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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.

Lifting the Odessa Blockade

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations on June 6, 2022 at 3:19 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) urges action to lift the blockade on Odessa and other Black Sea ports so that grain and other food resources can resume to flow. Ukraine has a vast agricultural base producing 46 percent of the world’s sunflower exports and 10 percent of the world’s wheat exports. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s food export market. Odessa has a large grain terminal in which vast quantities of food exports are now stuck. It is not physically possible to transport large quantities of grain by rail and road.

Odessa’s port, peaceful and flourishing, before the Russian invasion. (C) Raymond Zoller

In part due to this blockade, food prices for grain have risen some 20 percent, hitting especially the poor. In some parts of Africa, due to climate conditions and armed conflict, there are near famine conditions. New food supplies are urgent.

A Ukrainian family evacuated from Mariupol. (C) Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Russian authorities have said that they were ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food, but only in return for the lifting of U. S. and Western European sanctions. However, the Western sanctions have a multitude of sources. The lifting of the Odessa blockade and renewed grain shipments must be treated as a single issue, although it is obviously colored by the whole armed conflict.

There are diplomatic efforts underway led by the African Union and the United Nations. It is urgent that speedy progress be made. Nongovernmental organizations may be able to play a creative role as many NGOs are already involved in ecologically-sound development projects in areas under agricultural and food stress. The AWC, concerned with the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith, appeals for creative diplomatic measures so that the blockade is ended as soon as possible.

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

Horace Alexander: Unofficial Diplomacy and Mediation

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 6, 2022 at 3:12 PM

By René Wadlow

At this time of increased tensions and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, it is useful to recall the positive possibilities of unofficial diplomacy. Unofficial diplomats recognize that the suspicions of government officials are a major hurdle to overcome and that they must emphasize their impartiality and independence from governments. Preparing the way for official policy changes or for improved interstate relations is a slow-building evolutionary process. Personal contacts across borders hold the potential for influencing the knowledge and attitudes of those involved as well as the ability to gain information.

Horace Alexander (1889-1989), the British Quaker and friend of Mahatma Gandhi, is a good example of the unofficial diplomat and mediator. Horace Alexander was born in an English Quaker family. His father was a lawyer deeply involved in peace efforts and in opposing the opium trade active between India and China. Horace Alexander was a Cambridge University graduate who went on to teach international relations at Woodbroke, an adult education center run by Quakers. Alexander was very active in efforts to support the League of Nations.

In 1926 and 1927 there was increased agitation and repression in India as the Indian National Congress became increasingly active. Thus in 1928 Horace Alexander was sent to India by the British Quakers to see if relations between the Vice Roy Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi could be improved. Alexander saw the spiritual dimension of Gandhi but also his political impact and suggested to the British government that Gandhi be invited to the Roundtable on Indian politics which was to be held in London in 1931.

Alexander developed close relations with Gandhi and divided his time between India and England. He was active in relief work during the famine in Bengal in 1943-1944 and was active with the Indian National Congress during the negotiations which led to independence in 1947, but he sensed the birth pangs of the creation of the two states of India and Pakistan and the terrible days of partition when fighting between religious communities took a deadly toll in human life and spirit.

While he was with Gandhi in India, seeing the growing divide between Hindus and Muslims, he created the Fellowship of Friends of Truth. As he wrote “The basis and goal of the Fellowship of Truth will be a common striving toward fuller knowledge of the Truth that is God. Members will commit themselves to learn with and from one another of the things that are eternal, through common acts of quiet worship and meditation and through other forms of communion with God and man.” Horace Alexander lived his later years in the United States and died at the age of 100.

Unofficial diplomacy rarely creates a breakthrough as situations can be completely blocked and even minimal proposals are unacceptable at the time. However, small steps can be useful if taken in the right direction. Unofficial Diplomacy, which is increasingly called Track II diplomacy, is growing in importance and merits support.

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.

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.

Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE on May 3, 2022 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Recent statements by Russian military authorities such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova. The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attributes and calls itself officially the Moldovan Republic of Dniestr. However, no other state, including the Russian Federation, has recognized it as an independent state. There are, however, some 1,500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria. Transnistria had some 706,000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less. Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad. Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel. The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova and those of the government of Transnistria, but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria. Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II efforts, informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated. The newly elected, in November 2020, President of Moldova, Ms. Maia Sandu, has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova. Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics – the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Presidents Maia Sandu (left) and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (right)

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt. Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria. In addition, there have been recently a number of rocket attacks, possibly by Ukrainian forces, on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting. While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova, the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.

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.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk: The Way Ahead

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States, World Law on February 9, 2022 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

There are many dimensions to the current tensions on the Ukraine-Donbas-Russia frontiers, both geopolitical and domestic considerations. There are long historic and strategic aspects to the current crisis. Security crises are deeply influenced both by a sense of history and by current perceptions. There have been bilateral discussions between United States (U. S.) and Russian authorities, between Russian and French leaders, between Russian and Chinese leaders, between the Ukrainian leader and a number of others and multilateral discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), within NATO, at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and within the European Union. For the moment, there has been no de-escalation of tensions nor a lowering of troop levels.

Currently, there is only one permanent structure for multilateral negotiations on the Ukraine tensions – the “Normandy Format” which brings together the representatives of Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany primarily to negotiate on the status of the separatist People’s Republics.

The Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 agreed that the areas covered by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would not be separated from Ukraine but would be given a “Special Status” set out in a new Ukrainian Constitution. However, beyond some rather vague discussion on decentralization, the nature of the Special Status has not been agreed upon, and no Ukrainian government administrative measures have been put into place.

In the period since 2015, the socioeconomic situation in the two People’s Republics has gotten worse. Many people have left either for Ukraine or Russia. There are constant violations of the ceasefire agreements which are monitored by observers of the OSCE. Thus, in their December 15, 2021 report, the OSCE monitors noted that between December 10-12, there were 444 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 104 in the Luhansk region. However, the freedom of movement of the OSCE observers is restricted. The number of violations, usually exchanges of small arms fire, is probably higher.

Solving the Donbas aspect of the conflict on the basis of a real and vital autonomy and trans-frontier cooperation should be a top priority for action. The Association of World Citizens has always stressed the importance of developing appropriate forms of government as a crucial aspect of the resolution of armed conflicts. The Association has particularly highlighted the possibilities of con-federalism and the need for transfrontier cooperation. The Association was involved at the start of the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict in August 1992 and the first efforts at negotiations carried out in Geneva with representatives from Abkhazia who were in Geneva and officials from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thus, we know how a cycle of action-reaction can deepen a conflict and how difficult it is to reestablish structures of government once separation has been established.

The need to progress on the structure of Ukraine stands out sharply at this time when there are real possibilities of escalatory risks. There is a need for confidence-building measures reaching out to different layers of society in a cumulative process. Advances on the Special Status would be an important step in the deescalation of tensions. Discussions on the Special Status must be carried out by those living in Ukraine. However, government representatives as well as nongovernmental organizations in Russia, Germany, and France can also contribute actively. The new German Foreign Minister, the ecologist Annalena Baerbach, coming from a federalist-structured State with many local initiatives possible, may bring new visions to these discussions which are increasingly under way.

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

Ukraine-Donbas-Russian Frontier: Is a Nongovernmental Interposition Peace Team a Possibility?

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Nicaragua, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States on January 23, 2022 at 5:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Despite United States (U. S.)-Russian Federation discussions in Geneva and a full Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, there seems to be no advance toward a reduction of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian frontier. There are discussions at the United Nations (UN) Security Council in New York on what could be a U. S.-led response if there were a Russian intervention into Ukraine. While such a Russian intervention seems unlikely, the possibility of such an intervention is being seriously discussed in NATO government circles. Thus, it is opportune for nongovernmental organizations also to discuss possible measures to prevent conflict and reduce tensions.

(C) Taras Gren

One possibility, inspired by the efforts of the Shanti Sena (Peace Army) developed by followers of Mahatma Gandhi in India is to place some nongovernmental teams on the frontier in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to “cool off” and negotiate. One such effort in which I was directly involved as the representative to the UN in Geneva of the Peace Brigades International (PBI) was the effort of a team of the newly created PBI in 1981 on the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier.

