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

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

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

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

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

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

The_George_Floyd_mural_outside_Cup_Foods_at_Chicago_Ave_and_E_38th_St_in_Minneapolis,_Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

Apartheid

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durban 2001 : l’antiracisme otage de l’antisémitisme

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

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

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

Sharon_ageila

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

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

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

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

Pour la dignité de chaque être humain

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

Black_Lives_Matter_protest

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

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

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

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

World Refugee Day

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on June 20, 2020 at 4:01 PM

By René Wadlow

 

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries, and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May, 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by “courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership, we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written “No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departures and re-settlements. Since 1956, the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs, both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

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Hungarian refugees outside a building at Charleston Air Force Base in 1956.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU), despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community, in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields, has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring. Today, the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning and weak migration policies. The war in Syria has gone on for five years. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills, have given shelter to nearly four million persons, mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches. Fortunately, NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration, but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

Women_and_children_among_Syrian_refugees_striking_at_the_platform_of_Budapest_Keleti_railway_station._Refugee_crisis._Budapest,_Hungary,_Cent

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station in 2015.

Thus, there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

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

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 28, 2019 at 12:40 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 23, 2019, 39 people, 8 women and 31 men, were found dead in a refrigerated trailer truck coming from Belgium in the last leg of its journey. The truck was at a parking lot in Essex, near London, England. The identity of the persons is still in the process of being investigated. They may be Vietnamese having traveled through China, or Chinese. The victims draw sad attention to the process of trafficking in persons.

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has drawn attention to the positive aspects of migration. However, there are also negative aspects so that we are also concerned with migration that is not safe such as trafficking in persons. A UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the biggest human rights crises today. The vast majority of victims trafficked are for sexual exploitation, while others are exploited for forced labor and forced marriage.

One aspect of migration issues is the issue of the trans-frontier trafficking in persons. Awareness has been growing, but effective remedies are slow and uncoordinated. Effective remedies are often not accessible to victims of trafficking owing to gaps between setting international standards, enacting national laws and then implementation in a humane way.

The international standards have been set out in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Convention and the Protocol standards are strengthened by the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The worldwide standards have been reaffirmed by regional legal frameworks such as the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Despite clear international and regional standards, there is poor implementation, limited government resources and infrastructure dedicated to the issue, a tendency to criminalize victims and restrictive immigration policies in many countries.

Trafficking in persons is often linked to networks trafficking in drugs and arms. Some gangs are involved in all three; in other cases agreements are made to specialize and not expand into the specialty of other criminal networks.

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As 25% of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. As a result, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

The second category are people leaving their country for economic reasons − sometimes called “economic refugees.” Migration for better jobs and a higher standard of living has a long history. Poverty, ethnic and racial discrimination, and gender-based discrimination are all factors in people seeking to change countries. With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries and with a popular “backlash” against migrants in some countries, would-be migrants turn to “passers” − individuals or groups that try to take migrants into a country, avoiding legal controls.

A third category − or a subcategory of economic migration − is the sex trade, usually of women but also children. As a Human Rights Watch study of the Japanese “sex-entertainment” businesses notes “There are an estimated 150,000 non-Japanese women employed in the Japanese sex industry, primarily from other Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. These women are typically employed in the lower rungs of the industry either in ‘dating’ snack bars or in low-end brothels, in which customers pay for short periods of eight or fifteen minutes. Abuses are common as job brokers and employers take advantage of foreign women’s vulnerability as undocumented migrants: they cannot seek recourse from the police or other law enforcement authorities without risking deportation and potential prosecution, and they are isolated by language barriers, a lack of community, and a lack of familiarity with their surroundings.” We find similar patterns in many countries.

The scourge of trafficking in persons will continue to grow unless strong counter measures are taken. Basically, police and governments worldwide do not place a high priority on the fight against trafficking unless illegal migration becomes a media issue. Therefore, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Association of World Citizens, which has raised the issue in the UN Human Rights bodies in Geneva. There are four aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other three aspects depend on the efforts of the NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which children and women are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of the country and among marginalized populations. Socioeconomic and educational development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is the development of housing and of women’s shelters to ensure that persons who have been able to leave exploitive situations have temporary housing and other necessary services.

The fourth aspect is psychological healing. Very often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trades have a disrupted or violent family and have a poor idea of their self-worth. This is also often true of refugees from armed conflict. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimension to the person through teaching meditation and yoga. There are needs for creating adult education facilities so that people may continue a broken education cycle.

There are NGOs who are already working along these lines. Their efforts need to be encouraged and expanded.

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

Migration in a Globalized World Economy

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on December 21, 2018 at 12:12 AM

By René Wadlow

The present era of globalization of the economy is not new, but as a term and also as an organizing concept for policy making, it dates from 1991 and the formal end of the Soviet zone of influence which had some of the structures of an alternative trading system.

Earlier, dating from the 1970s the term used was “interdependence”. The emphasis was on economic relations but there was also some emphasis on cultural and political factors. In a July 1975 speech, United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who had an academic background and kept himself informed of theoretical trends said “All of us – allies and rivals, new nations and old nations, the rich and the poor – constitute one world community. The interdependence on our planet is becoming the central fact of our diplomacy… The reality is that the world economy is a single global system of trade and monetary relations on which hinges the development of all our economies. An economic system thrives if all who take part in it thrive.”

Interdependence was to help build a world society based on equality, justice, and mutual benefit. As Secretary Kissinger said the need was “to transform the concept of world community from a slogan into an attitude.”

Interdependence was to be articulated into policies leading to disarmament, peaceful change, improved welfare especially for the poorest and respect for human rights. However, in practice the continuing USA-USSR tensions, questions of access to oil especially in the Middle East and the difficulties of establishing rules and controls for the world trade system kept “interdependence” as a slogan and not as a framework for policies and decisions of major governments.

The term “globalization” has progressively replaced that of “interdependence” The concept of globalization continues the interdependence focus on global economic linkages but adds an emphasis on the organization of social life on a global scale and the growth of a global consciousness. Global consciousness is the essential starting point of world citizenship. Globalization is a socio-economic process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural patterns recede and in which people become increasingly away that these geographic constraints are receding.

The rapid pace of globalization requires that research and practice keep up with the speed of changes in order to reduce unnecessary risks and to provide legitimacy and confidence in the world system. However, within the world society – as within national societies – there are many different interests. At the world level, there are not yet the web of consensus-building techniques found in public and private institutions at the national level.

There were recently two intergovernmental conferences being held at the same time which indicated the possibilities and the difficulties of reaching agreement among most of the States of th World: COP 24 held in Katowice, Poland devoted to issues of climate change and the conference on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, held in Marrakech, Morocco.

The COP 24 had the advantage of building on the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and on the serious scientific research carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Katowice conference was to develop a common system of rules, reporting and measurement for the Paris Climate Accord. This “rule book” was largely accomplished. A sub-theme was to show that the international spirit which had led to the Paris Agreement was still alive and well despite criticism and a lack of visible progress.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is the first of its kind, although there are earlier agreements on the status of refugees. In many countries, there has been sharp debates on immigration policy – often with more heat than light. Some States have already indicated that they will not sign the Compact even though it has been repeatedly pointed out that the Compact is not a treaty and thus not legally binding. The Compact sets out aspirations and strengthens some of the processes already in practice. The representatives of some States which signed indicated that they will be “selective” in the processes which they will put into practice.

Blue: Will adopt the Compact, Red: Will not adopt the Compact, Yellow: Considering not adopting, Gray: Undetermined

There was an agreement to hold a review conference in 2022. There is a growing tendency in inter-governmental treaties to set a review conference every four or five years to analyze implementation and the changing political and economic situation.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has been stressing for some years the importance of migration issues. Migration is likely to increase as climate changes have their impact. Thus, the AWC calls upon Nongovernmental Organizations to focus cooperatively and strongly on migration and the standards of the Global Compact.

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

Global Compact for Migration: A Necessary First Step

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 15, 2018 at 9:17 PM

By René Wadlow

On July 12, 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly agreed to the text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after more than a year of discussions among Member States, nongovernmental organizations, academic specialists on migration issues as well as interviews with migrants and refugees.

The discussion had gained visibility in September 2016 at the UN General Assembly which set out the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. As a result, the International Organization for Migration, created in 1951 largely to deal with displaced people after the Second World War, was more formally integrated into the UN “family”.

Antonio Guterres

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the Global Compact, saying it reflected “the shared understanding by Governments that cross-border migration is, by its very nature, an international phenomenon and that effective management of this global reality requires international cooperation to enhance its positive impact for all. It also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.”

M-Lajcak

However, the General Assembly President, Miroslav Lajcak, also indicated the limitations of the agreement saying “It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding. It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States.” The Global Compact will be formally adopted by Member States at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 10-11. Thus, it is useful to see what the Compact does do and what non-governmental organizations concerned need to do between now and early December.

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 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.

Migrants

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.

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is stressing the need for cooperative efforts carried out in good faith to 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.

We know that there are governments whose view is that “Yes, there are migrants and refugees, but we do not want them here. Our first and last line of defense is SOVEREIGNTY.” In addition to these governments, there are political parties and groups with a less legalistic line of defense. There are shades of racism and religious prejudice that go from pale to very strongly colored. We can expect these groups to be very active between now and early December to push government to indicate that the Global Compact is not a treaty, is not binding, and will not influence national decision making.

Thus, it is up to those holding World Citizen Values of equality, respect, cooperation and living in harmony with Nature to be even more active before December so that the Global Compact will serve as a framework for governmental and civil society action.

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

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.

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)
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