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Au Nicaragua, l’Etat nie la COVID-19 et abandonne les soignants à leur sort

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Latin America, NGOs, Nicaragua, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 2, 2020 at 8:03 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

L’une des leçons majeures de la crise de la COVID-19 restera que, malgré ses errements dans les premiers temps de la pandémie, l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) aura agi comme un révélateur de la mentalité des Etats envers cette menace planétaire sans précédent depuis la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. L’enseignement en est clair, autant qu’il est inquiétant : là où, partout dans le monde, le virus frappe sans faire de distinction, certains dirigeants nationaux le croient néanmoins perméable à leurs choix politiques.

Là où Emmanuel Macron, Président de la République française, déclarait à son peuple en instaurant le confinement «Nous sommes en guerre» et son Ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé Olivier Véran faisait sien le mot d’ordre de l’OMS, «Testez, testez, testez», le Premier Ministre britannique Boris Johnson risquait le pari de l’immunité collective, pari perdu qui faillit lui coûter sa propre vie.

Aux Etats-Unis, le Président Donald Trump refuse toute injonction internationale, étant allé jusqu’à interrompre le financement américain de l’OMS puis rompre toute relation avec elle. Au Brésil, le Président Jair Bolsonaro adopte une ligne semblable, rejetant gestes-barrière et distanciation physique. Dans les deux pays, ce sont les gouverneurs des Etats fédérés qui doivent agir, provoquant la colère de leurs chefs d’Etat respectifs qui mobilisent contre eux leurs partisans.

Et toujours sur le continent américain, un pays se distingue plus encore – le Nicaragua, où le pouvoir nie tout bonnement l’épidémie et invite, si ce n’est oblige, la population à enfreindre toutes les préconisations internationales.

Le Président du Nicaragua défend la COVID-19 comme un «signal de Dieu»

Daniel Ortega, l’ancien chef sandiniste du temps de la Guerre Froide, évincé du pouvoir aux urnes en 1990 puis qui y est revenu par la même voie en 2006 et s’y est fait réélire en 2011 avec, pour candidate à la Vice-présidence, nulle autre que son épouse Rosario Murillo, tenait déjà son pays d’une main de fer depuis le 18 avril 2018 et sa répression des protestations populaires contre un projet avorté de réforme des retraites et de la sécurité sociale défavorable aux plus précaires. Des professionnels de tous corps de métier, parmi lesquels un nombre important de soignants, avaient été licenciés. Des militants de l’opposition avaient été emprisonnés. Le Costa Rica voisin connaissait un afflux par dizaines de milliers de Nicaraguayens fuyant la dictature de fait surnommée «Orteguillo» en contraction des noms de Daniel Ortega et Rosario Murillo.

Dans de telles conditions, il n’aurait pas paru saugrenu de voir le pouvoir nicaraguayen prendre prétexte de la COVID-19 pour imposer des restrictions impitoyables, par exemple un confinement sur le modèle philippin avec menace de tirer à balles réelles sur les contrevenants. Contre toute attente, Managua a choisi l’extrême inverse, celui du déni total de la pandémie.

Capture d’écran France 2, 2018

Après avoir obligé la population à marcher en masse, dans la promiscuité, sous la bannière du Front Sandiniste de Libération Nationale (FSLN) au pouvoir pour célébrer «l’amour et la paix en temps de coronavirus», Ortega a disparu des écrans à partir du 12 mars, à tel point que d’aucuns le supposaient contaminé lui-même. Le 15 avril, il est réapparu sur les antennes de la télévision nicaraguayenne, qualifiant la COVID-19 de «signal de Dieu» et excluant toute mesure sanitaire nationale contre elle.

Le résultat en est dramatique. Au 23 mai, l’Observatoire citoyen du Nicaragua annonçait plus de 2 600 cas dans le pays, où s’enracine à présent la pratique des inhumations nocturnes des victimes de l’épidémie niée par le pouvoir. Le danger est devenu tel que les Etats voisins d’Amérique centrale, Guatemala, El Salvador et Costa Rica, craignent désormais de voir s’embraser toute la région par la faute de Managua.

