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Migration in a Globalized World Economy

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

By René Wadlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disintegrating Donbass. Is there a future for a con-federal Ukraine?

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 27, 2017 at 8:22 AM

By René Wadlow

The flight on November 23, 2017 of Igor Plotinitsky, President of the separatist Ukrainian area of the Lugansk People’s Republic is a sign of the continuing difficulties of developing appropriate forms of constitutional government in the Ukraine. Plotinitsky was in open conflict with his “Minister of the Interior” Igor Konet whom he had fired but who refused to give up his position. It is reported that military troops are moving from Donetsk, the other People’s Republic of the Donbass, and perhaps other troops from Russia but without signs of identification.

Much of the fate of the two Donbass People’s Republics is in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he is unwilling to take public responsibility. Some have argued that two people’s republics in Donbass is one too many and that the two republics will be unified under the leadership of President Alexandre Zakhartchenko of Donetsk. Meanwhile the Ukrainian government has reinforced its troops on the frontier with the separatist zone.


The flag of the “Republic of Donetsk” as written in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet

Officially the Donbass is under an agreement signed in Minsk on February 12, 2015 among Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine acting under a mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The agreement called for a ceasefire, local elections, a reintegration into the State of Ukraine but with constitutional reforms giving greater local autonomy. In practice, the Minsk accords have never been carried out.

The new crisis may return to the status quo of continuing tensions, occasional artillery exchanges, a lack of any effective cooperation, and a continuing economic decline. It is estimated that some 10,000 persons have been killed in the conflict since April 2014. However, there is a danger that the conflict slips out of control, and violence increases. The secretariat of the OSCE must be on high alert.

A crisis can at times be a moment to reconsider the possibilities and to seek a more long-lasting agreement. At the start of the Ukraine conflict in April 2014, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) had proposed the creation of a Ukrainian confederation with decentralization, respect for cultural autonomy, economic cooperation among the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the European Union. Some of the ideas are reflected in the Minsk agreement, but distrust is so high that no practical steps have been taken.

The current crisis may serve as a reminder of how dangerous a disintegrating Donbass can be. An alternative would be to study seriously the possibilities of a con-federal Ukraine.

The AWC has a longstanding interest in developing appropriate constitutional structures for States facing the possibilities of prolonged or intensified armed conflicts. In the recent past, we have proposed con-federal structures to deal with conflict situations in Mali, Ukraine, Myanmar, Libya and Cyprus as well as Kurdistan which involves both the structure of Iraq as well as positive cooperation among Kurds living in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.


OSCE Special Monitoring Mission members monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine

Con-federation and autonomy are broad concepts, capable of covering a multitude of visions extending from very limited local initiatives to complete control over everything other than foreign policy. Autonomy can therefore incorporate all situations between nearly total subordination to the center to nearly total independence. The ways in which the elements and patterns of autonomy are put together requires political imagination, far-sighted political leadership, a willingness to compromise, and constant dialogue.

In none of the six situations on which we have made proposals have we found much of a climate for meaningful negotiations although there have been formal negotiation processes carried out in the Ukraine case by the OSCE and on Cyprus by the United Nations.

Negotiations means a joint undertaking by disputants with the aim of settling their disputes on the basis of mutual compromise. Negotiation is a basic political decision-making process, a way of finding common interests, to facilitate compromise without loss of what each considers to be essential objectives. For the parties in a conflict to seek a compromise requires a certain climate – an informed public opinion that will accept the compromise and build better future relations on the agreement.

The challenges posed by the conflicts in Mali, Ukraine, Myanmar, Libya, Cyprus and Kurdistan need to be measured against the broad concept of security. Barry Buzan of the University of Copenhagen sets out four types of security. “Political security concerns the organizational stability of states, systems of government, and the ideologies that give them legitimacy. Economic security concerns access to the resources, finances and markets necessary to sustain acceptable levels of welfare. Societal security concerns the sustainability within acceptable conditions of the evolution of traditional patterns of language, culture, religions and customs. Environmental security concerns the maintenance of the local and the planetary biosphere as the essential support system on which all other human enterprises depend.”

