Month: <span>June 2022</span>

Norman Cousins Portraits of World Citizens.

Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Norman Cousins Picture: Apurva Madia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

World Citizen Norman Cousins (24 June 1915-30 November 1990); was a pioneer of Track II diplomacy. Track I is official government to government diplomacy among instructed representative of the State.  Track II is a non-official effort;  usually by a non-governmental organization (NGO); or an academic institution.

Therefore; Track II talks are discussions held by non-officials of conflicting parties; in an attempt to clarify outstanding disputes and to explore the options for resolving them in settings;  that are less public or less sensitive than those associated with official negotiations.

“A world that has become a single geographic unit is now groping its way,
however slowly, toward global institutions as the only way
of achieving common safety and common progress.
A new world is waiting to be born.”
Norman Cousins.

Track II Diplomacy.

Track II talks can also be defined by what they are not: neither academic conferences; nor secret diplomacy conducted by government representatives.  At a minimum; Track II talks are aimed at an exchange of views,  perceptions and information between the parties;  to improve each side’s understanding of the other’s positions and policies.

However; Track II talks need not necessarily be linked to concurrent.  Track I negotiations participants in Track II must have some relations with officials in their countries’ decision-making circles; for such talks to be effective.

National Interest.

Track II is necessary as Track I diplomats are mandated to be concerned with “national interest” and are usually trained within such a framework. Yet as Norman Cousins wrote:

“Our world is now an emergent system but that is not the way we perceive it. We and particularly our leaders still see the world in older terms – as a collection of relatively independent and autonomous nation-states – a guiding social framework which has served humanity well for several hundred years. That framework is neither immutable nor adequate. We already live in a community of states, bound through communications and economy to a common destiny. Psychologically and attitudinally, however, we have not begun to come to terms with our new estate…The future is up to us, that we can change it and mould it ti suit the needs of all life on earth. Implicit is the call to us each to recognize and to accept our responsibility and to exert ourselves fully in easing the transition to a humane world order.”

By the mid-1950s; after the death of Stalin, there was a feeling among some in the USA and the USSR that informal talks and cultural exchabges might be possible and useful. Norman Cousins, as the editor of a leading literary and cultural weekly; had a good overview of U.S. culture. He also had international political interests and contacts in both the New York area and in Washington DC. Thus; he was asked to take on the task of organizing meetings among Soviet and U.S. intellectuals, but also to keep the U.S. government informed of the thrust of the discussions.

 

Stalin Death

A picture from a Georgian Newspaper, depicting the death of Stalin. By Komunist’i Newspaper, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Thus, in 1960, the Dartmouth Conference, named after the US college; where the first meeting was held; under the leadership of Norman Cousins; was born. (1) As he later said:

” The purpose of the Dartmouth Conference was to identify areas of opportunities for both countries in reducing tensions. The conferences made it possible for both governments to try out certain ideas without penalty.”

Cousins was born and grew up around New York City and was graduated from New York’s Columbia University. After graduation, he became a writer for the New York Post , then a liberal newspaper. In 1940 he joined the journal The Saturday Review of Literature which had its offices in the same building as The Post.

Cousins wrote a much quoted article “Modern Man is Obsolete” on 6 August 1945 as the US military dropped the A.- Bomb on Hiroshima. It was published the next day and became a key text for the “One World or None” ideology which stressed that Atomic bombs had created a new situation which had to be met by a new world framework of a stronger United Nations and the growth of world citizenship. Cousins wrote:

“The new education must be less concerned with sophistication than with compassion. It must recognize the hazards of tribalism. It must teach man the most difficult lesson of all – to look at someone anywhere in the world and be able to see the image of himself – an education for citizenship in the human community.”

In 1953 Cousins published Who Speaks for Man, the theme being that while a president speaks for the citizens of his country and a religious leader speaks for the members of his faith, there was no one who was recognized as speaking for humanity as a whole. This task of “speaking for man” was the role which citizens of the world should carry out.

