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Hiroshima Anniversary Day: Developing a Nuclear-weapon Abolition Strategy

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States, World Law on August 6, 2019 at 8:16 PM

By René Wadlow

“Just prior to the May 2010 Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) said, “Everyone recognizes the catastrophic danger of nuclear weapons. Just as clearly, we know the threat will last as long as these weapons exist. The Earth’s very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament. And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation … Momentum is building around the world. Governments and civil society groups, often at odds, have begun working in the common cause. All this work reflects the priorities of our member states, shaped in turn by public opinion. Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now.”

Thus, governments and civil society groups, often at odds on other questions, might be able to set out a strategy for progress toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. There has always been an ebb and flow of popular interest in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world, and currently, there seems to be a rising tide of activity. Men who did little to curb nuclear weapons when they were in power are now saying that something should be done: ‘The only sure way to prevent nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war is to rid the world of nuclear weapons.’ Since peace-making depends on coalition building, we cannot belittle these new-found friends.

There have always been at least two major aspects of nuclear issues — the one is to prevent the proliferation to new states, the other is to reduce the number of warheads among the existing nuclear-weapon states.

A strategy which has influenced popular action on nuclear weapons has been whether to place an emphasis on the goal of total abolition or on partial steps such as the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Those working for partial measures have always said that abolition was the ultimate aim, but in practice, the partial measures always became the focus of action. I recall that when I was in college, I used to walk to relax and would meet from time to time Albert Einstein walking from his office to his nearby home. I would say ‘Good Evening, Prof Einstein, and he would reply ‘Good Evening, Young Man’. Although I had no idea then or now what his theories were about, I knew that they had something to do with atoms, and he had come out early for nuclear control. ‘One World or None’ was the slogan of the late 1940s. Einstein’s final appeal shortly before his death was the Russell-Einstein Manifesto (1955) with its call to think “not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings”.

When I used to see Einstein, I was already active on the partial measures of the time — an end to testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. I had followed the lead of Senator Estes Kefauver who was the first United States (U. S.) political leader to attack actively nuclear testing. As Kefauver had taken on the link between politics and organized crime, he could take on also the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission which was deaf to all calls to prevent nuclear fallout from entering the food chain. It took till 1963 to get the tests to move below ground, but the mid-1950s nuclear testing campaign was the entry point of my generation into nuclear issues.

Senator Estes Kefauver

I tend still to stress limited steps within the framework of regional settlements of disputes. There seems to me to be three opportunities to press ahead:

1.

The first and easiest because it involves only two states without major conflict issues is a reduction in the number of nuclear warheads of the USA and Russia — the number of 1,000 each seems to be on the table. It is still too many and strategic thinking in the two countries is not very clear what they are for, but this is a case where ‘fewer is better’, so let us push for this sharp reduction while we try to see what role the USA and Russia can usefully play in the world society, as well as reducing tensions between them.

2.

The second opportunity is for a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East. The elimination of Israeli nuclear weapons and no nuclear-weapon development in Iran would help reduce Middle East tensions. Mohammed El Baradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been calling for this Middle East nuclear weapon free zone for some time. However, there will have to be strong popular pressure for such a zone as neither the Israeli nor the Iranian government seems to be moving fast in the direction.

3.

The third opportunity for non-governmental suggestions is to participate in the preparations for the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Review conferences held every five years have been the most favorable to Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) of the arms control negotiations. I had chaired the NGOs attending the 1975 and 1980 reviews and with the help of Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico, the NGOs had the ability to distribute proposals and to interact fully, though not to address the conference. Our proposals were widely discussed and even presented by one government as its own. At the 1980 review when no government text could be agreed upon, the NGO draft, largely written by Homer Jack, an active world citizen, was seriously discussed at a midnight meeting of the Conference Bureau, but wording was not the real issue. After the 1985 Review, which nearly went down in flames thanks to charges and outer-charges between Iraq and Iran, at that time in war, I gave up, having repeated too often the Preamble and Article VI. which hold out the promise of a disarmed world under effective international control and stresses that “in accordance with the Charter, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

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

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The Death Penalty and Human Dignity

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Uncategorized, United Nations, United States, World Law on October 10, 2018 at 7:36 PM

By René Wadlow

October 10 is the International Day Against the Death Penalty. Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty due to the rather obvious recognition that putting a person to death is not justice. Moreover, on practical grounds, the death penalty has little impact on the rate of crime in a country. A number of States have a death penalty for those involved in the drug trade. To the extent that the drug trade can be estimated statistically, the death penalty has no measurable impact on the trade − a trade usually linked to economic or geopolitical factors.

