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Global Compact for Migration: A Necessary First Step

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 15, 2018 at 9:17 PM

By René Wadlow

On July 12, 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly agreed to the text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after more than a year of discussions among Member States, nongovernmental organizations, academic specialists on migration issues as well as interviews with migrants and refugees.

The discussion had gained visibility in September 2016 at the UN General Assembly which set out the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. As a result, the International Organization for Migration, created in 1951 largely to deal with displaced people after the Second World War, was more formally integrated into the UN “family”.

Antonio Guterres

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the Global Compact, saying it reflected “the shared understanding by Governments that cross-border migration is, by its very nature, an international phenomenon and that effective management of this global reality requires international cooperation to enhance its positive impact for all. It also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.”

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However, the General Assembly President, Miroslav Lajcak, also indicated the limitations of the agreement saying “It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding. It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States.” The Global Compact will be formally adopted by Member States at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 10-11. Thus, it is useful to see what the Compact does do and what non-governmental organizations concerned need to do between now and early December.

Citizens of the world have stressed that the global aspects of migration flows have an impact on all countries. The changing nature of the world’s economies modify migration patterns, and there is a need to plan for migration as the result of possible environmental-climate changes.

The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become a high profile political issue. Many migrants come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union (EU) have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

Migrants

EU officials have met frequently to discuss how to deal with the migrant-refugee flow, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. At a popular level, there have been expressions of fear of migrants, of possible terrorists among them, and a rejection of their cultures. These popular currents, often increased by right-wing political parties make decisions all the more difficult to take. An exaggerated sense of threat fuels anti-immigration sentiments and creases a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is stressing the need for cooperative efforts carried out in good faith to meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate.

We know that there are governments whose view is that “Yes, there are migrants and refugees, but we do not want them here. Our first and last line of defense is SOVEREIGNTY.” In addition to these governments, there are political parties and groups with a less legalistic line of defense. There are shades of racism and religious prejudice that go from pale to very strongly colored. We can expect these groups to be very active between now and early December to push government to indicate that the Global Compact is not a treaty, is not binding, and will not influence national decision making.

Thus, it is up to those holding World Citizen Values of equality, respect, cooperation and living in harmony with Nature to be even more active before December so that the Global Compact will serve as a framework for governmental and civil society action.

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

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Syria: “Is this how you want international affairs to be conducted now?”

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on April 18, 2018 at 8:40 PM

By René Wadlow

In the emergency United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting called by Russia on April 14, 2018, the Russian Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, asked of the representatives of the USA, France and the UK “Is this how you want international affairs to be conducted now?” He was referring to the coordinated air strikes of the USA, France and the UK aimed at targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons programs.

The use of violence as an instrument of world politics is not a new idea as the Ambassador may know if he reflects on Russian history. But Russian history may also remind him that it was a diplomat of the Czar who suggested the first Hague Peace Conference and its efforts to limit the means used in war. The 1925 Geneva Protocol is a direct outgrowth of the “Hague spirit.”

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Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations.

A suspected chemical-weapon attack on April 7, 2018 on rebel-held Douma, a city of some 130,000 near Damascus, had killed at least 50 people and sickened hundreds more. The attack may have been of weaponized chlorine and nerve agents possibly sarin. The Assad government has been accused of using chemical weapons before – charges which the government has denied saying that chemical arms were used by rebel factions such as Jaysh al Islam.

A major issue is that the use of chemical weapons, probably sarin or a sarin-like substance is in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of which Syria is a party, among the 135 governments which have signed. The attack was also a violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction which came into force in 1997. The Convention created The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syria signed the Convention in 2013 as part of a compromise decision to have its chemical-weapon stock destroyed.

The use of poison gas strikes deep, partly subconscious, reactions not provoked in the same way as seeing someone shot by a machine gun. The classic Greeks and Romans had a prohibition against the use of poison in war, especially poisoning water wells because everyone needs to drink. Likewise poison gas is abhorred because everyone needs to breath.

There is a real danger that the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the oldest norms of humanitarian international law will be undermined and the use of chemical weapons “normalized”. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is already investigating the use of chemical weapons in seven other locations in Syria and new inspectors arrived in Syria on April 13.

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A protest by Syrian revolution activists and supporters in Paris on March 30.

Chemical weapons have been used in armed conflicts in the Middle East before. Although Egypt had signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, Egyptian forces used chemical weapons widely in their support of the republican forces in the Yemen Civil War (1962-1967) with very few international outcries. As a result of the lack of any sanctions against Egypt, Syria requested Egyptian technical assistance in developing its own chemical weapons capabilities shortly after 1967 – well before the al-Assad dynasty came to power.

Humanitarian international law is largely based on self-imposed restraints. Humanitarian international law creates an obligation to maintain the protection of all non-combatants caught in the midst of violent conflicts as set out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977. Moreover, there is an urgent need to focus special attention on the plight of children. They are the least responsible for the conflict and yet are most vulnerable. They need special protection. The norms to protect children in armed conflicts are set out clearly in the Additional Protocols which has 25 articles specifically pertaining to children. The norms are also clearly stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most universally ratified international treaty. The Convention calls for the protection of the child’s right to life, education, health and other fundamental needs. These provisions apply equally in times of armed conflict and in times of peace.