At the time, it was thought that U. S. troops stationed in Honduras might cross the frontier to attack the Sandinista-leftist government in Nicaragua or actively help the anti-Sandinista “Contras” to do so. A PBI-related group from California – the Jalapa Brigade, already created – was able to move to the frontier on short notice. At the time that the Jalapa Brigade was put into place, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the UN in Geneva was a former student of mine, and his brother, also a former student of mine, was the legal advisor to the President of Nicaragua. Through the Ambassador, I was able to inform the Central American Missions to the UN as to the aims and role of the Peace Brigades.

In the end, the U. S. military did not cross the frontier. Perhaps it never intended to do so. It may also have been that the interposition of U. S. civilians with a good number of organizational contacts helped to weigh in the U. S. military decision-making process.

Members of the Gulf Peace Camp

There have been other such interposition efforts. One was the Gulf Peace Team created at the time of the 1990 Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. The aim of the 73-member Peace Team in their statement of purpose was to be an “international multicultural team working for peace and opposing any form of armed aggression by setting up one or more international peace camps between the opposing armed forces. Our object will be to withstand nonviolently any armed aggression by any party to the present Gulf dispute.” However, on January 27, 1991, the peace camp was closed by Iraq, because the authorities had “decided that the continued presence of the camp was a security risk”.

This interposition approach by nongovernmental organizations is logistically and politically very difficult to accomplish. There are economic and logistic resources required and, more importantly, the need to raise enough volunteers who are mature, culturally sensitive, and analytically-minded to achieve a critical mass that would make a difference in the decision-making of the military present. There is also the need to keep unity of purpose within the teams if they have not worked together before.

The 100,000 Russian troops are at the frontier. Can peace team interposition be created quickly?

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

Qu’on le veuille ou non, un seul monde et le droit à la migration

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on December 28, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Deux ans déjà, deux ans d’une guerre mondiale qui semble interminable, une Troisième Guerre Mondiale non entre deux ou plusieurs alliances d’Etats souverains, ou contre un envahisseur extraterrestre comme dans certains films ou séries de science-fiction, mais contre un virus – un coronavirus, le SARS-CoV-2 responsable de la COronaVIrus Disease of 2019 ou Covid-19. Après la souche originelle dite de Wuhan, le monde a découvert les variants, d’abord affublés de gentilés (anglais, sud-africain, indien) puis renommés selon l’alphabet grec : Alpha, Beta, Delta …  Et maintenant Omicron.

La lutte progresse mais la pandémie sait contre-attaquer, comme avec Omicron. Hélas, l’inégalité vaccinale entre pays et régions du monde, couplée aux décisions scientifiquement absurdes de certains gouvernements, se fait pour le virus une alliée inespérée.

L’histoire nous l’enseigne, lorsqu’une crise mondiale éclate et se prolonge, ce n’est pas après qu’elle a pris fin qu’il faut envisager l’avenir, mais pendant même qu’elle se produit, et faire de ses projets son but réel de guerre. L’histoire nous l’enseigne, oui, et l’an prochain verra le quatre-vingtième anniversaire des Nations Unies, non pas de l’organisation internationale créée en 1945 à San Francisco – également berceau de l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) – mais de l’alliance militaire des pays combattant l’Allemagne nazie, l’Italie fasciste et le Japon. Une alliance militaire qui avait retenu les leçons de l’échec de la Société des Nations et compris, à l’avenant, qu’un combat armé ne vaut rien s’il n’est porteur d’un projet politique pour un monde en paix, donc, un monde plus uni.

Un monde plus uni …  Que certains partis politiques ici ou là le veuillent ou non, c’est ce que produira inéluctablement cette pandémie, après une épreuve dont aucun continent sur terre n’aura été épargné. Et même si cela dérange ces partis xénophobes de divers pays et continents, là encore, ce monde ne pourra plus regarder de la même manière le sujet dont ils ont fait leur fonds de commerce pendant le demi-siècle écoulé – la migration.

