Category: <span>Role of Non-Governemental-Organizations.</span>

Torture Education of World Citizenships.

26 June: International Day Against Torture.

Featured Image: Painting in museum DPRK. By AgainErick, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Torture has a bad name among the police and security agencies of most countries. Thus torture is usually called by other names.  Even violent husbands do not admit to torturing their wives.  Thus;  when NGO representatives started to raise the issue of torture in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in the early 1980s;  the government representatives replied that it was a very rare practice;  limited to a small number of countries and sometimes a “rogue” policeman or prison guard. 

However;  NGO representatives insisted that, in fact; it was widely used by a large number of countries; including those that had democratic forms of government.

Sean MacBride (1904-1988).

Getting torture to be recognized as a real problem;  and then having the Commission on Human Rights create the post of Special Rapporeteur on Torture; owes much to the persistent efforts of Sean MacBride (1904-1988); at the time the former chairman of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1974). MacBride had been the Foreign Minister of Ireland (1948-1951);  and knew how governments work.

However; He had earlier been a long-time leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA); being the son of John MacBride; an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising – an attack on the Dublin Post Office. With his death; John MacBride became an Irish hero of resistance.  Later Sean had spent time in prison accused of murder. He told me that he had never killed anyone;  but as the IRA Director of Intelligence; he was held responsible for the murders carried out by men under his command.  Later, he also worked against the death penalty.

Torture

Seán MacBride. By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

26 June as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

As examples of the current use of torture kept being presented by NGO representatives and as some victims of torture came to Geneva to testify; the Commission on Human Rights named a Special Rapporteur and also started to work on what became the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel  Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Treaty came into effect on 26 June 1987; and in 1997 the UN General Assembly designated 26 June as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Independent Experts.

Human Rights treaties negotiated within the UN create what are known as “Treaty Bodies”; ­ a group of persons who are considered to be “independent experts”. As the saying around Geneva goes; “some are more ‘expert’ than others, and some are more ‘independent’ than others.  Countries which have ratified a human rights convention should make a report every four or five years to the specific Treaty Body. For the Torture Treaty;  it is every four years to the 10-person expert group.

Many States are late, some very late, in meeting this obligation. There are 158 States which have ratified the Torture Convention;  but some 28 States have never bothered to file a report. States which have not ratified the treaty do not make reports.

Concluding Observations.

NGO representatives provide the experts with information in advance and suggest questions that could usefully be asked. The State usually sends representatives to Geneva for the Treaty Body discussions; as the permanent Ambassador  is rarely able to answer specific questions on police and prison conditions. At the end of the discussion between the representative of a State and the experts; the experts write “concluding observations” and make recommendations.

Unfortunately; the Convention is binding only on States.  However; increasingly non-governmental armed militias;  such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq carry out torture in a systematic way. The militia’s actions can be mentioned but not examined by the Treaty Body.

While there is no sure approach to limiting the use of torture; much depends on the observations and actions of non-governmental organizations.  We need to increase our efforts; to strengthen the values which  prohibit torture; and watch closely how persons are treated by the police, prison guards and armed militias.

 

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

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

NGOs Book Reviews

Oliver P. Richmond and Henry F. Carey (Eds); Subcontracting…

Featured Image: Prof. Oliver Richmond By Arianit, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Challenges of the NGO Peacebuilding (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2005, 267pp.)

As Kim Reimann writes in this useful overview of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the peacebuilding field; “In the past two decades, the number and influence of NGOs have grown dramatically; leading many scholars and observers in recent years to argue that a paradigm shift has taken place in politics and international relations theory”.

While the tone of much of the literature on NGOs has been positive; and has presented them in a progressive and idealistic light; the rise of NGOs has not been without controversy or critics.

As NGOs have grown in size and influence; their actions have come under much greater scrutiny… “During the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, a clearly defined set of critiques of NGOs have appeared focusing on:

  1. Their performance and actual effectiveness.
  2. Accountability issues.
  3. Issues of autonomy.
  4. Commercialization.
  5. Ideological and/or political interpretations of their rising influence.”

The rise of NGOs

These critiques are worth looking at and will serve as a framework for this review. However; it is worth looking at the roles that NGOs try to play in the peace-building field; and why there has been increased growth in activity.

The rise of NGOs; such as the Association of World Citizens as important agents in conflict resolution; and post-conflict development efforts comes from the changing nature of conflicts.

Cold War years (1945-1990)

During the Cold War years(1945-1990); governments were the chief actors. NGOs could give advice on disarmament measures for the resolution of certain conflicts, and could provide the setting for some TrackTwo informal meetings. On some special issues that were not directly security-related such as the Law of the Sea negotiations; or the first UN environmental meetings; NGOs already had significant input.