Malgré tout, la population respecte les consignes internationales, la campagne «Quédate en casa», «Reste à la maison», lancée pour inciter au confinement, s’attirant les foudres d’un Ortega qui insiste pour ne rien faire. Quant au personnel médical, il est au mieux livré à lui-même et au pire réprimé.

Les soignants du Nicaragua livrés à eux-mêmes – et surtout au danger

Depuis avril 2018, au Nicaragua, les médecins sont des ennemis d’Etat. Ces médecins qui ont soigné les manifestants blessés dans la répression des mouvements populaires et qui l’ont payé en nombre de leur emploi. Face à la COVID-19, les derniers remparts d’une population poussée à l’infection par le régime sont devenus pour lui rien moins que des traîtres.

Fulgencio Baez, onco-hématologue hospitalier, confiait à l’association SOS Nicaragua France dans sa Newsletter de mai : «Nous savons que nous sommes dans la partie de la montée exponentielle de la contagion, avec la contagion communautaire. Il y a plusieurs morts, sans connaître le nombre exact. Ce que nous entendons quotidiennement et ce que nous voyons concernant les personnes décédées sont des foyers à Chinandega, Managua, Masaya et Matagalpa».

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Déjà faible auparavant, poursuivait le médecin, le système de santé nicaraguayen n’avait aucune chance contre la pandémie. Privés de tout appui gouvernemental, notamment de toute statistique puisque les quelques tests disponibles restent le monopole de l’Etat, les soignants sont débordés et bien sûr menacés eux-mêmes d’infection à tout moment.

L’ennemi devant eux avec la pandémie, mais aussi derrière eux en la personne de leur propre Président, les soignants du Nicaragua n’ont pas seulement la santé, et la vie, de leurs seuls compatriotes mais aussi des peuples de toute l’Amérique centrale.

Seul moyen de leur permettre de vaincre : les aider directement, en passant outre leur gouvernement. C’est ce qu’a entrepris SOS Nicaragua France, à travers une campagne de dons sur son espace HelloAsso.

L’Association of World Citizens défend l’action citoyenne en plus de celle de l’Etat, voire à la place et, s’il le faut, contre l’Etat. Ici, à la place suffit déjà bien, la société civile devant assumer seule et sans aide, envers son peuple et les pays voisins, la responsabilité que l’Etat ne reconnaît pas. Seule et sans aide, sauf si le peuple du monde vient à son secours.

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

Capture d'écran 2020-06-02 20.34.09

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Education for Global Citizenship

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

By René Wadlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AWC highlights that a World Citizen is one:

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

– Respects and values diversity;

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

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

Note

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

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

A Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

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

By René Wadlow

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Notes

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

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

 

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

Conscience: The Inner Voice of the Higher Self

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

By René Wadlow

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Khalil Gibran

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

Condamnée pour avoir défendu ses clients : Maître Najet Laabidi, la valeur d’un symbole

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, World Law on March 30, 2020 at 7:05 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Il est des années qui marquent l’histoire d’un pays, mais aussi celle d’une association. L’année 1961 est, pour l’Allemagne, celle de la construction du Mur de Berlin, qui allait devenir le symbole le plus douloureux de la Guerre Froide, de même qu’elle est l’année de la création, au Royaume-Uni, d’Amnesty International. Cinquante ans plus tard, pour la Tunisie, 2011 est l’année d’une révolution victorieuse du peuple contre la dictature, la première de son genre dans le monde arabe. Pour l’Association of World Citizens (AWC), c’est l’année de la disparition de son Président-fondateur, Douglas Mattern, emporté par un cancer dans la banlieue de San Francisco.

Mais c’est aussi l’année où nous avons commencé à suivre un cas individuel sur lequel, au début de la décennie nouvelle et au milieu de la tragédie mondiale sur laquelle elle s’ouvre, nous travaillons toujours. L’un des volets de ce cas vient de connaître son dénouement en justice, un dénouement qui, pour n’être pas des plus sévères, ne peut pourtant nous satisfaire. Car lui aussi est porteur d’un symbole, lourd, trop lourd et menaçant.