As with the use of weapons prohibited by international treaty: chemical weapons, land mines, cluster munitions, the protection of children must be embodied in local values and practice. The classic Chinese philosopher Mencius, in maintaining that humans were basically good, used the example of a child about to fall into a well who would be saved by anyone regardless of status or education.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has called for a UN-led conference on the re-affirmation of humanitarian, international law. There needs to be a world-wide effort on the part of governments and non-governmental organizations to re-affirm humanitarian values and the international treaties which make them governmental obligations.

Limiting the use of chemical weapons or other banned weapons such as land mines and cluster munitions is only part of what is required. There needs to be negotiations in good faith to put an end to the armed conflict. The AWC has called for good-faith negotiations among all the parties from the start of what was at first non-violent demonstrations in March 2011. Neither the Government nor the opposition were willing to set an agenda or a timetable for good-faith negotiations. The Government held out vague promises for reform but without giving details and without open discussion among those concerned. As the fighting has escalated, the possibility of good-faith negotiations has increasingly faded despite efforts by the UN mediators to facilitate such negotiations.

The situation has become increasingly complex as new actors play increasingly active roles. The entry of Turkish forces and their Syrian allies into the city of Afrin after two months of fighting in the area of this largely Kurdish-populated city on the frontier with Turkey. It is impossible to know if this is a limited show-of-force or the first steps of a broader anti-Kurdish policy in northern Syria.

There is a growing awareness that there is a dangerous stalemate and that there is no military “solution”. It is often at this “stalemate” stage of a conflict that parties turn to a negotiated compromise. (1) The dangers of a wider conflict with more States involved are real. Thus the situation requires careful concerted action both on the part of governments and nongovernmental organizations.

Note
1) See Louis Kriesberg and Stuart Thorson (Eds) Yiming, The De-Escalation of International Conflicts (Syracuse University Press, 1991)

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

International Decade of Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2018 at 7:50 AM

By René Wadlow

On March 22, World Water Day, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed “The International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028. The Decade seeks to forge new partnerships and to strengthen capacity to manage fresh water supplies and sustainable use. Ecologically-sound water use is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, N°6 “Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The aim of the Water Decade is to raise the profile of water in the global agenda of governments and nongovernmental organizations.

There have already been two UN-sponsored Water Decades: 1981-1990, and a second decade called UN Water for Life Decade, 2005-2015. Water and sanitation have been set out as human rights and the UN Human Rights Council has a Special Rapporteur for the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, most recently Mr. Leo Heller. However, real difficulties remain. Some 660 million people still draw water from an unimproved source. Urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change all put pressure on water supply and use.

We will look briefly at an aspect of the world-wide water challenge: desertification and at some of the steps which the UN along with non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the UN are taking to meet this challenge creatively.

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UN efforts began in 1977 with the United Nations Conference on Desertification held in Nairobi. The desertification conference was convened by the UN General Assembly in the midst of a series of catastrophic droughts in the Sudan-Sahelian region of Africa. The conference was designed to be the centerpiece of a massive world-wide attack to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in its destructive path. The history of the conference is vividly recalled by James Wallis in his book Land, Men and Sand (New York: Macmillan, 1980)

At the conference, there was a call for the mobilization of human and financial resources to hold and then push back the advancing desert. “Attack” may have been the wrong word and “mobilization” too military a metaphor for the very inadequate measures taken after the conference in the Sudan-Sahelian area. Today, there are still real possibilities of famine in West and East Africa on the edges of the desert. Niger and Mali and parts of Senegal and Chad in the Sahel belt are facing the consequences of serious drought as are parts of northern Kenya and Somalia.

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The most dramatic case is that of Darfur, Sudan which partakes of the Sahel drought but which also faces a war in which conflicts between pastoralists and settled agriculturalists have become politicized. It is estimated that over 300,000 people have been killed since the start of the war in late 2003. Some two and a half million people have been uprooted. The agricultural infrastructure of homes, barns and well have been deliberately destroyed. It will be difficult and costly to repair this destruction. The Darfur conflict highlights the need for a broader approach to the analysis and interpretation of active and potential armed conflicts in the Sahel region. This analysis needs to take into consideration the impact of environmental scarcity and climate variation in complex situations.

What are the causes of the desertification process? The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature but from the action of humans. Desertification is a social phenomenon. Humans are both the despoiler and the victim of the process. Increasingly, populations are eking out a livelihood on a dwindling resource, hemmed in by encroaching plantations and sedentary agriculturalists, by towns and roads.

Desertification is a plague that upsets the traditional balance between people, their habitat, and the socio-economic system by which they live. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base, it promotes insecurity. Insecurity leads to strife. If allowed to degenerate, strife results in inter-clan feuding, cross-border raiding and military confrontation.

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Only with a lessening of insecurity can pastoralists and cultivators living in or near deserts turn their attention to adapting traditional systems of compromise between the two. There can be no reversion to purely traditional systems. For insecurity to abate, a lengthy process of conciliation must begin and forms of conflict resolution must be strengthened. People must be encouraged to understand that diversity is a crucial element of ecologically-sound development. Judicious resource management breeds security and an improved quality of life for everyone. We can see what efforts can be made to encourage reforestation and to slow the unwanted advances of deserts.