The early 1950s was a time when there was increasing public criticism of testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere because of the radioactive fallout which could endanger health. This was my first political effort, and I met Norman Cousins at the time. We always stayed in touch, and I welcomed his advice. Although Cousins was a good deal older than I and much better known, he always treated everyone with respect and was a willing listener to what others had to say. He has always represented for me the spirit of world citizenship: rooted and learned in a particular culture and open to the world, its difficulties and its hopes.

 

 

Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins Picture: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Note.

  • 1) For a history of the Drtmouth Conferences See James Voorhees. Dialogue Sustained: The Multilevel Peace Process and the Dartmouth Conferences (Washington DC: S Institute of Peace Press and the Charles Kettering Foundation, 2002).
    See the interview of Norman Cousins in Maureen R. Berman and Joseph E. Johnson (Eds) Unofficial Diplomats ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).
    For other examples of Track II efforts see Oliver R. Richmond and Henry F. Carey. Subcontracting Peace. The Challenges of the NGO Peacebuilding
    (Aldershat UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2005).
    Hussein Agha, Shai Feldman, Ahmad Khalidi, Zeev Schiff. Track II Diplomacy -Lessons from the Middle East (Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 2003).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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

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Sexual Violence in Conflict Appeals

The Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Greater Awareness…

Featured Image: Photo by Kat J on Unsplash.

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 19 June of each year to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict;  in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence; and to honor the victims and the survivers of sexual violence around the world.  The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on 19 June 2008 of Security Council Resolution 1820; in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an impediment to peacebuilding.
 

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

 
    For the U.N; “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls and boys; linked to a conflict.  The term also encompasses trackficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for purposes of sexual violence or exploitation.
 
There has been a slow growth of awareness-building trying to push U.N. Agencies to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services; including sexual and reproductive health services; taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.  A big step forward was the creation of the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
 
The post is currently held since April 2017 by Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten.  She recently said:
 

“We see it too often in all corners of the globe from Ukraine to Tigray in northern Etheopia to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced and least-condemned crime.”

Sexual Violence in Conflict

Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Film Festival: Fighting Stigma Through Film in London, 23 November 2018. Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
   
The Association of World Citizens first raised the issue in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in March 2001; citing the judgement of the International Court for Former Yugoslavia; which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing the accused to trial. 
The tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction; that a person can be tried not only by his national court; but by any court claiming univesal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.
    The Association of World Citizens again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of Congo; citing the findings of Meredeth Turslen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book:
 

What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa. (London: Zed Press, 1998).

 
 
There are numerous types of rape.  Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social licence to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself.  
This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”
 

 
   

The prohibition of sexual violence in times of conflict is now part of international humanitarian law. 

 
However; there are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. 
The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms.  Thus; there is a role for greater promotional activities through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observance of internationally recognized norms. 
The second weakness is enforcement. We are still at the awareness-building stage.  Strong awareness-building is needed.
 
    René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Odessa Blockade Appeals

Lifting the Odessa Blockade.

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) urges action to lift the blockade on Odessa and other Black Sea ports; so that grain and other food resources can resume to flow. Ukraine has a vast agricultural base producing 46 percent of the world’s sunflower exports; and 10 percent of the world’s wheat exports. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s food export market. Odessa has a large grain terminal; in which vast quantities of food exports are now stuck. It is not physically possible to transport large quantities of grain; by rail and road.

In part due to this blockade; food prices for grain have risen some 20 percent; hitting especially the poor. In some parts of Africa; due to climate conditions and armed conflict; there are near famine conditions. New food supplies are urgent.

 

Odessa Blockade

Odessa, Ukraine Port.

Russian authorities have said that they were ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food; but only in return for the lifting of U. S. and Western European sanctions. However; the Western sanctions have a multitude of sources. The lifting of the Odessa blockade and renewed grain shipments must be treated as a single issue; although it is obviously colored by the whole armed conflict.

