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René Wadlow (-> 2010)

topWikiLeaks and World Citizen Diplomacy

WikiLeaks’ release of a large number of US diplomatic archives gives us a broad vision of the culture of US foreign policy policy-making. Such a vision could also be gained from reading the diplomatic archives as they are published after a “25 or 50 year rule”, but it is more fun to read material of a nearer time, especially if it is classified “Secret”. Were one to have similar access to the reports of diplomats of other countries, we would have some idea of the diplomatic political culture of those countries, but the process of information collection is broadly the same. Some diplomats have more writing talent than others and can “spice up” a report with interesting comments on leaders met, but such comments are of only marginal interest unless the person described has a direct role in foreign-policy making of the country.

Diplomatic reports are added to the reports of the intelligence services and to the analysis of open documentation such as newspapers, government reports, academic studies and the like. Most information that a Foreign Ministry has comes from open sources and is then compared to what additional information comes from diplomats and intelligence operatives, interviews with businessmen and travellers.

The three-step policy-making process of governments highlighted by the WikiLeaks documents can also be followed by what I call “ World Citizen Diplomacy” — that is, efforts by non-governmental organizations involved in conflict resolution efforts, often in conflicts that do not necessarily concern directly the State of which they are citizens.

The first step is the analysis of data collected. This is the most crucial phase. It is on the quality of analysis that the two following steps depend. As mentioned above, data on a country is collected primarily from open sources to which information and analysis is added provided from diplomats, intelligence agents and non-governmental contacts such as businessmen, religious workers etc. There is a need to understand the local forces at work as manifested in specific individuals and groups. There is a need to try to evaluate shorter and longer-range trends and then to situate the specific country situation into the broader regional and world context. For this reason, most Foreign Ministries are organized on a broad geographic basis — An African Division, Asian Division etc.

The second step is “proposal-making”. On the basis of analysis, a broad policy outline is developed which must then be formulated into “What is to be done next?” — that is specific steps to be carried out by specific persons in a specific institution such as the Mission to the UN, a visit to the Foreign Minister of the State involved, to lower ranking persons etc. A proposal must be drafted and a negotiation process worked out — what has been called “Getting to Yes”

The third step is the mobilization of resources needed to advance the policy proposals:

  • 1) What can be done drawing only on one’s existing resources and contacts?
  • 2) What can be gained by drawing on the resources of others but who will not play an active role in the implementation and follow-up?
  • 3) What does one need from allies but who will then want a role in the policy making and a share of the benefits if the policy is successful?

Government policy makers have advantages that world citizen diplomats do not. Government civil servants are nearly always paid for the work they do. Governments do not need to depend on volunteers who may have or may not have funds to travel. Government agents at the upper level of decision making have usually been trained to carry out the work they are asked to do and have the advantage that other governments are used to working with government representatives. A US diplomat is rarely asked “Who sent you to ask this question?” while an NGO representative is often asked “Why are you involved in intra-government issues?”

Nevertheless, as we see from reading some of the WikiLeaks files, government policy making is not without difficulties and failures. Therefore world citizen diplomacy must learn from government policy-making procedures but must use them creatively, with more sympathy for the people of the country being analysed and with a broader “world vision” rather than the “national interest” focus of government policy makers.

2011 is likely to present world citizen diplomats with a number of difficult challenges, both those we carry forward from 2010 and those which will come more or less unexpected.

Non-government organizations do have vast resources, but they are not centralized or coordinated. It is not always easy to build meaningful coalitions. As with governments, one always needs to evaluate the time-effort needed to build a cooperative alliance against going alone under one’s own banner usually more quickly.

The same types of questions which face government policy makers face non-governmental groups, but non-governmental groups are more diverse and have different priorities and methods of work. A recent book by the English ecologist and political activist Paul Hawken Blessed unrest: how the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it (New York: Viking; 2007) is a good overview of the world civil society.

Government diplomats have the advantage of working within a common political culture. At the United Nations, the representatives of States, even those strongly opposed to each other act in common ways, have certain common rules and mutual expectations. Partly this arises from the fact that they will have to see each other the next day and the day after that.

By and large, at the UN, these rules also apply in the way government diplomats work with non-governmental representatives. If I give a diplomat a text with proposals, I know that it will be read in Geneva and then sent on to the Foreign Ministry. I will usually be informed of the reaction in the Foreign Ministry to the proposals, even if only rather shortly. “Beijing is not happy” was the answer of a Chinese diplomat to my proposals on Tibet

World citizen diplomacy is still a new field. As with any new field, there is a process of presenting ideas, of drawing upon different fields of thought, of distilling experiences, then of a growing acceptance of a common core of ideas — a process described in Thomas Kuhn’s much quoted (if not always read) The Structure of Scientific Revolution

There is obviously a need to make the theoretical concepts of world citizen diplomacy operational — somehow linking the theoretical concepts to the step-by-step guide of those practicing in current conflict situations. Such efforts require cooperation between scholars, mediators and those who have been caught up in violence and are now able to reflect upon their experiences. Cooperation among NGOs is sometimes as difficult as among government representatives. There is competition for funds, name recognition and personal “ego trips”. But cooperation is growing and hopefully will grow more as we see new needs and new possibilities for action.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens.



Honoring 10 December

10 December — Human Rights Day — marks the anniversary of 10 December 1948 when the UN General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Since that day, as world citizens, we can take pride that we have contributed to the growth of a universal human rights movement. In all walks of life, brave individuals are standing up for their sisters and brothers who have been reduced to silence by oppression, poverty or injustice. This struggle for the respect of human rights transcends all frontiers. The struggle is based on non-violence. Our only weapons are knowledge and the life force of conviction. Human dignity must be protected by the power of knowledge.

Defending human rights requires an objective analysis of a situation, an analysis which is not colored by political motivations or ethnic or religious prejudices. Once such an objective analysis is made, then we must speak out to governments and other holders of power to bring their policies and practices in line with high universal standards. Speaking out requires courage and occasionally even heroism. Human rights are at a cross road. No longer just a reference to violations of specific rights, they are becoming a way of life, a social contract that fulfils people’s aspirations to life in dignity and democracy. People want to know that they are in full control of their lives and that their society embodies their uniqueness as individuals.

In human history, there have been periods when there is a collective response to new challenges and thus new ways of organizing thought and society. Most of the world’s great religious and philosophical systems were formulated at about the same time: Confucianism and Taoism in China, Hinduism-Buddhism-Jainism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, the Prophetic impulse in Judaism, Socrates-Plato and the mystery schools in Greece, and the Druid teachings among the Celts. We are in such a period today as we face the challenges of a world society and a globalized economic system. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives us a base for a universalistic ethic, one that includes all of humanity. The Declaration recognizes that each individual is a member of the same human family and is linked in harmony with each other. We share a common destiny. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives us a common vision for a just and cooperative future.


The Day of the Citizens of the World

The passage at midnight between 20 March and 21 March marks the central moment of the Day of the Citizens of the World. It is the start of the Spring Solstice and is celebrated in countries influenced by Persian culture such as Iran, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics as Navruz (Nawroz), the start of the New Year. It is a period of renewal, of new beginnings, and a time of recognition that we are all citizens of the world bound together in a common destiny.

The Spring Solstice as the Day of the Citizens of the World marks a profound regard for cycles. Every cycle has a beginning, a middle, and an end; and nearly every cycle is followed by another. It was this sensitivity to cycles of change that served as the basis for the Chinese philosophy embodied in the I Ching – the Book of Changes. In the Richard Wilhelm translation, the text for the hexagram Fu advises “This is the moment, but it is not brought about by force…the moment is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason, the transformation of the old becomes easy…Therefore, it is not necessary to hasten anything artificially. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time. This is the meaning of heaven and earth…The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement: everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that it may lead to a flowering.”

The Spring Solstice is an intrinsically meaningful cosmic-terrestrial event and at the same time serves as a powerful symbol for the deepest processes of transformation in the individual and collective human psyche. Wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle and what kind of action (or restraint from action) is appropriate for that phase. What is constructive at one time may be destructive at another.

Thus, the passage from an international system based on States to a world society based on the vision of world citizenship is a transition which flows naturally, without violence and without a destruction of the old. World Citizenship is based on a broad awareness of the ways the planet Earth is inter-related — what happens in one part of the world or to one group of people has an impact on all others.

The Spring Solstice — Day of the Citizens of the World — is placed under the sign of Hermes Trismegistus (the thrice-great Hermes) who is said to have lived in Egypt at the time of Moses. As a priest and an older man, Hermes would naturally have taught Moses about the Light in which we live, move and have our being. Hermes was also thought to have been the teacher of Orpheus, who passed on the teaching concerning the order of the world to Pythagoras and Plato. Thus, there is, in the tradition of the Alchemists, the symbol of Aurea Catena — the Golden Chain — an unbroken series of wise persons — women and men— from Hermes Trimegistus to the present, a chain which also symbolizes the links between heaven and earth.

This Aurea Catena chain is depicted in a 1488 mosaic of the Sienna Cathedral, Italy, where we see two figures, one from the East and one from the West coming to receive instruction from Hermes. Knowledge and Wisdom flowing toward both the East and the West is a key symbol of world citizenship. Thus the Day of the Citizens of the World is placed under the sign of the thrice-great Hermes.

The current financial-economic crisis has brought the realization to many that we are all associated in one world. The decisions of a few can have an impact on the many. If this is true for the negative impact of financial decisions, it is also true for positive actions. Thus the Day of the Citizens of the World can be a day for greater awareness of the need for cooperation and mutual action. The Day calls for individual commitment and responsibility.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens


Steps on the Long Road to Burmese Democracy ?

Can the 7 November 2010 elections in Myanmar and the end of the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi be steps on the long road to democracy in Burma or are they only timid public relations efforts? It is impossible to say if any of the newly elected members of the Parliament will show an independent spirit and make efforts to raise real questions. Nearly all the candidates were hand-picked by the ruling military, but they were not members of a political party nor did they have any experience in politics or legislation. They were picked because it was thought that they would go along with anything the military commanded. The military had 25 percent of the Parliamentary seats reserved for serving military written into the Constitution, and many of the other seats are held by military men who retired to become civilians for the election.

The military leadership created for the elections a political party — the Union Solidarity Development Party — but the party had no members prior to the election campaign, no discussions of issues and no ideology other than self-interest. While this is not a likely pool from which to draw independent-minded reformers, there might be some hidden individuals who will speak out for the welfare of the people.

Likewise, the military created some ethnic-based parties to represent the national minorities who live on the frontiers. Again, these parties did not exist prior to the elections, and there is not much indication that they will exist long now that the elections are past. However, one never knows if, having created structures, these structures might take on a life of their own. These ethnic representatives, who represented no one but themselves, might become spokespersons for the real aspirations of the brutalized minorities. Over 40 percent of the 55 million population are national minorities who live in higher areas along the frontiers with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh. Population statistics in Burma are rough approximations. The creation of a Parliament with some real debate along with meaningful decentralization of administration could help bring an end to intermittent armed conflict between the army and the minorities.

However, if the Parliament does not discuss and act in visible, positive ways, the ethnic minorities may decide that the democratic structures are really a sham and that armed insurgency is the only path forward.

The military at the top of the power ladder have few options. Personally, they are putting their money in Singapore banks, but the real economy of the country is in the hands of ethnic Chinese. The Chinese government watches the situation closely. Basically, China wants stability and wants to avoid a backlash against Chinese merchants, as there had been in 1962 when the military came to power. At that time the economy was largely controlled by Indian merchants whose goods were nationalized and they expelled from Burma.

The military which have been in direct control of the country from 1958 to 1960 and then from 1962 to the present had first chosen as its motto “The Burmese Road to Socialism”. This Burmese Road led from a relatively prosperous country at Independence on 4 January 1948 to efforts in 1987 to be admitted to a U.N.-sponsored ‘club’ of the Least Developed Countries. The end of the Road to Socialism after 1988 has led to the now untitled road of officer-led corruption and private Chinese-owned stores, hotel, trade and the small amount of manufacturing.

The military are now speaking of “The Road to Democracy”, but there are no obvious sign posts. There are an estimated 2000 political prisoners, most linked to the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi. Many of the educated Burmese have left the country to work elsewhere. The National League for Democracy has never been able to function as a real political party, and much of the leadership was already old and used from earlier efforts. Aung San Suu Kyi provided a young and fresh face, but there were few of her generation in positions of party leadership. Her long years of house arrest have not improved the situation.

The situation in Burma merits watching closely. Leadership for reform may come from unexpected sources. The September-October 2007 determination of Burma’s Buddhist monks to bring about change non-violently awakened a civilian population long held in fear by the governing military. The monks marched behind large banners saying “Love and Kindness must win over everything”. The monk-led demonstrations showed that opposition could come from unlikely sources. It is not impossible that the new Parliament will take its title as the “representative of the people” seriously.

*Rene Wadlow is Representative to the UN in Geneva for the Association of World Citizens


Earth is Our Common Home: UN Desert Decade

God created lands filled with water as a place for man to live; and the desert so that he can discover his soul.

The decade 2010 to 2020 has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as The International Decade of Deserts and Desertification. The Decade marks the efforts begun 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 Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa. The conference was designed to be the centrepiece of a massive worldwide 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 their destructive path. The history of the conference is vividly recalled by James Walls 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 later in the Sudano-Sahelian area. In 2010 at the start of the Decade, there are 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.

The most dramatic case is that of Darfur, Sudan which partakes of the Sahel drought but which also faces a war in which the conflicts between pastoralists and settled agriculturalists have become politicized. It is estimated that 300,000 have been killed since the start of the war late in 2003. Some two and a half million people have been uprooted. The agricultural infrastructure of homes, barns and wells 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.

Earth is our common home, and therefore all, as world citizens, must organize to protect it. It is up to all of us concerned with ecologically-sound development to use the Decade to draw awareness to both the dangers and the promises of deserts. What is the core 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 actions 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. Pressure of population upon resources leads to tensions which can burst into violence as we see in Darfur and which spilled over into eastern Chad.

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

Desertification is a plague that upsets the traditional balance between people, their habitat, and the socio-economic systems 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, civil war, cross-border raiding and military confrontation.

Only with a lessening of insecurity can cultivators and pastoralists living in or near deserts turn their attention to adapting traditional systems. There can be no reversion to purely traditional systems. But for insecurity to abate, a lengthy process of conciliation must begin and forms of conflict resolution 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.

Deserts can also have a positive image. There is a significant role in the literature and mythology of spirituality — the 40 years in the desert before entering the “Promised Land”, the 40 days in the desert before starting his mission for Jesus, the life in the desert of the early Christian church fathers. Today, there are an increasing number of spiritual retreats in the desert chosen for its silence and for the essential nature of the landscape. Thus the Decade of Deserts can be a decade during which we can learn more of the lives of people in and on the edge of the deserts. It is a Decade in which we can all usefully participate.

Rene Wadlow


The Rom: World Citizens Ahead of Time

Wandering now from land to land
Who is there here to feel my pain?”

Younous Emre, Thirteeth Century Turkish dervish

Early August, the French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux announced that more than 40 Gypsy camps had been dismantled around France since President Nicolas Sarkozy had called earlier this summer for a crackdown on the camps calling them “sources of illegal trafficking, profoundly shocking living standards, exploitation of children for begging, prostitution and crime.” Some 300 Roma camps not on municipal sites organized for Gypsy or “Travelers” are to be demolished and some — the criteria for expulsion is not clear — expelled mostly to Romania and Bulgaria. The political motivations of Mr Sarkozy are clear: to pander to the anti-immigration Right — basically the voters of the National Front — who have long had an anti-immigrant platform.

However, there have been anti-Rom measures in Germany where some 12,000 Rom are to be deported to Kosovo, in Italy where a “state of emergency” had been declared on the basis of fear of Rom immigrants, as well as in Belgium.

These measures come in the middle of a European Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) called by European Union officials as “an unprecedented commitment by European governments to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma” although public awareness of the Decade is probably not high.

There are estimates that there are 10 to 12 million Rom living in the European Union with the largest concentration in Romania — some two million according to unofficial estimates. There are also fairly large Rom groups in the former Soviet Union, in particular the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, as well as in Turkey. Originally from India, the Rom have spread through Europe probably between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. Why they left northern India is not clear. They seemed to have been from the start a nomadic population living from handicrafts and providing music and dance to settled populations. It is only recently that some Rom intellectuals have become interested in their Indian heritage and have been making contacts with groups which still live in India and which may have had common ancestors.