Desertification needs to be seen in a broad way. If we see desertification only as aridity, we may miss areas of impact such as in the humid tropics. We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity and alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. We need to identify major clusters of problems, bringing the best minds to bear on them so as to have a scientific and social base on which common political will can be found and from which action will follow.

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

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE – 2018-04-01-16-25-FRA

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 1, 2018 at 2:26 PM

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COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

 

Paris, le 1er avril 2018

 

LES CITOYENS DU MONDE DEMANDENT UNE ENQUÊTE INDÉPENDANTE

SUR LES VIOLENCES COMMISES PENDANT LE RASSEMBLEMENT

DE LA GRANDE MARCHE DU RETOUR LE 30 MARS

L’Association of World Citizens (AWC) se joint aux appels de l’ONU et de l’Union européenne (UE) pour une enquête indépendante sur les affrontements entre la Force de Défense israélienne et des manifestants palestiniens le 30 mars dernier dans la Bande de Gaza, lors desquels seize Palestiniens ont été tués et des centaines d’autres blessés.

L’usage de balles réelles, de billes de plomb enrobées de caoutchouc, et de gaz lacrymogènes par la Force de Défense israélienne contre des manifestants aux intentions pacifiques paraît difficilement justifié et appelle un examen impartial pour déterminer les violations des Droits Humains commises durant ces événements.

Une telle enquête est d’autant plus importante qu’il est prévu que la Grande Marche du Retour se poursuive et ait lieu également aux frontières de la Cisjordanie.

Bien que déplorant la tendance actuelle du Gouvernement israélien à isoler le pays de la communauté mondiale – non dans une moindre mesure par l’annonce du retrait du pays de l’UNESCO – l’AWC appelle à une pleine coopération avec l’ONU et l’UE en direction d’une enquête internationale sur les violences qui ont gâché la manifestation de la Grande Marche du Retour.

Faire partie de la communauté mondiale des peuples et des nations implique des devoirs et responsabilités. Respecter le droit à la protestation pacifique en fait partie. Le monde entier regarde et il faut à cette crise une issue juste et honorable.

Tout être humain a droit à la vérité et à la justice. Sur ce qui s’est produit, les Citoyens du Monde exigent l’action.

PRESS RELEASE – 2018-04-01-16-20-ENG

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 1, 2018 at 2:20 PM

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PRESS RELEASE

 

Paris, April 1, 2018

 

WORLD CITIZENS CALL FOR AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION

INTO THE VIOLENCE

DURING THE GREAT MARCH OF RETURN PROTEST ON MARCH 30

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) joins the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) in calling for an independent investigation into the clashes between the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Palestinian protesters that took place in the Gaza Strip on March 30, killing 16 Palestinians and injuring hundreds more.

The use of live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets, and teargas by the IDF against protesters with peaceful intentions can hardly appear justified and thus warrants an impartial examination with a view to assessing the violations of human rights committed during these events.

Such an investigation is especially important as the Great March of Return is planned to continue and take place on the West Bank’s boundaries as well.

While deploring the Israeli Government’s latest tendency to isolate the country from the global community – not least by announcing the country’s withdrawal from UNESCO – the AWC calls for full cooperation with the UN and EU toward an international investigation into the violence that marred the Great March of Return protest.

Being part of the global community of peoples and nations implies duties and responsibilities. Respecting the right to peaceful protest is one of them. The world is watching and there must be a fair, honorable outcome to this crisis.

Every human being has a right to truth and justice. World Citizens want action on this issue.

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Maître Najet Laabidi de nouveau visée par les autorités tunisiennes

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Current Events, Disabled people, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on March 18, 2018 at 7:29 AM

Par Bernard Henry

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

Une fois de plus, l’avocate tunisienne Najet Laabidi, poursuivie depuis 2011 pour avoir voulu représenter ses clients comme il est naturel pour un avocat, est dans le collimateur. Et cette fois, l’injustice est plus criante encore, car les clients que l’on veut l’empêcher de représenter sont, comment le comprendre, des personnes handicapées.

Enfants autistes, elles les maltraitent

Dans un courrier du 8 mars à la Rapporteuse spéciale de l’ONU sur les Droits des Personnes handicapées, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, le Comité de Soutien de l’Affaire des Enfants autistes violentés et de Défense des Droits des Enfants/Personnes Autistes/Handicapé(e)s sonne l’alarme sur les faits dont il tire son nom, des faits remontant à février dernier seulement et qui, dans une Tunisie qui ne cesse de s’éloigner des espoirs de la révolution qui ouvrit en 2011 le « printemps arabe », sonnent comme un implacable constat d’échec – et un déchirant appel au secours.

« Le 17 février 2018, » écrit le Comité, « une vidéo a été mise en ligne sur les réseaux sociaux présentant des actes de violence (de maltraitance) d’enfants autistes dans un centre privé de prise en charge et d’éducation spécialisée à Tunis. » Sur cet enregistrement, réalisé par un employé du centre, l’on voit trois enfants se faire agresser par deux éducatrices du même centre.

La politique prise en défaut …

Les réactions n’ont pas tardé. Le 19 février, le Chef du Gouvernement tunisien affirmait son indignation, ordonnant une prise en charge psychologique immédiate pour les enfants du centre. Les premières consultations débutèrent le 6 mars.