Civile jugée par des militaires, avocate punie pour avoir défendu

Ce cas, c’est celui de Najet Laabidi, avocate, Défenseure des Droits Humains (DDH). Comme nous l’écrivions le 27 mai 2017 dans notre article «Najet Laabidi, avocate engagée pour l’Etat de droit en Tunisie» :

«Le 8 novembre 2011, choisie et contactée pour représenter des victimes de mauvais traitements dans l’affaire Barakat Essahel, l’avocate subit un déluge d’insultes et de menaces de la part de proches d’anciens officiels de l’Etat poursuivis en justice pour avoir torturé des prisonniers politiques sous Ben Ali. D’abord par téléphone avant le procès, puis le jour venu, en pleine salle d’audience.

La police militaire évacue les auteurs des injures et menaces, mais ne lève pas le petit doigt pour protéger l’avocate. Il lui est ordonné de ne pas quitter le prétoire jusqu’à ce que tout le monde soit sorti. Elle décline une proposition de la raccompagner en voiture. Le ton est donné de ce que seront les années qui suivent pour Najet Laabidi.

Quatre ans plus tard, deuxième round. Le 26 novembre 2015, elle plaide lors d’une audience d’opposition contre Ezzedine Jenayeh, ancien Directeur de la Sûreté nationale sous Ben Ali, condamné par contumace pour délit de violences dans l’affaire Baraket Essahel et qui conteste le jugement. D’entrée, la procédure consacre l’arbitraire.

[…]

[Devant le Tribunal militaire, Najet Laabidi avait accusé Leila Hammami, juge du Tribunal militaire de Première instance,] de partialité, les propos de Najet Laabidi ayant été filmés puis diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux. «Dans ma vidéo,» rappelle l’avocate, «j’ai évoqué les circonstances de l’impunité, j’ai souligné que le Tribunal militaire ne pouvait pas consacrer les principes d’un procès équitable car, dans ce corps d’Etat, il y a toujours la corruption». Nouvelle plainte de Leila Hammami le 21 décembre 2015, la magistrate versant au dossier un CD de l’enregistrement de Najet Laabidi lui disant ses quatre vérités.

Il n’en faut pas plus au Procureur général près la Cour d’appel de Tunis pour lancer des poursuites sur le fondement de l’Article 128 du Code pénal pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Convoquée le 1er février 2016 devant le juge d’instruction du Tribunal de première instance de Tunis, Najet Laabidi refuse de comparaître. Le 12 octobre 2016, elle est condamnée par contumace à un an d’emprisonnement.

Informée de sa condamnation seulement le 24 avril dernier, l’avocate y fait opposition. A l’issue de son audience le 10 mai dernier, Najet Laabidi est condamnée à six mois de prison, décision dont elle interjette immédiatement appel. Mais qui n’aurait jamais dû intervenir en premier lieu, puisque ce qu’on lui reproche, outre peut-être son appartenance à un parti politique d’opposition, c’est d’avoir agi comme ce qu’elle est – une avocate.»

Qu’importe que tant la Constitution tunisienne que le droit international des Droits Humains interdisent la comparution de civils devant les juridictions militaires, dont les justiciables sont par définition les seuls membres des forces armées. Najet Laabidi comparaît le 27 juin 2019 devant le Tribunal militaire de Première instance de Tunis. A l’issue d’une délibération aux allures d’interminable, le 12 mars 2020, l’avocate est reconnue coupable et condamnée à une amende symbolique de huit dinars tunisiens, soit 2,50 € ou $2,79.

L’ONG FrontLine Defenders annonce la condamnation de Maître Najet Laabidi

Mieux vaut une amende symbolique qu’une peine d’emprisonnement ferme, certes, comme celle qui lui aurait été à coup sûr infligée pour les mêmes faits sous Ben Ali. Mais cela reste trop, car justement, c’est un symbole.

