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Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life – A Universal Ethic

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Solidarity on January 14, 2016 at 8:36 PM

ALBERT SCHWEITZER: REVERENCE FOR LIFE – A UNIVERSAL ETHIC

By René Wadlow

 

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and was a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné, Gabon.  Alsatian wine would be served at lunch and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks.  In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon, and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some half-mile down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration.  As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

We would often discuss his interest in the classic authors of Chinese philosophy. I had been an undergraduate research assistant of Professor Y. P. Mei at Princeton. Mei was the professor of Chinese philosophy in the Philosophy Department and in many ways a philosopher himself.  He had been president of a university in China during the Second World War and had moved to the USA after the end of the civil war in 1948.

Although the bulk of Albert Schweitzer’s philosophical reflection concerned the German philosophical tradition −Kant, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche − he was drawn to the founders of Chinese Taoism − Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu and the champion of universalist ethics, Mo-tzu.

albert_schweitzer_lambarene.jpg

In Schweitzer’s writings he often contrasted Indian and Chinese philosophical thought − the two major traditions of Asia.  For Schweitzer, Indian thought was dualistic, there is on the one hand matter, and on the other spirit. He saw Indian thought a fundamentally pessimistic concerning the world and matter. In Indian thought, the spirit is both higher and in a sense more ‘real’ than matter.  The aim of an individual is to detach himself from matter and unite with the spirit. As he wrote, “Their world-view is pessimistic-ethical, and contains, therefore, incentives only to the inward civilization of the heart, not to outward civilization as well.

For Schweitzer, the Chinese view, in its Taoist form at least, was optimistic with the complete integration of spirit and matter.  The Tao, which is both the source of all things but also the motor of all action, is not separate from material creation but is fully embodied in the material world and within each individual.  Thus ethics are grounded in the nature of the universe as well as in the nature of humanity.  An element that attracted Schweitzer to Taoist thought was its ethical standards which encompass all persons. The Middle East religious systems which have spread worldwide started with Zarathustra who is the foundation of Middle East religious thought.  His approach was taken over by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The Middle East philosophical approach divides people into the “saved” and the “unsaved”.  The saved are one’s brothers toward which there is an agreed upon ethical framework and the unsaved who are cast out, unclean and toward whom other ethical standards prevail.  This good-bad, light-darkness is incorporated into the structures of the universe where there is a constant struggle between the forces of light and those of darkness.

This division between the saved and the unsaved was eliminated by the Stoics, especially the later Roman Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius where the concept of a universal ethic for mankind comes into sight.  However, in the chaos of ideas in the late Roman Empire, Christianity emerges victorious with its idea individual redemption. Thus there is a return to the saved and the unsaved, between those who will live in the Kingdom of God and the others.

A Schweitzer.jpg

Only Chinese thought holds the seeds for a universal approach, but Chinese thought was clouded for a long time by the weak eco-political position of China.  China’s current rise is too recent and too mixed with different ideological positions to become a champion of the universal ethic of Taoist thought.  Moreover, the poetic formulation of much of Taoist writings makes its comprehension difficult for many.

Albert Schweitzer’s reverence for life which accepts that there is reciprocal relationship among all living things may be the closest to a Taoist philosophy easily understood worldwide, a philosophy needed for a deep ecology ethic.

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

The World, Its Protection, Its Citizens

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 30, 2015 at 12:13 PM

THE WORLD, ITS PROTECTION, ITS CITIZENS

By René Wadlow

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --
On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I would like to send you our best wishes for 2016.

May it be a year that brings peace and harmony closer to our world. Progress in the world is based on the emergence of ideas, their acceptance, their transformation into ideals, and then into programs of action.

2015 has seen within the United Nations (UN) system two major frameworks of ideas and suggested plans of action. The first was the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and the second was the Paris COP 21 goals and treaty to deal with climate change.  These guidelines require close cooperation among national governments, the UN and other multilateral government institutions such as the European Union, and the wide range of non-governmental organizations including business and agriculture associations.  We need to move from fragmented efforts to strong partnerships.

However, these positive goals need to be seen against the background of current armed conflicts and violent extremism often rooted in a deadly mix of exclusion and marginalization, mismanagement of natural resources, oppression and the alienation arising from a lack of jobs and opportunities. The World is in need of protection, both of people and Nature.  As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of responsibility to participate fully in the emerging world society where disputes among States are settled within the framework of world law and through negotiations in good faith so that common interests may be found and developed.

As Citizens of the World, we have a sense of compassion for Nature, and thus we unite to safeguard the delicate balance of the natural environment and to develop the world’s resources for the common good.

Today, we all face a choice between those forces that would drive us apart, forces and attitudes such as racism, narrow nationalism and the aggressive pursuit of self-interest on the one hand, and on the other hand, those forces which promote an emerging world society that is equitable and harmonious. I am sure that you also will choose to work for wholeness, harmony and creativity.