Du côté des autres ministres, les suites furent moins reluisantes. Ministère de la Femme, de la Famille et de l’Enfance, Ministère des Affaires Sociales et Ministère de l’Education se jetèrent la patate chaude, chacun niant que le centre relève de sa juridiction. Et pour cause. En Tunisie, les centres pour enfants ou personnes handicapées sont gérées par des associations, elles-mêmes affiliées au Ministère des Affaires Sociales. Au mieux. Car le centre ne possède qu’un simple statut d’école privée, avec agrément du Ministère de l’Education, et n’abrite aucun professionnel qualifié pour la prise en charge des enfants autistes ou des personnes handicapées.

Côté grand public enfin, ce n’est pas la publicité qui a manqué à la vidéo, pas plus que les débats, à la radio, à la télévision et ailleurs. Débats où les enfants autistes ne trouvent pas que des défenseurs. C’est ainsi qu’un intervenant est allé jusqu’à justifier les violences, qu’il qualifiait d’ «intervention thérapeutique scientifique reconnue dans le cas des enfants autistes» …

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Avec l’affaire relayée y compris dans les médias internationaux, le scandale a de loin dépassé les seules frontières de la Tunisie. (Capture d’écran)

Mais l’essentiel de la population a bel et bien pris parti pour les enfants victimes, les familles d’enfants autistes et personnes handicapées, les Défenseurs des Droits Humains, les juristes et les organisations de personnes handicapées ayant été au premier rang de l’indignation générale.

Créé dans la foulée, le Comité de Soutien de l’Affaire des Enfants autistes violentés et de Défense des Droits des Enfants/Personnes Autistes/Handicapé(e)s appela au rassemblement devant la Présidence du Gouvernement. Le 20 février, à l’issue de la manifestation, des représentants du comité rencontrèrent des officiels gouvernementaux, auxquels ils rappelèrent les annonces du Chef du Gouvernement. Leurs exigences étaient simples et claires – des solutions pour les enfants du centre qui avaient dû, suite au scandale, être ramenés dans leurs familles, et des mesures à moyen et long terme pour que jamais de tels faits ne se reproduisent.

Des politiques mis au pied du mur entendaient enfin une légitime colère.

… Et le droit en déshérence

Dans tout Etat se voulant un Etat de droit, qui dit violences avérées dit procédure pénale. Au moins sur ce point, la Tunisie ne déçoit pas. Enfin, pas tout de suite.

Devant les plaintes déposées contre le centre et sa directrice par les parents des jeunes victimes, pour les besoins de l’instruction, l’une des éducatrices est en détention mais l’autre, ainsi que la directrice, ont été relâchées sous contrôle judiciaire. Malgré la gravité des faits, le centre lui-même n’a pas été fermé.

Plus incompréhensible encore, plusieurs parents des pensionnaires du centre ont pris la défense de la directrice et affirmé son innocence. Incompréhensible, certes – si l’on oublie que ces mêmes parents bénéficient d’une prise en charge de leurs enfants entièrement gratuite, là où le centre facture 700 à 900 dinars tunisiens, soit 230 à 300 euros, chaque mois. Une directrice «chèrement» défendue donc.

Et dont les soutiens ne s’arrêtent pas à des parents-clients, puisque, le 5 mars, la Commission parlementaire de la Santé et des Affaires sociales la recevait en tant que représentante d’une association sur l’autisme et porte-parole … Des centres pour enfants autistes. Rencontre diffusée le soir même au JT. Une conception bien singulière de l’exemplarité.

Elle porte plainte au nom des témoins, les gendarmes portent plainte contre elle

A l’horreur de la situation et au mépris du droit qui l’entoure, il fallait bien que viennent s’ajouter des manœuvres d’intimidation envers une avocate défendant les Droits Humains. Et il fallait que cette avocate soit, une fois encore, Najet Laabidi.

«En France, on laisse au repos ceux qui allument les incendies et on persécute ceux qui sonnent le tocsin», notait Chamfort en son temps. Apparemment une malheureuse exportation française vers la Tunisie, puisque, le 7 mars, l’auteure de la vidéo montrant les deux éducatrices «à l’œuvre» contre les enfants autistes a été retenue sans justification, et en violation de la loi, au poste de Garde nationale, la gendarmerie tunisienne, pour un supplément d’enquête à son endroit. Et à ses côtés, également retenue sans ménagement, se trouvait son avocate, Maître Najet Laabidi.

A ce jour, les deux témoins sont harcelés, sans que la maréchaussée tunisienne s’en inquiète outre mesure. Quant à Najet Laabidi, qui a déposé plainte en leur nom pour ces abus et s’en est ouverte dans la presse, elle aussi fait l’objet d’une plainte, déposée contre elle par la Garde nationale de Ben Arous et qui lui a valu une convocation devant le Procureur général de la Cour d’appel.

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Pour qui en douterait, il en faudra pourtant bien plus pour faire baisser la garde à Najet Laabidi, qui réaffirme sans ambiguïté sa détermination dans ce qui est, pour elle, bien plus qu’un dossier d’avocat. «Pour moi, lutter pour les droits des enfants autistes, lutter pour un Etat de droit, un Etat de bonne gouvernance, c’est une obligation, un rêve, jamais je ne renoncerai. Même si l’on continue à m’intimider, par des poursuites judiciaires ou par d’autres moyens, je continuerai mon combat.»