Une Défenseure des Droits Humains humiliée

Ce n’est un secret pour personne, le droit tunisien est un héritier direct du droit français, qui l’a construit pendant la période de protectorat de la France en Tunisie de 1881 à 1956. A cette exception près que la justice tunisienne ne dispose pas d’un instrument historique et juridique majeur comme la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen proclamée en France en 1789, aujourd’hui partie intégrante de la Constitution de la République française. Les formes y sont, mais jusqu’en cette année 2011, le fond, les justiciables tunisiens avaient pris l’habitude de s’en passer. Sauf peut-être les opposants et DDH qui garnissaient régulièrement les cellules du régime. Et ce droit français recèle un intriguant symbole.

Que ce soit au civil ou en tant que partie civile dans un procès pénal ou criminel, il est possible de demander à son adversaire, qui sera au pénal le prévenu et l’accusé en cour d’assises, un «euro symbolique» de dommages et intérêts, descendant logique du «franc symbolique» qui servait la même fonction. Lorsqu’il ne s’agit pas de balayer les accusations du public d’opportunisme financier, surtout si l’adversaire est notoirement aisé, l’euro symbolique est une solution commode pour faire reconnaître du juge son préjudice d’estime sans avoir à demander une somme conséquente qui ne serait jamais accordée, tant il serait impossible de prouver un préjudice moral ou financier conséquent. Pour autant, l’euro symbolique n’en peut pas moins servir d’outil de vexation envers la partie condamnée, qui se voit ainsi refuser toute idée de puissance et réduire au dénuement moral.

Condamner Najet Laabidi à huit dinars symboliques, comme elle aurait pu l’être à un «dinar symbolique», c’est envers elle une double insulte. D’abord parce qu’elle n’a commis aucun acte qui eût pu lui valoir une comparution en justice, ayant rempli ses charges d’avocate et aucun Etat se voulant un Etat de droit ne peut judiciariser quiconque pour cela ; voilà qui, à bon droit, interroge sur l’Article 128 du Code pénal tunisien et son intitulé périlleusement vague d’ «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Ensuite, parce que c’est sa qualité de DDH elle-même qui s’en trouve niée, ses juges lui accordant la faveur d’une peine clémente alors que la moindre conscience juridique aurait dû les amener à une seule et unique conclusion, celle de l’iniquité de toute peine même symbolique envers elle, professionnelle du droit œuvrant pour la défense des valeurs mêmes qui avaient fait descendre les Tunisiens dans la rue et, in fine, amené la chute du régime Ben Ali puis l’avènement du système actuel, ce système dont ces mêmes juges font partie.

En ce sens-là, oui, l’amende infligée à Najet Laabidi a la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole d’une Tunisie qui, depuis 2011, avance vers l’Etat de droit mais bien souvent trébuche. Dans notre article du 18 mars 2018 intitulé «Maître Najet Laabidi de nouveau visée par les autorités tunisiennes», nous notions encore :

«Si l’on juge un pays sur la manière dont il traite les personnes handicapées, alors la Tunisie a besoin d’un bon avocat. Et si l’on juge un pays au respect que les pouvoirs publics accordent aux avocats, alors la terre du Jasmin semble en chute libre vers l’indéfendable».

Autant dire que Najet Laabidi a elle aussi, plus encore, la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole des DDH de tous parcours de vie et milieux professionnels, même si les praticiens du droit sont par définition mieux armés pour défendre, qui permettent tant soit peu à cette Tunisie en chute libre de se raccrocher aux branches. La valeur d’un symbole à défendre, car de là dépend la réalité de demain de l’Etat de droit en Tunisie. Et partout ailleurs, parce qu’un symbole de liberté n’a pas de frontières.

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

Libya: The Fairy Godmothers Hoping to Bless a New State Structure Meet in Berlin

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on January 22, 2020 at 9:16 PM

By René Wadlow

The Fairy Godmothers of world politics met in Berlin on January 19, 2020 to assist at the birth of a State structure arising from the currently deeply divided factions of Libya: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were the co-hosts with the Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, the USA’s Mike Pompeo as well as the less easily recognized officials – the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the representatives of China, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates. There were also representatives of the major intergovernmental organizations involved in Libya: the UN, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Final Document of the Berlin Conference is an effort to please all participants, but, in fact, on the crucial issue of the creation of a functioning administration for Libya, there was only a broad vision of a desirable future: a single, unified, inclusive, and effective Libyan government that is transparent, accountable, fair with equitable distribution of public wealth and resources between different Libyan geographic areas, including through decentralization and support for municipalities, thereby removing a central grievance and cause of recrimination.

