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René Wadlow

Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Editor of "Transnational Perspectives"
Elected Delegate at the Peoples Congress

A Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone

The current conflicts in Syria and their impact on neighbouring States have drawn world attention to the need to create a stable security system within the wider Middle East.

A Nuclear-weapon Free Zone or more largely a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone so as to include chemical weapons has become an important policy issue.

The States of Central Asia have in 2006 created the most recent Nuclear-weapon Free Zone through the Treaty of Semipalatinsk. Thus government representatives and members of Non-governmental Organizations, from their experience in building momentum for this treaty, should encourage the governments and people of the wider Middle East to take similar bold and constructive measures.

I take pleasure in sending you my article on the creation of a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone and hope that you will share it widely.

With best wishes, Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

A Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone

All we have learned of psychotherapy suggests that it is at the precise time when the individual feels as if his whole life is crashing down around him that he is most likely to achieve an inner reorganization constituting a quantum leap in his growth towards maturity. Our belief is that it is precisely when society’s future seems so beleaguered — when its problems seem almost staggering in complexity, when so many individuals seem alienated, and so many values seem to have deteriorated — that is most likely to achieve a metamorphosis in society’s growth toward maturity, toward more truly enhancing and fulfilling the human spirit than ever before. Willis Harman

The current conflicts in Syria and their impact on neighbouring States have again drawn world attention to the dangerous situation in the wider Middle East and the possible role of nuclear and chemical weapons.

There has been a yearly resolution in the United Nations General Assembly, a resolution first proposed by Egypt and Iran in 1994, concerning the creation of a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East. The issue has also been raised in each review conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. To date, there has been no visible progress on the issue, but concern over the nuclear-weapon capacity of the Islamic Republic of Iran has made a nuclear-weapon free zone (or a broader Weapons of Mass Destruction-free zone) an important policy issue.

Currently, nuclear weapons are held by the four Great Powers: The USA, Russia, China and India and by two units of an emerging Great Power, the European Union in which two of its 27 members, France and the United Kingdom have nuclear weapons. The Great Powers, by their land mass, large population, and a certain socio-economic dynamism would be Great Powers with or without nuclear weapons.

In addition to the Great Powers, there are three States which I call the Existential Nuclear Powers. These States’ existence is relatively recent, the result of the Second World War, the end of European colonialism, and the end of the League of Nations Mandate system: North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel.

Pakistan and to a larger extent Israel are directly concerned by a Nuclear-weapon Free Zone in the Middle East. Tensions between Israel and Iran, into which the United States has also been drawn, make concerted efforts to establish good faith negotiations an important policy issue. Non-governmental organizations have an important role to play to help create the atmosphere in which such negotiations can be carried out.

The situation of Israel among the three Existential Nuclear-weapon States — Israel, North Korea and Pakistan — may be considered exceptional because the very existence of the State has been under constant threat since its foundation. Its small land mass, and relatively small population but with a high density make nuclear-weapon deterrence a key element of Israeli military policy. However, the Middle East as an area is one prone to blundering into disaster, often helped by States outside the Middle East.

The hazards of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East has existed since Israel developed its ‘bomb in the basement’ and was widely discussed in the early 1980s after the Israeli forces destroyed the French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad in June 1981. (1) Nevertheless, during the 62 years since the creation of the State of Israel, there have been proposals for “common security” in the Middle East which would require real steps toward nuclear and conventional disarmament, economic and social development, and active conflict resolution, especially the future of the Palestinians. True security requires economic prosperity and justice, a vibrant social and cultural life, the affirmation of human rights and ecological integrity.

The Middle East is far from these conditions, and negotiations even on small improvements seem unlikely. As Jeffrey Helsing points out “Even with the end of the Cold War, many of the same problems have continued in the region or have actually gotten worse. Despite the turnover of a few leaders, little change has occurred politically within most Arab societies and their governmental systems. Religious fundamentalism remains strong within the region, often continuing its broad-based appeal to many disenfranchised or disaffected sectors of society. This reflects a growing divide between the haves and have-nots in society. In addition, the scarcity of natural resources such as water, arable land, and the pressures of high population growth increase the risks of conflict, both within countries and between them. Finally, on top of each of these issues, one must impose the fundamental conflict that still exists between Arab nationalism and Zionism as well as the competing claims for the same land among Palestinians and Israelis.”

One possibility in developing “common security” in the Middle East would be the creation of a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone. Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on Iran and Israel to enter into serious negotiations to create a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East saying “This is the last chance to build security in the Middle East based on trust and cooperation and not on the possession of nuclear weapons. A peace agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours must be reached in parallel with a security agreement in the region based on ridding the area of all weapons of mass destruction.”

The idea of nuclear-weapon free zones has been an important concept in disarmament and regional conflict reduction efforts. A nuclear-weapon free zone was first suggested by the Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki at the United Nations General Assembly in October 1957 — just a year after the crushing of the uprising in Hungary. The crushing of the Hungarian revolt by Soviet troops and the unrest among Polish workers at the same time showed that the East-West equilibrium in Central Europe was unstable with both the Soviet Union and the USA in possession of nuclear weapons, and perhaps a willingness to use them if the political situation became radically unstable. The Rapacki Plan, as it became known, called for the denuclearization of East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The Plan went through several variants which included its extension to cover the reduction of armed forces and armaments, and as a preliminary step, a freeze on nuclear weapons in the area. The Rapacki Plan was opposed by the NATO powers, in part because it recognized the legitimacy of the East German State. It was not until 1970 and the start of what became the 1975 Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that serious negotiations on troop levels and weapons in Europe began. While the Rapacki Plan never led to negotiations on nuclear-weapon policies in Europe, it had the merit of re-starting East-West discussions which were then at a dead point after the Hungarian uprising.

The first nuclear-weapon free zone to be negotiated — the Treaty of Tlatelolco — was a direct aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. It is hard to know how close to a nuclear exchange between the USA and the USSR was the Cuban missile crisis. It was close enough so that Latin American leaders were moved to action. While Latin America was not an area in which military confrontation was as stark as in Europe, the Cuban missile crisis was a warning that you did not need to have standing armies facing each other for there to be danger.

Mexico under the leadership of Ambassador Alfonso Garcia-Robles at the UN began immediately to call for a denuclearization of Latin America. There were a series of conferences, and in February 1967 the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America was signed at Tlatelolco, Mexico. For a major arms control treaty, the Tlatelolco was negotiated in a short time, due partly to the fear inspired by the Cuban missile crisis but especially to the energy and persistence of Garcia-Robles and the expert advice of William Epstein, then the U.N.’s Director of Disarmament Affairs. The Treaty established a permanent and effective system of control which contains a number of novel and pioneering elements as well as a body to supervise the Treaty.

On 8 September 2006, the five States of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan — signed a treaty, the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, establishing a nuclear-weapon free zone. The treaty aims at reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation and nuclear-armed terrorism. The treaty bans the production, acquisition, deployment of nuclear weapons and their components as well as nuclear explosives. Importantly, the treaty bans the hosing or transport of nuclear weapons as both Russia and the USA have established military airbases in Central Asia where nuclear weapons could have been placed in times of crisis in Asia.

It is an unfortunate aspect of world politics that constructive, institution-building action is usually undertaken only because of a crisis. The growing pressure building in the Middle East could lead to concerted leadership for a Middle East nuclear-weapon free zone. The IAEA has the technical knowledge for putting such a zone in place. (2) Now there needs to be leadership from within the Middle East States as well as broader international encouragement. .

René Wadlow

(1) Shai Feldman.Israeli Nuclear Deterrence: A Strategy for the 1980s (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982)
Louis Rene Beres (Ed). Security or Armageddon (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1985)
Roger Pajak. Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East (Washington, DC: The National Defense University, 1982)

(2) Michael Hamel-Green Regional Initiatives on Nuclear-and WMD-Free Zones (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2005)

For a recent analysis see Gawdat Bahgat Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2008, 212pp.)

Rene Dumont: World Citizen

See : dumont-an.htm

Syrian Stalemate: Late in the Day: Are Negotiations Still Possible?

The United Nations-League of Arab States mediator in the Syrian conflict Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian Foreign Minister, in his late September report to the UN Security Council spoke of a “Syrian stalemate” in which neither the government not the opposition forces can defeat the other. At the same time in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, the chairman of the Council’s inquiry commission on human rights in Syria, Paulo S. Pinheiro highlighted the increased escalation in fighting and stated that both the government and the anti-government forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. He went on to add that the escalating conflict in which civilians bear the brunt of the killed and wounded now has an increasing presence of “foreign elements”. Some have joined anti-government forces and some operate independently. Pinheiro, who has long experience in UN human rights efforts, went on to add that such foreign elements “tend to push anti-government fighters toward more radical positions.”

Pinheiro, using up-to-date reports from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, highlighted the refugee flow to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and the destabilizing impact that the refugees may have on these countries, especially a growth of sectarian ethnic and religious tensions. In addition to refugees who cross State frontiers, there are a large number of internally displaced persons within Syria.

Arms are flowing into the country both for the government and for the armed oppositions. Foreign countries are increasingly involved, each motivated by its own views of its national interests. There is increasing talk of foreign intervention on the Libyan example or the creation of a “no-flight zone” as had been used for the Kurdish area of Iraq. Turkey is increasingly concerned with the possible impact of Kurdish areas of Syria on the Kurdish activities in Turkey and a revival of demands for an independent Kurdish State. There is also the issue of foreign fighters taking control of towns on the Turkish-Syrian frontier.

With the stalemated situation in Syria, the issue of the possibility of good faith negotiations between Bashar al-Assad and members of the Syrian oppositions is crucial. It is certain that issues of greater social, political, and economic participation by more segments of the society could have been discussed at the start of the protests in March 2011 when the protests were then non-violent. However at that time, neither the government nor the different strands of the opposition moved to set an agenda on issues on which negotiations were possible or a realistic timetable for such negotiations.

Has the time for negotiations passed? Is the only realistic possibility a “Yemen option” in which the president leaves the country and a transition coalition is formed? Some representatives of Syria’s political opposition have presented a report The Day After Project: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria to prevent the country from falling into chaos when President Assad leaves power. The Project offers recommendations for writing a new constitution and principles for new institution building. The basis of the proposals is that President Assad leaves power followed by radical changes.

However, there is no evidence that Bashar al-Assad plans to leave or that he can be pushed out. In fact, the Syrian government has placed the blame for the escalation of violence on foreign countries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and hinted that Israel was the mastermind behind the crisis. In such a stalemated situation, can President al-Assad, late in the day, still undertake negotiations with the oppositions that would insure his continued role as President while at the same time undertaking reforms that would permanently modify the socio-political structures of the country in order to give greater role to other social classes, ethnicities, and religious identities than at present? Is it possible to set an agenda of issues to be negotiated between the current government and the oppositions?

The al-Assad government will have to recognize that one-family rule is no longer possible and that its opponents have real grievances. The oppositions need to drop its insistence that there can be no talks until the government resigns and leaves the country. A zero-sum approach will translate into a continuing war.

It is to be hoped that each side may prefer a negotiated settlement rather than the current stalemate of each trying to dominate the other. A start would be to set an agenda of issues to be negotiated between the government and the oppositions. Unfortunately, initiatives for good faith negotiations through the League of Arab States or the United Nations have broken down from lack of trust. Thus, there may be a role for Track II, non-governmental facilitated negotiations, what I have called “world citizen diplomacy.” The dangers of the continuing stalemate are increasingly obvious. Though late in the day, creative efforts of world citizen diplomacy may prepare the way for negotiations in good faith.

René Wadlow

Syria : Late in the Day : Are Negotiations Still Possible ?

2012, July 22
With increasing violence in Syria highlighted by the killing of the Defence elite on 18 July, 2012 and a stalemated UN diplomatic effort, the question of the possibility of good faith negotiations between Bashar al-Assad and members of the Syrian oppositions is crucial. It is certain that issues of greater social, political and economic participation by more segments of the society could have been discussed at the start of the protests, over a year ago, when they were then non-violent. Neither the government nor the different strands of the opposition moved to setting an agenda of issues on which negotiations were possible, or a realistic timetable for such negotiations.

Today, with a large number of people having been killed (there are estimates of some 17,000), refugee flows into neighbouring countries, and displaced persons within Syria, the atmosphere for negotiations on the future structures of society seems negative. Arms are flowing into the country both for the government and for the armed opposition. Foreign countries are increasingly involved, each motivated by its own views of its national interests. Despite an increasing number of meetings among high-level representatives of these foreign governments, a clear policy on issues for negotiations has not emerged.

Has the time for negotiations passed? Is the only realistic possibility a “Yemen option” in which the president leaves and a transition coalition is formed? Can President Bashar al-Assad, late in the day, still undertake negotiations with the oppositions that would insure his continued role as President while at the same time undertaking reforms that would permanently modify the socio-political structure of the country in order to give greater roles to other social classes, ethnicities, and religious identities than at present?

There has been a certain amount of reflection and research on the concept of “ripeness” in the settlement of armed conflicts. (1) Are there times when it is too early to start collective negotiations and times when it is too late? While the concept of “ripeness” is useful in judging fruit, is it a useful approach to sensing if a conflict is potentially ready for negotiations? There is always on the part of observers a desire to get the parties “to the negotiating table”, but sometimes the rush to negotiations may be counter-productive. An intermediary speaking separately to the parties as well as to the representatives of other states with an interest in the situation can be more productive. Speaking separately to those concerned has been the approach of Kofi Annan, go-between jointly mandated by the United Nations and the League of Arab States. He has discussed with the government of Syria and some of the Syrian opposition groups, with states with a role or a strong position in the conflict such as Russia, China, Iran, and a fairly wide group of countries acting as a collective “Friends of Syria.” Annan has also made suggestions as to the outline of a possible solution, largely on the Yemen conflict model. For the moment, no country-wide negotiations have taken place.

First the League of Arab States and then the United Nations have sent unarmed “observers”. The Arab League ended its observer corps rather quickly saying that it was unable to work effectively in the ongoing violence. The United Nations has said the same thing, and the 300 UN Blue Helmets are not operational as was first envisaged. However they are still continuing their presence based on a 19 July Security Council resolution for at least 30 more days. In fact, largely on their own initiative, they have facilitated localized discussions and helped to reach local and temporary cease-fires. The fact that the UN forces have been able to do so is perhaps a sign that local negotiations rather than at a national level may be possible.

“Ripeness” may also be related to the degree of stalemate and desperation of a solution on the basis of current relations. Each side may prefer a negotiated settlement rather than the current impasse of each trying to dominate the other. A start would be to set an agenda of issues to be negotiated between the government and the oppositions. A wise negotiator should know what to omit from an agenda as well as what to include.

It is not clear to what extent the Syrian government and the oppositions are aware of the dangers of a continuing stalemate or if they are aware, do they really care? A useful next step would be to explore the possibility of setting an agenda of issues that could be the basis of negotiations. The setting of such an agenda may be more productive than the current proposal of creating by mutual agreement a government of transition: issues before new ministers.


(1) See Louis Kriesberg and Stuart Thorson (Eds.) Timing the De-escalation of International Conflicts (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991, 303pp.)


8 June : The Law of the Seize

8 June of each year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the Day of the Law of the Sea. However, as my friend John Logue who had participated with me as non-governmental organization representative in the long negotiations — one year in New York, the next in Geneva — said “It should be called the Law of the Seize.”

