The Official Blog of the

Archive for the ‘Human Development’ Category

L’impact du désordre environnemental sur la migration sud-nord

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, Sustainable Development, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on August 10, 2022 at 7:01 AM

Par Nadia Belaala

Dans un premier temps, il nous semble important de faire un rappel de l’état des lieux environnemental dans lequel se trouvent la terre et ses ressources, en considérant les interactions entre l’humanité et les écosystèmes qui y vivent.

Selon le Rapport Planète Vivante de WWF (2020), les activités humaines ont amené à une diminution de 68% des populations mondiales de mammifères, d’oiseaux, de poissons, de reptiles et d’amphibiens en 50 ans.

En Europe, par exemple, l’Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature (UICN) indique la disparition de 36 espèces entre 2015 et aujourd’hui, et plus de 11% sont menacées d’extinctions (dont 58% d’arbres endémiques et 40% de poissons d’eau douce).

En Afrique, ce sont 700 millions d’hectares de terres (soit plus de dix fois la surface de la France), qui ont été dégradées par la pression humaine,  et ce en lien avec la désertification et le surpâturage (source : la Banque mondiale, 2016). Cette situation crée un cercle vicieux, qui amène à une urgence alimentaire, laquelle nécessite à son tour une exploitation excessive des arbres et une sur-utilisation des engrais et pesticides[1].

Au niveau mondial,  le stock de poissons a reculé de 50% entre 1970 et 2010, les côtes africaines étant les plus pillées au monde, notamment par la Chine[2]. Il se pourrait que les stocks halieutiques exploités par les êtres humains déclinent jusqu’à disparaître en 2048, si l’on en croit les prévisions d’Isabelle Autissier, présidente de WWF-France (jusqu’en janvier 2021).

Quant aux villes, si elles n’occupent que 3% de la surface continentale mondiale[3], elles concentrent 55% de la population mondiale et consomment plus des deux tiers de la demande énergétique mondiale (source : Rapport de situation 2019 sur les énergies renouvelables dans les villes de l’ONU). Elles sont, par ailleurs, particulièrement vulnérables aux changements climatiques et aux catastrophes naturelles du fait, entre autres, de leur forte concentration humaine, tout en étant en partie les causes de ces aléas climatiques[4].

L’histoire de l’humanité est en train de se jouer, en notre défaveur à tous ; il n’y a pas de région, de pays ou de continent épargnés. Il y a une réelle urgence à s’en préoccuper, car si nous n’agissons pas, c’est notre propre espèce que nous mettons en péril.

Une des premières conséquences de ces désordres environnementaux est d’obliger, inexorablement, des populations à se déplacer.

Bien que l’histoire de l’humanité soit faite de migrations, ces dernières se multiplient fortement, depuis quelques années. Auparavant, c’était les guerres, les violences, maintenant, ce sont aussi les aléas climatiques qui poussent les êtres humains à quitter la terre qui les a vus grandir et qui leur a permis de construire leurs identifications fondamentales.

Nous savons que, d’une manière générale, toute migration, à laquelle s’ajoute celle due à l’environnement, provoque des perturbations socioculturelles énormes, autant pour ceux qui la subissent que pour ceux qui l’accueillent. Elle engendre des souffrances humaines indicibles qui questionnent et violentent notre humanité.

Lequel d’entre nous n’a pas encore, en mémoire, ces images insoutenables des migrants noyés gisants sur les plages, en particulier sur les deux rives de la Méditerranée ?

Parmi ces migrants, combien sont des réfugiés climatiques ? Nous n’avons pas encore assez d’études qui nous renseignent avec précision sur cette question, mais il est avéré qu’ils sont de plus en plus nombreux.

Pourtant, force est de constater que le sujet des réfugiés climatiques est le parent pauvre de la politique actuelle, le lien entre migration et réchauffement climatique faisant l’objet d’un silence assourdissant de la part de nos politiques. Pour autant, en 2013, un rapport du Conseil norvégien pour les réfugiés (NRC) fait état de 22 millions de personnes ayant été déplacées en raison de catastrophes naturelles, ce qui est trois fois plus élevé que le nombre des personnes fuyant un conflit.

Mais qui sont ces migrants, ces réfugiés de l’environnement ? Ce sont des personnes « qui sont forcées de quitter leur lieu de vie temporairement ou de façon permanente à cause d’une rupture environnementale (d’origine naturelle ou humaine) qui a mis en péril leur existence ou sérieusement affecté leurs conditions de vie »[5].

Alors comment sont catégorisés ces « réfugiés climatiques », appelés aussi « déplacés » ou « éco-migrants » ? Ils sont, d’emblée, intégrés aux seules catégories existantes: celles des « réfugiés économiques » ou des « réfugiés de la misère ». En effet, ils n’ont pas de statut juridique, car ils ne remplissent pas les critères de la Convention de Genève signée en 1951. 

Cette dernière n’accorde l’assurance d’une protection aux réfugiés que dans certains cas, à savoir, « des situations de persécutions liées à la race, à la religion, à la nationalité, aux opinions politiques, ou à l’appartenance à  certains groupes sociaux » (UNHCR).

De ce fait, les pays d’accueil, connus pour leur qualité de vie et leur sécurité, et vers lesquels se dirigent naturellement ces éco-migrants, ne disposent d’aucun budget pour recevoir ces derniers.

