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Urgent Appeal to Halt Violence in the Jerusalem-Gaza Area

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes on May 13, 2021 at 2:01 PM

The Association of World Citizens, devoted to ending armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith, addresses an Urgent Appeal to all parties to halt violence in the Jerusalem-Gaza area. In this highly inflammatory situation, there can be an escalation to the conflict at any point. Violence can lead to ever greater violence and can spread to other areas, an indication of which is the recent violence in the city of Lod.

The Association of World Citizens calls upon all parties to refrain from provocative action. As World Citizen and psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wrote, “Violence is the behavior of someone incapable of imagining other solutions to the problems at hand.” Therefore, the Association of World Citizens calls for creative thinking for new approaches to cooperative and harmonious living together of Israelis and Palestinians.

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

International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 26, 2021 at 7:40 PM

By René Wadlow

April 24, International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and first observed on April 24, 2019. The resolution establishing the Day is in part a reaction to the “America First, America First” cry of the U. S. President, Donald Trump, but other states are also following narrow nationalistic policies and economic protectionism. The Day stresses the use of multilateral decision-making in achieving the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Yet as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, “Multilateralism is not only a matter of confronting shared threats, it is about seizing common opportunities.”

One hour after Trygve Lie arrived in New York as the first UN Secretary-General in March 1946, the Ambassador of Iran handed him the complaint of his country against the presence of Soviet troops in northern Iran. From that moment on, the UN has lived with constant conflict-resolution tasks to be accomplished. The isolated diplomatic conference of the past, like the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic wars has been replaced by an organization continually at work on all its manifold problems. If the world is to move forward to a true world society, this can be done only through an organization such as the UN which is based on universality, continuity, and comprehensiveness.

Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815

Today’s world society evolved from an earlier international structure based on states and their respective goals, often termed “the national interest”. This older system was based on the idea that there is an inevitable conflict among social groups: the class struggle for the Marxists, the balance of power for the Nationalists. Thus, negotiations among government representatives are a structured way of mitigating conflicts but not a way of moving beyond conflict.

However, in the UN there is a structural tension between national sovereignty and effective international organization. In the measure that an international organization is effective, it is bound to impair the freedom of action of its members, and in the measure that the member states assert their freedom of action, they impair the effectiveness of the international organization. The UN Charter itself testifies to that unresolved tension by stressing on the one hand the “sovereign equality” of all member states and, on the other, assigning to the permanent five members of the Security Council a privileged position.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in session

Nonetheless, what was not foreseen in 1945 when the UN Charter was drafted was the increasing international role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “We the Peoples” in whose name the UN Charter is established, are present in the activities of the UN through NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. NGOs have played a crucial role in awareness-building and in the creation of new programs in the fields of population, refugees and migrants, women and children, human rights, and food. Now, there is a strong emphasis on the consequences of climate change as the issue has moved beyond the reports of climate experts to broad and strong NGO actions.

This increase in the UN related nongovernmental action arises out of the work and ideas of many people active in social movements: spiritual, ecological, human potential, feminist, and human rights. Many individuals saw that their activities had a world dimension, and that the UN and such Specialized Agencies as UNESCO provided avenues for action. Thus, as we mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, we recognize that there is the growth, worldwide, of a new spirit which is inclusive, creative, and thus life-transforming.

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

The Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

In Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2021 at 8:24 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.” It is the biosphere to which we belong. It is becoming the common heritage of mankind which we must defend.

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 it 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.

The UN began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm. 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.

As 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. As Citizens of the World, we strive to develop an integrated program of action.

Note
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.

Hugo Grotius: The Law of States

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

By René Wadlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U. Thant (1909-1974): Member of the Human Race

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on April 13, 2021 at 7:22 PM

By René Wadlow

I am always conscious of the fact that I am a member of the human race. This consciousness prompts me to work for the great human synthesis which is the implicit goal of the World Organization I had the privilege of serving … Thus I am making a plea for a dual allegiance. This implies an open acceptance of belonging to the human race as well as to our local community and nation … I believe that the mark of the truly educated person facing the 21st century is that he feels himself to be a World Citizen.
U. Thant in View from the UN (New York: Doubleday, 1979)

At a time when the face of Burmese leadership is that of the current military dictator General Min Aung Hlaing, best known for his campaign against the Rohingya, it is useful to recall another style of Burmese leadership, that of U. Thant, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.

