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The Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Greater Awareness Building Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 19, 2022 at 3:41 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has proclaimed June 19 of each year to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence and to honor the victims and the survivors of sexual violence around the world. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on June 19, 2008 of Security Council Resolution 1820 in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an impediment to peacebuilding.

For the UN, “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls, and boys, linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for purposes of sexual violence or exploitation.

Dr. Nkosazuna Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson, African Union Commission speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, June 12, 2014. (C) Foreign and Commonwealth Office

There has been a slow growth of awareness-building trying to push UN Agencies to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health services taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities. A big step forward was the creation of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The post is currently held since April 2017 by Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten. She recently said “We see it too often in all corners of the globe from Ukraine to Tigray in northern Ethiopia to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced and least-condemned crime.”

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) first raised the issue in the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001 citing the judgement of the International Court for Former Yugoslavia which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing the accused to trial. The tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

The AWC again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing the findings of Meredeth Turslen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1998), “There are numerous types of rape. Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The prohibition of sexual violence in times of conflict is now part of international humanitarian law. However, there are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is a role for greater promotional activities through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observance of internationally recognized norms. The second weakness is enforcement. We are still at the awareness-building stage. Strong awareness-building is needed.

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

Renewed Violence in Darfur: An Unstable Sudan

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on May 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

By René Wadlow

April 24, 2022 saw renewed violence in the Darfur Province of Sudan between Arab militias and the indigenous tribes of the area, the Masalit and the Fur. The violence began in 2003 and has caused some 300,000 deaths and some three million displaced. While most of the fighting was when General Omar al-Bashir was President, his overthrow by new military leadership has not fundamentally improved the situation.

Darfur is the western edge of Sudan. Its longest foreign frontier is with Chad, but communication with Libya is easy for camel herders and gunrunners. To the south lies the Central African Republic – a state with a very unstable government, which feels the fallout from the Darfur conflict. Darfur served as a buffer area between the French colony of Chad and the English-held Sudan until 1916 when French-English rivalry was overshadowed by the common enemy, Germany, in World War I. Darfur, which had been loosely part of the Ottoman Empire, was integrated into Sudan with no consultation either with the people of Darfur or with those in Sudan.

(C) Albert González Farran – UNAMID

Thus, Darfur was always the neglected child in Sudan – a child no one had asked to be there. Only after 1945 were some development projects undertaken, but basically Darfur remained an area of pastoralists – some tribes specializing in camels and others in cattle – and settled agriculturalists. Camel and cattle-raising tribes from Chad would move into Darfur and vice-versa. There were frontiers between tribes, but they did not correspond to state boundaries.

In May 2000, intellectuals and government civil servants from Darfur, calling themselves the Seekers of Truth and Justice, wrote The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan. The study ended with specific recommendations for governmental and social action. While the book was widely read, it produced no new initiatives in sharing power or wealth. Some leaders in Darfur had the impression that the government was withdrawing services, especially in health and education. Schools were closed, and the number of children in school decreased.

After the failure of the intellectual efforts of The Black Book, the conviction that only violence was taken seriously started to grow among Darfur leaders. They started thinking about a strategy of a sharp and swift show of violent strength that would force the government to negotiate with Darfur. The insurgency in Darfur began in the Spring of 2003. As Julie Flint and Alex de Waal point out in their useful history of the start of the Darfur war “Darfur’s rebels are an awkward coalition of Fur and Masalet villagers, Zaghawa Bedouins out of patience with Khartoum, a handful of professionals who dared to take on leadership. Few of Darfur’s guerrillas had military experience or discipline before they took up arms. The two main rebel groups are united by deep resentment at the marginalization of Darfur, but are not natural bedfellows and could easily be split apart… In the first months of 2003, these half-formed and inexperienced rebel fronts were catapulted out of obscurity to face challenges for which they were totally unprepared.” (1)

(C) Stuart Price/UN Photo

The government in Khartoum was also unprepared for the Darfur insurgency. The government’s attention, as well as the bulk of the army, was turned toward the civil war in the south of Sudan. The government turned the fight against the Darfur movements to its security agencies – a narrow group of men uninterested in internal politics or external relations. They decided to use the air force to bomb villages and to use foreign troops to do the fighting on the ground. The foreign troops came from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi had created in the early 1980s an “Islamic Legion” and recruited militiamen from Mauritania, Chad, Mali in his efforts to create a union of Libya and Chad – or to annex part of northern Chad. When Gaddafi’s Chadian interests faded at the end of the 1980s, the Islamic Legion soldiers were left to look after themselves and so were ready to work for new paymasters.