The Rom have been known by a host of different names and only in the last few years have started using “Rom” as a common name in order to achieve some political attention to their conditions. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which created a small program in 1994 uses the term “Roma and Sinti”. In former Yugoslavia, they are often called “Egyptians” due to a myth that Rom came from Egypt rather than India. Useful ethnographic studies on the Rom are published by the Project on Ethnic Relations, Princeton.(1)

The Rom face a wide range of often interrelated problems: citizenship, political participation, racially-motivated violence, poverty, unemployment, and an image which arouses ancestral fears of Gypsies. Governments and Rom NGOs need to work together to provide decent living conditions based on non-discrimination and fundamental rights.

A major difficulty is that the States with large concentrations of Rom such as Romania and Bulgaria have limited financial resources, and the Rom have little political influence in order to get their share. In Western Europe, the Rom are the easily identified “tip of the iceberg” of the larger issue of migration and integration as globalization has made the barriers separating different countries ever more permeable.

As Hannah Arendt has written “The individual who has lost his place in the political community risks to drop out of the boundaries of humanity.” The confrontation between nomad and sedentary peoples is an old one, always present in different forms and in different places. Compassion and political imagination are needed. Managing migration in a changing global environment is a crucial issue. The Gypsy camps are a text of a society’s ability to mediate between the universal nature of human rights and the protection of the cultural traits of a people.

(1) See its website www.per-usa.org and the section PER and the Roma

Rene Wadlow


Human Rights in Larger Freedom

Our age which has often been so cruel, can now pride itself on having witnessed the birth of a universal human rights movement. In all walks of life brave individuals are standing up for their brothers who have been reduced to silence by oppression or poverty. Their struggle has transcended all frontiers, and their weapon is knowledge…Defending human rights today means above all bringing the most secret crimes to light. It means trying to find out and daring to speak out with complete objectivity, something which requires courage and occasionally, even heroism… The United Nations is cognizant that, for human rights to be more fully recognized and respected, the awareness and support of all are required.

- Javier Perez de Cuellar, Former Secretry-General of the United Nations

As we consider the present status of respect for human rights throughout the world, it is inevitable that we look at the large gap between the aims and the practice. It is easy to grow cynical at governmental double standards, politically selective hypocrisy and tactical alliances. Yet success in the human rights field depends on a continuing commitment to outwit those who have a vested interest in keeping the UN weak and unable to act effectively. It is important to note the land marks of progress. These are some of the victories where intense effort and creative cooperation among representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN Secretariat, independent experts, and a few representatives of progressive governments created awareness, got resolutions adopted, and built structures for follow up. Each case would merit a fuller analysis and character sketches of some of the players, but that would be a book rather than an article.

I list 10 victories which seem to me to be real advances. Others would no doubt make different lists, but as an NGO representative for the world citizens to the UN in Geneva, I had participated in each of these advances and knew the key players. Governments, who alone have the ability to vote UN resolutions in the end, happily take credit for advances. Yet in these cases, progress was made by ideas coming from NGO representatives, helped by UN Secretariat who must keep a "low profile" and the representatives of some governments where an issue touched them personally - and did not go against their government's policy.

1) Awareness of the rights and conditions of indigenous and tribal populations. When this issue was first raised in the early 1980s "indigenous" were considered to be only the Indians of North America who had come in force to present their case in Geneva. Some governments finally went along thinking that such analysis would be a subtle criticism of the USA without costing them anything. However, the International Labour Organization Convention N° 109 on indigenous peoples speaks of "indigenous and tribal". Thus, it was possible to raise issues of tribal groups in south-east Asia such as the Chakma of Bangladesh, who are not "indigenous" having migrated from south China over the last 2000 years but have a tribal society. Much of the advances in the field are due to the skills and dedication of Ms Erica Daes who for many years chaired the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Now, the indigenous and tribal issues cover a wide number of countries and have moved to center stage.

2) Torture. When the use of torture was first raised in 1973, it was thought to be a rare practice limited to a small number of countries. It turns out that it is, in fact, widely used by a large number of countries. Getting torture to be a recognized issue and having the Commission on Human Rights create the post of Special Rapporteur on Torture owes much to Sean MacBride (1904-1988) at the time chairman of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974) and Nobel Peace Prise laureate (1974). MacBride had been the Foreign Minister of Ireland (1948-1951) and knew how governments work. He had also been a long-time member of the Irish Republican Army (1917-1936) and knew well how police as well as insurgencies work. MacBride called torture an 'epidemic' perpetrated by regimes 'to control dissent and maintain power.' The well-organized campaign against torture brought together numerous NGOs to pressure governments in the UN General Assembly to take action.

3) Death Penalty. The efforts for the abolition of the death penalty also owe much to Amnesty International and its long-time Secretary-General Martin Ennals. His role, often in the background but always on key issues, is an example of how NGO impact can be made.

4) Conscientious objection to military service. Conscientious objection as a human rights was a long but successful fight on the part of a small number of NGOs such as the Quakers, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the International Peace Bureau. It was led by the representatives of Ireland, Canada and Austria - all of which have armies but whose representatives went "that extra mile" to overcome opposition and get the resolution passed.

5) Child Soldiers. The attention now given to the human rights violations from the existence of child soldiers - both the fact that children are taken as soldiers and the human rights violations that they are forced to commit was brought to the attention of the Commission on Human Rights by the Quakers and the NGO Defense for Children. This led to the creation of a Special Representative on Children in Conflict as well as attention at the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

6) The Right to Housing. The right to housing and especially the destruction of houses in the process of slum clearing, often done without re-housing, owes its place on the human rights agenda to a small number of NGOs but who had dramatic examples of abuses. There is now an active Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing.

7) Freedom of Religion and Belief. It was a 20-year effort to get the adoption in 1981 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief. It was an effort kept alive by a small number of States and NGOs. It is not sure that as far-reaching and complete a Declaration could be drafted today. The Declaration serves as a guideline for the right to belief in many of the current religious-based tensions.

8) The Rights of Women. It is always strange how difficult it is to get proper attention to the rights and condition of women since they are half and probably more of humanity. Nevertheless, it has been a long effort largely carried by NGOs. It is a multifaceted effort and was helped by a series of UN-sponsored conferences on women. Geneva-based NGOs such as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom have played key roles. The concept that women exist and thus have rights has brought together NGOs who are often divided on other issues.

9) Systematic rape. The awareness of systematic rape as a crime against humanity has grown as part of the broader effort on the equality of women mentioned in point 8. Many of the NGOs concerned with equality of women have been concerned with domestic violence as well. Thus, they reacted strongly to reports of systematic rape during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. This issue has also been raised concerning the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, and in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

10) Human Rights Defenders. I leave for last our auto-defense: the efforts to protect human rights defenders on the front lines. Raising human rights issues in a good number of countries can get you into trouble. Even writing to Amnesty International is not a danger-free practice in some places. The killing in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaia, a journalist critical of the conflict in Chechena, is a symbol of all those on the front lines of human rights efforts. Thanks to NGO efforts, the UN has created a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders - a constant reminder to governments and in some cases non-governmental militias that they are being watched

All these victors are fragile, and there are governments who would want them reversed or forgotten. But, we can welcome these advances, remember those whose drive, skills and determination helped bring forward these issues which many would have left in the dark. We need to prepare for the next battles which are not far away.

Rene Wadlow


The NPT Review: Is Progress Possible ?

Peace is a path that is chosen consciously. It is not an aimless wandering but a step-by-step journey. It means compassion without concession, and peace without bowing to injustice. Loving kindness is the only way to peace.”

Tun Channareth, Cambodian activist and landmine victim

On the eve of the month-long Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed the hopes of many: “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.”

There are signs that there is a shift in thinking about the need to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons. A Thorough rethinking of nuclear policy is needed in order to develop a comprehensive plan for achieving a nuclear weapon-free future.

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.(1) 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’. Thus Henry A. Kissinger wrote “The basic dilemma of the nuclear age has been with us since Hiroshima: how to bring the destructiveness of modern weapons into some moral or political relationship with the objectives that are being pursued…Proliferation of nuclear weapons has become an overarching strategic problem for the contemporary period. Any future spread of nuclear weapons multiplies the possibilities of nuclear confrontation; it magnifies the danger of diversion, deliberate or unauthorized…The danger posed by nuclear weapons is unprecedented. They should not be integrated into strategy as simply another more efficient explosive. We thus return to our original challenge: Our age has stolen the fire from the gods; can we confine it to peaceful purposes before it consumes us? (2)

It is likely that there is as yet little agreement among governments as to the next possible steps toward nuclear disarmament. There are calls from individual European States, led by Germany, for the USA to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Tactical nuclear weapons are not covered by the US-Russia SALT agreement. However, on a global level, the governments are only starting to build a momentum for action. One can expect only a renewal of earlier recommendations such as the universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so that it can enter into force.

There may be more possibility of advances on nuclear energy use and also promoting renewable energy technology in place of nuclear power. A critical issue will be to place the national fuel cycle of material produced by the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under international control. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency capable of designing a system which places the enrichment and reprocessing under international control and in locations that do not threaten nuclear proliferation? This issue is at the heart of the negotiations with Iran.

When the NPT was being negotiated during the 1960s, there were widely held hopes that nuclear energy would be “the wave of the future” and become the energy supply for the many countries without oil. Thus Article IV of the NPT recognizes the “inalienable right” of the Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. However in the period since the 1960s, there has been growing concern about the nature of nuclear power, the safety of plants, the stocking of nuclear waste, and the possibility of use of material for weapon production. There is an increasing interest in the use of renewable energy sources. Thus we can hope to see some promises to help fund the use of alternate sustainable energy forms rather than nuclear energy, although there will be no weakening of Article IV.

The NPT Review Conferences raise crucial issues which concern all countries. In many ways, the conferences set out agendas for action. The unfortunate reality is that after setting out the agenda, there is no follow up. Thus every five years, there is a renewed call for action. The 1995 Review set out guidelines for a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone which probably will be repeated this year. The 2000 Review set out “Thirteen Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament” that included “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI”.

Thus there is less a need for new ideas than there is for a new momentum which will probably have to come from a renewed popular movement.

René Wadlow

(1) See Lawrence S. Wittner The Struggle Against the Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press) Three Volumes

(2) Herny Kissinger “Containing the fire of the gods” International Herald Tribune, 7-8 February, 2009


The Shape of the Nuclear- weapon World

With the START signing in Prague and the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nuclear issues have again moved to the "front page". René Wadlow* and Newropeans-Magazine publish in the coming weeks a series of 5 essays prior to the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which will be held in New York starting early May. Today the first of these 5 articles: "The Shape of the Nuclear- weapon World".

The signing on 8 April 2010 of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Prague by Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitri Medvedev is a modest but symbolic step to signal better US-Russian relations.

Prague was chosen also for its symbolism, being the city where a year ago President Obama had set out a vision for a nuclear-weapon free world. But perhaps “not in my lifetime” he had added, knowing that even a sharp reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held by the USA and the Russian Federation will not change radically the nature of the nuclear weapon configuration of world politics.

As Jozef Goldblat, a specialist on nuclear weapons negotiations pointed out “The main quantitative limitations of nuclear weapons apply to warheads operationally deployed on launchers and prepared for instantaneous firing. The parties may keep as many as 1,550 such strategic warheads. According to the agreed counting rules, a heavy bomber designed to carry more than one weapon is to count only as one. Consequently, the reductions are modest, but each of these weapons is capable of destroying a city with a population of several million inhabitants. Warheads possessed by the parties in excess of agreed limits do not need to be decommissioned. They may be kept in storage whereas tactical nuclear weapons are not covered at all. The verification of compliance provisions are far from allowing on-site inspections to the extent necessary to build mutual confidence. The treaty is to last only seven years. Even during this short period, each party has the right to withdraw.”

The START is a welcome sign of improved US-Russian relations but does little to overcome a Russian impression that it is encircled by hostile forces in Europe and Asia. Wider arms control negotiations are needed to address missile defense, Russia’s relations with NATO, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and North Korea, Iran, India-Pakistan and other Asian Security issues.

This renewed concern about nuclear weapons control comes on the eve of the May 3-28 Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which will be held at the United Nations in New York. The Treaty which came into force in 1970 has an article requiring a review conference to be held every five years, as nuclear issues could change quickly. The first review conference was held in Geneva in 1975 and has continued each five-year period. There have been no modifications in the terms of the Treaty, but the Review Conferences are a prime occasion for States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to review the conditions of the nuclear-weapon world.

I chaired the NGO delegation to the 1975 and 1980 Review Conferences. We were able to negotiate a more active role for non-governmental representatives than in most UN-related disarmament conferences. NGO representatives have a place in the conference room, interact freely with State diplomats, and NGO recommendations are distributed to the government representatives. The NGO delegation has been small, usually some 15 to 20 persons, well informed and specialists on nuclear issues, often coming from arms control research institutes. The NGO delegation, of course, does not have a right to vote.

However, government representatives do not vote either, unlike sessions of the UN General Assembly. The government representatives try to draft a “Final Document” that must be adopted by consensus outlining the ways that nuclear rights and responsibilities have been met. Work on the wording of this Final Document starts prior to the Review Conference and is carried out by a Drafting Committee during the Review Conference. The Drafting Committee works in closed sessions without press, NGOs or the diplomats of States not on the Drafting Committee. A great deal of pressure builds up during the month-long Review as wording is agreed upon or not. Words on which there is no agreement are put in square brackets and are discussed with the heads of delegations and the Foreign Ministry. Since consensus is needed, each country has a “veto” power and so this gives small countries more say than if there were votes.

Some years, such as the 1980 Review, it has been impossible to reach an agreement despite extending the Conference for several days and having a small drafting group work all night. In the 2005 Review, no Final Document could be agreed upon. There is pressure not to have two Reviews in a row failing to issue a Final Document. In 1985, there were many pre-conference efforts made to reach compromises so that there would not be two failures in a row. Repeated failures to issue a Final Document might weaken the Treaty which is the foundation of non-proliferation efforts.

Thus, the NPT Review is an occasion to look at the political issues facing the nuclear-weapon world. There are basically three categories of nuclear-weapon States: There are four Great Powers — the USA, the Russian Federation, China and India. They are Great Powers by their land size, population, economic position, and culture. They would be Great Powers even if they did not have nuclear weapons. On these four standards, the Russian Federation has been declining. Its land size has lessened since its incarnation as the Soviet Union. Its population declined from the Soviet period as Soviet Republics became independent States, but even the Russian population itself is declining due to poor health; its economy is too linked to the sale of energy. Russian culture without the ideological drive of Marxism has little appeal to non-Russians. Thus nuclear weapons remain an important criteria of its Great Power status. India realizes that its status and role in the world has been deeply transformed in the last two decades but is not fully at ease with the notion of having a Great Power status and universal interests.

There are two Nostalgic Great Powers with nuclear weapons: France and England. They still have a certain Great Power status because they have been at the center of world politics for a long time. They had colonial empires so that elements of their culture are respected in other parts of the world. Both have long-established diplomatic services which can use their national strengths to good advantage. Both are part of the European Union which gives a certain economic depth. Both England and France would have about the same role in world politics if they did not have nuclear weapons, but since they do, they play a certain role in nuclear-weapon strategic discussions.

There are three Existential Nuclear-weapon States: North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel. All three were created by partition of larger States after the Second World War. Their continued existence is largely based on their having nuclear weapons so their neighbours will not attack them. Were the three States to disappear, they would not be missed by the larger world society so their existence as States depends on their having nuclear weapons.

There is one State, Iran, which falls somewhere between a potentially Existential Nuclear-weapon State and a regional power whose position would be recognized by others even if it had no nuclear weapons. For the moment, a large number of States would prefer not to see a nuclear-weapon Iran but have done little to confer on Iran the recognition of its Regional Power status.

The NPT Reviews have always reflected specific geo-strategic issues even if the theme of the Treaty is non-proliferation and the disarmament of the nuclear weapon Great Powers in general. The 1980 Review was influenced by the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The 1985 Review nearly broke down as a result of the Iraq-Iran war and was saved only by an all-night session and a statement on the Iraq-Iran war relegated to an annex, largely neglected once the Conference ended at six in the morning. Regional issues such as Iran and Israel are likely to be the background issues in this 2010 Review.