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

Crossing Cultural and Linguistic Boundaries: International Volunteer Day

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 5, 2015 at 5:45 PM

CROSSING CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC BOUNDARIES: INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY
By René Wadlow

Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expectations of material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose.
-Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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December 5 was selected as the International Volunteer Day by a 1985 UN General Assembly resolution. This year, December 5 comes as government representatives and volunteers of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are meeting in Paris to develop a new international climate agreement, COP 21. The NGO representatives are fewer in number than originally planned due to the November 13 shootings in Paris and thus tightened security conditions. However, those that are present are doubly active as world media attention is focused on the conference and its outcome.

In practice, as with all major UN conferences, negotiations among governments have been going on for two years with a good deal of input from NGO representatives. At the Paris stage, there is a preliminary “Final Document and Action Plan” of some 30 pages with a good number of square brackets around words or sentences on which there is no agreement. Negotiations concern making the document shorter so that the main ideas will stand out better and to remove square brackets. If a suitable word is not found, often the whole sentence will be dropped.

Both government representatives and NGOs are discussing post-Paris action and coalition building. There is also a concerted effort to bring the business community, especially transnational corporations into the action. While the UN system has a structure of consultative status for NGOs through the Economic and Social Council, the world of business is largely not represented. Only the International Labor Organization with its headquarters in Geneva has a three-party membership: governments, trade unions and business associations from each of the member States. The business world is not really a “voluntary association” in the sense of NGOs. Material reward is an important element in business.

Volunteer Day 2.jpg

COP 21 is a prime example of the need for cooperative action at the local, national and world level. As has been often said, the climate does not recognize national frontiers. The relations among ecologically-sound development, 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 United Nations in 1945. To meet these strong challenges, NGOs, academic institutions, business and professional associations and the media must work together cooperatively. International Volunteer Day can serve as a time of reflection on capacity building and improved networking.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

December 18: International Migrants Day

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on December 17, 2014 at 11:33 PM

DECEMBER 18: INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS DAY
By René Wadlow

 

“Let us make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike. We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

 

In December 2000, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed December 18 as the International Migrants Day. The day was chosen to highlight that on a December 18, the UN had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families. Although migration to and from countries is a worldwide flow of people, only 42 countries, basically Latin American, North and West African, Indonesia and the Philippines, have ratified the Convention. The Convention created a Committee on Migrant Workers which meets in Geneva to review once every four years a report of the Convention members on their application of the Convention. The Convention also created a mechanism by which the Committee could receive individual complaints. Only three States have ratified this individual complaints mechanism: Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay.

Today, there are some 232 million persons who reside and work outside their country of birth. The reasons for migration are diverse − most often economic, but also refugees from armed conflicts and oppression, and increasingly what are called “ecological refugees” − persons who leave their home area due to changing environmental conditions: drought, floods, rising sea levels etc. Global warming may increase the number of these ecological refugees.

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

Although migration is an important issue with a multitude of consequences in both countries of origin and destination, the Committee on Migrant Workers, a group of experts who function in their individual capacity and not as representatives of the State of which they are citizens, has a low profile among what are called “UN Treaty Bodies” – the committees which review the reports of States which have ratified UN human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Since the great majority of States receiving migrants − Western Europe and North America – have not ratified the Convention on Migrant Workers, other ways have to be found within the UN system to look at migration issues. Thus has been created outside the UN system but in close cooperation with the UN, the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the Global Migration Group to address the opportunities and challenges of international migration. Within the UN, there was the recent, October 2013 “High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development”.

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. ( (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

The Governments at the Dialogue unanimously adopted a Declaration (A/68/L.5) calling for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration also emphasized the need to respect the human rights of migrants and to promote international labor standards. The Declaration strongly condemns manifestations of racism and intolerance and stresses the need to improve public perceptions of migrants.

UN conferences and such dialogues or forums serve as a magnet, pulling Governments to agree to higher ideals and standards collectively than they would proclaim individually. This is not only hypocrisy − though there is certainly an element of hypocrisy as Governments have no plans to put these aims into practice. Rather it is a sort of “collective unconscious” of Government representatives who have a vision of an emerging world society based on justice and peace.

 

In 2010 two French singers, Stanislas and Mike Ibrahim, released a song entitled “Tu verras en France” (“You’ll see in France”). In this song, the two young men call for attention to the situation of migrants who leave their home countries hoping to find a better life in France but end up undocumented and living in extreme poverty, constantly having to run from the police if they don’t want to end up in jail or sent back to their country of origin.

