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René Wadlow

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

15 November 1920 - The First Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva

"A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small States alike." President Woodrow Wilson. The last of the fourteen points in which he set out in January 1918 the Allied war aims.

15 November marks the anniversary of the first session of the Assembly of the League of Nations. Representatives of 44 States entered La Salle de la Réformation in central Geneva. The Salle had been built originally as a meeting place for Protestant refugees from France and Italy who needed a place of worship and a place for discussions and welfare. In the large hall, there was Léon Bourgeois, the oldest delegate and a long-time French worker for peace. Ignace Paderewski headed the Polish delegation in a room where he had given piano concerts. There was Lord Robert Cecil, who with Jan Christian Smuts of South Africa was a principle author of the League Covenant. There were delegates from South Africa and India which had "dominion status" but were not yet fully independent.

Significant were the countries not represented: the USA, the USSR, Germany, Austria and Hungary - all of whom had participated in parts of the First World War. Woodrow Wilson had welcomed the birth of the League of Nations. "A living thing is born." Unfortunately, the League ran into difficulties from the start. The United States refused to join; too long a time elapsed before Germany was admitted or the USSR asked to join. The legacy of the First World War, codified in the Versailles Treaty, upset both the political and economic climate: hugh reparations due by Germany, the payment of large debts by the Allies to the US, monetary collapse in several countries and economic protectionism rampant. All this contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The greatest trouble, however, was the mentality of the officials in national foreign ministries and war offices who were thinking in terms of the balance of power and who could not bring themselves to face new challenges. Nor was there among the general public a sense of global citizenship, of world loyalty which might have influenced government leaders in a more positive direction. Even today, as Brian Urquhart has said of the United Nations "There has yet to emerge, on the international scene, a great combined popular constituency to insist on the necessity of a respected central order and an orderly process of law and the keeping of peace."However, there were real contributions of the League to the development of world institutions. The UN's structure is that of the League - only the names have been changed: The League Assembly became the General Assembly, the League Council became the Security Council, the Mandates Commission became the Trusteeship Council.

A crucial contribution was the creation of an impartial civil service responsible only to the head of the organization under the obligation not to accept instructions from any government or outside authority. The League created a high quality staff under the direction of the first Secretary-General, Sir Eric Drummond who served from the start until 1933.

The League also provided the starting point for future work on refugees, drug control, health and agriculture through its close cooperation with the International Institute of Agriculture set up in Rome. The International Labour Organisation functioned alongside the League, its budget being voted by the League Assembly.

Looking back, we can mark the progress not only of the institutions but also the persons who shape them. A new breed of international civil servants are evolving within world organizations and non-governmental organizations active within the UN system to make this earth a true home for humanity. They have dedicated themselves to the same tasks that the League began but left unfinished.


Comprehensive World Food Policy

16 October is the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's World Food Day ? a yearly reminder that there are people who are constantly hungry due to poor agricultural methods, inadequate distribution, poor food storage, and armed conflict.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for the day to ensure humanity's freedom from hunger. Frank McDougall, an Australian economist and delegate to the League of Nations, had influenced Eleanor Roosevelt who then persuaded her husband Franklin to make food a world priority. President Roosevelt called a Conference on Food and Agriculture in May 1943. A preparatory commission was set up, chaired by Lester Pearson who was then the Canadian Ambassador to the United States. A signatory meeting for the FAO constitution was held in Quebec on 16 October 1945, date which was later chosen to be World Food Day.

The FAO headquarters was set up in Rome, Italy, where the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA) existed. Although the IIA was created in 1905 by King Victor Emmanuel III, it had close relations with the League of Nations. Also, having FAO in Rome was a symbol that Italy was accepted in the world community despite its joining the Allies late in the day. Sir John Boyd Orr, a Scot nutritionist, League of Nations activist and later active world citizen, was the first Director-General. He tried to deal with both immediate and long-term issues relating to agriculture, food, and nutrition. Boyd-Orr set the pattern for strong leadership of the FAO secretariat on food issues, with most governments dragging their feet.

When William and Paul Paddock published in 1967 their book Famine 1975 , the book was met with smiles. "Alarmist" was the general evaluation, for the end of the 1960s was a period of relative optimism. The "green revolution" was on its way; peaceful atomic energy was around the corner; population would decrease with higher living standards and perhaps population was not as much of a problem after all if improvements could be made in the distribution of wealth through better trade agreements and foreign aid.