One of the difficulties in each situation is what I would call “the frozen image of the other”. In each case, the group or groups demanding new State structures are seen in the minds of the current government authorities as being the same people with the same aspirations as when the demands were first made: the Karen of Myanmar today are the same as the Karen of the Union of Burma in 1947; the Tuareg of north Mali today are the same as those calling for the creation of an independent State in 1940 when the withdrawal of French troops to Dakar had left a political vacuum.

However, there have been evolutions in policy proposals and in the level of education and experience of new leadership of those demanding autonomy. Yet “frozen images” exist and need to be overcome within all decision-makers involved. The modification of “frozen images” is one of the tasks of nongovernmental organizations and Track II diplomatic efforts.

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

March 8: Start of the Russian Revolution

In Being a World Citizen, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, Women's Rights, World Law on March 8, 2017 at 9:59 AM

By René Wadlow

March 8 – International Women’s Day – was the start of the Russian Revolution that ended the rule of the Tsar. (It was February 23 by the Russian calendar then in use and so is called the “February Revolution”) International Women’s Day had been first proposed by Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911, and the idea spread quickly in progressive circles. By 1917, the idea of a day calling for the equality of women within a more just society was well developed among women in Petrograd.


A former postal stamp of East Germany honoring Clara Zetkin. 

Thus, for International Women’s Day in Petrograd (as St. Petersburg had been renamed in 1914) a group of women factory workers and lower class housewives decided to demonstrate near the buildings of the government to protest food shortages and working conditions. When they crossed from the industrial suburb, they found another demonstration of upper class women who were demanding the right to vote. The two demonstrations joined forces and were soon joined by men, making for the largest demonstration in Petrograd since the 1905 uprising.


The Tsar, Nicholas II, who was at the front inspecting his troops, telegraphed demanding the restoration of order. General Khabalov, commander of the Petrograd Military District called out the reserve infantry with tan order to shoot if necessary. As the regular army soldiers and officers were already fighting the Germans at the front, the reserves were made of persons who had returned to civilian life and thus had much in common with the demonstrators.

The crowd of demonstrators continued to grow, being joined by people from the countryside coming into the city. On February 26, some of the soldiers following the orders of their officers did fire, causing hundreds of casualties. The loss of life provoked wide-spread mutinies, in effect ending the regime. The door was open to power for the revolutionaries who called themselves the “Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies.” By March 15, Nicholas II had abdicated and was placed under house arrest at his palace.


Nicholas II, the deposed Tsar of Russia.

The crucial issue facing the new Provisional Government was the war with Germany and the Central Powers. The Germans had allowed their eastern front to fall dormant waiting for the outcome of the Russian turmoil and the possibility of a negotiated end to Russian participation in the war. The Provisional Government reaffirmed its treaty obligations with the Allies (France and England) and pledged to fight on to victory.

The decision to continue the unpopular war provoked new demonstrations. A crisis in the governing cabinet in July 1917 brought in new cabinet members from the Marxist factions. The lawyer Alexander Kerensky shifted from being the minister of justice to the minister of war as well as President of the Council of Ministers. He became the “strong man” of the revised government, yet he could look for new support neither to his right nor to his left.

The radicalization of the country and the divisions of opinion over the war made the survival of the Provisional Cabinet dubious. The Provisional Government faltered and splintered. Lenin in Zürich and Trotsky in New York realized that February was only the beginning of their revolutionary opportunity, which came in early November (October 24) marking the “October Revolution.”

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

World Citizens Demand an End to All Hostile Maneuvers Toward Amnesty International in Russia

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, United Nations, World Law on November 4, 2016 at 9:20 AM

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The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is concerned that the headquarters of the Russian Section of Amnesty International, based in Moscow, have been sealed off by the local authorities and the staff have been barred from accessing the premises.

Although the Russian authorities have contended that the rent for the Amnesty headquarters was overdue, the organization has proved that this contention was unfounded, thus demonstrating that the sealing is an unwarranted move and a violation of Amnesty International’s rights as an organization of Human Rights Defenders in line with the provisions of Resolution 53/144 of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

Compliance with international human rights standards can never harm the stability – political, administrative or other, of a given society, only improve it by establishing firm legal, political, and moral norms that every citizen can both claim in defense of their own rights and use to defend the rights of others when necessary.