The creation of such State structures has been the chief issue since 1945 when the Allies – Britain, the USA and the USSR – agreed that the Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy, although Italian settlers were encouraged to stay. The Allies did not want to create the structures of the new State believing that this task should be done by the Libyans themselves. Also, the three Allies disagreed among themselves as to the nature of the future State.

King Idris I of Libya

By 1950-1951 with more crucial geopolitical issues elsewhere, the Allies were ready for the creation of a Libyan State. It seemed that a monarchy was the most appropriate form of government as there were no structured political parties that could have created a parliamentary government. Thus in 1951, Idris was made the King of the State. Idris was the head of the Senussi Sufi Order created by his father. The Senussi Sufi Order had branches in most parts of the country. Idriss ruled the country as if it were a Sufi order and did little to structure non-religious political structures. Idris ruled until September 1969 when he was overthrown by Muammar Qaddafi.

Qaddafi was also not interested in creating permanent political parties which, he feared, might be used against him. He called himself “the Guide of the Revolution” not “President” and Libya became the Libyan Jamahiriya, that is, the authority of the people. The closest model to Qaddafi’s vision is a Quaker Meeting, where decisions are taken by consensus and compromise at the local level. These decisions are then sent as recommendations to the next higher level where by consensus and compromise again a decision is taken. Ultimately, these decisions reach to the top of Libya, and the “Guide” sees how they can be carried out.

Muammar Qaddafi

The problem with the governance of Libya was that not everyone was a member of a Sufi order where the search for enlightenment in a spirit of love was the way decisions were to be made. Moreover, there were hardly any Libyan Quakers, and compromise was not the chief model for the tribal and clanic networks which was how the country was structured under Qaddafi.

Since the overthrow and death of Qaddafi in 2011, there has been no agreement on how the country should be structured. The model which is most likely to be followed is that of General Khalifa Haftar, who now likes to be addressed as “Field Marshal”. The model is a military-based dictatorship with a small number of civilians as “window dressing”. The model is well represented through the world although not always held up as a model form of government. Haftar holds a good bit of the Libyan territory, although his hope of a quick victory over the “national unity” government in the capitol Tripoli has not been successful for the moment.

Faiez Sarraj

The National Unity Government of Faiez Sarraj is a civilian-led government but heavily dependent for its survival on tribal militias. The model for the government is that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey with a certain ideological coloring from the Islamic Brotherhood, originally from Egypt but whose ideology has spread. What type of structures can be created between these two major models is not known. I would expect to see a Khalifa Haftar-led government with a few civilians brought in from the National Unity Government.

General Khalifa Haftar

The only geographic area outside of the current Tripoli-centered conflict between Faiez Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar is the area known as the Fezzan – the southwestern part of the country on the edge of the Sahara. The area was associated with the rest of the country during the period of King Idriss as there were a number of branches of his Sufi order in the oases where most of the 200,000 people in the area live, mostly date palm farmers. Gaddafi largely left the area alone as there was little possibility of developing organized opposition. However, today, the governmental neglect has opened the door to wide-spread smuggling of people, weapons and drugs. The Italian government in particular has drawn international attention to the lack of administration in the Fezzan as many of the African migrants who end up in Italy have passed through the Fezzan on their way to Europe.

The creation of highly decentralized governmental structures in Libya will not be easy. Nevertheless, such decentralized administration is key to the future, and a challenge to all of us who want to see a peaceful and relatively just Libya.