Five decades later, there is less optimism. The green revolution has turned out to be not a revolution but a mild improvement in certain areas ? at a rather high cost in terms of water and fertilizers needed. The richer farmers have benefited more than the poor, and the spread of these new seeds has in fact slowed down. Atomic fuel as a means of easily available energy is being increasingly questioned due to problems of radioactive waste and environmental protection measures. Population pressure has grown with no real leveling off in sight. Hopes have now dimmed that trade agreements and foreign aid would lead to a better world distribution of goods and services. Today, there are wide-spread fears of economic depression, of monetary instability, and of increasing unemployment.

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 wood policy is more than the sum of national food security programs.

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

It is certain that attention must be given to the local and national level 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 land-holding patterns.

Unfortunately, there are hardly ever adequate national food policies, in part because of a lack of political power on the part of rural populations. The control of government administration by the urbanized elite is strong in nearly every country ? even those where the bulk of the population lives in the rural area.

For the formulation of a dynamic world food policy, world economic trends and structures need to be analyzed, and policy goals made clear. Government food and agriculture policies need to be analyzed and reviewed carefully. The agricultural policies of the European Union and the larger food-exporting countries ? USA, Canada, Brazil,Australia ? need to be reviewed along with the impact of agricultural subsidies and export encouragement.

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

Day of Nonviolence: The Wheel of Time

The use of nonviolent action does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor, but it first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to nonviolence. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and stirs the conscience so that reconciliation becomes a reality.

2 October is the UN-General Assembly proclaimed Day of Nonviolence. The day was chosen as it is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi whose life and thought is most associated with nonviolent action. This year 2014, the Day of Nonviolence is celebrated in the light of the nonviolent wave after wave of protest actions in Hong Kong under the banner of “Love and Peace” starting what its leaders have called an era of civil disobedience. As one of the leaders has said “As the Wheel of Time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act.”

The Wheel of Time refers to the Kalachakra teachings which spread from India to Tibet and then China toward the end of the first millennium C.E. It is a prophetic text theoretically based on the teachings of the Buddha. The original Indian texts have been lost and now only the Tibetan version exists from which it has been translated into English, in part by the late Tibet specialist George Roerich, son of the Russian painter and mystic Nicolas Roerich. The Kalachakra has been known in esoteric circles among Chinese Buddhists, and the use of the term by nonviolent leaders in Hong Kong is not accidental.

The Kalachakra teachings hold that a new era, a new age, would begin 1000 years after the original teachings were set out. The 1000year cycle would be ending now and the new era is starting. The New Era is based on enlightenment and nonviolence. The first aspect of the new age according to the Kalachakra is that each individual has the destiny to reach the pinnacle of her or his own evolutionary potential of enlightenment. From this possibility of enlightenment comes the principle of nonviolence: each life is sacred, and there is a universal responsibility to help create a nonviolent society.

The leaders of the Hong Kong actions are often university students and young professionals. They have cited Martin Luther King as the model for carefully orchestrated acts of civil disobedience and have called upon the United Nations to support their efforts for freely organized democratic elections. They hope that despite arrests and police brutality, at some point, nonviolent direct action, in courage and love, can trigger a reciprocal response in the opponent. Such action can fan the spark of human decency which, no matter how low it may burn in an individual for a time, cannot be extinguished completely or forever.

The goal of nonviolent action is not to repress or to defeat, but to convert, to allow the persons who are today the enemy to live according to the better part of human nature rather than by the violence and revenge which has been the dominant character of Chinese politics.

The future of a more liberal society is being set out these days not only for Hong Kong but for all of China. The Wheel of Time has reached the point of the start of the New Era, and it is time to arise and act.


It is difficult to know how wide-spread the Kalachakra teachings are in China as it has always been used in closed esoteric circles. Traditionally in Tibet, it was taught only to certain highly trained lamas. An interpretation of value in English is V.A. Wallace. The Inner Kalachakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual (Oxford University Press, 2001)


Nonviolent Action: The Force of the Soul

2 October is the UN General Assembly-designated Day of Nonviolence chosen as 2 October is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi, shortly after finishing his legal studies in England, went to South Africa and began working with Indian laborers, victims of discrimination. He looked for a term understandable to a largely English-speaking population to explain his efforts. “Passive resistance” was the most widely used term and had been used by Leo Tolstoy and others. However, Gandhi found the word “passive” misleading. There did exist a Hindu term ahinsa - a meaning non and hinsa, violence. The term was basically unknown among White South Africans, largely uninterested in Indian philosophical thought.