However, even during the Cold War years; in certain areas, especially Africa; we saw the rise of non-state armed forces such as the first civil war in Sudan(1956-1972); the different rebellions in the former Belgium Congo, the Viet Cong in South Vietnam.

The World Council of Churches.

Governments were unable or unwilling to deal with such non-state actors. Much of the negotiations which brought an end to the first Sudanese civil war in 1972; were carried out by the African Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

There are also cases; in which the government controlling the territory is suspect and some governments are unwilling to work with it. I was involved in the early 1990s; in helping to set up child welfare and educational programs through an NGO as the Vietnamese-backed.

Cambodian Government

The Cambodian government was not recognized by some governments and was suspect to others. It was only later that a massive UN-led effort was made in Cambodia. Under UN leadership, NGOs, the Cambodian government, and national government programs; cooperated to restore the country after war, genocide, and the failure of Vietnam to undertake development efforts for the government it helped to put into place.

The US Government and the European Union

Today; we see the same debates in the US government and the European Union; concerning a Hamas-led government in Palestine. There is the current talk of funding through NGOs so as not to deal with Hamas; considered by some a terrorist organization.

NGOs are thought to have speed, flexibility, relative cheapness, high implementation capacity; and lack of bureaucracy. They are also relatively independent from governments; often made up of multinational teams. There is also disillusionment with the role of states in constructing peace in conflict zones — governments are always suspected of acting for narrow self-interest.

NGO strengths can also be weaknesses

However; NGO strengths can also be weaknesses, and as Kim Reimann suggests; it is important to look at performance and effectiveness. It is also necessary to look at government-organized activities in the same places and in the same fields.

I would suggest that each situation presents difficulties linked to history, culture, and the current distribution of local power, and thus governments and NGOs face the same difficulties. NGOs cannot use the police or the military so they must depend on discussion and material rewards.

Performance and effectiveness depend; in large measure on the quality of the persons working for peacebuilding NGOs; thus is an issue of experience and training; background knowledge of the area in which one is working; and the organization’s ability to get information and supplies to workers in the field. Much also depends on relations with national and local authorities; local NGOs and others having local influence.

The national military is always on hand

Moreover; NGOs cannot have staffs who only wait for a crisis to arrive. The national military is always on hand. To meet a new crisis; NGOs have to find people who have worked for them before; or for like-minded NGOs. Many such people have jobs and families, and cannot ‘drop everything to respond to a call. Thus; there is a need for wide and up-to-date NGO networks of people with the needed skills.

There is a need to train people both in the culture of an area and in skills. One has to be able to draw upon a wide range of people; who know the culture of an area. We have seen the difficulties of the US government; depending on too narrow a range of Iraqi exiles for their background information on Iraq.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The number of people who know the history and culture of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo; (probably the most difficult current conflict situation) is limited and rarely in one place.

Fortunately; there is a growing number of university-based peace studies programs; that can be helpful in training. Kim Reimann has also raised the issue of autonomy — that is the way in which NGOs can prevent being manipulated by their governments, and yet cooperate when governments undertake useful initiatives. There is a useful chapter on NGOs and the peace efforts of Norway by Ann Kelleher and James Taulbee.

Norway

Norway is known for having played a leading role in brokering the Oslo accord in the Israel/Palestine conflict as well as being active in Latin America —Guatemala and Colombia — and especially Sri Lanka. As Kelleher and Taulbee write “ As a peacemaker, Norway sprang suddenly from amid the confusion associated with the reshuffling of international roles after the Cold War. A relatively small, homogeneous population that enjoys a high standard of living has produced a highly educated, closely connected governing circle whose members move easily between public, private, and semi-official roles.

The Norwegian domestic political

The Norwegian domestic political process emphasizes consensus creation rather than confrontation. Norwegians are accustomed to the time-consuming process of sorting out strongly held convictions and dealing with shifting coalitions of interests.

They consider their consensus-building political style as aptly suited to the ambiguities and uncertainties of peacemaking.” Because there are exchanges of people between NGOs; especially church-related, academic life, and government in Norway, and because Norway has no Great Power interests; it is easy for NGOs in Norway to cooperate with the government in peace efforts as full partners; not as manipulated agents of government policy. We have similar conditions in Sweden and Switzerland — thus the important role that NGOs from these countries play in NGO peacemaking efforts.

