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Human Rights: Government Failures, NGO Need to Organize!

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 4, 2018 at 10:08 PM

By René Wadlow

In his final address to the Human Rights Council on February 26, 2018, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein decried the “pernicious use of the veto” by permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, Russia, and China in particular – to block any unity of action to reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people in “the most prolific slaughterhouse of humans in recent times.”

However, it is not only the veto in the Security Council which prevents governments from acting. There is a widespread failure of governments to act. “Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action.”

He continued by mentioning States in which armed conflicts were the framework for constant human rights violations, including the fundamental right to life: Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

United_Nations_High_Commissioner_for_Human_Rights_(21509596784)_(cropped)

He highlighted the growing wave of narrow nationalism promoted by political parties and in some cases by the leaders of government. “Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said ‘We do not want our color…to be mixed in with others’ “

He concluded with a warning and an encouragement to action. “It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations which will spark the conflicts that can break the world…For the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This we cannot allow to happen.”

In the light of the use of the veto in the UN Security Council and the realpolitik considerations of States in general, it is the task of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) to promote the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and the respect of humanitarian international law while the armed conflicts go on. NGOs must work so that universal human rights are the basis of society at all times.

In order to carry out these crucial tasks, NGOs must become stronger, have greater access to the media, increase their networks to more countries, and develop greater cooperation among themselves. These challenges require a wise use of current resources and efforts to increase them. There is a need to increase cooperation with universities and other academic institutions for background information and analysis. Government representatives always look for factual errors in NGO presentations as a way to discredit the whole presentation. Dialogue with the representatives of governments must be continued and, if possible, made more regular. States will continue to be important agents in the world society, and we must try to be in contact even when government actions are unreasonable, even criminal.

Cooperation among NGOs will facilitate an outreach to more sectors of the world society. Often a specific NGO will reach a particular milieu – religious, geographic, professional, social class. By cooperation a wider audience can be reached, and techniques for positive action set out.

As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed armed violence, systematic repression, waves of hate and xenophobia are strong today, and there is a real danger that they will grow. To meet these negative challenges, we who uphold the unity of the human family must organize ever-more effectively.

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

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World Policy for Migrants and Refugees

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on October 4, 2016 at 7:26 PM

WORLD POLICY FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
By René Wadlow

«There is no doubt that Mankind is once more on the move. The very foundations have been shaken and loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of Humanity is once more on the march.»

Jan Christian Smuts at the end of the 1914-1918 World War.

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”, a complex of issues which have become important and emotional issues in many countries. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a report on international migration indicating that there are some 244 million migrants, some 76 million live in Europe, 75 million in Asia, 54 million in North America and others in the Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand. In addition, there are some 24 million refugees – people who have crossed State frontiers fleeing armed conflict and repression as well as some 40 million internally-displaced persons within their own country. Acute poverty, armed conflicts, population growth and high unemployment levels provide the incentives for people to move, while easier communications and transport are the means.

However, as we have seen with the many who have died in the Mediterranean Sea, people will take great risks to migrate. Thus, there is an urgent need to take away the monopoly of the life and death of refugees from the hands of mafias and traffickers and to create an effective world policy for migrants and refugees.

UNGA

This is the third time that the major governments of the world have tried to deal in an organized way with migration and refugees. The first was within the League of Nations in the 1920s. The 1914-1918 World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution had created a large number of refugees and “stateless” persons – citizens of the former Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. These people had no passports or valid identity documents. The League of Nations created a League identity document – the Nansen Passport – which gave some relief to the “stateless” and brought international attention to their conditions. The Nansen Passport, however, became overshadowed in the mid-1930 when people – in particular Jews – fled from Germany-Austria and were refused resettlement.

nansenpassport

The second international effort was as a result of the experiences of the 1939-1945 Second World War and the large number of refugees and displaced. Under UN leadership was created the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. In addition, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, originally created as a temporary body, was made a permanent UN agency in recognition of the continuing nature of refugee issues.

