Month: <span>March 2023</span>

Russia-Ukraine War Appeals

Alternatives to War: Renewal and Impact.

Featured Image: Ukrainian T-72AV with a white cross during the 2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive. By Mil.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

One year into the Russia-Ukraine War, one has a “been there, done that” feeling.  To settle arguments by war is not a new idea.  There can be modifications in time.  The armed conflicts in Syria have been going on for 12 years.  There can be modifications in the number of players. It is said that there are 120 armed groups in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  However, the nature of war remains the same: to kill as many as possible so that one side wins the argument.

The Russia-Ukraine War has led to increasing the methods of war-making in many countries such as the U.S.A., Germany and France.  There have been increases in military spending, in the possibility of making munitions, and in military strategy.  It is most likely that other countries will follow suit.

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

Able to establish a ceasefire.

Along with the practice of war, there has been a long tradition of seeking alternatives to war as a way of settling disagreements.  Thus, today, related to the Russia-Ukraine War, we have the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  However these two governmental organizations have not been able to establish a ceasefire, much less to open negotiations.  As in other armed conflicts, there have been proposals to organize negotiations made by one country, most recently by China.

There had been earlier France-Germany efforts as well as proposals by individual leaders of countries such as Turkey, Israel, and Mexico.  Such proposals are useful in creating an atmosphere that might lead to negotiations, but none have been acted on for the moment.

United Nations
Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Red Cross Conventions.

There is also a tradition from the early 1900s of non-governmental proposals of alternatives to war.  The first put into practice were the Red Cross Conventions.  If war cannot be avoided, its consequences can be made less deadly by protecting civilians, by helping wounded soldiers, by improving the conditions of prisoners of war.  There have been many violations of international humanitarian law in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but no state has questioned the validity of the Red Cross Conventions.

There have also been calls for peace on the part of religious organizations such as the pleas of Pope Francis, echoing Christian ethics and efforts of Vatican diplomacy in the settlement of other armed conflicts.  Other religious leaders have made similar pleas, but no other religious movement has the diplomatic infrastructure of the Vatican.

Pope Francis
Picture: 2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea Closing Mass for Asian Youth Day. By Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The peace movement.

In many countries, there are non-governmental organizations devoted to peace and working for alternatives to war – generally called “the peace movement.”  There have been in the past some impressive mobilizations, such as those in many countries on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 or in New York at the time of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to disarmament.

While peace groups have been concerned with the Russia-Ukraine war, there has not been a unified policy as to the conditions necessary for ending the war.  Some have proposed a new European-wide security system with an end to NATO and a strengthened OSCE.  However, the influence of peace organizations on governmental policy-making is negligible.

Democratic Republic of Congo
 Image: Movement militiamen M23 and Type 85 heavy machine gun. By Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Increasing Tensions and Danger of Violence.

“The Global South” and “Future Studies”.

There is alongside the peace movement but separate in function, the peace research institutions, often linked to universities. Transcend Media Service-TMS is a reflection of this peace research.  There are a number of academic peace research institutions, often with their own publications.   There have been in the past efforts to link together institutions and individuals working on peace research, development research on what is now called “the Global South” and “Future Studies”.  I have not seen these associations’ policy proposals on the Russia-Ukraine War, but I have probably missed many things.

Many have pointed to the Russia-Ukraine War as a turning point–the first war in Europe since the Second World War (if one sets aside the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia).  Such a turning point requires an examination of our activities, their strengths and weaknesses.  For those of us working on alternatives to war, it is imperative that we renew our efforts and find ways to increase our impact. Present governments cannot be trusted to deal with conflicts nonviolently or build peace by peaceful means. These became Civil Society’s tasks. Like war, peace is too important to be left to the generals.

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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World Day of Social Justice Portraits of World Citizens.

World Day of Social Justice: A Sense of Direction.

Featured Image: Photo by Cody PulliamUnsplash.

On a proposal of the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstzan, the United Nations General Assembly has set 20 February as the World Day of Social Justice. It was observed for the first time in 2009, but is not widely known.  As with other UN-designated “Days”, the World Day of Social Justice gives us an opportunity to take stock of how we can work together at the local, national and global level on policy and action to achieve the goals set out in the resolution designating the Day of “solidarity, harmony and equality within and among states.”

As the resolution states:

“Social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

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

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

Social Progress.