Selon le Rapport mondial sur le déplacement interne (2020) de l’ONG Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), chaque année, plus de 20 millions de personnes qui sont déplacées, le sont pour cause de catastrophes naturelles, dont 86% de nature hydrométéorologique.

Alors, quels sont les changements environnementaux qui provoquent de tels flux migratoires ?

L’Ined (Institut national d’études démographiques) fait état de 3 phénomènes[6] principaux :

1) L’intensité accrue des catastrophes naturelles.

En effet, entre 1995 et 2015, plus de 600.000 personnes sont décédées du fait de ces catastrophes météorologiques. Plus de 4 milliards de personnes ont en été blessées, ou sont tombées dans une forte précarité à la suite de ces catastrophes. (Source : rapport du Bureau des Nations unies pour la réduction des risques de catastrophes)

2) La hausse du niveau des mers.

Elle risque de rendre inhabitables certaines zones basses à forte densité de population.

C’est le cas de nombreuses régions du Bangladesh[7], par exemple. Ce pays, tout comme l’Inde, a vu s’accroître ses problèmes socio-économiques et politiques en raison notamment du déplacement des Rohingyas, forcés de fuir le Myanmar.

3) La raréfaction des ressources hydriques, aussi appelée stress hydrique.

Elle engendre sécheresse et désertification. C’est notamment le cas des États du Sahel, où les modèles climatiques prédisent une aggravation de la sécheresse dans les années à venir. Cette situation a déjà été à l’origine de déplacements majeurs de populations et d’une perte importante du bétail dans cette région d’Afrique. Le bétail, rappelons-le, constitue la principale source de production agricole[8].

Par ailleurs, et depuis quelques années, on assiste à une augmentation des inondations meurtrières notamment en Afrique de l’Ouest. Ces évènements sont dus à différents phénomènes tels que le changement de l’usage des terres, la réduction des jachères, ou encore la déforestation et l’urbanisation. Tout ceci rend les sols incapables d’absorber les eaux diluviennes notamment dans la zone du Sahel[9].

Ainsi, en 2018, ce sont 250.000 Afghans qui ont dû fuir leurs villages en raison des fortes chaleurs, induisant une vulnérabilité extrême de cette population, déjà exposée aux conflits armés.

Selon un rapport du Conseil norvégien pour les réfugiés, « en 2013, les catastrophes naturelles ont fait presque trois fois plus de déplacés que les guerres » (INED) et 85% d’entre eux sontdes pays en développement.

Pour une grande partie de ces populations, c’est l’exode vers l’Occident, et particulièrement l’Europe,  qui est le plus tentant et le plus tenté, dans l’espoir de vivre dignement, ou tout au moins de survivre …

Comment dès lors permettre à ces populations de vivre dans leurs territoires, d’y travailler et d’en utiliser les ressources ?

Certaines bonnes pratiques locales, simples d’accès, notamment pour les populations autochtones pourraient aider à lutter contre ces problématiques environnementales. Quelques-unes commencent d’ores et déjà à émerger et devraient faire, nous l’espérons, effet « boule de neige ».

À titre d’exemple, citons le mouvement de la ceinture verte au Kenya (Green Belt Movement) qui a été lancé par la biologiste Wangari Maathai et qui encourage les femmes à planter des arbres, ce qui leur permet, à terme, d’améliorer leur niveau de vie.

En Mongolie, toute une muraille verte a également vu le jour, pour résister à l’avancée du désert de Gobi.

Au Burkina Faso, des paysans construisent des cuvettes en demi-lunes qui permettent de concentrer les précipitations et réduire le ruissellement[10].

Au Rajasthan, pour récupérer l’eau des moussons, recharger les nappes phréatiques et réalimenter les rivières, les paysans ont remis au goût du jour le « johad », une technique agricole ancestrale, qui consiste à collecter les eaux de pluie pendant la saison des moussons et les utiliser en les faisant filtrer dans le sous sol pendant la saison sèche[11].

Wangari Maathai

On peut aussi évoquer la transformation de la villa « ASSIE GAYE » au Sénégal en 2009-2010, qui s’est faite grâce à l’utilisation de matériaux locaux, comme la terre crue argileuse. Elle est alimentée en énergies renouvelables, grâce à un générateur éolien, un générateur photovoltaïque et un collecteur thermique. Ce qui en fait une maison durable, à la fois sur le plan écologique et économique[12].

Enfin, nous devons rappeler qu’il est indispensable pour l’humanité de relever le défi majeur de ces problématiques environnementales et humaines qui s’offrent à elle. Il nous faut intégrer tous les possibles en matière de changement climatique annoncés par les rapports du Groupe GIEC, dans le but d’y répondre.

Il serait ainsi plus urgent d’attribuer certains budgets étatiques à la prise en charge des réfugiés climatiques, plutôt que d’augmenter, par exemple, ceux inhérents à la défense et à l’armement.

Par ailleurs, la lutte contre le fléau de l’évasion fiscale pourrait, éventuellement, profiter à ces mêmes réfugiés et ainsi limiter la pression sur les pays d’origine ou encore sur les pays accueillant ces migrants.

Pour clôturer mon propos, j’emprunte un peu de sa sagesse à Wangari Maathai qui précise  qu’« Aujourd’hui, nous affrontons un défi qui exige un renouvellement de notre mode de pensée, pour que l’humanité cesse de menacer le système qui assure sa propre survie. Nous sommes appelés à aider la terre à guérir ses blessures et, à guérir les nôtres – en fait, à embrasser la totalité de la création dans toute sa diversité, sa beauté et ses merveilles. »[13]

Nadia Belaala est architecte et ingénieure sociale, anciennement Officier du Développement durable de l’Association of World Citizens.