Gandhi wrote to a friend from his legal studies days in England, Edward Maitland. Maitland and Anna Kingsford were the leaders of the Esoteric Christian Union and the leaders of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Maitland introduced Gandhi to the writings of the American New Thought writer Ralph Waldo Trine. Trine was a New Englander and his parents named him after Emerson. His best known work from which Gandhi took the term for his actions in South Africa is In Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty. (1)

Trine uses the term “soul force” which Gandhi then used for his work in South Africa. Once back in India, Gandhi wanted an Indian rather than an English expression, and he coined the term satyagraha - holding on to truth: sat as Truth in a cosmic sense is an oft-used Hindu term while “soul” would need some explaining to Indian followers.

All of Trine's writings contained the same message: soul force could be acquired by making oneself one with God, who was immanent, through love and service to one's fellow men. The Christ Trine followed was one familiar to Gandhi - the supreme spiritual exemplar who showed men the way to union with their divine essence. Trine promised that the true seeker, fearless and forgetful of self-interest, will be so filled with the power of God working through him that “as he goes here and there, he can continually send out influences of the most potent and powerful nature that will reach the uttermost parts of the world.”

For Trine, thought was the way that a person came into tune with the Infinite. “Each is building his own world. We both build from within, and we attract from without. Thought is the force with which we build, for thoughts are forces. Like builds like and like attracts like. In the degree that thought is spiritualized does it become more subtle and powerful in its workings. This spiritualizing is in accordance with law and is within the power of all.

“ Everything is first worked out in the unseen before it is manifested in the seen, in the ideal before it is realized in the real, in the spiritual before it shows forth in the material. The realm of the unseen is the realm of cause. The realm of the seen is the realm of effect. The nature of effect is always determined and conditioned by the nature of its cause.”

Thus for Mahatma Gandhi, before a nonviolent action or campaign, there was a long period of spiritual preparation of both himself and his close co-workers. Prayer, fasting, meditation were used in order to focus the force of the soul, to visualize a positive outcome and to develop harmlessness to those opposed.

Another theme which Trine stressed and which Gandhi constantly used in his efforts to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims was that there was a basic core common to all religions. Gandhi wrote “There is a golden thread that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world's history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power. The great central fact of the universe is that the spirit of infinite life and power is back of all, manifests itself in and through all. This spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all is what I call God. I care not what term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipotence or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself.”

Note : 1) R.W. Trine. In Tune with the Infinite (New York: Whitecombe and Tombs, 1899, 175pp.)

Islamic State in Iraq-Syria: The Standards of World Law

In light of the growing effort to use military measures in the Iraq-ISIS situation,
I believe that it is necessary to promote a legal-world law approach.
Your help in distributing this text is welcome, Rene Wadlow

On 1 September 2014, the UN Human Rights Council held a Special Session in Geneva devoted to the violations of human rights in Iraq, especially in areas under the control of the Islamic State (also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS). A Special Session is the highest priority for the Human Rights Council and usually takes a good deal of private negotiations among ambassadors before it is called. In this case, it was decided to focus only on Iraq. Had Syria been included, the violations of human rights by the Syrian government would also have had to be considered and this would have drawn attention away from the ISIS issue. The resolution of the Special Session is also negotiated in advance as the hope is to have consensus without a negative vote or abstentions.

The resolution called for the creation of a group of inquiry which would gather evidence and testimonies on the allegations of human rights violations. While such UN inquiries rarely uncover information that has not already been presented by specialized Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, the information of the UN inquiry has a more official status and can serve as a basis of UN action.

There are currently four such investigations under way, created under the direction of Navi Pillay, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

  1. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
  2. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.
  3. The OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka
  4. The Commission of Inquiry on Gaza

In light of the accusations of massive human rights violations as well as the danger that military operations will spread and potentially destabilize countries such as Lebanon and Jordan where there is a large number of refugees from Syria, the inquiry members will be chosen from among the Secretariat staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights so that they can start immediately. NGOs in consultative status and governments can submit information in writing to the UN inquiry. As the Islamic State controls territory in both Iraq and Syria, NGOs are likely to submit evidence concerning both countries.