The Preamble to the UN Charter makes social justice one of the chief aims of the organization, using the more common expression of that time “social progress”.  The Preamble calls for efforts “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.  However, in the preparation of the Charter during the last days of the Second World War, there was no definition given of “social progress”.  There was agreement that social justice was definitely more than law courts plus a social policy. It was easier to recognize social injustice than to define social justice.

The societies created by Nazi Germany and the military in Japan with slave labor and the abolition of workers’ rights were the models of social injustice that the drafters of the UN Charter had in mind along with the consequences in North America and Western Europe of the 1930s depression.

Beveridge Plan.

Ideas concerning international efforts for social progress were drawn largely from the experience of the League of Nations and especially the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had been created in 1919.  The representatives from the USA and Great Britain were most influential in the preliminary work on the UN Charter, other European states being occupied by Germany or still in the middle of fighting.

Thus US representatives were strongly influenced in their views of social progress by the “New Deal” legislation of President Roosevelt and the British by the outlines of the 1942 Beveridge Plan, named after its main author, Lord Beveridge, which led to the setting up of the first unified social security system. By 1944, with the tide of war turning, the ILO met in Philadelphia, USA, and set out its aims of post-war world employment policies, freedom of association for workers and the extension of social security measures.

William Beveridge. By British Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

ILO Convention number 87.

Thus from the start in 1945, the emphasis in the UN system had been on social justice as related to conditions of employment and the right to organize which was made manifest in the 1948 ILO Convention number 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. Progressively, education was included as an aspect of social justice, in part because education is closely linked to employment.  Later, health was added as an element, again because of a close link to employment.

It took much longer but ultimately, gender equality has been included in the aims of social justice as fair employment practices, good education, and adequate health services could often still overlook the existence of women. Even today, can education be the only measure of women’s empowerment? Does reproductive health and rights come under adequate health care?.

Albert Thomas, By National Photo Company Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Albert Thomas: The ILO Centenary.

World Day of Social Justice to get a sense of direction for the road to be yet taken.

It is likely that employment, education, health with equality between women and men is as far as government representatives are willing to go collectively in discussing policies and programs of social justice.  Further advances will have to come from the non-governmental sector, though representatives from some governments at times can take a lead. Today, we can still see injustices due to social class, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, age, sexual orientation and disabilities.  There is a reluctance on the part of governments to deal with these issues nationally and an even greater reluctance to deal with them collectively within the UN system.

However, it is too easy to throw back on others responsibilities for injustices, if at the same time one does not realize how each of us shares personally in the benefits of injustice. Thus, we can use the World Day of Social Justice not only to celebrate the advances made but to get a sense of direction for the road to be yet taken.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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

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Education in Tibet Appeals

Education in Tibet.

Featured Image: Foto de 和 平 en Unsplash.

17 Feb 2023 –   Three United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs have recently highlighted the quality and methods of education of Tibetan students.  Farida Shaheed; Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minortiy Issues, and Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights; first expressed their concern in a private letter to the U.N. Mission of China in Geneva.

This is the standard procedure of first trying to discuss an issue with the authorities of the State concened.  Therefore, when the reply of the government is non-existent or superficial; then the Special Rapporteurs can “go public” either in their report to the Human Rights Council or with a press release as is the case with Tibetan education.

Farida Shaheed

Farida Shaheed, Pakistani sociologist and women’s rights activist (2016). By Wotancito, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The 6 February 2023 U.N. Press Release quotes fully the statement sent to the Chinese Mission.  The Special Rapporteurs highlighted the one million Tibetan school children sent far from home to be in residential boarding schools.  The Special Rapporteurs are:

” very disturbed that in recent years the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as a mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards…. This  increase in the number of boarding Tibetan students is achieved by the closure of rural schools in areas which tend to be populated by Tibetans and their replacement by township or county-level schools which almost exclusively use Putonghua in teaching and communication.”

Putonghua is the official name for what is usually called “Mandarin Chinese.”

Re-Education.

Recently, there has been more international media and governmental attention given to the repression and “re-education” of the largely Muslim Uighur.  Less attention has been given to policies in Tibet, but from the Chinese government position, the issues are very similar.  In both cases, an ethnic minority is a majority population in a large frontier area. In both cases, the population in question is bound together by a common religion: Islam for the Uighur, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for the  Tibetans.