 

The role of nongovernmental organizations is to remind constantly Government representatives that it is they who have written the text and voted for it without voicing reservations. Numerous States which ratified the International Convention on Migrant Workers made reservations limiting the application of the Convention on their territory. Thus, the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue was not written by the Association of World Citizens but by Government diplomats.

The Declaration is a strong text and covers most of the important issues, including human mobility as a key factor for sustainable development, the role of women and girls who represent nearly half of all migrants, the need to protect the rights of migrant children and the role of remittances to families.

The Declaration merits to be better known and widely quoted in the on-going discussions and debates on migration policies and practices.

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

Tribal Societies: Survival and Transformations

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Environmental protection, Foundations for the New Humanism, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on August 9, 2014 at 10:46 AM

TRIBAL SOCIETIES: SURVIVAL AND TRANSFORMATIONS

by René Wadlow

 

August 9 has been chosen by the UN General Assembly as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

As Paulo Freire has written, “While both humanization and dehumanization are real alternatives, only the first is man’s vocation. This vocation is constantly negated. It is hindered by injustice, exploitation, oppression, and the violence of the oppressors; it is affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice, and by their struggle to recover their lost humanity.

The world society is filled with many different types of collective actors: clans, tribes, castes, ethnic groups, cities, races, social classes, religious organizations, nation-states, multi-state alliances for military or economic goals, transnational corporations and associations. Each is the creation of individuals who have grouped together − or have been grouped together − to achieve goals considered common to the group’s members. All such collective groups have techniques to socialize new members to share the common values, to accept the ideology and beliefs of the tribe, the nation-state or the association. This socialization process goes so deeply that a person’s sense of identity becomes associated with these collective identity, the school, the army, the church, the political process and institutions − each propose a sense of group purpose.

Yet none of these groups is static and unchanging. Even clans and tribes whose members often consider that they have a common ancestor do, in fact, change. Tribes merge and divide; new identities are formed; new ancestors are created to justify the new groupings.

Some types of collective belonging are more easily left than others. One can move relatively easily from a city and take on the character, the values and the goals of a new city. Social mobility can produce changes in social class, and even caste lines become blurred. Persons change nationality or acquire new nationalities as frontiers are modified. Race is less easily changed but definitions of what constitutes a race do change. Ethnic identity is often associated with birth, but parents can belong to different ethnic communities, although the child is usually raised as belonging to the more dominant group. However the socialization process of group identity goes to the level of sub-conscious behavior and is not easily set aside.

In Peru, some tribes remain uncontacted. Some live no more than 100 kms from the legendary mountain site of Machu Picchu. Today, however, the future of these tribes who live in the heartland of the ancient Inca Empire is threatened by a gas project. (C) Survival International

In Peru, some tribes remain uncontacted. Some live no more than 100 kms from the legendary mountain site of Machu Picchu. Today, however, the future of these tribes who live in the heartland of the ancient Inca Empire is threatened by a gas project. (C) Survival International

Today the nation-state claims to be the dominant collective association − setting the boundaries of loyalty and identity. The State claims the right to set out the major collective goals and values. Through laws, the State claims the right to set out the rules by which other collective entities may pursue their goals; through taxation the State draws the resources to further the goals it has set, and the State claims to have the only legitimate use of violence to punish those who break the laws and rules it has set.

There have always been tensions between these collective groups for their spheres of goal-setting and value-setting have overlapped. Thus there have been tensions between religious organizations and the State as to who should set what goals and the means to achieve these goals. There have also been tensions between economic classes and the State when it was felt that the State was dominated by another economic class who used its power within State institutions not for the good of all but only to advance class interests. The same is true of other collective units − races or ethnic groups − excluded from power within State institutions.

Today in many parts of the world those most excluded from power within State institutions are people living in alternative structures of authority, goal-setting and rule-making: persons living in tribal societies.

Tribal societies predated most of today’s nation-state. A tribal society usually has all the same functions as the nation-state: it sets out membership, loyalties, common goals and rules of behavior. It has sanctions against those breaking the laws of the tribe and has − or had − the monopoly of the legitimacy of using violence against those breaking the laws. Tribes are, in fact, more realistically “nation-states” if one defines nation as a common language, a common history and a common will to act together.

Thus because the tribal society is the closest in function to that of the nation-state, it is also the most feared. Tribes are institutions with whom it is difficult to compromise because they have the same pretensions as the State. It is relatively easy for a government to offer higher wages to the industrial worker or higher prices to the farmer as these social classes do not claim to carry out an alternative way the functions of the State. It is more of a challenge to the State’s image of its role to allow tribal societies to set out a land policy or fishing rights or trans-frontier trading rights because these activities conflict directly with the functions that the government has set for itself.