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

A Vibrant World Civil Society

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II on January 4, 2020 at 11:21 PM

By René Wadlow

The term “civil society” came into extensive use especially in Europe in the mid -1970s as efforts to bridge the East-West divide and prevent the dangers of war in Europe. As Mary Kalder writes “A group of us launched the European Nuclear Disarmament (END) Appeal for a nuclear-free Europe. The Appeal attracted thousands of signatures from all over Europe and beyond and was one of the mobilizing documents of the new peace movement which sprang up in Western Europe in the early 1980s. The Appeal called for nuclear disarmament through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means, but it was also an appeal to end the Cold War. It accorded responsibility in the Cold War to both the United States and the Soviet Union and insisted on the link between disarmament and democracy.” (1)

Ernest Gellner

The END Appeal looked to positive action from “civil society” within the Soviet bloc which was starting to be vocal outside of the government-controlled peace organizations which largely reflected Soviet government policy in their interaction with Western peace-disarmament non-governmental organizations. As Ernest Gellner writes, “Civil Society is the idea of institutional and ideological pluralism, which prevents the established monopoly of power and truth and counterbalances those central institutions which though necessary, might otherwise acquire such monopoly. The actual practice of Marxism had led, wherever it came to be implemented to what might be called Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism to the near total fusion of the political, ideological, and economic hierarchies. The state, the church-party, and the economic managers were all parts of one single nomenclature… Civil Society is that set of diverse nongovernmental institutions which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and, while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role as keeper of the peace and arbitrator between major interests, can nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomizing the rest of society.” (2)

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, although he later became president of a State, was a valuable symbol of the efforts to develop a civil society. “We emphasized many times that the struggle we had taken on had little in common with what is traditionally understood by the expression ‘politics.’ We discussed such concepts as non-political politics, and stressed that we were interested in certain values and principles and not in power and position. We emphasized the importance of the spirit, the importance of truth and said that even spirit and truth embody a certain kind of power.” (3)

Today, more than in the recent past, we are faced with a revival of the Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism States whose interactions, especially in the wider Middle East, could lead to armed conflicts. In addition to the Caesaro-led States, the world society faces terrorism as movements with goals, gurus, ideologues, myths and martyrs. Thus there is a need to develop and structure a world-wide civil society. The concept of civil society is probably the platform for future progressive action. The global civil society is a ‘power shift’ of potentially historic dimensions with bonds of trust, shared values and mutual obligations which cross national frontiers. With the war drums starting to beat, creative action is needed now.

Notes

1) Mary Kaldor (Ed.), Europe from Below (London: Verso, 1991)
2) Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals (London: Penguin Books, 1996)
3) Vaclav Havel in Mary Kalder (Ed.), Europe from Below.

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

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

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

By René Wadlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvin Khalaf : Une lumière s’est éteinte, mais la réconciliation reste à faire

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 12:16 PM

Par René Wadlow

Le 12 octobre 2019, Havrin Khalaf, Co-secrétaire générale du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, a été abattue à un barrage routier par la milice Ahrar al-Shargiya soutenue par la Turquie. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie avait été formé en mars 2018 à Raqqa afin de créer «une Syrie démocratique, pluraliste et décentralisée». Le Parti était actif au sein de l’Administration autonome du Nord et de l’Est de la Syrie – région souvent désignée par les Kurdes en tant que Rojava. La région présente une haute diversité, tant de par les groupes qui la peuplent que par les religions qui y sont représentées. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie cherchait donc à bâtir des ponts de compréhension entre Kurdes, Arabes, Turkmènes et tous les autres groupes, ainsi qu’entre Musulmans, Chrétiens et Yézidis. L’espoir était que cet effort pour bâtir des passerelles devienne un exemple pour tout le reste de la Syrie.

Avant même le début des combats en Syrie en 2011, la société syrienne était divisée selon des critères ethniques et religieux. Les hostilités, le déplacement de populations, la montée de l’Etat islamique (Daesh) n’ont fait qu’accroître les divisions ethniques et religieuses. Dans de nombreux cas, la confiance entre les groupes a été brisée, et même la coopération a minima qui se manifestait à travers des liens économiques a volé en éclats. Rebâtir la coopération, et c’était l’un des buts principaux du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, s’avérera difficile. L’incursion des forces turques et de leurs alliés syriens au nord-est de la Syrie va rendre la coopération par-delà les divisions ethniques et religieuses encore plus ardue.