Therefore we will look in separate essays at the three Existential Nuclear Powers:

1) Pakistan with its relations to India and Afghanistan in the background;

2) Israel and the potential of a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone:

3) Iran as a potential Existential Nuclear-weapon State.

And end with 4) The NPT Review — Are advances possible?

North Korea seems to be in a quiet stage for the moment and so we will not deal with it at this time. Each essay should be able to stand separately, but each is inter-related in this complex nuclear-weapon world.

Rene Wadlow,


The Bridge of Beauty and Understanding

Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing from the bank of Darkness to the side of Light

Nicholas Roerich

The United Nations General Assembly in resolution A/RES.62/90 has proclaimed the year 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures “to promote universal respect for, and observation and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions. Thus 2010 should provide real opportunities for dialogue among cultures. It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe. However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogue and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer-range view, and creativity. Thus we are pleased to present the creative efforts of individuals who have helped to create bridges of understanding among cultures.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

The darkness of egoism which will have to be destroyed is the egoism of the Nation. The ideal of India is against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one’s own people from others, which inevitably leads to ceaseless conflicts. There my prayer is ‘let India stand for the co-operation of all the people of the world’.

Rabindranath Tagore

In a period of rapid change as we face today, it is often difficult to find the right balance between the cultural contributions and needs of the local, the national, and the universal. One way of finding this balance is to look at the life and work of others, who earlier confronted the same challenges. One such person was the poet, writer and cultural reformer Rabindranath Tagore. As Amiya Chakravarty, a literary secretary of Tagore wrote “Each individual must strike the ‘universal concrete’ in terms of his own creative effort, in the milieu of his own cultural heritage. Only by proceeding from wherever we are, geographically, spiritually or vocationally, can we make the integral effort for peace. The peace-workers belong to the entire human family, using the language or religious associations to which he has been born, and which he transforms, not necessarily by revolt but by inner transcendence.” (1)

Rabindranath Tagore was the Renaissance man of modern India — the bridge from an Indian culture dominated on the one hand by a traditionalism that had long ceased to be creative and on the other by English colonial practice whose reforms were self-interested. He was known world wide as a poet having received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. His aim was to combine a renewal of local thought, in particular that of his native Bengal, with an appreciation of the cultures of the world. The motto of the educational center he founded, Visva-Bharati, was “Where the world makes its home in a single nest.”

He hoped to be able to create such a synthesis at the local level and in 1922 created a rural reconstruction program combining education and agricultural reform at Santiniketan. As he wrote of villages “Villages are like women. In their keeping is the cradle of the race. They are nearer to nature than towns are, therefore, in closer touch with the function of life. They have the atmosphere which possesses a natural power of healing. It is the function of the village, like that of a woman, to provide people with their elemental needs, with food and joy, with the simple poetry of life, and with those ceremonies of beauty which the village spontaneously produces and in which she finds delight. But when constant strain is put upon her through the extortionate claim of ambition, when her resources are exploited through the excessive stimulus of temptation, then she becomes poor in her life and her mind becomes dull and uncreative.”

Tagore was concerned with the enlightenment of Bengal whose culture was painfully starting a revival; he was concerned with the national – the wider issue of the independence of India and what role a multicultural India would play in the world. He was also concerned with a universal consciousness, of the relation between the human and the divine, a relationship which concerns all – everywhere.

As he wrote “ I was born in 1861. It was a great period in our history of Bengal. Just about that time the currents of three movements had met in the life of our country.” One current was religious – the Brahmo Samaj – founded by Raja Rammohan Roy (1774-1833) in which his family was active. Brahmo Samaj’s humanistic aim was to reopen the channel of spiritual life which, for Tagore, had been obstructed for many years by the sands and the debris of creeds, caste and external practices. For Tagore, to be human is to try to go beyond oneself, to join with a greater sphere of life in sacrifice, love, and friendship. Tagore wrote “Men must find and feel and represent in all their creative works, man the eternal, the creator…For reality is the truth of man, who belongs to all times. Man is eager that his feeling for what is real to him must never die; it must find an imperishable form.”

Thus Tagore was interested in all the religious currents in Bengal, devotional Hinduism, the popular and mystic currents of Islam as expressed by the Bauls whose poetry he transformed into songs. He was also interested in the Christian currents present in Bengal with the English, especially those Protestant currents which combined social reform with faith. As he wrote concerning the influence of Christianity on Mahatma Gandhi “As before, the genius of India has taken from her aggressors the most spiritually significant principle of their culture and fashioned of it a new message of hope for mankind. There is in Christianity the great doctrine that God became man in order to save humanity by taking the burden of its sin and suffering on Himself. That the starving must be fed, the ragged clad, has been emphasized by Christianity as no other religion has done…And to our great good fortune, Gandhi was able to receive this teaching of Christ in a living way. It was fortunate that he had not to learn of Christianity through professional experts, but should have found in Tolstoy a teacher who realized the value of non-violence through the multifarious experience of his own life struggles. For it was this great gift from Europe that our country had all along been awaiting.”

The second current was literary. It was an effort by Tagore and other poets and writers such as Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838-1894) to awaken the Bengali language from its stereotyped style and limitations of language. His was an effort to bring the ordinary speech of Bengal into poetic form. He had had intimate contact with village life in Bengal early in his life as his family had estates with many villages. Later in 1922 he created a center for rural development and reform “Sriniketan” along side an innovative school “Santiniketan” started in 1901.

He turned his observations of Bengali life into songs, over 2000 songs, each change of season, each aspect of Bengal landscape, every sorrow and joy found a place in his songs which became Bengali “folk music”.

The third current was national. As Tagore wrote “The national was not fully political, but it began to give voice to the mind of the people, trying to assert their own personality. It was a voice of indignation at the humiliation constantly heaped upon us by people.” Tagore was the first to make popular the term of ‘Mahatma’ for Gandhi. “So disintegrated and demoralized were our people that many wondered if India could ever rise again by the genius of her own people, until there came on the scene a truly great soul, a great leader of men, in line with the tradition of the greatest sages of old — Mahatma Gandhi. Today no one need despair of the future of the country, for the unconquerable spirit that creates has already been released. Mahatma Gandhi has shown us a way which, if we follow, shall not only save ourselves but may also help other peoples to save themselves.”

For Tagore, the national was always linked to the universal as reflected in excepts from one of his best known poems:

“Where the mind is without fear,
And the head is held high.
Where the world has not been broken up
Into fragments by narrow domestic walls,
Where the clear stream of reason has not yet
lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
Into that heaven of freedom, let my country awake.”

(1) Amiya Chakravarty (Ed). A Tagore Reader (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961, 401pp.)


Banning Cluster Bombs: Light in the Darkness of Conflicts

Cluster BombsIn a remarkable combination of civil society pressure and leadership from a small number of progressive States, a strong ban on the use, manufacture, and stocking of cluster bombs will come into force on August 1, 2010 now that 30 States have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention bans the use, production, transfer of cluster munitions and sets deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance of contaminated land. The Convention obliges States to support victims and affected communities.

In November 2010 the first Meeting of Parties to the Convention will take place in Laos, Laos being the State where the largest number of fragmentation weapons had been used. Therefore it is important to encourage as many States as possible to ratify the Convention prior to the November conference so as to be able to participate in this first meeting of the Parties. In a note at the end of the article, I list the 30 States which have ratified by geographic area as treaty ratification is often influenced by what other States in a region do (or do not do).

We see that it is the European States which have the most ratifications. This is in large part due to the leadership of diplomats from Norway and Ireland. There has been no such positive leadership in other world areas, with the possible exception of Laos in Asia. However the diplomatic service of Laos is small and without great resources. Thus, outside Europe, pressure for ratification will have to come from the non-governmental sector which played an important role in the preparation and promotion of the Convention.

However, all bright sunlight casts a dark shadow, and in this case the shadow is the fact that the major makers and users of cluster munitions were deliberately absent from the negotiations and the agreement: Brazil, China, India, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, and the USA.

Yet as arms negotiations go, the cluster bomb ban has been swift. They began in Oslo, Norway in February 2007 and were thus often called the “Oslo Process.” The negotiations were a justified reaction to their wide use by Israel in Lebanon during the July-August 2006 conflict. The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) working in southern Lebanon reported that their density there is higher than in Kosovo and Iraq, especially in built up areas, posing a constant threat to hundreds of thousands of people, as well as to UN peacemakers. It is estimated that one million cluster bombs were fired on south Lebanon during the 34 days of war, many during the last two days of war when a ceasefire was a real possibility. The Hezbollah militia also shot off rockets with cluster bombs into northern Israel.

It is thought that the Israeli cluster bombs were “made in the USA” while those of Hezbollah came from Iran. Therefore one of the important conditions of the Convention is the ban on the transfer of cluster munitions. Under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, when Israel or others buy cluster bombs and other lethal equipment, a written agreement restricting use must be signed. The UNMACC has reported finding evidence that Israel used three types of US-made cluster bombs during the war in Lebanon. At the time, it was not considered against the Geneva Conventions to use cluster bombs against soldiers, but their use was banned against civilians and in heavily populated areas.

Cluster munitions are warheads that scatter scores of smaller bombs. Many of these sub-munitions fail to detonate on impact, leaving them scattered on the ground, ready to kill and maim when disturbed or handled. Reports from humanitarian organizations and mine-clearing groups have shown that civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs, especially children attracted by their small size and often bright colors.

The failure rate of cluster munitions is high, ranging from 30 to 80 per cent. But “failure” may be the wrong word. They may, in fact, be designed to kill later. The large number of unexploded cluster bombs means that farm lands and forests cannot be used or used with great danger. Most people killed and wounded by cluster bombs in the 21 conflicts where they have been used are civilians, often young. Such persons often suffer severe injuries such as loss of limbs and loss of sight. It is difficult to resume work or schooling.

Discussions of a ban on cluster weapons had begun in 1979 during the negotiations in Geneva leading to the Convention on Prohibition on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects — the “1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention” to its friends.

The indiscriminate impact of cluster bombs was raised by the representative of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and by me for the world citizens with the support of the Swedish government. My NGO text of August 1979 for the citizens of the world on “Anti-Personnel Fragmentation Weapons” called for a ban based on the 1868 St Petersburg Declaration and recommended that “permanent verification and dispute-settlement procedures be established which may investigated all charges of the use of prohibited weapons whether in inter-State or internal conflicts, and that such a permanent body include a consultative committee of experts who could begin their work without a prior resolution of the UN Security Council.”

I was thanked for my efforts but left to understand that world citizens are not in the field of real politics and that I would do better to stick to pushing for a ban on napalm — photos of its use in Vietnam being still in the memory of many delegates. Governments always have difficulty focusing on more than one weapon at a time. Likewise for public pressure to build, there needs to be some stark visual reminders to draw attention and to evoke compassion.

Although cluster munitions were widely used in the Vietnam-Indochina war, they never received the media and thus the public attention of napalm. (1) The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research recently published a study on the continued destructive impact of cluster bombs in Laos noting that “The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world” (2). Cluster-bomb land clearance is still going on while the 1963-1973 war in Laos has largely faded from broader public memory.

The wide use by NATO forces in the Kosovo conflict again drew attention to the use of cluster bombs and unexploded ordnance. The ironic gap between the humanitarian aims given for the war and the continued killing by cluster bombs after the war was too wide not to notice. However, the difficulties of UN administration of Kosovo and of negotiating a “final status” soon overshadowed all other concerns. Likewise the use of cluster bombs in Iraq is overshadowed by the continuing tensions, sectarian violence, the role of the USA and Iran, and what shape Iraq will take after the withdrawal of US troops.

Thus, it was the indiscriminate use of cluster bombs against Lebanon in a particularly senseless and inconclusive war that has finally led to sustained efforts for a ban.

The ban on cluster bombs follows closely the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction which came into force in March 1999 and has been now ratified by 156 States. Many of the same NGOs active on anti-personnel mines were also the motors of the efforts on cluster bombs — a combination of disarmament and humanitarian groups.

We can play an active role to encourage the States which have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions to have their Parliaments ratify. A more difficult task will be to convince those States addicted to cluster bombs: USA, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan. The ban may discourage their use by these States, but a signature by them would be an important sign of respect for international agreements and world law. Pressure must be kept up on those outside the law.

Rene Wadlow,


March 8:International Day of Women: Women as Peacemakers

It is only when women start to organize in large numbers that we become a political force, and begin to move towards the possibility of a truly democratic society in which every human being can be brave, responsible, thinking and diligent in the struggle to live at once freely and unselfishly

March 8 is the International Day of Women and thus a time to analyse the specific role of women in bringing peace to areas in conflict. In this article, I set out some of the general areas to consider

Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, mobilized women on both sides of the Athenian-Spartan War for a sexual strike in order to force men to end hostilities and avert mutual annihilation. In this, Lysistrata and her co-strikers were forerunners of the American humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs: water, food, shelter, and sexual relations being the foundation. (See Abraham Maslow The Farther Reaches of Human Nature) Maslow is important for conflict resolution work because he stresses dealing directly with identifiable needs in ways that are clearly understood by all parties and with which they are willing to deal at the same time.

Addressing each person’s underlying needs means you move toward solutions that acknowledge and value those needs rather than denying them. To probe below the surface requires redirecting the energy towards asking ‘what are your real needs here? What interests need to be serviced in this situation?’ The answers to such questions significantly alter the agenda and provide a real point of entry into the negotiation process.

It is always difficult to find a point of entry into a conflict, that is, a subject on which people are willing to discuss because they sense the importance of the subject and all sides feel that ‘the time is ripe’ to deal with the issue. The art of conflict resolution is highly dependent on the ability to get to the right depth of understanding and intervention into the conflict. All conflicts have many layers. If one starts off too deeply, one can get bogged down in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. However, one can also get thrown off track by focusing on too superficial an issue on which there is relatively quick agreement. When such relatively quick agreement is followed by blockage on more essential questions, there can be a feeling of betrayal.

Since Lysistrata, women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines. However a gender perspective on peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution entails a conscious and open process of examining how women and men participate in and are affected by conflict differently. It requires ensuring that the perspectives, experiences and needs of both women and men are addressed and met in peace-building activities. Today, conflicts reach everywhere. How do these conflicts affect people in the society — women and men, girls and boys, the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the urban and the rural?

I would stress three elements which seem to me to be the ‘gender’ contribution to conflict transformation efforts:

  1. The first is in the domain of analysis, the contribution of the knowledge of gender relations as indicators of power. Uncovering gender differences in a given society will lead to an understanding of power relations in general in that society, and to the illumination of contradictions and injustices inherent in those relations.
  2. The second contribution is to make us more fully aware of the role of women in specific conflict situations. Women should not only be seen as victims of war: they are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. Some writers have stressed that there is an essential link between women, motherhood and non-violence, arguing that those engaged in mothering work have distinct motives for rejecting war which run in tandem with their ability to resolve conflicts non-violently. Others reject this position of a gender bias toward peace and stress rather that the same continuum of non-violence to violence is found among women as among men. In practice, it is never all women nor all men who are involved in peace-making efforts. Sometimes, it is only a few, especially at the start of peace-making efforts. The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.
  3. The third contribution of a gender approach with its emphasis on the social construction of roles is to draw our attention to a detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society. Transforming gender relations requires an understanding of the socialization process of boys and girls, of the constraints and motivations which create gender relations. Thus, there is a need to look at patterns of socialization, potential incitements to violence in childhood training patterns, and socially-approved ways of dealing with violence.

Awareness that there can be ‘blind spots’ in men’s visions is slowly dawning in high government circles. The U.N. Security Council, at the strong urging of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), on October 31, 2000 issued Resolution 1325 which calls for full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peace-building, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership. This historic Security Council resolution 1325 provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support. Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

There is growing recognition that it is important to have women in politics, in decision-making processes and in leadership positions. The strategies women have adapted to get to the negotiating table are testimony to their ingenuity, patience and determination. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements. March 8: International Day of women is a reminder of the steps taken and the distance yet to be covered.