What had started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arivid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in August 1980 with a draft convention, a mixed bag of successes and disappointments but which has now been ratified by 162 States.

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of special significance. The greater part of the oceans has been considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership. Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

World Citizen Thor Heyerdahl was one of those who called attention to the dangers of ocean pollution coming to Geneva to speak for world citizens during the Law of the Sea negotiations. The oceans and the seas remind us that the planet and not the State should be our focus. A holistic view of life arises from our interdependence as a species and our dependence on the life system of nature. World citizens have stressed that a balanced, sustainable eco-system will only emerge if our political, economic and ethical policies coincide in building a more stable, a more peaceful, in short, a more human planet.

Thus, if there is to be a qualitative jump in the awareness of the earth as our common home, the rules for the management of the oceans was a real possibility. However, the UN Law of the Sea Conference was first and foremost a political conference with over 160 States participating. From the outset of the Conference, it was agreed that the Convention had to be drafted by consensus in order to create a political and legal system for the oceans accepted to all — to manage what Arivid Pardo had called “the common heritage of mankind.”

During the negotiations, there were groupings that cut across the Cold War divisions of the times, especially within a group called “the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries.” There were also informal groups of persons who acted in a private capacity, a mixture of NGO representatives, legal scholars, and diplomats who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the Conference such as the economic zones, the continental shelf, scientific research, marine pollution and dispute settlement. These propositions were taken seriously by the government negotiators, in part because few diplomats had the technical knowledge needed for making decisions on technical subjects as well as the creation of a new international organization, the Seabed Authority.

However, in practice, government negotiators are more used to working for the “national interest” and in defending the idea of “territory” both on land and on the sea. Boundary-making is a primordial activity. Various theories have been advanced to explain why, many of them derived from our animal ancestors. However ocean boundary problems are more difficult than building a wall on land. Thus as Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia write “The forces of nationalism were too strong to be swayed by Pardo’s appeals to international cooperation and technocratic rationality. Instead the coastal states, developed and developing alike, saw in the newly available ocean areas an unexpected windfall, offering the prospect of a previously unimagined extension of their natural resource base. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interest in global cooperation, setting in motion the processes of establishing vast national enclosures of offshore areas, especially those enclosures consonant with the new exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime. International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.” (1)

Conflicts over national sea boundaries are particularly strong in the Pacific Ocean among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Cambodia with India and Indonesia watching closely. The disputed arise largely because of the claims of territorial waters around small islands claimed as national territory. Most of these islands are not inhabited, but are claimed as the starting point of “territorial waters”.

Originally, the disputes concerned exclusive fishing rights within national territorial zones. Now the issues have become stronger as it is believed that there are oil and natural gas reserves in these areas.

As Krista Wiegand writes concerning China’s dispute with Japan but which is also largely true of China’s policy with the other Asian countries “China’s current strategy to negotiate with Japan over joint development of natural gas and oil resources outside the disputed zone seems to be the most rational strategy it can take in the disputes. Rather than dropping its territorial claim, China continues to maintain its claim for sovereignty, while at the same time benefiting from joint development of natural gas resources. By maintaining the territorial claim, China also sustains its ability to confront Japan through diplomatic and militarized conflict when other disputed issues arise.” (2)

Territorial sea disputes can be heated up or cooled off at will or when other political issues require attention. We are currently in a “heating up” stage. Thus for 8 June in honour of the Law of the Sea we can consider how best to resolve territorial disputes by having a wider view of the common heritage of mankind.


  • 1) Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia .Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Dordrecht: Martinus Nighoff Publishers, 1991, 214pp.)
  • 2) Krista E. Wiegand. Enduring Territorial Disputes (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011, 340pp.)



World Water Day: A Global Focus and Local Action

May your heart be like a lake — with a calm still surface and great depths of kindness.

Since 1993, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 22 March as World Day for Water. Each year one of the UN agencies involved in water issues takes the lead in promoting World Water Day with a specific focus and a theme. For 2012, it is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is the lead agency with a focus on food security and the theme “The World is Thirsty Because We are Hungry.”

From the June 2008 World Food Security Conference at the FAO headquarters in Rome, there has been an emphasis on cooperation among the UN family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations, and the millions of food producers to overcome lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution and situations of violence.

The fluctuation in global agricultural markets is leading to higher food prices and is a threat to world food security. The impact falls heaviest on the poor who spend a high percentage — up to 70 percent — of their income on food. Often, the lack of dietary diversification aggravates the problem, as price increases in one staple cannot easily be compensated by switching to other foods.

Attention must be given to local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention also needs to be given to cultural factors such as the division of labour between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labour and to land-holding patterns.

There is also a need to focus on longer-range and structural issues of which the use — and misuse — of water is very important. Thus the theme of this year’s Water Day linking hunger and thirst. While it is important to develop a world food policy — a theme that world citizens have stressed since the creation of the FAO in 1946, there is also a need for local action in which many individuals, local associations and schools can cooperate. Thus world citizens have proposed a “Adopt a Stream” initiative.

Adopt a Stream

Nearly everyone lives in a river watershed area, and many of us live near a river or a stream. When rain is plentiful, creeks tumble down every slope. When rainfall is scarce, houses and towns cluster around the occasional watercourse or oasis. Farms water crops and livestock from nearby streams. Historically, important cities of economic and cultural life have developed on the edges of rivers. While the protection of larger rivers is a task for central governments and of often multi-State agencies, we as individuals can help restore, protect and enhance a stream at a local level.

By discovering and then monitoring springs and streams that flow near our houses, farms and schools, we can discover the way that water impacts with all life around us, humans, animals, insects and plants. A stream and the vegetation bordering it form one of the richest and most fascinating of wildlife habitats. With some effort and patience, we are rewarded by glimpses into the working of Nature and the relatedness of all aspects of life. The physical forces that shape life in rushing waters are universal and help remind us of the unity of life. Thus, as human populations increase, it is important for us to realize that every drop of water that we use — or waste — is subtracted from our streams and the underground water table.

Streams play vital roles in Nature. They serve as a source of water for nearby plants, wildlife, and aquatic animals. Over time, a stream can shape the landscape. The stream is also part of a larger ecological system. Every drop of rain that falls reminds us that we are part of a universal system that covers the earth’s surface. The Earth is our Common Home. Therefore we must protect it together. We are developing a collective consensus based on solidarity, interdependence and respect for Nature about the quality of life that we want to have as a world society.

The World Citizen initiative “Adopt a Stream” is an effort to create an awareness of the value of each spring and stream, and to understand how our individual and societal actions impact the stream. The costs — and benefits — of the protection of streams is personal as well as communal. We need to live in harmony with the streams and rivers near us. “Adopt a Stream” is doubly educational. We ourselves learn from participating and touch a broader public as well. Projects done with school children can influence and interest their parents.

School projects are especially important as they help students to observe closely, to learn scientific principles, and to understand complex interrelationships with the aquatic environment. The value of a stream project can illustrate relationships and processes as no text book lessons on fishes, animal life cycles, or water quality can do. Information-gathering is the crucial first step. Where does the stream come from and where does it go? What appears to be the stream’s biological and physical limitations? What is the frequency of flooding or drying up?

Thus, as we mark World Water Day, the “Adopt a Stream” initiative gives us also a longer-range focus, the importance of linking the local to the global and the value of learning the wise use of all the resources of Nature.



Syria: To Break the Downward Spiral

It is necessary to consider what role NGOs might now play in Syria – particularly to support the mediation efforts of former UN secretary-general, Koffi Annan – in order to break what seems to be a continual downward spiral, with real dangers of civil war.

Mid-March 2011 in Syria, nonviolent protests and demands for limited reforms began and then were increasingly met by government violence. Discussions on what the United Nations could do to help the Syrian people and to speed up necessary reforms started quickly in both New York and Geneva. The appointment of the former UN secretary-general, Koffi Annan, as a joint UN-League of Arab States moderator at the end of February 2012 is the most recent efforts as we mark this one-year anniversary.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been concerned, some acting directly – such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – others as members of the Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. Other NGOs, both Syrian, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and international have provided information and have proposed mediation.

It is worth while to analyse these efforts, to outline some of the strengths and weaknesses and to consider what role NGOs might play now to break what seems to be a continual downward spiral with real dangers of civil war, as fighting with heavy weapons continues and flows of arms from outside Syria to the opposition seems to be growing.

The protest movement in Syria began with a series of nonviolent actions inspired in part by the changes in Tunisia and Egypt. While there has always been opposition to the Ba’th-led government, the wide use of nonviolent techniques and the outline at least of a nonviolent strategy were new. At first, the government of Bashar al-Asad did not know how to react. There were some unilateral government measures to reduce the social-economic base of the opposition, in particular by granting citizenship to a quarter-million Kurds who had been denied citizenship and who were barred from voting, owning property, going to state schools or getting government jobs. The government had argued that they were not Syrians but Kurdish refugees who had fled from Turkey and Iraq. In fact, many were born in Syria, but the government did not want to add to the largest ethnic minority in Syria – some 15 percent of the country’s 23 million. The government’s hope was to keep the Kurds from joining the opposition and also to show some willingness to deal positively with long-standing demands. Although the Kurds have not been central to the continued opposition, they have not been supporters of the government either.

The Ba’th political movement – whose philosopher founder was Michel ‘Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian – was an effort to be a secular, Pan-Arab revival. ‘Aflaq had been educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and, in the spirit of the European Enlightenment, saw that political independence from France was not enough. There was a need for an Arab rebirth with minds and attitudes radically reshaped – Ba’th meaning rebirth. ‘Aflaq’s nationalism was not based on any supposed purity of an Arab race nor was it narrowly chauvinistic. He defined the shackles of Arab society as tribalism, sectarianism, the oppression of women and the supremacy of landowners. In seeking to break these shackles, he turned to the enlightened face of Europe which educated Arabs admired. The chief ideological rival of the Ba’th was the Muslim Brotherhood with a pan-Islamic focus rather than just pan-Arab.

When Hafiz al-Asad came to power in 1970, while he shared the Ba’th philosophy, he decided to build his support on a sectarian base of minorities: his own Alawite along with Druzes, Isma’ilis and Christians. As a military man who had been part of the 1963 to 1970 Military Committee regime, he took measures to control the military, with minority members given generous allowances of all kinds – duty-free foreign imports, loans, and opportunities to speculate in very lucrative real estate. His son, Bashar, inherited and continued the system – one of the reasons for the devotion of much of the military and security leadership today.

After two weeks of demonstrations in March 2011, governments and UN Secretariat members discussed different possibilities of action against the backdrop of the UN Security Council resolution on Libya and the continued fighting in Libya then.

The representatives of China and Russia who had not blocked the resolution to use “all necessary force” to protect the civilian population in Libya, but who had grown increasingly ill-at-ease with the NATO-led attacks, did not want to open the door to a possible repeat over Syria. Thus, all possibility of action within the Security Council was blocked with the insistence on the part of China and Russia that the situation was an internal affair of Syria and did not pose a danger to regional peace.

Thus, the UN focus moved to Geneva and the UN Human Rights Council, for if events in Syria did not pose a danger to peace in the area, events were an open violation of UN human rights standards. Syria is a party to all the major UN human rights conventions. On Friday, 29th April 2011 a path-making Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council was held. A Special Session is the “highest profile” which the Council can give to a situation. It can be called on short notice, but before a Special Session is held, there are usually intense negotiations among governments. The representatives of non-governmental organizations also have a short time to prepare common positions and statements for a Special Session. Since NGOs speak after the governments, there is usually time for only a few statements prior to voting on the outcome resolutions. However, for this Special Session, government representatives stuck to their time limits, and 16 NGOs were able to speak even if few said anything which had not already been said by governments.

The human rights situation was well set out at the start by the deputy high commissioner for human rights, Ms. Kyung-Wha Kang from Korea:

“Information gathered since mid-March paints a disturbing picture: the widespread use of live fire against protestors; the arrest, detention, and disappearance of demonstrators, human rights defenders, and journalists; the torture and ill-treatment of detainees; the sharp repression of press freedoms and other means of communication; and the attacks against medical personnel, facilities and patients.

“Yet even these deplorable practices have been exceeded over the past week. According to reports, entire towns have been besieged. Tanks have been deployed and shelled densely-populated areas. The delivery of food has been impeded. Access to electricity has been cut. And transportation systems have been shut down. There have been reports of snipers firing on persons attempting to assist the injured or remove dead bodies from public areas.

“We have noted with concern that military and security officers have been among those killed. Still, the preponderance of information emerging from Syria depicts a widespread, persistent and gross disregard for basic human rights by the Syrian military and security forces. Syrian and international human rights organizations have already documented more than 450 killings and around four times that number of injuries…

“Let me conclude by emphasizing the importance of holding perpetrators of serious human rights violations accountable, and in this regard, the urgent need for an independent, impartial, effective and prompt investigation into recent events in Syria. The convening of this Special Session should not only convey to the people of Syria that the international community is aware of their plight and supports their struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms. It should affirm to people everywhere that the Human Rights Council will be resolute in ensuring justice for victims of human rights worldwide.”

As with all serious UN meetings, the decisions have been negotiated before the meeting starts. There was broad agreement that the Human Rights Council would vote the creation of a Working Group for an independent, impartial investigation to be named by the president of the Council after consultation. Such a Working Group has been named but has not been able to enter the country to carry out interviews and other investigations. This had also been the case of the Working Group on the situation in Darfur which was not able to enter Sudan, and Israel did not allow the Working Group chaired by Justice Goldstone to enter Israel. Nevertheless, Working Group fact-finding is an important instrument in UN procedures and can be important in follow-up situations, especially if information is passed on to the International Criminal Court.

On 20th July 2011, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called upon president Bashar al-Asad to organize an immediate inclusive dialogue so as to respond concretely to pressing grievances and longer term concerns of the Syrian people. President Asad himself on 20th June had called for such a national dialogue but presented few specifics as to what topics such a national dialogue would cover or how the participants would be chosen.

With the UN Security Council blocked by the veto of Russia and China and the General Assembly only able to make broad recommendations, the focus on Syria moved to an “all-Arab” approach. The League of Arab States – with a new dynamic secretary-general, Nabil el-Arabi – took up the challenge and created an Observer Mission led by the Sudanese general Mohammed al-Dabi. The League of Arab States with the agreement of the Syrian government sent a 160-member Observer Force with a fact-finding mandate. Its presence could also have served in a peace-making role. The Observer Mission from the start had to work under difficult conditions. Some of the NGO members of the Observer Mission withdrew quickly saying that it was impossible to work objectively under the conditions imposed by the Syrian government and the continuing violence. Shortly afterwards, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States withdrew its observers. The Observer Mission was for practical purposes “dead”

On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I had proposed that the Saudi and Gulf States observers be replaced by Arab-speaking NGO representatives, but the League of Arab States had already decided that nothing could be carried on without Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. General al-Dabi had given up his command of the Observer Mission.

The League of Arab States returned responsibility for Syria to the United Nations. At the same time, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, followed by the Chinese vice foreign minister visited president Asad to sound out alternatives. After discussions, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon named the former secretary-general Koffi Annan as the joint UN-League of Arab States mediator. Koffi Annan is a skilled mediator, but he has few “cards in his hand”.