The Special Session on Iraq was a major advance for world law as for the first time, a non-state actor is held responsible for upholding universally-recognized human rights standards. There had been some debate among international law specialist if a non-state actor can be held responsible for violations in areas under its control. (1) Some governments fear that a recognition of the duties of armed opposition groups will only confer an international legitimacy to such groups - governments claiming that they are fighting against criminals and terrorists and that the “laws of war” do not apply.

International humanitarian law already maintains that non-state armed insurgencies are bound by the Red Cross conventions and customary international law. This advance in humanitarian law arose from a Red Cross conference in Geneva in 1977 as a reaction to the destructive war in Vietnam in which the Viet Cong was an armed insurgency in control of some territory. North Vietnam claimed during most of the conflict that it was not directly involved and thus not responsible for the actions of the Viet Cong. Thus the Red Cross conference adopted a 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Conventions which says that the humanitarian rules contained in Common Article 3 are to be respected by all sides in a particular conflict. Thus the wide range of duties in the Geneva Conventions applies to all sides fighting in an internal armed conflict.

There was some debate among specialists if human rights standards were equally applicable to all parties in an internal conflict. The 1 September Special Session resolution adopted with no negative vote is an indication of the growing acceptance of world law. It is not clear what impact this advance in world law will have on the armed members of the ISIS, but it is a consensus on which we, as NGOs, should build to create a strong wave of respect for world law. During the Special Session, the Ambassador of Malaysia called for the voices of moderation to drown out the voices of intolerance and terrorism. World law and a humanitarian respect for each individual is the core of such voices of moderation.


1) See the very complete legal overview in Andrew Clapham Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, 614 pp.)

World Law advanced by the UN Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Human Rights Violations in Iraq.

Two major advancements in the universal application of world law were made by the UN Human Rights Council Special Session in Geneva on 1 September 2014. The Council met in response to wide-spread and converging accusations of human rights violations in territory in Iraq and Syria under the control of the Islamic State (IS) also called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIM) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). I will use the term “Islamic State” which is the title that the movement most often uses now for itself.

For the past several years, the IS was one of a good number of shifting insurgency groups active in Syria in opposition to the government, and it did not receive more attention than any of the other insurgencies. It had no clear political program, and its ideology was not particularly different from that of other Islamist groups. Then suddenly in June 2014, under the leadership of the young Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group shifted its focus from Syria to Iraq. It was able to build on the growing resentment and sentiment of marginalization o the Iraqi Sunnis and the disorganization o the Iraq army to sweep through large parts of western Iraq and eastern Syria. IS's ideology does not recognize existing nation-states but rather a potentially unified Islamic world. One of its first symbolic moves was to destroy frontier wall and frontier posts on the Iraq-Syria frontier. Thus the name of Islamic State and the title of Caliphate for the area under its control.

In the areas under IS control, IS armed groups have killed prisoners of the Iraqi army and members of religious and ethnic minorities leading to larger scale displacement of people, often to the Kurdish Autonomous Area - some 800,000 during August. The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has stated that this is a “humanitarian crisis” and appealed for support from governments and civil society to meet the urgent needs of the displaced. On 12 August 2014, Heiner Beilefeldt, the Special Rapporteur of the Council on Discrimination due to Religion or Belief warned of the destruction of religious minorities and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination activated its early warning and urgent action procedures.

During August, IS forces took areas close to the Kurdish Autonomous Area, areas in which there is a large Kurdish-speaking population but is outside the Kurdish Autonomous Area's boundaries. The Kurdish forces fought back, helped by US bombing missions aimed at IS military equipment and posts. The danger of a military escalation and a spreading of the conflict was (and still is) a real possibility.

Many looked toward the UN Human Rights Council to speak out. Both some governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) urged a Special Session of the Council, the highest profile action which the Council can take. It seems that France took the lead in the effort to get a Special Session. Although a minority of 16 States among the 47 Members of the Council is needed to call a Special Session, diplomatic sense requires that as many States as possible participate in the call and that they would vote positively on the resolution at the end of the Special Session.