Afghanistan—London : Just 20 Year Late

On 28 January 2010, over 60 Foreign Ministers of States concerned by Afghanistan met for one day in London to consider the next steps to lower the intensity of the conflict in Afghanistan and to bring greater stability to the region. One could have suggested another setting for the conference than London. British attempts to extend its sphere of influence into Afghanistan led to military intervention in the First Afghan War (1838-1842), the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) and the Third Afghan War (1919). Often too much history is remembered by some and not enough by others.

The British interventions were largely part of efforts to limit Russian influence — part of the “Great Game” — a term first coined by the British colonial officer Arthur Conolly in 1829 and immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in Kim. Throughout its history, Afghanistan, standing at the meeting place of three geographic cultural regions — Iranian, Central Asian and Indian — has been subject to influences from neighbouring territories.

Although there are deep cultural differences among the peoples living in Afghanistan, authority is basically clanic in which the senior male can expect obedience from all those under his responsibility. This clanic structure is largely unchanging. However, as in all feudal systems, a clan would give its loyalty to a chief who had influence over a wider region, such as a valley. Loyalty to chiefs would continue as long as the chief was able to offer protection and some material benefits. If the chief became weak, the clans would offer their loyalty to a different chief. Thus, there is a certain degree of flexibility within the feudal order. Although one can speak of “tribes” and “peoples” or “ethnic groups”, it is the clan and sometimes a sub-tribal coalition where real decision-making is taken. The “tribe” is too large a concept for decision-making except in extreme conditions. Reciprocal isolation has usually led to constant friction and conflict over the most valuable resources — land, water, animals, women — in that order. Afghan codes of political culture stress self-reliance, and loyalty to the family and clan.

There are large ethnic groups which usually overlap with populations in neighbouring States. These ethnic groups provide a certain collective identity when in opposition to each other, but the clan is the real operating unit. The major ethnic groups, an estimate of their percentage of the population (statistics in Afghanistan are always estimates) and the State where they are also found is as follows:

The Pushtun 45 per cent (Pakistan)

The Tajik 25 per cent (Tajikistan)

The Hazara 10 per cent (Iran)

The Uzbek 8 per cent (Uzbekistan)

Others 11 per cent Turkmen (Turkmenistan)

Baloche (Pakistan, Iran)

Animaks ( a synthesis of people).

The 28 January London Conference reaffirmed three major policies based on the realities of the situation:

1) There needs to be regional security and cooperation.

2) There should be a broadly-based decentralized government.

3) There should be a basic-needs, ecologically-sound development approach with an emphasis on a vital civil society.

Regional security and cooperation.

There are six States which have a frontier with Afghanistan and thus vital regional interests:

1) China (76 kilometers)

2) Uzbekistan (137 kilometers)

3) Turkmenistan (744 kilometers)

4) Iran (936 kilometers)

5) Tajikistan (1,206 kilometers)

6) Pakistan (2, 430 kilometers)

India has historic links to the area and there are still ethnic Indians who are merchants and artisans. Russia has interests in the Central Asian States that all had been part of the USSR and instability in Afghanistan could flow over into the Central Asian Republics.

In addition, there is the USA and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under NATO command. There are 26 NATO States plus 14 non –NATO countries such as Australia and New Zealand present in Afghanistan. All were invited to the London Conference. London brought together too many representatives for effective negotiations, but the Conference highlighted the need for a regional approach.

A broadly-based decentralized government,

The London Conference was an opportunity to stress the willingness of the government of Hamid Karzai to negotiate with some of the Taliban. There have already been some contacts, but “the Taliban” is a general term for a large number of different groups and clans who may have few common interests.

Afghanistan is a country of great cultural diversity and a wide range of local conditions. Therefore political and social decision-making must be made at the most local level possible. There should be policies of local self-reliance based on existing ethnic structures. Such local self-government will mitigate against the “winner-take-all” mentality of centralized political systems. All governments directed from Kabul, no matter what the ideological tendency, have met resistance from some of the provinces. Thus, the internal solution within Afghanistan can come only by reducing to the greatest extent possible the power of the central government and by shifting decision-making to the local unit. The struggles for political and social power will shift from being an effort to control the policies of the central government to trying to control local and regional decision-making. The result will be a recognition of local diversities. This may make it easier to have a government of national reconciliation made of representatives from all regions, ethnic groups and political tendencies. For the moment, we have a weak central government but few strong local structures.

A basic needs, ecologically-sound development approach with an emphasis on a vital civil society.

We will return in a later essay to development planning for Afghanistan. With a high percentage of young people and a high rate of unemployment, education and employment are crucial aspects for a stable Afghanistan.

These three basic issues for a stable Afghanistan were obvious just 20 years ago when the last of the Soviet troops left Afghanistan on 15 February 1989. Then, there was a weak government under the Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah which could have made an effort to save itself through a policy of “reconciliation and reintegration” such as that proposed today. In September 1990, the US Secretary of State James Baker and the Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze met in the USA and set out the broad outline of such an agreement. However the decade-long guerrilla war had drained the Soviet Union financially and militarily and sapped political will. The regional setting and the interests of such countries as Iran and China no longer allowed for bi-lateral solutions. A multi-State conference should have been called at that time.

Twenty years later, the issues are the same but made worse by the violence of the years gone by. There were too many actors in London; the coming and going on the stage drew attention away from the two actors whose coming speeches will set the future of Afghanistan. The future of Afghanistan lies with China and Iran in an informal but real coalition. Both do not want to draw too much attention to themselves as yet. The NATO-ISAF actors still have a few lines left before they exit, but they will not be around for the next act.


The Importance of Biodiversity

The loss of biological diversity stands alongside climate change as one of the most pressing areas of global policy — one of the crucial challenges of our time. Rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the capacity of the living systems on which humanity depends to resist growing threats such as climate change

Biological diversity — or biodiversity — is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we depend.

Humans are part of this complex web of life on which they depend for their evolution and growth both physically and spiritually. They now have the power to damage the ecological balance on a large scale or to prevent further destruction and preserving ecosystems for further generations.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, government officials pledged to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010 as part of a contribution to the reduction of poverty, as seventy per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and biodiversity loss poses current and future dangers for them. In many cultures, trees are very important in the everyday life of people. This is the “subsistence forestry” practiced by a vast majority of people. In subsistence forestry, trees and tree products are used for fuel, food, medicine, dyes, fodder, house and fence poles and agricultural implements. In many societies, before taking anything from a tree, an offering is given, thus making an exchange.

However these 2002 commitments were not translated into policies and little was done to raise public awareness or action. Thus, the United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution 61/203, has proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The resolution, marking the UN Convention on Biodiversity, was passed prior to the holding of the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference which highlighted the interactions between global vegetation and climate, the negative effects of deforestation on climate, the importance of vegetation feedbacks on global warming and the extent to which forests create their own micro-climatic influence.

The International Year of Biodiversity offers an excellent opportunity to increase understanding of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth and to draw attention to what people can do all over the planet to safeguard this irreplaceable natural wealth and to reduce biodiversity loss.

Obviously, there are many different aspects to the protection of biodiversity, measures which need to be taken within the UN system (1), by national governments and by local authorities. However, individual action is necessary and important. World Citizens have encouraged the planting of a tree both individually and as a group effort. Each planting can be accompanied by the thoughts, emotions and words considered appropriate. Each tree is a living symbol of respect for nature and a positive contribution to world citizenship.

(1) For more information on UN activities, see the UN website for the International Year of Biodiversity. www.cbd.int/2010.

* Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens

Rene Wadlow


For International Year of Biodiversity, World Citizens Propose Planting Trees of Life

Listen for whispers from the woods, and wisdom will come.

The United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution 61/203; has proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The resolution, marking the UN Convention on Biodiversity was passed prior to the holding of the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference which highlighted the interactions between global vegetation and climate, the negative effects of deforestation on climate, the importance of vegetation feedbacks on global warming, and the extent to which forests create their own micro-climatic influence.

Denmark was an appropriate location for this emphasis on the role of woods and forests acting for the benefit of the planet. In Scandinavian mythology, the Great World Tree, Yggdrasil, is the tree of existence, the tree of life and knowledge. Care of the tree is entrusted to three maidens named Urdhr (Past), Vervandi (Present) and Skuld (Future). From this tree springs forth our visible universe. On the topmost branch of this tree sits an eagle, who symbolizes light and whose keen eyes see all things taking place in the world. The tree is the cosmic pillar that supports heaven and at the same time opens the road to the world of the gods. The tree permits an opening either upward (the divine world) or downward (the underworld). The three cosmic levels — earth, heaven, the underworld — have been put into communication.

In the myths and legends of other cultures, we also find the importance of the tree as a symbol of life with its roots underground, its trunk in the world of humans and its top-most branches touching the sky. Branches are compared to steps or a ladder and so are a way by which the hero climbs, through initiations, to higher consciousness. It is under the protecting branches of a tree that the Buddha reached enlightenment. The loss of the leaves of a tree and their renewal has served as the symbol of death and regeneration. The tree is a living symbol. A grove of trees was often considered sacred and the sanctuary where religious rituals were carried out.

In the grove of trees of life, animals also have symbolic meaning, such as the eagle in the Scandinavian myths. Birds represent the element air, and a snake, thought to live underground among the roots, a symbol of the earth or the link to the world of after life. This symbolism of animals in a tree grove was stressed by A.J. Wensinck in his study Tree and bird as cosmological symbols in Western Asia. For African examples see the extensive research of Viviana Paques.L’Arbre Cosmique Dans Le Pensée Populaire et Dans La Vie Quotidienne Du Nord-Ouest Africain. In the Bhagavad Gita, the tree is the symbol of the person and his destiny, a symbol also used by Plato as well as in the Kabalist Zohar.

Thus the tree is an appropriate symbol for the integration of human, animal and plant life in a system of biodiversity. The planting and care of a tree is a ritual of respect for biodiversity and a way to overcome the sense of separation from nature which many humans feel. Societies have often taught its members to fear nature or to conquer nature — an understandable attitude in earlier stages of human evolution. However, today, this disconnection from nature produces dysfunctions and environmental, social and mental problems. Re-contacting with nature can produce joy, regeneration and community bonding.

This feeling of harmony with nature is what the former Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson called “biophilia” — connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life. Our natural senses are designed to bring our being into harmony, fulfilment and community with the world. As Wilson wrote “wilderness settles peace on the soul.”

Obviously, there are many different aspects to the protection of biodiversity, measures which need to be undertaken within the United Nations system (1), by national governments and by local authorities. However, individual action is necessary and important. The planting of a tree both individually and as a group effort is an important sign of respect for biodiversity and thus a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity. Each planting can be accompanied by the thoughts, emotions and words considered appropriate.

Each tree is a living symbol of respect for nature and a positive contribution to world citizenship.

(1) For more information on UN activities, see the UN website for the International Year of Biodiversity: www.cbd.int/2010.


Rene Wadlow

Human Rights: The Emergence of the Person

All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional peculiarities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be born in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993)

December 10th is Human Rights Day, marking the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Among the efforts to codify universal human values in modern times, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the best known and most widely cited, both by governments and civil society. In a world where people from many different cultures and societies come together in increasing frequency, there must be some mutually recognized codes of conduct and mutual respect. In order to reaffirm the Universal Declaration and the other international human rights instruments which flow from the Declaration, the United Nations organized a World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. The “Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action” reasserts the universality of all human rights as the birthright of all human beings. “Human Rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.”

The Universal Declaration is fundamentally based on the idea that rights are inherent in the nature of the person. Thus it is important to look at our understanding of the person and the relation of the individual to groups of which he is also a member.

The image of the person was largely formed some 2000 years ago in the Mediterranean world in the debates among Jews, Christians, Gnostics, Greeks, with additional currents of thought coming from Persia and India. There was no single image at the start. Rather, it was the debates among all these complementary and conflicting currents that led to the complex image of the person that we have today. It was the Roman Stoics who brought all these currents together with the image of the person who became the citizen. The idea of the person is a compound of legal rights and moral responsibility. The Latin persona is the person behind the mask.

It was only in the Mediterranean world that there was such a long-lasting and multi-current discussion of ethics, of individual destiny and the relation of the individual to society. In human history, there have been periods when there is a collective response to new challenges and thus new ways of organizing thought and society. Most of the world’s great religious and philosophical systems were formulated at about the same time — 500 BCE: Confucianism and Taoism in China, Hinduism-Buddhism-Jainism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, the Prophetic impulse in Judaism, Socrates-Plato-the mystery schools in Greece, and the Druid teachings among the Celts.

In most parts of the world, this period of intellectual creativity lasted for 100 to 200 years before it was absorbed into the culture of the specific area. Confucianism and Taoism helped provide a common ethic for all the tribal groups of China but remained limited to the Chinese-influenced areas; Hinduism and Jainism remained Indian while Buddhism spread to the edges of the Indian world; Zoroastrianism became identified with the Persian world and spread to Central Asia. While there continued to be intellectual debates within each of these traditions, there was little cross fertilization of ideas.

It was only in the Mediterranean world first with Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period and then the Roman Empire that multicultural exchanges took place at an intellectual level. Out of these multicultural exchanges came the concept of the person — the individual as separate from a group identity. This synthesis of the person was re-awakened during the Renaissance and further developed during the 18th century Enlightenment. In Europe and North America, individuality meant liberty, progress and individual initiative. The same concepts of the individual person were spread by European colonialism and European systems of education imposed by the colonial powers. Within the colonial educational system, individuals were pulled away from traditional thought and encouraged to develop individual self-awareness, but there were limits to this self-expression set by the colonial regimes.

There are those who say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a “Western document”. This is only partly true. It is certain that without the crimes of the Second World War, human rights would not have been made a priority of the newly-formed United Nations. When we look at the number of years that it has taken to write and negotiate other UN texts, the two years spent on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights resembles a 100 yard dash. Nevertheless, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not exclusively “Western”. It is the outgrowth of the emergence of the idea of the person spread by Western colonialism but also in reaction to colonialism.

Before colonialism, social allegiance referred to ethnic and religious identity. Colonialism brought in a third level, national identity, but national identity could be gained only by the development of a personal identity as the struggle for national independence required individuals who could propose new approaches, people who organized themselves in non-traditional associations and clubs, who created journals and newspapers and who used the idea of human rights in order to defend themselves against colonial power.

Thus by 1948, the idea of human rights was assumed by persons everywhere, both in independent and in still colonized countries. Human rights as a philosophy was found everywhere but not in everyone. Even today, many people continue living in a ‘group consciousness’.

Today, the image of the person is often imprecise, delicate, and fragile. It is an image which requires further elaboration by better integrating the link between nature and the individual into the image of the person. We need a revitalized sense of who we are as human beings — an image of humanity that is uplifting and inclusive and that better integrates the dimension of nature. Such a new attitude toward nature will go hand in hand with a new, more complex understanding of the person and its potentials.

Human rights are universal because the subject of human rights is the universal world citizen and not the political citizen as defined by state citizenship. Human rights inaugurate a new kind of citizenship, the citizenship of humanity. Human rights gives people the sense that world law belongs to them. It is in this spirit that we mark December 10th as our common standard and goal for action.

Rene Wadlow

Review of Dr Rebello's World Without War

Leo Rebello, a ‘patriot of humanity’ and a holistic healer, here deals with the most deadly of diseases: war, poverty, and the frontiers which divide humanity into hostile units. This collection of essays, poems, drawings and cartoons was prepared, in part, for the ongoing World March for Peace and Non-violence (2 October 2009 – 2 January 2010). He encourages the march in his introduction “Let your journey begin to Love and Light.” The journey is to achieve the common desires of all people to live in peace and harmony with each other and with nature. The book deals with pressing world problems beyond the march itself. There is a moving photo of a group of activists with the banner “One Earth, One Sky, One Humankind. Together we work to slow down climate change” — a goal for the Copenhagen climate conference starting on 7 December. The United Nations system has helped to draw attention to such urgent problems as the protection of the atmosphere, freshwater resources, biological diversity as well as consumption patterns, demography, human settlements, combating deforestation, the sound management of biotechnology, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. Many of these problems are inter-related and require concerted efforts by governments and civil society at the world, national and local levels.

There are also essays on current conflicts such as those in the wider Middle East and the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan. There are calls for new leadership from political leaders with the strength and prestige to allow them to overcome the burdens of the past and to create new partnerships of cooperation. There is also an emphasis on the abolition of nuclear weapons and the abolition of other weapons of mass destruction.