[1] Meyerfeld, B. (2016). Alerte érosion : l’Afrique s’effrite et ses terres s’appauvrissent dangereusement. Le Monde Afrique, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/11/16/alerte-erosion-l-afrique-s-effrite-et-ses-terres-s-appauvrissent-dangereusement_5032087_3212.html

[2] Valo, M. (2013). Comment la pêche chinoise pille les océans de la planète. Le Monde, https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2013/04/04/comment-la-peche-chinoise-pille-les-oceans-de-la-planete_3154101_3244.html

[3] Boughriet, R. (2016). De nouvelles normes mondiales pour un développement urbain durable, Actu-environnement.com, https://www.actu-environnement.com/ae/news/nouvelles-normes-mondiales-developpement-urbain-durable-habitat3-27750.php4

[4] Desforges, D. (2009). Les villes face au changement climatique. Regards croisés sur l’économie, 2(2), 84-86. https://doi.org/10.3917/rce.006.0084

[5] Cournil, C. (2010). Les “réfugiés environnementaux” : enjeux et questionnements autour d’une catégorie émergente. Migrations Société, 2(2), 67-79. https://doi.org/10.3917/migra.128.0067

[6] VERON, J. (2014), Quels liens entre migrations et environnement ? Institut national d’études démographiques, https://www.ined.fr/fr/tout-savoir-population/memos-demo/focus/quels-liens-entre-migrations-et-environnement/

[7] Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Q. (2006). Changement climatique, inondations et gestion des crues : le cas du Bangladesh. Hérodote, 2(2), 73-94. https://doi.org/10.3917/her.121.0073

[8] LEBEL, T. (2018), Au Sahel, le climat durablement perturbé depuis la « grande sécheresse. Le Monde Afrique, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/11/12/au-sahel-le-climat-durablement-perturbe-depuis-la-grande-secheresse_5382513_3212.html

[9]ibid

[10] https://www.coalition-eau.org/wp-content/uploads/Eau-et-climat-web.pdf (p.22)

[11] https://uneseuleplanete.org/Grace-a-la-johad-l-039-eau-revient-a-sa-source-439

[12] http://www.habiter-autrement.org/37-ecovillage-afrique/contributions-37/30-Senegal-villa-ecologique-Assie-Gaye.pdf

[13] European think & do tank. (2016). Réchauffement climatique et migration, zoom sur un phénomène méconnu, p.3, https://www.pourlasolidarite.eu/sites/default/files/publications/files/na-2016-refugies_climatiques.pdf

Frantz Fanon: The New Humanism

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace on July 20, 2022 at 9:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) whose birth anniversary we mark on July 20, was a French psychologist, writer, and participant in the Algerian struggle for independence (1954-1962). He was born in Martinique, then a French colony which now has the status of a Department of France. The bulk of the population are of African descent, having been brought to the West Indies as slaves. Although the basic culture is French, some in Martinique are interested in African culture, and as in Haiti, there are survivals of African religions, often incorporated into Roman Catholic rites.

In 1940, as France was being occupied by the German forces and a right-wing nationalist government was being created in the resort city of Vichy, sailors favorable to the Vichy government took over the island and created a narrow-nationalist, racist rule. Fanon, then 17, escaped to the nearby British colony of Dominica, and from there joined the Free French Forces led by General De Gaulle. Fanon fought in North Africa and then in the liberation of France.

Once the war over, he received a scholarship to undertake medical and then psychiatry training in Lyon. His doctoral thesis on racism as he had experienced it in the military and then during his medical studies was published in French in 1952 and is translated into English as Black Skin, White Masks.

In 1953, he was named to lead the Psychiatry Department of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria shortly before the November 1954 start of the war for independence in Algeria. He treated both Algerian victims of torture as well as French soldiers traumatized by having to carry out torture. He considered the struggle for independence as a just cause, and so in 1956 he resigned his position and left for Tunisia where the leadership of the independence movement was located. As a good writer, having already published his thesis followed by a good number of articles in intellectual journals, he was made the editor of the Algerian independence newspaper. There were a number of efforts by the French security services to kill him or to blow up the car in which he was riding. Although wounded a number of times, he survived.

In 1959, the British colony of the Gold Coast was granted independence and took the name of Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a pan-African, having participated in a number of pan-African congresses starting in the 1930s. He viewed the independence of the Gold Coast as the first step toward the liberation of all colonies in Africa, to be followed by the creation of African unity in some sort of federation. Ghana attracted a good number of activists of anti-colonial movements. Fanon was sent to Ghana to be the Algerian Independence Movement (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) ambassador to Ghana and as the contact person toward other independence movements.

From his anti-colonial activity, he wrote his best-known study of colonialism, the mental health problems it caused, and the need for catharsis Les damnés de la terre, translated into English as The Wretched of the Earth. The title comes from the first line of the widely sung revolutionary song L’Internationale. For French readers, there was no need to write the first word of the song which is “Arise” as in “Arise, you Wretched of the Earth” (“Debout, les damnés de la terre”). The meaning of the book in English would have been clearer had it been called Arise, Wretched of the Earth.