There are diplomatic efforts underway; led by the African Union and the United Nations. It is urgent that speedy progress be made. Nongovernmental organizations may be able to play a creative role; as many NGOs are already involved in ecologically-sound development projects in areas under agricultural and food stress. The AWC; concerned with the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith; appeals for creative diplomatic measures; so that the blockade is ended as soon as possible.

 

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

 

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

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Transformation of Education Appeals

Peacebuilding and the Transformation of Education.

Featured Image: Image by Ian Ingalula from Pixabay.

The United Nations is preparing a Transforming Education Summit; to be held in New York on 19 September;  during the General Assembly. A preliminary Summit is being held at UNESCO in Paris 28-30 June.  This is an opportunity for peacebuilding efforts to provide information and suggestions; especially for a major theme of the Summit; “Learning and Skills for Life, Work, and Sustainable Development.” As the preparatory text for the Summit states:

“Transforming education means empowering learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be resilient, adaptable and prepared for the uncertain future while contributing to human and planetary well-being and sustainable development.”   

However; the uncertain future holds out some clear challenges: armed conflicts, human rights violations, persistent poverty, mass migrations, and the consequences of climate change.

The goal of a world community living in peace; where human relations are based on nonviolent relationships is central to the transformation of education.  We work to develop an atmosphere of cooperation and solidarity; where discussions of all points of view are possible.  We must, however, be realistic in what such a summit on the transformation of education can bring in terms of long-range change.

I had participated in the UNESCO-led World Congress on Disarmament Education in Paris; June 1980.  Today; there are no visible disarmament negotiations.  There is a growth in military spending; despite many calls saying that the money would be better used for development and welfare.  There is in many parts of the world a growth of militarization–a process whereby military values; ideology and patterns of behaviour achieve a dominant influence over political, economic and foreign affairs.

Nevertheless; there is a value in presenting the goals and techniques of peacebuilding in the Transforming Education Summit; especially that UNESCO already has an Education for Global Citizenship program; which includes elements of education for human rights and the culture of peace efforts.

Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop a sense of belonging to a common humanity and being able to contribute to global peace, sustainable development and the creation of a harmonious world society.  As the Preamble to UNESCO’s Constitution states: 

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

In light of the armed conflicts in many parts of the world; there is a need to focus on specific ways to ensure education for children in areas of armed conflict and in post-conflict situations; including effective measures to deal with the traumas caused by the armed conflict. Post-conflict education must help to develop new attitudes and values; especially toward those who were considered enemies during the armed conflict.

There is much that peacebuilding concepts and techniques can contribute to Transformation of Education. We need to see how best to provide ideas into this Summit process.

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.

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

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Ecosystem Restoration Education of World Citizenships.

Avenues of Action: UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Featured Image: Photo by Monika Sojčáková on Unsplash.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030 started.

On 5 June 2021;  the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030 started. An ecosystem is the interaction between people, plants, animals and their surroundings. The UN Environment Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; are the lead UN agencies for this Decade.

However; the Decade aims to become a broad-based global movement in which many can play a rôle. There are many measures which need to be taken within the UN system; as well as by national governments and local authorities. However; in this great effort for ecologically-wise use of land; there is a rôle for many persons as a vast range of actions are needed. Individual actions can have a wider impact by bringing together people in new alliances for action.

Forest Land.

There is a need to look at situations locally. Official government statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt; especially concerning forest cover. Higher figures than reality allow governments to justify higher forest cutting rates. Much of Africa’s « forest land » is actually a thin scattering of scrub with only a small percentage of the ground; actually under tree canopy. Much of what is currently classified as forest land in the world needs reforesting; which can be done only by planting. Each ecosystem must be studied at the local level; and remedial action analysed both at the local level and at the level of the broader region; what is increasingly called a « bioregion ». A bioregion has been defined as a geographic area whose rough boundaries are set by nature; distinguisable from other areas by characteristics of flora, climate, land forms and human settlements.