In an essay presented at the start of the collection, “A Future of Possibilities”, the Gandhian Vinoba Bhave is quoted saying “Change can happen in a society by any of three methods, Katal (killing), Kanoon (implementation of the law), and Karuna (kindness), and the path of Karuna is the most powerful one.” If society is to eliminate Katal (killing and the threat of killing), then we are left with two other change agents: law and kindness. The book is largely organized around these two themes of the rule of law and positive attitudes such as Karuna.

The oft-quoted preamble to the UNESCO constitution can serve as the framework for the importance of working on attitudes, values, visions, and goals: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace should be constructed.” Many of the essays deal with the need for new values based on compassion, universal responsibility, and non-violence. There is an important essay by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi stressing the application of non-violence to attain a life of fulfilment and happiness for all.

Many of the same themes are taken up in a different style by US Congressman Denis Kucinich in his talk “Spirit and Stardust”. Clinton Callahan deals with efforts to reach higher consciousness and its impact on local level change, and Professor Tatjana Volkova of Latvia develops the need for diversity and freedom of choice.

Brad Pokorny, editor of the Baha’i newsletter One Country is the bridge between the emphasis on a necessary change in attitudes and the need for the rule of law at the world level. Horace Henderson, formerly secretary-general of the World Peace through Law Center sets out clearly the need for world law and the possibilities of strengthening world legal institutions such as the World Court. He stresses that the world community is in a period of vast transformation being brought about by powerful economic, political and cultural agents to cope with the challenge of growing interdependence between all peoples and the growing impact of people upon the natural environment. Structures of law are needed to provide the framework for this transformation. There is hope as we see the growing recognition that peace, law and justice are so closely intertwined that none of them can survive when the others wither away. Slowly but surely, the United Nations plays the key role in the articulation of the values, norms, and laws of the world community. These efforts are part of a trend of building and strengthening a world peace structure composed of international law and international institutions which command such general acceptance that resort to law will replace unilateral actions of states based on narrow domestic political considerations. Governments, corporations and transnational movements are increasingly convinced that they all possess a stake in an orderly world society which can be endangered by any unrestricted resort to force.

Terrence Paupp of the Association of World Citizens in his essay “Ending Militarism” deals clearly with the emerging concept of “human security” based on new attitudes, institutions and policies. Rasmus Tembergen underlines the need for a World Parliament in order to make world law and outlines some of the avenues for the creation of such a Parliament. There is a strong presentation of the need for world law and respect for human rights by the world citizen pioneer Gary Davis, who also stresses the thinking of Mryes McDougal of Yale Law School and his important book Human Rights and World Public Order.

Professor Sohail Mahomood of Pakistan in his essay “A Global Peace Movement” sets out some of the steps needed for translating this ideal of a non-killing society into a politically significant movement. There follows a list of 111 non-governmental organizations working to be bridges over troubled waters.

This is a rich collection of ideas and tools for those active in constructing the defenses of peace.

Dr Leo Rebello(Ed.).
World Without Wars
(Mumbai: 2009, 424pp.)
Available from 28/552 Samata Nagar, Kadivali East, Bombay 400 101 India
Email: prof.leorebellogmail.com

René Wadlow

25 November: Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25 is the UN-proclaimed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence against women is a year-round occurrence and continues to an alarming degree. Violence against women is an attack upon their bodily integrity and their dignity. We need to place an emphasis on the universality of violence against women, the multiplicity of its forms, and the ways in which violence, discrimination against women, and the broader system of domination based on subordination and inequality are inter-related. The value of a special ‘Day’ is that it serves as a time of analysis of the issue and then of rededication to take both short-term and longer-range measures.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by governments in the General Assembly of 1993, gives a broad definition of violence as “ any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

The Declaration highlights violence within the family, violence within the broader community, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the State. We will deal briefly with these three areas of violence against women.

The Family: Although the family should be a safe haven with relations among its members guided by respect and love, it is often within the family where the most psychologically devastating forms of violence take place — devastating because such violence goes against the expectations of a safe and harmonious haven. We see battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women and violence related to exploitation carried out by family members and intimate partners.

Within this family setting, we also need to look at the conditions of domestic workers, often working under totally unregulated conditions. Live-in maids can be subjected to slave-like treatment at the hands of the members of the family employing them. They can encounter humiliation, work and sexual exploitation and violence, often with no access to justice.

The Wider Community: As the preamble to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states clearly “Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and to discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.” This universal phenomenon is embedded in a patriarchal structure which legitimates mechanisms of enforcing and sustaining the system of domination.

As Adrienne Rich wrote in Of Women Born “Patriarchy is the power of the fathers; a familial-social ideological, political system in which men — by force, direct pressure, or through ritual, tradition, law and language, customs, etiquette, education, and the division of labor, determine what part women shall or shall not play, and in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male. It does not necessarily imply that no woman has power or that all women in a given culture may not have certain powers… The power of the fathers has been difficult to grasp because it permeates everything, even the language in which we try to describe it. It is diffuse and concrete; symbolic and literal; universal, and expressed with local variations which obscure its universality.”

Many of the tenets of patriarchal gender order concerns male power to control women’s sexuality and reproductive capacity. The honour and prestige of a man, in many instances, are intrinsically associated with the conduct of a women related to sexuality, leading in some cases to ‘crimes committed in the name of honour’.

Within the wider community, we also see physical, sexual and psychological violence, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation at work and in educational institutions, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

Education, psychological care and sociological change are important to combat violence within the family and the community.

The State and Armed Insurgencies: There is physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State. The State has a clear duty to control the behaviour of its police, prison, and other agents of justice. Victims of violence by the agents of the State should have clearly set out mechanisms by which they can appeal to the State for redress and compensation. Violence against women in custodial and prison conditions is still a widespread phenomenon which requires a review of national legislation but especially a real investigation of national practice. In many ways ‘law and order’ can be a ‘war on the poor’ and the misfits or a ‘war of segregation’ which can translate into arrests of members of specific social, ethnic or religious groups.

We see violence against women used as a systematic weapon in conflicts as these days in eastern Congo by both governmental forces and the armed insurgencies. Women, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable in war-torn societies.

There are also real but less visible psychological and personality disorders left by a conflict. Therefore the role and needs of women in post-war reconstruction and reconciliation require immediate special attention.

Thus, this November 25, we need to look carefully at the causes of violence against women and to develop further the policies and institutions leading to human dignity and respect.

World Summit on Food Security: 16-18 November, by René Wadlow

Citizens of the World welcome the World Summit on Food Security of 16-18 November 2009 in Rome to address the root causes of the present food crisis and to work for the full implementation of the 'Human Right to Food'. World citizens stress that there is a consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with the current world food crisis and that these measures will have to be taken in a wholistic way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer to the national level with new governmental policies, to measures at the multi-State regional level such as the European Union or the African Union and at the world level with better coordinated actions through the United Nations system.

Today, cooperation is needed among the UN family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the millions of food producers to respond to the food crisis. As Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme has said "The rapid march of urgent hunger continues to unleash an enormous humanitarian crisis. The world must pull together to ensure that emergency needs are met as long term solutions are advanced." There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence. Such short-term action requires additional funding for the UN World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks. However, it is the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention. The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action.

The aim of world food security was set out clearly at the World Food Conference in November 1974 by the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who declared that the bold objective of the conference was that "within a decade, no child will go hungry, no family will fear for its next day's bread, and no human being's future and capacity will be stunted by malnutrition." (1)

John Boyd Orr, the first Director General of FAO had stressed world food security in his call for a World Food Board at one of the first meetings of FAO in Copenhagen in 1946. He proposed a World Food Board that would stabilise prices by holding buffer stocks and would deal with food emergencies. When the proposal was turned down by governments, he resigned from the FAO to devote himself to the world citizens' movement and to work against the start of the East-West arms race that was literally "taking food from the mouths of the poor." (2)

Nevertheless, food security has too often been treated as a collection of national problems. Yet the focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention to the role that UN and regional institutions must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced. It is clear that certain regional bodies, such as the European Union, already play an important role in setting agricultural policy both in terms of production and export policy. There may be a time when the African Union will also play a crucial role in setting policy, monitoring and coordinating agriculture.

A world food policy for the welfare of all requires a close look at world institutions and patterns of production and trade. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in his 1952 book Citizens of the World "Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live." (3)


  • 1) 5 November 1974 address to the World Food Conference, Rome, 1974.
  • 2) For a good account of John Boyd Orr's World Food Board proposal and Subsequent world citizen activities see the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 341pp).
  • 3) Stringfellow Barr Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday, 1952, 285pp.)


The United Nations as One Mind

Those who observe world events may perceive something higher than human logic at work

Dag Hammarshjold has written that the United Nations was “the beginning of an organic process through which the diversity of peoples and their governments are struggling to find common ground upon which they can live together in the one world which has been thrust upon us before we were ready.”

Basically, the function of the UN is to create consensus (being of one mind) on crucial world issues. Such consensus-building is slow, and it is done by repeating endlessly in resolutions of the General Assembly and other UN bodies, year after year, the same idea until it becomes common place. Slowly national governments align their policies upon this common core as non-governmental organizations and the media take up the issue — sometimes a little ahead of governments and sometimes only later.

Since 1945, there have been six issues which have moved from the stage of the ideas of a few to become common policy, the one mind of the UN. This is about one idea per decade, although often the idea was presented early, and it took more than one decade to build consensus. I see the six issues on which one mind was formed as follows:

1) Direct colonialism should end. From the idea of a few in 1945 until the mid-1960s, the idea grew that colonial administration had ended its usefulness as a form of government. The end of direct colonialism owes much to the UN system, though, of course, inequality and domination, the signs of colonial status, have not been overcome.

2) Apartheid was a bad structure for South Africa and for other countries tempted by similar structures of racial division. This idea was the theme of many resolutions and speeches. Slowly, the image of a multi-racial and multi-cultural society took hold, encouraged by enlightened leadership at the national level in South Africa.

3) There are basic human rights, and these should be respected. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 — the ‘Magna Carta’ for all humanity. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Preamble to the UN Charter are the two inspirational texts out of the millions of words written in UN documents that are likely to last as guides for the future.

4) Closely related to the idea of human rights but needing a special effort at consensus building is the idea that women are equal to men and should be so treated. Although the idea is obvious, both the UN and national governments have found it difficult to put into place.

5) The ecological balance of the world is in danger and needs remedial action. The ecological efforts of the UN began in 1971 and are enshrined in the Covenant with Nature — a text of equal importance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although not as well known. Current efforts to limit global warming are growing out of this basic ecological awareness.

6) There should be a Palestinian state. From the 1947 partition plan to today, this idea has been repeated. There is a broad consensus, but such a state has not been created. Without the constant discussion in the UN, the Israel-Palestine tensions would have become a bilateral issue of interest to few other states, as the issue of Kashmir, created at the same time, has faded from the UN stage to become an India-Pakistan issue.

Now there is a seventh idea developing, increasingly articulated but not yet manifested as consensus. The idea is that there is a relationship between security, development, and human rights. “It is clear that security cannot be enjoyed without development, that development cannot be enjoyed without security, and neither can be enjoyed without respect for human rights” as stated by the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Many of us as NGO representatives to the UN have tried to push other ideas within the UN system, especially disarmament and improved techniques of conflict resolution, without success. Today, the UN has little impact on issues of armed violence, but no other organization does either. Thus we have a world with a good deal of violence and tension areas where even greater violence may break out. Violence-reduction is probably the chief task facing the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. However, there is little common ground on what can be done to reduce violence and settle conflicts peacefully. We must not underestimate the time and difficulty that it takes to build consensus within the UN, but I believe that violence-reduction (sometimes called peace) is the next “big idea”, the eighth, whose time has come to the UN.

Obama’s Nobel: A Hope Not Yet An Achievement

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population."

Nobel Committee Statement

The five-person Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee has chosen the US President Barack Obama as the 2009 laureate for helping to create a new climate in world politics with multilateral diplomacy as the central way of moving forward. The Committee stressed Obama’s efforts at nuclear arms control, his outreach to the Muslim world, and especially his willingness to champion the United Nations as a keystone of his diplomacy.

If we look at the history of the Nobel Peace Prize since 1944, after the 1939-1943 World War period when no prize was awarded, we see that the majority has been given to individuals and organizations related to long-standing humanitarian efforts: Lord Boyd-Orr and Norman Borlaugh for their efforts on food, Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa for their compassionate care of the sick and dying, Rev. George Pire for his work with refugees and the displaced, as well as humanitarian organizations: The International Committee of the Red Cross (twice), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (twice), Médecins Sans Frontiers, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

However, the prize is not only for long-time past achievements but also to advance incipient peace processes where the prize could produce positive results. Thus the prize was awarded to Willy Brandt and Mikhail Gorbachev, leaders whose reforms had not come to fruition when they received the prize, but who would prove themselves to be important actors in world history.

In the same spirit of encouraging an ongoing peace process, the prize has been awarded to political leaders for their start of a process which later encountered real difficulties: Kim Dae Jung for his “Sunshine Policy” toward North Korea, John Hume and David Trimble for their accord on the form of government of Northern Ireland, and Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin for the Israel-Palestine negotiations.

It is especially in the field of nuclear arms control — and of holding out the vision of a nuclear-weapon free world— that Barack Obama has changed the political atmosphere and language. Negotiations on disarmament and especially nuclear disarmament issues had become the “sleeping beauty” of world politics. For a decade, the UN Conference on Disarmament — the main UN arms negotiating body — had not been able to set an agenda, and therefore had no formal meeting in Geneva. Only with the election of Obama and a renewed willingness on the part of the US to undertake serious negotiations has an agenda been set. Obama has stressed that the “UN has a pivotal role to play” and that UN-based negotiations “build on a consensus that all nations have a right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament, and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them.”

As Barack Obama said recently when chairing the UN Security Council session devoted to nuclear disarmament “Now we harbour no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons. We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days that push us forward — days that tell a different story. It is the story of a world that understands that no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built and all that we love. It is a recognition that can bring people of different nationalities and ethnicities and ideologies together.”

One of the hopes of the Nobel Peace Committee is that the prize will embolden local actors. Thus, the prize to Barack Obama is a call to all of us to work steadily for a nuclear-weapon free world.

The elimination of hunger

The elimination of hunger is a goal upon which there is wide agreement, and world citizens should be able to continue playing a leadership role.

16 October: World Food Day

A Citizens’ of the World Focus

16 October 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, fertilisers, 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, Rene 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.

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 magacities. 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.

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. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for “a new international consensus to protect our environment and combat the devastating impact of climate change.” But it is likely that Blair will remain better known for participating in the war on Iraq than for leading governments to greater efforts to curb global warming. We have yet to see what European leadership will put forward at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Thus Citizens of the World 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 action.


Gaza Development Authority: A New Deal Model for the Middle East

It is difficult to predict the political future of Gaza both in terms of relations between Hamas and Fatah as well as the future relations with Israel and Egypt. What is certain is the Israel-Gaza conflict and the long embargos have crippled and in some cases destroyed the manufacturing and agricultural sectors of the Gaza Strip where some one and a half million people depend on imports for most basic goods and on exports for livelihood. The economic and social situation in Gaza distorts the lives of many with high unemployment, poor health facilities, and a lack of basic supplies.

As the political situation is so uncertain, it is important not to rule out in advance political and economic proposals even if at first sight, such proposals seem unlikely to be able to be put into practice. As Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European Common Market had said “Men take great decisions only when crisis stares them in the face.” Just as the first steps of the European Common Market had to overcome the deep wounds of the Second World War, so in the situation of Gaza, there is a need to break strong psychological barriers with cooperative economic measures.

One possibility for socio-economic recovery of Gaza would be a trans-national economic effort that would bring together energy, knowledge and money from Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, creating conditions which would facilitate the entry of other investors.

A possible model is the trans-state efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of the US New Deal. The TVA was a path-making measure to overcome the deep economic depression of the 1930s in the USA. In May 1933, the Roosevelt administration and the Congress created the TVA. In his message to Congress, Roosevelt suggested that the Authority should be a “corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise. It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation…This in a true sense is a return to the spirit and vision of the pioneer. If we are successful here, we can march on, step by step, in the development of other great natural territorial units.”

