Category: <span>Appeals</span>

Civil Society Appeals

A Vibrant World Civil Society

Featured Image by  Kelly Lacy in Pexels.

The Term  Civil Society.

The term “Civil Society” came into extensive use;  especially in Europe in the mid -1970s;  as efforts to bridge the East-West divide and prevent the dangers of war in Europe. As Mary Kaldor writes “A group of us launched the European Nuclear Disarmament (END) Appeal for a nuclear-free Europe.

The Appeal attracted thousands of signatures;  from all over Europe and beyond and was one of the mobilizing documents of the new peace movement;  which sprang up in Western Europe in the early 1980s. The Appeal called for nuclear disarmament through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means;  but it was also an appeal to end the Cold War. It accorded responsibility in the Cold War to both the United States and the Soviet Union;  and insisted on the link between disarmament and democracy.” (1)

Mary Kaldor

Mary Kaldor. The World Transformed 2018 in Liverpool. By Kevin Walsh from Preston Brook, England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

The Idea of Institutional and Ideological Pluralism.

The END  Appeal looked to positive action from “Civil Society”  within the Soviet block;  which was starting to be vocal outside of the government-controlled peace organizations;  which largely reflected Soviet government policy in their interaction with Western peace-disarmament non-governmental organizations.

As Ernest Gallner writes “Civil Society is the idea of institutional and ideological pluralism;  which prevents the established monopoly of power and truth and counterbalances those central institutions;  which though necessary, might otherwise acquire such monopoly. The actual practice of Marxism had led;  wherever it came to be implemented to what might be called Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism to the near total fusion of the political, ideological, and economic hierarchies.

The state, the church-party, and the economic managers were all parts of one single nomenclatura… Civil Society is that set of diverse non-governmental institutions;  which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and; while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role as keeper of the peace and arbitrator between major interests;  can nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomizing the rest of society.” (2)

 

The Importance Of The Spirit.

Vaclav Havel, athough he later became president of a State;  was a valuable symbol of the efforts to develop a civil society. “We emphasizd many times that the struggle we had taken on had little in common with what is traditionally understood by the expression “politics.”

We discussed such concepts as non-political politics;  and stressed that we were interested in certain values and principles and not in power and position. We emphasized the importance of the spirit;  the importance of truth and said that even spirit and truth embody a certain kind of power.” (3)

 

Václav Havel

Václav Havel during his speech at the Freedom and its adversaries conference held in Prague on 14th of November 2009. By Ondřej Sláma, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today  more than in the recent past;  we are faced with a revival of the Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism States,  whose interactions;  especially in the wider Middle East, could lead to armed conflicts. In addition to the Caesaro-led States;  the world society faces terrorism as movements with goals, gurus, ideologues, myths and martyrs. Thus there is a need to develop and structure a world-wide civil society.

The concept of civil society is probably the platform for future progressive action. 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. With the war drums starting to beat, creative action is needed now.

Notes

1) Mary Kaldor (Ed.) Europe from Below (London: Verso, 1991)
2) Ernest Gallner. Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals(London: Penguin Books, 1996)
3) Vaclav Havel in Mary Kalder (Ed.) Europe from Below

Rene Wadlow, President  Association of World Citizens.

 

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

Rexroth: Rapprochement of Cultures.

Featured Image: He’s an American poet. Kenneth Rexroth Street. By Beatrice Murch (blmurch), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. Kenneth Rexroth. The Association of World Citizens participates actively in…

Religious Appeals

Religious Liberty: Continuing Efforts by NGOs Needed.

Image By S. Hermann & F. Richter in Pixabay

by Rene Wadlow.

22 August has been set by the United Nations General Assembly as the

“International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief”.

Due to Nazi and Japanese militarist persecution of religious groups during the Second World War;   freedom of religion and belief was on the U.N. agenda from the start of the organization. The issue is at the heart of article 18  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;  proclaimed in 1948.

Religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs);  were active during the San Francisco conference;  at which the drafting of the U.N. Charter was completed. It was due in part to their active efforts  that an article creating a consultative status for NGOs;  was included into the U.N. Charter. NGOs in consultative status with the U.N;  can make U.N. bodies aware of issues by providing timely;  factual information. Often NGOs will address matters to U.N. agencies;  when governmental delegations keep silence. The duty of NGOs is not to speak against States;  but for the interests of humanity and human rights.

Spiritual But not Religious.

Although religious NGOs have had a wide range of interests to stress at U.N;  meetings and conferences;  such as the status of women, ecology, food policies;  liberty of religion and belief;  has always been a concern. The concern of religious liberty is not limited to religious NGOs;  but is also championed by secular NGOs;  such as Amnesty International and the Association of World Citizens.