U. Thant was the third UN Secretary-General. This gentle Burmese Buddhist was regarded as unremarkable which was exactly what the major powers, led by the USA. and the USSR, wanted after the lightning bolt of the second Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold.

The Secretary-General is accorded a central role – by the UN Charter, by history, and by the trust placed in him by Member States. With no enforcement capacity, the Secretary-General is armed only with the tools of his own making. States would generally prefer a good housekeeper who does not initiate, innovate, or otherwise threaten their equilibrium of the status quo. But U. Thant’s self-effacing nature belied his moral courage and inner strength. Those who voted for him were later to find themselves surprised.

The fullest statement of U. Thant’s beliefs and practices is his talk on “The Role of Religious Convictions” at the Third International Teach-in at Toronto, Canada in 1967. The teach-in was part of an effort at conflict resolution in the 1963-1975 USA-led Vietnam war. The USA had worked so that the war in Vietnam would be discussed as little as possible at the UN and especially that the UN would take no action. This left U. Thant highly frustrated. As a Burmese, he knew Indochina well, and as UN Secretary-General, he believed that the UN should be a leader in conflict resolution efforts worldwide. As the UN was unable to act officially, he gave support, both moral and intellectual, to religious efforts to mediate the Vietnam conflict. Thus, his statement to the Toronto teach-in stressed his Buddhist roots as some of the Vietnamese Buddhists were very active in conflict resolution efforts.

As a Buddhist, I was trained to be tolerant of everything except intolerance. I was brought up not only to develop the spirit of tolerance but also to cherish moral and spiritual qualities, especially modesty, humility, compassion and most important, to attain a certain degree of emotional equilibrium. I was taught to control my emotions through a process of concentration and meditation. Of course, being human, and not yet having reached the stage of arhat (enlightened being) I cannot completely “control” my emotions.

Among the teaching of the Buddha are four features of meditation, the primary purpose of which is the attainment of moral and spiritual excellence: metta (goodwill or kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekka (equanimity or equilibrium).

A true Buddhist practices his metta (kindness) to all, without distinction – just as the sun shines on all, or the rain falls on all, without distinction. Metta embraces all being impartially and spontaneously, expecting nothing in return, not even appreciation. Metta is impersonal love or goodwill, the opposite of sensuous caring or a burning sensual fire that can turn into wrath, hatred, or revenge when not requited.

Karuna, the quality of compassion, is deeply rooted in the Buddhist concept of suffering. Human life is one of suffering, hence it is the duty of a good Buddhist to mitigate the suffering of others.

Mudita (sympathetic joy) can best be defined as one’s expression of sympathy with other people’s joy. The happiness of others generates happiness in the mind of a good Buddhist. The person who cultivates altruistic joy radiates it over everyone in his surroundings.

Upekka (equanimity) connotes the acquisition of a balance of mind whether in triumph or tragedy. This balance is achieved only as a result of deep insight into the nature of things, and primarily by contemplation and meditation. If one understands how unstable and impermanent all worldly conditions are, one learns to bear lightly the greatest misfortune or the greatest reward. To achieve upekka, one has to meditate. Buddhist meditation aims at cleansing the mind of impurities, such as ill will, hatred, and restlessness; it aims at cultivating such qualities as concentration, awareness, intelligence, confidence, and tranquility, leading finally to the attainment of the highest wisdom.

The highest wisdom is in little evidence on the part of the Burmese military these days. There is a real danger that military violence will provoke violence in return. Mediation efforts in the spirit outlined by U. Thant are urgently needed.

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

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

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

Par Bernard J. Henry

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

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

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

Vingt ans d’une paix introuvable

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

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

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

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

Les droits des femmes, nerf de la guerre

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

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

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

Farahnaz Forotan

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

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

Elles sauront faire la paix

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

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

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

Ayesha Aziz (C) USIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La paix des femmes, seul espoir de survie

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

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

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

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

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

A New Start for Stability in Libya

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations on February 17, 2021 at 10:21 PM

By René Wadlow

The 74 members of the Libya Political Dialogue Forum meeting in Geneva, Switzerland with the mediation of the United Nations, on February 5, 2021, announced the creation of a new executive authority for all of Libya. This interim unity government would lead the administration until national elections which are to be held on December 24, 2021. This interim executive authority has the mandate to fulfill the October 23, 2020 Ceasefire Agreement which calls for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.

This new interim executive authority by its membership, tries to build a balance among the three geographic divisions of the country. It also tries to build on new faces which have been relatively not directly involved in the troubled situation since the 2011 end of the government of Muammar Qaddafi.