October 10 can also be a day to oppose all organized killings by State agents. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, usually carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have State-sponsored “death squads” − persons affiliated to the police or to intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” − unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision. A shot in the back of the head is faster. The number of “targeted killings” has grown. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed and so death is supposed but not proved, as has been the case of students protesting in Mexico. United States assassinations with drones has also been highlighted both in the United Nations human rights bodies and domestically. However, the drone “strikes” continue, and there is very little legislative opposition.

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A good deal of recent concern has been expressed on the death sentence in Saudi Arabia by crucifixion. There is perhaps some chance of a change of penalty due to more historically-minded Saudis. The most widely known person crucified is Jesus. As the Roman court records have been lost, we have only the account written by his friends who stressed that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was condemned. His crucifixion has taken on cosmic dimensions. “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” The Saudis try to avoid some of the Jesus parallel by beheading the person before putting the rest of the body on the cross, but the image of the crucified as innocent is wide spread.

October 10 is an occasion for us to stress the importance of human dignity. Our efforts against executions need to be addressed both to governments and to those state-like nongovernmental armed groups such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps in developing a just world society.

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

Korean Anniversary: Confidence-building Measures Still Needed

In Asia, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States on September 16, 2018 at 11:46 PM

By René Wadlow

Sunday, September 9 was the 70th anniversary of the creation of North Korea. As has been usual in recent years there was a very highly-structured ceremonial parade. Such mass events are used to convey policy priorities to its citizens and to the outside world. This year, the parade was less aggressively military than in the past and might be interpreted as placing an emphasis on socio-economic development.

It is never easy from the outside to decipher North Korean symbolism. It may even be difficult for North Korean citizens to understand the message. There will be later in September another summit meeting with the President of South Korea and we may see more clearer then if advances in tension reduction can be made.

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In the meantime, those of us involved in tension reduction work must keep knowing on doors to see if any will open or to put messages in bottles to see if any will reach decision-makers. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has stressed that there may be a possibility of small steps that build confidence between the two Korean States and that do not overly worry the USA and China who watch events closely and who may do more than watch. It is unlikely that any progress will be made in the foreseeable future concerning demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula or unification. Small steps are probably the ‘order of the day’. However, Track II – informal discussions which are not negotiations but a clarification of possible common interests and areas of joint action – can be helpful.

Track II efforts have not been on a scale to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, and the saber rattling of governments has done nothing to reduce tensions. “Fire and fury like the world has never seen” is probably not the vocabulary that leads to negotiations.

Time Is Running Out for Water: Ban Ki-moon

It is hard to know how seriously to take the saber rattling, but the sound is loud enough and the sabers are sharp enough that calmer spirits need to propose confidence-building measures. The AWC had proposed to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations (U. N.), Ban Ki-Moon to have a U.N.-led conference to transform the Korean War Armistice of 1953 into a Korean Peace Treaty. Such a Peace Treaty would confirm the international legitimacy of the two Korean States while not preventing at a later date a con-federation or other form of re-unification. Such a conference and Peace Treaty could play an important role in reducing regional tensions. However, such a conference would require a good deal of negotiations as all conditions would have to be agreed upon in advance. Diplomatic conferences “bless” efforts made before in private. A successful diplomatic conference rarely starts from zero.

Another avenue of confidence-building measures is what the University of Illinois psychology professor Charles Osgood called GRIT – Graduated Reciprocation in Tension Reduction. He recommended an incremental series of conciliatory unilateral initiatives. They should be varied in nature, announced ahead of time without bargaining and continued only in response to comparable actions from the other party – a sort of “arms race in reverse”. Unilateral initiatives should, whenever possible, take advantage of mutual self-interest, mutual self-restraints and opportunities for cooperative enterprise.