NGOs are a crucial question

Resources for NGOs is a crucial question. Fundraising from individual givers helps strengthen NGO independence, but it is time-consuming and expensive. In an analysis of NGO activities in rebuilding Rwanda, Joanna Fisher writes:

“NGOs may be benefiting their own image rather than that of the populace that they serve; they plan strategically ar time so as to worry more about proving their worth to get funding instead of worrying about if those helped can survive in the long-term after NGOs leave.”

Accepting money from governments poses problems of independence from government policy but can also be useful.

Getting projects off the ground requires funds that NGOs do not usually have in reserve. We can agree with the editor Henry Carey in his conclusions “NGOs have a vital role in supporting societies emerging from conflicts, half of whom are relapsed old conflicts where earlier efforts at peacebuilding and prevention have failed. Greater assessments of best practices and lessons learned about the vast growth of NGO activity, both acting independently and in partnership with the UN, are needed… Finally, more investigation of how to empower local NGOs which still depend on external resources in most cases needs to be undertaken.”

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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United Nations Rapprochement of Cultures.

U. N. Day: Strengthening and Reforming.

Featured Image: Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pixabay

By René Wadlow.

October 24 is United Nations (U. N.) Day;  marking the day when there were enough ratifications;  including those of the five permanent members of the proposed Security Council for the U. N. Charter to come into force. It is a day not only of celebration;  but also a day for looking at how the U. N. system can be strengthened;  and when necessary, reformed.

There have been a number of periods when proposals for new or different U. N. structures were proposed and discussed. The first was in the 1944-1945 period when the Charter was being drafted. Some who had lived through the decline and then death of the League of Nations wanted a stronger world institution, able to move more quickly and effectively in times of crisis or at the start of armed conflict.

 

In practice;  the League of Nations was reincarnated in 1945 in the U. N. Charter but the names of some of the bodies were changed and new Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO were added. There was some dissatisfaction during the San Francisco negotiations, and an article was added indicating that 10 years after the coming into force of the Charter a proposal to hold a U. N. Charter Review Conference would be placed on the Agenda – thus for 1955.

The possibility of a U. N. Charter Review Conference led in the 1953-1954 period to a host of proposals for changes in the U. N. structures;  for a greater role for international law, for a standing U. N. “peace force”. Nearly all these proposals would require modifications in the U. N. Charter.

League of Nations

The semi-official emblem of the League of Nations, used from 1939 to 1941. Vectors by Mysid, based on FOTW. By The original uploader was Mysid at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

High-Level Panels.

When 1955 arrived;  the United States and the Soviet Union, who did not want a Charter Review  Conference;  which might have questioned their policies, were able to sweep the Charter Review agenda item under the rug from where it has never emerged. In place of a Charter Review Conference, a U. N. Committee on “Strengthening the U. N. Charter” was set up which made a number of useful suggestions;  none of which were put into practice as such. The Committee on Strengthening the Charter was the first of a series of expert committees, “High-Level Panels” set up within the U. N. to review its functioning and its ability to respond to new challenges. There have also been several committees set up outside of the U. N. to look at world challenges and U. N. responses, such as the Commission on Global Governance.

While in practice there have been modifications in the ways the U. N. works;  few of these changes have recognized an expert group’s recommendations as the source of the changes. Some of the proposals made would have strengthened some factions of the U. N. system over the then current status quo – most usually to strength the role of developing countries (the South) over the industrialized States (the North). While the vocabulary of “win-win” modifications is often used, in practice few States want to take a chance, and the status quo continues.

U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets.

Now, the Secretary General knows well how the U. N. works from his decade as High Commissioner for Refugees, U. N. reform is again “in the air”. There are an increasing number of proposals presented by governments and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the U. N. The emphasis today is on what can be done without a revision of the Charter. Most of the proposals turn on what the Secretary General can do on his own authority. The Secretary General cannot go against the will of States – especially the most powerful States – but he does have a certain power of initiative.

There are two aspects of the current U. N. system that were not foreseen in 1945 and which are important today. One is the extensive role of U. N. Peacekeeping Forces: The Blue Helmets. The other is the growing impact of NGOs. There is growing interest in the role of NGOs within the U. N. system in the making and the implementation of policies at the international level. NGOs are more involved than ever before in global policy making and project implementation in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection. (1)

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

U.N Blue Helmet

Blue Helmet – UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. Peacekeeping forces of Indonesia. By Frea Kama Juno, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Consultative-Status NGOs.

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

UN_Geneva_Human_Rights_and_Alliance_of_Civilizations_Room

Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations, Geneva (Switzerland). It is the meeting room of the United Nations Human Rights Council. By Ludovic Courtès, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Networking.

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

U.N Networking

Wikipedia Workshop for Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communications staffs by Wikimedia Bangladesh. This is our one of big initiative to involve all community radio people to enrich Wikipedia. By Hasive, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

On the Same Wave Length.