Personnes handicapées et avocats, deux luttes du droit mondial

Jadis garde-frontière officieuse des Etats européens, en renversant son tyran et en déjouant ainsi tous les pronostics des « orientalistes » occidentaux, la Tunisie a acquis une aura toute nouvelle à travers le monde. Mais en s’inscrivant ainsi en faux contre deux luttes mondiales de Droits Humains, le pays risque de se voir bientôt décrire, une nouvelle fois, moins selon sa victoire contre l’arbitraire que selon son désolant retour vers la répression.

Car, oui, les droits des personnes handicapées sont une lutte mondiale de Droits Humains, l’ONU ne les ayant d’ailleurs jamais considérés autrement, là où le grand public les aurait vus bien plus comme une question relevant de la santé ou des affaires sociales. L’adoption en 2006 de la Convention internationale relative aux Droits des Personnes handicapées en est la meilleure preuve, ainsi que la création d’une agence spécialisée des Nations Unies consacrée au handicap, UN Enable.

Depuis bien plus longtemps encore, l’ONU consacre les droits des avocats, à travers les Principes de Base relatifs au Rôle du Barreau adoptés en 1990 et qui, pour n’être pas contraignants envers les Etats, n’en sont pas moins, à l’instar de tout le droit international, des dispositions dont aucune violation n’est sans conséquence, interne ou externe, sur le plan politique.

L’on voit donc mal comment et pourquoi une Tunisie passée contre toute attente à un despotisme clanique à un Etat bâti sur le souvenir des martyrs Mohamed Bouazizi, Chokri Belaïd et Mohamed Brahmi pourrait vouloir à présent devenir, aux yeux du monde, un Etat handiphobe et qui n’a – décidément – que mépris pour ses avocats.

C’est ce qui se passerait si les enfants du centre n’obtenaient pas justice, et si, plus encore, Najet Laabidi continuait à être harcelée, en lien avec cette affaire ou sur quelque autre sujet. Même en étant capables de s’attendre à tout, y compris à une bonne surprise, c’est en tout cas plus que les Citoyen(ne)s du Monde laisseront jamais passer.

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

 

Human Rights: Government Failures, NGO Need to Organize!

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 4, 2018 at 10:08 PM

By René Wadlow

In his final address to the Human Rights Council on February 26, 2018, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein decried the “pernicious use of the veto” by permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, Russia, and China in particular – to block any unity of action to reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people in “the most prolific slaughterhouse of humans in recent times.”

However, it is not only the veto in the Security Council which prevents governments from acting. There is a widespread failure of governments to act. “Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action.”

He continued by mentioning States in which armed conflicts were the framework for constant human rights violations, including the fundamental right to life: Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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He highlighted the growing wave of narrow nationalism promoted by political parties and in some cases by the leaders of government. “Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said ‘We do not want our color…to be mixed in with others’ “

He concluded with a warning and an encouragement to action. “It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations which will spark the conflicts that can break the world…For the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This we cannot allow to happen.”

In the light of the use of the veto in the UN Security Council and the realpolitik considerations of States in general, it is the task of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) to promote the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and the respect of humanitarian international law while the armed conflicts go on. NGOs must work so that universal human rights are the basis of society at all times.

In order to carry out these crucial tasks, NGOs must become stronger, have greater access to the media, increase their networks to more countries, and develop greater cooperation among themselves. These challenges require a wise use of current resources and efforts to increase them. There is a need to increase cooperation with universities and other academic institutions for background information and analysis. Government representatives always look for factual errors in NGO presentations as a way to discredit the whole presentation. Dialogue with the representatives of governments must be continued and, if possible, made more regular. States will continue to be important agents in the world society, and we must try to be in contact even when government actions are unreasonable, even criminal.

Cooperation among NGOs will facilitate an outreach to more sectors of the world society. Often a specific NGO will reach a particular milieu – religious, geographic, professional, social class. By cooperation a wider audience can be reached, and techniques for positive action set out.

As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed armed violence, systematic repression, waves of hate and xenophobia are strong today, and there is a real danger that they will grow. To meet these negative challenges, we who uphold the unity of the human family must organize ever-more effectively.

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

Syria Conflicts Highlight Violations of Humanitarian International Law

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on February 23, 2018 at 9:58 PM

By René Wadlow

A recent wave of fighting in Syria, especially in the Eastern Ghouta zone near Damascus and in Afrin, a largely Kurdish area near the frontier with Turkey has highlighted the violations of humanitarian international law. Calls from United Nations (UN) officials for at least a month-long truce so that food and medical supplies could reach the civilian population have not been honored. The scale of the violations is such that they can be considered as a deliberate policy and not as events of “collateral damage” in the fog of war. These violations of long-established humanitarian international law are evidence that the laws of war are increasingly being undermined with few governmental reactions.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) again calls for respect of humanitarian international law and for a world-wide effort for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. (1)

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The Kurdish city of Afrin, in the north of Syria, under heavy shelling by the Turkish army

Eastern Ghouta is near Damascus and has been a contested zone since early in the 2011 uprising. Ghouta is close enough to Damascus so that opposition mortars can be fired on districts in Damascus – close enough also so that rockets and barrel bombs from government helicopters can increasingly fall on the zone. Hospitals have been hit, probably deliberately. Eastern Ghouta is one of the deescalation zones agreed to by Russia, Iran and Turkey. However not all the opposition groups are party to the deescalation agreement which opens the door to ever-escalating violence.