As Osgood wrote, “the real problem is not the unavailability of actions that meet the criterion of mutual self-interest, but rather the psychological block against seeing them that way. The operation of psycho-logic on both sides makes it difficult for us to see anything that is good for them as being anything other than bad for ourselves. This is the familiar ‘if they are for it, we must be against it’ mechanism” (1)

Osgood directed his proposals for dealing with tension reduction so as to ease fear, foster more circumspect decisions in which many alternatives are considered, and modify the perceptual biases that fan the flames of distrust and suspicion. The most favorable feature of the GRIT approaches that it offers a means whereby one party can take the initiative in international relations rather than constantly reacting to the acts of others.

GRIT efforts were carried out concerning Korea in the early 1990s between Presidents of the USA and North Korea but rarely since. Currently, the governments of Russia and China have proposed a GRIT-type proposal of a “double freeze” – a temporary freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in return for a sharp reduction of U. S. military presence in South Korea.

A “double freeze” may be too large a shift at this stage. The AWC has proposed such steps as increased family contacts, cultural exchanges, increased food aid to the Democratic People’s Republic, a lessening of economic sanctions and an increase in trade.

There is a need to halt the automatic reaction to every provocation, and to “test the waters” for a reduction of tensions. Real negotiations may take some time to put into place, but GRIT-type unilateral measures are a possibility worth trying.

(1) Charles E. Osgood. An Alternative to War or Surrender (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1962)

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

President Trump’s UN and a Good Time Had by All

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, United States, World Law on January 23, 2017 at 11:02 PM

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S UN AND A GOOD TIME HAD BY ALL

By René Wadlow

President Donald Trump has tweeted that “The UN has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time.”

It takes less to have good time for some people than for others. Having sat through many long sessions in human rights bodies at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, I could hardly wait to get out and have a good time elsewhere. I recall one year in particular when the UN Commission on Human Rights went on repeatedly till three in the morning. The “coffee bar” which was just outside the meeting room would close around 8 PM, but they would leave a couple of buckets of ice cubes on the bar so we could serve ourselves.

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Donald J. Trump, the new President of the United States, sounded in his campaign speeches less than enthusiastic about the United Nations.

I had a woman friend from New York, a leading human rights lawyer, who would come each year. She was blind so I would take care of her “seeing eye” dog in the Palais des Nations and take the dog out for a run in the UN park. In compensation, she would bring a couple of bottles of “duty-free” whisky which I would put in a flask and around 10PM we would have a couple of drinks in the coffee bar to keep us going to the end.

There was only one year that the meetings went till 3AM. The other years the sessions would stop at midnight because UN staff – interpreters etc. – had to be paid for a full day even if they had worked only from midnight until 3AM. But the 3AM year, I had with me the “Man Friday” of the Dalai Lama, a monk who is usually with him to get things, meet people etc. The monk had not had a vacation in a long time, and the Dalai Lama thought that he might have a good time by staying in Geneva for a week. It was a week of the Commission on Human Rights so I always had him with me and would try to explain what was going on, the meaning behind the speeches.

At 10PM he would come with me for our nightly whisky, but as a monk he did not drink alcohol, though I always offered him the possibility. He must have said some mantras for strength because he always held out till 3AM as well.

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A session on disarmament in the Council Chamber at the United Nations in Geneva. (C) U. S. Mission/Eric Bridiers

When not listening to talks and having a good time, what is the role of nongovernmental representatives at the UN – people probably not at the front of President Trump’s vision of the UN? However, there is growing interest in the role of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) within the United Nations system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. NGOs are more involved than ever before in global policy making and project implementation in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection.

NGOs at the UN have a variety of roles — they bring citizens’ concerns to governments, advocate particular policies, present alternative avenues for political participation, provide analysis, serve as an early warning mechanism of potential violence and help implement peace agreements.

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A session in the ECOSOC Council Chamber, New York. (C) Swedish Mission/Jenny Zhao

The role of consultative-status NGOs was written into the UN Charter at its founding in San Francisco in June, 1945. As one of the failings of the League of Nations had been the lack of public support and understanding of the functioning of the League, some of the UN Charter drafters felt that a role should be given to NGOs. At the start, both governments and UN Secretariat saw NGOs as an information avenue — telling NGO members what the governments and the UN was doing and building support for their actions. However, once NGOs had a foot in the door, the NGOs worked to have a two-way avenue — also telling governments and the Secretariat what NGO members thought and what policies should be carried out at the UN. Governments were none too happy with this two-way avenue idea and tried to limit the UN bodies with which NGOs could ‘consult’. There was no direct relationship with the General Assembly or the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Article 71 of the Charter was the body to which “consultative-status NGOs” were related.

