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Recent UN Reports Point To Anti-Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Refugees, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, Uncategorized, United Nations, World Law on November 27, 2017 at 8:23 AM

By René Wadlow

Recent reports of October 25, 2017 from the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights based on extensive interviews with Rohingya refugees from Myanmar (Burma) now in Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh as well as reports from the World Food Program and UNICEF point to anti-Rohingya genocide in Myanmar without using the “G” word. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said that the Rohingya flight was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. The brutal attacks against the Rohingya in Rakhine state have been well organized, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the Rohingya population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their home.

The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 requires action on the part of governments once genocide has been determined. Although any State party to the Convention can bring the situation to appropriate UN bodies, no State has ever evoked the 1948 Genocide Convention. However, the Convention is clear that a group need not have been totally destroyed for acts to be considered genocide. Intent is the key concept. Article VIII of the Convention states “Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide, or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III.”

The Genocide Convention in its Article III states that the following acts shall be punishable:

a) Genocide

b) Conspiracy to commit genocide

c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide

d) Attempt to commit genocide

e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV states that “Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be punished whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

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The Burmese military have since shortly after the independence of the country in 1947 carried on a policy of repression against national minorities advocating independence of their area, later modified to demanding greater autonomy within a federal Union of Burma. The first and second (1974) constitutions of Burma took over the nationalities policy designed by Joseph Stalin when he was Commissioner of Nationalities in the then newly created USSR. A state within the Union would be named after a dominant ethnic group with a larger homeland of provinces for the majority population. Thus, there were seven ethnic minority states: the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah (formerly called Karenni), Mon, Shan, and Rakhine (or Arakan) and seven divisions which are largely inhabited by the majority, sometimes called Burman or Bamar. As in the USSR, states had people other than the dominant nationality which gave its name to the state. Some were ethnic minorities which had always lived there; others were people living there who had moved from elsewhere for work, marriage or other life events. Some were Chinese or Indians who had moved to Burma for economic reasons.

In these conflicts, war crimes have been committed by the military and reported to UN human rights bodies:

a) arbitrary arrest and torture

b) enforced disappearances

c) systematic rape

d) confiscation of property

e) internal displacement of populations.

However, only in the case of the Rohingya can one speak of an intent of genocide – with calls by some nationalists and military to make Myanmar “Rohingya free”. Among the ‘nationalists’, there are ‘Buddhist extremists’. A form of Buddhist influence has grown since 2012 when speech and media restrictions fell away, opening a vacuum that extremists have helped to fill.

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The chief difference between the Rohingya case and those of the national minorities along the Thai and China frontiers is economic. The Burmese military are brutal but also corrupt, especially among the officer corps. The minorities along the Burma-Thai-China frontiers are deeply involved in the trade of drugs, arms, gem stones, timber and the trafficking of women to Thailand and China. There are close economic links between the Thai and Burmese military as well as between the military and the armed insurgencies.

As long as the military get their cut of the income from trade, they are willing to put up with periodic cease-fire agreements, are selective in their scorched earth policy and close their eyes to certain cross-frontier economic measures. Unfortunately for the Rohingya, they live in a poor, subsistence agriculture area next to a poor, subsistence agricultural part of Bangladesh. There might be oil resources off the coast of Rakhine state, but they have not been exploited, and it is not sure that they are really there. Thus, there is no money among the Rohingya with which to bribe the military. The idea of getting rid of the Rohingya is not so wild a dream as most had already been declared as “stateless” in a 1982 citizenship law.

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A September rally in Paris to support Myanmar’s Rohingya community

As government representatives are reluctant to raise the issue of genocide, in part for fear that they might have to do something, it has been the representatives of nongovernmental organizations who have publicly highlighted the issue, although no government has followed.

On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I had raised the issue of genocide concerning the Fur and related groups in the Darfur, Sudan violence. Darfur means “House of the Fur” but there are also other small tribal groups in the area whose way of life may be destroyed by the systematic killing of old persons, those’ who hold tribal history and tribal law in memory – there being no written records.

In 2004, in the UN Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in “Darfur, Sudan: Non-impunity and Prosecutions for Genocide (E/CN.4/Sub/2004/NGO24), I stressed the systematic nature of the violence against the Fur, Massaleit, Zayhawa and Birgit. After citing the evidence from public UN staff reports, I wrote, “The evidence of systematic actions – to quote from Article II of the Genocide Convention – committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such – is clear. What is less clear is the determination of UN Member States to act to end this violence. Until now, the efforts of governments in Darfur have been inadequate as reliable reports indicate that human rights violations have grown worse. The Genocide Convention provides an adequate framework for urgent action. Only one State needs to call on the UN to act under Article VIII. We need political will for rapid UN action to stop genocide in Darfur now – and not after it is all over, when the cry will go up, as in the past ‘Never Again!'”