Over time;  there has developed a fairly large number of people;  who consider themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” There has been the development of a growing number of associations devoted to practices;  which have their roots in religious traditions;  but can also be independent such as yoga, meditation, Chi Quong. Such associations often fall outside the usual governmental protection of religions – their tax status or other facilities concerning their buildings and properties.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International at the Bologna Pride 2012, in Bologna, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, June 9 2012. By G.dallorto, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.N. holds that the religious liberty provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration;  are not limited in their applications to traditional religions;  or to religions and beliefs;  with institutional characteristics or practices  similar to those of traditional religions. Thus;  newly established movements and religious minorities should be protected.

Article 18 of the Univesal Declaration of Human Rights is developed in detail by the: 

“Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance nd Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief”.

Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 November 1981. The Declaration recognizes that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and religion. The importance of inter-religious dilogue; is stresssed as is the need for intensified efforts to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and to eliminate all forms of hatred, intolerance and discrimination;  based on religion or belief.

There is a hope that tolerance and pluralism will strengthen democracy;  facilitate the full enjoyment of all human rights; and thereby constitute a sound foundation for civil society;  social harmony and peace. Yet we are fully aware that forces of aggressive nationalism;  absence of religious tolerance;  religious and ethnic extremism continue to produce fresh challenges.

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Islamic State (ISIS).

A tragic current example of victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief;  is that of the Yazidis of Iraq at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). The Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian;  a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces;  that of light and good;  and that of darkness and evil are in constant battle. Humans are called upon to help light overcome evil.

However;  the strict dualistic thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet: Mani of Ctesiphon in the third century CE.  Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious;  teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through travel and trade:  Buddhim and Hinduism from India;  Jewish and Christian thought;  Helenistic Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece as well as many smaller;  traditional and “animist” beliefs.

Islamic State

Variant of the jihadist black flag. This particular version is used by the “Islamic State of Iraq” and by al-Shabaab in Somalia. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Demon Worshipers.

He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework though;  giving it a somewhat more Taoist (yin-yang) flexibility. Mani had  lived in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul;  by individual effort through separate lives through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought. He combined the idea of spiritual progress through different lives;  with ethical insights of Gnostic and Christian thought. Unfortunately;  only the dualistic Zoroastrian framework is still attached to Mani’s nme: Manichaeism. This is somewhat ironic as it was the Zoroastrian Magi;  who had Mani put to death as a dangerous rival.

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework;  the Yazidi added the presence of angels;  who are to help humans in the constant battle for light and good. The Yazidi place great emphasis on Melek Tauis;  the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam;  angels that one does not know could well be demons;  and so the Yazidis are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers”.

Collateral Damage.

There are probably some 500,000 Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in Iraq. Iraq demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds;  who had been Yazidis;  but had been converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds of Turkey;  but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. There are smaller groups of Yazidis in Syria, Armenia and Georgia. (1)

The Yazidis have often been persecuted for their beliefs;  and as part of the Kurdish-speaking community. This was true during the period of the Ottoman Empire;  as well as during the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party rule of Iraq. However;  the most recent and dramatic form of persecution came at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Association of World Citizens stressed that the policy of the ISIS leadership was genocide – the destruction in whole or in part of a group. The killing of the Yazidis is a policy and not “collateral damage” from fighting. While ISIS has lost much of the territory in Iraq and Syria that it once held;  the trauma  continues. The Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief call upon NGOs for continued speedy and effective action.

Note:

1) See Nelida Fuccaro. The Other Kurds in Colonial Iraq (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

Rexroth: Rapprochement of Cultures.

Featured Image: He’s an American poet. Kenneth Rexroth Street. By Beatrice Murch (blmurch), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. Kenneth Rexroth. The Association of World Citizens participates actively in…

Kenneth Rexroth Appeals

Rexroth: Rapprochement of Cultures.

Featured Image: He’s an American poet. Kenneth Rexroth Street. By Beatrice Murch (blmurch), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kenneth Rexroth.

The Association of World Citizens participates actively in the UNESCO-led International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). The rapprochement of cultures requires dialogue at many levels.  We are at a time of major change in history.  The accelerating pace of change in the political, social, economic and cultural areas;  has created new opportunities for dialogue as the world is inexorably being transformed into a global society.

It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences, schools and universities all over the globe. However; it itself such meetings are not dialogues.  There is a need to reach a deeper level.  One approach is to look at writers;  who in their work drew on more than one culture and provided a bridge for meaningful dialogue;  and the rapprochement of cultures. One such writer is Kenneth Rexroth.