What in practice gives NGOs their influence is not what an individual NGO can do alone but what they can do collectively. ‘Networking’ and especially trans-national networking is the key method of progress. NGOs make networks which facilitate the trans-national movement of norms, resources, political responsibility, and information. NGO networks tend to be informal, non-binding, temporary, and highly personalized. NGOs are diverse, heterogeneous and independent. They are diverse in mission, level of resources, methods of operating and effectiveness. However, at the UN they are bound together in a common desire to protect the planet and advance the welfare of humanity.

Samantha Power (left), the Irish-born writer and journalist whom Barack Obama had appointed U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Like all other sitting U. S. Ambassadors worldwide, she had to leave her post by January 20 as ordered by then President-elect Donald Trump. If confirmed by the U. S. Senate, what is her chosen successor, South Carolina Governor Nimrata “Nikki” Haley (right), going to do? How UN-friendly or “NGO-friendly” is she going to be?

The role of NGO representatives is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the UN from lobbying at the national level is that the representative may appeal to and discuss with the diplomats of many different governments. While some diplomats may be unwilling to consider ideas from anyone other than the mandate they receive from their Foreign Ministry, others are more open to ideas coming from NGO representatives. Out of the 193 Member States, the NGO representative will always find some diplomats who are ‘on the same wave length’ or who are looking for additional information on which to take a decision, especially on issues on which a government position is not yet set. Therefore, an NGO representative must be trusted by government diplomats and the UN Secretariat.

As with all diplomacy in multilateral forums such as the UN, much depends upon the skill and knowledge of the NGO representative and on the close working relations which they are able to develop with some government representatives and some members of the UN Secretariat. Many Secretariat members share the values of the NGO representatives but cannot try to influence government delegates directly. The Secretariat members can, however, give to the NGO representatives some information, indicate countries that may be open to acting on an issue and help with the style of presentation of a document.

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Among the people representing the Association of World Citizens in international forums or, as featured here, public demonstrations are Legal Officer Noura Addad (left) and External Relations Officer Bernard Henry (right). (C) Nadia Leïla Aïssaoui

It is probably in the environmental field — sustainable development — that there has been the most impact. Each environmental convention or treaty such as those on biological diversity or drought was negotiated separately, but with many of the same NGO representatives present. It is more difficult to measure the NGO role in disarmament and security questions. It is certain that NGO mobilization for an end to nuclear testing and for a ban on land mines and cluster weapons played a role in the conventions which were steps forward for humanity. However, on other arms issues, NGO input is more difficult to analyze.

‘Transnational advocacy networks’ which work across frontiers are of increasing importance as seen in the efforts against land mines, for the International Criminal Court and for increased protection from violence toward women and children. The groups working on these issues are found in many different countries but have learned to work trans-nationally both through face-to-face meetings and through the internet web. The groups in any particular campaign share certain values and ideas in common but may differ on other issues. Thus, they come together on an ad hoc basis around a project or a small number of related issues. Yet their effectiveness is based on their being able to function over a relatively long period of time in rather complex networks even when direct success is limited.

These campaigns are based on networks which combine different actors at various levels of government: local, regional, national, and UN (or European Parliament, OSCE etc.). The campaigns are waged by alliances among different types of organizations — membership groups, academic institutions, religious bodies, and ad hoc local groupings. Some groups may be well known, though most are not.

There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the UN levels at the same time. Advocacy movements need to be able to contact key decision-makers in national parliaments, government administrations and intergovernmental secretariats. Such mobilization is difficult, and for each ‘success story’ there are many failed efforts. The rise of UN consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. NGOs and government diplomats at the UN are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.

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NOTES:

(1) This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets (Ed.) The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the UN System (London: Hurst, 1996), T. Princen and M. Finger (Eds), Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Global and the Local (London: Routledge, 1994), M. Rech and K. Sikkink, Activists Without Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Rob Reinalda (Eds), Non-State Actors in International Relations (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001) and William De Mars, NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
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Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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