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 U. N. from lobbying at the national level is that the representative may appeal to and discuss with the diplomats of many different governments. While some diplomats may be unwilling to consider ideas from anyone;  other than the mandate they receive from their Foreign Ministry;  others are more open to ideas coming from NGO representatives. Out of the 193 Member States;  the NGO representative will always find some diplomats who are ‘on the same wave length’;  or who are looking for additional information on which to take a decision, especially on issues on which a government position is not yet set.

Therefore;  an NGO representative must be trusted by government diplomats and the U. N. Secretariat. As with all diplomacy in multilateral forums such as the U. N., 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 U. N. Secretariat. Many Secretariat members share the values of the NGO representatives;  but cannot try to influence government delegates directly. The Secretariat members can, however, give to the NGO representatives some information;  indicate countries that may be open to acting on an issue;  and help with the style of presentation of a document.

 

U.N NGO Representatives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Emma Ruby Sachs, Deputy Director, Avaaz, Ms. May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org Mr. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International Ms. Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Our Kids Climate Ms. Usha Nair, Climate Leader, Global Gender and Climate Alliance Mr. Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club Ms. Karuna Singh, Director, Earth Day Network India Mr. Al Gore, Chairman The Climate Reality Project. By UNclimatechange from Bonn, Germany, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Trans-National Advocacy Networks.

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

‘Trans-national advocacy networks’;  which work across frontiers are of increasing importance as seen in the efforts against land mines;  for the International Criminal Court and for increased protection from violence toward women and children. The groups working on these issues are found in many different countries;  but have learned to work trans-nationally both through face-to-face meetings and through the internet web.

The groups in any particular campaign share certain values and ideas in common;  but may differ on other issues. Thus;  they come together on an ad hoc basis around a project or a small number of related issues. Yet their effectiveness is based on their being able to function over a relatively long period of time in rather complex networks even when direct success is limited.

Success Story.

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

There is a need to work at the local, the national, and the U. N. 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 U. N. consultative-status NGOs has been continual since the early 1970s. NGOs and government diplomats at the U. N. are working ever more closely together to deal with the world challenges which face us all.

U.N Success History
Shellard (centre) with The Baroness Lawrence and S.P. Varma at The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference in August 2019. By Otisjfk, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note.

(1) This interest is reflected in a number of path-making studies such as P. Willets (Ed.), The Consciences of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the U. N. 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).

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

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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U.N General Assembly Role of Non-Governemental-Organizations.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global…

Featured Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

27 Sep 2019 – The international relations specialist Stanley Hoffmann once quipped:

Goals are easy to describe. What matters more is a strategy for reaching them.” 

The United Nations through its annual debates in the General Assembly;  its special world conferences such as those devoted to the environment, population, food, women, urbanization, and within the Specialized Agencies have created goals for a world public policy in the interests of all humanity.  There are three important phases of this world public policy: formulation, implementation and evaluation.

Climate Action Summit.

Thus;  this September the UNGA began with a “Climate Action Summit” to evaluate governmental efforts to meet the challenges of climate change. Government leaders set out what they have done, or plan to do  at the national level; but they said relatively little on what they could do together.

The Climate Action Summit was followed by the policy statements of national governments: Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Recep Tajyip Erdogan, Emmanuel Macron, Hassan Rouhani, Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi and Abdel Fatth el-Sisi.    All except al Sisi came to national power through elections and not military coups.  Thus in some way;  they represent the degree of awareness of world issues and the priorities of their electors.

The question asked many years ago by the world citizen Norman Cousins.

UN General Assembly

President Trump Addresses Journalists at the UN General Assembly. By U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Who Speaks for Man”?

To meet the major challenges of world-wide issues;  strong leadership is necessary.  Yet the avenues for leadership at the world level are difficult to trace.  Leadership at the national level is usually clearly structured in a pyramid; with the office of President at the top;  with Cabinet Ministers; the higher ranks of the military just below. 

There may be a vast informal network of influential advisors; business leaders, the press – all with leadership roles; but the formal structure of governance is hierarchical and clearly defined.   People generally expect the Prime Minister or the President to lead.  In fact; he is judged on whether or not he provides such leadership.