The current third international effort is largely a result of the flow of refugees and migrants toward Europe during 2015-2016. The disorganized and very uneven response of European governments and the European Union to this flow has indicated that governments are unprepared to deal with such massive movements of people. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to deal adequately with this large number of persons despite many good-will efforts. Moreover, certain European political movements and political parties have used the refugee issue to promote narrow nationalist and sometimes racist policies. Even a much smaller flow of refugees to the USA has provoked very mixed reactions – few of them welcoming.

Distressed persons wave after being transferred to a Maltese patrol vessel.

The September 19 Summit is a first step toward creating a functioning world policy for migrants and refugees. The Summit is not an end in itself but follows a pattern of UN awareness-building conferences on the environment, population, food, urbanization and other world issues. The impact of UN conferences has been greatest when there are preexisting popular movements led by NGOs which have in part sensitized people to the issue. The two UN conferences which have had the most lasting consequences were the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment and the 1975 International Year of Women and its Mexico conference. The environment conference was held at a time of growing popular concern with the harm to the environment symbolized by the widely-read book of Rachel Carson Silent Spring. The 1975 women’s conference came at a time when in Western Europe and the USA there was a strong “women’s lib” movement and active discussion on questions of equality and gender.

Migration and refugee issues do not have a well-organized NGO structure highlighting these issues. However human rights NGOs have stressed the fate of refugees and migrants as well as human rights violations in the countries from which they fled. There is also some cooperation among relief NGOs which provide direct help to refugees and migrants such as those from Syria and Iraq living in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and those going to Greece and Italy.

The Summit’s Declaration is very general, and some observers have been disappointed with the lack of specific measures. However, we can welcome the spirit of the Summit Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. What is needed now are strong NGO efforts to remind constantly government authorities of the seriousness of the issues and the need for collective action. Refugees and migrants are not a temporary “emergency” but part of a continuing aspect of the emerging world society. Thus there is a need to develop a world policy and strong institutions for migrants and refugees.

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

Building on the UN Summit to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on September 20, 2016 at 6:58 PM

BUILDING ON THE UN SUMMIT TO ADDRESS LARGE MOVEMENTS OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS

By René Wadlow

awc-un-geneva-logo

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”, a complex of issues which have become important and emotional issues in many countries. Restrictive migration policies deny many migrants the possibility of acquiring a regular migrant status, and as a result, the migrants end up being in an irregular or undocumented situation in the receiving country and can be exposed to exploitation and serious violations of human rights.

Citizens of the world have been actively concerned with the issues of migrants, refugees, the “stateless” and those displaced by armed conflicts within their own country. Thus we welcome the spirit of the Summit Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. There are three issues mentioned in the Summit Declaration which merit follow up action among the UN Secretariat, world citizens and other non-governmental organizations:

1) The migration of youth;

2) The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts;

3) Developing further cooperation among non-governmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants.

The Migration of Youth

Youth leave their country of birth to seek a better life and also to escape war, poverty, and misfortune. We should add to an analysis of trans-frontier youth migration a very large number of youth who leave their home villages to migrate toward cities within their own country. Without accurate information and analysis of both internal and trans-frontier migration of youth, it is difficult to develop appropriate policies for employment, housing, education and health care of young migrants and refugees. It is estimated that there are some 10 million refugee children, and most are not in school.

Studies have noted an increasing feminization of trans-frontier migration in which the female migrant moves abroad as a wage earner, especially as a domestic worker rather than as an accompanying family member. Migrant domestic workers are often exposed to abuse, exploitation and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and occupation. Domestic workers are often underpaid, their working conditions poor and sometimes dangerous. Their bargaining power is severely limited. Thus, there is a need to develop legally enforceable contracts of employment, setting out minimum wages, maximum hours of work and responsibilities.

The Association of World Citizens recommends that there be in the follow ups to the Summit, a special focus on youth, their needs as well as possibilities for positive actions by youth.