The situation is increasingly complex with regional and international rivalries and interests. Turkey is worried by the repercussions of instability in Syria for its own stability, especially in the Kurdish areas and a possible flow of refugees to Turkey. Iran has interests and is largely supporting the al-Asad government. There are implications for stability in Iraq, and there is currently an increased flow of arms from Sunni groups in Iraq to the opposition in Syria. Lebanon, which is unstable under the best of conditions, has already seen sparks of Sunni-Alawite tensions there. Saudi Arabia is a regional power and wants to be part of any evolution of the situation. Israel watches closely. Non-Middle East states also have interests: Russia, the USA, France – thus the European Union – and China. All watch and push their interests to the extent possible.

Since NGOs have limited power to influence the decisions of national governments, are there measures which we can take independently? The one NGO with its “foot in the door” is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has an internationally-recognized mandate for the protection of civilians in times of conflict, exchange of prisoners and provision of medical services. ICRC delegates in conflict zones have a good deal of possibility to work for cease-fires and other humanitarian measures. The ICRC can potentially open the way for other humanitarian NGOs to work on the care of refugees, women and children. The ICRC and other humanitarian aid organizations do not usually work on the broader areas of conflict transformation with its political implications, though everyone in the humanitarian field is aware of political and strategic issues.

No conflict transformation organization has a mandate recognized by governments in treaties as has the ICRC. However, most have consultative status with the United Nations. There are conflict transformation organizations which have worked with national government, but none are bound by treaties as is the ICRC. Nevertheless, there may be roles which NGOs can play in the Syrian context.

One is to facilitate a return of the opposition movements to a nonviolent position and ethic with a withdrawal to safe zones of the Free Syrian Army, who are mostly deserters from the regular Syrian Army and security forces. In recent protests in Damascus, some demonstrators carried palm fronds to indicate their peaceful intent. Is it too late to return to a “Palm Revolution”? Can movements move from nonviolence to violence and then return to a nonviolent ethic be credible?

There may be ways in which NGOs can work with the efforts of Koffi Annan. He is well aware of NGOs and humanitarian organizations. There may be ways to cooperate with his mediation efforts. There may also be ways in which NGOs can work independently on conflict transformation efforts. Until now the Syrian government has shown no signs of openness to such NGO activities. However, the situation is evolving rapidly, largely in a negative direction. Thus discussion and contingency planning among NGOs can be useful to see if there are ways that we can help to break the downward spiral.

2012, March 07

8 March :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

8 March is the International Day of Women first proposed by Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911. Zetkin, who had lived some years in Paris and active in women’s movements there was building on the 1889 International Congress for Feminine Works and Institutions held in Paris under the leadership of Ana de Walska. De Walska was part of the circle of young Russian and Polish intellectuals in Paris around Gerard Encausse, a spiritual writer who wrote under the pen name of Papus. For this turn-of-the-century spiritual milieu influenced by Indian and Chinese thought, ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ were related to the Chinese terms of Yin and Yang. Men and women alike have these psychological characteristics. ‘Feminine’ characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive, relational traits, while ‘masculine’ are rational, dominant, assertive, analytical and hierarchical.

As individual persons, men and women alike can achieve a state of wholeness, of balance between the Yin and Yang. However, in practice ‘masculine’ refers to men and ‘feminine’ to women. Thus, some feminists identify the male psyche as the prime cause of the subordination of women around the world. Men are seen as having nearly a genetic coding that leads them to ‘seize’ power, to institutionalize that power through patriarchal societal structures and to buttress the power with masculine values and culture.

One of the best-known symbols of a woman as peacemaker is Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, who 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 or 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.

World Day of Social Justice: The People’s Revolution is On the March

The United Nations General Assembly, on the initiative of Nurbch Jeenbrev, the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the U.N. in New York, has proclaimed 20 February as the “World Day of Social Justice” .The World Day of Social Justice gives us an opportunity to take stock of how we can work together at the local, national and global level on policy and action to achieve the goals set out in the resolution of “solidarity, harmony and equality within and among states.”

As the resolution states “Social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations, and that in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The Preamble to the UN Charter makes social justice one of the chief aims of the organization using the more common expression of that time “social progress”. The Preamble calls for efforts to “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

The US representatives who worked on the draft of the UN Charter were strongly influenced in their views of social progress by the “New Deal” legislation of President Roosevelt and its philosophy as it had been set out by his Vice-President Henry A. Wallace in 1942 when he set out the US war aims. Wallace’s speech was the first time that the war aims of a country were not stated in terms of “national interest” and limited to the demands that had produced the start of the war. Wallace, who had first been the Secretary of Agriculture and who had to deal with the severe depression facing US agriculture, was proposing a world-wide New Deal based on the cooperative action of all of humanity. Wallace said “The people’s revolution is on the march. When the freedom-loving people march — when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to see the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live — when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead…The people are on the march toward ever fuller freedom, toward manifesting here on earth the dignity that is in every human soul.”

The People’s Revolution found its expression in the cry of the Tunisian uprising — Liberty-Work-Dignity. Today in the demands of “Liberty-Work-Dignity” we hear the demands of farmers to own land under sure conditions, to receive a fair price for their crops as well as the right to organize to protect their interests. We hear the crises of industrial and urban workers to be able to organize and to have their work appreciated for its full value. We hear the demands of students and the young for an education that opens minds and prepares for meaningful work.

The people’s revolution is on the march. While the forces of the status quo are still strong and often heavily armed, the energy has shifted from the rulers to the people. The concept of Social Justice has articulated and focused deep demands for liberty, jobs, and dignity.

Some have been surprised – even alarmed – that the people’s revolution in Tunisia and Egypt did not have recognized leaders or an organized political party structure. But the people’s revolution is not that of an elite willing to replace the existing ruling elite. The people’s revolution is a wave of all moving together, with deep currents below the surface. The tide moves with only a few visible waves but the aspirations are collective. No doubt, there will be individualized leadership, and demands will be formulated into political-party platforms, but the collective demands for social justice and dignity is what makes the difference between the people’s revolution and a military coup. This is the true meaning of the World Day of Social Justice.



World Citizens Call For Renewed Efforts to Stop the Trans-Frontier Flow of Small Arms

In a 14 February message addressed to Ambassador Roberto G. Mortan, Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the 2-27 July 2012 UN conference to draft a Global Arms Trade Treaty, Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, welcomed the aims of the Arms Trade Treaty, indicated the long-standing concern of the Association of World Citizens (AWC) for effective control of the sale or transfer of arms, and encouraged speedy efforts in light of the new, dangerous flows of arms from Libya toward Mali and from Iraq toward Syria.

In the message, the AWC welcomed the important aims of such a treaty as outlined in the Chairman’s Draft Paper of 3 March 2010: “ The Arms Trade Treaty will contribute to international and regional peace, security and stability by preventing international transfers of conventional arms that contribute to or facilitate: human suffering, serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, violations of UN Security Council sanctions and arms embargoes and other international obligations, armed conflict, the displacement of people, organized crime, terrorist acts and thereby undermining peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable social and economic development.”

Wadlow recalled the long-standing efforts of AWC for such aims. In an August 2000 Statement to the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the AWC had stressed “that small arms and light weapons are the most frequently used weapons in the majority of armed conflicts. The easy availability, proliferation and hardly regulated diffusion of small arms is directly related to violations of the right to life.

“The accumulation and proliferation of small arms are exacerbated by the fact that there exists very little, if any, regulation of trans-frontier weapons flow. Today, much of the UN system is dealing in one way or another with the consequences of armed conflicts and the recurrent use of small arms. Some of the intractable armed conflicts are those in which there is a recurring cycle of violence, an erosion of political legitimacy, and a loss of economic viability, leading to ethnic violence, crime and terrorism.”

During the 11 years since the AWC Appeal to the Human Rights Sub-Commission, there has been growing attention to small arms flows. We know that ‘small arms’ is the term preferred in international diplomatic circles. However, in fact, such arms are less and less ‘small’. They range from handguns to sophisticated assault weapons.

Governments in the UN have so far only been willing to consider what is called “illicit” small arms trade — trade undertaken by private merchants of death such as Victor Bout, recently deported from Thailand to the USA to stand trial for arms smuggling. This concern with illicit trade has led to the UN General Assembly adopting the UN Protocol against the illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Components and Ammunition, known as the Firearms Protocol for short. The Protocol entered into force in 2005, and some 60 States are party to it at present. It stipulates measures that include the criminalization of the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms and the strengthening of capacities to detect and investigate illicit transfers in the context of organized crime.

However, the Protocol does not cover government to government sale of arms, which, in fact, is the bulk of arms sales and transfers. The great majority of small arms are transferred legally before they are diverted to unauthorized groups.

The Association of World Citizens message cited two current examples of arms first sold on a government to government basis and that are now being used in civil conflicts: the flow of arms from Libya toward Mali and the Tuareg rebels there and the flow of US arms first sent to arm the newly created Iraqi Army and Police which are now being sent to opposition forces in Syria.

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens calls upon the Preparatory Committee, meeting in New York from 13 to 17 February, to set in motion the preparation of a much more comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty which covers government to government sales and transfers of arms and munitions. Such a treaty should spell out clearly that arms transfers must not occur when there is a real risk that such arms can be used in local conflicts to kill civilians and to commit human rights abuses.



Economic Sanctions: Balancing Principles, National Interests and the Advancement of World Law

The ongoing UN Security Council discussions concerning sanctions against Syria and greater US and European Union sanctions against Iran have brought to the fore the justice, aims and effectiveness of economic sanctions and the prohibition of arms sales to countries in conflict. These are issues of import ance, and my aim is to call attention to the issues and some of the policy-making implications. I have no specific answers beyond the belief that sanctions could lead to good-faith negotiations while military intervention will not. The theory of economic sanctions is far from being sufficiently sophisticated at present to explain the complex behaviour of the States that impose sanctions and those that are the target.

As David Cortright and George Lopez point out in the book they edited on sanctions

“Our knowledge of the imposition, maintenance, effectiveness, and context of sanctions use lags far behind the needs of policymakers. It comes as no surprise then that academic and policy discussions are dominated by stock phrases — ‘sanctions are blunt instruments’, ‘sanctions are a response to domestic pressure to do something’, ‘sanctions are halfway measures’, and more recently ‘sanctions harm the wrong people ‘ — that do little to clarify the utility of sanctions use in particular circumstances.” (1)

The issue of international sanctions and the prohibition of arms sales are not new issues. They were hotly debated within the League of Nations at the time of the 1931 Manchurian crisis when the League took no action and in 1936 when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. Debates at the national level, especially in France and England concerning the arms boycott to Republican Spain were particularly strong as the Spanish civil war divided opinions (2)

In a now largely forgotten book Sanctions Begone! A Plea and a Plan for the Reform of the League (1936), General H. Rowan-Robinson recommended the amendment of the League Covenant by the elimination of Article XIV which provided for the use of sanctions. He made no other recommendations for substantial change in the functioning of the League other than to advise States to follow US neutrality legislation which gave legal justification for doing nothing.

The percentage of hypocrisy, national interest, and the wider concern for peace in these League-period cases remains open. There were people of good will and intelligence who were divided on the better option to follow. However among policymakers, there is often ‘historical amnesia’, and past experiences are not analysed in detail.

Thus, the first issue to consider is the goal. The second is the methods, and the third is the consequences of sanctions.

The setting of goals is both the most difficult and often the least publicly defended issue. Sanctions have been largely ineffective in bringing about a change in government leadership. Fidel Castro stayed on until only old age and health conditions made him pass on the leadership to his brother. Years of sanctions on Iraq did not lead to ‘regime change’, only a military invasion did. The possibility of sanctions to change specific policies and practices is uneven, as many changes might have come from internal dynamics rather than external sanctions — South Africa being a text case of the respective weight of economic sanctions and internal evolution.

Thus most discussion concerns means. Generally, the theory of sanctions postulates that within the target State, there” is a linkage between economic deprivation and political change. The assumption is that there is a link between economic deprivation, behaviour modification and political disintegration. Threatening people’s incomes is as effective as threatening their lives. However, one also needs to consider the social, cultural, and psychological characteristics of the target population. Moreover, the whole population is rarely in a political decision-making position. Therefore, there is increasing discussion of the effectiveness of ‘smart sanctions’ — sanctions narrowly directed toward responsible elites in the target country, such as freezing foreign assets, limiting travel and prohibiting foreign financial transactions.

A discussion on ‘smart sanctions’ has led to a concern with the consequences of sanctions. In 1995, the then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali proposed the creation within the UN secretariat of a sanctions monitoring group to assess the potential impact of sanctions before they are imposed, to monitor the implementation and to measure their effects so they can be fine tuned to maximize political impact and minimize collateral damage.(3). Although a separate sanctions monitoring section was not created, these concerns became widely shared by secretariat members. (3).

While at present UN-mandated sanctions against Syria are unlikely due to Russian and Chinese opposition, the use, abuse and limits of sanctions and arms boycotts merit close attention.


  • (1) David Cortright and George Lopez (Eds) Economic Sanctions: Panacea or Peacebuilding in a Post-Cold War World? (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995, 231pp.)
  • (2) For a good overview of the sanctions debates especially during the League of Nations period see M.S. Daoudi and M.S. Dajani Economic Sanctions: Ideals and Experiences (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 263pp.)
  • (3) Supplement to an Agenda for peace. Position Paper of the Secretary General on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations, 1995.


World Citizens call for urgent action to end human trafficking — a modern-day slave trade.

January 11 was in some countries a “National Day of Awareness on Human Trafficking”. While ‘awareness’ is always a first step, it is action that is needed as was underlined by the Association of World Citizens in a message to the Chairman of the UN Human Rights Council. The recent increase in the scope, intensity and sophistication of trafficking of human beings around the world threatens the safety of citizens everywhere and hinders countries in their social, economic, and cultural development.

The smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of human beings for prostitution and slave labor have become two of the fastest growing worldwide problems of recent years. From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities — especially women and girls — are attracted by the prospects of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress or factory worker. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues, casual acquaintances, and even family members.

However, trafficking in human beings is not confined to the “sex industry”. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops and men to work in the “three Ds jobs” — dirty, difficult, and dangerous. The lack of economic, political and social structures providing women with equal job opportunities has also contributed to the feminization of poverty, which in turn has given rise to the feminization of migration, as women leave their homes to look for viable economic solutions. In addition, political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflicts and natural catastrophes increase women’s vulnerability and can contribute to the development of trafficking.

Trafficking impacts the lives of millions of people — those trafficked and their family members — especially from poorer countries or the poor sections of countries. Trafficking of persons has become a multi-billion dollar business and ranks right after the trade in drugs and guns. Trafficking is often an activity of organized crime. In some cases, it is the same organization which deals in drugs, guns and people. In other cases, there is a “division of labor”, but the groups are usually in contact.

Thus drugs, guns, illegal immigration — these form a nightmare vision of the dark side of globalization with untold human costs. Human trafficking affects women, men and children in their deepest being. It strikes at what is most precious in them: their dignity and their value as individuals. Trafficked persons experience painful and traumatizing situations which can be with them for the rest of their lives. From recruitment to exploitation, they lose their identity and desperately struggle against a situation that reduces them to objects.