The Sudanese security people brought the Islamic Legion soldiers to Darfur, gave them weapons but no pay. They were to pay themselves by taking what they could from the villages they attacked. In addition, prisoners from Darfur’s jails were released on condition of joining the militias. Rape of women and young girls was widely practiced both as a means of terror and as a “reward” for the fighters since they were not paid. These militias became known as the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).

Although the Darfur conflict has largely faded from the media headlines, it continues producing many refugees, internally displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest. The conflicts in Darfur have destroyed many of the older patterns of dispute settlement among groups as well as much of the economic infrastructure. The social texture and trust among groups is likely to be more difficult to rebuild than homes, livestock, and water wells.

The joint African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force has not been able to produce peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep, and while there have been lulls in fighting, there has been no peace to keep. Banditry, criminal activities, and periodic military action continues. It is impossible to know if the current outbreak of armed violence has local causes or if it is a reflection of instability at the central government level. The situation in Darfur remains critical and needs to be watched closely.

Note:

1) Julie Flint and Alex de Wall, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London, Zed Books, 2005)

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

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 2, 2022 at 8:24 AM

By René Wadlow

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that “each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of nongovernmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

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

An Unused but not Forgotten Standard of World Law

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 10, 2021 at 10:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Genocide is the most extreme consequence of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of a 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). The policies and war crimes of the Nazi German government were foremost on the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention, but the policy was not limited to the Nazis (2).

The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the efforts to develop a system of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order for all members of the human family to live in dignity. Four articles are at the heart of this Convention and are here quoted in full to understand the process of implementation proposed by the Association of World Citizens (AWC), especially of the need for an improved early warning system.

Article I

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Unlike most humanitarian international law which sets out standards but does not establish punishment, Article III sets out that the following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Numerous reports have reached the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) of actual, or potential, situations of genocide: mass killings; cases of slavery and slavery-like practices, in many instances with a strong racial, ethnic, and religious connotation — with children as the main victims, in the sense of article II (b) and (c). Despite factual evidence of these genocides and mass killings as in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and in other places, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has called for any action under article VIII of the Convention.

As Mr. Nicodème Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection 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.”

Raphael Lemkin

Yet the need for speedy preventive measures has been repeatedly underlined by UN Officials. On December 8, 1998, in his address at UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “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.”

In her address Translating words into action to the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1998, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, declared “The international community’s record in responding to, let alone preventing, gross human rights abuses does not give grounds for encouragement. Genocide is the most flagrant abuse of human rights imaginable. Genocide was vivid in the minds of those who framed the Universal Declaration, working as they did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The slogan then was ‘never again’. Yet genocide and mass killing have happened again — and have happened before the eyes of us all — in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the globe.”

We need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially directed massacres of civilians of whatever numbers 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, or the population of a State in its entirety, just because they belong to certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. It is also evident that, at the present time, in a globalized world, even local conflicts have a direct impact on international peace and security in general. Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic, and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the Radio Mille Collines, perhaps that 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 nongovernmental organizations, the Secretary-General has named an individual advisor on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one advisor 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 Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (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 the CERD. Through its urgent procedure 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.


Notes
1) Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944).
2) For a good overview, see: Samantha Power. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
3) E/CN.4/Sub.2/1778/416, Para 614


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

Hugo Grotius: The Law of States

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 13, 2021 at 7:50 PM

By René Wadlow

Hugo Grotius (April 10, 1583 – August 28, 1645) whose birth anniversary we mark on April 10 played a crucial role in the development of the Law of States, in particular through two books written in Latin Mare Librium (Liberty of the Seas) 1609 and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (Law in War and Peace) 1625) Grotius is a key figure in the transition between the older feudal period and the important role of city-states and the development of a state system.

Grotius showed his intellectual talents early in life and was considered a youthful genius. At 17, in 1601, he published Adamus Exul (The Exile of Adam). In the drama, Satan is sharply critical of God’s grand design and is jealous of Adam being prepared to share in it having done nothing to bringing it about. Grotius’s Eve is a lovely, loving and enchanting partner, but is bored and ready for an apple. John Milton who met Grotius in Paris and read Adamus Exul there used many of the same themes in his Paradise Lost.

Hugo Grotius was Protestant and also wrote on religious subjects. However, he was caught up in intra-Protestant theological disputes in what is today Holland. Due to these theological tensions, he lived most of his life in Paris – 1621 to 1644 – where he served as the Ambassador of the Court of Sweden, a Protestant country. He was well thought of by the French King, Louis XIll, and Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind the King.

As the feudal period was ending, laws had to be formulated so that relations among states were not to be based only on material strength. Just as Hugo Grotius was writing at a time of a historic shift from the structures of the feudal period to the creation of states, so today there is a shift from international law in which the focus is on law concerning states to an emphasis on law with the focus on the individual citizen. Just as feudal structures and city-states did not disappear, so today, states are still present but there is a shift in focus. Today, we have an increase in multistate entities such as the European Union, the African Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the one hand and multinational corporations and individuals on the other.