The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts

The UN General Assembly which follows immediately the Migration-Refugee Summit is facing the need for action on a large number of armed conflicts in which Member States are involved. In some of these conflicts the UN has provided mediators; in others, UN peacekeepers are present. In nearly all these armed conflicts, there have been internally-displaced persons as well as trans-frontier refugees. Therefore, there is an urgent need to review the linkages between armed conflict and refugee flows. There needs to be a realistic examination as to why some of these armed conflicts have lasted as long as they have and why negotiations in good faith have not been undertaken or have not led to the resolution of these armed conflicts. Such reflections must aim at improvements of structures and procedures.

Developing further cooperation among nongovernmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants

We welcome the emphasis in the Summit Declaration on the important role that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play in providing direct services to refugees and migrants. NGOs also lobby government authorities on migration legislation and develop public awareness campaigns. The Summit has stressed the need to focus on future policies taking into account climate change and the growing globalization of trade, finance, and economic activities. Thus, there needs to be strong cooperation among the UN and its Agencies, national governments, and NGOs to deal more adequately with current challenges and to plan for the future. Inclusive structures for such cooperation are needed.

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

International Day of Migrants: Need for a UN-led World Conference on Migration and Refugee Flows

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 18, 2015 at 9:52 AM

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MIGRANTS: NEED FOR A UN-LED WORLD CONFERENCE ON MIGRATION AND REFUGEE FLOWS

By René Wadlow

I am a migrant.jpg

December 18 was set by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to call attention to the role of migrants in the world society. The date was chosen to mark the creation of the UN-negotiated International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The aim of the Convention was to insure that migrants and their families would continue to be covered by the human rights standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenants, and other human rights treaties. In practice, migrants are often “between two chairs” − no longer of concern to the State they have left and not yet covered by the human rights laws of the State to which they have gone.

Ratifications of the Convention have been slow with a good number of governments making reservations that generally weaken the impact of the Convention. In 2004, a commission of independent experts was set up to study the reports to the UN of governments on the application of the Convention − a commission that is part of the Human Rights Treaty Body System. Reports from each government party to the Convention are to be filed once every four years. However, the discussions within the Migration Treaty Body and its subsequent report attract the attention of only a small number of people. However, the discussion deals with the report of only one government at a time while migration is always a multi-State issue and can have worldwide implications.

Moreover, many States consider that earlier International Labor Organization conventions deal adequately with migrant rights and see no need to sign a new convention.

Citizens of the world have stressed that the global aspects of migration flows have an impact on all countries. The changing nature of the world’s economies modify migration patterns, and there is a need to plan for migration as the result of possible environmental-climate changes.

The refugees.jpeg

The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become a high profile political issue. Many migrants come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union (EU) have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

EU officials have met frequently to discuss how to deal with the migrant-refugee flow, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. At a popular level, there have been expressions of fear of migrants, of possible terrorists among them, and a rejection of their cultures. These popular currents, often increased by right-wing political parties make decisions all the more difficult to take. An exaggerated sense of threat fuels anti-immigration sentiments and creases a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.

Je suis un migrant.jpg

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is calling for a UN-led world conference on migration and refugee issues, following earlier UN world conferences on the environment, food, housing, women, population, youth, human rights and other world issues. The pattern of such UN-led world conferences usually follows a common pattern: encouragement of research and data collection by UN agencies, national governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academic institutions. Then regional meetings are held to study the regional dimensions of the issue. The regional conferences are followed by the world conference of government representatives with the participation of NGO delegates of organizations which hold consultative status. Usually there is also a parallel NGO conference with a wider range of NGOs present, especially those active at the local or national level. From such a world conference a plan of action is set to influence action by UN agencies, national governments, and NGOs.

Only a UN-led conference with adequate research and prior discussions can meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. A UN-led world conference on migration can highlight possible trends and especially start to build networks of cooperation to meet this world challenge.

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

The Genocide Convention: An Unused But Not Forgotten Standard of World Law

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 9, 2015 at 7:58 PM

THE GENOCIDE CONVENTION: AN UNUSED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN STANDARD OF WORLD LAW

By René Wadlow

On the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, it is imperative to identify a relevant existing body – such as the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – to strengthen in order to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”

December 9 is the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, signed at the UN General Assembly held in 1948 in Paris. The Genocide Convention was signed the day before the proclamation on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two texts were much influenced by the Second World War. The crimes of Nazi Germany were uppermost in the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention in order to deal with a new aspect of international law and the laws of war. The cry was “Never again!”