The Association of World Citizens stresses that the fight against human trafficking must be waged in a global and multidimensional way by the United Nations, regional intergovernmental organizations, by national governments and by non-governmental organizations so that countries of origin, transit and destination develop cooperative strategies and practical action against trade in human beings. One of the foundations of cooperation is mutual trust. When mutual trust is established, cooperation becomes a natural way to act.

As trafficking in people is more often tolerated by the law enforcement agencies than drugs or guns, there has been a shift of criminal organizations toward trafficking in people. 116 governments have signed a UN-promoted 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking, Especially Women and Children which entered into force in December 2003. However, trafficking in persons is often not a priority for national governments. Some countries which are important links in the trade of persons such as India, Pakistan, and Japan have not yet signed.

.For many governments, trafficking is considered a question of illegal migration, and there is relatively little (in some cases no) consideration of the problems of the individual being trafficked. Human concern for those caught in the web is a prime contribution of non-governmental organizations. Concern for physical and mental health is crucial. There is also an obvious need to deal with the issues which have created these pools of people from which traffickers can draw. The large number of refugees from Iraq — over two million in Jordan and Syria — await better political and economic conditions in Iraq so they can return home.

Thus, one of the aspects of trafficking in which non-governmental organizations can play a crucial role is the psychological healing of the victims. Unfortunately, the victim’s psychological health is often ignored by governments. Victims often suffer a strong psychological shock that disrupts their psychological integrity. The result is a lack of self-esteem after having experienced such traumatizing events.

Within the Association of World Citizens we must not underestimate the difficulties and dangers which exist in the struggle against trafficking in persons nor the hard efforts which are needed for the psychological healing of victims. However, as World Citizens, we have the opportunity of dealing with a crucial world issue.

René Wadlow

The Growing UN Role of UN-Consultative-Status NGOs

There is growing interest in the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the United Nations system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets(Ed.) The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the UN System (London: Hurst, 1996), T. Princen and M. Finger (Eds) Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Global and the Local (London: Routledge, 1994), M.Rech and K. Sikkink Activists Without Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Rob Reinalda (Eds) Non-State Actors in International Relations (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001) and William De Mars NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).

There has always been something of a problem in defining institutions in a negative way. NGOs are not governments and are not usually directly created by governments. The term “transnational advocacy network” would be a better analytical term, but NGO is likely to be widely used. As William De Mars points out “Currently, the NGO bloom has three dimensions. First, NGOs are proliferating quantitatively in establishing issue-areas, including human rights, grassroots development, humanitarian relief, environmental protection, feminism, population control, conflict resolution and prevention, and democratization. Second, the increase in NGO numbers is a global phenomenon affecting all regions, even Asia and the Middle East where governments have maintained relatively tight control over civil society for decades. Third, NGO are also proliferating qualitatively, by taking the initiative to create new issues where hitherto they have excerted limited influence. The NGO bloom, in all its dimensions, constitutes a problem for government policymakers everywhere, because the very presence of NGOs alters the context for government policy.”

It is a matter of historical record that had it not been for the lobbying of NGOs in San Francisco in June 1945, the Commission on Human Rights would never have been established. At the San Francisco Conference drafting the UN Charter, representatives from 42 NGOs pressed for the inclusion of human rights provisions in the Charter and for the establishment of a commission on human rights. From the beginning, the NGOs have been the life-blood of the Commission.

As one of the failings of the League of Nations had been the lack of public support and understanding of the functioning of the League, some of the UN Charter drafters felt that a role should be given to NGOs. At the start, both governments and UN Secretariat saw NGOs as an information avenue — telling NGO members what the governments and the UN was doing and building support for their actions. However, once NGOs had a foot in the door, the NGOs worked to have a two-way avenue — also telling governments and the Secretariat what NGO members thought and what policies should be carried out at the UN. Governments were none too happy with this two-way avenue idea and tried to limit the UN bodies with which NGOs could ‘consult’. There was no direct relationship with the General Assembly or the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which has potentially an important role to play but in practice has never been the center of economic or social policy, was the body to which “consultative-status NGOs” were related.

However, what in practice gives NGOs their influence is not what an individual NGO can do alone but what they can do collectively. ‘Networking’ and especially transnational networking is the key method of progress. NGOs make networks which facilitate the transnational movement of norms, resources, political responsibility, and information. NGO networks tend to be informal, non-binding, temporary, and highly personalized.

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

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

NGO representatives have little political power — that is, a permanent ability to influence policy outcomes, but on specific issues where they have expert knowledge, they can have a real impact — though impact is always difficult to measure objectively since only government delegates can vote.

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

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

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

It is difficult for new actors to enter the UN field or to be an item on the agenda of a UN body. Therefore, it is necessary for a campaign to work with NGO representatives who are already known in the UN milieu and who are trusted by government diplomats and the UN Secretariat. Such NGO representatives can serve as mediators between the new advocacy coalitions and policy makers.

There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the UN levels at the same time. Advocacy movements need to be able to contact key decision-makers in national parliaments, government administrations and intergovernmental secretariats. Such mobilization is difficult, and for each ‘success story’ there are many failed efforts. The rise of UN consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. Some government diplomats are increasingly aware of this growing influence, and a few have tried to counter this impact by raising complaints against NGOs within the UN Committee on NGOs (which has only government members). However, NGOs and government diplomats at the UN are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.

René Wadlow

Ban on Cluster Weapons Upheld: World Law Significantly Strengthened

World Citizens welcomed the upholding of the total ban on cluster weapons as a significant step in the development of world law. In a 28 November 2011 message to Dr Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Association of World Citizens (AWC) welcomed the strong leadership of the ICRC to prevent a weakening of the international treaty imposing a comprehensive ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and sale of cluster munitions. The treaty, often called the Oslo Convention as negotiations began in Oslo in February 2007, was reviewed in November 2011 at the United Nations in Geneva as part of the review of 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.

At the review conference, there was a proposition by what I have called “the Outlaw States “— led by the United States with strong support from Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel which have opposed the ban from the start of the 2007 negotiations, to substitute a new treaty on the same topic but much weaker.

As I have maintained for the Association of World Citizens, for world law to be effective, it must be clear and have broad popular support. If there were two international treaties dealing with the same subject but having different provisions, there would be confusion as to which treaty was applicable especially if both treaties were signed by the same State. Thus having both a more comprehensive and a less comprehensive treaty on the same issue would be a dangerous precedent.

Fortunately, the ICRC with its long history of upholding respect for international humanitarian law led the opposition to the “Outlaw States” with the strong support of a coalition of non-governmental organizations. There was also strong opposition to the weak draft treaty from those States which have taken a le ad on the cluster weapon ban such as Norway and Ireland. More unusual was the outspoken opposition given by UN agencies, especially those dealing with human rights and development issues. Usually, UN agencies stay in the background during governmental negotiations. Since all States are part of the UN system, the Secretariat cannot be seen as favoring one group of States over another.

In this situation, however, the narrow interests of the “Outlaws” to continue selling and using cluster weapons was so obvious and so weakening to the foundations of world law that the UN agencies had to speak out publicly.

Fortunately, the “Outlaws” had no intellectual arguments for their proposition. They were able to twist a few arms and push States to abstain. Nevertheless, an ad hoc coalition of some 50 States from all world regions was able to push back and thus prevent, what we must hope, is the last gasp from the “Outlaws” to promote the use of weapons broadly recognized as causing unacceptable harm to civilians and having lasting effects on development for decades after conflicts have ended.

The ban on cluster weapons is an example of a remarkable combination of civil society pressure and leadership from a small number of progressive States. As arms negotiations go, the cluster bomb ban has been swift.(1) They began in Oslo, Norway, in February 2007. 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 the cluster bomb density there is higher than in Kosovo and Iraq, especially in built up areas, posing a constant threat to hundreds of thousands of persons, as well as to UN peacekeepers. 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.

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 farmlands 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.

Now the ban on cluster munitions has become a part of recognized world law as it has been agreed to by the vast majority of UN members and a concerted effort to weaken the treaty led by militarily powerful States has failed. It would be useful for the “Outlaws” to drop their addiction to cluster bombs and to join the treaty as an important sign of respect for international agreements. However, the ban is now part of world law even if the “Outlaws” refuse to sign. As world citizens, we need to keep up the pressure and to show wide popular respect for World Law.

(1)For a good account of the negotiations, see John Borrie Unacceptable Harm: A History of How the Treaty to Ban Cluster Munitions Was Won (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2009)

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011): His Revolt is an Attempt to Live Within the Truth

He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic, who moved to another dimension on 18 December 2011, had analysed that “There are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born.

It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, arises from the rubble.

The distinguishing features of transitional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures and a plurality of intellectual and spiritual worlds. These are periods when all consistent value systems collapse, when cultures distant in time and space are discovered or rediscovered. New meaning is gradually born from the encounter, or the intersection, of many different elements…Politicians are rightly worried by the problems of finding the key to ensure the survival of a civilization that is global and multicultural: how respected mechanisms of peaceful coexistence can be set up and on what principles they are to be established.” Vaclav Havel goes on to suggest the principles: “All my observations and all my experience have, with remarkable consistency, convinced me that, if today’s planetary civilization has any hope of survival, that hope lies chiefly in what we understand as the human spirit.”

It is only during rare periods such as ours of the transition of historical eras, that we observe the merging of philosophy and politics. Such a period requires action based on the intellectual resources of philosophical and spiritual thought.

Havel, who had to live many years under a repressive government, was well aware of the need for non-violent, spiritually-motivated revolt. As he wrote in an important essay concerning the role of opposition in a repressive society, “Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past; it falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to prevent nothing.”

In such a situation, a revolt is first of all an effort to live within the truth. “When I speak of living within the truth, I naturally do not have in mind only products of conceptual thought, such as a protest or a letter written by a group of intellectuals. It can be any means by which a person or group revolts against manipulation: anything from a letter by intellectuals to a workers’ strike, from a rock concert to a student demonstration, from refusing to vote in a farcical election to making an open speech at some official congress, or even a hunger strike.”

A revolt based on the human spirit must also lead to a positive framework for a planetary society. Today, we are slowly and with difficulty building such a framework for peaceful and creative co-existence. There are still too many doors shut, too many ideas rejected because they do not fit into a culturally-formed mindset. We still see too many violations of the human rights of those who have too little power, influence, or money to have their views taken seriously.

I had first heard Vaclav Havel speak in Prague in October 1990 when he addressed the founding meeting of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. The Assembly had brought together some 800 people from peace, human rights, ecology, feminist, federalist movements, many of whom had been active in efforts to bridge the East-West Europe divide of the Cold War. This was the first chance for such a large group of activists to meet after the radical changes in Eastern Europe. Havel was both a key actor and the symbol of these changes. Yet his remarks were not turned toward the past but toward the challenges that faced us. He echoed what the Polish writer and activist Adam Michnik had said “The greatest threat to democracy today is no longer communism. The threat grows instead from a combination of chauvinism, xenophobia, populism and authoritarianism, all of them connected with the sense of frustration typical of great social upheavals.”

Seven months later, war broke out in what was to become ex-Yugoslavia and the new civic structures that Havel hoped would be forces for peace and creativity were not able to break the hold of aggressive, narrow nationalism. In fact, since 1990, after a first fire of hope, civil society throughout Central and Eastern Europe has grown progressively weaker. There are few of the post-Havel generation with as broad a vision or a willingness to act.

I met with Havel when he came to the United Nations in Geneva to speak at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He was always open to the representatives of NGOs. His role as President had not basically changed his nature — a creative intellectual open to the ideas of others (1). In his talk he stressed that there are many treaties and declarations that use the term international, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the only one that uses the term universal — a sign that the writers of the Declaration wanted to include all countries and all individuals. The principal aim of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to create a framework for a world society which needs universal codes based on mutual consent in order to function. It is its universal character which makes it a base for relations among peoples across national and cultural frontiers and a basis for the healing of nations.

I had been active in unsuccessful efforts at mediation in the Yugoslav conflict and was worried at growing national-ethnic tensions in Europe. I think that he shared my concerns but mobilizing trans-frontier civil society was difficult, and civil society groups were not up to the challenges that history presented Yet, he stressed that even in dark periods which he had experienced more than I, we must also see the growth of new institutions preparing for the future — institutions which are open, which break down social divisions, which are sensitive to all voices. It is our task to be aware of the growth of these new forms, to participate in them, to add our energy to theirs, and thus to speed the manifestation of the new era.

(1)For a good overview of his pre-President thinking see Vaclav Havel Open Letters (1965-1990) (London: Faber and Faber, 1991). This collection includes his best-known theoretical statement “The Power of the Powerless”.


Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up. Studs Terkel

The situation in Syria has reached a critical turning point. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that “civil war” could break out among communities in Syria if the conflict continues as it is. There is a possibility that popular protests continue as they have since mid-March and that they continue to be met by military and police violence in violation of the spirit and letter of humanitarian international law. The Syrian army and militias have responded to unarmed nonviolent demonstrations with disproportionate force. Humanitarian international law has as its base the Martens Clause named after the legal advisor of the Russian Czar at the time of the Hague Peace Conferences. The clause is included in the Preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention. It is taken up again in Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949. The Martens Clause states that “the means that can be used to injure an enemy are not unlimited” but must meet the test of ‘proportionality’ meaning that every resort to armed force be limited to what is necessary for meeting military objectives. The shooting of unarmed demonstrators does not meet the test of proportionality.

However, there may be a possibility of negotiations between the government led by President Bashar al-Assad and members of different opposition groups if steps are taken quickly. President Assad, after months of silence during which time demonstrations spread and repression increased on June 20 called for a “national dialog” that was a small sign of a willingness to usher in changes. However, there were few specifics as to what topics such a national dialog would cover.

Many opposition leaders consider the proposal as a bid for more time during which arrests continue and some 3,000 persons have been killed in response to non-violent demonstrations and many arrested. Accusations of torture of prisoners are widespread. Moreover, it is not clear that the leaders of the longstanding but divided leadership of opposition groups are in control of the demonstrators. As in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian demonstrators are young, come from an increasingly educated middle class and are influenced by the spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’ rather than by the ideology of the historic opposition groups.

As a sign that the proposal for a national dialog was real, the government allowed a meeting on June 27 in Damascus of some opposition figures. Those who met stressed that they did not claim to speak for all the demonstrators, and not all open opposition figures attended. In addition there are opposition figures in exile, and those in hiding fearful of arrest. There are also, no doubt, those who are waiting to see which way the wind blows. There are ongoing efforts to structure the opposition into a national council.

Civil society participation — religious, education, labor, women, cultural and media — is crucial to build public support for a real national dialog and to broaden constituencies for peace. A national dialog is merely the beginning of a deep reordering of the political and economic structures and relationships among elements of the society. There is a need for continual adjustments to adapt to new developments. There also needs to be quick post-agreement benefits to give people a stake in the readjustment process and to reduce the capacity of spoilers.

In some conflict situations, external mediators from the UN, national governments or nongovernmental organizations have played a useful role.