The new interim executive will have a three-person Presidency led by Mohammad Younes Memfi. He was born in 1958. He is an engineer and businessman from Misrata. He was educated in Canada and has not been directly involved in politics before. The other two members of the Presidency are Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi, more involved in politics but not in the first ranks, and Mossa Al-Koni, an ethnic Tuareg from the south near the frontier with Mali. Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah will serve as Prime Minister under this new Presidency.

Mohammed Younes Memfi

There is still a long road ahead to create meaningful reconciliation among the divisions based on geography, tribal networks, and religious brotherhoods. At Independence in 1951, authority rested with King Sayyid Idris (1890-1983), the leader of an important Islamic Brotherhood who remained more concerned with religious reforms than with the structure of the government. (1)

When the military officers led by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi took power in a coup in September 1969, there was for a short time some discussion as to the forms that the government should take. Colonel Qaddafi wanted to do away with parliamentary government and representative elections in favor or people’s committees, a people’s congress and revolutionary committees – all held together by the ideological assumptions of his Third Universal Theory – a concept that embodied anti-imperialism, Arab unity, Islamic socialism and direct popular democracy. (2)

General Khalifa Haftar

Disagreements on the nature of the State had led to important divisions among the ruling circle, especially in 1975. However, all open discussions on the nature of the State, of the relations between State and society, of the place of tribes and of religious brotherhoods were considered subversive, in fact treason. In practice, but not in theory, decision-making was in the hands of Colonel Qaddafi, his family, friends, and tribal allies. (3)

Since the end of the Qaddafi government, the country has been largely divided into three unstable zones: The West with Tripoli as the main city, with a “Government of National Accord” led by Faiez Sarraj, an East around Benghazi, with the “National Libyan Army” under General Khalifa Haftar, and the south divided among many political, tribal factions.

However, both the West and the East contain different armed tribal groups, Islamic militias and armed groups linked to the exploitation of migrants, trafficking in arms and drugs. As the disorder dragged on, more and more outside States became involved to different degrees and in different ways: Russia, Turkey, Egypt, France, the USA and to some extent the African Union.

To what extent the new interim authority will be able to create public services, limit outside influences and create appropriate forms of government will have to be seen. Libya merits close attention.

Notes
1) For a useful analysis of Libyan governmental structures see J. Davis, Libyan Politics, Tribes and Revolution (London: I. B. Tauris, 1987)
2) See M. M. Ayoub, Islam and the Third Universal Theory: The religious thought of Muammar al Qadhdhafi (London: Kegan Pail, 1987)
3) See René Lemarchand (Ed), The Green and the Black, Qadhafi’s Politics in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988)

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

Ethiopia: Storm Clouds Getting Darker

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Sudan, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 8:20 PM

By René Wadlow

In an earlier article on the armed conflict in Ethiopia “Storm Clouds Gather Over Ethiopia” I agreed with other observers of the situation that one knows when an armed conflict starts but not when it ends. There is always a real danger that violence spreads to other parts of the country and that neighboring States get involved. Now both dangers have taken form in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a federal republic structured on the basis of 10 states or provinces. The provinces have the name of the major ethnic group within that province. However, no province is populated exclusively by one ethnic group. Through history and economic development people have moved to areas beyond their original “homeland”. However, people from a “foreign” ethnic group can be made to feel as “second class citizens”, and there may be violence used against them in times of tensions.

A neighborhood in Tigray

Thus, in the far west of Ethiopia, there is a small province called Benishangul-Gumuz, named after two ethnic groups, the Berta and the Gamuz. However, there are three other ethnic groups which also consider the area as their “homeland”. The area has good farmland and is a major producer of vegetables. Thus, Amhara farmers from the larger neighboring Amhara province have progressively settled in Benishangul-Gumuz. Tensions over land use has grown between the Amhara farmers and the dominant Gumuz. At the same time that the federal government forces were moving into the Tigray province, Gumuz militias attacked the Amhara settlers. The federal government sent in troops to restore order, but troops can not deal with the basic issues of ethnic-based tensions and disputes over land ownership which is often collective rather than individual. Thus, the tensions and violence in Tigray and Benishangul-Gumuz provinces may spread to other provinces as well.

In addition to the dangers of violence spreading to other provinces, there is a real danger that neighboring Sudan will get involved. The Ethiopian federal government’s military action within Tigray province has caused an exodus of some 50,000 persons across the frontier into Sudan. A smaller number have crossed the frontier into South Sudan.