Kenneth Rexroth;  an American poet often considered a father figure to the Beat poets of the 1950 San Francisco scene;  was also a world citizen who blended the influences of Japan and China, of failed revolutionary movements like the Paris Commune, the Kronstadt sailors’ revolt in Russia; along with a deep sense of the beauty of nature.  He was largely self-taught;  having dropped out of secondary school.  He read widely but was always mistrustful of academic trends in poetry.

In the late 1960s when US universities tried to calm student agitation by having courses that were “relevant” to their interests; Kenneth Rexroth taught some courses at San Francisco State College.  Nevertheless;  he had a dim view of academic teaching.

“If a college student’s mother died, his girl got pregnant, he acquired a loathsome disease, or he decided to become a conscientious objector, would he go to his philosophy professor for advice?”

Taoist and Buddhist thought.

Rexroth’s model was Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass.  Whitman envisions “a social order whose essence is the liberation and universalization of selfhood…participants in a universal creative effort in which each discovers his ultimate individuation…Today we know that it is Whitman’s vision or nothing.”  Like Whitman, Rexroth stressed an ethical mysticism, citing other major influences.  “For better statements I refer you to the work of Martin Buber, D.T. Suzuki, Piotr Kropotkin, or for that matter, to the Gospels and the saying of Buddha, or to Lao Tze and Chung Tze.”

His references to D.T. Suzuki; who introduced Zen thought to the USA and to the Chinese Taoists Lao Tze and Chung Tze are a sign of his affinity to Taoist and Buddhist thought. His short summery of the essence of Taoism also reflected his philosophy of life:

 

The combinations

Of the world are unstable

By nature. Take it easy.

 

But Rexroth’s Taoism had an activist tone to it. As in many of the great Chinese and Japanese poems, the outer landscape corresponds to the inner one, the macrocosm to the microcosm:

 

My wife has been swimming in the breakers,

She comes up the beach to meet me, nude

Sparkling with water, singing high and clear

Against the surf.  The sun crosses

The hills and fills her hair, as it lights

The moon and glorifies the sea

And deep in the empty mountains melts

The snow of Winter and the glaciers

Of ten thousand  years.

 

Kenneth Rexroth especially appreciates the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva.

A bodhisattva, in case you don’t know, is one who, at the brink of absorption into Nirvana, turns away with the vow that he shall not enter final peace until he can bring all other beings with him. 

And Kenneth Rexroth puts into poetic structure the words of the American Socialist leader Eugene Debs;  who had spent years in prison for his opposition to World War I:

While there is a lower class,

I am in it.  While there is

A criminal element,

I am of it.  Where there is

A soul in jail, I am not free.

 

Yet Kenneth Rexroth always rejected the notion that the arts should be subordinated to political demands.  He felt that lyrics that communicate genuine personal vision;  are ultimately more subversive than explicit propaganda. He called erotic love “one of the highest forms of contemplation”;  and he stressed its intensity in a Japanese style:

Making love with you

Is like drinking sea water.

The more I drink

The thirstier I become,

Until nothing can slake my thirst

But to drink the entire sea.

 

Rexroth was always enthusiastic about ethical world-affirming mysticism; always quick to encourage the joining of contemplation and community;

What is taken in 

In comtemplation is poured out

In love.

 

Notes.

For Kenneth Rexroth’s early life until he moved to California in 1927 see his An Autobiographical Novel (New York: Doubleday, 1966)

Most of his poetry is in two collections: Collected Shorter Poems (New York: New Directions, 1966) and Collected Longer Poems (New York: New Directions, 1968)

For an analysis of his bridge-building efforts with Asian culture, see Morgan Gibson.

Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East-West Wisdom (Archon, 1986)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

China-India Frontier Appeals

Can Track II Efforts Reduce China-India Frontier Tensions?

Featured Image: Nathu La Pass is Indo Chine Border and one of the three open trading border of India and China. Photograph has been taken during my visit to Nathu La Pass , Sikkim. By Indrajit Das, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By René Wadlow.

In a June 24; 2020 message to the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Mr. Vladimir Novov, the Association of World Citizens (AWC); expressed its active concern with the June 15;  death of Indian and Chinese military in the Galwan River Valley in Ladakh on the India-China frontier; and the possibility that the tensions will increase.

While there have been brief discussions among Indian and Chinese authorities to prevent escalation; there have been no real negotiations. Negotiation is a basic political decision-making process to facilitate compromise without loss of essential objectives.