Fanon was very ill with leukemia, and Les damnés de la terre was written by dictation to his French-born wife that he had married during his medical studies. He received in the hospital the first copies of his book three days before his death. He had been taken for treatment to a leading hospital just outside Washington, DC by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The role of the CIA in support of, or just infiltrating for information, the Algerian independence movement is still not fully clear. Frantz Fanon was buried in a town in Algeria then held by the independence forces. The 1962 peace agreement with France granting independence followed shortly after his death. Fanon is recalled warmly in Algeria for his part in the independence struggle.

The final four pages of Les damnés de la terre are a vital appeal for a new humanism and for a cosmopolitan world society based on the dignity of each person. For Fanon, there is a need to overcome both resignation and oppression and to begin a new history of humanity.

Note

Two useful biographies of Fanon in English are David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York: Viking Press, 1970), and Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon. A Critical Study (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973)

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

New Efforts for Land Renewal

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 6, 2022 at 3:11 PM

By René Wadlow

The States Parties to the United Nations-sponsored Treaty on Desertification met in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on May 9-20, 2022. The 197 member states agreed to an appeal to work more actively to prevent continuing desertification and to win back lands currently under great pressure. Because the conference was being held in Africa, much attention was given to the advances of the desert in the Sahel states and the possibility of building a “Green Wall” of trees to stop the advance.

The Green Wall of Sahel (C) Sevgart

The Treaty was designed to be the centerpiece of a massive worldwide effort to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in its destructive path.

The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature but from the actions of humans. Desertification is a social phenomenon. Humans are both the despoiler and the victims of the process.

Increasingly, populations are eking out a livelihood on dwindling land resources. Thus, there must be renewed and strong efforts for land regeneration. Desertification needs to be seen in a holistic way. If we see desertification only as aridity, we may miss areas of impact such as humid tropics. We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity or alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base, it promotes insecurity. Insecurity leads to strife. If allowed to degenerate, strife results in inter-clan feuding between cultivators and pastoralists, cross-border raiding, and military confrontation.

Earth is our common home, and therefore in the spirit of world citizenship, we must organize to protect it. It is up to all of us concerned with ecologically-sound development to draw awareness to the dangers of desertification and the promises of land renewal.

It is important to understand the way of life of those who live on the edge of deserts. Hsuan Tsang (623-664) is a symbol of such an effort at understanding. Hsuan Tsang crossed the harshest deserts, in particular the Takla Mahan, and the tallest mountains on his quest for the innermost heart of Reality. He travelled from China to India to spend two years at the Nalanda Monastery in what is now Bihar State in northern India to study and translate into Chinese certain important Buddhist sutras. He also studied the lives of the people he met, showing an openness to the cultures of others, especially those living on the edge of the desert regions he crossed.

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

Stringfellow Barr: Joining the Human Race

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 16, 2021 at 3:13 PM

By René Wadlow

Stringfellow Barr: January 15, 1897 – February 3, 1982

Stringfellow Barr, whose birth anniversary we mark on January 15, was a historian, largely of the classic Greek and Roman Empire period and an active world citizen. He served as president of the Foundation for World Government from its start in 1948 to its closing in 1958. He was president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, also home of the United States (U. S.) naval academy which turns out sailors. The aim of St. John’s under Stringfellow Barr was to turn out well-read liberals who would have studied a common set of “Great Book” starting with the Greeks such as Plato. The Great Books approach to learning developed community reading circles across the USA, very popular in the 1950s.

Stringfellow Barr had the good luck or a sense of the right timing to publish a short 36-page booklet Let’s Join the Human Race in 1950. (1) In his January 30, 1949 Inaugural Address on becoming President of the USA, Harry Truman set out four policy ideas which he numbered as Point One to Point Four. Point Four was really an afterthought as some mention of foreign policy was needed for balance. Point Four was “a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.”

Harry Truman

While the first three points dealing with domestic policy were quickly forgotten, Point Four caught the interest of many Americans as had the earlier Marshall Plan for Europe. For some Americans Point Four as the idea was called had an anti-Russian coloring. U. S. technology to raise the standard of living of poor countries would prevent them “from going communist”. For others, such as Stringfellow Barr, the effort of raising the standard of living of the poor was a good thing in itself, and it should not be the task of the USA alone.

Barr wrote “The people of the world are alone able to take on what is the main economic problem of every single national group – the problem of rebuilding their common world economy. They can hope to do it only by the massive use of public funds. America cannot do it for them … The nearest thing to a suitable agency that already exists is the United Nations. And the United Nations is the nearest thing that exists only because the people of the world lack a common government.”

Barr called for the United Nations (UN) to create a World Development Authority “calling in all neighbors from the Mighty Neighborhood.” He developed the idea in a full-length book in 1952 Citizens of the World (2). He places the emphasis on hunger which at the time was the public face of underdevelopment. Robert Brittain’s Let There Be Bread and Josué de Castro’s The Geography of Hunger were among the most widely read books by people interested in development at the time.

Today we have a broader view of what development requires, however food and rural development remain critical issues. The efforts of the UN system for development are not integrated into a World Development Authority. There are repeated calls for greater coordination and planning within the UN system. The 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals are an effort to provide an over-all vision, but common action remains difficult.

As Barr pointed out at the time, most of the proposals to improve the UN have focused their attention on the elimination of war, obviously important in the 1950s when war between the USSR and the USA was a real possibility, highlighted by the 1950-1953 Korean War. However, world citizens have tried to look at the total picture of the social, political, and economic life of all the people of the world. Today the focus of citizens of the world is more on the need for world-focused attitudes and policies rather than on new political structures. Yet the vision of Stringfellow Barr remains important as we highlight his birth anniversary.