The central idea back of the TVA was that it should do many things, all connected with each other by the concrete realities of a damaged river full of damaged people. To do all these activities well, it had to be a public corporation: public, because it served the public interest and a corporation rather than a government department, so that it could initiate the flexible responsible management of a well-run private corporation. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World “The great triumph of the TVA was not the building of the great dams. Great dams had been built before. Its greatest triumph was that it not only taught the Valley people but insisted on learning from them too. It placed its vast technical knowledge in the pot with the human wisdom, the local experience, the courage, and the hopes of the Valley people, and sought solutions which neither the Valley folk nor the TVA technicians could ever have found alone. It respected persons.”

The Gaza strip is not one of the great natural territorial units of the world, and respect for persons has been in short supply. However, only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle


New Energy for a Nuclear-weapon-free World

For a number of years now, the UN has set 21 Sept as Peace Day. While we would like every day to be peace day, it is useful to have one common day during which many people and organizations reflect on a common theme. This 21 Sept the UN has set disarmament as the theme of the day. Also during Sept. the US President will chair a session of the UN Security Council devoted to disarmament which should attract some attention to the subject. Thus, I am sending my recent article on disarmament. While it says nothing new, it is up-to-date concerning UN negotiations. Thus, I thought that you could share it as a world citizen contribution with other groups marking the day. I am also sending it as an attachment as there are times when it is easier to copy an attachment. With all best wishes, Rene Wadlow
Peace is the only battle worth waging. - Albert Camus

Almost from the moment that the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico in July 1945, the menace of the nuclear age inspired visions of a world free of nuclear weapons. However, the efforts of Governments and popular anti-nuclear weapon movements have gone in cycles with some milestones such as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955, the 1970 ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the 1982 2nd UN General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament.

There have also been long periods when attention focused only on USA-USSR nuclear issues, with short periods of attention given to India-Pakistan nuclear tensions or more recently the nuclear potential of North Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even in non-nuclear arms control, there have been long barren periods. The Vienna conventional-forces-reduction talks continued for 16 years from 1973 without results until an improvement in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States led to the conclusion of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in late 1990.

For over a decade, the UN disarmament body, the Conference on Disarmament, has been inactive, starved of resources, attention and serious human capital. Since the end of the Cold War in 1990 and thus the end of the danger of a Soviet-American nuclear conflict, the arms control emphasis of Governments have been on non-proliferation and on the danger of nuclear arms in the hands of non-State enemies such as terrorists. However, on 29 May 2009, the Conference on Disarmament was able to adopt at least a programme of work for negotiations to ban fissile material production for nuclear weapons, security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States, and the prevention of an arms race in outer space. While negotiations will be difficult and easily blocked by using the “rule of consensus”, the programme is an important step forward. The programme shows a certain shift in the attitudes of Governments. This shift is also seen in the relatively favourable atmosphere in the most recent preparatory meeting for the 2010 Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the joint disarmament statements made by Russia and the USA in July 2009. Taken together, these measures suggest that Governments are slowly building momentum toward real progress in a multi-State framework.

With these steps on the part of Governments, it is crucial that the broader civil society, as structured through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), devote new energies to the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free world. There have always been NGOs which have had nuclear disarmament or general and complete disarmament as an important part of their mandates. Many NGOs would meet at an annual world conference in August in Hiroshima, and many have participated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conferences starting in 1975.

Nevertheless, there has been relatively little impact of NGOs on the over-all strategic doctrines of Governments. The NGO impact has been most felt in the lead up to the Treaty banning anti-personnel mines and the convention on cluster munitions. In both these efforts, humanitarian and human rights organizations, largely absent from earlier arms control efforts, played important roles. The same holds true for efforts to control the “small arms” conventional arms trade as conventional arms often assist in the perpetration of serious violations of human rights such as torture, the excessive use of force by security personnel, extrajudicial executions, and disappearances.

Now, it is an appropriate time to build a broad coalition of people and organizations to develop a world security framework and to review the strategic and arms policy of each State in the light of a world security framework. The renewed efforts of the Conference on Disarmament and the 2010 NPT Review can provide a focus for new civil society energies for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

Peacebuilding in Eastern Congo : Need for Reconciliation Bridge-Builders

The United Nations has some 17,000 UN forces (MONUC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo mostly in the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu. MONUC is the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, but their capacity is stretched to the limit. Their mission is to protect civilians, some 250,000 of which have been driven from their homes since the fighting intensified in late August 2008. Despite the MONUC troops, there are large-scale occurrences of wilful violations of human rights and humanitarian law by all parties in the conflict, with massive displacement of populations, plundering of villages, systematic rape of women, increasingly rape of men as well, summary executions and the use of child soldiers.

On paper, the UN mandate is clear and comprehensive — to build the political, military, institutional, social, and economic structures needed to create a secure environment. However, there is no effective Congolese administration. The eastern area of the Congo has been the scene of fighting at least since 1998 — in part as a result of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994. Efforts at reconciliation, reform, and reconstruction have not been carried out in the eastern provinces. The illicit exploitation of natural resources, the inability to deal with land tenure and land use issues, the lack of social services and of socio-economic development have created the conditions which led to the current violence. The UN troops are not trained to deal with cultural and development issues — especially land tenure and land use issues which are the chief causes of the conflicts.

The people in eastern Congo have lived together for many centuries and had developed techniques of conflict resolution, especially between the two chief agricultural lifestyles: that of agriculture and cattle herding. However, recent economic and political factors have overburdened the local techniques of conflict resolution and have opened the door to new, negative forces interested only in making money and gaining political power. (1)

UN peace-keeping troops are effective when there is peace to keep. However, what is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under UN command, than reconciliation bridge-builders, persons who are able to restore relations among the ethnic groups of the area. The United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations need to develop bridge-building teams which can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and re-establishing community relations.

World Citizens were among those in the early 1950s who stressed the need to create UN peace-keeping forces with soldiers especially trained for their task. Today, a new type of world civil servant is needed — those who in areas of tension and conflict can undertake the slow but important task of restoring confidence among peoples in conflict, establishing contacts and looking for ways to build upon common interests.

(1) See Michael Nest, Francois Grignon, and Emizet Kisangani. The Democratic Republic of Congo: Economic Dimensions of War and Peace (Boulder; CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006, 165pp.)

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

Migration : A World On The Move

Today, migration policy and legislation is made largely at the national level. Thus, recent news reports from Europe have indicated that one country declared a state of emergency because of the presence of undocumented immigrants in its territorial waters. Another country dispatches asylum seekers to offshore islands in foreign jurisdictions before considering their applications. In another country, genetic testing is seen as a proper tool for coping with possible abuses of family reunification laws.

Yet migration is a world issue influenced by three dynamics:

1) Since the end of the Cold War in 1990, the pattern of geo-strategic power has shifted in the world, and migration is an issue that is inextricably linked to these changes. Migration is an issue that spans the globe and is symbolic of the new patters of power and of the post Cold War conflicts such as those of Iraq and Afghanistan.

2) The classical differences between the national, the regional, and the world levels have increasingly been blurred, creating new interdependencies. While the ideal of the free circulation of ideas, trade and finance is proclaimed by many states, there is at the national level greater limits imposed on the right of entry and the right to residency. The European Union has tried to develop a single European immigration and refugee policy at the Tampere Summit in 1999. Yet in practice, the EU policy has focused on the ‘security of borders’ — a very limited vision. No relationship exists between border security policies and the development of countries of origin.

3) The relevant political scale for dealing with and regulating migratory patterns has moved to the world level while implementation remains largely at the national level. Migratory flows have become more diverse, creating more complex and varied routes.

Human poverty, not only lack of income but also health care, scarcity of food, obstacles to education, inequality of opportunities, including gender discrimination, affect migratory flows. However, poverty is not the only factor that drives emigration. Other features are important such as the existence of social and family networks woven by migrants as well as a kind of ‘migratory imagination’ to increase access to health, education, and career-development. Thus migration is often a choice and an opportunity. It can be an empowering experience rather than just a survival strategy.

A new quality of discussion on migration has been started by the United Nations such as the High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development in 2006 and the Global Forum on International Migration and Development in 2007. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has stated a world migration policy requires that we “understand what we, as policymakers, can do to maximize the benefits of migration for development, while ensuring that development leads to qualitatively better migration.”

An important challenge is the promotion of the human rights of migrants in the countries of origin, transit and destination. When the human rights of migrants are ignored or curtailed, their capacity to contribute to the development of their own country and of host societies is undermined. Thus, as citizens of the world, we call for a true world policy on migrations in which migrants themselves have a say. As migration is a defining feature of the contemporary world, your participation in forming policy recommendations is welcome.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

Hiroshima-Nagasaki : 6-9 August : Toward Universal Abolition of Nuclear Weapons,

"Peace is the only battle worth waging."Albert Camus

Almost from the moment that the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico in July 1945, the menace of the nuclear age has inspired visions of a world free of nuclear weapons. Currently, with the possibility that North Korea will increase its nuclear capacity and that the nuclear weapons of Pakistan may slip out of the control of the Government, nuclear issues have moved to the front of world politics. There is a danger that the development of a nuclear-weapon capacity of Iran could provoke the already nuclear-armed Israel to an attack on Iran’s nuclear plants. Thus, there is a need to develop structures to put all facilities for enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Those of us working for the abolition of nuclear weapons are encouraged that President Barack Obama of the USA has taken a lead among government leaders in raising the possibility of deep cuts in US-Russian nuclear weapons. The US and Russia still hold 95 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal among the two. This is an important step toward a universal abolition of nuclear weapons.

Thus, today, there is a real possibility of moving toward a comprehensive ban on all nuclear tests, of taking US and Russian missiles off ‘hair-trigger alert’, and of developing a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East. Concerns about current and future nuclear programs in the Middle East will persist until there is created a broad Middle East security structure.

The goal of a world free of nuclear weapons will be met by strong opposition of all those for whom the current status quo is better than the risks of creating a new world society. The deep-seated causes of the insecurity that have plagued the world for decades need to be addressed simultaneously with efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. Thus, on this anniversary of the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there must be a concerted effort by all of us who see the planet as a place of shared life to work together for a nuclear-weapon free world.


Knowledge and Skills for World Citizenship by Rene Wadlow

In A curriculum for global citizenship published by Oxfam in 1997, a global citizen is one who:

  • is aware of the wider world and has a sense of his role as a world citizen;
  • respects and values diversity;
  • has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically and environmentally;
  • is outraged by social injustice;
  • is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place;
  • participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from the local to the global.

The Oxfam definition is important in drawing attention to the active role of world citizens. World citizenship is based on rights, responsibility and action.

The rights and freedoms are set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These UN-sponsored human rights treaties are the basis of world law which deals directly with individuals and not just with States.

In most cases, there are procedures that exist for the redress of violations of these rights at the national, regional, and UN levels. These rights should enable all persons to participate effectively in national, regional and the world society.

The idea of responsibility has been often discussed within the United Nations, but it has been impossible to set out agreed-upon obligations. Rather, a sense of responsibility toward the Planet and toward others is left to the individual’s conscience and moral sense. Nevertheless, a sense of responsibility, an ethical concern for social justice, and the dignity of humanity is central to the values of a world citizen.

Action is at the heart of the attitude of a vibrant world citizen. Action must be based on three pillars: knowledge, analysis and skills.

KNOWLEDGE: Background knowledge, a sense of modern history, of world trends, and issues of ecologically-sound development is fundamental. As one can never know everything about issues that require action, one needs to know where to find information and to evaluate its quality for the actions one wants to undertake.

ANALYSIS: It is important to be able to analyse current trends and events, to place events in their context, to understand the power relations expressed in an event. One needs to try to understand if an event is a “one-time only” occurrence or if it is part of a series, an on-going process, if it is a local event or if it is likely to happen in other parts of the world as well.

Analysis is closely related to motivation. If from one’s analysis, one sees a possibility for creative action alone or with others, one will often act. If from analysis, it seems that little can be done as an individual, then one can urge a government to act. The degree of personal involvement will usually depend on the results of the analysis of a situation.

SKILLS: Political skills are needed to make an effective world citizen. A wide range of skills is useful such as negotiation, lobbying, networking, campaigning, letter writing, communications technology and preparing for demonstrations. These are all essential skills to join with others for a strong world citizen voice in world politics. Some of these skills can be taught by those having more experience, for experience is the best teacher. It is by networking to new individuals and groups that one learns the potentials and limits of networking.

In our period of rapid social and political change, the past cannot provide an accurate guide to the future. Anticipation and adaptability, foresight and flexibility, innovation and intuition, become increasingly essential tools for creative political action. 


Kuan Yin : She who harkens to the cries of the world, Rene Wadlow*

Wise in using skilful means
In every corner of the world
She manifests her countless forms

Twilight and Dawn (René Wadlow)

The alternation of night and day is a cosmic process of which humans have been long aware and which has led to dualistic thinking: day and night, light and dark, right and wrong, pure and impure. However, during this alternation of night and day, there are two periods of transition — twilight as the day fades and night comes on, and dawn as night is replaced by the rays of the coming sun. During these periods of transition, shapes are less clear. Twilight may also resemble dawn, and it is not clear from the color of the sky if the day is fading or growing.

So too, in the study of international society and world politics, it is not always clear if we are moving toward greater night or clearer day. For our efforts to be most effective, we need to have some understanding of where we are in the cosmic process, if it is time to get more fuel for our lamps because night is coming on or if we can start putting away our lamps because day will soon be here. In this period with strong shadows and unclear shapes, we must be particularly careful in our evaluations of events and currents.

Around the world today, numerous communities face an immediate future of intense violence and social upheaval. The Congo, East Timor, Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Tibet are examples amongst many others. In zones of chronic tensions, politics characteristically lurch back and forth from hope to despair to hope to despair. Peace talks, road maps and new elections descend into the daily hell of missiles, armoured vehicles and suicide-martyrs — and the new maps are drawn again.

We see among the shadows a world of base calculations, of power plays, of special interests working for national advantage and overlooking global responsibilities. In the confusion of today’s economic situation when only short-term profit and consumption mattered, we see jobs lost, homes lost, medical and educational facilities cut back or closed. Through financial misdoings, avarice and corruption, we are compromising our future and that of our children. We see a world where we have reached critical limits on pollution, on fossil-fuel extraction, on endangered species, on climate change.

To meet these challenges, often the result of limited visions and short-term political calculations, we need a strong, values-based United Nations, and we need ethical and future-oriented Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

The United Nations has taken unprecedented steps to focus the world’s urgent attention on the need to protect nature and to encourage ecologically-sound development. The UN has held major environmental conferences such as those of Stockholm (1972), Rio (1992), Johannesburg (2002) and the climate conference planned for Copenhagen in December 2009.

NGOs have responded to these challenges. They work year round to reverse the deterioration of nature’s plant life, water quality, forest cover, mountain ecosystems and marine resources. They combat atmospheric pollution, desertification and chemical hazards.

NGOs are active in defending and promoting human rights, in assisting refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants, in running medical, educational and vocational-training institutions, in overcoming patriarchal obstacles to women’s empowerment, in healing children, and in giving youth a voice in determining the future. NGOs are helping people redefine themselves from victims into partners for a new world society.

Where social welfare is lacking, where social justice is lacking, there you will find NGOs ready to take a lead, to take responsibility, to take action.

There is a need for NGO leadership and cooperation, for adequate funding and the sharing of information as to new needs and new opportunities. With such leadership and cooperation, we will not mistake the dawn for the twilight.


Report of the recent UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Sri Lanka.

The resolution at the end of the meeting gives access to UN bodies and humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations to the Sri Lankan Government detention camps where internally displaced persons (IDPs) are held. The resolution also sets a six-month deadline for the resettlement of the IDPs. In addition, the resolution gives the UN the right to follow the decentralization of administration process — Amendment 13 to the Sri Lanka Constitution. This amendment, part of the India-Sri Lanka accords by which India withdrew its peacekeeping forces from Sri Lanka, stated that decentralization of government through the creation of councils in the provinces would be carried out. Unfortunately, these councils never functioned.

Col. Henry S. Olcott, President of the TS and other theosophists played an important role in the revival of Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka during the late 1880s-1900 period. See my review of Howard Murphet Hammer on the Mountain:The Life of Henry Steel Olcott (Quest Books, 1972) on the US-TOS site www.theoservice.org.