At the world level; there is no world government as such, and a strong leader at the national level may play little role on the world level.  What the Commission on Global Governance wrote in 1994 remains true today:

At the moment;  political caution, national concerns, short-term problems, and a certain fatigue with international causes have combined to produce a dearth of leadership on major international issues.  The very magnitude of global problems such as poverty; population or consumerism seems to have daunted potential international leaders.  And yet without courageous; long-term leadership at every level – international and national – it is impossible to create and sustain constituencies powerful and reliable enough to make an impact on problems that will determine; one way or another;  the future of the human race on this planet.”  (1)

The United Nations is the only universal organization at the world level…

Thus;  there is a need for constant leadership and direction at the world level.  There is a need to maintain and rebuild enthusiasm;  to reset the course when policies do not work out as expected;  to keep up a momentum and an enthusiasm.  The United Nations is the only universal organization at the world level;  and thus it is from within the United Nations that leadership at the world level must come.  Leaders within the U.N. system must be able to reach beyond the member governments – at times over the heads of current government office holders – to the people of the world.

There are two positions of authority in the ill-defined pyramid structure of the United Nations.  One is the Secretary-General; the other is the President of the General Assembly;  who is elected for one year at a time.  The President of the current;  74th session is Tijjani Muhammed-Bande of Nigeria.  There have been times when the head of one of the Specialized Agencies of the U.N. or the financial institutions or U.N. programs have provided leadership;  but usually on only one or two subjects.

United Nations

Flag of the United Nations (Pantone). By We moved to 8.12, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
 
 

The Secretary-General for Leadership.

Especially on the resolution of armed conflicts;  people look to the Secretary-General for leadership.  In some cases;  the Secretary-General has been able to play a central role.  As the servant of the Security Council;  the Secretary-General has been able to play a mobilizing role in times of conflict;  and political crisis in those cases when the Security Council has been unified behind a decision.  Since the chairman of the Security Council is a national diplomat and serves on a rotating basis only for one month;  he cannot play a real mobilizing role nor is he perceived as a world leader.

Some hope that the President of the U.N. General Assembly; who is in post for a full year;  could play a leadership role.  So far such hopes have not been realized in practice. It would be difficult to find many people;  who can name the last five Presidents of the General Assembly;  or to cite much of what they have done other than presiding over meetings.

Today;  with real challenges to humanity;  with a reform-minded Secretary-General,  who for a decade faced refugee issues;  we may see some of the marks of strong world leadership.

Note:

1) The Commission on Global Governance. Our Global Neighbourhood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)

René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC; the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

Conflict Prevention Networks Role of Non-Governemental-Organizations.

Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks.

Photo by TheAndrasBarta in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

As we reflect on current armed conflicts;  on which the Association of World Citizens has proposed measures for conflict resolution: – Nagorno-Karabakh, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine-Donetsk-Lougansk- Russia – we ask ourselves if we are to be overwhelmed by an endless chain of regional wars capable of devastating entire countries;  or will we help build the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith.

Can we help build stronger conflict prevention networks?

 In each of these current conflicts;  there is a mix of underlying causes: ethnic tensions, social inequality, environmental degradation, and regional rivalries. In each conflict;  there were warning signs and a building of tensions prior to the outbreak of armed conflict. This was particularly true in Syria;  where there were four months of non-violent protests and local organizing for reforms before violence began.

Nevertheless; not enough was done by external non-governmental organizations;  to strengthen and protect these non-violent reform movements in Syria. Given the complexity of conflict situations and the often short time between the signs of tensions and the outbreak of violence;  external peace-building organizations  have to be able to move quickly to support local civil society efforts.

Therefore; in each of these four situations;  the degree of civil society organizations differ. We need to look carefully at the different currents within the society;  to see what groups we might be able to work with and to what degree of influence;  they may have on governmental action. Governments tend to react in the same ways. Governments cling to the belief that there can be simple security-related solutions to complex challenges;  as we see these days with the current use of police and military methods by the government of Belarus.

The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

There is often a pervading mistrust between the central government and outlying territories. Such mistrust;  can not be overcome by external non-governmental organizations. We can, however;  reflect with local groups;  on how lines of communication can be established or strengthened.

However; preventing the eruption of disputes into full-scale hostilities is not an easy task;  but its difficulties pale beside those of ending the fighting once it has started. Non-governmental organizations need to have active channels of communication with multinational governmental organizations;  such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) . Non-governmental organizations may have an easier time to be in contact with local non-governmental forces in the conflict States;  as both the U.N. and the OSCE are bound by the decisions of governments.

Growing resource scarcity and environmental degradation;  the depletion of fresh water;  and arable land played an important role in exacerbating conflicts in Yemen. The armed conflict has made things much worse. There is now a growing world-wide recognition of the environmental-conflict linkage. Thus;  groups concerned with the defense and restoration of the environment;  need to become part of the network of conflict resolution efforts. There is much to be done. Building stronger conflict prevention networks should be a vital priority.

 Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.