A month after our appeal, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan, firmly stressed the Darfur situation in its harshest light.” First, there is a reign of terror in this area, second, there is a scorched-earth policy, third, there is repeated war crimes and crimes against humanity, and fourth, this is taking place under our eyes.” (Associated Press Report, May 8, 2004).

However, governments were able to avert their eyes, and no government invoked the Genocide Convention. Governments have often been unwilling to use the international legal structures which they themselves have created.

We continue to face the same issue with the massive flight of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh and India. The welcome of the Rohingya by these governments has been “cool” if not hostile. It is very likely that a “Rohingya-free” Myanmar has been created as few persons are likely to return to Myanmar. The current challenge is how the Rohingya will be resettled in Bangladesh and India without creating new socio-economic tensions. The wider issue is to what extent are representatives of governments willing to act creatively on the few structures of world law which they have created.

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

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn: To the very essence of everything

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2017 at 9:41 PM

ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN: TO THE VERY ESSENCE OF EVERYTHING

By René Wadlow

 

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I want to push through

To the very essence of everything:

Straight to the core of days gone by,

To what made them,

To the foundations, to the roots,

The heart of the matter.

 

Boris Pasternak

 

In Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s most autobiographical novel The First Circle, a diplomat says “A great writer is, so to speak, a second government. That is why no regime anywhere has ever loved its great writers, only its minor ones.” The writer as the conscience of the people has a long tradition in Russia both in Czarist and Soviet times. Turgenev was compelled to live much of his life abroad, and many of his works were suppressed. Chekhov felt this duty of public conscience so strongly that, even though suffering from tuberculosis, he insisted on making a long journey to the Sakhalin Islands to report on the conditions of exiles there. Leo Tolstoy was regularly censored and finally excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church which banned any prayers at his funeral.

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In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union and found shelter in the house of German writer Heinrich Böll in Cologne, (then West) Germany. (C) Dutch National Archives

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s father Isai was a follower of Tolstoy. As David Burg and George Feifer point out “Tolstoyism was a kind of nonchurch religion propounding that the kingdom of God resides within each human soul, and that the way to a true knowledge of Christ and to salvation was through individual conscience and love rather than the strictures of an organized church. Tolstoy preached moral betterment by means of restricting human appetites and simplifying life; his ultimate goal was to transform the whole of Russia, including the intelligentsia into a community of peasants satisfying their own basic needs through manual work on their own land. Tolstoyism was one of the country’s most popular ideological movements at the turn of the century and reached its crest with Tolstoy’s death in 1910.” (1)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose birth anniversary we note on June 18 never knew his father who died of a hunting accident six months before his birth. However, Solzhenitsyn’s mother shared her husband’s Tolstoyian views and passed on the values to her son. She never remarried so as to be able to care for her son. Although Leo Tolstoy is not mentioned by name, his ideas are strongly evident in Solzhenitsyn’s Letter to Soviet Leaders of September 1973, his last effort to speak truth to power before being deported from the Soviet Union in February 1974. The letter was published in Paris in Russian and then in English from London in 1974. (2) Solzhenitsyn calls upon the Soviet leaders “So let us come to our senses in time, let us change our course!” Recalling Tolstoy indirectly he wrote “They hounded the men who said that it was perfectly feasible for a colossus like Russia, with all its spiritual particularities and folk traditions, to find its own particular path.”

Much of the letter is devoted to warning against unrestrained industrial growth. “Economic growth is not only unnecessary but ruinous. We must set ourselves the aim not of increasing national resources, but merely of conserving them. We must renounce, as a matter of urgency, the gigantic scale of modern technology in industry, agriculture and urban development (the cities of today are cancerous tumors). The chief aim of technology will now be to eradicate the lamentable results of previous technologies.” He went on to stress “We need to heal our wounds, cure our national body and national spirit. Let us find the strength, sense and courage to put our own house in order before we busy ourselves with the cares of the whole planet. And once, again, by a happy coincidence, the whole world can only gain by it…The village, for centuries the mainstay of Russia, has become its chief weakness. For too many decades we have sapped the collectivized village of all its strength, driven it to utter despair.”