Currently, the situation has reached a stalemate when neither the government nor the protesters can resolve the crisis on their own terms. There are few signs that the government is open to external mediators. Efforts for UN action within the Security Council have been blocked by the veto of permanent members. However, both Russia and China, who wish to avoid a justification for a Libya-type intervention, have appealed to President Assad for restraint and compromise. With refugees from Syria going to Turkey and Lebanon there is a real danger that the conflict will take on trans-frontier dimensions. The League of Arab States and other Middle East institutions have encouraged a peaceful settlement, but, as yet, with no visible results; A real national dialog could set out a framework for reforms which have been promised in the past but which never came to birth. As a result, sentiments have hardened, and trust has been lost. With the lack of impact of the UN and governmental efforts, there may be a role for mediation efforts by Non-Governmental Organizations which have no power and thus cannot be accused of advancing national interests. Thus, as external but concerned parties, we should encourage a broadly-based national dialog as a first important step on the road to reform.


16 October - World Food Day - World Citizen Action

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.

Stringfellow Barr Citizens of the World (1952)

A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. Food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a 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 which the United Nations system must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

World Citizens Lord John Boyd Orr as the first Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization and Josué de Castro, who served as the Independent Chairman of the FAO Council, were both leaders in calling attention to world hunger and the need for strong governmental action to provide food security. In 1946, Boyd Orr presented a proposal for a World Food Board which would be endowed with sufficient authority and funds to stabilize the world market in food and deal with food emergencies. He pointed out that several countries were already doing this for the domestic market but that the world market was subject to violent fluctuations. The plan for a world food board was rejected following the lead of the US delegate who said “Governments are unlikely to place large funds needed for financing such a plan in the hands of an international agency over whose operations and price policy they would have little direct control.” When the proposal was turned down by governments, Boyd Orr 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.” (1)

The FAO did encourage governments to develop national food security policies, but the lack of policies at the world level has led to the increasing control of agricultural processes by a small number of private firms driven by the desire to make money. Thus today, three firms —Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta — control about half of the commercial seed market worldwide. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held.

There needs to be detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of commodity prices. There has been a merger of the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade to become the CME Group Market which deals in some 25 agricultural commodities. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages of 2008 are now looking for ways to get money back. For the moment, there is little US government and no international regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains. The word needs a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

There is likewise a need for a serious analysis of the growing practice of buying or renting potential farm land, especially in Africa and South America, by foreign countries, especially China and the Arab Gulf states. While putting new land under cultivation is not a bad policy in itself, we need to look at the impact of this policy on local farmers as well as on world food prices.

There is a need to keep in mind local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labour between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labour and to land-holding patterns.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that an integrated, wholistic approach is needed. The 2008 report The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) stressed that solutions to poverty, hunger and climate change crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping balance the carbon cycle. (2). Such an integrated approach is a fundamental aspect of the world citizen philosophy.


  • 1) For an analysis of Boyd Orr’s proposal see Ross Tabot The Four World Food Agencies in Rome (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990, 188pp.) and the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 342pp.)
  • 2) For the IAASTD see Agriculture at a Crossroads (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2009) in four volumes.

10 October: For Those on the Pay-roll of Death

shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death. I am not on his pay-roll. I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my enemies either Edna St Vincent Millay

10 October is the International Day Against the Death Penalty. Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty with the rather obvious recognition that death is not justice. In some countries, executions have been suspended in practice but laws allowing execution remain; in other cases, there has been a legal abolition.

The death penalty as carried out by the State is still practiced in a small number of backward countries, basically less than 10 of the 192 members of the United Nations. The top five in the number of legal executions in 2009 are China (over 1000, not all are reported so the number is an estimate made by Amnesty International from press reports), Iran (over 388 – again not all may have been reported), Iraq (120), Saudi Arabia (69), the USA (52), then Yemen and Sudan.

In the USA, there have always been people against legal executions. Unfortunately, they are rarely elected to legislatures. The clear words of the American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) have been a credo for those who have opposed executions on moral grounds:

“This is a man
he is a poor creature
you are not to kill him
this is a man
he has a hard time
upon the earth
you are not to kill him.

There are those who also oppose the death penalty on the practical grounds that it has little impact on the rate of killings in society.

However 10 October can also be a day to oppose all organized killings. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, often carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have state-sponsored “death squads” — persons affiliated to the police or intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” — unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision. A shot in the back of the head is faster. The number of “targeted killings” has grown. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed and so death is supposed but not proved. This is what the United Nations calls “enforced or involuntary disappearances.”

There is also a growth in non-governmental targeted killings. Attention has focused recently on the drug-trade-related deaths of Mexico’s “drug lords”. These groups of organized crime have many of the negative attributes of states. Their opponents are designated for killing and executed by those on the pay-roll of death. These groups are not limited to Mexico. In addition, there are a good number of countries where non-governmental guerrilla groups exist and carry out executions.

Thus our efforts against executions need to be addressed both to governments and to those state-like non-governmental armed groups. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps to building a just society.

The “marching orders” for those working for the abolition of executions remains the letter written by B. Vanzetti on the eve of his death to Judge Thayer who had condemned Sacco and Vanzetti, “If it had not been for these things, I might have live out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man as now we do by accident. Our words — our lives — our pains — nothing! The taking of our lives — lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler — all! That last moment belongs to us —that agony is our triumph.”


Palestine UN membership request
Disintegrating European Diplomacy and the Necessary Rise of NGO Mediators

On Friday 23 September 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority formally requested that the UN Security Council grant Palestine full membership as a state. Currently the Palestine Liberation Movement (PLO) has an observer status as an “entity” at the UN from the time that the South African African National Congress, another South African movement, a South West African liberation group and the PLO were given “observer entity” status. With the changes in South Africa and what is now Namibia, the status of the other movements disappeared and only the PLO remains.

The request for an upgrade of status, following UN rules of procedure will be first presented to the Security Council. Nawaf Salan, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN and the current Security Council President said that discussions on the application would start on Monday the 26th. However, it may take several weeks of backroom negotiations before the application is put to a vote. The negotiation process may be speeded up for fear that frustrations on the part of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza lead to violence. The United States has indicated that it will veto the application. For a Security Council accord, there needs to be a positive vote of 9 out of the 15 Council members but no veto. In the case of a veto, the Palestinian Authority can transfer the application to the General Assembly to upgrade the status from “observer entity” to “non-member observer.” It is most likely that the General Assembly would vote positively on this request; the only question is how many states would vote against or abstain.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that there should be a favourable vote on the upgrade to non-member observer state. The only other non-member observer state is the Holy See (often referred to as ‘the Vatican’ after the name of its chief – and only- city). The Holy See has an influential position despite its non-member observer status. Although its diplomatic corps is formed of only Roman Catholics — often clergy — they can be drawn from all countries of the world. They are especially trained in a Vatican-sponsored university in Rome and tend to be specialists in some important issues negotiated at the UN. In the 1960s, when the development of African and other states newly entered to the UN was a key issue, the Vatican delegation to the UN in Geneva had as representatives people who were leading specialists on development issues. Unfortunately, the PLO observers have been of very uneven quality. They have contributed nothing to general discussions, only raising Palestinian issues. Thus, it is always the quality of a diplomat and not the status of a state that counts. This is especially true since from the mid-1960s on, issues are no longer decided by votes but by negotiations to reach a consensus text.

The upgrading of the status of Palestine from an entity to a state would be a positive step. It would permit the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel on a state-to-state basis and would allow Palestine to step out of the shadows of its ‘protector’ Arab states and to speak as an independent state.

It was clear from this June on that the Palestinian Authority would request an upgrading of status. There were discussions in the UN halls in New York and Geneva and, no doubt, in Foreign Ministries. Many efforts were made to convince the Palestinians not to make the application, especially on the part of the USA and certain member states of the European Union (EU). It was repeatedly stated that UN membership could not replace direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The argument was reinforced by the threat of US and/or EU cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority if a membership application were made. However, public threats are always counterproductive.

Both US and EU diplomats were particularly ineffective. Both started late in the day, had nothing other than threats to propose, and underestimated the changes that were going on in the Arab world — the Arab Spring. While the English have a tradition of professional diplomats — often a father-to-son tradition, — the two English non-professional diplomats involved, Baroness Catherine Ashton for the European External Action Service (EEAS) of the EU and Mr Tony Blair as representative of the non-existing Quartet (UN, EU, Russia, USA) are particularly incompetent.

It is not clear that even if the 27 EU members shared the same policy that they would have any impact on Middle East events. As it is, they have different evaluations of the situation and the EEAS is far from being a real diplomatic corps. European diplomacy is disintegrating as fast as the Euro zone is economically.

Likewise the US government, led by President Obama, has destroyed what little standing it had in the Middle East. The US started late to avert a Palestinian application but had nothing to propose, especially not when a US re-election campaign is starting. Russia, that other state member of the non-functioning Quartet, is also involved in presidential elections and so views the Middle East with a distracted eye even if its presidential campaigns are run differently from those in the USA. Although the ‘UN’ is a member of the Quartet, there is no ‘UN’. There are members of the Secretariat who have limited powers of initiative or there are member states. The Quartet has always been a phantom body.

Thus today, we find ourselves in a situation where there are no credible state actors who can serve as mediators. States are discredited by their actions and the incompetence of their representatives. We find ourselves largely in the same position as in 2003 when it became obvious to those who analysed deeply that the much praised 1993 Oslo agreement was going nowhere. Thus, a decade later, on December 1, 2003, in Geneva was presented publicly the “Geneva Initiative”, a ‘Track Two’ initiative facilitated by Alexis Keller, a professor of European political philosophy at the University of Geneva. His father, Pierre Keller, had been vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, thus well aware of the techniques and difficulties of international negotiations. The Kellers’ Alpine chalet was scene of two-weeks of final drafting among a team of Israelis and Palestinians, some of whom had served in government. Because of violence and tensions, the Geneva Initiative had to be drafted in closed sessions so that there could be no public debate during the drafting stage. Once made public, the Geneva Initiative led to an enlightened debate at least for a short time. The Initiative held out the possibility for new and younger leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian society to come to the fore and to help rebuild constituencies for peace within both communities.

However, the Geneva Initiative hit against deadlocks, tired leadership and mutual fears and insecurity. Negotiations returned to being government led. While intellectually, most of the outlines for a ‘two-state solution’ have been set out, there has been little visible progress. Now the governments have played their role by drawing again world-wide attention to the Israel-Palestine issue and to the broader Middle East.

Although President Sarkozy has proposed a new conference of governments, it is not clear that governments can do more than ‘awareness building’. The times call for a rise of NGO mediators, probably a wider coalition than that formed around the Geneva Initiative. However, time is short. We need to watch closely the current negotiations to see which governments at the UN might play a positive role. There may be possibilities for government-NGO peace-builders to work together.

Rene Wadlow,

The Next Earth Summit: Rio Plus 20

The United Nations, its Specialized Agencies and programmes, member governments and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are preparing their policies and evaluations to be discussed at the next Earth Summit to be held in Rio de Janeiro so in June 2012: 20 years after the original 1992 Rio conference that drew up guidelines for ecologically-sound development for the 21st century expressed as Agenda 21. Thus the 2012 conference is popularly called Rio Plus 20.

The conference will have two main themes: sustainable societies and the abolition of poverty. Sustainable societies — what I prefer to call ‘ecologically-sound development’ requires policies and actions at the local, the national, the multi-state region and the world level. We need to find the structures for a common management of the planet to deal with climate change, the erosion of biodiversity, and persistent poverty.

Reducing socio-economic inequalities and poverty constitute an important priority. Without significant progress through ecologically-sound development, countries’ social cohesion and political stability are at stake. It is difficult for people to consider longer-range relations with Nature when peoples’ daily basic needs are not met. The preservation of ecosystems and the satisfaction of the basic needs of all goes hand-in-hand.

The willingness for solidarity among humans and harmony with Nature will nurture a collective capacity for action. The realization of a common world citizenship and a common destiny will give birth to a new sense of individual and collective responsibility — the creation of a new social contract.

Thus Rio Plus 20 will be an occasion for NGOs working with UN agencies to consider the effectiveness of their work and also to consider their relations with organizations working at the local level. Rio Plus 20 can also be an occasion to see how NGOs work with national governments. Is ecologically-sound development a playground for those working on ‘soft’ issues while the real decisions on key questions of trade and finance are taken in closed meetings beyond NGO reach?

NGOs are often seen by government representatives as critics, and the role of critic of poor policies and practices is important. However, increasingly NGOs see themselves not only as ‘critics’ but as ‘co-creators’ who bring analysis, expertise and solutions to policy dialogues. NGOs are a link between local action and global dialogue. NGOs are helping to set public policy agendas — identifying and defining critical issues, and providing policy makers with advice and assistance.

One of the chief tasks of NGOs is to provide the broad framework of values, a framework broader than the ‘national interest’ framework which is the usual decision-making pattern of national governments. Thus World Citizens stress world citizenship as the value framework for individual responsibility and government decision-making. World citizenship provides a sense of responsibility based on an acceptance of the oneness of humanity and a vision of a peaceful, harmonious world society. World citizenship provides the constellation of principles, values, attitudes and behaviours that the people of the world need to embrace if ecologically-sound development is to be realized.

World citizenship stresses the principles of social and economic justice, both within and between states; non-adversarial decision-making at all levels of society; equality of the sexes; racial, ethnic, national and religious harmony; and the willingness to sacrifice for the common good.

Today, we still see too often policies and actions based on antagonism and provincialism leading to disunity. Thus developing the concept of world citizenship is a practical strategy and a pre-requisite for ecologically-sound development policies and practices. This is our task on the ‘road to Rio’.

Rene Wadlow,

World Citizens call for a Thai-Cambodian Peace Zone: From Periodic Flair-ups to Permanent Cooperation.

In a 23 April Appeal to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Rene Wadlow, Senior Vice-President and Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens called for renewed efforts to promote a zone of peace along the Thai-Cambodian frontier where fighting had broken out on Good Friday, 22 April, and was continuing on Saturday the 23rd. “Quick UN action is required to halt these periodic flair-ups and to create a zone of peace that would facilitate permanent cooperation” said the World Citizen Appeal.

The early morning Good Friday fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops took place near the ancient temples of Ta Krabey and Ta Moan Thom some 150 kilometres southwest of the better-known 900 year old Preah Vihear Temple where fighting had broken out in February. There have been repeated clashes around the Preah Vibear Temple, especially after 2008 when UNESCO enshrined Preah Vibear as a World Heritage site for Cambodia over Thai objections. The World Court had in 1962 decided that Preah Vibear was on the Cambodian side of the frontier. However the only roads for easy access to the temple are from Thailand.

The World Citizen proposal for a Thai-Cambodian peace zone is based on a “peace park-condominium zone of peace” between Ecuador and Peru proposed by Professor Johan Galtung at a time of growing military confrontations between the two South American countries and published in his collection of peace proposals: Johan Galtung 50 Years (Transcend University Press, 2008, 263pp.)

The troops of the two countries would disengage and withdraw, and procedures would be established for joint security, patrolling, and early warning of military movements. A code of conduct would be drawn up. Thus the two countries with a history of hostility could use conflict creatively to grow together at the disputed point and at the speed national sentiments would tolerate and demand. Such a zone of peace would be important both for conflict resolution and for protection of the ecology.

The fighting in February had been brought for mediation to a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia which currently holds the rotating chairmanship agreed to send military observers to the frontier area. However, they have not yet been sent, and Thai officials considered them unnecessary.