Thus there has been a long history of the State destroying alternative institutions of governance on its territory. The nation-states of Europe were built upon the ruins of feudal institutions; much of Asia on the destruction of local rulers. We see the pattern today as we watch traditional chiefs in Africa lose their authority to the heads of State and the military. In the Americas, many of the indigenous tribal societies were destroyed. Others were pushed into areas that those who controlled the government did not want − the “reservations” of the USA and Canada.

In Latin America and Asia, there is still active struggle going on between those trying to preserve their tribal institutions and homelands and the State which claims complete authority over all its territory and who often wished to put new settlers on tribal lands.

A Koma tribe woman at her farm. Alantika Mountain, Cameroon. (C) Middle Africa The Koma people are indigenous hill-dwelling people occupying the Alantika Mountains in northern Adamawa State, Nigeria and in Northern Cameroon (Faro National Park), near the border with Adamawa State.

A Koma tribe woman at her farm. Alantika Mountain, Cameroon. (C) Middle Africa
The Koma people are indigenous hill-dwelling people living in the Alantika Mountains in northern Adamawa State, Nigeria and in Northern Cameroon (Faro National Park), near the border with Adamawa State.

The amount of violence and suffering is considerable. Slowly, the fate of tribal societies has come to the attention of the United Nations (UN). The UN was set up to facilitate relations among nation-states. However, because wide-spread violations of individual rights had been one of the consequences of the Second World War, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1948. The aim of the Declaration is to stress the rights of the individual − a natural consequence of the philosophy of the drafters. The rights of collective bodies which the drafters knew were also protected: trade unions, churches, professional associations. However tribal societies were not particularly thought of as one sees by reading the drafting negotiations. Thus, the Universal Declaration protects the rights of all individuals − including, of course, individuals living in tribal societies − but there is no direct recognition of the functions of tribal societies.

Thus for many years, indigenous and tribal peoples were the forgotten stepchildren of the UN system dealing with human rights. Yet they needed protection at least as much as those on whom the political limelight had focused. The situation began to change with the publication by the International Labor Organization’s study Indigenous Peoples: Living and working conditions of aboriginal populations in independent countries (1953). This was followed by the study by Jose Martinez Cobo Study of the Problem of Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations of the UN Commission on Human Rights (1986). While the Cobo study was being written, a Working Group on Indigenous Populations was set up under the then-existing Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities under the dynamic leadership of Erica-Irene Daes.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document that was long awaited by indigenous peoples and their defenders throughout the world.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document that was long awaited by indigenous peoples and their defenders throughout the world.

From the Working Group, with a good deal of interaction with the representatives of Nongovernmental Organizations and tribal groups came a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A61/295) in 2007 after some 20 years of efforts. The Declaration sets out a useful framework for action. A UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been created and meets once a year in New York. Conditions “on the ground” change slowly but there is now a UN institutions where issues can be raised. It is still the task of non-government organizations and tribal groups to continue to draw attention and to seek cooperation with governments.

See the useful Making the Declaration Work published by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (Copenhagen) available on their website: www.iwgia.org.

 

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

The Law of the Seize

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Environmental protection, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 15, 2014 at 10:03 PM

THE LAW OF THE SEIZE

By René Wadlow

 

June 8 of each year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the Day of the Law of the Sea. However, according to my friend John Logue, who had participated with me as non-governmental organization representative in the long negotiations in New York and Geneva, it should be called “the Law of the Seize.”

What started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arivid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in August 1980 with a draft convention. It was a mixed bag of successes and disappointments, but that convention has now been ratified by 162 States.

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of particular significance. The greater part of the oceans has been considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership. Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

World Citizen Thor Heyerdahl was one of those who called attention to the dangers of ocean pollution coming to Geneva to speak for world citizens during the Law of the Sea negotiations. The oceans and the seas remind us that the planet and not the State should be our focus. A holistic view of life arises from our interdependence as a species and our dependence on the life system of nature. World citizens have stressed that a balanced, sustainable eco-system will only emerge if our political, economic and ethical policies coincide in building a more stable and more peaceful—in short, a more human—planet.

(C) The Economist

(C) The Economist

Establishing rules for the management of the oceans was a real possibility in bringing about an increase in the awareness of the earth as our common home. However, the UN Law of the Sea Conference was first and foremost a political conference with over 160 States participating. From the outset of the conference, it was agreed that the convention had to be drafted by consensus in order to create a political and legal system for the oceans accepted to all — to manage what Arivid Pardo had called “the common heritage of mankind.”

During the negotiations, there were groupings that cut across the Cold War divisions of the times, especially within a group called “the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries.” There were also informal groups of persons who acted in a private capacity, a mixture of nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives, legal scholars, and diplomats who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the conference. These issues included the economic zones, the continental shelf, scientific research, marine pollution, and dispute settlement. Such propositions were taken seriously by the government negotiators, in part because few diplomats had the technical knowledge needed for making decisions as well as the creation of a new international organization, the Seabed Authority.