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Solzehnitsyn addressing the media as he left his longtime home in Cavendish, Vermont in 1994, finally returning home to his native Russia.

It was Solzhenitsyn’s novels and his documentation of the lives of people in the Soviet prison system which brought him to world attention and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. His first short novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the Soviet Union, but his other novels and the monumental Gulag Archipelago were published from Western Europe. It was his own years spent in prison camps and forced exile in Central Asia which focused his sense of mission and his drive to awaken the Russian people to the inhumanity which the Soviet regime had wrought.

As Leopold Labedz wrote “like other major novelists, Solzhenitsyn makes his own experience the center of his literary work and the point of departure for its symbolic significance. The concentration camp and the cancer ward are for him places in which to reflect not just on the problems presented by extreme situations, but on the wider questions of Soviet reality and of our epoch, of good and evil, in short of la condition humaine. Like other great novelists he is uncompromising in his attitude to truth and he restores to Russian literature the moral universalism which had been lost during the Stalin era. His writing is philosophical in the traditional sense; with its complexity and sense of tragedy; it is the antithesis of the shallow optimism and vulgar sociologism which under the sign of ‘socialist realism’ has for so many years dominated Soviet prose writing.” (3)

Solzhenitsyn spent 18 years in forced exile in rural Cavendish, Vermont. When he returned to post-Soviet Russia in 1994, he often wrote and spoke in a tone considered pessimistic, deploring crime, corruption and a decline of spiritual values. Some saw these remarks as nationalistic. They are better seen in the spirit of Leo Tolstoy, highly critical of the current situation but calling for reforms through a strong inner light and a confidence in the strength of the rural population.

Notes

David Burg and George Feifer, Solzhenitsyn (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1972, 371pp.)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Letter to Soviet Leaders (London: Index on Censorship, 1974, 59pp.)

Leopold Labedz (Ed.)., Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972, 264pp.)

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

August 19 – World Humanitarian Day: A Need for Common Actions

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, United Nations, World Law on August 18, 2016 at 11:32 PM

AUGUST 19 – WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY:
A NEED FOR COMMON ACTIONS
By René Wadlow

In memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003)

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has designated August 19 as “World Humanitarian Day” to pay tribute to aid workers in humanitarian service in difficult and often dangerous conditions. August 19 was designated in memory of the bombing on August 19, 2003 of the UN office building in Baghdad, Iraq in which Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the time Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, was killed along with 21 UN staff members. Over 200 UN employees were injured. The exact circumstances of the attack are not known, and why United States (U. S.) and UN security around the building was not tighter is still not clear. A truck with explosives was able to dive next to the building and then blew itself up.

Sergio Vieira de Mello had spent his UN career in humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and at other times as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. As a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) representative to the UN in Geneva and active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003 tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.

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Sergio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003) (C) Wilson Dias

This year the risks and dangers are not just memories but are daily news. On May 3, 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan. These attacks on medical facilities are too frequent to be considered “collateral damage.” The attacks indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by both State and non-State agents. The protection of medical personnel and the treatment of all the wounded − both allies and enemies − goes back to the start of humanitarian law.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has stressed the need for accountability, including by investigation of alleged violations of the laws of war. The grave violations by the Islamic State (ISIS) must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned voices as possible. There is a real danger that as ISIS disintegrates and no longer controls as much territory, it will increase terrorist actions.

The laws of war, now more often called humanitarian law, have two wings, one dealing with the treatment of medical personnel in armed conflict situations, the military wounded, prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians. This wing is represented by the Geneva (Red Cross) Conventions. The second wing, often called The Hague Conventions limit or ban outright the use of certain categories of weapons. These efforts began at The Hague with the 1900 peace conferences and have continued even if the more recent limitations on land mines, cluster weapons and chemical weapons have been negotiated elsewhere.

The ban on the use of weapons are binding only on States which have ratified the convention. Thus the current use of USA-made cluster weapons in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is, in a narrow sense, legal as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not signed the cluster weapon ban. The AWC was one of the NGOs leading the campaign against cluster weapons. My position is that when a large number of States ratify a convention (which is the case for the cluster-weapons ban) then the convention becomes world law and so must be followed by all States and non-State actors even if they have not signed or ratified the convention. The same holds true for the use of land mines currently being widely used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

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A B-1B Lancer unleashes cluster munitions. (C) U. S. Air Force

The current situation concerning refugees and internally-displaced persons can also be considered as part of humanitarian law. Thus those working with refugees and the displaced within their country are also to be honored by the World Humanitarian Day. To prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human person − these are the core values of humanitarian law.