The AWC calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation and the City of Moscow to restore free access to the headquarters of Amnesty International Russia for its staff, volunteers, members and anyone else who may wish to visit with the consent of the Amnesty leadership there.

OSCE: Strains and Renewal in the Security Community

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Development, Human Rights, The Balkan Wars, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, World Law on August 2, 2015 at 9:29 AM


By René Wadlow

On August 1, 2015, the Helsinki Final Act, the birth certificate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) turned 40. The Final Act signed in Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall was the result of three years of nearly continuous negotiations among government representatives meeting for the most part in Geneva, Switzerland as well as years of promotion of better East-West relations by non-governmental peace builders.

Basically, one can date the planting of the seeds that grew into the OSCE as 1968 in two cities: Paris and Prague. The student-led demonstrations in Paris which sent shock waves to other university centers from California to Berlin showed that under a cover of calm, there was a river of demands and desires for a new life, a more cooperative and creative way of life.

In Prague, the Prague Spring of internal reforms and demands for a freer European society was met by the tanks of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in August. Yet some far-sighted individuals saw that 1968 was a turning point in European history and that there could be no return to the 1945 divisions of two Europes with the Berlin Wall as the symbol of that division. Thus, in small circles, there were those who started asking “Where do we go from here?”

A Security Community: A Halfway House

In 1957, Karl W. Deutsch (1912-1992) published an important study, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton University Press). Karl Deutsch was born to a German-speaking family in Prague in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family was active in socialist party politics and became strongly anti-Nazi. Seeing what might happen, Deutsch and his wife left Prague in 1939 for the USA where he became a leading political science-international relations professor. I knew Karl Deutsch in the mid-1950s when I was a university student at Princeton, and he was associated with a Center on International Organization at Princeton. It was there that he was developing his ideas on types of integration among peoples and States and that he coined the term “security community” to mean a group of people “believing that they had come to agreement on at least one point that common social problems must and can be resolved by processes of peaceful change.” For Deutsch, the concept of a security community could be applied to people coming together to form a State: His approach was much used in the 1960s in the study of “nation building” especially of post-colonial African States. A “security community” could also be a stage in relations among States as the term has become common in OSCE thinking. For Deutsch, a security community was a necessary halfway house before the creation of a State or a multi-State federation. Deutsch stressed the need for certain core values which created a sense of mutual identity and loyalty leading to self-restraint and good-faith negotiations to settle disputes.

Core values established and quickly disappeared

During the negotiations leading to the Helsinki Final Act, a set of 10 core values or commitments were set out, sometimes called the OSCE Decalogue after the “Ten Commandments”. “Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs” set the framework as well as the limitations of any efforts toward a supranational institution. The two other related core values were “the territorial integrity of States and the inviolability of frontiers.”

The core values were not so much “values” as a reflection of the status quo of the Cold War years. By the time that the Charter of Paris for a New Europe was signed in November 1990, marking the formal end of the Cold War, “territorial integrity and the inviolability of frontiers” as values had disappeared.

The 1990s saw the breakup of two major European federations − that of Yugoslavia and the USSR. Most of the work of the OSCE has been devoted to the consequences of these two breakups. Yugoslavia broke into nearly all the pieces that it could with a few exceptions. I had been asked to help support the independence of Sandzak, a largely Muslim area in Serbia and part of Montenegro. I declined, having thought at the time that with a few modifications the Yugoslav federation could be kept together. I was wrong, and the OSCE is still confronted by tensions in Kosovo, renewed tensions in Macedonia, an unlikely form of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as social issues of trafficking in persons, arms, drugs and uncontrolled migration.

The breakup of the Soviet Union has led to a full agenda of OSCE activities. The republics of the Soviet Union had been designed by Joseph Stalin, then Commissioner for Nationalities so that each republic could not become an independent State but would have to look to the central government for security and socio-economic development. Each Soviet republic had minority populations though each was given the name of the majority or dominant ethnic group called a “nationality”.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, there have been recurrent issues involving the degree of autonomy of geographic space and the role of minorities. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh had already started before the breakup, but continues to this day with its load of refugees, displaced persons and the calmer but unlikely twin, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Moldova and Transdniestria remain a “frozen conflict” with a 1992 ceasefire agreement. The armed conflicts in Chechnya and violence in Dagestan highlighted conflicts within the Russian Federation. The 2008 “Guns of August” conflict over South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia showed that autonomy issues could slip out of control and have Europe-wide consequences.