The protection of civilians from deliberate mass murder was already in The Hague and Geneva Conventions of international humanitarian law. However, genocide is different from mass murder. Genocide is the most extreme consequences of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill) [1].

Genocide in the sense of a desire to eliminate a people has nearly always a metaphysical aspect as well as deep-seated racism. This was clear in the Nazi desire to eliminate Jews, first by forced emigration from Europe and, when emigration was not possible, by physical destruction.

The genocide of the Jewish people in Europe during World War II, carried out in such infamous places as the Auschwitz concentration camp pictured above, was the leading cause for the drafting and adoption of the UN Genocide Convention. The following day, the UN General Assembly also adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The genocide of the Jewish people in Europe during World War II, carried out in such infamous places as the Auschwitz concentration camp pictured above, was the leading cause for the drafting and adoption of the UN Genocide Convention. The following day, the UN General Assembly also adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We see a desire to destroy totally certain tribes in the Darfur conflict in Sudan that did not exist in the much longer and more deadly North-South Sudan Civil War (1956-1972, 1982-2005). Darfur tribes are usually defined by “blood lines” — marriage and thus procreation is limited to a certain population, either within the tribe or with certain other groups with which marriage relations have been created over a period of time. Thus children born of rape — considered ‘Janjaweed babies ‘— after the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias— are left to die or are abandoned. The raped women are often banished or ostracized. By attacking both the aged, holders of traditional knowledge, and the young of child-bearing age, the aim of the destruction of the continuity of a tribal group is clear.

We find the same pattern in some of the fighting in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo where not only are women raped but their sexual organs are destroyed so that they will not be able to reproduce.

As then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at UNESCO in 1998,

“Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War − the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time − this decade even − has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide − the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins − is now a word of our time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

Mr. Nicodène Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

In a telegram sent from Paris in December 1948, Raphael Lemkin asked Ms. William Dick Sporberg, a member of the United States Committee for a United Nations (UN) Genocide Convention, to organize a cable campaign to persuade the United States Mission to the UN to support the adoption of the convention. Until the very last minute, no efforts were to be spared if the Genocide Convention was to come to existence and make the hopes of a whole generation traumatized by wide-scale extermination come true. (C) Google Cultural Institute/Center for Jewish History

In a telegram sent from Paris in December 1948, Raphael Lemkin asked Ms. William Dick Sporberg, a member of the United States Committee for a United Nations (UN) Genocide Convention, to organize a cable campaign to persuade the United States Mission to the UN to support the adoption of the convention. Until the very last minute, no efforts were to be spared if the Genocide Convention was to come to existence and make the hopes of a whole generation traumatized by wide-scale extermination come true. (C) Google Cultural Institute/Center for Jewish History

Article VIII of the Genocide Conventions provides that “Any Contracting Party may call upon the Competent Organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the UN as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III”. Unfortunately no State has ever done so.

Thus we need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially-directed massacres of civilians of whatever number cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement − whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors − including political movements − to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State because they belong to certain racial, ethnic or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religion, ethnic and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the radio Mille Collines perhaps the premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the UN to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from non-governmental organizations, the UN Secretary-General has named an individual adviser on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one adviser among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The CERD created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service CERD. Through its urgent procedures mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens (AWC) and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

Notes

  1. Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944)
  2. For good overviews see: Walliman and Dobkowski (Eds) Genocide and the Modern Age (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), F. Chalk, K. Jonassohn. The History and Sociology of Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), G. J. Andreopoulos (Ed) Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), Samantha Power A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002), John Tirman, The Death of Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), William Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

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.