A elle seule, Havrin Khalaf symbolisait cet effort de réconciliation. Elle était également un symbole de la quête pour l’égalité entre femmes et hommes. Femme kurde, elle avait pour Co-secrétaire général du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie un homme arabe. Femme dotée d’une solide éducation – elle avait été diplômée de l’Université d’Alep en 2009 – elle était particulièrement active en matière d’autonomie et de renforcement des femmes. Elle avait souvent officié comme porte-parole auprès de diplomates, journalistes, et travailleurs humanitaires en visite dans la région. Jouissant d’une haute visibilité, elle n’a pu être tuée que de manière délibérée. En même temps qu’elle, le chauffeur de la voiture du Parti à bord de laquelle elle se déplaçait a trouvé la mort.

Le danger est réel de voir de tels assassinats se multiplier avec l’avancée des troupes turques et l’expansion permanente de leur contrôle sur ce qu’ils appellent, non sans ironie, une « zone de sécurité ». Déjà dans un passé récent, l’occupation turque de la région d’Afrin a entraîné des déplacements de population, des pillages, des prises d’otages et des tortures. Il est également à craindre que les territoires du nord-est de la Syrie récemment repassées sous le contrôle du Gouvernement syrien ne soient pas épargnées par les crimes de vengeance, ni par les violations des Droits Humains ou du droit humanitaire international pour des motifs politiques.

Avec le décès de Havrin Khalaf à trente-quatre ans, une lumière vient de s’éteindre. Mais la réconciliation reste à faire. Il faut des voix nouvelles. Nous qui vivons en dehors de la Syrie, nous devons voir ce que nous pouvons faire pour faciliter ce rôle vital de construction de ponts entre les êtres humains.

Le Professeur René Wadlow est Président de l’Association of World Citizens.

Havrin Khalaf: A Light Has Gone Out But The Tasks of Reconciliation Remain

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 10:02 AM

By René Wadlow

On October 12, 2019, Havrin Khalaf, the Co-Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party was shot to death at a roadblock by the Turkish-backed militia, Ahrar al-Shargiya. The Future of Syria Party had been formed in March 2018 in Raqqa with its aim of a “democratic, pluralistic, and decentralized Syria.” The Party was active in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria — an area often referred to by the Kurds as Rojava. The area is highly diverse in both population groups and religions. Thus, the Future Syria Party wanted to build bridges of understanding among Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups as well as among Muslims, Christians and Yezidis. The hope was that this bridge-building effort would become a model for all of Syria.

Even before the fighting began in Syria in 2011, the Syrian society was divided along ethnic and religious lines. The fighting, the displacement of people, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) has increased ethnic and religious divisions. In many cases, trust among groups has been broken, and even minimal cooperation through economic links has been broken. Rebuilding cooperation, a chief aim of the Future Syria Party, will be difficult. The move of Turkish forces and their Syrian allies into northeast Syria will make cooperation across ethnic and religious divides even more difficult.

Havrin Khalaf was a symbol of this reconciliation effort. She was also a symbol of the quest for equality between women and men. As a Kurdish woman she had an Arab man as Co-Secretary-General of the Party. As an educated woman – she received a degree from the University of Aleppo in 2009 – she was particularly active for the empowerment of women. She often served as spokesperson for visiting diplomats, journalists, and aid workers. As a highly visible person, her killing was deliberate. The driver of the Party car she was in was also killed at the same time.

There is a real danger that such killings increase as Turkish troops advance and control an ever-larger part of what the Turks have ironically called “the safe zone.” Earlier Turkish occupation of the Efrin area has led to the displacement of people, looting, hostage-taking and torture. We can also fear that areas in northeast Syria newly under the control of the Syrian Government will not be free from revenge killings and politically-motivated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

With the death of Havrin Khalaf at the age of 34, a light has gone out. The tasks of reconciliation remain. New voices are needed. We outside of Syria must see how best we can facilitate this vital role of bridge-building.

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

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