However, in practice, government negotiators are more used to working for the “national interest” and in defending the idea of “territory,” both on land and on the sea. Boundary-making is a primordial activity. Various theories have been advanced to explain why, many of them derived from our animal ancestors. However, ocean boundary problems are more difficult than building a wall on land. As Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia write,

The forces of nationalism were too strong to be swayed by Pardo’s appeals to international cooperation and technocratic rationality. Instead the coastal states, developed and developing alike, saw in the newly available ocean areas an unexpected windfall, offering the prospect of a previously unimagined extension of their natural resource base. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interest in global cooperation, setting in motion the processes of establishing vast national enclosures of offshore areas, especially those enclosures consonant with the new exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime. International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.1

An outstanding first attempt at codification of the law of the sea was the work of Hugo Grotius, the Dutch jurist widely regarded as the forefather of international law as we know it today. In 1609 Grotius published Mare Liberum (A Free Sea), a book in which claimed that the sea was international territory and thus free for all nations to use in their usual conduct of trade with one another.

An outstanding first attempt at codification of the law of the sea was the work of Hugo Grotius, the Dutch jurist widely regarded as the forefather of international law as we know it today. In 1609 Grotius published Mare Liberum (A Free Sea), a book in which claimed that the sea was international territory and thus free for all nations to use in their usual conduct of trade with one another.

Conflicts over national sea boundaries are particularly strong in the Pacific Ocean among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Cambodia, with India and Indonesia watching closely. The disputes arise largely because of the claims of waters around small islands as national territory. Most of these islands are not inhabited, but are claimed as the starting point of “territorial waters.”

Originally, the disputes concerned exclusive fishing rights within national territorial zones. Now the issues have become stronger, as it is believed that there are oil and natural gas reserves in these areas.

Concerning China’s dispute with Japan (which is also largely true of China’s policy with other Asian countries), Krista Wiegand writes,

China’s current strategy to negotiate with Japan over joint development of natural gas and oil resources outside the disputed zone seems to be the most rational strategy it can take in the disputes. Rather than dropping its territorial claim, China continues to maintain its claim for sovereignty, while at the same time benefiting from joint development of natural gas resources. By maintaining the territorial claim, China also sustains its ability to confront Japan through diplomatic and militarized conflict when other disputed issues arise.2

Territorial sea disputes can be heated up or cooled off at will or when other political issues require attention. We are currently in a “heating up” stage. Thus for June 8, in honor of the Law of the Sea, we can consider how best to resolve territorial disputes by having a broader view of the common heritage of humanity.

 

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

 

Notes

1)   Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia. Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Dordrecht: Martinus Nighoff Publishers, 1991, 214pp.)

2)   Krista E. Wiegand. Enduring Territorial Disputes (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011, 340pp.)

World Citizens Highlight 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation

In Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on January 6, 2013 at 11:32 PM

WORLD CITIZENS HIGHLIGHT 2013 AS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF WATER COOPERATION

By René Wadlow

 

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly by Resolution A/RES/65/154 has declared 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation with UNESCO as the lead agency for the Year. The objective of this International Year is to raise awareness both on the potential for increased cooperation and on the challenges facing water management in the light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services. The Year should build on the momentum created at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio plus 20) in which the Association of World Citizens played an active role.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has in the past stressed the important role of trans-boundary lake and river basins, including reservoirs of fresh water that move silently below the borders in underground aquifers. While there is much trans-frontier cooperation among States to which we can justly point as “Best Practices”, there are also trans-frontier tensions related to access to fresh water.

There are conflicts at the national level concerning the use of water in urban areas and water for irrigation within rural areas. The main causes of urban water conflicts are characterized by complex socio-economic and institutional issues related to urban water management. The debates about public water services versus private water suppliers are frequently associated with conflicts over water price and affordability. Likewise, the issue of centralization verses decentralization of water utilities is also discussed in the framework of institutional aspects of urban water management. A critical and interdisciplinary examination of the socio-economic and institutional aspects of national water management is important and one in which both government and civil society needs to be involved.

 

A Jewish proverb says, "No water, no life". Who wants to live a dried-up planet?

As the Jewish proverb goes, “No water, no life”. Who wants to live on a dried-up planet?

 

However, it is on trans-frontier cooperation that the AWC will put its emphasis as the dangers of trans-boundary conflicts over water use, the creation of dams, and modification of river courses are real world issues in which world citizens have a role to play.