Le droit universel à la fraternité

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, World Law on February 11, 2014 at 9:25 PM

LE DROIT UNIVERSEL A LA FRATERNITE

Par Bernard Henry

(D’après « The Universal Right to Brotherhood », du même auteur :

https://awcungeneva.com/2014/02/10/the-universal-right-to-brotherhood/)

En tant qu’Organisation Non-Gouvernementale (ONG) dotée du Statut Consultatif auprès de l’ONU et active au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme, l’Association of World Citizens a toujours défendu les Droits de l’Homme partout dans le monde, tous les Droits de l’Homme, qu’ils soient civils, politiques, économiques, sociaux, culturels ou autres, tels que ceux plus récemment reconnus au développement et à un environnement sain.

Depuis le début de la décennie, le désir mondial de Droits de l’Homme est plus visible que jamais auparavant. Mais les nombreux auteurs de violations auxquels le peuple du monde doit faire face – les gouvernements des Etats, les corporations multinationales, les groupes politiques non-étatiques, armés ou non – balaient ouvertement les Droits de l’Homme comme étant de simples revendications politiques qui en valent d’autres, leur refusant le moindre caractère de prérogatives universelles reconnues en droit international.

Parfois même, les gouvernements répressifs et autres entités qui le sont tout autant vont jusqu’à prétendre qu’ils agissent au nom même des Droits de l’Homme, accusant en cela leurs critiques et leurs opposants d’attenter eux-mêmes aux Droits de l’Homme.

C’est comme si chacun ne revendiquait plus les Droits de l’Homme qu’à son seul profit, ignorant superbement autrui et considérant les Droits de l’Homme comme étant tout ou rien – mes droits ou les leurs, l’un ou l’autre mais pas les deux. Rien ne saurait être plus contraire à l’idée même de défense des Droits de l’Homme.

Le Préambule de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme, depuis 1948 clé de voûte du droit international des Droits de l’Homme, affirme très clairement qu’une protection effective des Droits de l’Homme par la loi est essentielle « pour que l’homme ne soit pas contraint, en suprême recours, à la révolte contre la tyrannie et l’oppression ». Même si certains peuvent voir en les Droits de l’Homme une question trop « conflictuelle » à aborder, ignorer ou renier les Droits de l’Homme rend bel et bien impossible à toute personne, tout gouvernement, ou toute autre entité que ce soit, d’espérer en tout bon sens atteindre une quelconque paix ou un quelconque progrès dont il ou elle puisse tirer parti.

L’Article Premier de la Déclaration se fait encore plus explicite sur ce point :

« Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité. »

Fraternité – c’est bien là le mot qui compte, car c’est là tout ce que les Droits de l’Homme veulent dire.

Se soucier de son prochain, un être humain comme soi-même. Accorder de l’importance à la vie, la liberté, la sécurité d’un ou d’une autre autant qu’aux siennes propres. Vouloir faire le bien des autres plutôt que de concevoir sa propre vie comme un combat permanent et inexorable contre tous. C’est cela, vivre « dans un esprit de fraternité », et partant de là, respecter les Droits de l’Homme, à commencer par le plus essentiel d’entre eux – le droit à la fraternité.

Même s’il est devenu très à la mode de chercher des noises à autrui en invoquant les Droits de l’Homme, se conduire ainsi n’a aucun sens, dans la mesure où la défense des Droits de l’Homme doit être par essence inclusive et jamais sectaire. Lorsque l’on reconnait le droit à la fraternité en tant que droit inaliénable devant être garanti à toutes et à tous, l’on en vient tout naturellement à reconnaître tous les autres droits consacrés par la Déclaration et par bien d’autres instruments internationaux de Droits de l’Homme – civils, politiques, économiques, sociaux et culturels.

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l'Homme en langue française, langue maternelle de son principal créateur, le Français René Cassin.

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme en langue française, langue maternelle de son principal artisan, le Français René Cassin.

Dans la droite ligne de ce principe, la Déclaration se termine sur trois articles rappelant la primauté du droit à la fraternité sur tous les autres :

Article 28

« Toute personne a droit à ce que règne, sur le plan social et sur le plan international, un ordre tel que les droits et libertés énoncés dans la présente Déclaration puissent y trouver plein effet. »

Bien évidemment, cela veut dire que chacun a droit à la paix, et plus évident encore, il ne peut y avoir de paix sans la fraternité.