In the case of this session, it was agreed by government negotiators to limit the discussion to IS actions in Iraq and not bring up violations in Syria on which governments hold differing views. The negotiators organizing the effort had to have the agreement of Iraq, the concerned State, of Iran which holds the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement and its 120 members. Iran is also heavily involved in the conflicts of Syria and Iraq. Pakistan needed to agree as Pakistan is the usual spokesperson for the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. Italy, as current president of the EU had to play a key role. The President of the Council, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Elia had to be kept informed as the Special Session would be under his leadership.

It is difficult for someone not party to the government private negotiations to know how they are carried out and how the resolution is written, well in advance of the Session itself. In this case, the Ambassador of South Africa felt that he had been left out of the discussions and complained bitterly that the resolution had not been negotiated inclusively and transparently and had appealed to the President of the Council to defer until more time was given to delegates to negotiate the text. His request was turned down, and so South Africa was the only State to say after the resolution was passed by consensus without a vote that had there been a vote, he would have abstained.

As the final resolution is written and agreed upon prior to the start of the Session, all the statements of the Member States of the Council, the Observer States and NGOs are “for the record”. Each States wishes to have been seen as saying something in the very short time that each State is allocated. The factual information was presented at the start of the Session by Ms Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ms Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict. There is therefore a good deal of repetition in what government representatives have to say. There is a story in the USA about a mythical conference of comedians who have heard all the jokes before, so rather than tell a joke, they would just say a number, “number 10” and everyone would laugh. Along these lines, I have suggested that at the UN a good deal of time could be saved by having all ideas given a number, so the Ambassador could just say, “We believe, 7 9 15, Thank you” and a skilled technician would flash a red light if ever a new idea was mentioned. My suggestion has not yet been acted upon, and so one must listen carefully to “hear between the lines” and see who is saying something different or occasionally saying it very well.

Thus, it was impossible for the Ambassador of Syria not to mention that the IS was also in Syria, which the Canadian Ambassador did as well. Germany mentioned that there were Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan but did not go into more detail. Cuba and Venezuela mentioned that the problems of Iraq were due to the US invasion of 2003 “responsible or sowing the seeds of death and th social breakdown among the Iraqi people”. Ireland was the one State to mention “open and possibly genocidal attacks on minority communities” but did not mention the 1948 Genocide Convention. Austria spoke of the “ total annihilation of minorities but did not use the term “genocide”. Morocco called or Iraq to become a “cohesive State in which all citizens were equal and enjoyed their human rights.” Malaysia called upon “the voices of moderation to drown out the destructive and divisive voices of extremism and terrorism”. Lebanon called for actions by the International Criminal Court, especially against those bearing passports of States which wee party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC. The Holy See (the Vatican) made a moving call or tolerance and understanding among all religions.

After the speeches “for the record”, what was the action proposal which was an advancement for world law? The action proposal followed a Council pattern but with a significant difference. The Council in the past, following a practice o the earlier Commission on Human Rights, has created “Commissions of Inquiry” also called “Fact-finding Missions”. Currently there are four such Commissions at work: Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, and the Commission of Inquiry on Gaza. Each commission has three, sometimes four people, each from a different geographic zone. The members have usually had experience in UN activities, and the chair is usually someone who has a reputation beyond his UN efforts, such as Mr Martti Ahtisari, the former President of Finland who heads the Sri Lanka study.

Since the commissions are usually not welcomed by the government of the country to be studied, the fact-finding is done by interviewing exiles and refugees. NGOs, scholars as well as governments can also provide information in writing. The Commission reports rarely contain information that is not already available from specialized NGOs, journalists and increasingly the INTERNET. However, the commission reports give an official coloring to the information, and some UN follow up action can be based on the reports.

It takes a good deal of time to put these commissions together as there must be regional balance, increasingly gender balance, and a balance of expertise. Moreover, the people approached to be commission members are often busy and have other professional duties. It can sometimes take a month or more to put together a commission. In light of the pressing need presented by the situation in Iraq, it was decided that the members of the fact-finding group would be members of the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights so that they can get to work immediately.

For the UN, this is a major step forward and must have led to a good deal of discussion before being presented in the resolution. As it is, India and China objected publicly in official statements just before the final resolution was accepted. Both States maintained that using Secretariat members went beyond the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner. They were worried by the increasing investigative role of the Office which should be limited only to helping develop national capacity building: Iraq today, Kashmir and Tibet tomorrow. The Indians and the Chinese are probably not the only governments worried, but they were the only States which spoke up on the issue, objecting strongly but saying they would not block consensus on the resolution.