La forteresse WENA

Si c’est littéralement le monde entier qui est touché, tout comme par la Covid-19, par le virus de la xénophobie qu’aucun vaccin ne vient enrayer, le centre mondial de l’épidémie est bien la WENA (Western Europe and North America, Europe occidentale et Amérique du Nord). Depuis le début du siècle, avec des entrées au gouvernement en Autriche et en Italie notamment, ainsi qu’une présence au second tour de l’élection présidentielle en France et un résultat électoral sans précédent aux Pays-Bas, l’extrême droite xénophobe n’a cessé de croître en WENA, jusqu’à fusionner au Canada avec la droite traditionnelle incarnée par le Parti conservateur. Mais, après des reflux ici et là, l’année 2015 est venue lui ouvrir grand les portes jusqu’alors closes du pouvoir.

Après ce que d’aucuns appelaient la «crise migratoire» de l’été, lorsque migrants et réfugiés avaient eu l’impudence de venir déranger la baignade et la bronzette des Européens en accostant sur la rive sud de la Méditerranée, un exode vite réduit par certains à une attaque envers l’Occident de Daesh, le soi-disant «État islamique en Irak et en Syrie» qui avait déjà en janvier fait couler le sang à Paris, la Grande-Bretagne suivit sans mal l’année suivante un UKIP déchaîné contre des hordes d’envahisseurs vers le vote du Brexit. A des milliers de kilomètres de là, loin des rivages du désespoir, un Donald Trump donné perdant d’avance remporta contre toute attente la Maison Blanche en évoquant, entre autres, un mur géant le long de la frontière mexicaine censé bloquer toute immigration clandestine. En 2017, bien que largement vaincue en fin de compte, l’extrême droite française atteignit une nouvelle fois les marches de l’Élysée. En 2018, les électeurs italiens consacrèrent Matteo Salvini. Il ne suffisait plus d’une «forteresse Europe», le temps était venu d’une «forteresse WENA», à bâtir du plus ironiquement sur des plans fournis par Moscou, où le pouvoir inspire et parfois finance les partis d’extrême droite comme de gauche radicale, antagonistes mais unanimes pour saper la démocratie libérale.

Ile de Lesbos (Grèce), 11 octobre 2015 (C) Antonio Masiello

Ils savent ce qui leur fait peur, les tenants de la forteresse WENA. Ils le désignent par deux mots – le grand remplacement, celui d’une population européenne blanche et chrétienne qui n’existe que dans leur imaginaire par des hordes d’Arabes et d’Africains musulmans. Leur imaginaire où trône Le Camp des Saints, roman publié en 1973 par Jean Raspail et qui, en écho à l’antisémitisme délirant des Turner Diaries adulés par les suprémacistes blancs des Etats-Unis, décrit la chute de l’Occident blanc devant une invasion venue des pays du Sud. Loin d’avoir été oublié avec le temps, Le Camp des Saints inspire encore aujourd’hui l’extrême droite française ainsi que des proches de Donald Trump.

Personne au sud ne prône un «grand remplacement», concept qui n’existe donc qu’en WENA. Et pour cause, il ne pouvait venir d’ailleurs. S’il est une région au monde dont les pays ont, dans le passé, débarqué de force sur des rivages lointains, usé de la force pour imposer leur présence puis, in fine, leurs institutions, leur religion et leur culture, ce sont bien ceux de la WENA à travers le colonialisme, imités plus tard, tragique ironie, par l’URSS «anticolonialiste» sous couvert de soutien idéologique et pour les pires effets, dont deux en Afghanistan ayant pour noms les Talibans et Al-Qaïda.

Il n’y a qu’eux qui y pensent, eux pour qui la relation avec l’autre n’est que haine ou mépris, et pour certains, violence et guerre où l’on ne peut être que vainqueur ou vaincu. Dans leur immense majorité, celles et ceux qui, au sud, veulent gagner la WENA y recherchent tout au contraire son mode de vie, ses opportunités de travail et de construction d’une vie nouvelle, ses libertés que leur refusent les gouvernements de leurs pays d’origine, se servant la plupart du temps de la culture traditionnelle locale comme d’un alibi et nourrissant ainsi les fantasmes des xénophobes en WENA, trop contents de prendre en tenaille des migrants et réfugiés déjà pourchassés par leurs propres gouvernants.