The shift to the law of the person grew from the lawlessness of states during the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights created a new focus, and it was followed by the two International Covenants on Human Rights and then the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The system of monitoring, investigation and reporting set up by the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies are important avenues to focus upon individuals. As then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the center of everything we do.” The UN’s influence is derived not from power but from the values it represents, its role in helping to set and sustain global norms, its ability to stimulate global concern and action, and the trust inspired by its ability to improve the lives of people.

UN efforts to extend international law to the practice of transnational corporations have not acquired the momentum that the focus on the rights and obligations of individuals has done. However, there is a growing emphasis on what is increasingly called “civil society”. The civil society that has emerged and evolved around the UN spans a wide range of interests, expertise and competencies. While there are UN structures for dealing with non-governmental organizations which are granted consultative status, there is no equivalent structure for dealing with transnational corporations although some have real influence on the policies of governments and the lives of people.

Today, there is a need to increase the rule of law within the world society. We need individuals with the vision and dedication of Hugo Grotius.

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

Pourparlers de paix en Afghanistan : Les femmes qui devraient être reines

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 8, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

«Quand vous êtes blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, et que les femmes arrivent pour découper ce qu’il reste de vous, dépêchez-vous de rouler jusqu’à votre carabine, de vous faire sauter la cervelle et d’aller vers votre dieu comme un soldat», disait Rudyard Kipling, l’écrivain britannique dont le culte de la virilité, notamment militaire, transpire à travers son œuvre. En témoigne son poème «If», «Si …», traduit en français par André Maurois dans Les silences du colonel Bramble et parfois désigné par son vers final, «Tu seras un homme, mon fils».

Le même Kipling qui nous racontait, dans The Man Who Would Be King, en français L’homme qui voulut être roi, la fable de deux Anglais qui se jurent de découvrir le pays perdu du Kafiristan, niché quelque part entre Afghanistan et Pakistan, alors colonies britanniques. Ils y parviennent et, lors d’un affrontement avec des indigènes, un hasard fait que l’un des deux, Daniel Dravot, est subitement pris pour un dieu. Conduit à la capitale de ce pays rendu au culte d’Alexandre le Grand, il est proclamé fils du conquérant et couronné roi. Mais lorsqu’il épouse une jeune fille pour fonder sa dynastie, celle-ci le démasque. Dravot exécuté en public, son comparse supplicié puis libéré rentre en Inde en emportant sa tête encore ornée de la couronne.

L’histoire est fictive, mais le Kafiristan existe. Aujourd’hui le Nouristan, il est une province orientale de la République islamique d’Afghanistan, un pays où, loin des aventures viriles que rêvait Kipling, des femmes mènent une lutte quotidienne – une lutte pour la paix.

Vingt ans d’une paix introuvable

Depuis l’invasion soviétique de 1980, suivie de huit ans de combats entre régime communiste soutenu par Moscou et Mojahedin, combattants de la résistance – parmi lesquels se trouvait un groupe alors soutenu par les Etats-Unis, dénommé Al-Qaïda et commandé par un Saoudien du nom d’Osama bin Laden – le pays n’a jamais connu que la guerre, dont était sorti en 1996 l’ «Émirat islamique d’Afghanistan», créé par la milice islamiste des Talibans qui avait fait du même Osama bin Laden l’un de ses ministres, bien à l’abri pour lancer ses attaques terroristes contre son ancien allié américain le 11 septembre 2001. L’intervention militaire internationale qui avait ensuite mis fin à la folie meurtrière des Talibans n’a jamais engendré une paix durable.

Comme le chante Pierre Perret, “Quand la femme est grillagée, Toutes les femmes sont outragées.” (C) USAID

En presque vingt ans, plusieurs initiatives ont été lancées sous les présidences successives de Hamid Karzai et Ashraf Ghani, mais l’obstination des Talibans a mis à néant tous les efforts. Après un traité signé en 2016 avec un autre mouvement islamiste armé, le Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, des pourparlers de paix avec les Talibans se sont enfin ouverts en septembre dernier à Doha, la capitale du Qatar. Mais les discussions piétinent. Malgré des propos lénifiants, les Talibans démontrent encore et toujours la même haine d’une partie bien ciblée de la population, contre laquelle ils avaient déchaîné du temps de leur «émirat» toute leur répression – les femmes.