Now, as so often happens, those who were culturally oppressed 100 years ago have become oppressors — the Buddhist sanga (monks) are among the most narrowly nationalistic with attitudes close to racism.

The TS has a karmic duty to continue its involvement with socio-political conditions in Sri Lanka. A first step would be for you to contact the Foreign Ministry of your State to remind them of the Human Rights Council resolution with its deadline for resettlement and possibility to observe the process of putting the 13th Amendment into practice. Your help on this issue is appreciated.


UN Highlights Sri Lanka Challenges, Rene Wadlow*

On 27 May, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held a Special Session to analyse the human rights situation in Sri Lanka after the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A Special Session is the prime method that the Human Rights Council has to attract attention to a country situation and to give its resolutions added weight as only one country is considered. Normally, a session of the Human Rights Council produces 10 or more resolutions on a host of issues so that, in practice, none stand out very clearly unless there has been a good deal of debate about a particular issue. The recommendations, which we will discuss in detail, set out a framework for action by the Government of Sri Lanka, the UN humanitarian and development agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

This Special Session on Sri Lanka is innovative in two respects. The first is that it was the Human Rights Council which took the lead in setting out clearly post-conflict guidelines. In the past, it has been the UN Development Programme (UNDP) that would call a post-conflict conference. The usual aim was to raise money for reconstruction and some economic development planning. At these UNDP meetings, human rights and political issues were avoided. I had participated years ago in the UNDP-sponsored conference after the change in government in Equatorial Guinea, a country under review in the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Representatives of the Centre for Human Rights — the UN Secretariat section responsible or all human rights issues — were not invited to the meeting. Despite my efforts in the hallways as an NGO representative to inform government representatives of the continuing human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea, human rights and political issues were never raised. The same was true later of a post-conflict UN fund raising conference on Mozambique, which I had attended, as the Ambassador from Mozambique had been one of my students. The terms of the peace accord that brought the civil war to an end in Mozambique should have been discussed because economic development depended in part on the terms of the peace accord being carried out. However, the whole conference turned around how much money could be raised.

Thus, the fact that human rights issues were raised in the case of the Sri Lankan Special Session and that political guidelines concerning the decentralization of power were part of the final resolution are important milestones. The UN, as an institution, works on precedent. If something has never been done, it is very difficult to get an innovation through. If something has been done once, the next time it is easier to do it. (1).

The second innovation of this Special Session was the important recognition given in the final resolution to the concept of the Responsibility to Protect. As has been said in the preparation to the UN General Assembly resolution recognizing the concept of the Responsibility to Protect “ If we believe that all human beings are equally entitled to be protected from acts that shock the conscience of us all, then we must match rhetoric with reality, principle with practice. We cannot be content with reports and declarations. We must be prepared to act.” (2). There were two post-Cold War events that started the intellectual policy wheels turning. The first was the 1994 Rwanda genocide, and the second was the slaughter of Muslim men at Srebrenica, ex-Yugoslavia in 1995, hardly a year later. Neither the Rwanda genocide nor the systematic killing of prisoners of war in Srebrenica could be explained in political terms. Any political aims that the participants had could have been gained better with less killing. If one was not to limit one’s analysis to saying that the Rwandans and Serbs were ‘savages’ motivated by unknowable but primitive passions, some explanation of events had to be presented and then some avenues to prevent their recurrence was necessary.

Explanations of irrational political behaviour are difficult for policy makers. It is a slippery slope, and ‘original sin’ is not a popular explanation these days. Thus, it is easier for policy makers to discuss what to do when such conflicts start, or better, on the eve of starting.

The first calls for action came from Bernard Kouchner, who had been a French Red Cross doctor in Biafra in the late 1960s and for whom action was more important than long discussions on the fine points of international law. He had been surprised by the restrictions placed by the International Committee of the Red Cross on denouncing conditions in Biafra. Thus, he and some of his French Red Cross co-workers in Biafra created a new organization ‘Doctors without Frontiers’ which would go where they were needed if governments liked it or not. Kouchner became a highly popular figure in France and always had good relations with the media to spread his ideas. The fact that his wife is a leading television news journalist is not a handicap. Kouchner was taken into the Socialist-led French government in 1980, first for humanitarian affairs and later as Minister of Health. He started speaking of the “duty of humanitarian intervention”. The idea was taken up by NGOs and by a few international law professors, in particular Mario Bettati who was active in NGO circles. Bettati helped to giver a legal foundation to Kouchner’s ideas. As there are periodical meeting of ministers of the European Union, Kouchner’s “humanitarian intervention” proposals were increasingly discussed. No other government took up the idea, but it was a difficult idea to oppose.

Kouchner’s “duty of humanitarian intervention” was progressively transformed into the Responsibility to Protect. The idea found its way to the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which then passed it on to the UN Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention. Finally, the Responsibility to Protect was formally and unanimously embraced by the UN General Assembly meeting of heads of state at the 2005 World Summit. Many of these same heads of state have lawyers who can advise them that the Responsibility to Protect is no more binding on them than their 2000 pledge to cut world poverty in half by 2015.

There was a good deal of closed-door negotiation prior to the start of the Special Session. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, had publicly called for an independent investigation into war crimes committed by both sides, especially in the last two months which saw the last round of the civil war. She said “In no circumstances can the end justify the means. There are strong reasons to believe that both sides have grossly disregarded the fundamental principle of the defence of civilians”. The Swiss delegation, while not going as far as calling for an independent investigation, raised the issue of the violations of humanitarian law. Switzerland is particularly active on humanitarian law issues being the home of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross. The dynamic Sri Lankan Ambassador Dajan Jayatilleka was active in explaining just what was acceptable to the Sri Lankan government and setting out what he considered to be the “domestic matters” of the Sri Lankan state.

Thus, what is important in the four action points of the final resolution of the Special

Session is not so much the ideas than the fact that they were agreed to by the Sri Lankan government in advance and thus serve as internationally accepted policies on which the UN has a duty to follow the progress of these policies. This is an important breakthrough.

The first important element is the recognition of the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The status of refugees — people crossing state frontiers — is fixed by the 1948 Refugee Convention with some follow up measures. The reality of internally displaced persons is not set in a treaty and exists in international law only through UN General Assembly resolutions and the creation of the post of Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons. The current Representative, Walter Kaelin, has recently been to Sri Lanka for talks. Thus, the government of Sri Lanka recognizes the existence of IDPs and their right to safe drinking water, sanitation, food, medical and health-care services. Moreover, the resolution acknowledges the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to provide access as may be appropriate to international humanitarian agencies in order to ensure humanitarian assistance. “As may be appropriate” is a phrase that government hold to as it opens doors to possible limitations, but the importance must be on the word access.

The second important element is to set a time limit for resettlement. When the detention camps were first set up at the end of April 2009, some government administrators were speaking of two years before everyone would be resettled. Now there is a 6-month deadline to which the Sri Lankan government has agreed and to which it must be held.

The third important element of the resolution is the agreement to a policy of the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. The LTTE had made wide use of child soldiers. There are real difficulties in their reintegration into society. The government of Sri Lanka has agreed to recognize this special category of people — an important step in the implementation of the rights of the child.

The fourth element is a crucial one, because it recognizes an international legitimacy in following the evolution of the political structures of Sri Lanka. This is the agreement in the UN resolution to implement the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The 13th Amendment concerns the decentralization of power and the creation of administrative councils so that political power may be closer to the people. The provisions of the 13th Amendment had never been put into practice. Thus the Sri Lankan government has promised a decentralization of the administration and by including the item of the 13th Amendment in the UN resolution, gives UN bodies the right to follow its real implementation.

While each of these elements may seem small in contrast to the suffering caused by the civil war, they add up to a major step forward for the rule of world law.

(1) For a good analysis of how precedent works in the UN human rights bodies see B.G. Ramcharan The Concept and Present Status of the International Protection of Human Rights (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1989, 611 pp.). At the time of the writing of the book, B.G. Ramcharan was a leading member of the UN Centre for Human Rights, and it was his task to write a memo whenever there was an innovation in procedures and the ways in which the precedent could be used in the future. The book is largely based on these memos.

(2) Quoted in Gareth Evans The Responsibility to Protect (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2008, 349 pp.).

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

top Kuan Yin : She who harkens to the cries of the world

Wise in using skilful means
In every corner of the world
She manifests her countless forms

Sri Lanka: After the final round of armed violence: a need for a vision of the future. Citizens of the World call for creative responses to the challenge of new government structures.

On 19 May 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka proclaimed an end to the fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan (LTTE), one of the world’s most enduring insurgencies. The LTTE had once controlled a quarter of Sri Lanka’s territory as they had pressed their campaign for an independent state for the country’s Tamil minority. Some 265,000 people have been displaced during the past several months in this last round of fighting.

Thus the major issue today is no longer calling for negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE but rather to encourage all parties to look toward the future in a spirit of reconciliation.

The armed conflict, which began in 1983, has taken an estimated 70,000 lives with many wounded and lives broken. The psychological wounds are deep, and the healing of individual traumas with psycho-spiritual techniques is a real priority.

There is a need to develop governmental structures in which all citizens will feel that they belong and that their interests are safeguarded. Citizens of the World have often proposed federal structures as a way of respecting differences in a pluralistic society while providing the possibilities of joint action.

Such federal forms of government were agreed to in 1987 with the India-Sri Lanka accord leading to the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. The Amendment provides for the establishment of provincial councils. Unfortunately, these councils have never become functional.

The suffering of the war may sow the seeds of future unrest and a desire for revenge unless steps are taken quickly to develop flexible structures which provide real regional autonomy.

We hope that you will join with other Citizens of the World in this call for creative responses in Sri Lanka

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

The UN Review of the Programme of Action on Racism and Xenophobia

In the heated fallout from the from the speech of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the UN review of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on 20 April 2009, our Association of World Citizens’ Facebook Officer, Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, was insulted and verbally attacked by a member of the Iranian delegation walking with Ahmadinejad to a press conference on the ground floor of the UN building in Geneva, the Palais des Nations. The Iranian official called out to Wiesel and some 400 protestors who were blocking the entrance to the Press conference room “Zio-Nazis” meaning Zionist-Nazi.

It is always sad to see a meeting on which a good number of people worked for several months sidetracked and turned from its important aims by attitudes that illustrate xenophobia and an unwillingness to compromise for the greater good;

The original conference on Racism was held 31 August to 8 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa. The Conference wrote a Declaration and Programme of Action. The aim of the 20-24 April 2009 conference in Geneva was to review the Programme of Action, to see what had been done, and what new efforts had to be made. As with all UN conferences, a Declaration or Final Statement is negotiated through lengthy drafting sessions lasting a week at a time with informal negotiating going on between the public sessions. Non-governmental Organization representatives (NGOs) participate fully in the public drafting sessions. Once the draft is negotiated, here called the “Outcome Document”, it is basically impossible to change. Some words on which there is no agreement can be dropped: it is rare that any new words are added to the text. Thus by 20 April 2009, all the work had been done. There was a good text, thanks largely to the Russian diplomat who chaired the final drafting sessions and to the representative of Norway who could write well.

Thus, the many, over 1000 NGO representatives who came to Geneva, often from far away and at their own expense, arrived when the show was over. They had no opportunity to modify the text or to present their points of view. Tibetans who wanted some mention of Tibet, untouchables from India who wanted a mention of caste, or Afro-Americans who wanted some mention of poverty associated to race were out of luck. They should have come to Geneva in January when the drafting got underway. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) organized a three-day seminar on 15-18 April to inform first-time participants how the UN work on racism, xenophobia and intolerance is carried out. However, all the participants were disappointed that they and their interests would have no way of expressing itself in the ‘Outcome Document’ which was already written.

At Durban, in 2001, there had been an NGO Conference four days prior to the start of the governmental conference. Palestinian groups and pro-Palestinian NGOs, hoping to find a sympathetic hearing among Black South Africans, had come to Durban well prepared and in great number. The line between opposition to the policies of the Israeli government and opposition to all Jews is a line often crossed, especially as Israel claims to be a ‘Jewish State’ or the ‘State of the Jewish people’. Thus, at Durban, in 2001, there were anti-Jewish outbursts in the NGO Forum. In the governmental conference, the Arab and Islamic States repeated what they always say about Israel at the UN, but nothing new.

In the preparations for the Geneva review, the governments decided that there would be no parallel NGO conference organized by the UN, but governments are unable to prevent NGOs from organizing meetings in Geneva outside the UN building. Thus, just prior to the governmental conference there were a good number of seminars, including the one organized by the Association of World Citizens. There was one seminar organized by pro-Palestinian groups, others by groups concerned with discrimination against specific groups, such as Afro-Americans etc.

In the light of the Durban 2001 experience where there had been relatively few Jewish groups present, for Geneva, the European Jewish groups came in force. Over a third of the some 1000 NGO representatives were from European Jewish groups, mostly French. In addition, there were a good number of people sympathetic to the Israeli Right Wing and to Israeli settler groups on the West Bank. Their only interest was support of Israel and the settler movements, with some support of the Darfur insurgencies to show that Muslims were killing Muslims.

Into this pot of hates came Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran and running for re-election in June, thus wanting to grab headlines. As Iran was one of the regionally-selected vice-chairman of the committee drafting the ‘Outcome Document’, his giving a speech could not be avoided. As he was the only Head of State to come to the Geneva conference, he had to be among the first speakers. In UN protocol, the order of speakers is made according to their rank in their country: President, Minister, Ambassador. Thus Ahmadinejad was the first government speaker after those of the UN Secretariat and the Swiss host of the conference.

The UN Secretariat should have negotiated with Ahmadinejad well before his speech on its content; it should have been something very general and uplifting, the unity of humanity and respect for all. This was not done. Ahmadinejad made his usual (and thus expected) attack on Israel, with some of his comments seeming to attack all Jews. The European Union members of the government delegations, already prepared, walked out. Two NGO representatives from European Jewish organizations with colored clown wigs threw red noses at Ahmadinejad indicating that the whole show was a circus before being expelled by UN Security members.

Ahmadinejad finished his expected speech which ran way over the time limit set out for him, without being stopped. NGO speakers are stopped if they run l0 seconds over time, there being a digital clock with red numbers indicating how much time a speaker has left. He left to give a press conference, although the Press section in the conference room was full. The European Union diplomats filed back into the conference room and the list of speakers continued as if nothing had happened.

The main conference room where the meeting was being held is on the third floor. The Press conference room for press conferences is on the ground floor near a main entrance to the UN building with a large lobby where the public is admitted, where there is a UN book store, coffee bar etc, always filled with people.

When Ahmadinejad and his party came out of the elevators to go to the Press conference room, they found that the lobby was filled with two groups of Jews protesting his speech (and all his earlier speeches on the destruction of Israel) and Baha’is protesting the persecution of Baha’is in Iran. The protesters were able to block the door to the Press conference room as well as filling most of the lobby space. The UN Security people as well as Ahmadinejad’s own body guards tried to make a way through the crowd by pushing people aside. Among the Jewish protesters was Elie Wiesel, much photographed by the press and TV. One of the Iranians, — it is not known if he was a body guard or an official – shouted out “zio-Nazis” to the assembled protesters.

The insult is like calling the Iranians “Arabs” and totally unnecessary except that in the heat of emotion people have used worse expressions.

The whole UN review conference has highlighted the difficulty of UN conferences on difficult subjects and the uneasy role of NGO representatives. There are perhaps 25 to 30 experienced, professional NGO representatives to the UN in Geneva who have worked over the years. I began full time in 1973 although I had attended UN meetings earlier. These NGO representatives know how the system works, what is possible to do, and have long-standing contacts with government diplomats. These UN-NGO representatives know how to speak “UNese” and are thus able to propose wording for UN documents that find acceptance from governments. Obviously, they are lost in the crowd when more than 1000 NGO representatives come from outside, with no experience and only one issue on which they are working or protesting, especially when among these protesters there are personalities who are known by the press.