However, the new round of fighting and the evacuation of the population of villages near the frontier indicate that the situation remains volatile. Joint cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN would be important to create a stable form of third-party mediation. As Rene Wadlow pointed out in the World Citizen Appeal “Buddhist groups in both Thailand and Cambodia have been working for reconciliation based on the common value of compassion. There is a growing role for citizen diplomacy and mediation efforts. The Thai-Cambodian conflict is one in which such citizen diplomacy can play an important role, especially in building up the institutions of a zone of peace with joint centers for Buddhist study and practice as well as increased protection of the fragile environment. However, in light of the increased dangers of renewed fighting, swift action by governments is needed. The UN Security Council is best structured for deciding on the swift action needed”.

Rene Wadlow,

Modernizing the United Nations System: by John E. Trent
Civil Society's Role in Moviing from International Relations to Global Governance (Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2007, 285pp.)

Professor John Trent of the Department of Political Science, University of Ottawa, Canada sets out clearly the framework of this important study of the possible reforms of the United Nations. "Time and again, our international organizations have proven they cannot reform themselves. The reasons are manifold. There is no political will among their members. Due to built-in interests and habits, transformation of human institutions is always long and arduous. Nation-states concentrate on their own national interests. Politicians and diplomats are so busy managing the system that they have little time to think about its reform. Because of a lack of information, most citizens in most countries are unaware of the nature of international institutions and politics, and therefore feel uninvolved and incapable of influencing the global future…The world is strewn with the skeletons of noble ideas for 'perpetual peace' dating from the time of Emmanuel Kant in the 1790s. Everyone has his pet ideas about specific reforms." As the long-time U.N. environmentalist Maurice Strong has said "These reform studies and recommendations have become something of an industry, and the fact that actual reforms have thus far been minimal is not for a lack of ideas but for lack of political will and a sufficient degree of consensus among member governments."

Trent provides a useful section on the main areas of U.N. reform which have been proposed by different study groups starting with the Commission on Global Governance and its 1995 report Our Global Neighbourhood as well as many more recent studies. Websites are given for each study so that the specific recommendations may be analysed. As Trent says of this list "The above table provides a good sample of the efforts to reform and innovate the international institutional framework, but it does not include the many individual scholars, activists and practitioners who contribute to the growing reform movement. It is useful to note that some prominent individuals have dedicated a lot of energy to the reform agenda, either through scholarly contributions or advocacy."

The book begins with an analysis of the reforms carried out and proposed by the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan whom Trent calls 'the Reforming Secretary-General'. As Kofi Annan said in his 2003 Report to the General Assembly "We can no longer take for granted that our multilateral institutions are strong enough to cope with all the challenges facing them. I suggest in my conclusions that some of the institutions may be in need of radical reform."

Kofi Annan was the only U.N. Secretary-General to have spent his whole career within the U.N. system, first in Geneva and later in New York. He knew well what changes he could make on his own authority as Secretary-General and those changes for which he would need larger intellectual consensus which he tried to develop with the creation of High Level Panels of largely retired government leaders and diplomats such as the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and a High Level Panel on Civil Society. Lastly, there were the reforms that required a vote of governments within the General Assembly such as the transformation of the Commission on Human Rights which was a sub-body of the Economic and Social Council into the Human Rights Council so that it now ranks on the official U.N. structure chart at the same level as the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. By writing new rules of procedure for the Human Rights Council, the governments were able to destroy all the advances that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had made over the years in the Commission on Human Rights and that NGOs were able to justify by precedent. "If it is done once, we want to be able to continue doing it."

Government representatives exist to limit the scope and actions of the representatives of NGOs, and I fear that any U.N. "reforms" will find ways to push NGO representatives even further into the shadows. I believe that advances will come also by precedent-making decisions such as the current use of force by U.N. troops in the Ivory Coast. If there, why not in the Democratic Republic of Congo? If there were a U.N. commission set up to consider the use of force by U.N. troops, there would be no decision that would permit U.N. helicopters to fire on troops guarding Laurent Gbagbo's house. Very little came from the proposals for reform that arose from the High Level Panels, and they had little impact on the policy of NGOs. If governments have no desire for structural reforms (other than to weaken NGOs which they can do in other ways), to whom can we turn to transform our international institutions? Trent replies "Only one group has the competence and resources to influence government and public opinion both at the national and international levels. This immense group is composed of the large transnational associations and the rest of civil society. They have demonstrated that they have the capabilities, the specialized knowledge, and the altruistic reputation to lead governments and the public on the long complex journey to global transformation. They have the potential but not yet the organizational will and muscle to do the task. But it is not just its new structural presence on the international scene that presupposes a transformational role for civil society. History shows us that it was leading citizens and groups, not governments, who were primarily responsible for the origin and evolution of international organizations. Governments react to threats and opportunities. Civil society entrepreneurs act on foresight and principle … Not only have international non-governmental organizations become legitimate, recognized international actors, but the current confluence of the global system opens up opportunities for influence at the multiple locales and levels of global governance (defined as various forms of diverse and overlapping authorities in the world that have legitimacy in their field of endeavour so that their decisions are accepted and carried out.) Will civil society entrepreneurs seize the opportunity? Will they mobilize public opinion to oppose international domination by the few and seek more representative global institutions and governance?"

As Sidney Tarrow points out in his The New Transnational Activism (2005) " Even as they make transnational claims, these activists draw on the resources, networks, and opportunities of the societies in which they live. Their most interesting characteristics is how they connect the local and the global. In today's world we can no longer draw a sharp line between domestic and international politics…Acting collectively requires activists to marshal resources, become aware and seize opportunities, frame their demands in ways that enable them to join with others, and identify common targets." Tarrow stresses the importance of what he calls 'campaign coalitions' which may be the wave of the transnational future. " Their focus on a specific policy issue, their minimal institutionalization, their capacity to shift venues in response to changing opportunities and threats, and their ability to make short-term tactical alliances according to the current focus on interest."

Trent adds that "In such a sprawling world the advantage goes to those who can organize widespread networks. Leadership has fallen to international non-governmental organizations that have the knowledge, time and money to experiment and the latitude to operate outside the interests of single countries and to develop long-term strategies. The power base of these global associations and more generally of civil society is their specialized information, technical expertise, telecommunications, networks and relative ease of public participation and access."

Yet as Maurice Strong has pointed out "Civil society is therefore much more diverse and fragmented than governments and international organizations. This is, of course, one of its virtues, but it leads to difficulty in providing for the participation of civil society in the official processes of governance. Many civil society groups and organizations hold common positions on particular issues, but it is seldom feasible for them to present a united front. Sometimes the very number of small and fragmented organizations inhibits agreement on common positions."

As Trent concludes "It is probably true that the world needs far-sighted visionaries who can set the agenda for the future. But we also need to find a way to bring the various sorts of reformers together so that differences can be debated and perhaps overcome, and effective paths to the future elaborated."

Rene Wadlow,

Aimé Césaire (1913 – 2008): A Black Orpheus

My negritude is not a stone,
nor deafness flung out against the clamor
of the day
my negritude is not a white speck of dead water
on the dead eye of the earth
my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral.
Return to My Native Land

On April 6, 2011, Aimé Césaire was honored by the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Pantheon, a monument in Paris where persons who have contributed to French political culture are honored. Aimé Césaire, the Martinique poet and political figure, was a cultural bridge builder between the West Indies, Europe and Africa. A poet, teacher, and political figure, he had been mayor of the capital city, Fort-de-France for 56 years from 1945 to 2001, and a member of the French Parliament without a break from 1945 to 1993 — the French political system allowing a person to be a member of the national parliament and an elected local official at the same time. First elected to Parliament as a member of the Communist Party, he had left the Party in 1956 when he felt that the Communist Party did not put anti-colonialism at the center of its efforts.

The Communist Party’s position was that colonialism would end by itself once the workers had come to power. Césaire went on to form a local political party which existed only in Martinique and was largely his political machine for creating municipal jobs. Césaire faced a massive rural to urban migration on the 400,000 person West Indian department of France. One answer to unemployment was to create municipal posts largely paid for from the central government budget — a ready pool of steady political supporters. Césaire also did much to develop cultural activities from his mayor’s office— encouraging theater, music and handicrafts.

Aimé Césaire’s wider fame was due to his poetry and his plays — all with political implications, but heavily influenced by images from the subconscious. Thus it was that André Breton (1896-1966) writer and ideologue of the Surrealists saw in Césaire a kindred soul and became a champion of Césaire’s writing. Breton had been interested in African art and culture, by its sense of motion, color and myth. Breton often projected his own ideas onto African culture seeing it as spontaneous and mystical when much African art is, in fact, conventional and material. Nevertheless, Breton, who spent some of the Second World War years in Martinique, was able to interest many French writers and painters in African culture. It was Breton who encouraged Jean Paul Sartre to do an early anthology of African and West Indian poetry – Black Orpheus – and to write an important introduction stressing the revolutionary character of the poems.

Aimé Césaire’s parents placed high value on education — his father was a civil servant who encouraged his children to read and to take school seriously. Thus Césaire ranked first in his secondary school class and received a scholarship in 1931 to go to France to study at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure — a university-level institution which trains university professors and elite secondary school teachers. He was in the same class with Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and Leon Damas. They, along with Birago Diop also from Senegal, started a publication in Paris L’étudiant noir (The Black Student) as an expression of African culture. One of Césaire’s styles in poetry was to string together every cliché that the French used when speaking about Africa and turning these largely negative views into complements. Thus he and Senghor took the most commonly used term for Blacks, Nègre, which was not an insult but which incorporated all the clichés about Africans and West Indians and put a positive light upon the term. Thus negritude became the term for a large group of French-speaking Africans and French-speaking West Indians – including Haiti – writers. They stressed the positive aspects of African society but also the pain and agony in the experience of Black people, especially slavery and colonialism.

In 1938, just as he finished his university studies, Césaire took a few weeks’ vacation on the coast of Yugoslavia. There he wrote in a burst of energy his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of the Return to My Native Land), his best known series of poems. In 1939, he returned to Martinique having married another teacher from Martinique who was also trained in Paris. Both started teaching at the major secondary school of Martinique and started being politically active. However, by 1940, Martinique was under the control of the Vichy government of France and political activity was firmly discouraged. Thus Césaire concentrated on his writing. He met André Breton who spent the war years in the USA. Breton encouraged an interest in the history and culture of Haiti. While Haiti is physically close to Martinique, Haitian history and culture is often overlooked — if not looked down upon — in Martinique. Césaire wrote on the Haitian independence leader Toussaint Louverture as a hero, and later a play in 1963 La Tragédie du roi Christophe largely influenced by the early years of the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier.

Aimé Césaire (1913-2008)

With the end of the Second World War, the French Communist Party had one third of the seats in the Parliament of the newly created Fourth Republic. The French Communists were looking for potential candidates from Martinique where the Party was not particularly well structured. They turned to young, educated persons who had a local base. Césaire, with his Paris education and as a popular teacher at the major secondary school fitted that bill. He was elected the same year both to Parliament and to the town hall. When in Paris, he took an active part in cultural life, especially with African students and young intellectuals. In 1947, along with the Senegalese Alioune Diop and Senghor, he founded the journal Présence africaine which later became also a publisher of books and the leading voice of the negritude movement.

As the French Communist Party had a rule of tight party discipline, Césaire played no independent role in the French Parliament until he left the Party in 1956. However, his 1950 Discours sur le Colonialisme, at the same time violent and satiric became the most widely read anti-colonial tract of the times, calling attention to the deep cultural roots of colonial attitudes. After 1956, most of his efforts in Parliament were devoted to socio-economic development for Martinique. His strong anti-colonial efforts were made outside Parliament, especially in the cultural sphere. Nevertheless, as a member of Parliament he could open doors that poets do not usually enter.

Césaire, who read English well, was interested in the writings of Langston Hughes whose poems were close in spirit and style. He translated into French some of the poems of the Negro poet Sterling A. Brown.

In the 1960s, Césaire turned increasingly to writing plays, especially on the history of Haiti, as the earliest independent State of the West Indies. These were verse plays as the actors’ dialogues were nearly poems. As the French African colonies became independent in the 1960s, he stressed that the end of colonialism was not enough but that colonial culture had to be replaced by a new culture, a culture of the universal, a culture of renewal. “It is a universal, rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars that are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.”

René Wadlow


Preventive Diplomacy,

The idea of preventive diplomacy – acting at the first sign of conflict before a pattern of violence sets in – has been made popular by the then UN Secretary General Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali’s report Agenda for Peace (United Nations, 1992). An earlier Secretary General U Thant has summed up preventive diplomacy as “one which is not heard of until it is successfully concluded or even never heard of at all.” Preventive diplomacy is normally non-coercive, low-key, and confidential in its approach.

Preventive diplomacy is an aspect of the multi-layered relations between security, conflict resolution, respect for human rights, the development of democratic institutions, and the rule of law. Preventive diplomacy works only if there is trust in the wisdom and impartiality of those taking the first steps. This presupposes a strong, efficient, and independent international civil service whose integrity is beyond question and which has the financial base with which to act.

A main component of preventive diplomacy is the creation of an effective early warning system. At the first signs of conflict, such as persistent violations of human rights or refugee flows and the internal displacement of populations, a crisis team should be set up to monitor events. There should follow increased analysis of the situation and fact finding. Such efforts should be coupled with increased international pressure for negotiations and help to set up local-level activities to reduce tensions. At some point in the process of preventive diplomacy, the leaders of the countries in crisis need to be informed that the process cannot remain confidential. Even the most repressive leaders watch to see how much they can get away with before triggering an outraged external response.

Basically, preventive diplomacy is predicated on the assumption of good faith on the part of governments and armed opposition groups. There is a hope that governments and opposition will place the welfare of people as a whole over narrow interests. Sadly, we know that easy optimism about the disinterestedness of political leaders would be misplaced. A close analysis of power considerations in a crisis is an important part of successful diplomacy.

Thus, preventive diplomacy is not restricted to United Nations or national government officials. Non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and the media can all play a role. It is important to find balanced and harmonious ways in which many different actors can play a positive role to prevent dangerous increases of violence. A particularly effective example of non-governmental preventive diplomacy is the Pugwash Movement. The Pugwash Movement was born from a Manifesto issued by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in London in 1955 when there was little communication between the Soviets and the Americans. The non-aligned nations were not yet playing a major role and only scientists, especially those dealing with atomic physics, had the prestige that would make governments listen to what non-scientists had been saying since at least 10 years before. “We are speaking” says the Manifesto “on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war.”

It is this task of active reconciliation which must be undertaken by people acting outside of government structures. Reconciliation must be the aim, compassion the spirit, non-violence the means. The first step is to call upon all those with creative powers, with spiritual insight, and with true courage to make themselves known. Each will have to act, alone and collectively, to overcome the trends toward violence in his own area. But just as violence today is world wide and inter-related, so must non-violence have a world-wide vision and capacity for action.

Thus, the second step is to organize so that the spirit of compassion may manifest itself across State frontiers. Violence which crosses frontiers must be met with non-violence which crosses frontiers. Each success of the work of reconciliation will bring new requests for help in mediation. Thus, we must help prepare mediators who can work in different cultural settings. These tasks of reconciliation will require persons from all cultures and all spiritual backgrounds. Many of these “seed groups” of reconciliation and non-violent action already exist, but the seriousness of the political crisis requires new energies and additional people to express compassion in action. We must all help to build trans-national networks of non-violent agents for reconciliation.