 

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said on June 25 that since early May;  the Chinese have been amassing a large contingent of troops and arms along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Also, within India;  there has been a good deal of media attention; highly critical of China; given to the events.

In addition; there have been calls for a boycott of Chinese goods; and some Chinese products have been removed from Indian shops. Both Indian and Chinese spokespersons have made references to the 1962;  war during which some 2,000 persons were killed.

The AWC believes that there is a need for prompt measures as the India-China tensions;  add to existing tensions between the USA and China; as well as boundary issues with Asian States in the South China Sea.

China-India Frontier
India China Border, Nathula, Sikkim. By Madhumita Das, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Track II.

There may be a role for “Track II” nongovernmental efforts and exchanges. Track I is official government to government diplomacy among instructed representative of States; usually diplomats from the Foreign Ministry. However; governments have a range of officials on whom to call: intelligence agencies, the military; and “friends of the President” – trusted individuals within the executive entourage.

 

Track II efforts are organized through nongovernmental organizations; and sometimes by academic institutions. Such efforts can entail informal; behind the scene communications that take place in the absence of formal communication channels. The term “Track II” was coined by the U. S. diplomat Joseph Montville in The Arrow and the Olive Branch: A Case for Track II Diplomacy.

Track II efforts have grown as there is increasing recognition that there is a tragic disjunction between the United Nations tension-reduction mandate;  and its ability to intervene in conflicts when called upon. As Adam Curle; experienced in Quaker mediation efforts has written: 

“In general governments achieve their results because they have power to influence events, including the ability to reward or to punish. Paradoxically, the strength of civilian peacemakers resides specifically in their lack of power. They are neither feared nor courted for what they can do. Instead, they are trusted and so may sometimes be enabled to play a part in peacemaking denied to most official diplomats.”

Those involved in Track II efforts must, nevertheless, have ready access to governmental decision-makers and Track I diplomats. As the World Citizen and Quaker economist Kenneth Boulding in a little verse writes:

“When Track One will not do,
We have to travel on Track Two
But for results to be abiding,
The Tracks must meet upon some siding”.

 

 

In the China-India frontier tensions;  both sides must be convinced that there is a considerable sentiment for peace among their own supporters. In this conflict;  which could slip into greater violence;  there is an understandable tendency to look for short term answers. Yet there is also a need for some involved in Track II efforts to have an over-all integrated perspective for both short as well as long-term transformation. Thus, there needs to be a “pool” of people with experience, skills and the ability to move fast when the need or the opportunity is there?

We are sure that there are groups in India and China which can rise to meet this challenge.

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

China-India Frontier

nathula peak,gangtok,sikkim, by Vinay.vaars, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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

When will we meet again?

Featured Image: Picture By Boris Ulzibat: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/arquitectura-china-la-gran-muralla-china-lugares-de-interes-3262994/ In an article “Tensions in the Asian Trinity: China, Japan, U.S.A.” I noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to visit Beijine…

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in…

Biodiversity: A Pledge, Now Action.

Featured Image: Photo by Jeevan Katel on Unsplash. In the early hours of 19 December 2022, the delegates to the U. N. Convention on Biodiversity (COP 15) reached an agreement…

Organización Ciudadana Appeals

Citizen Organization. A Right and a Duty.

Featured Picture: Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.

When we talk about the Citizen Organization; we immediately imagine protests in the streets, political meetings, or crowds of people demanding their rights, among others. Images of exalted people, police repression and the imminent risk of going to prison come to mind.

Of course; no sane person wants to go through these types of situations; so they prefer to take a position of indifference to injustices and social problems.

“Only the selfish live to solve their problems without caring about anyone else’s”.

Of course; many of us have taken this position at some point.

But; for how long are we going to leave our problems as a society in the hands of others?

Topics to talk about:

  1. Citizen Organization as a Fundamental Right.
  2. Citizen Organization as a Social Duty.
  3. Consequences of Violence and Crime.
  4. Citizen Organization with Clear and Well Defined Objectives.
  5. Citizen Organization with respect to the Educational Level.
  6. Citizen Organization as a Fundamental Right.

Citizen Organization as a Fundamental Right.

As citizens; we have the right to organize ourselves to carry out common goals. Right that is recognized from the universal declaration of human rights to the constitution of any Country in the world. The Citizen Organization is part of our right to freedom of expression, and wanting to play an important role in the decisions we must make as a society.

We cannot wait to react, only when the problem of my fellow human beings also becomes our problem.

This is why we must take charge of our society and thus be part of the change.

Citizen Organization as a Social Duty.