Les puissances étrangères engagées en Afghanistan n’ont pas oublié les cinq années de ce que les Talibans voulaient le régime islamique «le plus rigide au monde», ni les femmes cloîtrées chez elles, autorisées à sortir seulement sous la burqa et, lorsqu’accusées d’adultère, lapidées. Pas de paix au prix d’un retour à cette époque, insiste-t-on à Doha. Parfait. Mais s’il n’est pas question d’une paix aux dépens des droits des femmes, pourquoi alors maintenir les Afghanes en dehors des pourparlers ?

Les droits des femmes, nerf de la guerre

Réduites au silence sous les Talibans, devenues comme fantômes sous leurs burqas, les femmes ont su depuis 2001 profiter de leur liberté retrouvée. Certes voilées en public comme leurs sœurs iraniennes, dans cette République islamique d’Afghanistan dont le nom rappelle celui du voisin de l’ouest, les Afghanes n’en ont pas moins su faire entrer le vent dans leurs voiles.

Comme le rappelle Amnesty International, elles sont avocates, médecins, magistrates, enseignantes, ingénieures, athlètes, militantes, politiciennes, journalistes, bureaucrates, entrepreneuses, policières, soldates. Et ce sont aujourd’hui 3 300 000 petites Afghanes qui sont scolarisées, se préparant à marcher dans les pas de leurs aînées.

Et pourtant. La tentation existe pour Kaboul, du jour au lendemain, de décider que la paix avec l’irréductible ennemi taliban vaut bien de brûler les (re)conquêtes de ses citoyennes. Elles le savent. Farahnaz Forotan, journaliste de vingt-huit ans contrainte à l’exil car figurant sur une liste de personnes à abattre des Talibans, le sait mieux que toute autre. Pour dire le refus des Afghanes de voir leurs droits transformés en monnaie d’échange, elle a lancé la campagne MyRedLine (Ma ligne rouge) désignant la ligne à ne pas franchir à Doha.

Farahnaz Forotan

Dans l’État afghan, la paix s’écrit au masculin. Un Ministre d’État à la Paix a été nommé au sein du Gouvernement, auquel s’ajoute un Haut Conseil de la Réconciliation nationale dirigé par Abdullah Abdullah, ancien Ministre des Affaires Étrangères et candidat malheureux à la présidentielle de 2014. Pour l’équipe Ghani, la paix est une urgence, et qui dit urgence dit sacrifices. Les droits des femmes étant le nerf de la guerre, pour une paix qu’il faut obtenir à tout prix, le premier sacrifice sera de les brûler, craignent-elles légitimement de leurs propres autorités. Des mêmes hommes qui, salués voilà vingt ans comme les vainqueurs des Talibans, sont désormais prêts à de lourdes pertes à leur profit.

Et elles ont raison, car il est déjà un droit que le Gouvernement afghan leur a retiré en vue des pourparlers de paix – tout simplement, celui d’y participer. Impardonnable erreur.

Elles sauront faire la paix

Se croire habilité à toutes les concessions à l’ennemi parce que, l’ayant déjà vaincu une fois, l’on n’a pas réussi à le vaincre une seconde fois et qu’une paix doit être conclue d’urgence, un maréchal français l’avait déjà tenté, et depuis, son nom reste associé à la Shoah, même si, aujourd’hui comme hier, d’aucuns au sommet de l’Etat prônent une «patience malvenue», comme le chante Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne, envers le souvenir de l’inacceptable.

Si les hommes à la tête de l’Afghanistan sont prêts à emprunter ce même chemin, il leur faudra se souvenir que, pendant qu’entre leurs mains parlaient les armes, les femmes ont su mener leur propre lutte contre les Talibans, mais sans tuer ni blesser quiconque, luttant non pour le pouvoir mais pour le bien de toutes et tous, à commencer par les victimes les plus démunies des conflits armés, toujours et partout – les enfants.

Ainsi d’Ayesha Aziz, enseignante et directrice d’école, membre du Hezb-e Islami identique aux Talibans dans les idées mais qui, historiquement plus pragmatique, a conclu la paix avec le Gouvernement afghan. Avec Ayesha Aziz parmi les membres de sa délégation.

Ayesha Aziz (C) USIP

Déployant des talents de négociation et de diplomatie que d’autres s’interdisent de voir du seul fait qu’elle est une femme, elle a réussi à obtenir des Talibans l’ouverture d’écoles pour filles, des écoles qu’elle finance par le biais d’une entreprise de raffinement de pierres semi-précieuses qu’elle a créée et où elle engage des femmes par centaines. S’appuyant sur «le respect, l’humour et l’Islam», Ayesha Aziz obtient des résultats spectaculaires auprès de l’implacable milice islamiste.

Pour elle, la paix doit passer par le dialogue entre les femmes, celles du camp Ghani et les Talibanes, ainsi que par les zones rurales plutôt que par le sommet de l’État.