Abdallah Hamdok

The Sudanese government in far-away Khartoum has been preoccupied with restructuring itself after the 30 years of governance by Omar al-Bashir came to an end in April 2019. However, the entry of a large number of refugees from Tigray must have pushed some in the Sudanese government to look at maps to see where all this trouble was going on. They saw that part of the trouble was near the Al-Fashaga triangle, a small area but of rich farmland largely farmed by Ethiopian farmers. However, Al-Fashaga is within the territory of Sudan, set by the British-Egyptian condominium in 1902 and 1907.

The Ethiopian settlers in Al-Fashaga had created self-protection militias without a relation to the Ethiopian central army. However, with the the current Ethiopian army near Al-Fashaga, the Sudanese government is rushing tanks and troops to the area. The acting Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdallah Hamdok, has publicly reaffirmed Sudanese ownership of the area. While it is difficult to have accurate reporting from Al-Fashaga, some nongovernmental organizations working with refugees in Sudan near the frontier have warned of possible fighting and increased tensions. There are real possibilities of the storm clouds getting darker.

Note:

An earlier article on the same subject from Prof. René Wadlow: Storm Clouds Gather Over Ethiopia.

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

Antonio Gramsci: A Cultural Base for Positive Action

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Europe, Literature, Social Rights, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:54 PM

By René Wadlow

Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 24, 1937) was an Italian Socialist and then Communist editor who is best known for his notebooks of reflections that he wrote while in prison. (1) Gramsci grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia and saw the poor conditions of the impoverished peasants there. He studied just before the First World War at the University of Turin at a time when industry, especially the Fiat auto company was starting. Gramsci became concerned with the conditions of the new industrial working class. When the First World War started, he was asked to join a new Socialist newspaper that had started in Turin.

Antonio Gramsci

In 1921, in part due to the Russian Revolution, the Italian Communist Party was born. Some of the Socialists, including Gramsci, joined the new party, and Gramsci became an editor of the Communist newspaper. In 1922, he went to Russia as a delegate of the Italian Communist Party to a convention of Communist Parties from different parts of the world.

Also in 1922, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power and quickly began a crackdown on the Communists and other opposition movements. In 1926, after a failed attempt on Mussolini’s life, there was a massive crackdown on Communists. Although he had nothing to do with the effort to kill Mussolini, but as a Communist deputy to the national Parliament, Gramsci was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His health, which had never been strong, deteriorated in prison. On April 27, 1937 he died, aged 46.

While in prison, he wrote his ideas in notebooks which were censored by the prison authorities. Then the notebooks were passed on to family members. Gramsci had to be careful about how he expressed his ideas. The notebooks were published only after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of the Fascist government. Thus, Gramsci was never able to discuss or clarify his views. Nevertheless, his prison writings have been widely read and discussed.

Benito Mussolini

The concept most associated with Gramsci is the idea of “hegemony”. Hegemony is constructed through a complex series of struggles. Hegemony cannot be constructed once and for all since the balance of social forces on which it rests is continually evolving. Class structures related to the mode of production is obviously one area of struggle – the core of the Marxist approach. However, what is new in Gramsci is his emphasis on the cultural, ideological, and moral dimensions of the struggle for hegemony.

For Gramsci, hegemony cannot be economic alone. There must be a cultural battle to transform the popular mentality. He asks, “How it happens that in all periods, there co-exist many systems and currents of philosophical thought and how these currents are born, how they are diffused and why in the process of diffusion they fracture along certain lines and in certain directions.”

Gramsci was particularly interested in the French Revolution and its follow up. Why were the revolutionary ideas not permanently in power but rather were replaced by those of Napoleon, only to return later? Gramsci put an emphasis on what is called today “the civil society” – all the groups and forces not directly related to government: government administration, the military, the police.  There can be a control of the government, but such control: can be replaced if the civil society’s values and zeitgeist (world view) are not modified in depth. There is a slow evolution of mentalities from one value system to another. For progress to be permanent, one needs to influence and then control those institutions – education, culture, religion, folklore – that create the popular zeitgeist. He was unable to return to the USSR to see how Stalin developed the idea of hegemony.

The intellectual contribution of Gramsci has continued in the work of Edward Said on how the West developed its ideas about the Middle East. (2) Likewise, his influence is strong in India in what are called “subaltern studies” – what those people left out of official histories think. As someone noted, “I believe firmly that the history of ideas is the key to the history of deeds.”