There needs to be a wide public outcry in the defense of humanitarian law so that violations can be reduced. The time for action is now.

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Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos. (C) Ggia

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

June 26: International Day Against Torture

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2016 at 10:01 AM

JUNE 26: INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST TORTURE

By René Wadlow

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Torture has a bad name among the police and security agencies of most countries. Thus torture is usually called by other names. Even violent husbands do not admit to torturing their wives. Thus, when representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) started to raise the issue of torture in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in the early 1980s, the government representatives replied that it was a very rare practice, limited to a small number of countries and sometimes a “rogue” policeman or prison guard. However, NGO representatives insisted that, in fact, it was widely used by a large number of countries including those that had democratic forms of government.

Getting torture to be recognized as a real problem and then having the Commission on Human Rights create the post of Special Rapporteur on Torture owes much to the persistent efforts of Sean MacBride (1904-1988), at the time the former chairman of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1974). MacBride had been the Foreign Minister of Ireland (1948-1951) and knew how governments work. He had earlier been a longtime leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), being the son of John MacBride, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising – an attack on the Dublin Post Office. With his death John MacBride became an Irish hero of resistance. Later Sean had spent time in prison accused of murder. He told me that he had never killed anyone but as the IRA Director of Intelligence he was held responsible for the murders carried out by men under his command. Later, he also worked against the death penalty.

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As examples of the current use of torture kept being presented by NGO representatives and as some victims of torture came to Geneva to testify, the Commission on Human Rights named a Special Rapporteur and also started to work on what became the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Treaty came into effect on June 26, 1987 and in 1997 the UN General Assembly designated June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Human Rights treaties negotiated within the UN create what are known as “Treaty Bodies” – a group of persons who are considered to be “independent experts”. As the saying around Geneva goes, “some are more ‘expert’ than others, and some are more ‘independent’ than others. Countries which have ratified a human rights convention should make a report every four or five years to the specific Treaty Body. For the Torture Treaty, it is every four years to the 10-person expert group. Many States are late, some very late, in meeting this obligation. There are 158 States which have ratified the Torture Convention but some 28 States have never bothered to file a report. States which have not ratified the treaty do not make reports.

NGO representatives provide the experts with information in advance and suggest questions that could usefully be asked. The State usually sends representatives to Geneva for the Treaty Body discussions as the permanent Ambassador is rarely able to answer specific questions on police and prison conditions. At the end of the discussion between the representative of a State and the experts, the experts write “concluding observations” and make recommendations.

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Unfortunately, the Convention is binding only on States. However, increasingly nongovernmental armed militias such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq carry out torture in a systematic way. The militia’s actions can be mentioned but not examined by the Treaty Body.

While there is no sure approach to limiting the use of torture, much depends on the observations and actions of non-governmental organizations. We need to increase our efforts, to strengthen the values which prohibit torture, and watch closely how persons are treated by the police, prison guards and armed militias.

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

Tair, 19: Israel, “Will you put me in jail for a murder I will not commit?”

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, War Crimes, World Law on April 27, 2016 at 9:30 AM

TAIR, 19: ISRAEL, “WILL YOU PUT ME IN JAIL FOR A MURDER I WILL NOT COMMIT?”
By Bernard Henry

In 1987 a British new wave group called Johnny Hates Jazz topped the charts with a song called I Don’t Want to Be a Hero, whose standardized, rather soulless music hid lyrics that were anything but common in the pop song industry of that era. No phony story of an impossible love romance – the song was really a fierce anti-war statement.

Among the lyrics, a question asked by the young man stating his refusal of conscription stands out:

“And what if I fail?
Will you put me in jail
For a murder I will not commit?”

By the time the song was released, the United Kingdom had long renounced conscription, as had the United States, Canada, and Australia. In the Western world, only in Europe could a draft be found, although the practice had gradually disappeared from the continent when the twentieth century ended. Except for Norway, Finland, Austria and Greece – plus neutral Switzerland – the then NATO allies of Britain against the Warsaw Pact are now all draft-free.

In what is generally called “the West”, only one non-European country retains a strong draft – Israel.

Ever since the Jewish State was created in 1948, its armed forces regrouped under the Hebrew acronym Tsahal, literally Tsva Haganah Lé-Yisrael, “Israeli Defense Force” (IDF), have taken in young people of both genders, male and female. Having been often at war with its Arab neighbors, being constantly in need of military personnel to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Israel has traditionally had all of its sons and daughters wear the uniform for a few years – three for the boys, two for the girls. Exemptions are given, though, to observant religious Jews and, on quite different grounds, to non-Druze Arab Israeli citizens.