(C) Sadankomitea

(C) Sadankomitea

A Cloudy Cristal Ball

Predictions, especially about the future, are always difficult. In 2013, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Leonid Kazhara, said “We wish to contribute to the establishment of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community free of dividing lines, conflicts, spheres of influence and zones with different levels of security … There is a pressing need to, first of all, change our mindsets from confrontational thinking to a cooperative approach. I am confident that Ukraine, with its rich history, huge cultural heritage and clear European aspirations is well placed for carrying out this mission.”

Today, Ukraine’s rich history has a new chapter, recreating old dividing lines and spheres of influence. The shift in “ownership” of Crimea indicates that “territorial integrity of States” is a relative commitment. The large number of persons going to Russia as refugees and to west Ukraine as internally-displaced persons recalls the bad days of displacement of the Second World War. NATO has dangerously over-reacted to events in Ukraine.

It is not clear that the current leaders of the 57 governments of the OSCE have the wisdom or skills to lead to a renewal of the Security Community. Yet when one looks at the photos of the government leaders who did sign the Helsinki Final Act 40 years ago, there are few faces indicating wisdom or diplomatic skills so perhaps all is not lost today. Very likely, as in the period between the events of 1968 and the start of government negotiations in 1972, there will need to be nongovernmental voices setting out new ideas and creating bridges between people.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Ukraine: The Dogs of the Cold War are Awakened

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 12, 2014 at 9:11 PM


By René Wadlow


“Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


The dogs of the Cold War (1945-1990) had largely fallen asleep after the 1990 Summit Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Paris had put a formal end to the European aspects of the Cold War. A New Europe was the slogan of both governments and non-governmental currents that had been working for a Europe without its East-West divisions symbolized by the Berlin Wall.

Many of us had been involved in the April 1980 European Nuclear Disarmament Appeal, often shortened to END, of which the English historian E.P. Thompson was a leading spokesman. Mient Jan Faber of the Dutch Inter-Church Peace Council was the link to those working within church/religious groups on the same lines. Obviously, the level of arms − and thus disarmament − was not the only aspect of the moves necessary to move beyond the Cold War embodied in bureaucratic, and military-industrial forms.

There was a necessary ‘healing process’ − a need to remove the barbed wire in people’s minds and hearts.

The hope was that moving beyond the Cold War would become a citizens’ search for common projects, bringing together widening constituencies in a direct discourse beyond Cold War agendas and the media’s framing of the debates.

Many of us met in Prague in what was still Czechoslovakia in October 1990 for the creation of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly with an aim of a democratic integration of Europe. Vaclav Havel who had become Head of State spoke to the opening session on the power of acting from principle guided by our consciences to build a thoroughly new Europe undivided into blocs.

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who in 1989 led the country's 'Velvet Revolution', eventually becoming President of Czechoslovakia. From 1992 to 2003 Havel was President of the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia was eventually dissolved.

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who in 1989 led the country’s ‘Velvet Revolution’, eventually becoming President of Czechoslovakia. From 1992 to 2003 Havel was President of the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia was dissolved. (C) John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

“Helsinki Citizens” had been chosen by the organizers as the name because Helsinki had been the city which saw the formal start of the governmental process in 1975 leading first to a certain stabilization of the European Cold War structure and progressively to tension-reduction under the title of “détente”. Since much of the governmental detente seemed to be aimed only at making a more stable status quo, citizen activists spoke of “detente from below”, as going beyond the current structures.

The visions of a better world differed among peace, green, and human rights groups. However all agreed that the future forms of Europe was beyond the current status quo.