Duty is all those obligations that we have to fulfill as citizens in a society. Although citizen organization is not a primary requirement by local laws or authorities; it does not stop becoming a moral duty. Because as citizens we are union beings; and therefore we must share our ideas and opinions to generate proposals, in order to solve problems or innovate processes in our society.

Consequences of Violence and Crime.

However; as a society we have many problems of injustice and inequality  and in many cases we do nothing at all to address them. For this reason; there is a probability that sooner or later these problems will have consequences for ourselves.

It is only enough to mention the high rate of unemployment, corruption and social inequality that is registered in Latin America; and all this in turn generates serious consequences; drastically increasing Poverty and the levels of Crime and Violence that exist in the region. Directly affecting citizens without distinction of social class.

Citizen Organization with Clear and Well Defined Objectives.

It is for this reason that in the Association of Citizens of the World; we invite all citizens to commit to the problems of their society; evaluating their strengths and weaknesses with respect to the contribution they can provide to generate proposals.

A society where its citizens have the initiative to create a Citizen Organization with clear and well-defined objectives;  becomes proactive citizens, capable of demanding that their leaders comply with the established objectives; in turn contributing to the decrease of the indices of corruption and social inequality; because they become an entity of social control.

Citizen Organization with respect to the Educational Level.

Undoubtedly; one of the most important aspects that these organizations focus on is the constant improvement of quality in the educational system; because a society that has education is capable of generating citizens; who direct their efforts to the research; this in order to carry out effective contributions to solve the problems of your community.

Creating an environment conducive to promoting Citizen Participation, the right to belong and the firm belief that only together can the important changes that society needs be promoted.

“Only the Citizen Organization is capable of preventing and solving the problems of its society”.

Today more than ever, society needs us. As citizens we have the right and the duty to focus all our efforts, in order to guarantee a more dignified and just life for all human beings.

Reflections of Elio Pinto.

“Just one more citizen of this world, and this should be enough”.

 

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

When will we meet again?

Featured Image: Picture By Boris Ulzibat: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/arquitectura-china-la-gran-muralla-china-lugares-de-interes-3262994/ In an article “Tensions in the Asian Trinity: China, Japan, U.S.A.” I noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to visit Beijine…

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in…

Biodiversity: A Pledge, Now Action.

Featured Image: Photo by Jeevan Katel on Unsplash. In the early hours of 19 December 2022, the delegates to the U. N. Convention on Biodiversity (COP 15) reached an agreement…

Gaza Economy Appeals

Ecologically-sound Gaza Development Programme.

Featured Picture: Photo by hosny salah in Pixabay

Jerusalem-Gaza 2021, An Effort is Needed For An Ecologically-sound Gaza Development Programme.

In early May 2021, Palestinians protesting the pending eviction of six  famlies from their home in East Jerusalem clashed with Israeli police.  For many Palestinians the eviction cases evoked a long history  of dispossesion.  Hamas, from its positions in the Gaza Strip, warned that it would “not stand idly by.” On 10 May, Hamas forces fired a fusillade of rockets and missils at Israeli villages and cities.  The Israeli Defense Forces responded with strikes on Gaza, inaugurating a conflict of depressing familiar dimentions after similar clashes in 2009, 2012, 2014.  After 11 days of destruction and loss of life and behind-the-scenes mediation by Egyptian diplomats, a ceasefire was declared. 

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

Men take great decisions only when crisis stares them in the face.

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

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

A Corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.

TVA

TVA Logo: U.S. Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A possible model is the trans-state efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of the US New Deal.  The TVA was a path-making measure to overcome the deep economic depression of the 1930s in the USA.  In May 1933, the Roosevelt administration and the Congress created the TVA.  In his message to Congress, Roosevelt suggested that the Authority should be a: 

“corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.  It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation…This in a true sense is a return to the spirit and vision of the pioneer.  If we are successful here, we can march on, step by step, in the development of other great natural territorial units.”

The central idea back of the TVA was that it should do many things, all connected with each other by the concrete realities of a damaged river full of damaged people.  To do all these activities well, it had to be a public corporation: public, because it served the public interest and a corporation rather than a government department, so that it could initiate the flexible responsible management of a well-run private corporation. 

Tennessee Valley Authority TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Picture: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World:

“The great triumph of the TVA was not the building of the great dams.  Great dams had been built before. Its greatest triumph was that it not only taught the Valley people but insisted on learning from them too.  It placed its vast technical knowledge in the pot with the human wisdom, the local experience, the courage, and the hopes of the Valley people, and sought solutions which neither the Valley folk nor the TVA technicians could ever have found alone.  It respected persons.”