Then comes the problem when you “don’t want to be a hero”, in short, when you declare yourself a conscientious objector (CO), thus joining the number of the country’s shministim, “twelfth-graders”, students who refuse to comply with the law and enter the IDF once they have completed their high school studies as the law requires. You must appear before an IDF board, and if you fail to obtain exemption from military service, you will be ordered to enlist at once – or go to jail.

That is what happened this year to Tair Kaminer, 19. A member of Mesarvot – Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the young woman filed for conscientious objection but was turned down by the board. Sent to jail a first time, she was released and jailed again, and then jailed and released three more times. “The last military officer who sent me to jail told me that he was a member of the conscientious objection board,” says Kaminer. “He added that I had no chance of obtaining CO status and he would send me back to jail ‘for the rest of my life’ if I continued to resist.”

While serving her current sentence, Kaminer was given two weeks’ leave for the Jewish Passover, a national holiday in Israel. But upon leaving the military prison, she was told to return the next day. She chose to fully observe the two weeks’ leave and, instead of reporting to the prison as ordered, she stayed at home. “I am not ending my protest”, she insists. “I will return to the prison.” But she will have the IDF keep their word.

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Tair Kaminer

Kaminer is by no means the first Israeli conscript to refuse enlistment. The issue has been with the IDF since 1970, when a first Shministim movement was created, followed in 1982 by the Yesh Gvul “There is a Limit/Frontier” organization of reservists who refused to serve in the Lebanon War, and a surge of CO initiatives under the premiership of the hawkish former IDF general and Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, in the early 2000s. The latest two IDF military campaigns against Gaza, “Cast Lead” in 2009 and “Protective Edge” in 2014, also resulted in more CO applications from young Israelis, as has the announced expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. As for today’s Shministim movement, it is comprised by an estimated 3,000 high school students.

This only makes it harder to understand why the IDF has proved so adamant about punishing Kaminer specifically, putting her in jail, as Johnny Hates Jazz sang, for “a murder (she) will not commit”.

In a country like Israel where such people as former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert died without being prosecuted for the gross human rights abuses committed under their command by, respectively, IDF proxies in Lebanon and the IDF proper in Gaza – and to date, the incumbent, Benyamin Netanyahu, remains immune from domestic or international prosecution over the IDF’s campaign on Gaza’s civilian population in 2014, there must be room for the honest refusal of war stated with courage by young people whose love for their country will not be turned into hatred of their neighbors.

Hopefully, Tair’s sacrifice of her own freedom will let the Israeli government see that, in the very words of Johnny Hates Jazz, “It’s time to forget and forgive” its COs at last.

Johnny Hates Jazz, “I Don’t Want to Be a Hero”

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

A report on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, New York City, March 14-24, 2016

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on March 26, 2016 at 9:27 AM

Received from Sue Zipp, Vice-President of the Association of World Citizens:

*  *  *

UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN URGES GENDER-RESPONSIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2030

Meeting concludes with agreement on foundations to accelerate action for all women and girls.

Date: 24 March 2016
Media Contacts:
Oisika Chakrabarti, +1 646 781-4522, oisika.chakrabarti@unwomen.org
Sharon Grobeisen, +1 646 781-4753, sharon.grobeisen@unwomen.org

* * *

New York — The 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women concluded today with UN Member States committing to the gender-responsive implementation of Agenda 2030. A set of agreed conclusions called for enhancing the basis for rapid progress, including stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing.

The Commission recognized women’s vital role as agents of development. It acknowledged that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of Agenda 2030 will not be possible without gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the agreement and the commitment of UN Member States to make the 2030 Agenda, adopted last September, a reality in countries around the world. She said: “Countries gave gender inequality an expiry date: 2030. Now it is time to get to work. These agreed conclusions entrench and start the implementation of a gender-responsive agenda 2030 with which we have the best possibility to leave no one behind.”

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Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka high-fives UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri as the CSW Chair Antonio de Aguilar Patriota of Brazil announces the adoption of the agreement. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Growing global commitment was already in evidence with a record number of more than 80 government ministers from around the world attending the Commission. Around 4,100 non-governmental representatives from more than 540 organizations participated as well, the highest number ever for one of the Commission’s regular annual meetings.