I had gone to Prague already concerned with ethnic-nationalities tensions. These tensions were colored by the Cold War but also had non-Cold War roots as seen in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the then USSR. Through contacts in Geneva, I had become concerned by Nagorno-Karabakh and thought that good faith negotiations could lead to a resolution of the conflict. I was also concerned with the growing tensions in Yugoslavia. My paper read at the Prague conference “Future of Europe” was published in the Belgrade Review of International Affairs in December 1990.

Since 1990, the conflicts linked to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the conflicts of Abkhazia-South Ossetia-Georgia, and Transnistra-Moldova all confirm my analysis that the key problem of our time is the manifestation of narrow nationalism. This narrow nationalist ideology must be countered by a strong cosmopolitan-world citizen ideology and practice.

The hope at Prague in 1990 was to build a pan-European movement participating in public debates, offering opinions and discussing alternatives in each country but also able to come together and act in a conflict resolution way in times of strong tensions and armed conflicts. There were a few efforts of the Helsinki groups during the Yugoslav conflicts, but they were not coordinated nor of massive size. I had participated in some of these undertakings at the UN in Geneva when the conference on Yugoslavia was in session there.

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, which houses the Headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (C) Bernard Henry

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, which houses the Headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (C) Bernard Henry/AWC

Since 1990, we have seen the rise in some European countries of hard line nationalist groups − often Right wing and some with Neo-Fascist aspects. This rise was illustrated by the May 25, 2014 elections to the European Parliament. The entry of an additional number of narrow nationalists will not have much impact on the way the European Parliament operates, but it will give the nationalists a media platform and a degree of legitimacy in their home country. There has not been a significant rise in cosmopolitan-world citizen movements, although cosmopolitanism as an intellectual framework has become increasingly common.

Without a well-organized movement of pan-European peace-green-human rights movements, “Europe from Below” has been unable to act in the Ukraine crisis. Individual governments, in particular Russia and the USA, have taken a highly visible role. The media in both countries dusted off the Cold War vocabulary and political analysis.

Talk of a “New Cold War” has been common. The OSCE − with Switzerland as President for 2014 − has called for restraint and negotiations. There has been no equivalent “high profile” efforts on the part of non-governmental groups. Today, there is no Vaclav Havel to serve as a bridge of respect among both governments and non-governmental movements. Certainly, the dogs of the Cold War have awakened to remind us that they are still there. In addition, new nationalist, and authoritarian tendencies are emerging. Although these nationalist movements are sometimes led by comic figures, they need to be taken seriously.

Counter voices also need to awaken, and the ability for nongovernmental conflict resolution groups to act must be strengthened.


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

Ukraine: What Future for ‘Self-Rule’?

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on May 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM


By René Wadlow


On the eve of the election for President in Ukraine, the heated tensions among factions within the country and between the Russian Federation, the European Union (EU) and the USA seem to be cooling. Talk of a new ‘Cold War’, of economic sanctions, of Russian or NATO imperialism is lessening. More rational discussion on the structures of the Ukrainian State and its relations with other countries now seems possible.

Ukraine faces real internal problems: political, economic and social. There is a need for dialogue, trust-building, and reconciliation within the country − all stepping stones to stable internal peace. The earlier situation in Ukraine did not lend itself to calm considerations of basic orientations or for compromises.

In an April 15 report, the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights had warned that “Misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred need be urgently countered in Ukraine to avoid further escalation of tensions in the country… It is critical for the Government to prioritize respect for diversity, inclusiveness and equal participation of all − including minorities in Ukraine.”

One possibility of lowering tensions on a longer-term basis is to start serious discussions on a federal-decentralized government structure that would not divide the country but would foster local and regional autonomy. World Citizens who have a long history of reflection on federalist approaches as elements of conflict resolution have warned against simplified concepts in the Ukraine discussions. Federalism is not a first step to the disintegration of the Ukraine. But it is not a “magic solution” either.

When Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991 the country's Russian community did not have any objections. However, since the eviction of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, oddly enough, many of Ukraine's Russians have risen up against Kiev and demanded reunification with Russia. (C) (AFP / Genya Savilov)

When Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991 the country’s Russian community did not express any objections. However, since the eviction of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, oddly enough, many of Ukraine’s Russians have risen up against Kiev and demanded reunification with Russia. (C) (AFP / Genya Savilov)

Factions in eastern Ukraine decided to hold a referendum on Sunday 11 May in a hastily organized way, with little if any public debate on the consequences of the referendum and strong pressure to vote “yes” on the only option presented. The central government, the EU and the USA have all indicated that they considered the referendum and its results as not valid − in fact, illegal. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation had suggested on the eve of the referendum that it be postponed or not held. However, after the referendum, the Russian government indicated that the referendum showed the “will of the people” and that Russia would abide by the results.

The referendum was organized in only part of eastern Ukraine, in what is newly proclaimed as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The question posed concerned “yes” or “no” on the Russian word samostoyatelnost which can be translated as “self rule”. Since there had been no real public discussion, the term could mean − and did mean − different things to different people − everything from greater autonomy within the existing constitution of Ukraine but with a greater recognition of Russian language and culture, autonomy within a to-be-created new Ukrainian federation, an independent state along the lines of Abkhazia, formerly part of neighboring Georgia, or a willingness to join the Russian Federation on the model of Crimea. People were discouraged from voting “no” and few did.

Since Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, leading to the declaration of independence of the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics, Moscow has made all efforts to assert regional leadership and pressure all neighboring countries into recognizing local Russians as its own nationals. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, leading to the declaration of independence of the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics, Moscow has exerted substantial political and military pressure to assert regional leadership over Russians both at home and abroad and have all neighboring countries recognize local Russians as Moscow’s own nationals. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Thus one possible model for the Donetsk and Luthansk People’s Republics are the states created earlier in Republics at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union: Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Transnistra in Moldova, Nagorno-Karabagh still torn between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the ill-fated Chechen Republic. One reason that President Putin suggested not having a referendum in Ukraine may have been his fears that the pattern of holding an unauthorized referendum would spread. There are a good number of peoples in Russia who are unhappy with the current constitutional status of their area and could look to creating a referendum to express their wishes. “You know where things start but not where they end.”[i]

With the lowering of tensions, the options of creating an independent State on the model of Transnistra or of integration into Russia on the Crimea pattern seems to be ever less likely. Thus the option of greater autonomy under the existing constitution by Parliamentary action seems the more likely, though there may be demands for a constitutional convention and the institutionalizing of autonomy in a new constitution.

The Ukraine crisis showed how easily the dogs of Cold War can be awakened from their sleep. The military, intelligence services and ad hoc armed groups are never far away. While many of us who had worked for better relations between the USA-USSR, NATO-Warsaw Pact during the 1960-1990 period have often gone on to other conflict resolution issues such as the conflicts in the wider Middle East and Africa, the Ukraine events point out dramatically that there is still work to do in Europe.


Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.


[i] For a useful and detailed history of the creation and current status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia see: George Hewitt Discordant Neighbors: A Reassessment of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian Conflicts (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2013, 389pp.)

World Citizens Welcome Serious Considerations of Federalist Government Structures for Ukraine, but Warn Against Simplified Concepts

In Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Europe, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on April 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM


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The Association of World Citizens (AWC), in an April 14, 2014 message to the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), welcomed the serious consideration of federalist government structures for Ukraine being proposed both by the current President of Ukraine in an April 13 statement and by the authorities of the Russian Federation.

As Professor René Wadlow, President of the AWC, pointed out in the message, such proposals can have a positive impact to lessen the growing tensions both within Ukraine and among the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the European Union. The President recalled that World Citizens have always stressed that government structures should be as close as possible to the people so that their views can have a direct impact on government decisions. Federalist forms of government can facilitate the balance between the need for larger government units for policy making and units close to local communities so that those impacted are able to influence policy.

The current tensions, first within the Ukraine, followed by the change of status of Crimea and its integration into the Russian Federation, the massing of Russian troops on the Ukraine frontier with Russia, and the violent demonstrations within parts of Ukraine have created the most serious European tensions since the conflicts related to the breakup of the Yugoslav federation.

Efforts of both governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must be undertaken to lessen tensions and to create opportunities for creative dialogue. Proposals for new governmental forms within Ukraine offer a possibility for such creative dialogue.

