutions and the attitudes now present.

Thus, there is a need for what is likely to be a slow and difficult reweaving of the social fabric of the Arab-Islamic heartland: a social weave that will include many different ethnic groups and religious currents, a weave that will integrate people at very different stages of modernization. This weave of a new society will have to integrate Israel which is a regional power in the same way that Israel will have to integrate the Arab-Islamic culture as a legitimate component of Israeli society. The weave of a new Arab-Islamic society will contain three types of strands:

– new attitudes;

– new institutions of consultation, compromise and cooperation;

– new governmental policies based on compromise and cooperation.

The Association of World Citizens has for a good number of years proposed a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East with full recognition of all States in the region, with steps toward a Middle East Common Market, and cooperation on water issues. Such a Middle East Conference is based on the Helsinki Conference of 1973-1975.

Some seeds for a Middle East version of the Helsinki process were planted but have not yet sprouted. The 1975 Helsinki Final Act has a chapter entitled “Questions relating to security and cooperation in the Mediterranean”. The link between security in Europe and the Mediterranean has been formalized starting in 1994 with the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel. It is theoretically possible for leadership from these six states to propose an enlargement. Libya and Lebanon can also be considered Mediterranean. One could also start with a totally new process – inspired by the example of the Helsinki process but with no organic link.

Thus, it is not an “Arab NATO” which is called for but a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East that is needed.

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

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