The agreed conclusions urge a comprehensive approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals through thorough integration of gender perspectives across all government policies and programmes. Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination depends on effective laws and policies and the removal of any statutes still permitting discrimination. Temporary special measures may be required to guarantee that women and girls can obtain justice for human rights violations.

The Commission endorsed significantly increased investment to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Funds should be mobilized from all sources, domestic and international, ranging from fulfilling official development assistance commitments to combatting illicit financial flows that shortchange public resources for gender equality.

With humanitarian crises and other emergencies disproportionately affecting women and girls, the Commission underlined the imperative of empowering women in leadership and decision-making in all aspects of responding to and recovering from crisis. On the eve of the World Humanitarian Summit, it stressed prioritizing women’s and girls’ needs in humanitarian action and upholding their rights in all emergency situations. Every humanitarian response should take measures to address sexual and gender-based violence.

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Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

CSW60 delgates applaud as an agreement is announced during the closing plenary. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Members of the Commission united behind ensuring women’s equal participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in the public and private spheres, encompassing governments, businesses and other institutions, and across all areas of sustainable development. Depending on different circumstances, this may involve establishing temporary special measures, setting and achieving concrete benchmarks and removing barriers to women’s participation.

Given the major contributions to Agenda 2030 of civil society, including women’s and community-based organizations, feminist groups, human rights defenders and girls’ and youth-led organizations, the Commission welcomed open engagement and cooperation with them in gender-responsive implementation. It emphasized fully engaging with men and boys as agents of change and allies in the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

To guide systematic progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the 2030 Agenda, the Commission stressed enhanced national statistical capacity and the systematic design, collection and sharing of high-quality, reliable and timely data disaggregated by sex, age and income. Members also agreed to bolster the role of national mechanisms for women and girls in championing their equality and empowerment.

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Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

A wide view of the room during the closing plenary meeting of the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

– See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/3/press-release-csw60-urges-gender-responsive-implementation-of-agenda-2030#sthash.ci0a4sJ9.dpuf

March 21: Nowruz, the recurrent renewal

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2016 at 8:25 AM

MARCH 21: NOWRUZ, THE RECURRENT RENEWAL
By René Wadlow

“May the soul flourish;
May youth be as the new-grown grain.”

Nowruz, usually celebrated on March 21 in Iran and Central Asia, is the “New Day”, the end of the old year with its hardships and deceptions and the start of the New Year to be filled with hope and optimism. It is a day for spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation and is usually a time for reciting devotional poetry, presenting food with symbolic meaning to guests, and visits among family and close friends.

Nowruz, which coincides with the Spring Equinox, is related to myths focused on the sun and thus symbolizes the connections of humans to nature. In some of the myths, Nowruz is considered as symbolizing the first day of creation − thus a time when all can be newly created. It is a day between times − old time has died; new time will start the day after Nowruz. In this one-day period without time, all is possible. The seeds are planted for a new birth. Among some who celebrate Nowruz, real seeds are planted, usually in seven pots with symbolic meanings of virtues. Their growth is an indication of how these virtues will manifest themselves in the coming year. Among those influenced by Islam and Christianity, Navroz is the day when God will raise the dead for the final judgment and the start of eternal life.

Nowruz has an ancient Persian origin, related to Abura Mazda, the high god who was symbolized by the sun and manifested by fire. Nowruz is also related to the opposite of fire, that is, water. However, water can also be considered not as opposite but as complementary, and thus fire-water can become symbols of harmony. Fire – as light, as an agent of purification, as a manifestation of the basic energy of life − played a large role in Zoroastrian thought and in the teachings of Zarathoustra. Thus we find fire as a central symbol and incorporated into rituals among the Parsis in India, originally of Iranian origin.

From what is today Iran, Zoroastrian beliefs and ritual spread along the “Silk Road” through Central Asia to China, and in the other direction to the Arab world. As much of this area later came under the influence of Islam, elements of Nowruz were given Islamic meanings to the extent that some today consider Nowruz an “Islamic holiday”. Nowruz is also celebrated among the Alawits in Syria, the Baha’i, the Yezidis, and the Kurds, each group adapting Nowruz to its spiritual framework.

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A 2010 Nowruz celebration in Paris, France.

In Turkey, for many years, Nowruz was officially banned as being too related to the Kurds and thus to Kurdish demands for autonomy or an independent Kurdistan. I recall a number of years ago being invited to participate in a non-violent Kurdish protest in Turkey on Nowruz to protest the ban. I declined as the idea of going from Geneva to be put in a Turkish jail was not on top of my list of priorities. Fortunately, for the last few years, the ban has been lifted, and Kurds in Turkey can now celebrate openly Nowruz.