Afrin is in the Aleppo Governorate and in an area with a large Kurdish population. The Turkish government suspects all organized Kurdish groups to be “terrorists” or potential terrorists. Moreover, the demands for independence of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration in Iraq linking to a possible similar Kurdish zone in Syria is considered by the Turkish government as an active threat to be countered by force. Thus, for the past month, Turkish troops in the mis-named “Operation Olive Branch” have been attacking Afrin and its surrounding area. As an element in complicated Kurdish politics and alliances, a pro-Syrian government Kurdish militia has joined the battle to defend Afrin. The dangers of escalation and greater loss of civilian life are very real. For the moment, negotiations on a resolution of the armed conflict within all of Syria seems to be at a dead point, at least in terms of public negotiations.

With the current impossibility to reach an overall resolution to the conflict, the best we can hope for is an honest application of humanitarian international law and a broader, worldwide re-affirmation of humanitarian international law.

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Syrian civilians, including children, killed in the first chemical attack on the Ghouta, back in August 2013

Current armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Turkey, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere have led to repeated and conscious violations of humanitarian international law such as attacks on medical facilities and personnel, killing of prisoners-of-war, the taking and killing of hostages, the use of civilians as “human shields” and the use of weapons which have been banned by treaties.

Thus, there is a pressing need for actions to be taken to implement humanitarian international law in response to increased challenges. Citizens of the World stress the need for a UN-led conference on the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law including its application by non-State parties. Non-State actors such as ISIS or the Afghan Taliban, are increasingly involved in armed conflicts but were largely not envisaged when humanitarian international law was being drawn up by governments Thus, the conference would highlight the need to apply humanitarian international law both to States and to non-State actors. (2)

Such a conference would bring together into a coherent synthesis the four avenues of humanitarian international law: (3)

1) The Geneva Conventions – Red Cross-mandated treaties;

2) The Hague Convention traditions dealing with prohibited weapons, highlighting recent treaties such as those on land mines and cluster munitions;

3) Human rights conventions and standards, valid at all time but especially violated in times of armed conflicts;

4) The protection of sites and monuments which have been designated by UNESCO as part of the cultural heritage of humanity, highlighting the August 2016 decision of the International Criminal Court on the destruction of Sufi shrines in northern Mali. (4)

Such a re-affirmation of humanitarian international law should be followed by efforts to influence public consciousness of the provisions and spirit of humanitarian international law. This can be done, in part, by the creation of teaching manuals for different audiences and action guides. (5)

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A protest by Biafran activists in London on November 13, 2015 (C) David Holt

I would cite a precedent for this re-affirmation of humanitarian international law from personal experience. During the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, I was part of a working group created by the International Committee of the Red Cross to respond adequately to the challenges of this conflict which was the first African armed conflict that did not involve a colonial power. The blocking of food flows to Biafra and thus starvation as a tool of war was stressed in our work. (6)

 

One conclusion of the working group was the need to re-affirm the Geneva Conventions and especially to have them more widely known in Africa by writing Africa-focused teaching manuals. Thus, as at the time I was professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies, Geneva, I collaborated with Professor Jiri Toman, Director of the Institut Henri Dunant on the creation of such a manual to be used in Africa. Today, such culturally-sensitive manuals could be developed to explain humanitarian international law.

Such a re-affirmation conference would be welcomed by civil society organizations related to relief, refugees, human rights and conflict resolution. A certain number of these organizations have already called attention to violations and the need for international action. There is a need for some governmental leadership for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law as a basis of world law dealing with the protection and dignity of each person.

** Notes **

1) Hilaire McCoubrey and Nigel D. White. International Law and Armed Conflict (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1992)

2) see Andrew Clapham. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

3) see Sydney D. Bailey. Prohibitions and Restraints in War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)

4) see Rene Wadlow “Guilty Plea in Cultural Destruction Case” Peace Magazine (Canada) Oct-Dec 2016

5) see Jacques Freymond. Guerres, Révolutions, Croix-Rouge (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1976) and Thierry Hentsch. Face au blocus. La Croix Rouge internationale dans le Nigéria en guerre (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1973)

6) see as a good example of an action guide Paul Bonard. Les Modes d’Action des Acteurs Humanitaires. Critères d’une Complémentarité Opérationnelle (Geneva, CICR, no date given)

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

Korea: An Olympic Truce – Time for Concerted Nongovernmental Efforts

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on February 8, 2018 at 11:03 PM

By René Wadlow

The holding of the Winter Olympics in South Korea from February 9 to 25, followed by the Paralympics on March 9-18, may be an opportunity to undertake negotiations in good faith to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to establish, or re-establish, forms of cooperation between the two Korean governments.

Such negotiations in good faith would be in the spirit of what is known as the “Olympics Truce”. Truce in classic Greek meant a “laying down of arms”. A truce was usually announced before and during the Olympic Games to ensure that the host city was not attacked and athletes and spectators could travel safely to the Games and return to their homes.