Très bien, pourrait-on dire, mais tout cela reste au niveau national et la paix se construit également avec des partenaires internationaux ; malgré tout son mérite, Ayesha Aziz ne semble pas taillée pour avoir affaire à eux. Si l’on pense ainsi, qu’à cela ne tienne. Palwasha Kakar, elle, sait parler hors de l’Afghanistan la langue que les décideurs doivent entendre.

Palwasha Kakar, lors de son témoignage devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis (C) USIP

Responsable principale du Programme Religion et Sociétés inclusives à l’United States Institute of Peace (USIP) de Washington, Palwasha Kakar a consacré plus de onze ans de sa vie à l’inclusion des femmes, l’engagement pour la paix des dignitaires religieux, la gouvernance et l’éducation dans son Afghanistan natal. A l’USIP, elle applique une approche comparative sur les femmes, la religion et la construction de la paix au Pakistan, en Libye, en Syrie, en Irak et au Myanmar. Son inspiration, elle la tient de ses sœurs afghanes qui, utilisant le cadre religieux, ont su négocier avec les Talibans pour des cessez-le-feu locaux, des libérations d’otages et des écoles pour filles.

Appelée à témoigner en 2019 devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis, témoignage capital au vu de la présence de deux mille cinq cents soldats américains en Afghanistan, Palwasha Kakar a rappelé que les femmes étaient essentielles au succès et à la durabilité de tout processus de paix, des pourparlers jusqu’à la mise en œuvre des accords, et qu’elles exigeaient une paix protégeant leurs acquis depuis 2001.

Pour les élus américains qui aimeraient trop Kipling, ce fut le temps d’un autre rappel. «A travers l’histoire de l’Afghanistan, les femmes ont toujours fait partie des processus de paix couronnés de succès. Même si l’on accorde toute la gloire à [l’empereur] Ahmed Shah Durrani pour avoir créé l’État d’Afghanistan moderne en 1747, c’est la contribution de Nazo Ana [poétesse et écrivaine] à l’unification des tribus qui se combattaient jusqu’alors pour ensuite affronter les Perses en 1709 qui fut la cheville ouvrière de la fondation de l’État afghan, ce qui lui a valu le titre de ‘Mère de la Nation afghane’. Quand les Talibans furent chassés du pouvoir en 2001 par les troupes américaines et leurs alliés, les femmes ont pris toute leur part au succès de l’accord politique du processus de Bonn et à la rédaction de la constitution qui a donné dix-huit ans de gouvernement démocratique stable, alors même que se poursuivaient les attaques des Talibans qui n’avaient pas été inclus dans le processus de Bonn».

Jadis, sans une femme, pas d’Afghanistan. Aujourd’hui, sans les femmes, pas d’Afghanistan libre. Demain, sans les femmes, un Afghanistan en paix est inconcevable.

La paix des femmes, seul espoir de survie

Professionnelles, citoyennes, militantes – mais indignes de donner la paix à leur pays.  A croire que les gouvernants afghans ont trop lu Kipling. Veulent-ils, à leur tour, être rois ? On le croirait pour peu, tant ils semblent craindre que, ceints de la couronne comme le fut Daniel Dravot de celle du Kafiristan, une femme censée les embrasser, mais refusant de se soumettre, ne les morde au sang et prouve que les faux dieux sont des mortels sans droit divin de régner.

Michael Caine (centre) et Sean Connery (droite) dans le film de John Huston L’Homme qui voulut être roi, d’après l’ouvrage de Rudyard Kipling, en 1975

Sans doute les femmes d’Afghanistan ne rêvent-elles pas d’être reines, laissant la futilité de ces fantasmes aux hommes pour se préoccuper de la vraie vie et de l’avenir. Mais lorsqu’il s’agit de rechercher la paix, juste et durable, impossible de ne pas penser qu’elles devraient être reines, autant que leurs compatriotes masculins se veulent rois, et pouvoir brandir leur sceptre face aux Talibans à Doha.

Blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, selon Kipling, il ne vous restait plus pour échapper à des femmes venues vous charcuter qu’à vous brûler la cervelle en un chevaleresque suicide. Sous les assauts des Talibans, c’est tout le peuple afghan qui git, blessé et abandonné, sur ses plaines rougies de sang. Voyant les femmes accourir pour le soigner et le relever, s’il leur prend la main, il saisit son ultime chance de survie. S’il choisit d’agripper son arme et se tirer une balle en refusant la paix des femmes, il voue son avenir à l’enfer.

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

For a World Citizen Approach to Protecting Human Rights Defenders

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 19, 2021 at 6:28 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

What are, if any, the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis? As far as we, World Citizens, are concerned, the most important one is undoubtedly this: As we have been saying since the early days of our movement, global problems require global solutions.