Notes

1) Stringfellow Barr, Let’s Join the Human Race (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950, 36 pp.)

2) Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952, 285 pp.)

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

U. N. Day: Strengthening and Reforming

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 25, 2020 at 4:11 PM

By René Wadlow

October 24 is United Nations (U. N.) Day, marking the day when there were enough ratifications including those of the five permanent members of the proposed Security Council for the U. N. Charter to come into force. It is a day not only of celebration, but also a day for looking at how the U. N. system can be strengthened, and when necessary, reformed.

There have been a number of periods when proposals for new or different U. N. structures were proposed and discussed. The first was in the 1944-1945 period when the Charter was being drafted. Some who had lived through the decline and then death of the League of Nations wanted a stronger world institution, able to move more quickly and effectively in times of crisis or at the start of armed conflict.

The official emblem of the League of Nations.

In practice, the League of Nations was reincarnated in 1945 in the U. N. Charter but the names of some of the bodies were changed and new Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO were added. There was some dissatisfaction during the San Francisco negotiations, and an article was added indicating that 10 years after the coming into force of the Charter a proposal to hold a U. N. Charter Review Conference would be placed on the Agenda – thus for 1955.

The possibility of a U. N. Charter Review Conference led in the 1953-1954 period to a host of proposals for changes in the U. N. structures, for a greater role for international law, for a standing U. N. “peace force”. Nearly all these proposals would require modifications in the U. N. Charter.

When 1955 arrived, the United States and the Soviet Union, who did not want a Charter Review Conference which might have questioned their policies, were able to sweep the Charter Review agenda item under the rug from where it has never emerged. In place of a Charter Review Conference, a U. N. Committee on “Strengthening the U. N. Charter” was set up which made a number of useful suggestions, none of which were put into practice as such. The Committee on Strengthening the Charter was the first of a series of expert committees, “High-Level Panels” set up within the U. N. to review its functioning and its ability to respond to new challenges. There have also been several committees set up outside of the U. N. to look at world challenges and U. N. responses, such as the Commission on Global Governance.

While in practice there have been modifications in the ways the U. N. works, few of these changes have recognized an expert group’s recommendations as the source of the changes. Some of the proposals made would have strengthened some factions of the U. N. system over the then current status quo – most usually to strength the role of developing countries (the South) over the industrialized States (the North). While the vocabulary of “win-win” modifications is often used, in practice few States want to take a chance, and the status quo continues.

Now, the Secretary General knows well how the U. N. works from his decade as High Commissioner for Refugees, U. N. reform is again “in the air”. There are an increasing number of proposals presented by governments and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the U. N. The emphasis today is on what can be done without a revision of the Charter. Most of the proposals turn on what the Secretary General can do on his own authority. The Secretary General cannot go against the will of States – especially the most powerful States – but he does have a certain power of initiative.

There are two aspects of the current U. N. system that were not foreseen in 1945 and which are important today. One is the extensive role of U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets. The other is the growing impact of NGOs. There is growing interest in the role of NGOs within the U. N. system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. NGOs are more involved than ever before in global policy making and project implementation in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection. (1)

NGOs at the U. N. have a variety of roles – they bring citizens’ concerns to governments, advocate particular policies, present alternative avenues for political participation, provide analysis, serve as an early warning mechanism of potential violence and help implement peace agreements.

The role of consultative-status NGOs was written into the U. N. Charter at its founding in San Francisco in June 1945. As one of the failings of the League of Nations had been the lack of public support and understanding of the functioning of the League, some of the U. N. Charter drafters felt that a role should be given to NGOs. At the start, both governments and U. N. Secretariat saw NGOs as an information avenue — telling NGO members what the governments and the U. N. was doing and building support for their actions. However, once NGOs had a foot in the door, the NGOs worked to have a two-way avenue — also telling governments and the Secretariat what NGO members thought and what policies should be carried out at the U. N. Governments were none too happy with this two-way avenue idea and tried to limit the U. N. bodies with which NGOs could ‘consult’. There was no direct relationship with the General Assembly or the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Article 71 of the Charter was the body to which “consultative-status NGOs” were related.

A wide view of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. (C) Jean-Marc Ferré / UN Geneva

What in practice gives NGOs their influence is not what an individual NGO can do alone but what they can do collectively. ‘Networking’ and especially trans-national networking is the key method of progress. NGOs make networks which facilitate the trans-national movement of norms, resources, political responsibility, and information. NGO networks tend to be informal, non-binding, temporary, and highly personalized. NGOs are diverse, heterogeneous, and independent. They are diverse in mission, level of resources, methods of operating and effectiveness. However, at the U. N., they are bound together in a common desire to protect the planet and advance the welfare of humanity.

The role of NGO representatives is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the U. N. from lobbying at the national level is that the representative may appeal to and discuss with the diplomats of many different governments. While some diplomats may be unwilling to consider ideas from anyone other than the mandate they receive from their Foreign Ministry, others are more open to ideas coming from NGO representatives. Out of the 193 Member States, the NGO representative will always find some diplomats who are ‘on the same wave length’ or who are looking for additional information on which to take a decision, especially on issues on which a government position is not yet set.