The Decade for Ecosystem Restoration is The Symbol.

Today; many ecosystems are under stress and facing degradation. The tree and plant cover of the world have been taking increasing losses in almost all habitats of the world. Livestock grazing, lumbering, firewood gathering, roads,cities – all increase pressure. Wetlands are filled by soil carried by water. In some farmlands; there can be excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. The ressource base of most ecosystems are declining and a lowering of living standards are a possibility; even if no major climatic upheavels or major armed conflicts worsen the state of affairs.

Yet there are signs of hope and action; of which the creation of the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration is the symbol. There can be a surge of human creativity and renaissance. For a project to be sucessful; the local people must have a large hand in the planning using decentralized; non-authoritarian decision-making processes. Local people must want the project to succeed; and be carried out for the long term.

There is already a good bit of research that has been done on ecosystems; and there are many non-governmental organizations working on ecosystem restoration. The framework of the UN Decade should provide for increased cooperation; and highlighting areas that have been neglected in the past. The Decade provides new avenues for action.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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

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Horace Alexander Portraits of World Citizens.

Horace Alexander: Unofficial Diplomacy and Mediation.

Featured Image: Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash.

At this time of increased tensions and armed conflits in different parts of the world; it is useful to recall the positive possibilities of unofficial diplomacy.  Unofficial diplomats recognize that the suspicions of government officials are a major hurdle to overcome; and that they must emphasize their impartiality and independence from governments.  Preparing the way for official policy changes; or for improved interstate relations is a slow-building evolutionary process.  Personal contacts across borders hold the potential for influencing the knowledge and attitudes of those involved; as well as the ability to gain information.

Horace Alexander.

Horace Alexander (1889 – 1989); the British Quaker and friend of Mahatma Gandhi is a good example of the unofficial diplomat and mediator.  Horace Alexander was born in an English Quaker family.  His father was a lawyer deeply involved in peace efforts; and in opposing the opium trade active between India and China.  Horace Alexander was a Cambridge University graduate; who went on to teach international relations at Woodbroke; an adult education center run by Quakers.  Alexander was very active in efforts to support the League of Nations.

Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1926 and 1927; there was increased agitation and repression in India; as the Indian National Congress became increasingly active.  Thus in 1928; Horace Alexander was sent to India by the British Quakers; to see if relations between the Vice Roy Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi could be improved.  Alexander saw the spiritual dimension of Gandhi; but also his political impact and suggested to the British government that Gandhi be invited to the Roundtable on Indian politics; which was to be held in London in 1931.

Alexander developed close relations with Gandhi; and divided his time between India and England.  He was active in relief work during the famine in Bengal in 1943-1944; and was active with the Indian National Congress during the negotiations; which led to independence in 1947; but sensed the birth pangs of the creation of the two states of India and Paxistan and the terrible days of partition; when fighting between religious communities took a deadly toll in human life and spirit.

Mahatma Gandhi

Studio photograph of Mahatma Gandhi, London, 1931. By Elliott & Fry (see [1]), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

While he was with Gandhi in India; seeing the growing divide between Hindus and Muslims; he created the Fellowship of Friends of Truth. As he wrote:

“The basis and goal of the Fellowship of Truth will be a common striving toward fuller knowledge of the Truth that is God.  Members will commit themselves to learn with and from one another of the things that are eternal, through common acts of quiet worship and meditation and through other forms of communion with God and man.” 

Horace Alexander lived his later years in the United States and died at the age of 100.

Unofficial diplomacy rarely creats a breakthrough; as situations can be completely blocked; and even minimal proposals are unacceptable at the time.  However small steps can be useful if taken in the right direction. Unofficial Diplomacy; which is increasingly called Track II diplomacy; is growing in importance and merits support.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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

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