Beyond the appearance of a mere self-serving statement, this traditional World Citizen slogan finds a new meaning today. Never has it been so visible and proven that national sovereignty can be not only a hurdle to solving global problems, but a full-scale peril to the whole world when abused. While many European nations were quick to react to the virus as a major health crisis right from early 2020, others led by nationalists, namely the USA, the UK and Brazil, adamantly refused to take any action, dismissing the virus as harmless if not non-existent. Just like an individual who is not aware of being sick can pass the disease on others while behaving without precaution, a country that does not act wisely can contribute dramatically to spreading the disease throughout the world. And that is what happened.

No use beating about the bush – that kind of behavior is a violation of human rights, starting with the right to life and the right to health. Even though COVID-19 is first and foremost a medical issue, it also has implications in terms of human rights. There comes a question which has been with us since the beginning of the century: In the absence of a global institution, such as a global police service, in charge of overseeing respect for human rights worldwide, what about the people devoting their lives to performing this duty of public service, these private citizens whom we call Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)? Before COVID-19 ever appeared, many of them were already in danger. While vaccines and medicines are being developed to counter COVID-19, there does not seem to be a cure in sight for the perils HRDs face every day.

Legal, legitimate, but unrecognized

HRDs, people defending human rights, have existed from the early days of human civilization in one form or another. Since 1948 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), followed by a number of treaties and similar declarations, it has obviously been viewed as more legitimate and legal to promote and protect rights which were now internationally recognized. The UDHR itself has made history by evolving from a non-binding resolution of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to an instrument of customary international law, toward which states feel obligated through, as international law puts it, opinio juris. But in a postwar Westphalian world where only states had international legal personality, the people defending the rights enshrined in the UDHR, in other words HRDs, long remained deprived of formal recognition.

It all changed in 1998, when the UN General Assembly celebrated the half-century of existence of the UDHR by presenting it with a companion text, officially called Resolution 53/144 of December 9, 1998 but better known as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – in short, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (DHRD).

Like the UDHR, the DHRD was born “soft law”. But the resemblance stops there. In twenty-two years of existence, the DHRD has been nowhere near accepted by states under opinio juris. Accepting international human rights is one thing, but endorsing the creation, if only morally speaking, of an international category of people authorized to go against the state to promote the same rights, well, that continues to be more than the nation-state can live with. Everywhere in the world, HRDs feel the pain of that denial of recognition.

Human rights under attack means defenders in danger

Traditionally, human rights in the Western sense of the word mean freedom of opinion and expression. These rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries, beyond geographical, cultural, religious, or even political differences. Inevitably, that goes for HRDs defending these rights too. The two “least democratic” countries sitting as Permanent Members on the UN Security Council, Russia and China, also stand out as world leaders in political repression.

During the Cold War, the Eastern bloc would put forward economic and social rights as a counterpoint to the said Western notion. Even though human rights were “reunified” over thirty years ago, economic and social rights remain taboo in various parts of the world. In Thailand and Nicaragua, health workers have been punished for demanding better equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. In the Philippines, city residents who pushed for more adequate shelter in times of lockdown were similarly repressed by their government.

Cultural rights, often alongside indigenous rights, can truly be described as disturbing all forms of governments in countries which used to be colonies of Western powers, from Latin America, most recently in Honduras and Paraguay, to Asia with such examples as Malaysia and Indonesia. In such countries, being an HRD trying to advance the rights of indigenous groups all but equates trying to tear the whole nation apart.

Everywhere in the world, such typical 21st-century pressing issues as LGBT rights and, more than ever since the #MeToo scandal, women’s rights may be popular causes, but taking them up almost systematically means trouble, be it in North African countries like Egypt and Tunisia or in the European nations of Poland and Andorra.

Last but not least, even though one might think the wide consensus on the issue opens doors for action, defending environmental rights is proving no easy task. From Madagascar to Belarus, trying to get your government to live up to its responsibilities is bound to create a most unsafe environment for you.

For those who need and manage to flee, being abroad does not even mean being safe anymore. China has been found to be heavily spying on activists from the Uyghur minority living in foreign countries, and last month the AWC had to send an appeal to the authorities of Canada regarding a Pakistani HRD from the Baloch minority group who was found dead in Toronto, after the local police service said the death was not a criminal act but a fellow Baloch HRD and refugee there expressed serious doubts.

When the DHRD should be providing greater relief and comfort for the performance of human rights work, HRDs continue to be denied any character of public service, leading to acute stigmatization, intimidation, and ultimately repression. As many signs that the nation-state is losing its nerves in trying to defend a Westphalian national sovereignty that COVID-19 has now largely proved is out of date.