Nigel Farage, chef du parti UKIP, agitant le spectre de la migration pour amener les Britanniques à voter pour le Brexit en 2016 (C) @epkaufm (Twitter), licensed under Public Domain

La WENA a peur. Elle a peur de tous ces gens qui voient en elle un exemple pour leurs propres dirigeants, peur de toutes ces victimes qui l’appellent à agir pour leur permettre de vivre en paix chez eux ou, si elle s’y refuse, à les admettre au moins sur son territoire. Elle a peur aussi de ses propres enfants, ceux dont les parents sont eux-mêmes venus d’ailleurs ou dont les ancêtres plus lointains y ont été amenés de force, notamment comme esclaves. Elle a peur des Black Lives Matter et autres mouvements exigeant la justice pour qui, né ou élevé dans la WENA, s’y voit rejeté car porteur de cet ailleurs qui la tétanise.

Ses dirigeants ont peur, et ceux qui voudraient l’être aussi. Délogé de la présidence américaine, Donald Trump ne désarme pas. En France, terre de l’adoption de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme en 1948, l’extrême droite se dédouble en deux partis rivalisant de peur et de haine d’autrui, tandis que le parti héritier de celui du Général de Gaulle parle arrêt de l’immigration et sortie de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme, même la gauche se laissant tenter par la facilité xénophobe en s’en prenant par exemple aux transferts d’argent de travailleurs migrants vers leurs familles au pays.

Mise à mal par l’exemple russe de la démocratie illibérale de pure façade et celui de l’autoritarisme de marché donné par la Chine, la WENA n’est plus, elle le sait, maîtresse du monde. Devenir la forteresse WENA ne résoudra pourtant, pour elle, aucun problème. Fantasmer n’est pas empêcher les difficultés, encore moins les surmonter mais bien les rendre hors de contrôle. A travers le monde entier, migration et recherche d’asile génèrent des drames sans lien avec les peurs irraisonnées des opinions occidentales. La WENA peut bien rêver d’isolement, mais tout comme ceux que crée la Covid-19, les drames de la migration ont aboli les frontières et uni le monde – pour le pire.

Le monde uni en fait refuse de l’être en droit

Déjà tourmentée par ses cauchemars de « grand remplacement » et les capitulations de ses démocrates supposés devant les vrais populistes, la WENA tente l’impossible en s’obstinant à séparer strictement les migrants, en quête d’une vie meilleure, et les réfugiés, qui fuient une persécution potentiellement mortelle. Il est pourtant de moins en moins possible de chercher une vie meilleure sans fuir aussi une certaine forme d’oppression, même en filigrane, là où un réfugié peut certes avoir dû laisser derrière lui une vie confortable mais à laquelle a mis fin une soudaine et brutale menace. Et le mouvement des demandeurs d’asile s’exerce toujours bien davantage vers la WENA qu’à partir d’elle …   Mais qui érige la peur en système s’en soucie bien peu. Tant pis pour les tragédies qui en sortent et tant pis pour le mauvais exemple ainsi envoyé au reste du monde, qui ne le reçoit que trop clairement.

Toute cette année, l’AWC n’a pu que le constater en intervenant sur des situations où les frontières des Etats ne s’ouvrent que pour laisser entrer l’oppression venue d’ailleurs. Entre la Pologne, Etat membre de l’Union européenne (UE), et le Belarus sous la tyrannie d’Aleksandr Loukachenko, des migrants et réfugiés venus du Moyen-Orient sont bloqués hors du monde, utilisés par Minsk tels des pions contre l’UE et refoulés par Varsovie qui craint un afflux si elle laisse entrer un petit groupe de personnes. A l’intérieur de l’UE même, le Danemark où l’extrême droite inquiète un gouvernement social-démocrate restreint encore ses lois sur l’asile et ordonne aux réfugiés de Syrie de rentrer chez eux, comme si la fin des combats actifs dans certaines régions du pays rendait plus sûr, et meilleur, le régime tyrannique de Bachar el-Assad. Et c’est à toute l’UE que se pose, comme au monde entier, la question de l’accueil des réfugiés d’Afghanistan depuis le retour au pouvoir le 15 août dernier de la milice islamiste des Talibans, dont la première cible est depuis un quart de siècle toujours la même – les femmes, premières à devoir fuir et premières à chercher asile.