In one of the early presentations of world citizen proposals on economic issues, Stringfellow Barr called attention to the multi-purpose efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for water management, farming and industrial development. Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday, 1952, 285pp.) Barr cited Herman Finer’s analysis The TVA: Lessons for International Application published by the ILO then displaced from Geneva by the Second World War (Montreal: International Labor Office, 1944). The TVA was proposed as a possible model for an Indus River Valley Authority and a Jordan Valley Authority. Both the Middle East and Asia continue to present real challenges for trans-frontier water management. The Association of World Citizens will propose during 2013 new avenues for action and multi-State cooperation.

 

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

June 8: The Law of the Seize

In Environmental protection, International Justice, United Nations, World Law on June 8, 2012 at 9:44 PM

JUNE 8: THE LAW OF THE SEIZE

By René Wadlow

 

June 8 of each year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the Day of the Law of the Sea. However, as my friend John Logue who had participated with me as non-governmental organization representative in the long negotiations — one year in New York, the next in Geneva — said “It should be called the Law of the Seize.”

What had started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arivid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in August 1980 with a draft convention, a mixed bag of successes and disappointments but which has now been ratified by 162 States.

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of special significance. The greater part of the oceans has been considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership.  Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

World Citizen Thor Heyerdahl was one of those who called attention to the dangers of ocean pollution coming to Geneva to speak for world citizens during the Law of the Sea negotiations.  The oceans and the seas remind us that the planet and not the State should be our focus.  A holistic view of life arises from our interdependence as a species and our dependence on the life system of nature.  World citizens have stressed that a balanced, sustainable eco-system will only emerge if our political, economic and ethical policies coincide in building a more stable, a more peaceful, in short, a more human planet.

Thus, if there is to be a qualitative jump in the awareness of the earth as our common home, the rules for the management of the oceans was a real possibility. However, the UN Law of the Sea Conference was first and foremost a political conference with over 160 States participating.  From the outset of the Conference, it was agreed that the Convention had to be drafted by consensus in order to create a political and legal system for the oceans accepted to all — to manage what Arivid Pardo had called “the common heritage of mankind.”

During the negotiations, there were groupings that cut across the Cold War divisions of the times, especially within a group called “the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries.” There were also informal groups of persons who acted in a private capacity, a mixture of NGO representatives, legal scholars, and diplomats who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the Conference such as the economic zones, the continental shelf, scientific research, marine pollution and dispute settlement.  These propositions were taken seriously by the government negotiators, in part because few diplomats had the technical knowledge needed for making decisions on technical subjects as well as the creation of a new international organization, the Seabed Authority.

However, in practice, government negotiators are more used to working for the “national interest” and in defending the idea of “territory” both on land and on the sea.  Boundary-making is a primordial activity.  Various theories have been advanced to explain why, many of them derived from our animal ancestors. However ocean boundary problems are more difficult than building a wall on land. Thus as Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia write “The forces of nationalism were too strong to be swayed by Pardo’s appeals to international cooperation and technocratic rationality.  Instead the coastal states, developed and developing alike, saw in the newly available ocean areas an unexpected windfall, offering the prospect of a previously unimagined extension of their natural resource base. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interest in global cooperation, setting in motion the processes of establishing vast national enclosures of offshore areas, especially those enclosures consonant with the new exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime.  International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.” (1)

“Ye free man, thou shall always cherish the sea!”
– Charles Baudelaire, French poet (1821-1867)

Conflicts over national sea boundaries are particularly strong in the Pacific Ocean among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Cambodia with India and Indonesia watching closely.  The disputed arise largely because of the claims of territorial waters around small islands claimed as national territory. Most of these islands are not inhabited, but are claimed as the starting point of “territorial waters”.

Originally, the disputes concerned exclusive fishing rights within national territorial zones.  Now the issues have become stronger as it is believed that there are oil and natural gas reserves in these areas.

As Krista Wiegand writes concerning China’s dispute with Japan but which is also largely true of China’s policy with the other Asian countries “China’s current strategy to negotiate with Japan over joint development of natural gas and oil resources outside the disputed zone seems to be the most rational strategy it can take in the disputes.  Rather than dropping its territorial claim, China continues to maintain its claim for sovereignty, while at the same time benefiting from joint development of natural gas resources.  By maintaining the territorial claim, China also sustains its ability to confront Japan through diplomatic and militarized conflict when other disputed issues arise.” (2)

Territorial sea disputes can be heated up or cooled off at will or when other political issues require attention.  We are currently in a “heating up” stage. Thus for 8 June in honour of the Law of the Sea we can consider how best to resolve territorial disputes by having a wider view of the common heritage of mankind.

Notes

1)         Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia, Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Dordrecht: Martinus Njihoff Publishers, 1991, 214pp.)

2)      Krista E. Wiegand, Enduring Territorial Disputes (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011, 340pp.).