Only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.

The Gaza strip is not one of the great natural territorial units of the world, and respect for persons has been in short supply.  However, only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.  A Gaza Development Authority, an independent socio-economic corporation devoted to multi-sector and trans-national planning and administration  would be an important start in a new deal of the cards.  Such a Gaza Development Authority would obviously have Hamas members; but also persons chosen for their expertise as well as persons from community organizations.

Strong socio-economic structures are needed which can hold during periods of inevitable future tensions. A Gaza Development Authority can be a framework for such strong measures of cooperative effort.

 

Rene Wadlow, President Association of World Citizens.

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

When will we meet again?

Featured Image: Picture By Boris Ulzibat: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/arquitectura-china-la-gran-muralla-china-lugares-de-interes-3262994/ In an article “Tensions in the Asian Trinity: China, Japan, U.S.A.” I noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to visit Beijine…

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Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire. Appeals

Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire: Broad Negociations Are Now Needed.

Featured Picture: Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The efforts of mediation in the recent Jerusalem-Gaza conflict by the Egyptian President Abdel Fettah El-Sisi and Egyptian diplomats is a good example of action by one state when the United Nations Security Council is blocked by a veto by one of the Permanent Five – in this case the U.S.A. There were some suggestions that the « Uniting for Peace » mechanism, a shift of the issue from the Security Council to the U.N. General Assembly would be a possibility.

However bringing the General Assembly into action since it was not in session could take a good bit of time and could be slowed by long debates. Quick action was necessary as there were real dangers that violence could spread or create even greater divisions within Israeli and Palestinian society. Fortunately, the Egyptian authorities had lines of communication open to Hamas, to the Israeli government and to the Palestinian Authority.

Calls for a cease-fire had been made earlier by governments, by the Pope as well as by non-governmental organizations. A cease-fire is only a first step ; fundamental issues remain requiring renewed negotiations in good faith. However, without a cease-fire no negotiations were possible.

Mediation is only one possible form of intervention in a political conflict.

As Sue and Steve Williams with experience in peace efforts in the Middle East on behalf of U.S. And British Quakers have written 

« Mediation is only one possible form of intervention in a political conflict. Other choices including assisting a weaker party to become stronger in order to balance power (empowerment), training local people in conflict resolution skills, strengthening a peace constituency, and appealing for a judicial settlement to the dispute (international courts and arbitration). A continuing need is the importance of valuing and supporting all these ways of working rather than emphasising one to the exclusion of others. It may never be clear which approach, which activity, which structure gave the final push to bring about change. What is vital is to work together as well as possible, humbled by the efforts of others but also encouraged. »

There are mediators who represent significant power of their own. The efforts of Henry Kissinger in the Middle East or Richard Holbrook in the Yugoslav conflicts are examples. As Sydney Bailey has written 

« Weaponless mediation and mediation-with-muscle have distinct but complementary roles. If the Middle East is any guide, the main rôle of the weaponless mediator is to identify and clarify issues, remove misperceptions, convey information and ideas, and promote goodwill to negotiate. »

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger: LBJ Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A mediator needs to listen to all without taking sides.

It is not clear what rôle the Egyptian diplomats will play after this first step of getting a cease-fire. Mediation can be a long process. A mediator needs to listen to all without taking sides. He must build relationships of trust with significant individuals on all sides and be able to move back and forth between these individuals without much publicity. As Everett Mendelsohn, a Harvard professor involved in non-governmental mediation efforts in the Middle East has said 

« In this kind of work, you have to be able or willing to live with a lot greater ambiguity than you like. Not only the intellectual or substantive ambiguity, but also the ambiguity of the interaction, of whether something is happening in the best way. »

It is in the interest of Egypt that there be a reduction of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretariat members of the United Nations as well as U.S. President Biden also worked for the cease-fire, but Egypt is a « frontline state » and the tensions will remain at the top of the Egyptian government agenda. Moreover, Hamas is not a government making its presence in U.N.-led efforts more difficult. Hamas is even considered by the U.S. Government as a « terrorist organization » making public discussions by U.S. diplomats difficult.

Thus Egypt is the government best placed to continue playing a vital mediation rôle. We must hope that the cease-fire holds and that steps for broad negotiations can be undertaken.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden: Adam Schultz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note.

Sue and Steve Williams. Being in the Middle by Being at the Edge (York : William Sessions Ltd).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Myanmar military Appeals

Burma: An Alternative to Military Rule Takes Form.

Featured picture credit: MgHla (aka) Htin Linn Aye, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

On 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, taking advantage of a clause of the Myanmar constitution providing the possibility for the military to establish a state of emergency, took power.  The military already played a dominant role in the civilian-led government of Aung San Suu Kyi which started in 2015.  The military automatically held key security ministries as well as an automatic non-elected percentage in the national parliament, giving the military in practice a veto on any legislation that it did not like.  It is unclear why the military leadership felt that its political and financial position was so much in danger that it needed a coup to take full control, arrest much of the civilian leadership, an estimated 2000, and force others into exile or to the frontier areas  largely under the control of armed ethnic groups such as the Karen.

Pete Souza, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Pete Souza, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is true that the elections to Parliament on 8 November 2020 gave Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy an even larger majority and showed her popularity in all sections of the population.  The Parliament could have started to investigate the role that the military play in the economy, both the legal economy such as owning the conglomerate Myanmar Economic  Economic Holding Public Company and the illegal drug and gem-related trade.  However, the Parliament had had five years of relatively democratic rule and had not moved against the financial involvement nor against the Army’s highly destructive campaign against the Rohingya, causing nearly one million to flee to Bangladesh  and a smaller number toward the northeast states of India such as Mizoram and Nagaland.

“Everything will be OK”.

General Min Aung Hlaing who led the operation against the Rohingya as well as against other minority groups as Chief of Staff took a calculated risk in leading the coup, knowing that such a coup would be unpopular with neighboring States as well as unpopular at the United Nations. He could not know how much popular opposition would result and what tactics the opposition would use.  Much of the opposition to the military leadership has come from young people who had come to maturity during the years of transition to democratic structures starting in 2011.  Ma Kyal Sin, a 19-year old, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the message “Everything will be OK” killed by a military sniper in Mandalay on 3 March 2021 is a symbol of this youthful opposition.

However, an alternative to military-led government has to be more than a youth-led opposition. Thus a group of elected members of Parliament has now formed an alternative government, a Government of National Unity although most of the members are in exile abroad. The alternative government has started to work on a new constitution which would develop a federal or con-federal form of government.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

In 1985, the Association of World Citizens became concerned with the conditions of the ethnic minorities in Burma.  We were in contact with the representatives of ethnic minorities, in particular the Karen, Kachin, Shan and Mon who would come to Geneva for sessions of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.  One leading world citizen was able to spend time in the Kachin area having entered via Thailand.  We discussed what might be a federal or con-federal government.  The representatives of the minorities often knew what they did not want: a centralized government that did not respect the cultural values of the minorities.  They were less clear on what a federal government would be.

The new government in exile wishes to symbolize such a federal government. Of the 26 ministers, 13 are from ethnic minorities.  The Executive would be headed by Duwa Lashi La, a Kachin, the Prime Minister would be Mahn Win Khaing Than, a Karen, the Defense Minister would be Lian Hmung Sakhong, a Chin.  Eight women would be part of this executive, including Zin Mar Aung as Foreign Minister and Karen Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe as the newly created Minister of Women, Youth and Children.  A quarter of this 26-person executive are not linked to any political movement or party but were chosen for their experience.

The alternative to military rule is taking a positive form.

It is obviously too early to know what are the chances of the military giving way to this alternative structure.  There are real possibilities that armed conflict will increase as some of the youth are joining existing ethnic armed movements.  We have to hope that there will be a growing international demand within the United Nations and among non-governmental organizations for a transition to this national unity government.  Long years of armed opposition have only led to human rights violations, economic stagnation, and population displacements.  New avenues of action are necessary.  The alternative to military rule is taking a positive form.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Afghan Negotiations Appeals

A Multilateral Framework for Afghan Negotiations.

U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain,

Afghan Negotiations: Joint Statement of Extended Troika on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan.

On 30 April 2021, the representatives of what is called the Extended Troika – the U.S.A., Russia, China and Pakistan – presented in Doha, Qatar a “Joint Statement of Extended Troika on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan”.  The Joint Statement sets out a road map for what is hoped will be intra-Afghan negotiations to be carried out in Doha between representatives of the government led by President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.

The road map stresses the vision of the creation of an Afghanistan that is: 

independent, sovereign, unified, peaceful, democratic, neutral and self-sufficient, free of terrorism and an illicit drug industry, a society which contributes to a safe environment for the voluntary, expeditious and sustainable return of Afghan refugees through a  well-resourced plan, providing stability and global security. We reaffirm that any peace agreement must include protection for the rights of all Afghans, including women, men, children, victims of war, minorities, and should respond to the strong desire of all Afghans for economic, social, and political development including the rule of law.”

The Joint Statement, mindful of the important role that the United Nations had played in leading to the Geneva Accord of February 1989 on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, called for an increase U.N. role in the current negotiations. 

We welcome an expanded role for the United Nations in contributing to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, including by leveraging its considerable experience and expertise in supporting other peace processes.”

The Brink of a Civil War.

The Extended Troika Joint Statement merits wide support as it creates a multilateral framework for negotiations.  It is certain that there are many difficulties in establishing the peaceful and just Afghan society that the Joint Statement envisages. As the Joint Statement was being written, on 14 April 2021, the Speaker of the Afghan Parliament, Mir Rahman Rahmani warned that the country was on “the brink of a civil war”.  At present, the intra-Afghan negotiations are deadlocked, and the representatives are not meeting, at least not in public.

It is planned that U.S. military forces will leave Afghanistan by 4 July 2021.  However, there are some 16,000 U.S. contractors in Afghanistan which provide a variety of services including military support.  Thus, the next month and a half is crucial.  We must see what continuing role foreign non-governmental organizations can play to strength Afghan civil society. The dangers of conflict among Afghan groups are real, but the Joint Statement sets out a vision which we can actively support.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Cyprus Appeals

Cyprus: Toward a Non-territorial Con-federation?

British Army official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Three days, 27-29 April 2021, of “informal” talks on the future of Cyprus were held in Geneva under the leadership of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  There have been no formal negotiations on the issue since 2017.  The U.N.-sponsored meeting with representatives of Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as representatives of Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom – the former colonial power – was to assertain if there is enough common ground to start negotiations later this year.  Antonio Guterres called on the parties to “be creative in their thinking” – but creativity has been in short supply. However, the geopolitical atmostphere has grown more tense since 2017 with tensions between Turkey and Greece over maritime boundaries and the potential use of natural resources.

Cyprus has been divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974, Turkish Cypriots in the north, Greek Cypriots in the south with a U.N. monitored buffer zone separating the two. There are still some 40,000 Turkish troops in the Turkish Cypriot area.  The U.N. peacekeeping mission (UNFICYP) has been in Cyprus since 1964 when bad rioting among the Greek and Turkish populations was an indicator that things could get worse and lead to hostilities between Greece and Turkey themselves.

The complex political situation has three States as “guarantor powers” – the United Kingdom which was the colonial master until 1963 and Greece and Turkey which created the tensions in the first place. 

The Devil is in the details.

The Greek Cypriots hold that Cyprus should be one State and not two, that this one State would be federal in nature, and that this re-united State would be part of the European Union. But “the Devil is in the details;”. The first but crucial “detail” is the geographic frontiers of the Greek and Turkish areas.  Given the emotional and complex nature of the situation, geographic divisions with no “natural” frontiers are an issue which can cause real disagreements. Moreover, frontiers can also serve as an excuse if the real disagreement is something else.

The leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Ersin Tatar, proposes a two-state model “living side-by-side in  good, neighborly relationships”. Ersin Tatar is closely supported by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and some see the Turkish proposals as an avenue for Erdogan’s ” Neo-Ottoman” influence in the area. 

There is a prior agreement that when there is finally a firm proposal, the proposal  will be presented to both Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations in simultaneous referendums.  Thus the negotiators must take into consideration the popular attitudes on both sides so that the agreement is mutually acceptable.  The hope is that “the time is ripe” for agreement when both Greece and Turkey are preoccupied with other issues in the volatile region and  many Cypriots are tired of the status quo.

A con-federal Cyprus.

There are two aspects of the negotiations on which the Association of World Citizens  has made proposals given the Association’s long-standing interest in developing appropriate constitutional structures.  First, for understandable reasons, the term “federal” is now most often used rather than “con-federal”.  In the case of Cyprus “ a con-federal Cyprus” might be the better term, a looser form of union, one in which dealing with issues at the most local level possible would be the constitutional structure.

Borders and frontiers are often thought to be “natural and inviolable” even if they are only borders in the mind.  Attitudes toward borders are often conflict-perpetuating.  Borders are a reflection of the past rather than of the future. 

Today, there is a need for cross-communal cooperation. Thus there may be a possibility for a Cyprus con-federation based not on geographic divisions  but on functions, such as economic initiatives, land law, personal status concerning marriage, separation and inheritance. Such a functionally-based con-federation has conflict-solving potential.  There is the Ottoman Empire precedent of different legal rules for people living in the same area.

However, neo-Ottoman ideology may not be the best approach to stress in the current Cyprus negotiations. Cyprus has one of the oldest UN forces keeping the two communities apart. A con-federal approach  may be a spark of hope for advances in bringing them together.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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