The celebration of Nowruz in the Central Asian Republics has had an uneven history during the Soviet period and since − ranging from a ban because it was too Islamic, to being promoted as of Zoroastrian origin and thus anti-Islamic, to being “nationalized” as a holiday of national unity.

As armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, “Kurdistan” and Afghanistan and strong tensions in Iran and Central Asia continue, we must hope that 2016 Nowruz will purify the old and plant the seeds of a new harmonious regional society.

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

Letter from the President and Officers of the Association of World Citizens to the President of the French Republic

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 at 1:52 PM

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND OFFICERS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

November 14, 2015

* * *

Dear President Hollande,

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) wishes to extend its sincerest condolences to the French Republic for the tragic death of – at the time of writing – over 120 of its nationals in terror attacks in several parts of Paris, as a French-Germany football game was taking place at the Stade de France, even more people having been injured, some of them seriously. All our thoughts are with them.

Whatever the reason for which it may be used, terrorism is never justifiable or excusable, resorting to it being in every time and place, in the words of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written by Frenchman René Cassin and adopted in your very own capital, “barbarous acts which (outrage) the conscience of mankind”.

We hear you have declared a state of emergency on all of France’s territory, a move that is all too understandable under these circumstances.

We are sure that the French Government will know how to protect its own people while remaining respectful of its domestic laws and international commitments, as is required in the fight against terrorism which is a full-fledged part of the fight for human rights.

We hereby express our wholehearted solidarity and moral support in the face of this new ordeal imposed onto the French people.

Please accept, Dear President Hollande, the assurances of our highest consideration

Prof. René Wadlow, President

Bernard Henry, External Relations Officer

Cherifa Maaoui, Liaison Officer – Middle East & North Africa

Noura Addad – Attorney at Law –, Legal Officer

Lettre du Président et des Officiers de l’Association of World Citizens au Président de la République française

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 at 1:50 PM

LETTRE DU PRÉSIDENT ET DES OFFICIERS DE L’ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS AU PRÉSIDENT DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE 

-- AWC-UN Geneva Logo --

Le 14 novembre 2015

* * *

Monsieur le Président de la République,

L’Association of World Citizens tient à présenter à la République française ses sincères condoléances pour la mort tragique de plus de cent vingt de ses citoyens – à l’heure où nous écrivons – dans des attaques terroristes en plusieurs endroits de Paris, en marge du match de football France-Allemagne au Stade de France, plus encore ayant été blessés, certains dont le pronostic vital est engagé. Toutes nos pensées les accompagnent.

Quelle que soit la raison pour laquelle il y est fait recours, jamais le terrorisme n’est justifiable ou excusable, ses manifestations étant toujours et partout, selon les termes du Préambule de la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme, œuvre du Français René CASSIN et qui fut adoptée dans votre capitale, des «actes de barbarie qui révoltent la conscience de l’humanité».

Nous entendons que vous avez annoncé la proclamation de l’état d’urgence sur tout le territoire français, mesure ô combien compréhensible en de telles circonstances.

Nous sommes certains que le Gouvernement français saura protéger son peuple tout en respectant ses propres lois et ses engagements internationaux, comme il se doit de la lutte contre le terrorisme qui fait partie intégrante de la lutte pour le respect des Droits de l’Homme.

Vous exprimant toute notre solidarité et tout notre soutien moral dans cette nouvelle épreuve imposée au peuple français,

Nous vous prions de croire, Monsieur le Président de la République, en l’assurance de notre très haute considération.

Prof. René Wadlow, Président

Bernard Henry, Officier des Relations Extérieures

Cherifa Maaoui, Officier de Liaison, Afrique du Nord & Moyen-Orient

Noura Addad – Avocat –, Officier juridique

World Food Day: A Renewal of Collective Action

In Being a World Citizen, Foundations for the New Humanism, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, United Nations, World Law on October 16, 2015 at 8:30 AM

WORLD FOOD DAY: A RENEWAL OF COLLECTIVE ACTION

By René Wadlow

 

[…] determined to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action for the purpose of raising levels of nutrition and standards of living […]” 

-Preamble of the Food and Agriculture Organization Constitution.