In 1924, Winter Olympics were added to the Summer Olympics which had been revived earlier in an effort to re-establish the spirit of the Classic Greek games. At the 2000 Sydney games at the opening ceremony, South and North Korean delegations walked for the first time together under the same flag. Today, with greater tensions, there needs to be more than symbolic gestures. There needs to be real government-led negotiations to reduce tensions. In addition to the two Korean States, the USA, China, Russia, and Japan are “actors” in the Korean “drama”.

There have been over the years since the 1953 armistice periodic increases of tensions related to the policies of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Currently, the nuclear program and missile launches of North Korea, the establishment of sophisticated anti-missile systems in South Korea, increased sanctions against North Korea voted by the United Nations (UN) Security Council as well as a new administration in Washington has led to an escalation of tensions. While tensions in the past have been managed by diplomatic discussions or changes in policy, there are always dangers that conflict management may fail due to miscalculations, misinterpretations of military moves, misinterpretations of aims and strategies. The misinterpretations and the failures of conflict management were important factors in the start of the Korean War in 1950 as well as the intervention of Chinese “volunteer” troops. (1)

Today, we are at a time when crisis triggers are ready. Crisis triggers are actions which occur prior to the onset of overt physical hostility between adversary States. Fortunately, not all triggers are pulled. Yet we must ask ourselves if the current tensions could slip out of the control of conflict management techniques.

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The palaestra, where athletes would train for the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece

For Korea, certain “rules of the game” of conflict management have been worked out. Rules of the game constitute a framework for standards of behavior which maintain restraint, unless there is a breakdown or serious miscalculation. There needs to be some degree of common interest among the parties which makes possible the development of these rules of the game for conflict management. Objectively, a lowering of tensions and a return to the status quo ante should be possible. But objective conditions do not always keep the rules of the game in place.

Today, the tensions around the two Korean States, the USA, China, Russia and Japan are somewhat like the pre-1975 Helsinki period when tensions between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Powers periodically rose, fell, and rose again. Certain rules of the game had been set but were not formalized in treaties. Tensions, but also conflict management were largely US-USSR affairs. Other countries in Europe were on the sidelines. Neutrals such as Finland, Sweden and Switzerland were largely ignored.

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During the prelude to the 1975 Helsinki Conference, there were useful unofficial contacts among non-governmental organizations and academics – what is now called Track II processes. These contacts and exchanges of publications helped pave the way for later governmental negotiations.  As with the 1975 Helsinki Conference, Track II leadership may be an important factor in highlighting shared stability concerns and a strengthening of the rules of the game. (2)

As the representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) we have very limited influence on the decision-making process concerning Korea of the six governments most directly involved. The Association of World Citizens (AWC), as other NGOs, has made appeals for positive action to these governments as well as to the UN Secretary-General. Many of the positive suggestions have concerned what is often called a “freeze for freeze” agreement: a suspension of the yearly United States (U. S.)-South Korean war exercise and a progressive reduction of U. S. troops stationed in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia, especially Japan in exchange for a ban on North Korean nuclear and missile testing and negotiations to replace the 1953 Armistice with a Peace Treaty.

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The Korean Unification Flag will serve as the flag of the unified Korean team during the Winter Olympics this year

The AWC has also made proposals for economic cooperation, more numerous meetings among separated family members and cultural exchanges. However, as the saying goes “Do not hold your breath waiting”. For the moment, we look in vain for enlightened governmental leadership. The appeals for calm by the Chinese authorities have not been followed by specific proposals for actions to decrease tensions.

Today, there is a need for a coming together of non-governmental organizations who are primarily focused on the resolution of armed conflicts with those groups concerned with the abolition of nuclear weapons. The current Korean tensions are based on the development of nuclear weapons and missile systems and the pressures and threats to prevent their development. The Olympic Truce period should be taken as an opportunity to advance “Track II” efforts on the part of NGOs to see on what topics fruitful governmental negotiations could be set out.

Notes

1) See Glenn D. Paige, The Korean Decision June 24-30, 1950 (New York: The Free Press, 1968) and Allen S. Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu. The Decision to Enter the Korean War (New York: McMillan Co. 1960)

2) For a good overview of Track II efforts in different parts of the world, see Oliver P. Richmond and Henry F. Carsey (Eds), Subcontracting Peace: The Challenges of NGO Peacebuilding (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2005)

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

The Faiths of the Past and the Challenges of the Future: Interfaith Harmony Week

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Religious Freedom, The Search for Peace, World Law on February 2, 2018 at 9:15 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 20, 2010, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, by resolution A/RES/65/PV.34, designated the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week among all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and nonviolence, wished to highlight the importance that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue can play in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly Resolution recognized “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As the then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote “At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous problems — security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic — enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.”

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There has always been interaction and borrowing of ideas among spiritual and religious groups. Early Christianity took ideas and rituals from the Jewish milieu of its early members including its founder, Jesus. However, ideas from the mystical traditions of the Middle East and Greece were also incorporated — Neo-Platonism as well as aspects of the Eleusinian and other initiation rituals. Christian Gnostic groups had relations with Zoroastrian thought and probably Buddhists from India.

In Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries in reaction to the violent religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation, humanists such as Erasmus appealed for tolerance and tried to find an intellectual basis for reconciliation. The Erasmian spirit found one of its most beautiful expressions in a small but influential group known as the Domus Charitatis (the Family of Love). Founded in the 1540s, the Family of Love recruited its members from all over Europe and included both Catholics and Protestants. The Familists placed an emphasis on the practice and growth of spiritual love as a way of building bridges between dogmatic religious positions.