René Wadlow


Create Space for Peace

“But what do you do in practice” was a question often asked of me when I started to represent Peace Brigades International (PBI) shortly after its creation in 1981 at the United Nations in Geneva. Members of the founding PBI team were friends who had asked me to be “Representative in Europe” — much too vast a field, but I said that I would be the “eyes” and when necessary, the negotiator, with diplomats at the UN in Geneva.

The first action of PBI — which has always remained my model of what the organization should have been — was to put a team of people from California who had already trained together and who knew how to use shortwave material on the Nicaraguan side of the frontier with Honduras to prevent a possible invasion of Nicaragua by US troops who were then doing military exercises with the Honduran army. The presence and aim of the team had been negotiated with diplomats of Honduras and Nicaragua at the UN in Geneva and New York.

Ultimately, there was no US Army intervention, most likely not because of the PBI team but rather because the US government decided to use “Contras” rather than US troops. I was investigating the possibility of having a PBI team as a permanent line on the frontier. At the time, the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva had been my student, and his brother, who had also been a student, was the legal advisor to the Sandinista President Daniel Ortega so the planning for an unarmed line of interposition went fairly far. The Nicaraguan Ambassador hoped, unrealistically, that I had some influence on Latin American policy in Washington so I was well informed as to Nicaraguan aims.

In any case, PBI was unable to develop the “Brigade” aspect of its work, and the focus of the work turned to accompaniment of local NGO human rights workers primarily in Guatemala. As Liam Mahoney and Luis Eguren write in their history of PBI’s work “Victims of human rights abuse are frequently those attempting to organize social change movements that question their society’s powerful elites. An international presence can be a source of hope to these activists. It assures them that they are not alone, that their work is important. And that their suffering will not go unnoticed by the outside world. The volunteer’s presence not only protects but also encourages.” (1)

The PBI shorthand term for this type of accompaniment was “Making Space for Peace” and the term became a way to explain to the public what PBI was doing. The concept of “making space for peace” is used as the title of a moving collection of short essays, talks, letters and expressions of gratitude of Gene Stoltzfus, a founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who died in March 2010. (2)

Christian Peacemaker Teams was founded officially in 1988 with Gene Stoltzfus as Director until 2004. As he said “We realized that our primary task was to carry forward the kind of presence that pointed to truth and opened spaces for the surprise of peacemaking. We know that the struggle to break through the barriers created by violence would require listening, perseverance, critical reflection and imaginative, symbolic thinking…And we had to learn to sing and celebrate, to pray together and to cheer each other on.”

Gene Stolzfus believed that the world desperately needs peacemakers who engage non-violently from a confident spiritual core and informed by critical thinking. He wrote “The incredible power of active, non-violent peacemaking is a premier sign of our time. People of faith have witnessed the effectiveness of non-violence to push back violence and killing, often with amazingly small doses of organized action.” In practice, Christian Peacemaker Teams follows very closely the PBI accompaniment model based on working whenever possible with local groups having a social change through non-violent action basis. (3)

In some cases, there are no local groups devoted to non-violence, and the CPT has to work as independent individuals. Such independence provides a flexibility of action, but also increases dangers as no one really knows the local culture or the current state of play. Thus a small group of CPT members were working in Iraq after the US intervention, basically investigating where Iraqis arrested were being held and under what charges. They were also trying to find where “the disappeared” might be. In 2005, four of the Team were kidnapped — it was never clear by whom. They were held for 118 days. One was killed, the other three were released. (4)

While much of the early leadership of PBI came from the Quakers, and the first two headquarter locations of PBI were Quaker centers that had spare space, PBI had no specific religious base. Christian Peacemaker Teams under Gene Stoltzfus’ leadership had a specifically Christian character with Jesus as the role model. “His style incorporated symbolic actions, words of confrontation, and poetic or parabolic teachings which awakened the deeper recesses of the minds and souls of his audience.” For Gene, the most important elements of a team are “prayer, discipline, continuity within the group and a broad diversity of talents and perspectives.”

Gene Stoltzfus came from seven generations of Mennonite pastors whose ancestors had gone to America in search of religious liberty. He attended Mennonite colleges and Biblical seminaries and worked for Mennonite service bodies both in the USA and in the Philippines. Thus, the core of the CPT drew on the “Historic Peace Churches “ — Mennonite--Midwest Quakers — all of whom already had their own service-peace-oriented bodies. The problem that CPT has faced is to widen the circle of those recruited for service and also the financial base. CPT is also active in Canada where there is a strong Mennonite community and Mennonite colleges with peace study programs.

However, both in the USA and in Canada, the “Historic Peace Churches” are largely White and Middle Class. As Gene wrote non-violent activists “never come without imperfections because we are human…We grow one step at a time, acting, reflecting, learning, stumbling, practicing, training, then moving forward again.”

Can the circle of non-violent activists be made wider? The need for more people and more money is evident. There are always new challenges. Gene tells the story of going to the Pakistan/Afghanistan frontier to talk with a local conflict resolution group. When the Pakistani leader of the group was told that there were two American peacemakers to see him, he greeted Gene saying “Where have you been all these years?” One of Gene’s last actions before his death was a protest vigil at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from where unmanned Predator Drones are sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was arrested there and taken to the detention center in Las Vegas.

Creating space for peace is always creating space for the unexpected. Such space can set the stage for the universal imagination to manifest itself.

  1. Liam Mahoney and Luis Eguren Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights (West Hartford, CT: Kumerian Press, 1997, 289pp.)
  2. Dorothy Friessen and Marilen Abesamis Create Space for Peace (Deerfield Beach, FL: TriMark Press, 2010, 255pp)
  3. For an account of Christian Peacemakers’ work see: Tricia Gates Brown (Ed) Getting in the Way (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2005, 160pp.) and Kathleen Kern In Harm’s Way. A History of Christian Peacemaker Teams (Cascade, 2008, 565pp.)
  4. See Tricia Gates Brown (Ed.). 118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams Held Hostage in Iraq (Chicago, IL: Christian Peacemaker Teams,2008,227pp.)

René Wadlow


World Citizens call for a Cease Fire in Libya and the start of negotiations on a broadly-based New Libyan Republic

In a 15 March 2011 message to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens, urged the Secretary General to take a lead in advocating a cease fire in Libya that would halt the current fighting and the flight of refugees. Increased fighting provokes an intolerable burden upon the already-strained medical facilities as well as supplies to meet the basic needs of the population.

A cease fire would be a first step toward negotiations that would lead to a new constitutional order and a broadly-based new Libyan Republic.

The World Citizen message said that current discussions among some governments and intergovernmental organizations concerning the proclamation of a “no fly zone” during the continuing conflict did not deal with the heart of the matter. The real issue is to move to an agreed-upon end to the fighting and to open the door to the necessary constitutional restructuring of the country and creation of a broadly-based new Libyan Republic.

Following the non-violent people’s revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, protests against the political and economic functioning of Libya began. Rather than starting a dialogue, the Libyan authorities undertook a policy of repression, leading to the large-scale armed violence we see today, provoking a massive flow of foreign workers to leave the country and to the internal displacement of many Libyans.

Only a cease fire will allow the start of dealing with the fundamental constitutional issues which have faced the country since its Independence. At Independence in 1951, authority rested with King Sayyid Idris as Sanoussi (1890-1983), the leader of an important Islamic brotherhood who remained more concerned with religious reforms than with the structure of the government and the quality of the administration. His government had some decentralized, federalist aspects but was largely based on pre-existing tribal confederations.(1)

When the military officers led by Colonel Moammar Qaddafi took power in a coup in September 1969, there was for a short time some discussion as to the forms of government that they would develop. There was agreement on a greater centralization of power, as well as keeping to the religious policies of the former King and the Sanoussi Brotherhood — what has been called neo-salafyisme. However, in order not to put obstacles in the way of future Arab unity, no constitutionally-agreed upon State structures were officially created.

Colonel Qaddafi wanted to do away with parliamentary government and representational elections in favour of people’s committees, a people’s congress, and revolutionary committees, all held together by the ideological assumptions of his Third Universal Theory — a concept that embodies anti-imperialism, Arab unity, Islamic socialism and direct popular democracy (2)

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

In the short term, negotiations after a cease fire may lead to a continued role in the Libyan power structure of Colonel Qaddafi, his sons and allies. However, the degree of violence is clear evidence that the structure of the State does not function, that whatever its faults, a parliament allows some of the demands of the people to be heard and creates limits on the exercise of power.

Historically in Libya, there were sixteen marabtin tribes renounced for their religious wisdom who served as mediators and arbiters within the political structures of tribal, pre-colonial Libya. The tradition of reconciliatory mediation may still exist, and traditional avenues of mediation should be explored.

A cease fire must be a first step, and the United Nations the most appropriate institution for maintaining a cease fire while constitutional discussions start.

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


8 March- Women and the People’s Revolution

It is only when women start to organise 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.”

8 March is the International Day of Women and thus a time to analyse the specific role of women in local, national and the world society. 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the creation of International Women’s Day first proposed by Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911. Later she served as a socialist-communist member of the German Parliament during the Weimar Republic which existed from 1920 to 1933 when Hitler came to power.

Zetkin who had lived some years in Paris and was active in women’s movements there was building on the 1889 International Congress for Feminine Works and Institutions held in Paris under the leadership of Ana de Walska. De Walska was part of the circle of young Russian and Polish intellectuals in Paris around Gerard Encausse, a spiritual writer who wrote under the pen name of Papus. For this turn-of-the-century spiritual milieu influenced by Indian and Chinese thought, ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ were related to the Chinese terms of Yin and Yang. Men and women alike have these psychological characteristics. ‘Feminine’ characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive, relational traits, while ‘masculine’ are rational, dominant, assertive, analytical and hierarchical.

As individual persons, men and women alike can achieve a state of wholeness, of balance between the Yin and Yang. However, in practice ‘masculine’ refers to men and ‘feminine’ to women. Thus, some feminists identify the male psyche as the prime cause of the subordination of women around the world. Men are seen as having nearly a genetic coding that leads them to ‘seize’ power, to institutionalize that power through patriarchal societal structures and to buttress the power with masculine values and culture.

However, when women take positions of political power, they have tended to rule according to the same ‘masculine’ values used by their male predecessors, as we saw with Golda Meir in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Thus people have asked what effects the increased entry of women into the political arena would have on public policies and priorities. Would women assure greater equality of opportunity for all people, including their own gender, a greater emphasis in international affairs on cooperation? It may be that confronted with urgent security threats and economic instability, any prime-minister – of either gender- would govern within a ‘masculine’ framework rather than with ‘feminine’ tools of intuition, compassion, consensus-building and peacemaking.

Can the world be made safe for the ‘subversive’ feminine values? The Italian sociologist Eleonora Masini, with whom I worked in 1977 in Hiroshima on the life histories of those who survived the atomic bombing, has an optimistic view of the capacity of women to be agents of change toward a more just and humane world. “Women are capable of sensing the seeds of change which need not only rational capacities but intuitive capacities. This intuition has not been developed by centuries of searching for better productivity, more profit, hence more consumption, which is what men do. Women instead have capacities that are of help in capturing seeds of change that are still alive such as:

  • a) capacity to grasp the wholeness of a situation other than the details, such as the feeling ill or well of a family:
  • b) capacity to act rapidly after rapidly grasping whole situations, such as stopping a child from falling out of a window;
  • c) capacity to change from one interest to others almost at the same time, ironing, reading, watching the child at play;
  • d) capacity to sacrifice herself for the good of others. This capacity has very often been ill used.

All such capacities make a better audience for the seeds of change and better creators of vision. In the long term, the future is one of more solidarity among people, rather than hunger; one of love and understanding rather than one where the atomic bomb is present; one of peaceful living in big towns, rather than one of violence which the children experience every day.”

A test for women as agents of change toward a more just and humane world is presenting itself in the Arab-Islamic world. The People’s Revolution which began in Tunisia followed by Egypt has now spread throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Iran. The waves of the People’s Revolution are having an impact throughout the world. It is being watched with hope by many and with fear by those who have interests in the status quo.

On this International Day of Women, we must ask a crucial question: How does political conflict degenerate into mass violence, generating new crises and new forms of violent conflict in the future? How does a community pull itself out from a cycle of violence and set up sustainable ways of living in which different categories of people may be encouraged to contribute to the process?

Women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations on the future of a society begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines. Therefore, there is a need to organize so that women are at the negotiating table to present their ingenuity, patience and determination. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements. 8 March 2011 is a reminder of the steps taken over a 100 years and the distance yet to be covered.

Rene Wadlow


Libya : The People’s Revolution on the March

Along with Tunisia and Egypt, the People’s Revolution is on the march in Libya. In the words of Henry A. Wallace, then Vice-President of the USA in 1942 “The people’s revolution is on the march. When the freedom-loving people march — when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to sell the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live — when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead…The people are on the march toward ever fuller freedom, toward manifesting here on earth the dignity that is in every human soul.”

While the People’s Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt was largely non-violent, the revolution if Libya may turn more violent as the last of the palace guard circle around Colonel Qaddafi, his family and a small number of people with tribal ties to him.

Somewhat too late in the day, the U.N. Security Council demanded an embargo on arms sales to Libya. However, the country has more arms than it can use. The Security Council also requested the International Criminal Court to investigate if there have been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Libya as well as freezing the foreign bank holdings of the Qaddafi family.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, like the Commission on Human Rights, had been silent on human rights violations in Libya for years. In fact, the then Libyan Ambassador, Najat al-Hajjaji, a former wife of one of the Qaddafi sons had chaired the Commission on Human Rights in 2003. There is now discussion of expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council, however the Libyan representatives in both New York and Geneva have resigned in order to join the opposition. At this stage, Colonel Qaddafi is not interested in diplomatic symbols.

The representatives of the European Union are worried, especially of a possible migration of Africans through Libya towards Europe. Colonel Qaddafi had signed an agreement that he would try to control migration through Libya toward Europe, and he had been given speed boats from Europe to help him in his task. The Europeans are also worried about energy supplies from Libya, although Libya represents a very small – some 2 per cent- of energy to Europe, easily replaced from other sources. However, revolution in Libya and unrest in other parts of the Arab world has moved oil prices upward, and they are not likely to go down soon. NATO planners are meeting, reflecting the same worries as those of the EU officials.

The EU and US officials remind one of the aristocrats watching the French Revolution from safety in London or Belgium. They had not seen that the people were getting tired of the contempt in which they were held, nor that there was a rise of an educated middle class that could take care of itself without the nobles and the clergy. Likewise many in the Arab world can do without the kings and tribal chiefs, without the higher military officers who played a role of nobles and without the preaching of the Islamic clergy.

Today’s People’s Revolution, like that of France in 1789, is the victory of an educated middle class bringing along with it in its current a mass of the unemployed, small merchants, regular soldiers often from the rural farming milieu which has little prospered from modernization.

The question now is how will the young and educated middle class in the Arab world be able to structure a new society based on relative equality and justice. In each country, there are remains of the old society with some power, some skills, and a continuing sense of their own importance. We have seen in Tunisia how some of the old structure wanted to continue in power though this was met with continuing street protests.