 

René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Kunlabora Spirito kaj Ĝiaj Multaj Elmontriĝoj

In AWC Esperanto Division, Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 25, 2012 at 10:20 PM

KUNLABORA SPIRITO KAJ ĜIAJ MULTAJ ELMONTRIĜOJ

de René Wadlow

esperantigite de Bernard Henry

 

 

La Ĝenerala Asembleo de Unuiĝintaj Nacioj (UN), en ĝia Rezolucio A/RES/64/136, konsekris 2012 kiel Internacia Jaro por Kooperativoj, celante antaŭenmeti la larĝan rolon kiun kooperativoj ludas en ekologiema disvolvo kaj malapliigo de malriĉeco. Kiel diris UN-Ĝeneralsekretario Ban Ki-moon, “Kooperativoj estas rememorigilo al la internacia komunumo, ke eblas ja celi al kaj ekonomia kaj sociala respondeco”. La kooperativa movado ludas larĝan rolon en ambaŭ la produkado kaj la disdono de komercaĵoj kaj servoj tra la mondo. Kvankam malpli videblaj ol private posedataj, transnaciaj korporacioj (kiuj havas larĝajn reklambuĝetojn kaj tiel igas siajn komercaĵojn neĉirkaŭpaseblaj), kooperativoj estas grava parto de la monda ekonomio kaj meritas la atenton kiun la UN-jaro kapablas alporti (1).

Tamen, malantaŭ kooperativoj de produkado kaj disdono, loĝas unuavice “Kunlabora Spirito” kiu elmontriĝas laŭ multegaj manieroj, kiuj estas ĉiuj bazitaj sur kunlaboro sed ne ĉiuj nomiĝas “kooperativo”. Kunlabora Spirito substrekas renoviĝon, kunlaboron, mutualan helpon, kaj komunecon kiel “tagordo” je la surloka, nacia, kaj monda niveloj. Kunlaboro estas nepra neceso por la venontaj paŝoj en homa evoluo.

Kunlabora Spirito aperas en multaj formoj. Homoj tra la mondo pli kaj pli ekkonscias, ke ĉiuj el ni estas interligitaj kun aliaj personoj, per la aero kiujn ni spiras kaj akvosistemoj, la grundo kaj ĉiuj vivoformoj. Ju pli ni povas plipovigi unu la alian por ekflori sen noci al aliaj, des pli ni kreas mondan kunlaboran socion. Tial ĉiu ago de la individuo – aŭ neago – povas havi forserĉajn konsekvencojn ambaŭ por ĉiuj homoj en la mondo kaj por la naturmedio je kiu ni ĉiuj dependas.

Kunlabora Spirito evidentiĝas en la kreskaj zorgoj de Verda – ekologiema – Ekonomio. Eŭropo subtenas komercan kaj kunlaboran disvolvon de karbonmalpliigaj teknologioj kun miksaĵo de registara investado, impostosenpezoj, pruntedonoj kaj leĝoj. Ekzistas agnoskata neceso ŝirmi la naturmedion, investi en puran energion kaj krei daŭripovajn laborpostenojn, sed multo restas por fari en la tuta mondo.

Tra la mondo, ni ĉiuj estas enirantaj periodon de ŝanĝiĝo por kiu estas neniaj antaŭplanoj. Tial nepras ke ni scipovu kunan laboron. La formoj de kunlabora agado fontas el historiaj cirkonstancoj, surloka kulturo, kaj ekologiaj kondiĉoj. Tamen ekzistas komuna zorgo pri kunlabora uzo de naturvivrimedoj, komercaĵoj kaj servoj. Kunlabora agado loĝas en la koro de la ekonomia kaj politika alturno al mondnivela disvolvo de vivrimedoj kaj pli bona vivokvalito.

Ekzistas multaj formoj tradiciaj de kunlaboro, de mutuala helpo en periodoj de manko. 2012 devas utili kiel ŝanco alrigardi la multajn manierojn laŭ kiuj Kunlabora Spirito elmontriĝas en la mondo. Tial 2012 devas esti nia ĉefa interesocentro koncerne al la plifortigo de la konvinkoforto de Kunlabora Spirito.

 

(1)  Bv vidi la UN-retejon pri la Jaro: http://social.un.org/coopyear

 

Prof. René Wadlow estas Prezidanto kaj Ĉefreprezentanto ĉe UN en Ĝenevo de la Asocio de la Mondcivitanoj.

Bernard Henry estas la Oficisto pri Eksteraj Rilatoj de la Oficejo ĉe UN en Ĝenevo kaj la Ĝenerala Direktoro de la Esperanto-sekcio de la Asocio de la Mondcivitanoj.