The other advance or world law arising from the Special Session is the principle of the universality of concern and thus of investigation. In no previous case, has the UN looked at the violations within an area not under he control of a Member State. In this case, the investigation concerns actions of a non-state actor who nevertheless controls territory and to some extent administers the territory trying to impose its vision of strict Islamic law. This is a major step forward and has implications or other state entities but which are not members of the UN or recognized by the majority o UN Member States such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistra, Nagorno-Karabakh, and if a state were set up in eastern Ukraine.

This principle was stated in a widely distributed text for the Special Session and which will come out as a written NGO statement at the regular session of the Council starting 8 September. With due modesty, I quote from myself: “The Association of World Citizens believes that world law as developed by the United Nations applies not only to the governments of Member States but also to individuals and non-governmental organizations. The ISIS has not been recognized as a State and is not a member of the UN. Nevertheless the Association of World Citizens is convinced that the terms of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief applies to the ISIS and that the actions of the ISIS are, in the terms of the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly on 25 November 1981 “inadmissible”.

Citizens of the World stress the need for world law and certain common values among all the States and peoples o the world. We are one humanity with a shared destiny. The challenge before us requires inclusive ethical values. Such values must be based on a sense of common responsibility for both present and future generations.”

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, according to my friend John Logue, Director of Villanova University Common Heritage Institute who had participated with me as non-government organization representatives in the 93-week long negotiations in New York and Geneva, it should be called "the Law of the Seize." What started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in December 1982 with a draft convention. It was a mixed bag of successes and disappointments, but the Convention on the Law of the Sea has now been ratified by 162 states but not by the United States and certain other industrialized states.

Ambassador Pardo's phrase 'the common heritage of mankind' meant more than a global commons, open to all to exploit. It implied the establishment of rules by which exploitation of a part of the earth's resources were to be governed, and of institutions capable of acting on behalf of mankind as a whole. For Pardo, the 'common heritage of mankind' was to lead to the transformation of world politics.(1)

For global citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of particular significance. The Convention tried to structure what had been largely customary international law and state practice into a legal comprehensive treaty. The Convention was an effort to formulate a written constitution for the world oceans. It was perhaps the most comprehensive legislative attempt in the annals of international law. The Convention specified that the greater part of the oceans was considered res communitis, a global common beyond national ownership, although the diplomats accepted an extension of national sovereignty from three to 12 miles from the coast line and a new concept of a 200-nauticle mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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 acceptable to all - to manage what Arvid 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 business corporation representatives who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the conference. (2)

Although the negotiations were carried out by the representatives of governments, all considered to be equal, there were a number of key individuals who through their personality, vision, negotiating skills, and drive played roles well beyond the status in world politics of their states. Thus, the President of the conference, Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka was an outstanding leader, so much so, that when there was a change in government in Sri Lanka and Amerasingh was replaced as Ambassador to the UN, it was decided, after heated debates, that he should continue as President of the conference - the only case of a private citizen directing a UN conference. Unfortunately, he died in 1980 before the conference ended so he did not see the fulfillment of his efforts. He was replaced as President by a man who had already played a key role as chair of a working group, the very able Tommy Koh of Singapore. Paul Engo of Cameroon, chair of a different working group, was the dynamic voice of Africa, while Jens Evensen of Norway was the most active and constructive leader among European and North American diplomats.

The conference was, in many ways, a race against time as unilateral measures by individual states were breaking old conventional rules, making ocean practices a mixed pattern of national legislation, and customary international law. Unilateral legislation was being passed concerning the two key issues of the conference: national sovereignty beyond the shore line and deep sea mineral mining. South American states were claiming a 200-mile limit beyond the shore line, and the US Congress had passed legislation to allow US corporations to mine mineral resources on the sea bed, in particular manganese nodules. (3)

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 resouce base through the creation of a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interests 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 regime. International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.