The current tensions in Ukraine highlight two crucial political and economic orientations possible for Ukraine. On one side, there is a growing but not clearly defined revival of an economic and strategic zone with the Russian Federation as the main motor. This possible “Eurasian Customs Union” could include Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and perhaps Moldova and Ukraine. Such a Eurasian association would probably develop into more than a common market. However, the full structure and tasks of such a Eurasian association have not been fully discussed publicly.

On the other side is the European Union (EU) with which Ukraine has already some treaty agreements. The refusal by the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, to sign a more detailed plan of action with the EU was the reason or a pretext for the start of the massive demonstrations in Kiev.

The current situation in Ukraine does not lead itself to calm considerations of basic orientations or for compromises. Both the EU and Russian diplomacy will weigh in the Ukraine decisions, and the USA and Chinese diplomacy is not likely to be absent.

World Citizens who have a long history of reflection on federalist approaches, warn against simplified concepts in the Ukraine discussions. Federalism is not a first-step to the disintegration of the Ukraine. But it is not a “magic solution” either. Government structures are closely related to the aims which people wish to achieve. The aims of the Ukrainians are multiple. Dialogue and open discussion is needed so that these aims are seen more clearly and then structures created to facilitate these aims. Those outside Ukraine, both governments and NGOs must facilitate discussions of aims and structures so that common interests may be found and current tensions reduced.

The day that Ukraine ended the Cold War

In Current Events, Democracy, Europe, The former Soviet Union on December 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM


By Bernard Henry

Along with Thailand, Ukraine has gotten the attention of the world’s media due to the nonviolent demonstrations for democracy in its capital lately. The Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, once Ukraine’s Prime Minister under authoritarian leader Leonid Kuchma, has come under fire for turning his back on the European Union and favoring instead closer ties with Moscow.

In 2004 Yanukovych had been opposed in the presidential ballot by Viktor Yushchenko, who had previously been Prime Minister too as the leader of an opposition alliance. With his face ravaged by an attempt at dioxin poisoning by agents of the Kuchma regime, Yushchenko was defeated at the polls but persistent allegations of fraud in favor of the Yanukovych camp prompted the Ukrainian people to take to the streets in what became known as the Orange Revolution. After an unprecedented three rounds of vote, Yushchenko finally won the presidency by a slight margin. Sworn in as President in January 2005, Yushchenko gradually turned his presidency into a mere sequence of revenge against both his opponents and his Orange Revolution allies, such as his iconic one-time Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Eventually, it was Yanukovych who got his revenge when in 2010 Yushchenko was shut out in the first round of the presidential election and Yanukovych won.

Seeing the country caught in such a vicious circle of political authoritarianism and uprising would almost make the world forget that, twenty-two years ago, it was the President of Ukraine who put the last nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union, thus ending the Cold War for good.

After the Orange Revolution took to power the opponent Viktor Yushchenko, who had barely escaped with his life after a dioxin poisoning attempt, Ukraine had a chance to make history once again.  Unfortunately, the one-time dissident turned authoritarian and rendered his own victory without purpose, so much so that he too was evicted from power by his own people.

After the Orange Revolution took to power the opponent Viktor Yushchenko, who had barely escaped with his life after a dioxin poisoning attempt, Ukraine had a chance to make history once more.
Unfortunately, the one-time dissident turned authoritarian and rendered his own victory without purpose, so much so that his own people eventually had to evict him from power too.

In December 1991 Ukraine was a republic within the Union of Soviet of Socialist Republics, therefore not a sovereign state – although, oddly enough, Ukraine and Bielorussia, known today as Belarus, did have a seat at the United Nations alongside the Soviet seat. After the coup in August that year in which Communist hardliners almost removed reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev from power, the Union as its people had known it thus far found itself considerably weakened in many aspects.

Soon after the failed coup, the very communist system started to crumble. Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, which made the Communist Party the central element of the state, was abolished. Gorbachev himself resigned from the Party, thus becoming the first-ever non-communist leader of a Soviet Union which was now down from fifteen to twelve republics. And that was only a beginning.

Gorbachev, who in December 1990 had violently repressed the declarations of independence of the three Baltic republics – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, granted immediate independence to the three states which had been invaded by the Soviet Union during World War II. As for similar claims coming from others, though, Gorbachev stated clearly that those would never be granted.