June 17: A UN Emphasis on the Wise Use of Dry Lands

In Africa, Environmental protection, Human Development, Solidarity on June 17, 2011 at 7:30 PM

JUNE 17 : A UN EMPHASIS ON THE WISE USE OF DRY LANDS

By René Wadlow

 
The World Day to Combat Desertification, June 17 each year, was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in resolution A/RES/49/1995. The day has been observed since 1995. However United Nations efforts on Desertification began in 1977 with the UN Conference on Desertification held in Nairobi. The desertification conference was convened by the UN General Assembly in the midst of a series of catastrophic droughts in the Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa. The conference was designed to be the centerpiece of a massive worldwide attack to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in their destructive path. The history of the conference is vividly recalled by James Walls in his book Land, Men and Sand (New York: Macmillan, 1980).

At the conference, there was a call for the mobilization of human and financial resources to hold and then push back the advancing desert. “Attack” may have been the wrong word and “mobilization” too military a metaphor for the very inadequate measures taken later in the Sudano-Sahelian area. Today, in 2011, there are real possibilities of famine in West and East Africa on the edges of the desert. Niger and Mali and parts of Senegal and Chad in the Sahel belt are facing the consequences of serious drought as are parts of northern Kenya and Somalia.

The most dramatic case is that of Darfur, Sudan which partakes of the Sahel drought but which also faces a war in which the conflicts between pastoralists and settled agriculturalists have become politicized. It is estimated that 300,000 have been killed since the start of the war late in 2003. Some two and a half million people have been uprooted. The agricultural infrastructure of homes, barns and wells has been deliberately destroyed. It will be difficult and costly to repair this destruction. The Darfur conflict highlights the need for a broader approach to the analysis and interpretation of active and potential armed conflicts in the Sahel region. This analysis needs to take into consideration the impact of environmental scarcity and climate variation in complex situations.

A settlement in the semi-desert north of El Fasher, Northern Darfur.

Earth is our common home, and therefore all, as world citizens, must organize to protect it. It is up to all of us concerned with ecologically-sound development to draw awareness to both the dangers and the promises of deserts. What is the core of the desertification process? The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature but from the actions of humans. Desertification is a social phenomenon. The causes of dry land degradation include overgrazing, deforestation, agricultural mismanagement, fuel wood over-consumption, and industry and urbanization. Thus, by preventing land degradation and improving agricultural practices, action to combat desertification can lead to increased agricultural productivity and alleviate poverty. Humans are both the despoiler and the victim of the process. Increasingly, populations are eking out a livelihood on a dwindling resource, hemmed in by encroaching plantations and sedentary agriculturalists, by towns and roads. Pressure of population upon resources leads to tensions which can burst into violence as we see in Darfur and which spilled over into eastern Chad.

Desertification needs to be seen in a holistic way. If we see desertification only as aridity, we may miss areas of impact such as the humid tropics. We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity or alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. The value of UN-designated Days is the creation of a process of identifying major clusters of problems, bringing the best minds to bear on them so as to have a scientific and social substratum on which common political will can be found and from which action will follow.

Desertification is a plague that upsets the traditional balance between people, their habitat, and the socio-economic systems by which they live. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base, it promotes insecurity. Insecurity leads to strife. If allowed to degenerate, strife results in inter-clan feuding, civil war, cross-border raiding and military confrontation. Yet dry land communities have great resources that can be put to fighting poverty and desertification, provided they are properly empowered and supported.

In China, desertification spreads 1,300 square miles per year.

Only with a lessening of insecurity can cultivators and pastoralists living in or near deserts turn their attention to adapting traditional systems. There can be no reversion to purely traditional systems. But for insecurity to abate, a lengthy process of conciliation must begin and forms of conflict resolution strengthened. People must be encouraged to understand that diversity is a crucial element of ecologically-sound development. Judicious resource management breeds security and an improved quality of life for everyone. We can see what efforts can be made to encourage reforestation and to slow the unwanted advances of deserts.

The contrast between widespread rural poverty and environmental degradation, on the one land, and the opportunities which can be created on a small scale through community empowerment, access to groundwater and sustainable land management, defines the ideals of the Day. The Day is not about fighting deserts, it is about reversing land degradation trends, improving living conditions and alleviating poverty in rural dry lands. Thus, the World Day to Combat Desertification can be a Day during which we can learn more of the lives of the people in and on the edge of the deserts.

Even trees can grow in the desert ... A sign of hope indeed. Now let's act on it.

Deserts can also have a positive image. There is a significant role in the literature and mythology of spirituality — the 40 years in the desert before entering the “Promised Land” of Israel, the 40 days in the desert before starting his mission for Jesus, the life in the desert of the early Christian church fathers. Today, there are an increasing number of spiritual retreats in the desert chosen for its silence and for the essential nature of the landscape. Thus, during this Day our emphasis must not be on “combat” but on wise and ecologically-sound use of dry lands.

René Wadlow is Senior Vice President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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