Manifestation de soutien aux réfugiés à Berlin le 31 août 2014 (C) Montecruz Foto

Cherchant toujours plus à fermer ses frontières à qui veut y entrer, la WENA n’a en revanche aucun état d’âme à les ouvrir grand pour en faire sortir l’inspiration du refus de l’autre. Et ça marche.

En Amérique latine où se produit la deuxième plus grave crise de demandeurs d’asile au monde, celle du Venezuela où quiconque le peut fuit la dictature de Nicolas Maduro soutenue par Moscou, le Pérou qui accueille le plus grand nombre d’exilés vénézuéliens refuse aux enfants son statut de «Migration Humanitaire», plongeant donc des mineurs déjà déracinés dans une invivable inexistence officielle. En Égypte, où déjà sévit une répression intense, des réfugiés de conflits africains comme celui de l’Érythrée se voient, en dépit de l’évidence même, déboutés de leurs demandes d’asile et placés dans l’expectative d’un rapatriement forcé à tout moment. En Russie, une réfugiée d’Ouzbékistan privée d’un jour à l’autre de son statut après avoir dénoncé les manquements de Moscou à ses obligations en la matière a fini sa course en détention dans un aéroport, «hors du monde», comme emmurée «dans la prison des frontières», selon la Complainte du Partisan, l’autre chant de la Résistance française pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

Qu’attendre d’autre d’un monde qui s’entête à ne pas comprendre que, bien que composé d’États souverains, il est désormais uni dans l’épreuve et doit donc le devenir aussi pour la vaincre ? Un monde uni de fait qui refuse de l’être de droit, ce n’est pas nouveau dans l’histoire et on en sait les conséquences. En 1914, c’est un monde où l’Europe faisait la loi mais où une forme de mondialisation, économique et technologique, existait déjà qui est entré en guerre, car sa politique était restée peu ou prou celle du Congrès de Vienne, là où les nations ayant vaincu l’Empire français de Napoléon Ier avaient décidé entre elles du sort des autres. Pour certains la Grande Guerre, pour d’autres «la der des der», le conflit mondial sorti d’un ordre international périmé allait certes engendrer la première organisation politique internationale de l’histoire, la Société des Nations, mais cette dernière allait s’avérer elle aussi en retard sur son temps, incapable d’arrêter les ambitions italiennes en Éthiopie puis celles plus dévastatrices et meurtrières encore d’Adolf Hitler et du Troisième Reich allemand. Ce n’est qu’en combattant le fléau d’un temps en son temps, en créant contre Hitler une alliance militaire prenant le nom de Nations Unies, que le monde libre allait réussir à vaincre le Reich génocidaire et créer une nouvelle organisation, celle que nous connaissons encore aujourd’hui – l’Organisation des Nations Unies.

Voir le passé avec l’œil du présent, l’historien le dira, il faut se l’interdire. Mais l’inverse n’est pas plus souhaitable, et de 1914, l’historien pourra le dire encore. Que conclure alors d’un monde qui, en proie à une pandémie qui a déchiré les frontières, s’y enferme comme en des murailles et se le voit enseigner par la région même qui, depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, symbolisait la liberté ?

(C) U.S. National Archives & DVDs

Qu’on le veuille ou non

Un monde sans frontières est aussi peu probable qu’un «grand remplacement» en WENA, peu probable et, pour nous, une fausse bonne idée. L’AWC défend depuis le départ une Citoyenneté Mondiale accessible à toutes et tous, acceptable par toutes et tous, fondée sur un principe simple mais qui semble si difficile à accepter : étant toutes et tous natifs et habitants de la planète Terre, il est du devoir de chacun(e) de la protéger ainsi que son peuple, notre peuple, l’humanité, et accepter cet état d’esprit est entrer dans une Citoyenneté Mondiale qui s’exerce en supplément de la citoyenneté nationale, non à la place, d’autant qu’il n’existe au niveau planétaire aucune structure reconnue par les États qui permette une telle substitution. Même la citoyenneté de l’UE n’est acquise que par la citoyenneté nationale de l’un de ses États membres, se vouloir citoyen(ne) de l’Union de manière directe et exclusive étant impossible.