On the contrary, Gorbachev was adamant that his very own plans for the country should be implemented come what may. Yet apart from the Muslim republics of the south, such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, no one in the Union was supporting Gorbachev any longer. Russia’s President, Boris Yeltsin, who had risen to glory by leading the resistance against the August coup, was emerging of a natural leader of the breakaway movement.

Gorbachev had been campaigning for a “Treaty of the Union” which was to completely redesign the Soviet Union, very much in line with the perestroika (inner transformation) which he had advocated since his accession to power in 1985 after the death of Konstantin Chernyenko. With the treaty in force, the twelve republics were to become all but independent, the USSR becoming more like a confederation with little central powers left. No wonder the old guard didn’t like it. But now that his enemies were no longer a threat Gorbachev was determined to push for a wide adoption of the Treaty.

To achieve this goal, Gorbachev knew that without Russia on his side now, he desperately needed the support of the Soviet Union’s second leading republic – Ukraine, where a presidential election was planned for December 5. In the once single-party state that the Soviet Union had been, several candidates were now allowed to run for president in each of the republics. The Ukrainian election would see several rival factions compete for the presidency, among which the communist hardliners, Gorbachev’s own camp, and the chairman of Ukraine’s Supreme Soviet, Leonid Kravchuk. After the August coup Kravchuk, aged 57, had resigned from the Communist Party and declared Ukraine independent from the Soviet Union. Along with Yeltsin and Bielorussia’s President, Stanislaw Chukchievich, Kravchuk was ready to declare the death of the Soviet Union. Yet Gorbachev still hoped that Kravchuk would, if elected, sign the Treaty of the Union and have Ukraine rejoin a widely-reformed Soviet Union.

On December 5, 1991 Kravchuk won the election and immediately dozed Gorbachev’s hopes by stating that he would not sign the Treaty of the Union and Ukraine was now a sovereign state for good. Three days later Yeltsin, Chukchievich, and Kravchuk signed the Belavezha Accords, declaring the Soviet Union dissolved and replacing it with a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

With a Union now comprised only by the southern Muslim republics, although the leaders of many of them had actually supported the failed coup against him, Gorbachev was forced to admit that the country he hoped to reform had now just died. On December 21 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned and on December 25 Gorbachev resigned from the Soviet presidency, adding in a live television address that the Soviet Union had “ceased to exist as a subject of international law”. The Minsk-based CIS took over and Russia was recognized abroad as the legitimate successor to the Soviet Union.

On December 8, 1991 Presidents Chukchievich of Bielorussia, Yeltsin of Russia, and Kravchuk of Ukraine (not pictured) signed the Belavezha Accords which effectively put an end to the existence of the Soviet Union and replaced it with the Commonwealth of Independent States. If it hadn't been for Ukraine and President Kravchuk, none of this would have been possible.

On December 8, 1991 Presidents Chukchievich of Bielorussia, Yeltsin of Russia, and Kravchuk of Ukraine (not pictured) signed the Belavezha Accords which effectively put an end to the existence of the Soviet Union and replaced it with the Commonwealth of Independent States, thus formally ending the Cold War.
If it hadn’t been for Ukraine and President Kravchuk none of this would have been possible.

Had Ukraine decided instead to support Gorbachev and sign the Treaty of the Union, history could have taken quite a different turn. Several leaders of the southern Muslim republics, such as Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, had supported the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev. Had he been forced to do with a downgraded union with several regional leaders openly seeking a return to the Stalin-era ways, Gorbachev likely would not have stood a second coup or a rally of hardliner leaders against him, leaving a weakened newly-independent Russia and its allies in Bielorussia and the Baltic republics hardly armed enough to face a nine-member Union poised to restore the old order by any means necessary.

As Ukraine grapples once again with democracy and rights issues today, its leaders on both sides certainly ought to take pride if only in this one thing – it is their country that saved the world from a possible Third World War, nuclear or not, by making it possible for Russia and its supporters to put an end to a Soviet Union which had failed to meet the challenges of history.

Bernard Henry is External Relations Officer of the Representative Office to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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