The Chinese government is fearful that groups advocating violence will influence the Uighur as there are a good number of such Muslim advocates in Central Asia and the wider Middle East.  The major external influence on the Tibetans is the Dalai Lama, and he has repeatedly stressed non-violence in activities, including  protests of Chinese government policy.  Thus the  government’s greater fears of violence among the Uighur.  Repression has focused  not only on students but on adults as well.

Buddhism in Tibet

Sakya Monastery, Tibet. Sakya Monastery was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo and is situated about 130 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri. By I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet?.

The name of the game.

Finding the right balance between maintaining alive a minority culture through education in the minority language and the need for education in the national language is not easy to find.  Education in English has served to develop “American population” in the U.S.A.

The languages of the American Indian tribes has been reduced to folklore.  Finding the right balance for Tibetan students will not be easy to develop even if there were no political issues at stake.  However, politics is “the name of the game.”

Public statement  on the education of Tibetan  students.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has a number of Special Rapporteurs devoted to certain sensitive themes or to specific countries.  These Special Rapporteurs are independent experts selected by the Council. They are not members of the Secretariat and are not paid, but their expenses are covered when in Geneva or on mission. The idea  for the creation of the Special Rapporteurs was to give them as much independence as possible from  pressure of both governments and the U.N. Secretariat.  The U. N. Special Rapporteurs public statement  on the education of Tibetan  students will draw new attention to an issue which merits being closely watched.

René 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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Syria Appeals

United Nations Appeal to Facilitate Aid to Syria by…

Featured Image Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.

On 10 February 2023, Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council made an urgent Appeal to facilitate aid to Syria by removing the current sactions imposed by a certain number of countries on Syria due to the massive and long-lasting human rights violations linked to the armed conflict which began in March 2011. 

The Appeal was led by Professor Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights. Professor Douhan is professor of international law at the Belarusian State University in Minsk.

Special Rapporteurs of the U.N. Human Rights Council are independent experts.

They are not members of the U.N. Secretariat although Secretariat staff participate in research and editing.  The Special Rapporteurs are not paid but their expenses are covered when in Geneva or on missions in the field.  The idea for the creation of the Special Rapporteurs was to free them, to the extent possible, of pressures from governments or from the U.N. Secretariat.  They report to the Human Rights Council, usuallly at every session.

Syria

Photo by TheAndrasBarta in Pixabay

Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks.

Turkiya and Syria.

The earthquake which hit parts of Turkiya and Syria was particularly catastrophic.  It is estimated that some 50,000 persons have been killed and many more uprooted.  In the case of Syria, the quake hit parts of the country that were already devastated by the civil war.  Some of the effected areas were under the control of the government; other areas were held by opposition groups or other forces.  Immediate aid and longer term recovery is a priority.

Sanctions have limited the number of frontier crossings from Turkiya.  Blocks on financial transfers limit the possibility of the Syrian diaspora to send funds to family and relatives.

Promote negotiations in good faith in Syria.

The Association of World Citizens, which has been seeking to promote negotiations in good faith in Syria, nearly from the start of the armed uprising, joins in the spirit of the Appeal of the U.N. Special Rapporteurs. Steps must be taken quickly. Many lives depend on positive action.

Syria

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

René 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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Kuan Yin Appeals

Kuan Yin : She who harkens to the cries…

Photo by xiaochi1989 in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

May all living beings recognise others as part of the same family;  and so develop kindness towards all. May we contribute to peace in the world. May peace-loving people, East and West;  accomplish their goals of joy and harmony in the world.

February 19 is the day;  especially in Chinese culture to honour Kuan Yin: the Goddess of Mercy for the Taoists and the Bodhisattva of Compassion for the Buddhists. In Buddhism;  a Bodhisattva is a person who has achieved enlightenment;  but who does not enter Nirvana;  but who returns to give guidence and protection to struggling humanity.

Shrines to Kuan Yin stand in many places in China and in several neighboring countries as well.  Whenever possible;  these shrines are placed near running water or overlooking a lake.  She is often depicted by painters as seated on a rock gazining out across the water or standing on a floating lotus petel.

Kuan Yin is a symbol of motherly protection.