The Geneva review of the Conference on Racism will set back the effectiveness of NGOs for many years to come. While the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had an NGO-liaison officer with much experience in the NGO human rights world for the 2001 Durban Conference, there was no such Secretariat member for the 2009 Geneva review, showing that the NGO contribution on xenophobia was of little interest to the High Commissioner. It is likely that now there will be real hostility in the Secretariat to NGOs, and we will have a long climb back.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

Conference on Human Unity

On 20 April starts in Geneva a United Nations conference to review progress on the Programme of Action of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The original conference was held 31 August to 8 September 2001 in Durban, South Africa, and so the review conference has, as a short title “Durban II”.

Durban I had just folded its tents when the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington highlighted the hates and many divisions in the world. The years since 2001 have been filled with examples of xenophobia – fear of the foreign – and related fears of all that is different, all that challenges the way the dominant forces in a country structure a society and its values.

Fortunately, there have been individuals and organized groups which have worked to break down walls and to overcome divisions among peoples. The Durban Programme of Action had recognized such efforts and called “upon States to explore means to expand the role of non-governmental organizations in society through, in particular, deepening the ties of solidarity amongst citizens and promoting greater trust across racial and social class divides by promoting wider citizen involvement and more voluntary cooperation.”

With the current world-wide economic difficulties, there is a real danger that xenophobic sentiments will be directed against foreign workers. There is a large, world-wide migration of people, on the move to increase their economic prospects, to escape conflict and violence, to break out of the chains of racial, gender, and ethnic discrimination.

We need to develop compassionate and welcoming societies so that all may find a place in which to develop their full potential. The Durban Programme of Action calls “to work to reduce violence, including violence motivated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance by addressing bias before it manifests itself in violent criminal activity.”

Thus Durban II is a time for all of us to stress human unity and to recall that we are all citizens of the world.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

Peoples’ Assembly, Rene Wadlow

When A. Rodrigues Brent, Maurice Cosyn and Jacques Savary started to propose a Congrès des Peuples (A Peoples’ Assembly) in the mid 1950s, much of the world’s population was not represented in the UN. It was only in 1955 with a ‘Package Deal’ that the States blocked by the Cold War division entered the UN. Japan joined only in 1956 and Germany much later. At the time, most of Africa was in colonial status. The war in Algeria which began in November 1954 was a sign of danger that violence might overtake all of Africa. The French war in Indochina had just ended, but there were fears that all of Asia might follow the Vietnamese pattern. Most African governments joined the UN in the early 1960s; fortunately, independence came with relatively little violence.

Thus the idea of a Peoples Assembly where the unrepresented voices could be heard was an appropriate proposal in the mid-1950s. I helped to publish the first version in English of the proposal by Brent and Cosyn in the little monthly bulletin “One World” edited by Everett Millard in Chicago. I was a graduate student in international relations at the University of Chicago and would help edit the bulletin. The proposal was integrated into the book drawn from the monthly bulletin: Everett Millard. Freedom in a Federal World (New York: Oceana Publications, 1959).

However today, there are 192 member states in the UN, two observer States (Palestine and the Vatican) and observers at the General Assembly of intergovernmental organizations such as the European Union, the African Union, the Leagues of Arab States as well as some mixed bodies such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Out of this multitude of voices, there are always a few that propose useful things. In my experience as an NGO representative to the UN, Geneva, I have always found some States willing to propose ideas and wording for resolution that I proposed. Since I am interested in promoting the idea, not in having recognition for having drafted a section of a resolution, it does not bother me that Costa Rica or other States get credit for having proposed the idea. I have found that there are always governments willing to propose ideas for the general good, sometimes governments which have a poor record on other issues. One example: it was the Polish government, at the time in the 1980s under martial law, that led the effort for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is a need to build good working relations with diplomats at the UN to see which are open to proposing ideas.

Thus it is not clear to me what useful role the Congrès des Peuples can play today. I am one of those elected for life, like African Presidents. I have not resigned because I have always tried to give a hand in efforts at the start. Thus I was active in the 1957 start with Philip Isley to write a World Constitution and did a good deal of the writing until the mid-1960s when the final draft was too similar to a national State projected onto the world. I dropped out of the effort, although I continued to see people that Isley sent to Geneva to see me.

I regret that I cannot come to Brazil. At just about the same dates, I will be at a conflict resolution meeting in Cambodia. I had been in Cambodia in 1991 and 1994 to help set up education/child-welfare projects, and I would like to see what has gone on since.

I hope that the meeting in Brazil will go well. I think that it can be an opportunity to develop contacts in Latin America where the world citizen/world federalist movements have not had many contacts in the past. As an active member of the Theosophical Order of Service, I am sorry not to be able to learn more about the spiritual/New Age movements in Brazil. I hope that there will be other opportunities.

My emphasis at the UN in Geneva for the Association of World Citizens is on conflict resolution, often linked to issues of human rights violations. My current focus is on the Wider Middle East: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Syria. However, there are always continuing issues on which I have worked in the past: Burma, Sri Lanka, Kashmir (India-Pakistan), China-Tibet. I am always pleased to be in contact with world citizens concerned with conflict resolution.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens

top The Day of the Citizens of the World, by René Wadlow

The passage at midnight between 20 March and 21 March marks the central moment of the Day of the Citizens of the World. It is the start of the Spring Solstice and is celebrated in countries influenced by Persian culture such as Iran, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics as Navruz (Nawroz), the start of the New Year. It is a period of renewal, of new beginnings, and a time of recognition that we are all citizens of the world bound together in a common destiny.

The Spring Solstice as the Day of the Citizens of the World marks a profound regard for cycles. Every cycle has a beginning, a middle, and an end; and nearly every cycle is followed by another. It was this sensitivity to cycles of change that served as the basis for the Chinese philosophy embodied in the I Ching – the Book of Changes. In the Richard Wilhelm translation, the text for the hexagram Fu advises “This is the moment, but it is not brought about by force…the moment is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason, the transformation of the old becomes easy…Therefore, it is not necessary to hasten anything artificially. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time. This is the meaning of heaven and earth…The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement: everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that it may lead to a flowering.”

The Spring Solstice is an intrinsically meaningful cosmic-terrestrial event and at the same time serves as a powerful symbol for the deepest processes of transformation in the individual and collective human psyche. Wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle and what kind of action (or restraint from action) is appropriate for that phase. What is constructive at one time may be destructive at another.

Thus, the passage from an international system based on States to a world society based on the vision of world citizenship is a transition which flows naturally, without violence and without a destruction of the old. World Citizenship is based on a broad awareness of the ways the planet Earth is inter-related — what happens in one part of the world or to one group of people has an impact on all others.

The Spring Solstice — Day of the Citizens of the World — is placed under the sign of Hermes Trismegistus (the thrice-great Hermes) who is said to have lived in Egypt at the time of Moses. As a priest and an older man, Hermes would naturally have taught Moses about the Light in which we live, move and have our being. Hermes was also thought to have been the teacher of Orpheus, who passed on the teaching concerning the order of the world to Pythagoras and Plato. Thus, there is, in the tradition of the Alchemists, the symbol of Aurea Catena — the Golden Chain — an unbroken series of wise persons — women and men— from Hermes Trimegistus to the present, a chain which also symbolizes the links between heaven and earth.

This Aurea Catena chain is depicted in a 1488 mosaic of the Sienna Cathedral, Italy, where we see two figures, one from the East and one from the West coming to receive instruction from Hermes. Knowledge and Wisdom flowing toward both the East and the West is a key symbol of world citizenship. Thus the Day of the Citizens of the World is placed under the sign of the thrice-great Hermes.

The current financial-economic crisis has brought the realization to many that we are all associated in one world. The decisions of a few can have an impact on the many. If this is true for the negative impact of financial decisions, it is also true for positive actions. Thus the Day of the Citizens of the World can be a day for greater awareness of the need for cooperation and mutual action. The Day calls for individual commitment and responsibility.


Laurent Nkunda to the ICC ?

The International Criminal Court has started its first trial of the militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, especially for his use of child soldiers to commit murder and systematic rape. However, more important militia leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo should also be in The Hague. The governing body of the ICC will be meeting at the UN in New York in a few days. The ICC needs to be able to move ahead in the Congo situation. Your support for effective action on the Congo is appreciated.

Laurent Nkunda to the ICC ?

Rene Wadlow

The Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 28 November 2008 was the beginning of the end for self-proclaimed General Laurent Nkunda and his Congress for the Defense of the People (CNPD).

The Geneva-based Council had taken a long time in getting around to highlighting the human rights violations in the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu. The United Nations has some 17,000 peacemakers in Congo (MONUC), the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, but their capacity is stretched to the limit. Their mission is to protect civilians, some 250,000 of which have been driven from their homes since the fighting intensified in late August 2008. Despite the MONUC troops, there have been large-scale occurrences of wilful violations of human rights and humanitarian law by all parties in the conflict, with massive displacement of populations, plundering of villages, systematic rape of women, summary executions and the use of child soldiers.

The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 — in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. Efforts at reconciliation, reform and reconstruction have not been carried out in the eastern provinces. The illicit exploitation of natural resources, the inability to deal with land tenure and land use issues, the lack of social services and of socio-economic development have created the conditions which led to the current violence.

Systematic rape and the use of child soldiers are crimes which are covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Rape is a violation of international humanitarian law. Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions prohibits “violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture…outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault, slavery..”

Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP, also the pro-government militias often called the ‘Mayi-Mayi’ as well as the regular army of the Democratic Republic of Congo recruited and used child soldiers in the ongoing conflict. Child soldiers who attempt to escape have been killed or tortured, at times in front of other child soldiers to discourage further escapes. Child soldiers are forced to commit crimes, including murder and rape. Such crimes are a major barrier to community reconciliation and to successful reintegration of demobilized children as communities and even families fear the return of such brutalized children, who are consequently shunned. The use of child soldiers is contrary to international conditions to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a party.

The 28 November session of the Human Rights Council sent indirect signals to the Rwandan government that its support for Nkunda might be more costly than it was worth. Although the African governments, members of the Council, did everything they could to avoid criticizing anyone and even the European Union governments kept things very general, the talks in the hallways and over cups of coffee left no doubt that the situation could not continue. The Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which provide the great bulk of the UN forces were getting tired of having their troops considered weak and largely useless, unable to fulfil their mandate of protecting the population. The Asians pushed behind the scenes for changes.

The warnings finally got back to Kigali, the Rwandan capital and to Joseph Kabila, President of RDC, and a deal may have been struck. What follows is logical but there is no proof: The number two of Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP, Jean Basco Ntaganda, his chief of staff, had an arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court out against him for war crimes committed earlier when he headed his own militia before joining forces with Nkunda. In December 2008, Ntaganda, known as ‘the Terminator’, switched sides, denounced Nkunda and said that he and his men would now work with the Congolese army. Virtually at the same time, there was an agreement between the Congolese military and the Rwandan military to stage a joint operation against the Hutu militias on the Rwanda-Congo frontier. It was during this operation that Rwandan forces “arrested” Nkunda and took him out of the Congo to Kigali.

The possible Rwanda-Congo deal is that the Congo would protect Jean Bosco Ntaganda against the warrant of the ICC in exchange for his changing sides, while Rwanda would protect Laurent Nkunda but get him out of the Congo as he was causing a backlash against Rwanda. It is said that Nkunda was helped by Rwandan businessmen and factions within the army. It is possible that the government of Rwanda turned a blind eye rather than actively helping Nkunda. The deal may be that both Nkunda and Ntaganda would keep out of sight until the world’s attention, never very focused on the Congo in any case, turned to other matters.

However, both Nkunda and Ntaganda merit trial by the ICC. The courts of both Rwanda and Congo are inadequate at best. Rwanda and Congo could indicate their inability to provide fair trials to the men and transfer them to The Hague for trial. I would not hold my breath waiting, but what happens in the two cases is a test of the effectiveness of international justice.

Meanwhile, there are dangers that fighting and human rights violations in eastern Congo will continue unless measures are taken to deal with root causes of the conflicts. The people in eastern Congo have lived together for many centuries and had developed techniques of conflict resolution, especially between the two chief agricultural lifestyles: that of agriculture and cattle herding. However, recent economic and political factors have overburdened the local techniques of conflict resolution and have opened the door to new, negative forces interested only in making money and gaining political power.

UN peace-keeping troops are effective when there is peace to keep. What is required today is eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under UN command, than reconciliation bridge-builders, persons who are able to restore relations among the ethnic groups of the area. The United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations need to develop bridge-building teams which can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and re-establishing community relations. In the Kivus, many of the problems arise from land tenure issues. With the large number of people displaced and villages destroyed, it may be possible to review completely land tenure and land use issues.

World Citizens were among those in the early 1950s who stressed the need to create UN peace-keeping forces with soldiers especially trained for such a task. Today, a new type of world civil servant is needed — those who in areas of tension and conflict can undertake the slow but important task of restoring confidence among peoples in conflict, establishing contacts and looking for ways to build upon common interests.

Rene Wadlow,

topWorld Food Security: A Challenge for Civil Society, by Rene Wadlow

In these turbulent and often frightening times, it is important to remind ourselves that we are privileged to live at the most exciting moment in the whole of the human existence. We have the opportunity to turn away from Empire and to embrace Earth Community as a conscious collective choice. We are the ones we have been waiting for.” David Korten

The current financial crisis joins those of food and fuel to challenge the world economy. The three crises are inter-related and impact each other. Paying hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue the world’s financial industry looks likely to cut both humanitarian aid and development spending. The price of oil has dropped but is still high and is a drain on the funds of developing countries.

Foreign development issues may be the first victims of the financial crisis as government officials focus on domestic issues, especially if there is the predicted slowdown in the economy and a rise in unemployment in North America and Europe.

At a recent funding meeting in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres recognized that the financial crisis would raise challenges for those who have traditionally financed UNHCR programs. “At the same time, I must point out that the resources required to support the 31 million people we care for are very modest indeed when compared to the sums being spent to bring stability to the international financial system. It would be tragic if the funds available to the humanitarian community were to decline at the very time when demands upon us are increasingly so dramatically.”

Yet the decline in governmental aid to the developing world is probably inevitable. Thus an emphasis must be placed on creating a world food policy which draws upon improving local self-reliance while not creating nationalistic policies which harm neighbours. Food is a key aspect of deep structural issues in the world society and thus must be seen in a wholistic framework.

Jean Ping, the chairman of the African Union Commission noted recently that “The sharp increase in basic food prices has had a particularly negative effect on African countries. In the medium and long term, the Commission proposes measures to regulate speculation, the sharing of public cereal stocks, strengthening the financing of imports and reliable food aid, promoting investment in social protection and increased investment to boost agricultural production.” The African Union has 53 state-members with some 750 million people, over half of which are in what is now called “the bottom billion” — people living on $1.25 a day or less. While there is something artificial in poverty lines based on buying-power, such poverty statistics give an indication of the challenges faced.

While constant improvements in technology, mechanization, plant breeding and farm chemicals have steadily increased food production per acre in much of the world, African food production per acre has stagnated, and in some areas has gone down. Likewise, the portion of development assistance in Africa dedicated to agriculture has declined from 15 per cent in the 1980s to 4 per cent in 2006.

Thus the first need in Africa is to develop the local economies: Currently, poverty, lack of adapted technology, population pressure on ecologically fragile areas, a growth of urban slums due to rapid rural to urban migration is the lot of many Sub-Saharan African countries.

Increased action to improve rural life needs to be taken quickly. As the recent UN-sponsored Millennium Ecosystem Assessment notes “Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystem to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. It is becoming ever more apparent that human society has a rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to alter its path.”

As citizens of the world, we are conscious that radical measures are needed to deal with the current world food crisis and that these measures will have to be taken in a wholistic way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer to the national level with new government policies to measures at the multi-State regional level such as the European Union and the African Union and at the world level with better coordinated actions through the United Nations system.

Today, cooperation is needed among the UN family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the millions of food producers to respond to the food crisis which has already led to destabilizing food riots. There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition dude to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence. Such short-term action requires additional funding for the UN World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks. However, it is the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention. The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action.

The aim of world food security was set out clearly at the World Food Conference in November 1974 that “no child will go hungry, no family will fear for its next day’s bread, and no human being’s future and capacity will be stunted by malnutrition.” The goal of food security is not an abstract government policy but it must be put into practice in the lives of the individual and the family.

Thus, today, civil society must take the lead in developing a world food policy whose focus is the nearly 7 billion people who live on earth. It is as consciousness grows that we are all citizens of the world that this food policy can be put into place.

Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens


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