Notes

(1) Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes) (New York: Columbia University Press); Antonio Gramsci, Prison Letters (London: Pluto Press, 1996)

(2) See Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994)

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

Pitirim Sorokin: The Renewal of Humanity

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Democracy, Europe, Literature, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on January 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM

By René Wadlow

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 21, was concerned, especially in the period after the Second World War, with the relation between the values and attitudes of the individual and their impact on the wider society. His key study Society, Culture and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics (1947) traced the relations between the development of the personality, the wider cultural values in which the personality was formed, and the structures of the society.

Pitirim Sorokin

The two World Wars convinced him that humanity was in a period of transition, that the guideline of earlier times had broken down and had not yet been replaced by a new set of values and motivations. To bring about real renewal, one had to work at the same time on the individual personality, on cultural values as created by art, literature, education, and on the social framework. One had to work on all three at once, not one after the other as some who hope that inner peace will produce outer peace. In his Reconstruction of Humanity (1948), he stressed the fact that “if we want to raise the moral standards of large populations, we must change correspondingly the mind and behavior of the individuals making up these populations, and their social institutions and their cultures.”

Sorokin was born in a rural area in the north of Russia. Both his parents died when he was young. He had to work in handicraft trades in order to go to the University of St. Petersburg where his intelligence was noted, and he received scholarships to carry out his studies in law and in the then new academic discipline of sociology. After obtaining his doctorate, he was asked to create the first Department of Sociology at the University of St. Petersburg. However, the study of the nature of society was a dangerous undertaking, and he was imprisoned three times by the Tsarist regime.

He was among the social reformers that led to the first phase of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He served as private secretary to Aleksandr Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government and Sorokin was the editor of the government newspaper. When Kerensky was overthrown by Lenin, Sorokin became part of a highly vocal anti-Bolshevik faction, leading to his arrest and condemnation to death in 1923. At the last moment, after a number of his cell mates had been executed, Lenin modified the penalty to exile, and Sorokin left the USSR, never to return. His revolutionary activities are well-described in his autobiography A Long Journey (1963).

Aleksandr Kerensky

He went to the United States and taught at the University of Minnesota (1924-1930) where he carried out important empirical studies on social mobility, especially rural to urban migration. These studies were undertaken at a time when sociology was becoming increasingly recognized as a specific discipline. Sorokin was invited to teach at Harvard University where the Department of Social Ethics was transformed into the Department of Sociology with Sorokin as its head. He continued teaching sociology at Harvard until his retirement in 1955 when the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism was created so that he could continue his research and writing.

Of the three pillars that make up society − personality, culture, and social structure − personality may be the easiest to modify. Therefore, he turned his attention to how a loving or altruistic personality could be developed. He noted that in slightly different terms: love, compassion, sympathy, mercy, benevolence, reverence, Eros, Agape and mutual aid − all affirm supreme love as the highest moral value and its imperatives as the universal and perennial moral commandments. He stressed the fact that an ego-transcending altruistic transformation is not possible without a corresponding change in the structure of one’s ego, values and norms of conduct. Such changes have to be brought about by the individual himself, by his own effortful thinking, meditation, volition and self-analysis. He was strongly attracted to yoga which acted on the body, mind, and spirit.

Sorokin believed that love or compassion must be universal if it were to provide a basis for social reconstruction. Partial love, he said, can be worse than indifference. “If unselfish love does not extend over the whole of mankind, if it is confined within one group − a given family, tribe, nation, race, religious denomination, political party, trade union, caste, social class or any part of humanity − in such an in-group altruism tends to generate an out-group antagonism. And the more intense and exclusive the in-group solidarity of its members, the more unavoidable are the clashes between the group and the rest of humanity.

Sorokin was especially interested in the processes by which societies change cultural orientations, particularly the violent societies he knew, the USSR and the USA. As he wrote renewal “demands a complete change of contemporary mentality, a fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct toward other men, cultural values and the world at large. All this cannot be achieved without the incessant, strenuous active efforts on the part of every individual.”

Notes

For a biography see: B. V. Johnston, Pitirim A. Sorokin: An Intellectual Biography (University Press of Kansas, 1995)

For an overview of his writings see: Frank Cowell, History, Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to the Historical and Social Philosophy of Pitirim A. Sorokin (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)

For Sorokin’s late work on the role of altruism see: P. A. Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love (Boston, Beacon Press, 1954) A new reprint was published by Templeton Press in 2002

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

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