During the same period of the 16th and 17th centuries, in a more esoteric way, the alchemists turned to a wide variety of sources in their search for a symbolic language to express the mystery of both physical and spiritual transformation. In addition to Christian symbolism, they used the symbolism of Greek and Roman mythology, Gnosticism, the Jewish Kabbalah and Islamic culture. Drawing on such a wide variety of traditions, the alchemists paved the way for the gradual interest in the study of the world religions in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, we can date the start of formal inter-religious understanding and cooperation from the first World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. In 1893, interfaith dialogue was almost unknown in the United States when immigration up until that time was nearly exclusively Christian with the addition of a small number of Jews coming from Germany and Central Europe.

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John Henry Barrows

The 1893 World Parliament of Religions (sometimes called the World’s Congress of Religions) was convened in Chicago in connection with the World Fair of that year (1). The Parliament owed much to the efforts of its organizing president, John Henry Barrows. Barrows was a well-known Chicago lawyer as well as a Swedenborg minister. The Parliament was heavily weighted in favor of liberal Protestant denominations: the Unitarians, the Universalists, the Congregationalists along with two more conservative Protestant churches: the Presbyterians and the Baptists. The Roman Catholics were represented by the prominent Cardinal Gibbons.

Barrow depended on his contacts in Chicago with members of the Theosophical Society for advice on Asian religions. Thus, Annie Besant, President of the Theosophical Society, living at its headquarters in India and active in Indian reform movements suggested the Asian speakers — all of whom represented a modern, social reformist wing of their faiths. Annie Besant participated and had insisted that there be an important contribution from women highlighting their specific roles — a theme then new to the largely hierarchical and patriarchal structures of religious groups.

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Annie Besant

Buddhism was represented by the theosophically-trained H. Dharmapala, an educator and social reformer in what is now Sri Lanka but not a member of the orthodox Buddhist Sanga of the island. The Zoroastrians were represented by an Indian Parsee, Jananji Modi, a friend of the Theosophical Society and a friend of the Oxford scholar of religions Max Muller who also played an important intellectual role in the preparation of the Parliament. Muller did not attend but sent a paper on “Greek Philosophy and the Christian Religion” which was read by Barrow. An aspect of Indian thought was represented by B. R. Nargarkara of the reformist Bhahmo-Sumaj who quoted its spirit saying “When scriptures differ, and faith disagree, a man should see truth reflected in his own spirit…We do not believe in the revelation of books and men, of histories and historical records for today God communicates His will to mankind as truly and as really as He did in the days of Christ or Moses, Mohammed or Buddha.”

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Vivekananda

The most striking voice of Indian thought came from the young Vivekananda (born Naremdranath Datta to an aristocratic Calcutta family.) He alighted in Chicago in ochre robes and turban and gave a series of talks to the 4,000 attendees of the Parliament. Vivekananda, a follower of the more mystic thinker, Ramakrishna, defined Hinduism as a few basic propositions of Vedantic thought, the foremost being that “all souls are potentially divine”, and he quoted Ramakrishna that “the mystical experience at the heart of every religious discipline was essentially the same.” Being 31, Vivekananda had the energy to travel throughout the United States, meeting intellectuals who were discovering Indian thought not through translations of Indian scriptures as had Emerson and other New England writers but through a learned and dynamic Indian.

From the USA, his writings spread, influencing such thinkers as Leo Tolstoy and Romain Rolland who wrote a Life of Ramakrishna and a Life of Vivekananda (1928). Later the English writer, Aldous Huxley, wrote The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Vivekananda’s enthusiasm for the USA as a new land unburdened by the old ways was boundless, and quite fittingly, he died on July 4, 1902 — the U. S. national day. He was just 39 years old but was exhausted from ceaseless work and untreated diabetes.

For many decades, the exposition of Indian thought by Vivekananda was considered to be Hinduism. It was not until the late 1950s and the coming to the University of Chicago of Mircea Eliade, the Romanian specialist of Indian religious thought that the many different strands of Hinduism were stressed. Hinduism was a term coined by the English colonists as they wanted a term to cover all Indian thought as they were already used to “Islam” for the Arabs and “Christians” for the West. At the start of the English colonial period in India, Indians never referred to themselves as Hindus, but used more often the term dharma —the law of Nature — for their faith. Likewise, Buddhists also never spoke of themselves as Buddhists. Buddha was also said to have explained the dharma which had existed eternally, and they were only following the dharma as explained by the Buddha; they were not following the historical Buddha.

Since 1893, interfaith discussions have increased, but many of the issues have remained the same: how to make religious thought relevant to the social-economic-political issues of the day. Can religious organizations play a useful role in the resolution of violent conflicts? (2)

It is important to build on past efforts, but many challenges remain. These challenges call for responses from a wide range of people and groups, motivated by good will to break down barriers and to reconcile women and men within the world community.

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Notes

For a record of the talks and statement of the Parliament see: Rev. Minot J. Savage, The World’s Congress of Religions (Boston: Arena Publishing Co. 1893, 428pp.)

For a useful overview of recent multifaith dialogue and cooperation by a participant in many of the efforts see: Marcus Braybrooks, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Co-Nexus Press, 1998, 144pp)

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

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