Legal Officer Noura Addad representing the AWC during a meeting at UNESCO in November 2018 (C) AWC External Relations Desk

Therefore, an NGO representative must be trusted by government diplomats and the U. N. Secretariat. As with all diplomacy in multilateral forums such as the U. N., much depends upon the skill and knowledge of the NGO representative and on the close working relations which they are able to develop with some government representatives and some members of the U. N. Secretariat. Many Secretariat members share the values of the NGO representatives but cannot try to influence government delegates directly. The Secretariat members can, however, give to the NGO representatives some information, indicate countries that may be open to acting on an issue and help with the style of presentation of a document.

It is probably in the environmental field — sustainable development — that there has been the most impact. Each environmental convention or treaty such as those on biological diversity or drought was negotiated separately, but with many of the same NGO representatives present. It is more difficult to measure the NGO role in disarmament and security questions. It is certain that NGO mobilization for an end to nuclear testing and for a ban on land mines and cluster weapons played a role in the conventions which were steps forward for humanity. However, on other arms issues, NGO input is more difficult to analyze.

‘Trans-national advocacy networks’ which work across frontiers are of increasing importance as seen in the efforts against land mines, for the International Criminal Court and for increased protection from violence toward women and children. The groups working on these issues are found in many different countries but have learned to work trans-nationally both through face-to-face meetings and through the internet web. The groups in any particular campaign share certain values and ideas in common but may differ on other issues. Thus, they come together on an ad hoc basis around a project or a small number of related issues. Yet their effectiveness is based on their being able to function over a relatively long period of time in rather complex networks even when direct success is limited.

These campaigns are based on networks which combine different actors at various levels of government: local, regional, national, and U. N. (or European Parliament, OSCE etc.). The campaigns are waged by alliances among different types of organizations — membership groups, academic institutions, religious bodies, and ad hoc local groupings. Some groups may be well known, though most are not.

There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the U. N. levels at the same time. Advocacy movements need to be able to contact key decision-makers in national parliaments, government administrations and intergovernmental secretariats. Such mobilization is difficult, and for each ‘success story’ there are many failed efforts. The rise of U. N. consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. NGOs and government diplomats at the U. N. are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.

Note
(1) This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets (Ed.), The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the U. N. System (London: Hurst, 1996), T. Princen and M. Finger (Eds), Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Global and the Local (London: Routledge, 1994), M. Rech and K. Sikkink, Activists Without Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998); Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Rob Reinalda (Eds), Non-State Actors in International Relations (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001); and William De Mars, NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).

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

Education for Global Citizenship

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2020 at 7:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has taken a lead in Education for Global Citizenship, starting in 2013 with the UNESCO Forum of Global Citizenship Education. Global Citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to the broader community of humanity. Global Citizenship emphasizes political, economic, social, and cultural interconnectedness between the local, the national, and the global. Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop an education based on creative and critical thinking that enables all people to contribute actively to political and development processes in a complex global society.

While it is important that Global Citizenship Education be implemented in the school system at all levels, Global Citizenship must also be carried out by those who are not directly part of the school programs such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Thus, the United Nations Department of Public Information’s yearly conference for NGOs in 2016 was devoted to Education for Global Citizenship. The conference was held in the city of Gyeongju which had been the first capital in 900 AD of a unified Korea. The conference was able to draw on a larger-than-usual Asian NGOs.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) which supports fully the Global Citizenship Education process was able to play an active role and continues its efforts.

93869502_2584407668464869_3191430403399352320_n.jpg

Prof. René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, addressing the UN DPI/NGO conference in Gyeongju.

Education for Global Citizenship is an essential strategy to address global challenges as well as to promote gender equality, facilitate the eradication of poverty and hunger, build skills, eliminate corruption, and prevent violence. Education for Global Citizenship promotes truly sustainable production and consumption, mitigating climate change and its effects, protecting our waters and biodiversity.

The AWC stresses that Education for Global Citizenship needs to highlight the importance of the human spirit in educational philosophy and practice. World Citizens hold that there are inter-acting dimensions of existence from the physical to the mental and to the dimension of the spirit. Education should consider all these dimensions and not just the physical and mental which is today the focus of most education systems.

We are still at an early stage in the creation of an Education for Global Citizenship. (1)  Education for Global Citizenship is part of a long-term process to build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men. The Constitution of UNESCO states “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Education for Global Citizenship often means changing deep-set attitudes and behavior. Yet there is much on which we can build. There is a rich body of knowledge and experience which helps students gain in self-confidence and harmony within themselves, harmony with Nature and harmony with their fellow humans.

Education for Global Citizenship requires a comprehensive system of education and training for all groups of people at all age levels, both formal and non-formal education. This is a process of awakening a sense of responsibility for the destiny of humanity as a whole.

The AWC stresses that our oneness with humanity and our acceptance of the whole planet as our home involves a process of change both in the attitudes of individuals and in the politics of States. Humanity is clearly moving towards participation in the emerging World Society. An awareness of the emerging World Society and preparation for full and active participation in this World Society is a necessary element of Education for Global Citizenship at all levels from primary schools though university and adult education.

The AWC highlights that a World Citizen is one:

– Aware of the wider world and has a sense of his role as a world citizen;

– Respects and values diversity;

– Has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, and culturally, and is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place;

– Participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from the local to the global.

Note

(1) See Luis Cabrera. The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

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

A Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

In Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2020 at 7:45 PM

By René Wadlow

 

International Mother Earth Day on April 22 each year was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2009. Its aim is to promote living in harmony with Nature and to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations. The concept of living in harmony with Nature was seen by the UN delegates as a way “to improve the ethical basis of the relationship between humankind and our planet.”