Article 29

« 1. L’individu a des devoirs envers la communauté dans laquelle seul le libre et plein développement de sa personnalité est possible. 

2. Dans l’exercice de ses droits et dans la jouissance de ses libertés, chacun n’est soumis qu’aux limitations établies par la loi exclusivement en vue d’assurer la reconnaissance et le respect des droits et libertés d’autrui et afin de satisfaire aux justes exigences de la morale, de l’ordre public et du bien-être général dans une société démocratique. 

3. Ces droits et libertés ne pourront, en aucun cas, s’exercer contrairement aux buts et aux principes des Nations Unies. »

Peut-on être plus clair ? L’on ne peut jouir de ses droits qu’au sein de la communauté humaine, « dans un esprit de fraternité », donc, ni en dehors de la communauté ni contre la communauté.

Article 30

« Aucune disposition de la présente Déclaration ne peut être interprétée comme impliquant pour un Etat, un groupement ou un individu un droit quelconque de se livrer à une activité ou d’accomplir un acte visant à la destruction des droits et libertés qui y sont énoncés. »

La plus forte, et la plus logique, conclusion possible à une déclaration universelle des droits – les droits ne peuvent être revendiqués, à plus forte raison utilisés, pour faire du tort à qui que ce soit, ce en aucune circonstance. En d’autres termes, si vous ne reconnaissez pas le droit à la fraternité, vous ne pouvez tout simplement pas vous prévaloir de vos droits du tout.

Jargon juridique mis à part, ce n’est là rien d’autre que ce que disait déjà Albert Schweitzer lorsqu’il a créé son concept de Respect de la Vie (Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben). Dans son livre paru en 1923, La Civilisation et l’Ethique, Schweitzer résumait ce concept ainsi : « L’éthique n’est rien d’autre que le Respect de la vie. Le Respect de la vie me fournit le principe fondamental de la morale, à savoir que le bien consiste à entretenir, assister et mettre en valeur la vie, et que détruire la vie, lui faire du tort ou y faire obstacle est mal. »

En un temps où il n’existait aucune véritable institution politique ou juridique au niveau mondial, ce qui s’en rapprochait le plus étant une Société des Nations bâtie pour l’essentiel sur des vœux pieux et dénuée de tout pouvoir de promulguer des lois, Schweitzer proclamait déjà, de la manière la plus claire qui puisse être, le droit universel à la fraternité.

En 1952, la philosophie de "Respect de la Vie" valut à Albert Schweitzer le Prix Nobel de la Paix.

En 1952, la philosophie du “Respect de la Vie” valut à Albert Schweitzer le Prix Nobel de la Paix.

Plus le « respect », selon l’idée que Schweitzer s’en faisait, du droit à la fraternité est important, plus l’oppression et l’injustice ont du mal à s’installer dans une société. Que l’on se batte contre une dictature, que l’on engage le combat contre des politiciens qui propagent le racisme, que l’on manifeste pour un salaire décent, que l’on dispense un enseignement à des enfants démunis ou que l’on fournisse à un village isolé l’accès à l’eau potable, l’on affirme une seule et même chose : nous sommes citoyens du monde entier, l’humanité est notre famille, et en tant qu’êtres humains, nous avons le droit de vivre en famille avec nos frères sur la Terre.

Bernard Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures du Bureau de Représentation auprès de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève de l’Association of World Citizens.

The Universal Right to Brotherhood

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, World Law on February 10, 2014 at 7:47 PM

THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT TO BROTHERHOOD

By Bernard Henry

As a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) in Consultative Status with the United Nations (UN) and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, the Association of World Citizens has always stood up for human rights everywhere in the world, all human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social, cultural or others, such as the more recently recognized rights to development and to a sound environment.

Since the beginning of this decade, the global yearning for human rights has been more visible than ever before. But the many violators to whom the people of the world have had to stand up – national governments, multinational corporations, non-state political groups, whether armed or not – have been openly dismissing human rights as mere political claims pro se, denying these may ever be a universal prerogative officially recognized in international law.

Sometimes repressive governments or other entities even claim to be acting in the very name of human rights, accusing their critics and opponents of being themselves human rights offenders.

It looks like everybody is now claiming human rights for their sole benefit, totally leaving out others and viewing human rights as a zero-sum game – my rights or theirs, it can’t be both. That is completely out of line with the concept of human rights advocacy.

The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, since 1948 the cornerstone of international human rights law, makes it clear that effective legal protection of human rights is essential “if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression”. Even though some people may think of human rights as an overly “divisive” issue to deal with, ignoring or rejecting human rights makes it impossible for any person, government, or other to sensibly hope to achieve any peace or progress for their own enjoyment.

Article 1 of the Declaration is even more explicit about it:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Brotherhood – that is the one word that counts, for that is just what human rights are all about.

Caring for one’s fellow human being. Valuing another person’s life, liberty, and safety like one’s own. Wishing well on others rather than thinking of one’s own life as an inescapable, permanent fight against everybody else. That is what it means to live “in a spirit of brotherhood”, and accordingly, to respect human rights, starting with the most essential of them all – the right to brotherhood.

Although it has become fashionable to antagonize others while citing human rights, a conduct like that makes no sense, as the defense of human rights shall be by essence inclusive, never sectarian. In recognizing the right to brotherhood as an inalienable right to be guaranteed for everyone, one naturally comes to recognize all other rights enshrined in the Declaration and other international human rights instruments – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in French, the mother tongue of its main initiator, Frenchman René Cassin.

In line with this principle, the Declaration ends with three articles that recall the primacy of the right to brotherhood over all other rights:

Article 28

“Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

Obviously, this means everyone has a right to peace, and more obviously still, there can be no peace without brotherhood.

Article 29

“(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

Clear as day. Rights are there to be enjoyed within the human community, “in a spirit of brotherhood”, thus neither apart from the community nor against the community.

Article 30

“Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

The strongest, most logical possible conclusion to a universal declaration of rights – rights can never be claimed, let alone used, to do any harm to anyone under any circumstances. In other words, if you don’t recognize the right to brotherhood, you just cannot claim any rights at all.

All legalese aside, that is just what Albert Schweitzer was already saying when he developed his concept of Reverence for Life (Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben). In his 1923 book Civilization and Ethics, Schweitzer outlined the concept in these words: “Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.”

At a time when there was no real global political or legal institution in existence, the closest thing to it being a League of Nations largely built on wishful thinking and with no lawmaking powers, Schweitzer was already asserting, in the plainest possible manner, the universal right to brotherhood.

In 1952 Albert Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”.

The greater the “reverence”, as Schweitzer said, for the right to brotherhood, the harder it gets for oppression and injustice to settle down. Whether fighting a dictatorship, confronting racist politicians, demonstrating for decent wages, teaching poor children or providing a remote community with access to clean water, it all comes down to stating loud and clear this one universal claim: We are citizens of one world, humanity is our family, and as human beings, we all have a right to family life with our brothers on earth.

Bernard Henry is External Relations Officer of the Representative Office to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Nelson Mandela and the Struggle for Universal Human Rights

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, World Law on December 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM

NELSON MANDELA AND THE STRUGGLE FOR UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS

By René Wadlow

 

It is appropriate that a major part of the commemoration for Nelson Mandela should fall on December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mandela was both a major actor in developing human rights in South Africa and a symbol of the worldwide struggle for the respect of human rights.  Pressure from human rights groups worldwide played an important part in his release from prison in 1990 as well as bringing an end to the deeply entrenched system of apartheid that enforced racial segregation in every aspect of South African life.

The efforts on the part of the Afrikaner-led National Party Government to enforce apartheid and to prevent opposition had led to many violations of human rights in South Africa: limits on press and expression, on the freedom of association, and the right to fair trial. Therefore, the dismantling of the apartheid system was a necessary pre-requisite for the establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Nelson Mandela led the efforts to end apartheid, a victory without the blood bath that so many had predicted and feared. He led on the path of constructive reconciliation and an inclusive society.