Shattering national borders – and human rights, too

One form of human rights abuse that has become particularly salient since the late 2000s, further fueled by Brexit in 2016 and the now-ending Trump presidency since 2017, is the systematic persecution of refugees and migrants – and, more preoccupying still, of those nationals in the countries of arrival trying to lend a hand to the newcomers. In France, President Emmanuel Macron was thought to have been spared from the influence of populist parties backed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia; yet several activists have been prosecuted on these sole grounds, such as Martine Landry of Amnesty International France and Cédric Herrou, both from the Nice area near the Italian border. Eventually, both were cleared by the judiciary. In the USA, migrants’ rights activist Scott Warren was similarly prosecuted – and similarly acquitted. But in both countries and others still, the problem remains unsolved.

No wonder this is happening at all. Even those governments least favorable to the brand of xenophobia “exported” by Moscow since the last decade have become unfathomably sensitive to the issue of migration and asylum, as they too feel threatened by the outside world and flaunt their borders as ramparts, shielding them from some barbaric conduct with which they confuse different customs and religions, thus adopting the very same attitude as those populists they claim to be fighting. That leaves citizens trying to help refugees and migrants singled out as traitors and criminals.

The mass arrival of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the summer of 2015 proved that Europe and, for this purpose, the rest of the world were wrong to assume that crises in other, distant parts of the world could never hit home too violently. In this case, the crisis bore a name – ISIS, the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (the Levant)”. The Iraqi-born terrorist group had conquered a wide swath of land the previous year, seizing territory from both Iraq and Syria along the border, and established on it a “caliphate” that drew scores of individuals from many parts of the world, especially Europe and North Africa. The previous summer had seen its militias persecute the millennia-old Christian minority of Iraq and other religious groups such as the Yezidis. A year before the UN dared called it genocide, the AWC did.

When the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” of the late 1990s in Afghanistan had been recognized by three countries, no one recognized the “Islamic State”, let alone the caliphate. Obviously, recognizing the “caliphate” would have been both a violation of international law and an insult to all of ISIS’s victims back home and abroad. Nonetheless, as the French-American scholar Scott Atran and the specialist Website e-ir.info noted, the “ISIS crisis” proved that the traditional notion of the nation-state was now being violently rejected – violently, and ISIS leaders knew full well how to make good use of it, cleverly rendering their barbaric ways appealing to Westerners and North Africans frustrated at the lack of social and political change back in their home countries.

Questioning the nation-state in such an insane, murderous manner can only be diametrically opposed to the mindset of a World Citizen. Stopping borders from serving as ramparts against foreigners irrationally viewed as enemies, bringing the people of the world together regardless of political nationality, none of this can ever be compatible with the creation of yet another nation-state, albeit de facto, to terrorist ends at home and abroad. Even though the massive afflux of migrants and refugees was certainly no phenomenon the best-prepared state in the world could have successfully dealt with overnight, European nations failed at it miserably. In suspecting and rejecting foreigners for fear of terrorism, they only made it easier to commit terrorist attacks on their soil and endanger their own population, including the Muslim population which automatically becomes a scapegoat every time a jihadi terrorist attack is carried out. Nobody’s human rights were well-served and everybody’s human rights ended up as losers.

Globalizing solidarity with HRDs

There you have it. The harder states, European and others, strive to defend their borders as sacred, God-given privileges, the harder human rights and their defenders get hit and everybody loses.

Consequently, returning to the comparison with COVID-19, a true World Citizen perspective toward protecting HRDs must put forward what has been absent throughout the pandemic, in terms of both public health and patient care – globalization. Not the unfair, inhumane economic globalization we have known since the 1990s, for that one too is responsible for what has happened over the past twelve months. A World Citizen can only seek a globalization of solidarity, bearing in mind that, as French President Emmanuel Macron once put it, “the virus does not have a passport” and travels freely through all human beings who accept, or get forced, to become its living vehicles.

The very same principle should apply to human rights and their defenders. The UDHR is by name universal, as are all human rights. Therefore, why wouldn’t the defense of the same rights be universal by nature? If terrorism can be let to shun national borders in its war on the whole world, then why can’t brave, devoted HRDs enjoy the recognition they deserve, in every country, on every continent, and from every type of government? Why in the world would a terrorist get greater attention than a citizen dedicating their life to championing the dignity of all fellow human beings? If this divided world of ours could possibly find some sort of unity in support of health workers fighting COVID-19, then why not around HRDs, too?