During the conference, there were lengthy discussions concerning the exclusive economic zone of 200 miles around 'islands', 'rocks', and 'low-tide elevations'. The distinctions were loosely made, and noone saw that the mining of petroleum around islands would become today an important political issue and a source of international conflict. 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 disputes arise largely because of the claims of waters around small islands as national territory. Most of these island are not permanently 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 large oil and gas reserves in these areas. (4)

Concerning China's dispute with Japan (which is also largely true of China's policy with other Asian countries), Krista Wiegand writes "China 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". (5)

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, though a 2002 Phnom Penh Declaration of Conduct of Parties in South China Sea calls for trust, restraint, and settlement by juridical means. Today, to honor the Law of the Sea, we can consider how best to resolve territorial disputes by having a broader view of the common heritage of mankind.


  1. See A. Pardo The Common Heritage: Selected Papers on Oceans and World Order, 1967-1974 (Malta University Press, 1975) When a new government came to power in Malta in 1971, Pardo was replaced as Ambassador to the UN. His views were presented during the Law of the Sea negotiations through NGO representatives, in particular Elizabeth Mann Borgese, daughter of the anti-Nazi German author Thomas Mann;
  2. For a good picture of the active role that well-informed non governmental representatives played during the eight years of negotiations see: Ralph and Miriam Levering Citizen Action for Global Change: The Neptune Group and the Law of the Sea (Syracuse University Press, 1999)
    For the world federalist/world citizen positions that John Logue and I were advocating at the time see: Finn Laursen (Ed.) Toward a New International Marine Order (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1982)
    Louis B. Sohn, Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School was an outstanding example of an individual scholar. His proposals for dispute settlement largely formed the basis of the dispute mechanisms of the Convention.
  3. A 1964 study by John Mero The Mineral Resouces of the Sea (Elsevier, 1964) demonstrated - some might claim exagerated - the economic potential of manganese nodules. His book set off a 'manganese rush' and certain states and companies made plans for their exploitations in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
    For a lively and detailed analysis of the key issues and the techniques of negotiations see Roderick Ogley Internationalizing the Seabed (Gower Publishing, 1984). Roderick Ogley was a fellow NGO representative at the Law of the Sea conference as well as a professor of international relations at the University of Sussex, UK. Because the NGO representatives were well informed of the issues and publishing an informative newspaper during the sessions Neptune, there was more discussions and exchanges than is usual in UN meetings. I had brought the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame to Geneva to give a talk on ocean polution, not a high priority at the time. However many diplomats came because he was well known. By the time of the June 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ocean polution and environmental risks such as global warming and sea-level rise had become important issues. A key function of NGO representatives at the UN is to keep a step ahead of governments in raising issues with which governments are not yet dealing.
  4. Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991)
  5. Krista R. Wiegand Enduring Territorial Disputes (University of Georgia Press, 2011)

Egypt Death Penalty

World Citizens, strongly opposed to the death penalty, question the Egyptian Government's condemnation to death of 528 persons in a short mass trial.

In a 26 March 2014 message to the acting President of Egypt and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, stated that the mass trial of Muslim Brotherhood members accused of the death of a police officer and terrorist acts during the August 2013 protests was an insult to the Spirit of Justice and a violation of the rule of law.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has repeatedly called upon governments for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty - a penalty that extensive research has shown has little or no impact on the level of violent crime and too often opens the door to judicial errors and injustice.

The speed of the two-day trial during which defense lawyers were not able to develop their arguments is unprecedented and points to the political motivations of the current military-influenced Government.

There is a possibility to appeal the verdict, but the timing and modalities are unclear. There are some 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters awaiting trial, and this trial in the Minya Criminal Count does not indicate a rule of law but rather of revenge and a desire to inspire fear of possible Government action.

The verdict now goes to Egypt's Grand Mufti, a religious authority, for approval or rejection. It is not clear on what basis religious authorities review and make decisions on what are essentially secular trials. In practice, death sentences in Egypt are often handed down, but few have been carried out in recent years. The aims of the trials and the sentences are political: to show that death is a real possibility if one “steps out of line”.

Such a misuse of the court system undermines trust in the legal order and is in violation of the spirit and provisions of human rights law.

The Association of World Citizens is devoted to the universal application of human rights law which includes fair trials and the right to adequate defense. Therefore, the AWC calls upon the Government of Egypt to revise this court case by a speedy appeal procedure and to see that the subsequent trials concerning Muslim Brotherhood members or supporters of former President Mohammed Mossi are carried out in conformity with established international norms.



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