There is still much to do to develop equality of opportunity in South African society.  Years of discrimination, of lack of education and training, of lack of access to resources leave deep structural divides.  However, much has been undertaken, and South Africa has the potential to be an economic and political leader in Africa.

Nelson Mandela is an example of courage and conviction to secure human rights, both in his own country and worldwide, an example of the long and continuing efforts needed for human freedom.

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

 

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Can Persistent Racism be a Prelude to Genocide?

In Being a World Citizen, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on December 9, 2013 at 1:31 PM

CAN PERSISTENT RACISM BE A PRELUDE TO GENOCIDE?

An Interrogation to Mark the Anniversary of the Genocide Convention

By René Wadlow

December 9 is the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, signed at the UN General Assembly held in 1948 in Paris. The Genocide Convention was signed the day before the proclamation on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two texts were much influenced by the Second World War. The crimes of Nazi Germany were uppermost in the minds of those who drafted the Convention in order to deal with a new aspect of international law and the laws of war.

The protection of civilians from deliberate mass murder was already in The Hague and Geneva Conventions of international humanitarian law. However, genocide is different from mass murder. Genocide is the most extreme consequences of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill)[i].

Mass deaths are not genocide. The largest number of deaths since the end of the Second World War was the failure of Chinese agricultural policies between 1958 and 1962 with over 20 million deaths, but the aim was not to destroy the Chinese as a people. Likewise, the destructive famine in Ukraine 1932-1933 with its seven million dead had a political motivation to reduce opposition but not to destroy the Ukrainians as a people. The United States-led war in Vietnam killed some two million Vietnamese, but the aim was not to destroy the Vietnamese as a people.

Genocide in the sense of a desire to eliminate a people has nearly always a metaphysical aspect as well as deep-seated racism. This was clear in the Nazi desire to eliminate Jews, first by forced emigration from Europe and, when emigration was not possible, by physical destruction.

With the horrendous Jewish Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany in mind, on December 9, 1948 the UN General Assembly made genocide the subject matter of the very first human rights instrument created by the World organization, one day before even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the Assembly in Paris.

With the horrendous Jewish Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany during World War II in mind, on December 9, 1948 the UN General Assembly made genocide the subject matter of the very first human rights instrument created by the World organization, one day before even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the Assembly in Paris.

We see a desire to destroy totally certain tribes in the Darfur conflict in Sudan that did not exist in the much longer and more deadly North-South Sudan Civil War (1956-1972, 1982-2005). Darfur tribes are usually defined by “blood lines” — marriage and thus procreation is limited to a certain population, either within the tribe or with certain other groups with which marriage relations have been created over a period of time. Thus children born of rape — considered ‘Janjaweed babies ‘— after the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias— are left to die or are abandoned. The raped women are often banished or ostracized. By attacking both the aged, holders of traditional knowledge, and the young of child-bearing age, the aim of the destruction of the continuity of a tribal group is clear.

We find the same pattern in some of the fighting in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo where not only are women raped but their sexual organs are destroyed so that they will not be able to reproduce.

Thanks to the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the international community does have a legal instrument to deal with genocide and punish perpetrators whenever necessary. The only trouble is that in this day and age, "genocide" has still not become an anachronism in global affairs.

Thanks to the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the international community does have a legal instrument to deal with genocide and punish the perpetrators thereof. It is a shame, though, that in this day and age, “genocide” has still not become an anachronism in global affairs.

Article VIII of the Genocide Conventions provides that “Any Contracting Party may call upon the Competent Organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the UN as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III”. Unfortunately no State has ever done so.

Thus we need to look more closely at the ways in which deep-set racism and constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic or social category can be a prelude to genocide.

 

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

 


[i] Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944)

For good overviews see:

Walliman and Dobkowski (Eds), Genocide and the Modern Age (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987)

F. Chalk, K. Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990)

G.J. Andreopoulos (Ed), Genocide Conceptual and Historical Dimensions Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994)

Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)

John Tirman, The Death of Others (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

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