 

October 16 is the UN-designated World Food Day, the date chosen being the anniversary of the creation of the FAO in 1945 with the aim, as stated in its Constitution of “contributing towards an expanding world economy and ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger.” Freedom from hunger is not simply a technical matter to be solved with better seeds, fertilizers, cultivation practices and marketing. To achieve freedom from hunger for mankind, there is a need to eliminate poverty. The elimination of poverty must draw upon the ideas, skills and energies of whole societies and requires the cooperation of all countries. 

World Citizens have played an important role in efforts to improve agricultural production worldwide and especially to better the conditions of life of rural workers. Lord Boyd-Orr was the first director of the FAO; Josue de Castro was the independent President of the FAO Council in the 1950s when the FAO had an independent Council President. (The independent presidents have now been replaced by a national diplomat, rotating each year. Governments are never happy with independent experts who are often too independent.) The World Citizen, René Dumont, an agricultural specialist, is largely the “father” of political ecology in France, having been the first Green Party candidate for the French Presidency in 1974.

As Lester Brown, the American agricultural specialist says “We are cutting trees faster than they can be regenerated, overgrazing rangelands and converting them into deserts, overpumping aquifers, and draining rivers dry. On our croplands, soil erosion exceeds new soil formation, slowly depriving the soil of its inherent fertility. We are taking fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce.”

To counter these trends, we need awareness and vision, an ethical standard which has the preservation of nature at its heart, and the political leadership to bring about the socio-economic changes needed. For the moment, awareness and vision are unequally spread. In some countries, ecological awareness has led to beneficial changes and innovative technologies. In others, the governmental and social structures are disintegrating due to disease, population pressure upon limited resources, and a lack of social leadership. Worldwide, military spending, led by the USA, dwarfs spending on ecologically-sound development and the necessary expansion of education and health services.

World Food Day

Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth. (World Food Program)

As Lester Brown has written “The sector of the economy that seems likely to unravel first is food. Eroding soils, deteriorating rangelands, collapsing fisheries, falling water tables, and rising temperatures are converging to make it more difficult to expand food production fast enough to keep up with demand…food is fast becoming a national security issue as growth in the world harvest slows and falling water tables and rising temperatures hint at future shortages.”

Yet there are agricultural techniques which can raise protein efficiency, raise land productivity, improve livestock use and produce second harvests on the same land. However, unless we quickly reverse the damaging trends that we have set in motion, we will see vast numbers of environmental refugees — people abandoning depleted aquifers and exhausted soils and those fleeing advancing deserts and rising seas.

David Seckler of the International Water Management Institute writes “Many of the most populous countries of the world — China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, and nearly all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa — have literally been having a free ride over the past two or three decades by depleting their groundwater resources. The penalty of mismanagement of this valuable resource is now coming due, and it is no exaggeration to say that the results could be catastrophic for these countries, and given their importance, for the world as a whole.” Unfortunately, the International Water Management Institute does not manage the world’s use of water but can only study water use. While there are some planners who would like to be able to tax or make people pay for water, most water use is uncontrolled. Payment for water is a way that governments or private companies have to get more revenue, but the welfare of farmers is usually not a very high priority for them.

Yet as Citizens of the World have stressed, ecologically-sound development cannot be the result only of a plan, but rather of millions of individual actions to protect soil, conserve water, plant trees, use locally grown crops, reduce meat from our diets, protect biological diversity in forest areas, cut down the use of cars by increasing public transportation and living closer to one’s work. We need to stabilize and then reduce world population and to encourage better distribution of the world’s population through planned migration and the creation of secondary cities to reduce the current growth of megacities. We need to encourage wise use of rural areas by diversifying employment in rural areas. We also need to develop ecological awareness through education so that these millions of wise individual decisions can be taken.

In 1989 The Christians sang, “When will there be a harvest for the world?” Well … We wish we knew.

Lester Brown underlines the necessary link between knowledge and action. “Environmentally responsible behaviour also depends to a great extent on a capacity to understand basic scientific issues, such as the greenhouse effect or the ecological role of forests. Lacking this, it is harder to grasp the link between fossil fuel burning and climate change or between tree cutting and the incidence of flooding or the loss of biological diversity…The deteriorating relationship between the global economy and the earth’s ecosystem requires an all-out effort to bring literacy to all adults in order to break the poverty cycle and stabilize population.”

Education and vision require leadership, and it is ecologically-sound political leadership that is badly lacking today. Thus Citizens of the World and all of good will are called upon to provide wise leadership to work for a redirection of financial resources to protect the planet, and to encourage ecologically-sound individual and collective action. 

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

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