Pour autant, et l’histoire ne va pas dans une direction autre, qu’est-ce qui oblige les frontières à s’ériger en remparts, a fortiori contre un ennemi inexistant et chimérique ? Au nom de quoi les États souverains devraient-ils être des citadelles ? Et surtout, comment exercer dans de telles conditions la moindre Citoyenneté Mondiale alors que le sort de toute la planète et toute l’humanité nous le commande ? C’est ce que l’AWC a toujours défendu et, aujourd’hui, ce que l’on pouvait refuser comme n’étant qu’un simple axiome de notre part est devenu, plus que jamais, un fait prouvé. Même si un autre enseignement de la Covid-19 est, hélas, que les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants.

Négateurs du virus, promoteurs de thérapies inefficaces, d’aucuns auront rejeté l’évidence nue face au SARS-CoV-2. Chefs d’État ou de gouvernement, qu’ils se nomment Trump, Johnson ou Bolsonaro, ils auront tous fini par rencontrer ce virus qu’ils niaient ou minimisaient, finissant ainsi par prouver au contraire son existence et le besoin absolu de s’en protéger. D’autres poursuivent aujourd’hui le travail de sape de ces derniers, parfois en y laissant leur vie. Les faits prouvés peuvent n’être plus probants, mais Lénine le savait, «les faits sont têtus».

Ces politiques migratoires et ces injustices qui nous ont amenés à intervenir, nous ne les avons pas inventées. L’AWC n’a pas le temps, encore moins le goût, de fabriquer des problèmes, trop occupée qu’elle est à tenter de résoudre ceux dont elle vient à avoir connaissance. Une vision des frontières, de l’étranger et de la migration qui n’est plus adaptée à son temps, c’est un problème, majeur, que nous ne résoudrons jamais seuls et qui demande une implication littéralement universelle. D’autant qu’il n’est pas sans rencontrer l’autre problème majeur du moment, le coronavirus. Si ce n’est par la coupable méfiance vis-à-vis de traitements venus de l’extérieur et/ou par la tout aussi coupable négligence alimentant l’inégalité vaccinale entre nations, plusieurs fois dénoncée de concert par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé et le Fonds monétaire international, comment expliquer l’apparition des variants Delta puis Omicron respectivement en Inde puis en Afrique du Sud ? On empêchera des êtres humains de quitter leur pays, on les empêchera d’entrer dans celui qu’ils espèrent atteindre, mais des gardes-frontières n’arrêtent pas un virus. Les frontières non plus, et voir en elles une solution soit à la migration tant redoutée soit à la Covid-19, c’est rendre impossible tant une migration ordonnée et humaine que la fin de la pandémie.

Un seul monde, ce n’est plus un slogan, c’est maintenant un fait. Que la WENA vous nomme un migrant si vous y venez ou si vous allez et venez en dehors d’elle (le terme «réfugié» n’ayant plus rien d’automatique, même devant un danger avéré), ou un expatrié si vous en venez et la quittez, vous serez toujours soumis aux lois nationales sur la migration et c’est là, partout, un domaine régalien, privilège absolu de l’État. Mais si ces lois sont adoptées et/ou appliquées les yeux grands fermés à la marche du monde, votre sort ne regardera bientôt plus seulement votre État de provenance et/ou d’arrivée. Pas plus que votre nationalité ne fera quelque différence si vous êtes positif à la Covid-19, où que vous soyez. Les deux questions seront mondiales.

Le droit absolu à la migration, sans demander l’avis de l’État d’arrivée, n’existera probablement jamais. Pour autant, le droit à la migration, celui d’être accueilli dignement, d’être ainsi traité même si l’on doit ensuite repartir et, certes, de n’être en aucun cas traité en migrant lorsque l’on est demandeur d’asile, peut et doit être un droit absolu, pour d’élémentaires raisons d’humanité dont même une catastrophe planétaire claire et présente n’autorise pas l’oubli.

Qu’on le veuille ou non, il n’existe plus qu’un seul monde. S’il prend au sérieux les malades de la Covid-19, alors il n’a pas d’excuse pour ne pas prendre au sérieux les migrants. Au moment où la deuxième année de la pandémie s’achève, s’il est déjà temps de prendre une bonne résolution, alors, que ce soit celle d’y parvenir enfin. Et immuniser les consciences contre nos coupables indifférences.

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

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