The term “Mother Earth” is an expression used in different cultures to symbolize the inseparable bonds between humans and Nature. Pachamama is the term used in the Andean cultures of South America. The Earth and the ecosystem are our home. We need to care for them as a mother is supposed to care for her children and the children to show love and gratitude in return. However, we know from all the folk tales of the evil stepmother as well as the records of psychoanalytic sessions that mother-children relations are not always relations of love, care, and gratitude. Thus, to really live in harmony with Nature requires deep shifts in values and attitudes, not just “sustainable development” projects.

MotherEarth.png

The UN began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm and has continued with the 1992 Rio Declaration followed by the Rio plus 20 conference 20 years later. However, the concept of living in harmony with Nature is relatively new as a UN political concept. Yet it is likely to be increasingly a theme for both governmental policy making and individual action.

Rodney Collin wrote in a letter “It is extraordinary how the key-word of harmony occurs everywhere now, comes intuitively to everyone’s lips when they wish to express what they hope for. But I feel that we have hardly yet begun to study its real meaning. Harmony is not an emotion, an effect. It is a whole elaborate science, which for some reason has only been fully developed in the realm of sound. Science, psychology and even religion are barely touching it as yet.” (1)

Resolutions in the UN General Assembly can give a sense of direction. They indicate that certain ideas and concepts are ready to be discussed at the level of governments. However, a resolution is not yet a program of action or even a detailed framework for discussion. “Living in harmony with Nature” is at that stage on the world agenda. Since the start of the yearly observation of Mother Earth Day in 2010, there have been useful projects proposed around a yearly theme. The 2018 theme is to reduce pollution from plastics. The exponential growth of plastics is now a real threat by injuring marine life, littering beaches and landfills and clogging waste systems. There is a need to reduce the single use of plastic objects by reusing and recycling plastic objects.

However, reducing pollution from plastic objects, while useful, is not yet living in harmony with Nature. There are still efforts to be made to spell out the ethical base and the necessary shifts in attitudes and actions.

8572612414_2f1c322d58_c.jpg

Notes

(1) His letters have been assembled after his death by his wife into a book:

Rodney Collin, The Theory of Conscious Harmony (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1958)

 

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

Conscience: The Inner Voice of the Higher Self

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on April 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

 

The United Nations (UN) has designated April 5 as the International Day of Conscience. The first celebration is this year 2020. An awakened conscience is essential to meeting the challenges which face humanity today as we move into the World Society. The great challenge which humanity faces today is to leave behind the culture of violence in which we find ourselves and move rapidly to a culture of peace and solidarity. We can achieve this historic task by casting aside our ancient national, ethnic, and social prejudices and begin to think and act as responsible Citizens of the World.

The useful press kit prepared by the UN Information section for the April 5 International Day of Conscience highlights earlier UNESCO and then UN General Assembly efforts for the Decade of the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. A culture of peace gives the broad social framework in which the conscience of each individual can be a guide.

images.jpg

An awakened conscience makes us sensitive to hearing the inner voice that warns and encourages. We have a conscience so that we may not let ourselves be lulled to sleep by the social environment in which we find ourselves but will remain alert to truth, justice, and reason. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 1, “All human beings are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

There is a need to build networks and bridges among Companions of Conscience. As the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “I believe that there are groups of people and individuals the world over who are kin, regardless of race. They are in the sme realm of awareness. This is kinship, only this.”

Companions of Conscience create a ground for common discourse and thus a ground for common, life-affirming action. The circle of Companions of Conscience is growing worldwide, and Conscience-based actions are increasingly felt.

Portrait_of_Kahlil_Gibran

Khalil Gibran

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

International Humanitarian Law, Constant Challenges, NGO Responses

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on August 12, 2019 at 8:38 AM

By René Wadlow

August 12 is the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional are central instruments of International Humanitarian Law. The Geneva Conventions, are also often called the Red Cross Conventions as the International Committee of the Red Cross is the institution which is to promote and protect the articles of the Conventions, although the Convention opens the door to other organizations “which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy.”

The 1949 Geneva Conventions were drawn up in light of the violations of earlier international humanitarian law during the Second World War. The first Geneva Convention was drawn up in 1864, the time of the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aims of the ICRC were set out at the time: the development and universalization of humanitarian law and as a neutral go-between in armed conflicts, enabling contact to be maintained between combatants. There could also be a role to serve as an intermediary between victims and States, reminding States of their obligations towards those victims.

The Geneva Conventions have evolved as the nature of armed conflicts has evolved. The 1977 Protocols Additional were drawn up by a diplomatic conference held in Geneva in light of the experiences of the war in Vietnam, the greater number of conflicts that could be called “civil wars” and the greater use of armed militias which were not regular military forces. In the 1977 discussions, there was greater awareness of the conditions of refugees, already protected by the international refugee agreements but also a growing awareness of persons displaced within the country, a pattern which has grown.

Closely related to the Geneva Conventions is a second tradition of international humanitarian law, what may be called “the Hague Tradition” growing out of the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. This tradition places its emphasis on banning the use of certain types of weapons. The 1925 Geneva Convention prohibiting the use of poison gas was a direct result of poison gas use in World War I. Since then, there has been a treaty banning the use of land mines, of cluster munitions, and a wider ban on chemical weapons.