Kuan Yin is a symbol of motherly protection. Her role is to rescue beings from present woes by assisting them to rid themselves of the delusions which bind them.  One of the most persistent delusions is a sense of separateness;  of being unrelated to others and separate from Nature.  This sense of separateness from other humans creates fears that what we have will be taken from us;   and thus we must defend ourselves and what we own. A sense of separateness from Nature creates a feeling that we can use Nature only for our benefit.

However;  Kuan Yin has also a mischievous, freedom-loving side to her nature.  In her Mongolian and Tibetan form as Tara, she is close to the hearts of Tibetan, Mongolian, and Nepali Buddhists. Kuan Yin, under her name Kuannon-sama has achieved much the same popularity in Japan.

Kuan Yin is a feminine symbol;  an image which one can hold in mind – she who hears the crises of the world.  As a praise song states “Wise in using skillful means, in every cornor of the world, she mainfests her countless forms, extingishing the flames of woe.”

On 19 February;  offerings of incense are made along with tea for wisdom and fruit for prosperity.  The aim is to resemble the Taoist sages of old whom ice could not freeze nor sunbeams scorch.

 Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Child Soldiers Appeals

The Use of Child Soldiers: The Children of Conflict.

Featured Image: A child soldier of the Liberian rebel group LURD at the Po River (2004). By United States Army Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

12 February is the United Nations sponsored International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.  Efforts to counter the use of persons under 18 years of age in the military began with non-governmental efforts in 1979 – which the U.N. had proclaimed as “The International Year of the Child”. 

Nicolas Hulot, who later became well known in France for his reporting on ecology and the defence of the environment, had written “Ces Enfants qui souffrent” (Paris: Sipa-Press, 1978).  He highlighted children dying from malnutrition, disease, and injury caused by wars and natural disasters.  Hulot’s cry of conscience showed children fighting and being trained to fight in a number of countries in different parts of the world.

Nicolas Hulot

Nicolas Hulot at the Fête de l’Humanité 2008. By Olivier « toutoune25 » Tétard, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Concern with the welfare of children has been an inter-governmental concern going back to the League of Nations days.  However, the use of child soldiers was rarely mentioned as the professional military prior to the Second World War had persons over 18, usually the youngest were in their 20s.  However, the German Nazi used very young men in the last days of the war to try to limit the impact of the Allied forces within Germany.  There were a number of films and books which told of their efforts.  However, attention did not carry on once the Nazi forces were defeated.

Building on the NGO efforts in 1979 during the International Year of the Child, in the period 1993-1996, there was a U.N. study on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” led by Ms Graca Machel, later the wife of Nelson Mandela.  She wrote:

“For too long, the consequences for children have been tolerated as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of war.  In reality, children have increasingly become targets and not incidental victims, as a result of conscious and deliberate decisions made by adults.”

League of Nations

 Image: Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

As a result of the Graca Machel study in 1997, the U.N. General Assembly named Ambassador Olara A. Otunnu as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  He placed an emphasis on the moral vacuum in which all restraints have been eroded and discarded – a world in which children are no longer precious.  He wrote:

“At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined, if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum – a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Distinctions between civilians and combatants have broken down.  Children, women, the elderly – all have become fair game in the single-minded struggle for power.”

Graca Machel

Madame Graça Machel at the Sports for Peace Gala 2010 in Johannesburg. By Madame_Graca_Machel.TIF: Sportsforpeacederivative work: Rosentod, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ambassador Otunnu was from Uganda which had seen more than its share of the breakdown of social norms and resulting violence such as that carried on by the Lord’s Reistance Army which systematically abducted children to be used as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves starting in 1987 but building on earlier armed movements. He was in exile and given citizenship by the Cote d’Ivoire which had appointed him Ambassador to the U.N.  During the sessions of the U.N. Committee on Human Rights, he was in Geneva, and we had long discussions.  He was very open to the spirit of Citizens of the World and the need to develop universal norms so as to move beyond an unregulated struggle for power.

Olara Otunnu wrote:

“Children represent the future of human civilization and the future of every society.  To permit them to be used as pawns in warfare, whether as targets or perpetrators, is to cast a shadow on the future.  From generation to generation, violence begets violence, as the abused grow up to become abusers.  Children who are thus violated carry the scars of fear and hatred in their hearts and minds.  Forced to learn to kill instead of pursuing education, the children of conflict lack the knowledge and skills needed to build their futures and the futures of their communities.   For a society, the lives destroyed and the opportunities lost could have a devastating effect on its long-term stability and development.”

René 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