World leaders can no longer look away from the issue. Uniting around one global problem means endorsing the principle of global solutions for everything else. If there is to be a different future for the world, a better future, then trusting and respecting HRDs, supporting and helping them, and ultimately joining their ranks are as many keys that will unlock a brand new era of shared true dignity.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Uneasy Ceasefire, Key Issues Remain

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 24, 2020 at 4:56 PM

By René Wadlow

December 9-10, 2020 marked the one-month anniversary of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh by the Armenians. The ceasefire was negotiated by Russia between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The agreement was signed by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev, and the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pachinian. However, on December 11, the Russian Novosti Press Agency reported the first ceasefire violation, an exchange of fire between Azerbaijan and Armenian soldiers. There are some 2000 Russian peacekeepers on site, but it is always difficult to control a ceasefire. Moreover, a ceasefire is only the first step on what will be a long path of confidence-building measures and ultimately forms of cooperation.

Nicol Pachanian

The ceasefire agreement structures two safe avenues of road communication from the remaining Armenian areas in Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. In the same way there will be a safe avenue of road communication from the Azerbaijan areas to Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijan majority area within Armenia. The avenue to Nakhichevan close to the frontier with Turkey will allow Turkish goods to cross to Azerbaijan and from there through Central Asia to the frontier with China.

Turkey considers the outcome of the ceasefire as a victory for Turkey, especially that the Turkish drones and weapons used by the Azerbaijan forces played a large role in giving Azerbaijan a military advantage. In contrast, the outcome of the ceasefire is considered by many in Armenia as a defeat, creating an instability for the current government led by Pachinian. The results of the ceasefire have led to the naming of a new Foreign Minister, Ara Aivazian, on November 18.

The conflict has led to a large number of new refugees, of displaced persons and hopes among those in Azerbaijan who had fled Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of the 1992-1994 armed conflict. The economy of the area, always marginal as Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous, largely rural area is largely destroyed. However, the area had highly symbolic meaning for both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliyev

The Group of Minsk, created by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe after the 1992-1994 conflict has 11 States as members including Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Minsk Group has three co-chairs: Russia, France, the USA. The Group as a whole rarely meets. Rather it is diplomats from Russia and France who have met in bilateral meetings with representatives from Azerbaijan or Armenia. There has been little progress in finding confidence-building measures and virtually none on forms of cooperation.

Today, this armed conflict in an area that is troubled in a number of places may be a warning sign that negotiations in good faith should be a priority. The Association of World Citizens has been concerned with the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh since the eve of the breakup of the USSR in 1991. We need to remain alert at possible efforts at Track II diplomacy or other forms of nongovernmental mediation.

Prof. René Wadlow is the 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.

Mali: More Instability in an Unstable Region

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM

By René Wadlow

The August 18, 2020 coup by Malian military leaders brought an end to the unstable government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known by his initials IBK. He had come to power on March 22, 2012 in another military coup which had ended the administration of President Amadou Trouré. This 2012 coup highlighted the weakness of the government structures and the narrow geographic base of the administration’s power. This realization led to a revolt in the north of the country led by two rival Tuareg groups as well as Islamist militias of non-Tuareg fighters coming from other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria. Mali was effectively divided into two roughly equal half, each half about the size of France.

French troops were sent from France in January 2013 to prevent an expansion of the territory held by the Tuareg and the Islamists, but were not able to develop a stable administration.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali had been poorly administered since its independence in 1960. Economic development had been guided by political and ethnic considerations. During the French colonial period, from the 1890s to 1960, the French administration was based in Dakar, Senegal, a port on the Atlantic with secondary schools, a university, and an educated middle class. Mali was considered an “outpost” (called French Sudan at the time) and largely governed by the French military more interested in keeping order than in development.

IBK’s administration was widely criticized by much of the population for its incompetence, favoritism, and corruption especially by family members such as his son Karim Keita. Islamist groups remained powerful in parts of the north and central Mali. The whole Sahel area, in particular the frontier area of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso still has powerful and violent Islamist militias. This instability is an increasing menace to the coastal countries of Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Over the past year, discontent with IBK has led to a loose coalition of opposition groups known by the title M5 – RFP, of which the conservative Islamic imam Mahmoud Dicko is a leading figure.

French soldiers deployed in Mali

For the moment, the Mali military leaders have formed the Comité national pour le salut du peuple (The National Committee for the Salvation of the People). It is led by Col. Assimi Gaita, a special forces leader. The Committee has said that it is forming a military-civil transitional government that will lead to elections in nine months.

The challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel area are great, in large measure linked to the lack of socio-economic development, economic stagnation, and poor administration. The situation is made worse by the consequences of global warming and persistent drought. The military are not trained to be development workers. A broad cooperative effort of all sectors of the population is needed. Will the military be able to develop such a broadly-based cooperative effort? Mali and the Sahel merit close attention.

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

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