There are two other sources or traditions in the development of international humanitarian law. One is respect for human rights provisions as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions which followed focused on different aspects of the Universal Declaration. While the provisions of the Universal Declaration are to be upheld at all times, there are highly visible and wide-spread violations during armed conflicts. Thus the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights (become the Human Rights Council) became concerned with situations of armed conflicts.

Palmyra, the ancient city in Syria, much of which has been destroyed by both the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) and the Syrian Arab Army of the Assad regime.

The fourth tradition is the development of the 1936 Roerich Peace Pact to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The 1936 Pact, signed at the White House in Washington, D.C. was a Pan-American Union Treaty. Its provisions served as the basis of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Goods with UNESCO as the official body for its safeguard. The 1954 Treaty has been progressively enriched by the development of UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage sites. The International Criminal Court has recently condemned a person for his role in the destruction of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites in northern Mali, West Africa.

These traditions of international humanitarian law have been highlighted in a number of United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions such as that on Basic Principles of Protection for Civilian Populations in Time of Armed Conflict, Resolution 2625 (1971).

Thus, the provisions of international humanitarian law are well developed and cover many issues that are likely to arise in armed conflicts. There are two major challenges for their respect. One is that the provisions of international humanitarian law are not well known, neither by the military nor by possible victims. Thus, education concerning international humanitarian law is necessary. During the 1969-1971 Nigeria-Biafra War, I had been a member of an ICRC working group as the Nigeria-Biafra war was the first war among Africans without a colonial power being involved. There were many violations during the war, including the use of starvation as a military policy. After the end of the war, the need for teaching international humanitarian law was obvious. I helped in the preparation of a textbook using African examples that the Red Cross used fairly widely in Africa. The teaching of international humanitarian law in the context of local cultures and values is still a vital challenge.

The second and more important challenge is that international humanitarian law is not respected even when its provisions are known. The current conscious violation of international humanitarian law including some of the oldest provisions – not attacking medical facilities or not shooting prisoners – has been widespread in armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. More than preparing handbooks for the military and the militias is needed.

The Association of World Citizens has been stressing the need for a UN-led world conference on the reaffirmation of international humanitarian law in which governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and armed factions could participate. The degree of respect for humanitarian standards is far from satisfactory, as has been repeatedly pointed out. However, for the moment, there has not been the needed momentum. Such a momentum is likely to arise only from NGOs. The August 12 anniversary is a reminder that we need to work creatively before major wars not afterwards.

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

AWC To OECD: Include Migrants, Refugees and Disabled in All Efforts Toward SDGs

In Human Development, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, World Law on March 11, 2019 at 12:19 AM

By the AWC External Relations Desk

On March 7, AWC Officers Bernard J. Henry (External Relations) and Noura Addad (Legal) participated in the First Roundtable on Cities and Regions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held at the headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

AWC Officers Bernard J. Henry and Noura Addad (C) AWC

During Session III, “Everyone’s business – beyond governments: how do private sector and civil society contribute to a territorial approach to the SDGs?”, Bernard J. Henry had a chance to make a statement on behalf of the AWC, stressing our concerns for migrants and refugees and for disabled people and urging for full inclusion of both categories of people in any effort undertaken in furtherance of the SDGs.

Here is the full text of his address.

I am Bernard J. Henry, I am the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.
We are a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations, thus a civil society organization.
We strive to promote the goals and principles of the United Nations, bring them to the citizen and create a sense of personal responsibility. That goes for everything, from the protection of universal human rights to the promotion of sustainable development for everyone.
While our principles of action are those of activists, our methods are those of consultants, or, in a way, explorers.
This is our first time at the OECD, and we thank you for inviting us.
We would like to follow up on a point that UNESCO and Ms. Thomas (Margo Thomas, Founder and CEO, Women’s Economic Imperative) raised, successively, for we would like to draw attention to the need to ensure that the SDGs in cities and regions mean inclusion for two categories of people in particular, two global categories, who often go neglected if not rejected as a whole:
First, migrants and refugees, second, disabled people.
Hatred of migrants and refugees, in other words racism and xenophobia, are always quick to show up. Hate speech, sometimes held by national government leaders themselves, hardly changes from one part of the world to another. My own grandparents were already hearing such words when they came to France, fleeing Italy, in the 1920s.
Conversely, not every country neglects or rejects disabled people – and I happen to be one of them – for the same reasons. Sometimes, it is just old-fashioned paternalism, and sometimes it comes down to plain hatred of anyone different.
Then, looking at it closer, you find one common root cause to both these types of rejection:
Migrants and refugees, disabled people, both categories are regarded as persons with problems, a burden to society. The solution is easy: Just start regarding them, regarding us all, as assets to society, as an energy that can be injected in every aspect of life, starting with sustainable development.
We will support all efforts undertaken by the OECD and our fellow stakeholders to ensure that the SDGs include, literally include, all categories of people and more specifically those to whom inclusion is the very first need in life.
Thank you.

(C) AWC

Greeted with applause, the External Relations Officer received many positive reactions from other participants after he finished speaking.

The OECD’s own response was equally enthusiastic. “We’re going to keep you involved”, assured Stefano Marta, Coordinator of the Territorial Approach to SDGs.

Since the early days of its existence, this association has taken an active part in the works of the United Nations (UN), not least at the Human Rights Commission, replaced in 2006 by the Human Rights Council.

The AWC now welcomes cooperation with the OECD too, looking forward to bringing an effective, steady contribution to designing, as the OECD motto goes, “Better policies for better lives”.

%d bloggers like this: