Month: <span>May 2022</span>

The United Nations Peacekeepers UN: Growth of World Law.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Featured Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

I am confident that if we work together and champion truly bold reforms,
the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just
and greater force for peace and harmony in the world.

US President Donald Trump, 18 September 20017.

29 May; is the International Day of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The day was chosen; in memory of the creation of the first UN interposition force in the Middle East. In the years since; 3,800 have lost their lives. Today there are 14 operations. The most difficult are in Africa; where there has been large scale breakdown of State structures; such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The deployment of U.N. peace-keeping forces; is only one aspect of conflict resolution and peace building.  However;  The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces are the most visible; (and expensive) aspect of the U.N. peace-building efforts. Thus; our attention must be justly given to the role; the financing; and the practice of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.

U.N. Peace operations.

How effective are U.N. peacekeeping operations in preventing and stopping violence?; Are there alternatives to the ways that U.N. and regional organizations; currently carry out peacekeeping operations?; How effective are peacekeeping operations in addressing the root causes of conflicts?; How does one measure the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations?.  We must ask questions of their effectiveness; and if these military personnel should  not be complemented by other forms of peace-building.

There have been  reports of U.N. Peace operations; in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan; which  highlight the systematic rape of women in the area; and the inability or unwillingness of U.N. Troops to stop the rapes; which have become standard practice; in the areas  on the part of both members of the armed insurgencies; as well as by members of the regular army.  There are also other examples when “failure” is the key word in such evaluations of U.N. Forces.

Democratic Republic of Congo

BANAIR-13 UN Medal Awarding Parade at Bunia. Province Orientale. Republique democratique du Congo. Mambasa, Democratic Republic Congo (2016).By Sqn.Ldr.Zaman & Faisal, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Creation of a Permanent UN Standby Force.

The first reality is that there is no permanent U.N. trained and motivated troops.  There are only national units loaned by some national governments; but paid for by all U.N. Member States. Each government trains its army in its own spirit and values; though there is still an original English ethos as many U.N. troops come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Nigeria.  Now China is starting to provide troops with a non-English tradition.

There have been proposals by some governments and non-governmental representatives; such as the Association of World Citizens for the creation of a permanent UN standby force.  This has been rejected; usually on grounds of cost ( although it would be only a fraction of what is now spent on national armies.)  There has also been an alternative proposal of creating within  national armies; specially-trained forces for UN use.  In light of the fact that the great majority of UN troops come from south Asia; speak English and were originally formed in an English tradition; the creation of such units ready for quick use is a real possibility.

Blue Helmet.

Moreover; there is no such thing as consistency and predictability in U.N. actions o preserve order.  The world is too complex; and the UN Security Council  resolutions; are voted on the basis of national interest; and political power considerations. U.N. “blue helmet” operations; have grown both in numbers and complexity.  Even with the best planning; the situation in which one deploys troops will always be fluid; and the assumption on which the planning was based may change.

To be successful; U.N. Peacekeeping operations need to have clear objectives; but such objectives cannot be set by the force commanders themselves.  Peacekeeping forces are temporary measures that should give time for political leaders to work out a political agreement.  The parties in conflict need to have a sense of urgency about resolving the conflict.  Without that sense of urgency; peacekeeping operations can become eternal as they have in Cyprus and Lebanon.

The International Day of U.N. Peacekeepers.

U.N. Forces are one important element in a peacemakers tool kit; but there needs to be a wide range of peace building techniques available.  There must be concerted efforts by both diplomatic representatives; and non-governmental organizations to resolve the conflicts; where U.N. troops serve. Policemen, civilian political officers, human rights monitors, refugee and humanitarian aid workers; and  specialists   in anthropology all play important roles along with the military.  Yet non-military personnel are difficult to recruit.

In addition; it is difficult to control the impact of humanitarian aid; and action as it ipples through a local society and economy; because powerful factors in the conflict environment; such as the presence of armed militias; acute political and ethnic polarization; the struggle over resources in a war economy will have unintended consequences.

As we honor the International Day of The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces; we need to put more effort on the prevention of armed conflicts; on improving techniques of mediation; and  creating groups which cross the divides of class, religion, and ethnicity.

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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Desertification Appeals

New Efforts for Land Renewal.

Featured Image: Photo by Marcelo Bermudez on Unsplash.

The States Parties to the United Nations sponsored Treaty on Desertification have been meeting in Abidjan; Cote d’Ivoire from 9 to 20 May, 2022.  The 197 member states agreed to an appeal to work more actively to prevent continuing desertification; and to win back lands currently under great pressure.  Because the conference was being held in Africa; much attention was given to the advances of the desert in the Sahel states; and the possibility of building a “Green Wall” of trees to stop the advance.

The Treaty was designed to be the centrepiece of a massive worldwide effort to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara; but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in its destructive path.


Picture of Moroccan Sahara desert. By Fraguando, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Desertification is a Social Phenomenon.

The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature; but from the actions of humans.  Desertification is a social phenomenon. Humans are both the despoiler and the victims of the process.

Increasingly; populations are eking out a livelihood on dwindling land resources.  Thus there must be renewed and strong efforts for land regeneration. Desertification needs to be seen in a holistic way.  If we see desertification only as aridity; we may miss areas of impact such as humid tropics.  We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity or alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base; it promotes insecurity.  Insecurity leads to strife.  If allowed to degenerate; strife results in inter-clan feuding between cultivators and pastoralists; cross-border raiding and military confrontation.

Hsuan Tsang (623 -664).

It is important to understand the way of life of those who live on the edge of deserts.  Hsuan Tsang (623 -664); is a symbol of such an effort at understanding. Hsuan Tsang crossed the harshest deserts; in particular the Takla Mahan; and the tallest mountains on his quest for the innermost heart of Reality.  He travelled from China to India to spend two years at the Nalanda Monestary; in what is now Bihar State in northern India; to study and translate into Chinese certain important Buddhist sutras.   He also studied the lives of the people he met; showing an openness to the cultures of others; especially those living on the edge of the desert regions he crossed.

Earth is our common home; and therefore in the spirit of world citizenship; we must organize to protect it.  It is up to all of us concerned with ecologically-sound development to draw awareness to the dangers of desertification and the promises of land renewal.



Statue of Xuanzang near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, China. By This image was produced by me, David Castor (user:dcastor). The pictures I submit to the Wikipedia Project are released to the public domain. This gives you the right to use them in any way you like, without any kind of notification. This said, I would still appreciate to be mentioned as the originator whenever you think it complies well with your use of the picture. A message to me about how it has been used would also be welcome. You are obviously not required to respond to these wishes of mine, just in a friendly manner encouraged to. (All my photos are placed in Category:Images by David Castor or a subcategory thereof.), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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…

1 2 12

World Day for Cultural Diversity Portraits of World Citizens.

World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development.

Featured Image: These students together in a public school in the capital city of Nigeria celebrates World Day for cultural Diversity for dialogue and development on May 21st of each year; which is a significant event anchored by United Nations. By Joemadaki, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

In December 2002; the United Nations General Assembly; in Resolution 57/249, declared that 21 May each year should be the World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development. The Day was created as a response to the destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyam in Afghanistan in 2001.

Thus the day has a double theme.  The broader aim is to create an enabling environment for dialogue and understanding among cultures. Achieving a true rapprochement of cultures must be nourished by a culture of peace and non-violence and sustained by respect for human rights.

The second theme, closely linked to the destruction of the Buddha statues is the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity at the time of armed conflict. In light of the subsequent destruction of UNESCO selected heritage of humanity sites in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Mali, I will stress the protection aspect by looking at the post-World War I efforts of Nicholas Roerich as an example of non-governmental mobilization.

“Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing from the banks of darkness
to the side of light”.

                                                                                                                      Nicholas Roerich.

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution)

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution). By MOs810, Saiko, Adam Jones Adam63, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nicholas Roerich.

One of the spiritual visionaries of the 1920s-1930s was Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen; a painter and researcher into cultures. Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution; and saw how armed conflict can destroy works of art and cultural institutions.  For Roerich; such institutions were irreplaceable, and their destruction was a permanent loss for all humanity.

Thus; he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict.  He envisaged a “Banner of Peace” that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture which would protect them; as the symbol of the Red Cross is supposed to protect medical workers and medical institutions in times of conflict.

Nicholas Roerich

Nicholas Roerich (between 1940 and 1947). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Banner of Peace.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace.  Henry A. Wallace; the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich; and helped to have a formal treaty introducing the Banner of Peace — the Roerich Peace Pact — signed at the White House on 15 April 1935; by the 21 States of North and South America in a Pan American Union ceremony.  At the ceremony; Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said:

“At no time has such an ideal been more needed.  It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity.  It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs.  Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time, when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith.”

Henry A. Wallace

Henry Agard Wallace, 1888–1965, bust portrait, facing left. (1940). By Photo copyrighted by D.N. Townsend; no renewal in the U.S. Copyright Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Hague Convention.

After the Second World War; UNESCO has continued the effort; and there have been additional conventions on the protection of cultural bodies in times of conflict — such as the Hague Convention of May 1954; though no universal symbol such as the three red circles proposed by Nicholas Roerich has been developed.

Conserving a cultural heritage even in times of peace is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities; lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.  On the other hand; the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets.  These forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.  Involving people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation; and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.

The Hague Convention.

The First International Peace Conference, the Hague, May – June 1899. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important.

Knowledge and understanding of a people’s past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity; and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage. This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives and enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully. It is important to retain the best of traditional self-reliance; and skills of rural life and economies as people adapt to change.

Traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down: they are implicit, learnt by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word.  They continue to exist as long as they are useful; as long as they are not supplanted by new techniques.  They are far too easily lost.  It is the objects that come into being through these systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important. The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them.

As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of a draft of the Pact; largely written by the French jurist Dr George Chklaver:

“The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era…We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims.  We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.  But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of hatred.  Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance — rebuilt by human hope.”

Thus for the World Day;  let us work together to preserve the beauty of the past and create beauty for future generations.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Moldova Appeals

Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova.

Featured Image: Official visit of the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu to Kyiv, January 12, 2021. Meeting with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi. By, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent statements by Russian military authorities; such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova.  The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved; but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attibutes; and calls itself officially the Moldovian Republic of Dniestr.  However; no other state, including the Russian Federation has recognized it as an independent state.  There are, however; some 1500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria.  Transnistria had some 706, 000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less.  Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad.  Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel.  The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova; and those of the government of Transnistria; but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria.  Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II  efforts; informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated.  The newly elected, in November 2020; President of Moldova Ms Maia Sandu has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova.  Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine; which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics: the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Republic of Donetsk and Republic of Luhansk

Return of released citizens to the territory controlled by Ukraine, December 29, 2019. By, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might interest read: Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. The Way Ahead.

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt.  Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria.  In adddition; there have been recently a number of rocket attacks; possibly by Ukraining forces; on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting.  While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova; the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.


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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Darfur Appeals

Renewed Violence in Darfur: An Unstable Sudan.

Featured Image: Pro-government militia in Darfur. By Henry Ridgwell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

24 April 2022; saw renewed violence in the Darfur Provence of Sudan between Arab militias and the indigenous tribes of the area, the Masalit and the Fur. The violence began in 2003 and has caused some 300,000 deaths and some three million displaced. While most of the fighting was when General Omar al-Bashir was President; his overthrow by new military leadership has not fundamentally improved the situation.

Omar Al Bashir

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 31, 2009. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Darfur Conflict.

Darfur is the western edge of Sudan. Its longist foreign frontier is with Chad; but communication with Libya is easy for camel herders and gunrunners. To the south lies the Central African Republic – a state with a very unstable government; which feels the fallout from the Darfur conflict. Darfur served as a buffer area between the French colony of Chad and the English-held Sudan until 1916; when French-English rivalry was overshadowed by the common enemy, Germany, in World War I. Darfur; which had been loosely part of the Ottoman Empire; was integrated into Sudan with no consultation either with the people of Darfur or with those in Sudan.

Thus; Darfur was always the neglected child in Sudan – a child no one had asked to be there. Only after 1945 were some development projects undertaken; but basically Darfur remained an area of pastoralists – some tribes specializing in camels and others in cattle – and settled agriculturalists. Camel and cattle-raising tribes from Chad would move into Darfur and vice-versa. There were frontiers between tribes; but they did not correspond to state boundaries.

The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan.

In May 2000; intellectuals and government civil servants from Darfur; calling themselves the Seekers of Truth and Justice wrote The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan. The study ended with specific recommendations for governmental and social action. While the book was widely read; it produced no new initiatives in sharing power or wealth. Some leaders in Darfur had the impression that the government was withdrawing services; especially in health and education. Schools were closed; and the number of children in school decreased.

After the failure of the intellectual efforts of The Black Book; the conviction that only violence was taken seriously started to grow among Darfur leaders. They started thinking about a strategy of a sharp; and swift show of violent strength that would force the government to negotiate with Darfur. The insurgency in Darfur began in the Spring of 2003. As Julie Flint and Alex de Waal point out in their useful history of the start of the Darfur war “Darfur’s rebels are an awkward coalition of Fur and Masalet villagers, Zaghawa Bedouins out of patience with Khartoum; a handful of professional who dared to take on leadership. Few of Darfur’s guerrillas had military experience or discipline before they took up arms.

The two main rebel groups are united by deep resentment at the marginalization of Darfur; but are not natural bedfellows and could easily be split apart… In the first months of 2003, these half-formed and inexperienced rebel fronts were catapulted out of obscurity to face challenges for which they were totally unprepared.” (1)

Islamic Legion.

The government in Khartoum was also unprepared for the Darfur insurgency. The government’s attention, as well as the bulk of the army, was turned toward the civil war in the south of Sudan. The government turned the fight against the Darfur movements to its security agencies – a narrow group of men uniterested in internal politics or external relations.

They decided to use the air force to bomb villages; and to use foreign troops to do the fighting on the ground. The foreign troops came from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi had created in the early 1980s an “Islamic Legion” and recruited militiamen from Mauritania, Chad, Mali in his efforts to create a union of Libya and Chad – or to annex part of northern Chad. When Gaddafi’s Chadian interests faded at the end of the 1980s; the Islamic Legion soldiers were left to look after themselves and so were ready to work for new paymasters.


Muamar Muhamad Abu-minyar el Gadafi. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

The Sudanese security people brought the Islamic Legion soldiers to Darfur; gave them weapons but no pay. They were to pay themselves by taking what they could from the villages they attacked. In addition; prisoners from Darfur’s jails were released on condition of joining the militias. Rape of women and young girls was widely practiced both as a means of terror and as a “reward” for the fighters; since they were not paid. These militias became know as the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”.)

Although the Darfur conflict has largely faded from the media headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland and political unrest. The conflicts in Darfur have destroyed many of the older patterns of dispute settlement among groups; as well as much of the economic infrastructure. The social texture and trust among groups is likely to be more difficult to rebuild than homes, livestock and water wells.

The joint African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force has not been able to produce peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep; and while there have been lulls in fighting; there has been no peace to keep. Banditry, criminal activities and periodic military action continues. It is impossible to know if the current outbreak of armed violence has local causes; or if it is a reflection of instability at the central government level. The situation in Darfur remains critical and needs to be watched closely.



1) Julie Flint and Alex de Wall. Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London, Zed Books, 2005).


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…

1 2 12

Richard Falk Appeals

Richard Falk. Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen…

Featured Image: Richard Falk. By Iran Review, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Falk has written an autobiographic account of the political issues; which have marked his life: the U.S. war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa; the end of the Shah’s government in Iran, and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  For those who wish to know where Falk stands on political issues today; one can start with Chapter 16.

“Intellectually Engaging the World: Fears, Desires, and Hopes.”

However; if one is interested in how he got there; it is better to start with the front of the book which details his experiences but also people met; what he did with them at the time and also later.  This review starts in the same style.

(Atlanta GA: Clarity Press, 2021, 464 pp.)

The pilgrim, as he walks upon the road, must have the open ear, the giving hand, the golden voice, and the open eye which sees the light.  He knows that he does not travel alone.  There is no rush, no hurry, and yet there is no time to lose.  Each pilgrim, knowing this, presses his footsteps forward, and he finds himself surrounded by his fellow men.  

Some move ahead – he follows after; some move behind – he sets the pace.  He travels not alone.

         Tibetan advice for the pilgrim.

Yasser Arafat.

Falk became a friend of my Princeton classmate Edward Said. Said and I shared an interest in how literature could tell one something about a culture.  At Princeton; Said was concerned with English literature and I with French and Russian. Later Said turned to the study of how Western writers saw the Middle East and “Orientalism” as well as “Culture and Imperialism” became fundamental approaches to the march of empire through Western literature.  Said became the best known of the public intellectuals of Palestinian background; and for a while was a member of what could be considered a Palestinian parliament; until he could no longer take the autocratic ways of Yasser Arafat.

The name of Yasser Arafat brings to my mind an invitation to supper with Yasser Arafat.  I knew Arafat’s brother somewhat who was president of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society; and who would come from time to time to Geneva.  Thus; I was invited to a supper that Yasser Arafat was giving in a hotel in Geneva. Although I was not a big fan of Yasser Arafat; I accepted the invitation.  It was a buffet-type supper; and Arafat moved among the guests.  He came to me and we chatted awhile.  Nothing very memorable was said; but I thought if there were something at a later date that I could do on the Palestinian issue; I would be happy to say to Arafat “I am glad to see you again” and not “I am glad to meet you.”

Yasser Arafat

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat receives the Nobel Peace Prize for 1994 in Oslo. Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vietnam War.

Thus with Falk’s account; we move from issues to people met.  Richard Falk spent most of his academic life teaching international law at Princeton; an hour by train from New York City; where he grew up with a lawyer father and was a graduate of the elite secondary school Fieldston; whose graduates Falk continued to meet in the halls of power.  New York was home to the Institute for World Order; where Falk was active in the World Order Models Project – an effort to analyze the trends in the development of a world society from different cultural viewpoints.  New York was also home to the Council on Foreign Relations; in which Falk was active along with a good number of other public intellectuals.

Therefore; by the mid-1960s when Richard Falk was established at Princeton University; debates on the U.S. war in Vietnam were at a fever pitch.  Falk, who opposed the war; being against all armed foreign interventions as a violation of the U.N. Charter; was considered to be on the “left”.  There were letters to the editor attacking him in the Princeton Alumni Weekly; as well as hot debates among the faculty.  Falk was often attacked by the polemic Marion Levy; who had been one of my sociology professors.  

However, by the late 1960s, U.S. elite opinion was divided on  the wisdom of the Vietnam war.  There were those who felt that the war was dividing American society – not to mention the harm that was being done to Vietnamese society.  Falk was invited to North Vietnam in a return of U.S. war prisoners to the U.S.  – a visit which marked Falk as a voice of the anti-war left.  As he writes :

” As a known critic of the Vietnam War, I was frequently invited to play a leading role in campus events that involved war and foreign policy, and I rarely refused such interventions.”

Vietnam War

Vietnam War. By Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps.James K. F. Dung, SFC, PhotographerRonald L. HaeberleU.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Another issue of importance to the thinking of Richard Falk; and also the way he was seen by others; was the end of the regime of the Shah of Iran and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini.  Falk went to Iran in 1979 at the request of the political figure Mehdi Bazargan to understand the popular anti-Shah movement that was going on; some 10 days before the Shah left Iran.  On his way back; Falk stopped in Paris and was able to interview Ayatollah Khomeini.  From his Iranian observations; Falk was able to understand better the impact that religious ideas have  upon people.  As he writes; the Iranian experience gave me:

” an appreciation of the potency of Islamic values, and the potential of mobilization from below by and for the masses  in the Middle East…I came to understand that these societies were deeply religious, and that secularization  and Europeanization that had been so enthusiastically embraced by urban elites, had never been accepted by most of those living in villages scattered throughout these countries.”

The same interplay of politics and religion play an important role in a key aspect of Falk’s reflections.

” On no issue has the personal and the political been more interwinded in my life experience, especially since the turn of the 21st century, than with respect to the long struggle involving Palestine and Israel.” 

Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Mohammad Mofatteh and Grand AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Therefore, Richard Falk had a Jewish mother which is all one needs to be considered Jewish.  Falk became active on the Israel-Palestinian issue as the U.N. Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur; on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine (2008-2014).  Falk was chosen for this unpaid and demanding position because of his scholarly work on U.N. issues.  However; he quickly became a target of pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist writers.  

“Typically, I was called a ‘Jew hater’, sometimes reinforced by hate language and death threats…I concluded myself that the intensity of these attacks on me, which actually almost immediately lessened after my position at the U.N. ended, suggested that the position of special rapporteur, especially with respect to sensitive issues of this kind, is more  important than I had previously realized.   In my case the position was certainly taken seriously by Israel and its supporters… Being part of the U.N. makes one aware of its scale and scope, as well as its dual ambitions of keeping the governments of member states content and carrying out its mission of making the world a better place from the perspective of peace, justice, development, and ecological sustainability.”

Richard Falk is keenly aware of the challenges which we all face.  As he writes:

” Now the future, if conceived as an extension of the present, paints a bleak picture.  The miseries of climate change, global migration, famine, autocratic governance, militarist geopolitics, and diminishing biodiversity seem unlikely to be alleviated within my life span and will more likely worsen.”

Yet at the end, he holds out the hope for positive collective action to meet these challenges. 

” I conclude with the fervent public hope that the several revolutionary pathways traveled by citizen pilgrims will be more often and urgently chosen by my sisters and brothers throughout the world, and so widened in scope, extended in meaning, and deepened in influence.”


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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