Creation of new structures in a society is never easy. Both Tunisia and Egypt face an influx of workers fleeing Libya. Just as the French Revolution did not have only friends abroad, the People’s Revolution of the Arab world has more sceptical observers saying “what next?” than friends.

The governments, such as those of Algeria, Morocco and Jordan where only the first shocks have been felt are promising “reforms” or “bread and circuses” but probably too little and too late.

The People’s Revolution is just that, the rise of a new people, not yet structured into a real social class. It has some leaders but rarely on a national level, and interest groups are only partly structured. This is not chaos except in the sense described by the classical Greek thinker Hesiod who saw chaos, creativity, and transformation working together. For Hesiod, chaos was not confusion but a richly creative space which flowed from the dual cosmic forces of heaven and earth or as in Chinese philosophy, from Yin and Yang. From this chaos comes new and more mature organization, one with more complexity and greater adequacy for dealing with the challenges of life.

Thus we need to find ways to support the People’s Revolution, to keep an eye open for counter-revolutionary activities and to watch closely as the next structures are put into place.

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


World Day of Social Justice: The People’s Revolution is On The March, by René Wadlow

The United Nations General Assembly, on the initiative of Nurbch Jeenbrev, the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the U.N. in New York, has proclaimed 20 February as the “World Day of Social Justice” with an emphasis on the reduction of poverty. The “war” on global poverty has had its share of victories. Life expectancy at birth has risen in many developing countries. Education for some has resulted in rising incomes, but such education has left the uneducated further behind.

Economic growth does not help the poor much in countries where the distribution of wealth is highly unequal. The poor in many countries do not enjoy the benefits of boom times, but they shoulder the costs when there is an economic recession. As traditional family or clan-based welfare systems decline without new government-funded institutions put into place, many are marginalized.

This year the second World Day of Social Justice comes as the people’s revolution sweeps through the Arab lands of North Africa and the Middle East. The cry of the Tunisian uprising — “Liberty-Work-Dignity” — finds its expression in many countries as people organize non-violently for new societies.

The term “the People’s Revolution” was officially used by Henry A. Wallace, then Vice-President of the United States in setting out US war aims in 1942. This was the first time that the war aims of a country were not stated in terms of “national interest” and limited to the demands that had produced the start of the war. Wallace, who had first been the Secretary of Agriculture and who had to deal with the severe depression facing US agriculture, was proposing a world-wide New Deal based on the cooperative action of all of humanity. Wallace said “The people’s revolution is on the march. When the freedom-loving people march — when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to see the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live — when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead…The people are on the march toward ever fuller freedom, toward manifesting here on earth the dignity that is in every human soul.”

Today in the demands of “Liberty-Work-Dignity” we hear the demands of farmers to own land under sure conditions, to receive a fair price for their crops as well as the right to organize to protect their interests. We hear the crises of industrial and urban workers to be able to organize and to have their work appreciated for its full value. We hear the demands of students and the young for an education that opens minds and prepares for meaningful work.

The people’s revolution is on the march. While the forces of the status quo are still strong and often heavily armed, the energy has shifted from the rulers to the people. The demands of those in the streets of Tunisia and Egypt have given courage to others who now are in streets where few ever expected to hear crises of protest.

The governments of the USA and Western Europe who spend a good deal of money on “intelligence agencies” were largely surprised by the speed with which the protests have spread. No doubt the Chinese and the Russians were also surprised but have been less willing to admit that they do not understand social movements unrelated to their old ideologies.

It is also probable that the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan when he helped celebrate the first World Day of Social Justice in 2010 did not think he was setting the stage for the people’s revolution. The U.N. General Assembly proclaims a good number of Days without creating many waves beyond New York City. But the concept of Social Justice has articulated and focused deep demands for liberty, jobs, and dignity.

Some have been surprised – even alarmed – that the people’s revolution in Tunisia and Egypt did not have recognized leaders or an organized political party structure. But the people’s revolution is not that of an elite willing to replace the existing ruling elite. The people’s revolution is a wave of all moving together, with deep currents below the surface. The tide moves with only a few visible waves but the aspirations are collective. No doubt, there will be individualized leadership, and demands will be formulated into political-party platforms, but the collective demands for social justice and dignity is what makes the difference between the people’s revolution and a military coup. This is the true meaning of this year’s World Day of Social Justice.


Active World Citizen Diplomacy, by Rene Wadlow

People who develop the habit of thinking of themselves as world citizens are fulfilling the first requirement of sanity in our times.

In this period of world transformations, independent voices are needed to speak directly to the representatives of governments, what has been called “Speaking Truth to Power”. Often such proposals for the peaceful settlement of disputes are called “World Citizen Diplomacy”. These are efforts to reduce violence and to create bridges between cultures. Today, we see the rise of a new spirit of liberty throughout the world. The old structures of oppression and domination are crumbling — those of caste, class, gender and nation. In place of repression, there are new institutions of popular participation. These efforts of transformation merit our understanding and support. The path may yet be hard, but the direction is set.

The tasks of World Citizen Diplomats are the same as those of the diplomatic representatives of States. The difference arises from the fact that World Citizens Diplomats try to stress the deeper trends in the hope that common interests may be more easily found.

The first step is the analysis of data available coming from open documentation such as newspapers, government reports, academic studies and contacts with other non-governmental organizations. There is a need to understand the local forces at work as manifested in specific individuals and groups. There is a need to evaluate shorter and longer-range trends and then to situate the specific country situation into the broader regional and world context.

The second step is “proposal-making”. On the basis of the 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 specific institutions such as a government Mission to the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or a national embassy. Once the proposal drafted, a negotiation process must be 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 such as a Foundation 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?

World Citizen Diplomats 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.

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. Such efforts require cooperation between World Citizen Diplomats, scholars, mediators and those who have been caught up in violent conflicts. Such cooperation is growing as we work cooperatively for the care and healing of the Planet.

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

Tunisia : The people’s revolution is on the march.

When the freedom-loving people march — when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to sell the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live — when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead… The people are on the march toward ever fuller freedom, toward manifesting here on earth the dignity that is in every human soul. Henry A. Wallace, Vice-President of the United States, setting out US war aims in June 1942.

The wave of the people’s revolution has swept over Tunisia and pushed President Ben Ali to exile in Saudi Arabia. A month of popular manifestations starting on 17 December 2010 with the suicide-protest of the young Mohamed Bouazizi, a college-educated street vender, and the police repression at his funeral has brought to an end the 23 years of control on Tunisian political and economic life of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. He and his powerful wife Leila Trabelsi left Tunis on 14 January for exile in Saudi Arabia while other members of the extended family, who controlled large sectors of the economy, have arrived in Paris.

Tunisia under Ben Ali was a police-state in the literal sense of the word. There was a constant presence of the police with arrests, lengthy interrogations, torture and for those with luck, exile. The press and other media were closely watched and in some cases owned by the Ben Ali-Trabelsi family.

From an economic point of view, there was a migration to the cities and larger towns of the coastal area in a frustrating search for suitable occupations. The unemployment rate was high, and among the educated youth, unemployment, lack of social mobility and the flashy life-style of those with links to political power led to demands for change.

The demonstrations of the past month seemed to have begun spontaneously, led by the young but with no previously known leaders. The demonstrations had no links to opposition political parties, most of whose leaders were in exile, and there were few opposition political structures. There were no known Islamic groups in the demonstrations, and Islamic influence seems to have been completely absent from the demonstrations and from the demands of the demonstrators.

For most French commentators, the model was “May 1968” which led to the end of the government of Charles De Gaulle. Tunisia is a revolution of the people who wanted fundamental changes from the small political group governing, an end to wide-spread and highly-visible corruption, and the creation of jobs. Ben Ali, like De Gaulle, symbolized the system and so there was strong agreement on what everyone could agree upon: “Ben Ali must go”. Unlike General De Gaulle, General Ben Ali had done nothing very special before becoming President. Although he tried to develop a “personality cult” around himself with large pictures of himself in the streets and ever-present praise on the TV, Ben Ali had no real personality around which to develop a cult.

Now the issue is what structures the people’s revolution will give itself. If all goes as the constitutional order indicates, elections should be held within 60 days, the interim government being under the leadership of the Speaker of the Parliament. Since political parties had been prevented from operating — even the party of the President had only a name but no real structures — we will have to see how political factions are created prior to the elections. There are a good number of different ideological currents in the opposition to Ben Ali, and there is no opposition leader who stands out as a “natural” next President. There is always the danger that if there is too much disorder, revenge killings or armed groups forming the Army could step in.

The disintegration of Ben Ali’s government and power base has been closely watched in the Arab world. Although Ben Ali was not particularly liked by his neighbors, political leaders in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Jordan can see the parallels without too much difficulty — a heavy-handed security state with diminishing popular support and growing demands from an educated, yet frustrated population. Recent demonstrations in Algeria and Jordan set off by higher food prices have been met by some government action to limit taxes of food. However, higher food prices are only one sign of broader socio-economic weaknesses that have led to high unemployment, high rents and yet a housing shortage.

Throughout the Arab world, governments have been unable or unwilling to open serious discussions on socio-economic policies and alternatives. Islamic-based groups have played some role in focusing protests but have not done much in presenting realistic alternative policies. The violence of some of the Islamic groups has served as a pretext for the governments to ban all policy discussions without too many protests from Western governments.

What is outstanding in the revolution in Tunisia is that Islamic groups played no part in the demonstrations and that none of the demands were expressed in Islamic terms. The people’s revolution in Tunisia was based on the will of the people for change with a minimum of ideological coloring. It is likely that the people’s revolution in other Arab countries will also marginalize Islamic currents in favour of this-worldly reforms. Events will be closely watched both by those who hope and those who fear. People’s revolutions may be on the march in the Arab world.


To mark the birth anniversary on 15 January of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, here is a short article on the rise of the Global Civil Society. Best wishes, Rene

The Rise of the Global Civil Society

Rene Wadlow

There is currently a great expansion of what can be called “The Global Civil Society”— a host of commercial companies, media outlets, and non-governmental organizations ((NGOs) whose activities cross State frontiers. Often the staff members of these organizations come from a variety of countries and backgrounds. This global civil society is increasingly powerful though its power has been little analysed.

One analysis of the environmental and social justice aspect of the global civil society has been made by the English environmental 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). Many of these ecological organizations have very local aims, but there is an awareness of the inter-relatedness of issues and that peace, environmental protection, ecologically-sound development and financial balance have global dimensions.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) whose birth anniversary we mark on 15 January is the ideological pioneer of the Global Civil Society, even if he is little quoted. Proudhon’s 1960 work Du Principe Féderalif (On Federalism) is his most lasting and important work. In it he develops his major themes: justice, liberty, equality, and the need to develop autonomous communities tied to each other by contracts— thus forming a type of federation. Proudhon saw the need for links between many different types of units: towns, factories, workshops, cooperatives. With such links among productive units, there would be less need for political governments, especially not centralized governments. While Proudhon’s examples were drawn from the two countries he knew best – France and Belgium – his vision applies well to the global civil society. Proudhon can be best described as a “pluralist” holding that freedom of thought and expression, freedom of communication and movement will usually be better served in small, decentralized and voluntarily-federated communities rather than in the system of state nationalism growing in his day.

The global civil society is still feared by nationalistic governments who want to control NGOs and who use the external contacts of NGOs as a pretext to clamp down, especially on human rights activists who challenge authoritarian rule. Communication technology and increased mobility of individuals make such government control more difficult. The global civil society is made of flexible organizations in loose partnership agreements but with a common aim of mutual empowerment.

The global civil society is a ‘power shift’ of potentially historic dimensions with bonds of trust, shared values and mutual obligations which cross national frontiers. Proudhon was able to look realistically at the society of his time with its poverty and injustices, but he also saw signs of hope. His influence was carried on through such writer-activists as Michel Bakounine (1814-1876) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) Thus today, we need to be able to analyse, communicate and work cooperatively to develop a global civil society based on the ethic of human worth and dignity.

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


2011 Higher Prices for Food

World Citizens Call for Coordinated World Food Policy by Rene Wadlow*

“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;”

Stringfellow Barr Citizens of the World (1952)

In its most recent January 2011 analysis of the world food situation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted with alarm the extreme price fluctuation in global agricultural markets. This fluctuation in global agricultural markets is leading to higher food prices and is a threat to world food security. The impact falls heaviest on the poor who spend a high percentage — up to 70 percent — of their income on food. Often, the lack of dietary diversification aggravates the problem, as price increases in one staple cannot easily be compensated by switching to other foods. The United Nations estimates that one billion people worldwide do not get enough food and that this number is certain to increase as prices rise.

In a response to the FAO analysis, Rene Wadlow, Senior Vice President and Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens (AWC) addressed an urgent appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon on behalf of the AWC. Wadlow recalled the earlier World Bank evaluation that “The development community, and the world as a whole, has constantly failed to address malnutrition over the past decades. (World Bank. Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development: A Strategy For Large-Scale Action (2006) )

A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. Food security has too often been treated as a collection of national security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a 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 the United Nations and regional bodies such as the European Union and the African Union must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

It is also certain that attention must be given to local issues of food production, distribution and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labor, and to land-holding patterns.

However, for the formulation of a dynamic world food policy, world economic trends and structures need to be analysed, and policy goals made clear. There needs to be a detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of commodity prices. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages, are now investing massively in commodities. For the moment, there is little governmental regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains.

The politically-destabilizing aspects of higher food prices and food riots had pushed the issue of food costs to the top of the agenda of UN Agencies in 2008 as highlighted by the Seventh special session on the Right to Food of the Human Rights Council in May 2008. However, the financial crisis and general recession of 2009 and 2010 have eclipsed food issues, and many governments have again become complacent, believing that the food security mechanisms that they had put into place permanently banished the dangers of large-scale unrest due to higher food prices.

Today, the FAO analysis is a call for cooperation among the UN family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations and the millions of food producers to respond to both short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and adequate nutrition due to high food prices and with longer-range structural issues. The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action.

René Wadlow


Ivory Coast appeal

In a 1 January 2011 message sent to the Missions of the Ivory Coast to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) called for the orderly transfer of authority in the Ivory Coast. The message, co-signed by Rene Wadlow, Senior Vice-President and Representative to the UN, Geneva, and Bernard Henry, Press Officer for the AWC Office to the UN, Geneva, stated that “Citizens of the World have always maintained that for there to be effective means of global governance, the world society must be built upon a foundation of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

“One important element of the rule of law is open and fair elections which require competent election monitors all along the election cycle. Although the elections in the Ivory Coast had been postponed a number of times, when they were carried out, the election observers considered them fair and carried out without undue violence or pressures upon voters.

“Therefore, the conclusions of the Election Commission of the Ivory Coast have been recognized by the United Nations and the African Union indicating that Mr Alassane Ouattara has won the elections fairly and should be installed as the legitimate President of the Ivory Coast.

“ The past President of the Ivory Coast, Mr Laurent Gbagbo, who has led his country under difficult conditions for 10 years will honor himself and the will of the people of the Ivory Coast by his orderly transfer of authority to Mr Alassane Ouattara.

“The Association of World Citizens, devoted to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calls upon all in the Ivory Coast to respect the dignity of each individual and their protection in this crucial period.”


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